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Once Upon a Wall: Boise Children's Book Author Pens a Blue Book in a Red State

Catalina and the King's Wall features very contemporary themes


Boise-based neuroscientist and first-time author Dr. Patty Costello's new children's book looks at current social issues through a blue lens, despite Idaho's red-state roots.

In fact, Costello credits the 2017 Women's March in Boise as a turning point that inspired her to write the book, Catalina and the King's Wall.

As she and her son stood at the snow-covered rally at the Idaho State Capitol, Costello said she thought of the many tales of intolerance being shared, and more importantly, how those messages might influence her son. Costello said she needed a tool, something she and other parents could use to help their children better understand today's challenges.

"So, the idea to write a book literally just popped into my head as I was standing there," she said. "But I had no idea what I was getting into at the time."

Costello oversees the undergraduate psychology program for Walden University, an accredited online college. But putting together a book was an entirely new process for her. After working on the book nearly every day following the January 2017 march, it was ultimately published by Pennsylvania-based Eifrig Publishing this May.

  • Diane Cojocaru

Catalina and the King's Wall tells the story of a gluttonous king who decides to build a wall to keep different people out of his kingdom. The town's baker, Catalina, tricks the king in order to allow her family from a neighboring kingdom to enter his domain. The story is meant to engage its young audience on the very mature topic of President Donald Trump's desire for border walls and travel bans.

"I really wanted it to be an empowering message for kids, and for parents to have discussions with kids about why we don't build walls, why we welcome people who don't look like us, why we want to be inclusive of everyone no matter where they're from," Costello said. "I just want it to be a conversation piece."

Despite its controversial theme, Costello said she has not faced much criticism for Catalina and the King's Wall.

"I was bracing for potential disagreement, or for it to be more contentious; but I think because I took a lot of trouble to try and make it a gentle, fun story, it would be difficult to find fault in the message," she said.

Costello said when she read the book at her son's Boise preschool to kids ages 3 to 5, she was pleasantly surprised that the teacher was then able to have a discussion about the book's themes.

"The kids understood. They got the message," Costello said.

Catalina and the King's Wall is for sale at Rediscovered Books, the Hyde and Seek gift shop in Boise's North End, and on It can also be checked out at the Boise Public Library.