A newly published children's book written by teacher Jayne Reed is a moving tribute to a much-loved father, husband and grandfather. Joanna Davis reports.

MANY of us have a strong connection to a favourite children's book.

But not many readers can see their own lives when leafing through the pages of a treasured book.

For special needs teacher Jayne Reed of Dorchester, Beryl the Beetle has a special place in her heart, because not only did she write it, she wrote her late father into it.

Ernie the paint shop man, who lovingly restores run-down Volkwagen Beetle car Beryl, is based upon Jayne's father Ernie Manning, who passed away in 2005 after suffering from lung cancer. Profits from the book will go to Marie Curie to help cancer sufferers like Ernie and their families.

First-time author Jayne, 52, said: "I wanted to write a book that would be a tribute to dad. He was a really talented man who loved cars, especially VWs. I thought if I wrote a book it would keep the memory of dad alive and his grandchildren's grandchildren would still be able to read about him. If he could have seen the book, dad would have loved it.

"If I'm sitting down looking at the book and I close my eyes, I can see dad there. The illustrator has done a really good job and you can see the likeness. Dad was very brave when he was diagnosed with cancer, it was such a shock and he worked right up to the end. He said 'I don't know why I feel so bad', and was then diagnosed and given two weeks to live. He carried on for six months. Marie Curie nurses were really good to us throughout dad's illness. There are so many people dying from cancer and to make the end of their life as comfortable as possible as they do and giving that support is so important. They make something positive out of something negative.

"Dad was such a family man who gave us the most lovely childhood while we were growing up with simple holidays like the Lake District and the New Forest, playing in dinghies, playing games with us and making our lives lovely."

The book tells of a sad, abandoned, rare and old VW Beetle called Beryl found hidden and rotting away at the back of a yard. She is lonely and unhappy because the other cars ignore her and look down on her. Luckily for Beryl, Ernie the paint shop man - who works nearby - just happens to be a VW specialist and helps Beryl find out what it is like to feel beautiful and loved again.

Jayne, who works as a specialist teacher helping dyslexic students at the John Colfox School in Bridport, based the book on her memories of her family's VW vehicles and of her dad's workshop, where he restored VW cars. Ernie used to work at MSE Motors in Matchams and, when he was older, Jayne's brother Norman joined his dad working on VWs.

"My brother used to work with dad on cars. He now has muscular dystrophy so can't do it any more. I put a character in the book based on my brother. He was very emotional when he read it," Jayne said.

Ernie's widow and Jayne's mum Lorraine, was also moved by the touching tribute.

"Mum said it was the nicest tribute," Jayne said. "She's as pleased as punch with it."

Jayne sent the book off to 10 different publishing companies and was thrilled with the response.

"I thought it would take a lot of goes to try and get it published but within two or three weeks I had an offer of publication from Austin Macauley," she said.

The idea for Beryl the Beetle had been with Jayne for a number of years, she said.

"Every now and again I would think of a little character or a good description of something and scribble it down. It would happen at times like when I'd be walking the dog. I had pages and pages of ideas. At the end of 2016 I sat down and put it all together, my husband Richard said 'sit down and put it all together'. It felt like the right time to do it.

"Writing it made me very happy because it felt like the nicest tribute and I could visualise it all as I was writing it."

Essex-born Jayne moved to Dorset aged 14, at first living close to Matchams where her dad worked at the garage, then in Wareham and now lives in a 300-year-old cottage in Dorchester with husband Richard and their cocker spaniel Flint. She has two grown-up children, Jack, 27, and Holly, 25.

The book is aimed at children aged between four and 11 but should appeal to people of any age, Jayne said.

"I was finishing it when I was working in a primary school and read it to each of the year groups, from reception to those in year six aged 11. The feedback I had from students was that they thought it was brilliant."

For an extra bit of fun for children, Morris the mouse, who has made his home in the Beetle at the start of the story, can be found hidden on each picture in the book.

Not resting on her laurels, Jayne plans to make Beryl the Beetle into a series of books - and has four further books in the pipeline.

*Beryl the Beetle is available to buy from Waterstone's in Dorchester priced £9.99 and is also available from Amazon.