“The sun was shining brightly ... when Sadie the Ladybug woke up ...”
Lew Cross read aloud in the Miller Elementary School classroom Thursday morning.
Hushed second-graders hung on every word.
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So did their teachers.
“It was such a beautiful day, but she had a very sad feeling within her,” read Cross, 80.
Sadie’s sadness would vanish, the book’s storyline goes, when she found her life’s purpose.
A sadness accompanied Cross’s story telling, too.
“Sadie The Ladybug” was written by Jenny Cross, the oldest of Lew and Jeanne Cross’ three daughters.
She died six years ago, succumbing to injuries suffered in a one-car accident.
Jenny Cross was 48.
A 1974 University of Toledo graduate in elementary education, she wrote “Sadie The Ladybug” for a senior project.
Her idea came from a neighbor who imported ladybugs to eat a fungus infecting their elm trees, and the trees were saved.
The professor liked it so much he told Jenny to get it published.
She never did, but went on to teach first- and second-graders in the Toledo, Ohio, area.
“The book was in rough form, but she put it away and never thought about it,” said Lew Cross, a career educator himself in the Toledo schools. “It was expensive, she was a poor, underpaid teacher, and we didn’t have a lot of money.”
Then a few years after their daughter’s death, they decided to get the book published in her memory, the expense be hanged.
Cross has already read the book at several Manatee County elementary schools and donated it, telling them about the book’s inspiration, and hopes to do more.
“We think about Jenny every day,” he said. “She went through a very difficult time, but this helped us remember the good things. It’s really a heartwarming experience to be able to share something she created with the different communities and children.”
His young audience at Miller was most receptive.
“He can still think about his daughter and how long he had her,” said Jillian Pyle, 8, after Cross read and answered questions.
“I think it was sad she died, but it was happy she got to make a book,” said Hope Newman, 8.
“She was a good person,” said Jiyah McGrath, 7.
Teachers were touched by the book, its author’s legacy and their students reaction.
“To remember his daughter this way and how the children connected with it really moves you,” said Jan Jaudon, a teacher for 19 years.
“To make a connection like that with somebody else and his daughter is profound,” said Lauren Allen, a first-year teacher.
“Her love of children, her love of nature all came out in the story,” said Sara Hoover, who has taught more than 30 years. “The children were mesmerized.”
Everyone learned something, too.
Even some teachers.
“I didn’t know that about ladybugs,” said Lourdes Lindenauer, who has taught 10 years. “This was something new for all of us. What a beautiful story.”
Lew Cross can be reached at 795-4422.