Local Author Turns Memories into Children’s Story
Some people turn to memoir writing to leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren, to tell them about how things once were when they were young. But Woodbridge resident Penny Perloff, 89, weaves her memories growing up on a northern Connecticut farm into stories for her grandchildren and great –grandchildren, and most recently, she published those on Amazon. “It’s not even a story, it’s my life,” Perloff said when we met one afternoon at her house. “I just throw in a little adventure.”
The kids love to hear the stories, said her daughter, Sheri Steinmetz. They love visiting Baba Perloff. “When they walk in, first thing they ask for is a story, before they even ask for a treat.” Perloff specifically loves to talk about her favorite cow, Betsy, and other animals on the cattle farm she grew up on in Portland back in the 1930s.
With the help of her daughter, Perloff published “Betsy’s Big Adventure,” a picture book using her own illustrations. It features not only Betsy the Cow as the protagonist, but includes her great-grandchildren in the adventure, with their photos sprinkled throughout the illustrations.
“Betsy’s Adventure” is about getting lost while playing outside and not finding your way home – well, except with the help of other animals who point them in the right direction.
Perloff was the youngest of eight. When she was a little girl, her father gave her a calf as a pet, and she named it Betsy. Since they lived in a very rural area, there were not many other kids nearby to play with, so Betsy became her side-kick. “Betsy walked along with me everywhere,” she said. “One time she came right into the house.”
Her brothers, by the way, also were gifted calves – but steers, which eventually were used for the heavy-lifting, those jobs today’s farmers use tractors for.
Her father owned a dairy farm of some 100 heads of cattle. Since then, the farm has been sold off and the land developed, and now exists only in her memories and in the illustrations that go along with the stories.
Another book is titled “Baba and Betsy and the Mystery of the Missing Key,” and a third one is in the works. Perloff recently donated several copies to the Woodbridge Town Library for those who would like to hear and see more about Betsy’s adventures.
“The books are a creative outlet that keeps her busy,” said Steinmetz. “I have helped her with formatting them into a book format, but she came up with the story and did all the illustrations herself. I think it’s a wonderful activity for an older person to share their life experiences as well as stay productive with a purpose.”