A Little Rock boy who lost his father in a tornado is using the story of a platypus named Flippers to help other children deal with loss and grief.
Asa Tittle was 4 when an EF-4 tornado hit his Ferndale home in April 2014, killing his father and two older sisters.
As the family grieved, Asa learned to process his anger and pain through storytelling.
"It helped him get out the bubbly feelings that hurt us deep in our tummies sometimes," his mother Kerry Tittle said.
Asa, who is now 8, said he began writing the story of his favorite animal about a year ago. In the faith-based book, the father of the young platypus dies of an illness, and Flippers is left to cope with the resulting anger, sadness and disappointment.
In a conversation with his mother, Flippers learns that the best way to handle grief is to express it. By the end of the book, the platypus is ready to help others by sharing his story.
"He just started talking about this platypus being angry, and it dawned on me that he was talking about himself," Tittle said. "I grabbed my laptop and started asking questions, probing questions about how he felt."
The mother of nine said publishing the book was the work of several family friends and former colleagues who worked with her husband, Rob Tittle, as a publisher at Family Life. The Christian nonprofit offers advice to strengthen marriages and families. A friend illustrated the story, and a counselor helped edit.
The book was written not only as an entertaining story, but as a resource to help children who are experiencing grief. A note to parents and caregivers is included in the final pages and provides exercises, such as journaling, acting and scrapbooking, that can help children express their feelings.
"The first year or two I wasn’t much help to them because I thought they felt like me and thought they processed like me, but they don’t," Tittle said. "I never realized how differently they think until they were faced with trauma. The way we communicate with them is just different."
Since its release on July 10, a couple hundred copies have been sold, Asa said. The book is on sale for $12 and can be purchased from the Tittle family ministry, refinedfamily.org.
Although Asa said he had never written a book before, he is already planning Flippers' next tale, which will be a story about bullying.