Doris Rubenstein is the first to say that her children’s book, “The Journey of a Dollar,” would not have been possible without the people in her local community.
Most of them live in Richfield, as she does, but the surrounding suburbs also played a major role. Her book is a product of the support for literacy in the Twin Cities, she said.
“The Journey of a Dollar” tells the story of Elliot, a young student who is learning about Ecuador in school. His classmates are donating money to a charity there and he wants to know how his dollar contribution makes it from his classroom to the South American nation.
“Educational and sweet,” Rubenstein said. “I’ve heard those two words used together about this book numerous times already.”
The text is accompanied by the illustrations of Rubenstein’s friend Howard Fridson, whom she first met at a Michigan summer camp in 1969. The pictures were drawn with colored pencils, giving the book a gentle quality.
“This is a somewhat serious subject, and I didn’t want it to be boring,” Rubenstein said. “I knew I needed somebody who could lighten up the material with the drawings.”
Rubenstein has used her energetic personality and interest in philanthropy to help raise money for different organizations. She moved to Minnesota in 1984 and worked as a fundraiser for the University of Minnesota for 13 years. She wrote a textbook about philanthropic practices for businesses and college students in the early 2000s.
She said she got the idea for the children’s book from her goddaughter, Siona Kelly, a student at St. Louis Park High School. In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left hundreds of thousands dead, Kelly asked Rubenstein how donations reach stricken areas.
Much of the premise for “The Journey of a Dollar” is based on her experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador in her early 20s. But inspiration often came closer to home.
There was Richfield City Council Member Edwina Garcia, who introduced Rubenstein to a man who would lead to her publisher. There were Gus and Milo Franklin, the children of her former neighbors who read early drafts of the book and gave her feedback. There were the teachers at Sheridan Hills Elementary School who supported her and the book’s themes.
Rubenstein lives within biking distance of three Hennepin County libraries — Augsburg Park, Southdale and Washburn — where she said she spent hours scouring children’s books to make sure her idea was original.
“I talked to the children’s librarians and went looking at the online card catalog,” she said. ”I wanted to make sure I wasn’t talking too low or too high to the people I wanted to reach.”
She pitched the idea to major publishers, but finally found success with Edina-based Beaver’s Pond Press.
“She is just a sparkplug,” said Lily Coyle, her book editor. “She is not afraid to go out and promote herself. … She is the true indie artist.”
Rubenstein and Fridson held a book signing for friends and family last week at Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield. Mayor Debbie Goettel, who attended the signing, said she first met Rubenstein when she was raising money for the Richfield Foundation. Rubenstein has since served the city in several ways, including her current position as a member of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“She has always been somebody who gave back to the community,” said Goettel, who earlier this month was elected to the Hennepin County Board. “She’s one of those people I can count on.”
Rubenstein already has another idea for a children’s book, some proceeds from which Elliot wants to donate money. But she needs help choosing a charity.
“The Journey of a Dollar” can be found at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul or through various online retailers.