3 furry pals ease kids' fears of airports

Arundel author's book explains security process to ages 5 to 10

May 27, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

It came to her while she was passing through an airport, watching kids tentatively pass through scanners and eye security guards patting down their parents.

Stormy Friday, author of several books on managing facilities, had found a vehicle to write her first children's story: It would soothe children's fears of flying by having her Siamese cat and two British shorthairs take on an airport caper.

"A lot of young children are afraid to go through the metal detector," said Friday, who owns a consulting firm in Annapolis. "I wanted to bring to light the security process and do it in a nonthreatening way through an animal's eyes so it's not scary."

The result, Signal's Airport Adventure, hits Borders bookstores and local shops this week after a release party Thursday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Friday wrote for what she views as an under-served audience: children ages 5 to 10 who have outgrown picture books, but are not ready to move on to longer chapter books. She also wanted to produce a book with a modern flavor that parents could read aloud to their children and use as a springboard to deal with real-world realities.

The Anne Arundel County Library has embraced the book as part of its Summer Reading Club, not only because it plays into this summer's theme of "Reading Road Trip" but also because the book is being marketed as a "Read Aloud to Me" selection.

Reading aloud to young children gets them excited about reading and helps them learn language skills, said Laurie Hayes, a spokeswoman for the county library.

"We do a lot of story time programs and try to get parents to read aloud to their children," she said.

It also doesn't hurt that the library's mascot is "Sneaks," a yellow cat - or that the book's release is around the Memorial Day weekend.

Friday earned her unusual moniker from her family. Stormy is a play on her real first name, Gayle. "Nautically speaking, when there's a storm, there's a gale," Friday said. "It's a fun name. Children seem to respond to it."

The book is a departure for Friday, whose company, the Friday Group, provides management, marketing and facilities services to businesses and government agencies. She lectures and trains on organization development and customer service. '

With Signal's Airport Adventure, Friday draws on another love. The book brings together Friday's two British shorthair cats, Signal and Telegraph. Signal sets off a security alarm and then sneaks out of his cat carrier at the airport, setting off a frantic search. In real life, Friday got the two cats from a breeder in North Carolina and flew them to Maryland through BWI to her Arnold home. They joined her Siamese, Auntie Annie, who is featured in the book.

Friday is planning a series of books starring her three cats called Tails from Friday Harbor - the nickname she borrowed from a vacation spot she and her husband frequent in the Pacific Northwest. The series will incorporate the wildlife and habitats of the Chesapeake Bay region. Friday also wants to find ways to educate parents and others about reading to children.

Second-grade students from Chesapeake Academy in Severna Park took a field trip to BWI's Observation Gallery Thursday to hear Friday read the series' first book. They also watched a security dog sniff through luggage and saw security guards conduct a demonstration.

Some of the students had read the book. Many raised their hands when Friday stopped to ask them questions about the story. Eric Resnick, 8, of Arnold lives along the Magothy River, not far from where Friday, her husband, Kit Bradley, and the cats live.

"I though it was cool that they were living on the same river as I do," Eric said.

Lena Goldstein, 7, of Arnold said she travels a lot with her family and is no longer is afraid of airport security.

"My first time, I thought it was scary," Lena said. "My dad got beeped on the thingy because he had money in his pocket."

The students got to ask Friday and illustrator Phyllis Saroff questions at the end of the session.

Saroff, an artist and illustrator based in Annapolis, visited Friday's home and took pictures of the cats to prepare. She drew sketches and then painted them in oil for each page. Saroff has illustrated several children's nonfiction books on wildlife and the natural sciences, but Signal's Airport Adventure was her first fiction book. She has signed on to do the rest of the series.

The students at Chesapeake Academy were chosen for the book launch because publisher Pat Troy co-founded the school. She also founded Bay Media Inc. of Arnold in 1989 and publishes the work of area authors.

"I met with Stormy, and I was really impressed," Troy said. "She knew what she was doing and clearly this was a book that was going to work" with kids.

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