From budgets to Buddy in large type
Pleasanton Finance Director Emily Wagner's success in writing children's books that even 3-year-olds can follow with ease and quickly learn to read makes us wonder if she wouldn't be better placed in Washington, D.C., where she could rewrite some of our tax codes. It is surprising when you look at Wagner's many years of accounting and finance activities, including writing and then re-working the hundreds of pages that go into Pleasanton's annual $100 million budget document, that she has the time and is able to make the transition to the younger set of readers.
Her two new books, "At the End of Every Rainbow" and "Asleep Under the Moon," are for sale at Towne Center books, where Wagner signed several hundred copies yesterday for those notified in advance. Colorfully illustrated by Wagner's friend Diane DeCoite, a Pleasanton artist, the books focus on Wagner's grandson Gavin, now 8 years old, and the family dog Buddy. Wagner and her husband Gary have a home in Carmel where their son Garett came to visit with Gavin and Buddy. Always fantasizing about creative writing outside of financial textbooks and budget reports, Wagner found herself walking along the beach when the idea hit her: a children's story about Gavin and Buddy.
In one story, the boy and his dog are dozing under a bright moonlit sky when Buddy finds himself transported to the moon where he romps and runs faster than ever with great leaps beyond anything imagined back on earth. But he becomes sad because his friend Gavin isn't there. Just then a giant wave comes crashing on shore, waking everyone up and united again.
Wagner's focus on "Asleep" is on gently explaining the moon, gravity and where we live on earth to young children. She does the same with "Rainbow," walking the reader through the multiple colors we see and how they're there. The books, in large print, also help parents point to the illustrations and the words, as Gavin's family did as he grew. An active youth baseball player in Brentwood where he attends Brentwood Elementary, Gavin now reads the books to his younger friends and even accompanies Buddy on some of his moon trips.
Emily Wagner is a long-time and well-known Pleasanton financial guru. A graduate of Amador Valley high School, she earned her accounting degree at San Jose State, then an MBA at Cal State East Bay. A certified public accountant with five security licenses, she started out working for a land developer, then an auditing firm and in 1977 became the city of Pleasanton's first accountant. By 1984, she was finance director and then assistant city manager, leaving the municipal post a year later to go into investment banking. For a time, she owned her own business on Sunol Boulevard, but in 2006 accepted an offer to again join the city as its fiscal officer. She's been back holding the finance director's post since 2010.
Her talent for writing was recognized along the way by professors and business associates, who urged her to help make more sense out of financial textbooks and other books used by professionals. She toyed with the idea but was never inspired, which she now knows is the key to a writer's success. Even with "Asleep Under the Moon," it took about five years from start to finish with many walks with Gavin and Buddy along the Carmel seashore before all the words came together. There will likely be a few more books as Gavin and Buddy grow, probably for the slightly older set.
"At the End of Every Rainbow and "Asleep under the Moon" are available at Town Center Books for $12.95 and $8.85 respectively.