By Dominik Stallings
Local authors Kirby and Cindy Pringle held a book signing for their newest book “Happy Tails: We Can’t Elope.” featuring their “dog people” Earl and Pearl Barker.
In the new book, Earl forgets about the 10th wedding anniversary celebration with his wife, Pearl, and then tries his best to make up for his mistake.
If you missed out, don’t worry, they’ll sign more books Dec. 10 from 2-4 p.m. in The Vault Gallery.
The couple didn’t expect to make their newest book after the passing of their dogs Buster and Barney.
“That sort of broke up the team,” said Kirby.
A new addition to the family, Daisy, excited them enough to create another story. They adopted her from a neighboring family who were taking care of her temporarily.
“She’s the inspiration for doing the book,” said Cindy.
Cindy said that Daisy looked just like their dog Barney, who previously played the main character “Pearl” in their previous books.
Kirby said that the book also gave them something to do during the height of the COVID pandemic.
“The books kind of reflect our conservation nature,” said Kirby.
Kirby said they hope that people who read their stories will be inspired to reconnect with nature.
“We lost so much of our native habitat,” said Kirby. He noted that a lot of farmland used to be covered with long prairie grass. He said he wishes that some of Illinois’ landscape could be reverted back into that natural habitat.
The couple’s first book released in 2004 was ABC for kids.
Their second 2008 book “Happy Tails: The Call of Nature,” focused on Pearl’s cellphone obsession and their journey back into nature.
The third book released in 2012, “The Butterfly That Would Not Fly,” featured a butterfly who was afraid of heights. The Earl and Pearl helped it overcome its fear. The story teaches children and adults about the rapidly declining monarch butterfly population and what can be done to reverse it. (The Pringles are well-known monarch butterfly conservationists and have traveled around the midwest to give presentations and show their documentary films, “A Landscape for Life,” “Touched by a Butterfly” and “Plight of the Monarch.”)
“The fourth one is a bit more humorous about marriage and relationships,” said Kirby.
The theme of the fourth book comes from the couple’s inside joke and pun. They both share a love of cantaloupe. If Kirby asks Cindy for some more cantaloupe, she answers him with “We can’t elope. We’re already married!” The inside joke even found its way into the book in the form of a song that Cindy wrote.
“I wanted something of a love story. That cantaloupe seemed to develop it,” said Cindy.
The new book has some new faces that fans might not recognize. One of them isn’t a dog, but rather a starling that they rehabilitated. In the book, it’s name is Stella.
Cindy “spotted this little featherless bird laying in the street. Of course, being animal lovers we went over and tried to see if we could save it and put it back in the nest.” said Kirby.
The two of them ended up saving the bird successfully and helped rehabilitate it.
The other new character is their dog, Joe, which they recently adopted. They adopted him after the passing of Finnegan, who plays Earl in the books.
Kirby said that during the layout process for the book he had some issues with the software. He hasn’t used it in roughly 10 years and struggled to overcome some issues. He sought help from freelance graphic artists, but the cost of having the book designing was too much for them.
Fortunately for them, they found help from a friend. Cindy talked with Debbie Nivens, who is part of the board of directors at The Vault. Her husband, Chuck, was well-versed in the layout software and volunteered his time to help them with the book. Thanks to him, they managed to release their book much sooner.
“I probably would have figured it out, but it would have been six months later,” said Kirby.
Kirby and Cindy are both professional photographers. Kirby worked as a reporter and editor, first in Mattoon and Charleston, and then in Champaign-Urbana for 25 years.
Kirby was also manager for The Vault after it was bought out by three businessmen in 2017. He later helped turn it into a co-op with a board of directors. Now he uses their space in the Vault to work solely as an artist.
“Cindy and I wanted to work for ourselves,” said Kirby.
Cindy specialized in black-and-white portrait photography and later leaned into painting over black-and-white photographs. She later turned to the “dog people” photographs with Kirby.
They first were inspired to do photo illustrations of their dog people when they sent out a greeting card with Kirby’s head replaced by a dog head. It was a joke to friends and family that they kept wanting to do.
“I look better with a dog head,” said Kirby jokingly.