‘Billy the Kitten and Travis Too’: Annual ‘Serendipitous’ book drive for Children’s Hospital returns with new book


“Billy the Kitten and Travis Too” is the tale of an Old West kitty and his faithful steed, who happens to be an armadillo. 

CULLMAN – Elena Caudle and Bethany Kerr, the local author/artist duo that created the children’s books “Serendipitous” and “Serendipitous Too!” have once again teamed up with childhood cancer survivor Levi Bates for a book drive to provide copies of their new book “Billy the Kitten and Travis Too” free of charge to patients at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

In a letter to supporters and donors, Caudle wrote:

“In April of 2004 a 9 year-old boy I’d never met, was diagnosed with a type of cancer I’d never heard of.  In less than a month, I met and fell in love with that little boy named Colton, found out what a medulloblastoma was AND was introduced to and fell into complete awe of an amazing place called Children’s Hospital of Birmingham.

“I am Elena Caudle and I have been, am now, and always will be a devout fan of Children’s Hospital.  Not only did I watch the wonderful things that happened with my friend Colton, since then I have known more people than I can count who have been blessed to be cared for in their most traumatic times by the kind and merciful doctors and staff, of Children’s.  And I always wished for a way to ‘give back,’ even if it’s only in the form of smiles for the patients that go to Children’s.

“Several years ago, I had the blessing of getting to know Levi Bates, another young man with cancer.  Levi has spent so much of his last few years in, or at Children’s Hospital that it’s pretty much become his home away from home.

“I’d only known Levi for a short time when (completely unrelated) a friend and I got together to write and illustrate a children’s books called ‘Serendipitous.’ From the start my friend and I said we wanted to ‘give back’ to a local cause with true meaning that had touched our hearts.

“Because of Colton and young Levi, we decided to share our books with every child spending Christmas at Children’s Hospital And that’s how the first Serendipitous – Children’s Hospital Book Drive got started!!  

“Then one day in a truly ‘serendipitous’ moment, as my dog and I visited Levi, I told him about the book drive.  Levi decided that, even though OUR idea was good, HE had a BETTER one. He also wanted to collect enough donations to make sure the kids on the Oncology unit got a book too!  Levi is impossible to say ‘NO’ to, and besides, he was right!”

In the first drive in 2016, Bates, Caudle and Kerr raised enough funds to deliver more than 400 books to Children’s, with a special focus on the oncology unit called 8 Quarterback.  In 2017, after the publication of “Serendipitous Too!,” the trio raised the number to 482, and expanded their deliveries to include Camp Smile-a-Mile and the UAB Women & Infants Center.

This year’s goal is 500 books.

Bates shared, “I’ve spent so much time at Children’s Hospital over the last few years and they have been so good to, and for, me that that I want to ‘give back’ to them in some way. These books are full of funny stories about cute critters and they’ve made me smile a million times and I think anything that makes a kid smile is a good thing to ‘give back,’ don’t you?

“So, I’d like to ask for your help to meet our goal of collecting 500 books to take to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham for the kids that have to stay there over Christmas.  Along with that, I’m also planning make sure that there are enough books to leave with Camp SaM (Smile a Mile) and of course, the oncology unit (8 Quarterback) and the bone marrow transplant unit where I’ve spent most of my time.”

A new format

In the “Serendipitous” books, each story was accompanied by one illustration.  For 2018, Caudle and Kerr responded to parents’ requests for more illustrations by producing a stand-alone edition of one of their most popular stories, “Billy the Kitten and Travis Too,” the tale of an Old West kitty and his faithful steed who happens to be an armadillo.  The book has been formatted with numerous new illustrations and a text layout typical of younger children’s story books.

The goal

Caudle said that the goal of the drive is “the same as it always is: to bring a little bit of joy to the people who are having the hardest time at Christmas, which is the children who are living at Children’s Hospital right now.

“The rest of the year, we may not make any sales at all–and we do, a few, but this is what brings the meaning to why we do this.”

Get involved

If you’d like to make a donation to help the book drive, visit www.Serendipitousbooks.com and then click on the Children’s Hospital button on the “shopping” page to order.  You can also contact Caudle at 256-338-0223. Each book you donate will have a sticker in the front with your name or an inscription of your choice, so the children know that you are thinking of them.

Book signing

Caudle and Kerr will have a book signing for their new book at Karma's Coffee House on Dec. 7 from 5:30-7 p.m.

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