At an age when many kids have their noses buried in storybooks, 12-year-old Emma Phipps writes them herself. The 6th grader from Eugene, Oregon, is the author of a pair of illustrated books, “Nala’s Adoption Adventure” and “Nala’s Dog Training Adventure,” that inspire readers to get involved with their local animal shelters and rescues—and, if possible, to provide a forever home for a pet in need.
“I’ve just always really liked animals,” says Emma, who based the title character of her books on her real-life dog, a German Shepherd rescue named Nala whom her family adopted in 2017.
Adopting Nala was when Emma “got really into” shelter pets and animal welfare, she says. It also served as inspiration for “Nala’s Adoption Adventure,” in which Nala is adopted and trained by a little girl who shares Emma’s name. The book, released in 2018, walks readers through the adoption process and emphasizes that taking a rescue pet home can make a big impact on your community.
“You get to basically save two lives,” Emma explains, “because you open a space for another dog, cat or other animal to come in.”
“Nala’s Adoption Adventure” also celebrates shelter and rescue workers. The dog catcher in the book is portrayed as a friendly character, rather than the stereotypical villain, dispelling the myth that people who work in animal control don’t care about community pets. Plus, the book includes tips and resources on adoption, pointing readers to Emma’s local animal organization, the Greenhill Humane Society, and other shelters and rescues where they can make a difference.
Emma had written stories of her own for several years before starting work on a fiction book about an unadopted dog. It took a helpful nudge from a relative to bring it all together.
“My uncle asked if I wanted to actually make a book and publish it,” she says. “We ended up deciding to do it about Nala’s story so that it would be easier to write it because we already knew what had happened.”
Over a couple of months, her uncle, Rob Anderson (who is credited as co-author) helped her with storyboarding, finding an illustrator, editing the text and releasing the story via a self-publishing service.
“We wanted to make sure it was good for most ages, that even an adult could read it if they wanted to,” Emma says.
Several months later, Emma published the follow-up book, “Nala’s Dog Training Adventure,” which follows Emma’s journey helping Nala overcome problem behaviors like digging holes and chewing shoes through obedience and agility training. She had originally planned a third book about Pit Bulls and the misconceptions that make bully breeds difficult to adopt, but put the project on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, Nala’s adventure books have sold several hundred copies, with Emma donating a portion of proceeds to the Greenhill Humane Society. She’s read her books to audiences online, at the local library and at Greenhill Humane Society. And before the COVID-19 pandemic, Emma would visit the classrooms of younger students to share her stories and educate other kids about how adoption works.
And that’s not all she’s done to help animals in need. Last year, Emma helped raise over $1,000 for the Greenhill Humane Society by posting on social media and offering goodie bags with a personalized card and information about the shelter.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Crystal Phipps says of her daughter’s accomplishments. “She’s met so many great people through the process. We’ve found a tribe of animal lovers all around us and met some really good friends, all because she decided she wanted to write this little book. … We’re very proud of her. Her writing is really good for her age; it’s been really surprising to watch her bloom.”
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