Marvin's Shining Star
For the past several months, Professional Oklahoma Educators has been privileged to help distribute a special children’s book, “Marvin’s Shining Star”, to counselors and other school personnel across Oklahoma. It is POE’s goal to deliver one of these books to every elementary and middle school in the state. In addition, the elementary schools will each receive a special crocheted dog to be used in facilitating healing therapy and discussions with children.
Has your school received a copy of “Marvin’s Shining Star”? Not to worry – POE’s Regional Educational Professionals (REPs) are still in the process of delivering these special books and stuffed animals.
“Marvin’s Shining Star” aims to help children with incarcerated parents by showing them that hope and redemption are possible for everyone who works hard and makes the right decisions, no matter the situation.
This video features Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Siano, along with Dr. John and Payton Otto, the book’s authors, as they discuss “Marvin’s Shining Star”.
Our special thanks to the book’s authors, John and Payton Otto, as well as “Friends of Folks”, and to the Harris Foundation for underwriting this project.
To learn more about the “Friends for Folks” dog training programs at Oklahoma prisons, please see:
Dogs of Lexington: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdCudYQKBFk
Bassett Tales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm3ed5JJxkY
Here is an article from the Norman Transcript that goes into more detail about this wonderful book and the story behind it.
‘Marvin’s Shining Star’
Children’s book aims to help youths with incarcerated parents
By Jessica Bruha, Norman Transcript Staff Writer
Libraries, elementary and middle schools across Cleveland County will receive a new children’s book written to help children with incarcerated parents. “Marvin’s Shining Star” was written by Norman veterinarian Dr. John Otto and his son, Payton. The book is based on a true story about an inmate named Marvin Perry.
Marvin Perry was serving life without parole at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center (LARC) when he trained a dog named Star through a prison dog program. Star suffered neglect and abuse as a puppy and was in a shelter before eventually becoming a part of the program.
The book details parts of Perry’s life and the positive, life-changing influence of prison dog programs. Perry trained Star for four years.
She then became a rescue dog for the Paoli Police Department.
One day, a woman with Alzheimers wandered off and was lost, resulting in about an 11-hour search. About 20 minutes after Star was put on the job, she was able to locate the woman.
“Star found her using the scent from her pillowcase,” Otto said.
The dog was later nominated and won a hero award, as well as being enshrined into the state pet hall of fame. Perry was able to be released from prison to be part of the ceremony.
“Star helped save a woman’s life and saved (Perry’s) life,” Otto said. The veterinarian was
planning on writing the book with Perry, but after Perry passed away due to ALS, he had his 13-year-old son help.
“Payton knew Marvin well,” Otto said, adding that it helped give the book a younger person’s perspective on the story. “When we decided to write the book, we wanted it to be more than just a children’s book. We wanted to help kids of incarcerated parents by showing them there is hope and redemption for everyone who makes the right decisions no matter the situation you
Otto remembered one boy who read the book commenting that he hoped his dad would get a dog in prison. Children would read the book and their eyes would light up, Otto said. The children also started opening up and talking about their parents and feelings, which helped
“A lot of children have a hard time talking about their (incarcerated) parents because of that shame and guilt,” he said. “For the children of the incarcerated, it shows their parents can
get better and do better. It shows things can get better.”
The ultimate message of the book is that with hope and hard work, you can do a lot, he said. It is also intended to help intervene with an incarceration cycle.
Otto said 50 to 70 percent of children whose parents are incarcerated become incarcerated themselves.
A stuffed, crocheted dog is also delivered with the book. The dogs are made by offenders at the Mabel Basset Correctional Center in McCloud.
The printing costs and material for the crocheted dogs are furnished through a grant by the Harris Foundation.
The books and stuffed dogs are being delivered with the help of the Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE).
“The book is going to help a lot of children who face the reality of having a parent incarcerated,” said POE Executive Director Ginger Tinney. “It’s going to show them they are not alone and having the crocheted dog is going to be a physical reminder of hope.”
Approximately 1,300 books and 1,100 stuffed dogs will be distributed across the state to libraries and elementary and middle schools by spring 2016. The book started being distributed
to school counselors at the Oklahoma School Counselor State Conference in November.
Otto said they were recently being distributed in southeast and western parts of Oklahoma. The book is also being sold at his veterinary hospital, University Animal Hospital, in Norman and
online at Amazon.
Otto grew up the son of an FBI director and recognized the emotional strain put on kids by having a parent incarcerated from an early age. He saw families torn apart and suffering, which led him to other philanthropic efforts through the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
The veterinarian also helped establish the Guardian Angels program at Mabel Basset and also
volunteers with the Friends for Folks program at the LARC. The programs allow offenders serving time at the facilities to train dogs considered unacceptable to prepare them for a home.