ST. LOUIS — The author of Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado hoped the children’s book will help kids be brave during natural disasters, prepared beforehand, and hopeful afterward.

Writer Carolyn Mueller asked the question many grownups ask, especially given recent flooding and lingering damage in the St. Louis Area. “When bad things happen, who is there to help?”

Mueller found an answer after a 2011 tornado hit Joplin, Mo. She saw Facebook posts about a dog named Lily, her human Tara, and their rescue work during what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranks as the seventh-deadliest tornado in United States history 

“I thought it was a fascinating story and a great way to highlight the human-animal connection as well as those helpers after natural disasters,” said Mueller.

One of her favorite images from book illustrator Nick Hayes also featured birds. The storm damaged nearly every tree in the town. Neighbors gave animals a place to land by hanging bird feeders on whatever they could.

“I think that this illustration in particular sort of sparks a moment of hope after the storm,” said Mueller, a parent, who knew that children can often freeze and hide during storms, fires, or other disasters.

 Many St. Louis area families are still struggling at the end of August 2022 after the flash flooding that started in July.

“These things can be scary for kids,” Mueller said. “So, it’s great for them to have sort of reference points for who the good guys are that come in and help out, whether that’s firefighters, or EMTs, or the National Guard or search, and rescue teams like Lily and Tara.”

Mueller said, Lily and Tara’s story also teaches kids that it is okay to hop after the storm ends. She read the last page of her book.

“Sitting on the porch that evening, Tara just knew that if all of her neighbors continued to work together, Joplin would be okay too,” Mueller said. 

You can hear Mueller read Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado in person. It will be part of the Missouri Book Festival. 

It wraps up Saturday, August 27. Mueller will read her book at noon CDT in The Neighborhood Reads Backyard at the corner of Lafayette Street and Fourth Street in Washington, Mo.

Find the full festival schedule at the Missouri book festival