BEVERLY — The Shoebert phenomenon has spawned a craze for merchandise that includes T-shirts, sugar cookies, ice cream and chocolates. Now the story of the charismatic gray seal extends into the realm of literature.
At least two children’s books based on Shoebert’s adventures, both written by Beverly locals, are now available. One is of Stanley Forman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, and his wife, Debbie; the other is from Sarah Hastings, a preschool teacher.
“It’s a wonderful, upbeat, happy story,” Stanley Forman said. “I think it’s something parents will read to their kids.”
Shoebert, for those who need to be reminded, caused a stir in Beverly and beyond this fall when he walked from the ocean to Shoe Pond at the Cummings Center. He hung around the pond for a few weeks, drawing adoring crowds, before taking a middle-of-the-night hike through the parking lot to the police station. He was taken to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut before being released back into the ocean. A tracking device shows that he returned to the ocean near the North Shore.
Forman, who won three Pulitzer Prizes as a photographer for the Boston Herald American, and still works as a freelance photographer and videographer, went to the pond every day to take pictures of Shoebert. One day he even spoke to her. “I said, ‘Hi Shoebie,’ and waved my keys,” Forman said. “He was looking at me.”
Forman said he told his wife how much he missed Shoebert after he left Beverly, so she started acting like she was Shoebert. “She said, ‘One day I was swimming in Beverly Harbor. I saw a lot of beautiful fish and I decided to follow them,’ and I said, ‘Oh my God, I have to do a book’ , Forman said.
The softcover book is titled “Shoebert’s Great Adventure”. It includes over 20 photos of Forman, with each page telling Shoebert’s story in chronological order. The cover was designed by Anna Mourer, art teacher at Beverly Middle School. The book will be available at www.blurb.com/ and at Sweetwater & Co. in Beverly Farms, Forman said. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Mystic Aquarium.
Forman, 77, retired last year from full-time work. He’s been searching for police scanner information for decades and has won Pulitzer Prizes for his famous photos of a 2-year-old girl and her 19-year-old godmother plunging to the ground during a stairway collapse. relief in 1975, and a teenage white man pointing an American flag at a black man during an anti-bus protest in 1976.
Teaming up with his wife to write a light-hearted story of a friendly seal has been “wonderful,” he said, especially in light of the fact that they spend so much of their time watching their pup. 14-month-old son, Liam, to whom they dedicated the book.
“We had a lot of fun,” Forman said.
While Forman followed Shoebert with his camera, Hastings frequently visited the Shoe Pond in her work as a nanny and babysitter.
“One of the boys I’m with is 3 and a half and he’s really bonded,” she said. “He was like, ‘Where’s Shoebert?’ and I said, ‘He will come back someday.’ »
“We started talking about the story – the rescue workers, how he walked to the police station, his doctor’s appointment at Mystic Aquarium – and before we knew it, it was a book,” Hastings said. “I spend a lot of my days reading a lot of children’s books and I’ve always wanted to write one.”
Hastings, 29, wrote the story in rhyme and did the illustrations herself. The paperback is called “Shoebert the Traveling Seal”. It is published by The Book Shop in Beverly Farms under its Industry Books LLC imprint and costs $14.99. Pre-orders are available at https://bookshopofbeverlyfarms.com/item/TNRw5nxbGqT5eYF9zbuBMA. One dollar from each purchase will go to the Mystic Aquarium.
“It was a cute moment in history,” Hastings said. “If the children see the book, they can say, ‘I remember it’.”
Editor Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.