Harrison Township resident Deb McCombs-Kaiser will read her book, “Late for St. Paddy’s Day,” at 2 p.m. March 18 at the Harrison Township Public Library.

Harrison Township resident Deb McCombs-Kaiser will read her book, “Late for St. Paddy’s Day,” at 2 p.m. March 18 at the Harrison Township Public Library.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Retired educator pens first-ever children’s book

By: Maria Allard | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published March 8, 2023


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Growing up in an Irish family, Deb McCombs-Kaiser always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 with her immediate family.

Her mom, Patsy, often made a hearty meal of corned beef and cabbage or shepherd’s pie. After dinner it was time to meet up with the extended family to play games, visit and sing songs  — some of them traditional Irish folk songs, of course.

McCombs-Kaiser has such great memories of those holiday celebrations that it helped set the tone when she wrote her first-ever children’s book. Last year, the Harrison Township resident released “Late for St. Paddy’s Day.” The book, designed for children in grades K-3, tells the story of Murphy the Leprechaun.

Murphy is a good friend to all he comes in contact with, but the one attribute he lacks is bravery. He’s the only leprechaun who won’t travel through Barna Woods all alone; the dark shadows and loud noises scare him away. He doesn’t want anyone to know his secret.

But Barna Woods — located in Barna, in County Galway, Ireland — is the best route to take to the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day party he’ll attend. When he knows he must be on time to help set up for the social event, Murphy comes up with a plan. Instead of venturing through the forest, he decides he will travel around it instead.

On his way to the party, however, the unexpected happens. He can hear his friends from inside Barna Woods calling for help, but will he have the courage to go inside the forest?

To find out, head over to the Harrison Township Public Library at 2 p.m. March 18, where McCombs-Kaiser will read “Late for St. Paddy’s Day.” The Harrison Township Library is located at 38255 L’Anse Creuse St., Suite A. Registration for the children’s St. Patrick’s Day party is required at htlibrary.org or by calling (586) 329-1261.

In the book, the first-time author incorporates themes of selflessness, kids helping kids and overcoming fears. Digging into her Irish roots, McCombs-Kaiser also includes an educational component of authentic Irish culture, language and more. A glossary of Irish terms is listed at the beginning of the book.

“It’s all intertwined with the story,” said McCombs-Kaiser, a Warren Woods Tower High School graduate.

McCombs-Kaiser’s cousin, Charlie Hnatiuk, of Toronto, is the illustrator of the book.

“The illustrations are amazing,” McCombs-Kaiser said.

It took 10 years for McCombs-Kaiser to write “Late for St. Paddy’s Day.” Her husband, John Kaiser, and son John Kaiser Jr. “have been very supportive of me becoming an author.” It was her 16-year-old son who influenced the friendship theme behind the story.

McCombs-Kaiser is a retired Utica Community Schools resource room teacher, and another influence was her students over the years.

“I think that was a big part of it,” the retired educator said. “I had small groups of students, so I got to know the kids. You strive for that personal connection.”

Reading was always encouraged in her classroom.

“I love seeing kids excited about books and reading. You use your imagination. Kids get excited,” McCombs-Kaiser said. “You see them smiling. They’re interacting. I love to see kids inspired to try something new. You can pause, think about it and do it again.”

McCombs-Kaiser has already acquired fans of her first book, including Betsy Facione, of New Baltimore. Facione worked alongside McCombs-Kaiser for many years in the UCS district.

“She taught in another classroom right next to me,” Facione said. “The students loved her.”

Facione, who retired after 45 years, was among the many colleagues who encouraged McCombs-Kaiser with her writing.

“I have read her book. I loved it so much I bought a copy for each of my four grandchildren,” Facione said. “I like that it wasn’t just a cute, little story. It has a lesson to be learned in it.”

Facione also appreciates all the research McCombs-Kaiser put into “Late for St. Paddy’s Day.”

“She’s dedicated to what she is doing,” Facione said. “I know she worked hard to make everything perfect for this book.”

“Late for St. Paddy’s Day” is available on Amazon, IngramSpark and at independent bookstores.