Harry and the Pelican and Author Amy Leaf

Area author uses Key Biscayne experiences for children’s book

Amy Leaf has found a way to share nature’s treasures with children while honoring her time living in Key Biscayne.

Through her book, “Harry and the Pelican,” Leaf takes a figurative walk along the beaches of Key Biscayne while remembering walks there with her daughter and past walks with her grandfather.

Harry and the Pelican

Except this time, there is a little boy named Harry, his own grandfather, a red-haired girl named Lucy and a pelican who tags along on their adventure.

Illustrated by Tami Boyce, the book was written years ago and after rejection from a publishing company, was put away. Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and Leaf is sitting at home with a broken right foot and reads a blog about someone who broke their leg and who wrote: “use this time, you’ll never get it again,” Leaf remembers. “So, I took it to heart.”

And took her book back out and published it herself.

Leaf, a former Key Biscayne resident, said the book was written when her daughter was around 8. Then a single mom, she and her daughter would walk together along the waters in Key Biscayne.

“It’s about taking walks on the beach and everything you see,” Leaf said of the book. “And Key Biscayne is amazing because there’s all these beautiful things you see while walking.”

In the book – which does not specifically mention Key Biscayne, Leaf’s inspiration – a young Harry is visiting his cousins, and wants to join them on a walk to the lighthouse. But Harry’s grandfather feels Harry is too young to walk that far, while Harry insists he can.

“Harry and the Pelican” follows Harry and his grandfather as they trek to the lighthouse, where, together, they meet Lucy, seagulls, and the nameless pelican.

“The main goal is to get to the lighthouse,” the 58-year-old author said.

The book was published in January, and Leaf decided to develop a coloring book to complement it so readers would “use their imaginations and color the illustrations as they see the beach and the characters.”

The book is targeted to 3- to 8-year-olds, and so far, Leaf said, the reaction has been positive.

“They’re all very happy,” she said. “When they start looking at the book, they just light up. A lot of kids on my street have a copy of it.

“What I really hope is that it will give an opportunity for a child to say, ‘I’d love to take a walk on the beach with you … mom or dad or whoever it may be.’. Once I was at a restaurant at Key Biscayne and a child was crying and I gave the coloring book to the child and he stopped crying.”

His mother thanked Leaf, explaining the child never wanted to go to the beach before – and that the book changed that.

Leaf is working on a follow up book to Harry’s adventures with his grandfather.

“All my books are about walking, because I find it so important,” Leaf said. “My grandpa had a heart attack at age 50, and his doctor recommended that he start walking. And at 10, I went walking with him, and honestly, I never stopped. My walks with him were wonderful.

“My grandpa was from a storybook.”

To Leaf, so is Key Biscayne, where she lived for a dozen years. Today, she resides in Coral Gables.

“Writing is kind of my art,” she said. “My brother is an excellent artist. I walk and see beauty, and that’s how I can express it. I kept imagining a book and just decided to do it. That’s just my art. At the time, you’re constantly telling stories and always have it in your mind that you wanted to write a story to share.

“Key Biscayne is really lucky. It’s a beautiful painting … a seascape.”