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Author Nancy Gee, back row, second from right,
is surrounded by Willow School students who critiqued
her latest book “The Secret Path.” With Gee
are front row Sumayyah Ryan, with a copy
of the book, and  Declan Klyn, and standing
from left Macy Hamer, Anika Izenbart, Grace
Barry, Kate Gleason and Caylum Ganshirt.

(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Comments by children at Willow School have gone international, thanks to the success of the book “The Secret Path” by author Nancy Gee.

Publishers love feedback on books, but Gee didn’t want the typical teacher and librarian reviews for her beginning reader book. She partnered with Homewood District 153 reading specialist Nancy Wood who volunteered second graders at Willow to sit with Gee as she shared “The Secret Path” when it was still in manuscript form.

Then the students got to work, offering praise for the rhyming words, the fun story line and a strong message. Gee selected eight messages from nine readers, to include on page 2 of the book.

“Unpredictable, family friendly, rhyming, adventurous book,” wrote Sumayyah Ryan and Grace Barry.

Anika Izenbart’s review applauded the book: “I thought the story was entertaining. It had a lot of action.”

“This book is good for young readers because it introduces rhyming words. And then you learn a lesson at the end of the story. You have to stick together,” wrote Benjamin Tunick.

Other reviewers are Declan Klyn, Macy Hamer, Kate Gleason, Caylum Ganshirt and Quinn Hanna.

Gee presented her writing partners with their own copies of the book pointing out their comments at a Family Reading Night program at Willow on April 13 hosted by the Homewood PTA.

Gee came back to Willow after visiting in 2015 with her first book, “The Secret Drawer,” about a flying squirrel that got into her home and hid in a sock drawer. The family’s cat sat by the dresser for three days. The family wondered why the cat stayed in one place. Gee’s husband started opening the drawers and the squirrel dashed out. The creature was captured and taken outside. Once freed, it glided off.

In “The Secret Path,” Gee finds the flying squirrel has a mate. She names the pair Al and Sal and takes them on an adventure through the woods where they meet other friends of nature. There is a surprise ending to the book that makes Al and Sal parents.

“The Secret Drawer” was named a Mom’s Choice Award gold recipient. Both books have been translated into other languages and are circulating around the world.

Gee, of Orland Park, said the books are based on true happenings.  She repeated the flying squirrel in the drawer story to family and friends, but didn’t think much of it until her grandson challenged her to write the story into a book. A successful businesswoman, Gee had never written anything like a book, “but a challenge was a challenge,” she laughed.

She’s had fun going to classrooms and book readings and is now traveling the world sharing the stories with children and parents.


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