By Kendra Sitton
A North Park family’s COVID-19 projects helped them meet their neighbors and entertain local children. The Dunn family self-published a children’s book and created a painted rock garden that toddlers have played in for the past year.
John Dunn, who wrote the book “Boo and Ted’s Amazing Adventures: Beach Rescue” about the family’s dogs, noticed an uptick in the number of young families taking walks down Alabama Street during the pandemic. He is not sure whether the neighborhood demographics are changing or the rock garden has become a community gathering space. Through the family’s projects, they have connected with those young families.
John and Christina Dunn have two daughters who are 12 and 14. The family connected with the parents of toddlers “by accident.” Christina and their daughters are artistic. Near the beginning of the pandemic, Christina and her 12-year-old daughters began painting rocks for fun with watermelons, animals, lightning and whatever they could think of. The rocks were placed throughout the garden and in planters outside the fence. The family noticed that young children on walks would stop and play with the rocks.
“They had a constituency so she made made more and it got more popular,” John Dunn said.
The family embraced this trend by adding more painted rocks until their house became a popular destination for local toddlers. During what John Dunn described as the “dad happy hour,” when dads took their kids to the house in the early evening, it became so crowded the family started social distancing protocols and moved the planters further apart. Christina also added small toys like race cars for the kids to use while playing.
While the rock garden grew, John Dunn wrote a children’s book based on the bedtime stories he used to tell his daughters. His daughters declined to illustrate it so he found Holly Withers online and she drew the dogs on their jet ski adventure to save someone drowning while making it back before the Dunns noticed their absence. Some San Diego landmarks make the book, including Hotel del Coronado and Balboa Parks’ Museum of Us.
Dunn is selling the book on Amazon and at Verbatim books. He has also given copies to local libraries, elementary schools and some of the children who visit the family’s painted rock garden.
The book about the family’s dogs have been a new way to talk to their daily visitors. Recently, a child’s dad asked if Boo and Ted liked going to dog beach or getting in the water. Christina answered that they did not. The child interjected that of course the dogs did not like water, that is why they rode on jet skis.
“There’s so many little kids in our neighborhood now that it’s a good way to meet them and know who your neighbors are,” Dunn said.
To purchase the book, visit Verbatim Books or Amazon.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.