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Palos Park – The story had been kicking around Carol Landow’s head for almost a quarter of a century. Her grandchildren’s cat had gone missing during a move from the city to the country. Missy became lost in the woods near their new home and then – amazingly – showed up on their doorstep again a week later.

Carol’s lively imagination, coupled with her deep love of learning, couldn’t help but create stories about what had happened to Missy during those lost days. Carol typed up a rough draft and put it aside, found it many years later during a move, thought, “I could swear I gave this to the grandkids” and then put it aside again.

Now 102 years old and a resident of Peace Village’s independent living neighborhood in Palos Park, Carol found that draft again this spring and decided it was time to actually make the book a reality. Serendipitously, an activity class in writing and illustration was being offered, taught by fellow residents Yvonne Woulfe and Collette Zogg. Carol signed up immediately and it turned out to be the perfect nudge to finish this amazing project.

The Adventures of Missy was published this fall. The 40-page children’s book is a charming tale of how the cat survived the week. The house cat begins the story lonesome and unsure when she first realizes she is lost. A week later, she is full of confidence, slaying mice, taking care of herself and yet delighted to find her way back home. The illustrations have a primitive simplicity that belie the detailed and scientifically accurate content of the book, full of facts about Midwestern animals that call the night their own.

“The class lasted six weeks and I knew I would get the help I needed there. They had good suggestions and really encouraged me,” says Carol. “I had a hand from Debi Pope with using the computer and then it all just fell into place. All of a sudden I couldn’t stop myself.” Carol laughs, “I actually lost 5 pounds because I was so excited about what I was doing, I missed meals. I would forget to go to lunch.”

Carol worked on the book at least 2 hours every day, but thought about it constantly. “Am I counting all the lost sleep?,” she chuckles. “In the middle of the night I would think “this might be good for this” or I would need something specific and all of a sudden, I would get it.”

Growing up in a family that didn’t have the funds to send any children to college, Carol was nonetheless a life-long learner and passionate about travel. With a great love of children, Carol volunteered at the Field Museum in Chicago. When she realized many of the young visitors were more comfortable speaking Spanish, Carol took an evening class to better communicate with them. Her travels with her family, her husband and eventually her grandchildren took Carol to all the U.S. National Parks and even atop the Great Wall of China.

“I didn’t really know how to draw, so I picked up images from Google and then drew from those. I had to look for animals that come out at night, and I made the story about the ones I could find. I learned about them as I went along, finding out how each animal was able to keep alive and eat,” says Carol. “Do you know bats catch mosquitos with their wings? That was something new I learned.”

“I would challenge myself to try to accomplish something every day. I put pressure on myself to move forward, and I ended up with too many pages,” Carol chuckles. Getting rid of the extra was done “very carefully,” Carol says. “I picked things that weren’t so interesting, or what I didn’t do a good job on. I also thought about what the kids would like to see in the book.”

To write the story, Carol says, “I pretended I was a cat! It was like a treasure hunt. I was gone for a week, and I’ve only ever eaten cat food. It would’ve been hard to eat. When I discover I can catch a mouse, that’s really adapting to the new environment. My whole life was different from being indoors in the city to being lost in the woods. I’d never really seen the moon and the stars.”

The pages where Missy sees the moon and the stars for the first time is Carol’s favorite part, in fact. The illustration had to be just right, conveying the feeling of a shining moon and twinkling stars. While most of the illustrations are done in watercolor pencils, the moon is created of precisely cut aluminum foil and the stars are glitter. This treatment gives the nighttime sky a nearly three-dimensional feel in the book.

Carol notes that the book is written to appeal ideally to preschool children. “They will be able to understand it, but also learn from it. I purposely put in big words so they can learn new words. On each page, I considered what kids would learn.” While some might consider Missy’s enthusiastic “YUM” after catching the mouse a little shocking in a children’s book, Carol laughs, “Well, that’s part of life!”

Carol began working in earnest on the story in the spring and continued throughout summer and fall, finally sending the much-revised, edited, and thoroughly proofed book to the publisher in the middle of November. The book was published by, who were an incredible help from start to finish. First, they sent a thick guide to explain basic printing guidelines. They then assigned a representative who walked Carol and Debi through the process, sending a selection of paper swatches, explaining page layouts, colors and more.

Debi says, “Carol had a vision in her head about this book. She could “see it.” Each illustration was carefully planned, the backgrounds, the details, the placement of all the elements. Carol made sure the fawn had spots, the mosquitos were in front, the lightning bugs all over the page, and the skunk was surrounded by wildflowers. She selected the font, which she wanted to look like a teacher had printed on the board, to be kid-friendly.”

Carol ordered 300 books. While her grandchildren did indeed get books of their own, the bulk of the books now serve a more serious purpose. The proceeds of the book’s sale benefit Lora’s Fund, which allows residents to stay in their homes within Peace Village when they outlived their financial resources.

“I’ve been at Peace Village now for 23 years; I’m now the resident who’s lived here the longest, and I’m one of the oldest,” says Carol. “This is a perfect place; there’s no place on earth I’d rather be. This is the best time of my life. I have lots of friends and new ones are coming in all the time. There are so many opportunities here. Do you know that people who move to retirement communities live an average of seven years longer? You don’t worry. If you do have a problem, they have got it covered. If you want anything, they’ll help you get what you need.”

Carol is proof of the positive impact Peace Village has on quality of life for seniors. At 102 years old, she still lives in her own fully-equipped apartment in the independent neighborhood, making her bed each day, doing her own laundry, going for walks and participating in about two activities each day, rather than her previous three to four when she was younger.

“I wasn’t really expecting this kind of opportunity. It was so much fun to do and now that it’s over, I wish I had started when I was younger.” Carol chuckles, “At 102, most people are publishing their last book, not their first.”

You can purchase The Adventures of Missy by visiting Peace Village’s gift shop at 10300 Village Circle Drive in Palos Park, Illinois or by calling 708-361-3683. Learn more about Peace Village by visiting

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