Robin Spinelli will be signing her book “Gracie the Purple Chicken,” illustrated by Dave Huddleston, during a reception at Jessel Gallery Friday, from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, April 5.
It’s part of the opening of the new Spring Splendor show, running for three months and featuring works by four artists.
Spinelli, a nurse who grew up in Napa Valley, has many fond memories of her 50 years of country life: riding horses, taking care of chickens, gardening and picking apples. Eventually, she and her husband raised their two children here.
Dave Huddleston, who illustrated “Gracie the Purple Chicken” is a local artist known for his murals and other paintings. He has illustrated and co-written several other children’s books.
Huddleston said that this story was of special interest to him because of its important message about bullying and recognizing and respecting unique qualities in others instead of making fun of their differences.
What inspired Spinelli to write her first book, based on a true story, is what she saw happening with her chickens.
“The book is the story of our beloved and adopted chicken named Gracie,” Spinelli said. Her story is about bullying, intervention from a hero, a miracle and healing.”
It all started about a year ago on a day when “Gracie girl, a timid little chicken” who was routinely picked on by the other chickens, was getting so “severely pecked” that her life was in danger. Alerted by their dog’s barking, Spinelli ran out to save Gracie. Afterward, she went to Wilson’s Feed & Supply where a farmer told her to use a spray medicine to heal Gracie’s wounds.
“The spray turned Gracie purple,” Spinelli said. “It looked like she was wearing a purple poncho.”
Spinelli said she doesn’t want to reveal the brand or the medicine because she said it might not work well for others.
With the help of the medicine, Gracie healed quickly and her behavior changed. She began acting confident. Champ, the dog, became Gracie’s protector and the two spent lots of time together.
“I sensed that Gracie found an identity, Spinelli said. “She was no longer affected by the other chickens, including Miss Bossy Pants (her worst tormentor).”
Family and friends began coming over to see the purple chicken who demonstrated a dramatic change of attitude with her new color and canine protector, Spinelli decided to write her a book using Gracie as an example for children.
In the book, Gracie has a dream where Champ speaks to her about no one picking on her again with her purple mantle. Gracie and Champ talk about bullying.
Though the book was written for children, Spinelli said that “adults who have read it” tell her they related to it and cried.
“We celebrate Gracie’s story and take a stand with her against bullying. We celebrate the power of friends who can be champions in our lives through their words of love and encouragement,” Spinelli wrote.
“Yes, Gracie is still purple,” Spinelli said, responding with a laugh to a question she is frequently asked. “She does get a little touch-up of Venetian violet to her roots, but that’s between us girls.”
Jessel Gallery is at 1019 Atlas Peak Road in Napa.