Military child is heroine of ‘Dabby’ series

Mar. 05, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Robin Owens grew up as a self-described military brat, facing uncertainty from frequent moves and a father who was deployed to a combat zone, and later becoming a military spouse and a mother and grandmother to several other military brats.

Now the new Sanford resident is drawing on those experiences, working on a series of children’s books aimed at kids with parents in the military. It’s called “The Dabby Project” after the young female protagonist. The first book, “Dabby and Maxie,” is out now, and the second one will be released around Easter, Owens said.

“I know what these kids feel,” she said. “So I want to give them someone to look to who’s going through the same thing — but at the same time also give the civilian kids an idea about what their military friends are going through.”

Owens moved to Sanford in November with her husband, a chief warrant officer 5 who is now stationed at Fort Bragg for his final duty station after 32 years in the Army. Her own father was in the military and fought in the Vietnam War, Owens said, and her three daughters have all also married men in uniform — two military men and one firefighter.

“Dabby and Maxie” is available at Karma Boutique in downtown Sanford or online (as a paperback or a digital download for Nook or Kindle) from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

It deals with Dabby’s father getting deployed. The cover depicts a girl sitting on top of the world, surrounded by moving boxes and shrugging, and features the tagline: “When mom or dad get deployed, the whole family goes to war. Sometimes, the battle is loneliness.”

At least 200 children in Lee County have a parent in the armed forces, according to a survey military personnel can submit to the federal government. However, that survey isn’t mandatory, so it’s possible there are even more.

The book series actually stemmed from another project Owens began, sending dolls to children whose parents have been deployed. They look after the dolls for a month, she said, and then send it back and get a different one a little while later.

All the dolls are made by hand, and thus the second doll looks different from the first, which Owens said was done on purpose as a way of explaining that sometimes deployed parents come back different, too. She said she’s still struggling with how to address the fact that some don’t come back at all.

But the book, while also dealing with serious issues, tries to take a more light-hearted approach and heavily features Dabby’s puppy, Patriot. Dabby’s name is an allusion to the fact that military children tend to dabble in many different activities because they move around so much.

“Dabby and Maxie” had 12 reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as of Tuesday, all of them giving the highest mark of 5 stars.

“As the child of a 20-year Air Force man, I instantly related to Dabby,” wrote one reviewer. “Moving every few years, making friends just to have to say goodbye and be the new girl again ... . I highly recommend this book for children of service personnel and especially those who aren’t, so that they might understand what it feels like to always be the new kid and to always be missing someone.”

Another wrote that “in a time where many children have grown up throughout our War on Terrorism and Iraq, it is refreshing to know there is a book out there that honors and addresses the impact that can result from a family member serving our country.”

One reviewer didn’t address the book itself but did talk about the doll her daughter received through The Dabby Project, writing, “This was not only a great experience for my 9-year-old, but for me as well. Everywhere we went, they went. She wasn’t just ‘a doll,’ she was a part of our family, as well as my daughter’s friend and confidant.”

People who want to learn more about the dolls or the books can visit Owens also will have a book signing at Karma Boutique in May.