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New Hope resident and café owner creates entire worlds from a single polka dot

by Tianna Grosch

A local resident of 23 years in New Hope and owner of the Zebra-Striped Whale Ice Cream and Coffee Café (ZSW) at 12 S. State Street in Newtown, Shari Faden Donahue recently released her ninth children’s book and the third book to feature her popular signature character of the zebra-striped whale.

This new release, titled “Polka-Dot Power,” explores the use of imagination through a single red polka dot, used in numerous handmade collages by Shari and her husband to create unique images in this colorful, interactive book.

“I’ve loved children’s books since my children were little (now 34 and 29 with children of their own),” Shari said. “I started writing the first Zebra-Striped Whale book because I wanted to honor my father who died when my kids were young.”

Shari recalls that her father was always reading multiple books at a time while she was more focused on academics, achieving an MBA.

“I had never been a very avid reader and had never drawn before putting out the first book but this was my gift to my father – he was the inspiration behind it and it’s how I chose to deal with the loss of someone so special to me. He would laugh seeing how I discovered my love for writing and creating these books.”

If one thing has inspired Shari most about discovering her passion for creating these children’s books, it’s the feeling that everyone can do this.

“Everyone has a book inside them waiting to come out,” she said. “For me, or anyone interested in writing their own children’s or adult books, I really encourage you.”

Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, Shari’s café offers a fun, unique and eclectic experience with thematic party packages for children, a young reader’s library, an original art exhibit, and rapture for all the senses!

One of Shari’s favorite things is seeing parents come in with their children and enjoy reading her books, meeting the author and illustrator, having the books signed and creating a sense of community out of this book.

“I love writing a personal message to kids and parents in books – it creates such a strong interaction and connection with customers.”

Much like writing itself, where Shari says the books take on a life of their own, she sees this happening in her café much the same way.

“The store has become its own; there is so much love coming from there,” Shari says.

In a fun ‘Where’s Waldo?’ theme, each picture in the third Zebra-Striped Whale installment includes the whale with its polka-dot tail hiding among the images.

On each page, the red polka dot becomes a cherry on a sundae, a candy on a cake, a gumball, a light on a flying saucer, and so much more, exploring the power in a single image to create many others.

The book allows a child’s imagination to be limitless.

Shari was a children’s picture book author and illustrator long before opening her café in 2004.

She believes the creation of her character influenced the creation of the café and the activities she holds for children are greatly based on the themes in her books, creating fun activities that go along with each story.

“Being creative is such an outlet and touching other people’s lives through creating these books has been priceless.”

Stop in ZSW today and create your very own polka dot art!

Check out more on www.zebrastripedwhale.com or call 215-860-4122.

PHOTO CAP: Shari Faden Donahue