Dave Lubinger first met Adam Slivka in the late 1990s, when Lubinger was a teacher at Brecksville High School and Slivka was a student in his American History class.
Almost 20 years after their first meeting, the duo are working to spread the message of the importance of adopting shelter animals. Earlier this year they released The Adventures of Jill, Jake and Stimlin: Jill Has a Brother ($ 18), a self-published children’s book written by Lubinger and illustrated by Slivka which is based on the dogs of Lubinger Jake (a standard poodle), Stimlin (a schnoodle) and his daughter Jill. For most of Jill’s childhood, she was surrounded by Jake, Stimlin, and the plethora of other creatures who found their way into the Lubinger house.
âIt was an exciting project for me,â says Lubinger. âIt’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted people to be able to hear stories based on my experiences with my daughter Jill and our two dogs.
While Lubinger had always been interested in writing a book, even he couldn’t have written the screenplay the way he did. The Adventures of Jill, Jake and Stimlin was written and published. In 2014, the longtime teacher retired from teaching to devote himself to writing books, specifically, a memoir about his father, Herbert Lubinger, who died in 1993. But the idea fizzled out. fire.
From there he attended various workshops and courses at the Hudson Library, one of which was led by Amanda Flower, author of children’s books and library author-in-residence. While attending one of Flower’s workshops on writing children’s books, Lubinger began to formulate a plan for a children’s book in his head.
âI have stories about my daughter and my two dogs that I could write down now,â he recalls thinking. “I think people would like them.”
In November 2017, Lubinger began fully formulating his children’s book project, going so far as to read 45 children’s books and take meticulous notes on each. In May 2018, he sat down with his friends Jacqueline Perry and Jessica Wilms (whom Lubinger calls his two âmust-have momsâ) to review his rough idea for The Adventures of Jake, Jill and Stimlin. After they said they liked the idea while coming up with a few slight tweaks, he hired an illustrator, but after nearly 18 months the illustrator hadn’t produced anything.
Enter Adam Slivka.
As part of Lubinger’s curriculum as a teacher, he asked his students to create music, art, and literature to demonstrate their understanding of different time periods. Slivka’s art immediately imposed itself on Lubinger, but in a more unconventional way.
âIt was really sci-fi and horrible,â Lubinger laughs now.
Slivka and Lubinger reconnected in February 2020, with Lubinger laying out his plan for the book and asking Slivka to create illustrations based on those plans. A week later, Slivka returned her drawings. At this point, Lubinger knew that Slivka was the perfect illustrator for the book. Over the next month, the duo worked together to illustrate the first two pages of the book.
âI said, as long as you get the adorable and cute characters, I don’t care what you do with the background,â Lubinger says. âI was really hard on him for a few months to get the characters perfect. But he did.
But then COVID struck just as they were getting underway. That, combined with the fact that Slivka was facing some health issues while juggling her paving business, meant the book creation process was delayed until winter. But once winter arrived, Slivka and Lubinger devoted their full attention to the book. In April 2021, they uploaded the book to Ingram Spark (a self-publishing online website) before the book hit stores on May 1.
The 34-page book, the first in a planned four-part series, is packed with brilliant, cartoonish Slivka drawings of Jill and Jake, depicting Jill, now a 25-year-old veterinarian student at Ohio State, as a young child.
âJill always said that Jake and Stimlin made her want to be a vet,â says Lubinger. “Who knows where his life would be without them.”
All proceeds from the book, which Lubinger self-published, goes to three animal sanctuaries and one animal shelter – Rescue Village in Geauga County, Parma Animal Shelter, CHA Animal Shelter in Columbus, and Heart of KJOS Animal Microsanctuary in Minnesota. The book is available at local bookstores like Loganberry Books, Fireside Book Shop, and Mac’s Backs-Books, as well as Amazon.
For now, Lubinger has said the plan for the future is that the second book (where Stimlin is featured) will be released in the spring of 2022, and the third book will be released in early fall.
âIt’s great to see the comments from readers,â says Lubinger. “I like that people buy the book and read it to their children.”