Local author honors late brother in children’s books

Suzy Tomlinson of Shoreview visits St. Anthony Park Library in St. Paul, bringing along her two children’s books and the teddy bear that inspired them. (submitted photo)
Suzy Tomlinson of Shoreview visits St. Anthony Park Library in St. Paul, bringing along her two children’s books and the teddy bear that inspired them. (submitted photo)
The two characters in her book are inspired by Tomlinson’s relationship with her older brother, who passed away in 2002. (submitted photo)
The two characters in her book are inspired by Tomlinson’s relationship with her older brother, who passed away in 2002. (submitted photo)
Tomlinson, though originally from St. Paul, holds many dear memories of visiting the shores of Shoreview’s Lake Owasso with her brother, David Dobis. Their grandparents owned a cabin on the lake. (submitted photo)
Tomlinson, though originally from St. Paul, holds many dear memories of visiting the shores of Shoreview’s Lake Owasso with her brother, David Dobis. Their grandparents owned a cabin on the lake. (submitted photo)

Suzy Tomlinson's bear books address 'troubles' younger kids encounter

Teddy isn't just a teddy bear, at least not in a local author's recent book series. 

Sure, he's a little stuffed animal who talks, but Suzy Tomlinson of Shoreview created this bow-tied bear and his friend David, a little boy, in part to portray her relationship with her brother, David Dobis, who died of stomach cancer in 2002 at the age of 53. 

"He was my best friend in the whole world," Tomlinson says. She says she just wanted a little way to keep their story going. 

Tomlinson began the series with her first-ever book, "Teddy Meets a Bully and Finds a Friend," which was published by Tate Publishing's children's division in 2014. 

"This book is for David, my big brother and best friend," she writes on the dedication page. "You taught me how to see everyone for who they were, not what they looked like," she continues. "You will always live on in my heart."

Though her second book, "Teddy Makes a Cake and Celebrates a Birthday," published by Tate last summer, doesn't include her brother in the dedication page, she says neither book would exist without him.

That's partly because the character of Teddy is based on her brother's childhood teddy bear. After Dobis passed away, she held onto the bear for years, and eventually it yielded inspiration for her books.

Passing on lessons

Tomlinson, 67, says she hopes she can pass on to young readers the simple lessons that she learned with the help of her brother, who was 6 years older than her.

"These stories are definitely for little kids," she says. "The lessons are very simple, but, I think, important."

The first book is primarily about overcoming bullying and building friendships, she explains.

"I feel that the talk of bullying these days is often targeted toward older kids," she says. "Here it's for young ones." 

Tomlinson says she wanted to do this in a delicate manner, so she used the bear as the target of troubles, so to speak. 

"And because the bear is the one who gets hurt or makes a mistake, children can really open up and talk about their feelings," she says, because to them, it feels less close to home. "It's a teddy bear after all, not a little boy or girl." 

Feeling at home

Tomlinson, originally from the Como neighborhood of St. Paul, taught religious education for 10 years in Hawaii, after moving there due to her husband's health. 

"Our time there was wonderful," she says. "But we did always miss home."

The couple left the Kona District to return to Minnesota, settling in Shoreview in 2010. 

Tomlinson says Shoreview has always been a special place for her. When they were children, she and her brother would often stay with their maternal grandparents who had a cabin on Lake Owasso. 

Tomlinson explains much of her professional career was in editing and graphic arts, before she turned to teaching. She currently tutors students in the area. 

"I was always involved somehow with words," she says. "And I've always loved teaching children to read."

When she's not tutoring, she says she enjoys reading her books in classrooms, and at libraries and churches. 

Her children's books can be found locally at Sweet Chocolat in Arden Hills and at Love for Minnesota in Roseville, and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

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