“I’ve had a fairly strong imagination all my life,” said Bothell’s Keith Corner, now 80.
Nevertheless, Corner’s third children’s book, “Mee-Ander the Gander,” is based at least partly on a true story roughly seven decades old.
Back when Corner was a child, he would spend his summers with aunt Marie Friend on her farm in Aberdeen, Wash. One summer, Friend ended up with a goose that somehow sprained its ankle. Rather than kill the beast, Friend rigged up a sort of pulley system for the animal. A cloth sling tied to a wheel set on a clothes line supported the goose and the broken foot.
“She was a very ingenious lady,” Corner said of his aunt.
After a while, the goose learned it could wander around by pushing on the sling and the wheel. A few weeks later, the animal’s leg was completely healed. Obviously, Friend’s contraption and the patience she showed with her wounded farm animal left quite an impression on her nephew.
“I’ve just never forgotten it,” Corner said.
Years later, he got the idea that the incident might make a pretty good children’s story. He penned it and found himself published in Children’s Friends magazine in 1968.
Published this year by Everett’s Tex Ware Publishing, “Mee-Ander the Gander” is an overhauled version of the same story, complete with illustrations by southern Oregon’s Sharon Richert. It is dedicated to Marie Friend, who in the story becomes “Mrs. Friendly.”
Like Corner’s other efforts, “Mee-Ander” is aimed at young children in grades K-2.
“I have a profound respect for that readership,” Corner said. “That’s when the world is really opening up.”
With a degree in business from the University of Washington, Corner has lived in this area for some time. He and wife Louise had their first date at Bothell’s Ranch Drive In in October 1956. Keith Corner retired as an assistant administrator for the University of Washington. But he clearly never lost his urge to create for the younger set.
For a few years, the Corners ran their own company creating mostly children’s games. Keith Corner’s biggest success was a hand in creating the game “Pictionary.”
In the late ’80s, Corner put together possibly his best known book, “The Magic Kriss Karpet,” a Christmas fantasy about a young boy who wants more than anything to find a pair of glasses for his dog who is losing his sight. He ends up wanting those glasses even more than the pirate’s gold he finds during his Christmas Eve adventure.
Corner said the book was picked up, sponsored and advertised by local Nordstroms stores. He spent that Christmas season signing books at stores across the area. Eventually, the book sold about 4,000 original copies, though Corner said the aftermarket for the book remains strong.
As Corner talks, he shows a gift from a relative, a copy of the “Karpet” book bought second-hand online. The book includes a handwritten inscription declaring it to be the favorite book of a young reader whenever he visits grandma’s house.
“To me, that’s it right there,” Corner said. “That’s the pay off.”
Corner said he would love to talk with the person the child who wrote that message ultimately became. He would like to think his books have inspired children to read more, hopefully moving on to some of the classics Corner himself enjoys.
“If (children) can learn to read, their whole education is set,” Corner said. “I think children who get off on the right foot and learn to read well usually end up accomplishing good things in their lives.”
Corner likes to talk about the “texture” of his writing, about spending time picking the right words to make the stories flow, designed as they are to be read aloud. Corner adds that all of his books contain a lesson of some sort. “The Gawky Giraffe” was about acceptance in that the main character is unusually tall, even for a giraffe. Still, he ends up saving his herd during a drought. Corner believes love or tenderness is the basic message of “Mee-Ander.”
Corner’s fourth book is finished and should be published this spring. His books are available at some local bookstores and online at www.amazon.com or www.tex-ware.com.