"Eugene The Shy Dinosaur" is available on Amazon.By Kym Gable

OAKDALE, Pa. (KDKA) — Levi Frey from Oakdale is using markers and his imagination to show others that it’s OK to be uniquely themselves.

The fifth-grader at McKee Elementary School is on the autism spectrum. The 10-year-old uses art to understand the world around him, drawing characters with expression and emotion.

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His aunt, Erin Dougherty is a teacher and author. Dougherty wrote a book over a decade ago called “Eugene The Shy Dinosaur” to help Levi’s brother, Evan, at the time.

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“He was having a rough time,” Dougherty told KDKA’s Kym Gable. “He was feeling a little left out and wanted to try to fit in with the other kids in his class and I decided to write a story for him.”

The book sat in a drawer until 2019 when Dougherty had an idea. She asked Levi to be the illustrator.

“And so it was a true collaboration,” said Dougherty.

Now Levi is getting a lot of attention, receiving awards and having his story published in local newspapers and magazines.

Kym: What’s Eugene all about? What’s he like?

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Levi: Well, no spoilers, but in the end, everybody liked him. In the beginning, nobody liked him. They wanted him to be a normal dinosaur.

Kym: But he was different, wasn’t he?

Levi: Yes, he was different.

Kym: So when kids read this book, when families read it together, what do you hope they get out of it?

Levi: I hope they get inspired by it.

“The power of storytelling is to try to make people feel less alone or create characters they see in themselves,” Dougherty said.

“Eugene The Shy Dinosaur” is available on Amazon.

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