Friendship puts book on shelves

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes When Wally Graham was 10 years old, a relative introduced him to a neighbor as “weak-in-the-head.” That encounter and others left him with a diminished sense of self for much of his life. “The worst thing you can do to a child is make them feel inferior,” said Graham, now in his late 80s. Many years later, by the time he had kids and grandkids of his own, Graham wanted to do something that would instill self-confidence in his growing family. He already made weekly visits to check in on his granddaughters Julie and Jennifer, but one Sunday he decided to make it something extra special. “I sat down and wrote a poem and drew an illustration to go along with it,” Graham said. The poem was called Mister Toad and told the story of the titular toad regaling a bear with his feelings of inferiority compared to other animal friends. “I wanted the girls to learn something from the poem, and I thought that kids would listen to animals more than they would people,” Graham said. The poem was a hit, but Graham returned to visit the girls the next week empty-handed. “Boy, they were all over me for it,” he said. It was quite a while before he visited again without a new poem and illustration in-hand. Despite having never...

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