For a new children’s book about adoption, author and illustrator Dan Killeen had a special source of inspiration — his nephew Mikey.
Killeen, a member of St. Pius V Parish in St. Louis, recently released his fifth children’s book, “Tillie & Clementine & Mikey,” a lighthearted take on the true story of Mikey’s adoption.
Also featured in the book are Mikey’s parents, Mike and Annie Killeen, and two older sisters, Tillie and Clementine. Mike Killeen and his family are members of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in St. Louis.
Dan Killeen, who had previously written and illustrated a book about his nieces, said it was a natural progression to write about his nephew, who is now 6. The story includes details of Mike and Annie Killeen’s decision to adopt a child and their daughters reactions, including the natural curiosities and concerns that often come from children.
Writing about the experience opened Dan Killeen’s heart to better understand the gift of adoption.
Adoption is all about “expanding your heart to include someone new” in a family, he said. “We talk about that as (virtuous), but when you are faced with doing it and living that out, it grows your love.” Witnessing the experience of his brother Mike, as well as another brother, Jim, who fostered two children, Dan Killeen said it’s been a lesson in “what it means to really love someone and sacrifice for them.”
Growing up in a family of eight siblings, Mike Killeen said that he envisioned possibly having a large family, too. He and Annie discussed expanding their family through adoption. “I said I think we’ve got enough room in our home and our hearts for at least one more child,” he said.
Annie Killeen, unsure of the idea at first, had a conversion of heart after visiting and praying with the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (“Pink Sisters”) at their convent in St. Louis. “It really set me into a tailspin,” she said. “I started praying, and I’d open my hands and say, ‘In your hands, God.’ Please let us be on the same page — thinking of course that (Mike) would come around to my way of thinking. Little did I know that after praying really hard for a while, that it was a matter of me opening up my heart to the idea.” The couple approached Mary Ann Hoeynck, who recently retired as adoption coordinator at Catholic Charities’ Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, to begin the adoption process.
Annie Killeen said that while there were moments of uncertainty, they were eventually connected with a birth mother who had just given birth to a baby boy and had named him Michael. “We were praying so much for a sign, and and it turns out we get the most obvious sign in the world,” she said. “It felt right, it clicked.”
Dan Killeen began self-publishing his books five years ago under the name Happy Fun Books. The books feature a variety of characters, who he plans to pull out as central characters in future titles. “I wanted to have a broader universe of characters that maybe all go to the same school and know each other, but they take turns being the title character,” he said.
>> Book signing
Dan Killeen will sign copies of his newest book, “Tillie & Clementine & Mikey” from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Dec. 8, at Catholic Supply of St. Louis, 6759 Chippewa St. in south St. Louis.
Killeen will make appearances at other locations throughout the Metro St. Louis area in November and December. For a listing of events, visit happyfunbooks.com.