[so kind]
Boy Plus Dog Equals Love
Children’s book celebrates the canine connection
by Julene Snyder
image2photo by Susan M. Graunke

n adorable black pug, an impossibly photogenic 3-year-old and a gentle story about kindness populate the pages of Nico and Lola, a new children’s book written by Meggan Hill ‘94.

When Aunt Sue has to go out of town, she asks Nico if he would be so kind as to take care of her dog. Of course he agrees in a heartbeat, but wonders, “How will I be so kind?”

We wanted to do a book that had some meaning to it,” says Hill, who explains that the pug in Nico and Lola belongs to the book’s photographer, Susan Graunke. “I wanted it to be a book that would strike a chord not just with children, but with parents, grandparents, teachers, for readers across the board.”

Hill manages a horse farm, Kickapoo Farms, in Barrington, Ill. When it came to books for her son, she saw a need and decided to fill it. “I noticed that he gravitated toward photographic picture books, and that the ones that were out there were either board books for babies or were educational. I wanted to do a fictional storybook that would be photographed.”

Once she’d written the story — which explores the ways that Nico exemplifies kindness to his four-legged buddy — thousands of photographs had to be sifted through to choose just the right ones. Clearly the collaborative process between writer and photographer has paid off: The book recently took first prize in the category of children’s books at the 2009 New York Book Festival.

As for Nico, at the ripe old age of “almost 4,” he’s enjoying the modest acclaim that comes with being on the cover of a book. “He thinks it’s fun,” Hill says with a laugh. “One of the first places I read it was to his preschool class, and he’d heard so many different versions of it that he was ending the sentences for me.”

For more information about Nico and Lola, go to