TEXAS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — It only takes the turn of a few pages of Deb Ludlow's first book to know its purpose is greater than just telling a story.
It's also about keeping the memory of a little girl alive.
"This first book is dedicated to Audrey Mellis, who was our neighbor," Ludlow's book says. "In her short time with us on earth, she brought the joy of sharing childhood wonder back into my life ."
Audrey was just 10 days from her second birthday in June 2011 when she was killed in the driveway of her grandparents' home on North Eagle Lake Drive in Texas Township. Audrey's grandfather did not see the toddler in the driveway at his home as he pulled forward out of his garage and struck Audrey with his pickup truck.
Now, Audrey is the inspiration for Ludlow in "A Visit To The Neighbors," a children's book that Ludlow began this past summer and just completed in October through AuthorHouse, a company that assists aspiring authors with self-publishing and book marketing.
The book tells the story of Audrey visiting Ludlow's farm on West O Avenue with her parents to see Ludlow's horses "Smarty Girl," ''Steeker" and "Filly."
While it's a work of fiction, the story isn't far from real life. Ludlow said that Audrey used to make frequent visits to her farm, sitting on the shoulders of her father, Chad Mellis, as they would walk a wooded path from their home to see Ludlow's horses.
"She knew where we were going," he said.
Ludlow, who works for Pfizer Animal Health in Kalamazoo and has been around horses her entire life, said she has always wanted to write a book and finally decided to take on the task as a final project to obtain her master's degree in communications from Spring Arbor University.
Ludlow said she hopes her book, which is available online at the AuthorHouse website, as well as Amazon.com, among other places, teaches children and their parents about how animals communicate with humans and the importance of being kind to animals.
She also said the book promotes the importance of family.
"The common theme in that book is that the family is a unit and they're with their children," Ludlow said.
Chad and Stephanie Mellis said they had no hesitations when Ludlow approached them about doing the book and using Audrey as the main character.
"We like it, it's a nice little tribute to Audrey," Stephanie Mellis said. "It kind of keeps her alive in a way . Our whole family is excited about it."
Ludlow said the project was a learning experience for her. She leaned on co-workers at Pfizer to proofread the book and also to read the book to their children to see how they responded.
Ludlow said she'd like to author a sequel in the future. Her idea, at this point, is to write a story in which Audrey teaches Jack, the Mellises' son who was born in May, about horses.
"We can't wait for the sequel," Stephanie Mellis said.