By Karen Billing
A busy local mother of three children ages newborn through 4 was able to carve out enough pockets of free time to finish her first children’s book. Allison Gharst, a Torrey Pines High School graduate, published “Monochromatic Dan” two weeks ago, a book she wrote and illustrated that teaches lessons of friendship and being accepting of others’ differences.
“It was very exciting,” said Gharst, the daughter of former longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident Donna Ferrier. “I really wanted to have this for my kids, they don’t get to see my artsy side very much.”
The title character of the book, Monochromatic Dan, is a shy little boy who only wears different shades of brown — he even only likes brown foods such as peanut butter, refried beans, meatloaf and brown “cookies by the bunch.” Dan makes a new friend named Luminous Lil’ (named after Gharst’s daughter) who introduces him to color and changes his social outlook.
Gharst said the book provides a lesson to kids on finding their own voice and having the confidence to believe in it, no matter the color.
Gharst has three daughters, Lillian (“Lilly”), Charlotte (“Charlee”) and Adelaide. She worked as a teacher before she starting having kids, working as a substitute teacher at her alma mater R. Roger Rowe School and then teaching art at Maranatha Christian School until 2008.
“I’d always thought writing a book would be fun but the idea really came to me in 2008,” Gharst said. She and her family were meeting her in-laws for lunch at Balboa Park when her father-in-law came strolling up in an all-brown ensemble, complete with a brown safari hat.
As a joke, she called him “Monochromatic Tom.”
“I liked the way that sounded and I started writing a story in my head,” Gharst said.
During a family road trip to Colorado, she had a lot of time sitting in the car and started putting her story idea on paper. She was able to write the whole book in the car.
Finding time to complete the illustrations was difficult.
Gharst painted the illustrated pages and had to set aside time on her calendar to sit down and work on it.
Gharst published the book through Amazon’s CreateSpace and it was a long process of submitting the story and illustrations, picking letterings and critiquing samples until the finished product was just right.
“It was really exciting finishing it and for my girls to see it finished,” Gharst said.
While it took four years to get the first book done, Gharst said there may be more books in her future. Especially as her kids get older and notice Lilly’s name is in the book and a character is named after Charlee too, but Adelaide wasn’t born yet to get a mention.
Gharst said reading the book, her daughter Lilly already asks, “Where’s Addy?”
“There probably has to be another book, they just might be 20 by the time I finish it!” Gharst said.
“Monchromatic Dan” is available on
and at any national bookstore web site.