A Little Dog with a Big Story

By Julia Torres

Julie Freyermuth’s (ΦBK, University of Southern California, 1998) new children’s book, Norbert: What Can Little Me Do?, tells the exciting and loveable tale of a tiny dog, Norbert, who moves to the big city. Norbert asks the timeless question: “What can little me do?” In his quest to find his special gift, he records his adventures in his personal artist’s journal. Through the course of the illustrated journey, Norbert becomes a therapy dog and discovers his gift for helping others. Norbert’s story is based on the real-life adventures of Julie Freyermuth’s own dog, Norbert. Julie Freyermuth’s mother, Virginia Freyermuth, Ph.D., illustrated the book.

Have you ever wondered if it is really possible for one small person to make a difference in the world? Have you ever wondered what your special gifts might be? These are just a couple of the questions that inspired Julie Freyermuth to create Norbert’s story, as she explains in her informational Youtube video. Virginia Freyermuth further describes their vision for the book: “We want every child who reads this book to understand that they each have a very special gift that they can share with the world, and we hope that Norbert’s story will inspire that.”

Julie Freyermuth earned a B.A. at Ohio Wesleyan University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Spanish and Art History. In 2011, she found her passion for dog therapy during a program at a local nursing home. Her work with her registered therapy dog, Norbert, soon became the inspiration for her book. As Julie explains: “We volunteer to bring joy and smiles and comfort to people in need.”

Just as she is avid about the joys and benefits dogs bring to those in need, Julie Freyermuth is also avid about the joys and meaning that storytelling can bring to the lives of children. “Since I was in about the fifth grade, I wanted to publish children’s picture books and publish them with my mother,” she says. She recently achieved this dream through the founding of Polly Parker Press, a mother-daughter, independent publishing company. Their mission statement attests that their “books seek to cultivate joy, kindness, wonder, imagination, creativity, generosity, compassion, and the best in each individual towards personal fulfillment and a better world.” Julie Freyermuth’s generosity and creativity shines in her volunteer work and in her stories. On her webpage, she describes how her personal philosophy led her to Polly Parker Press:

“As a little girl, I never walked, I always skipped. And with that skip, there was always a smile on my face. And with that smile, a humble determination that I would change the world – make a positive difference. Years later, I still skip, smile and through Polly Parker Press, hope to make that positive impact.”  

Julie Freyermuth and Norbert are currently volunteering as a registered Pet Partner team at a children’s hospital in Boston. A member of the hospital’s Pawprints Program, Lynn Belkin, praised their hard work and the special meaning Norbert’s story has in the hospital. “I have the opportunity to see this story come alive when Julie and Norbert visit the hospital…This book is an inspiring story for children of all ages. It is a story that drives home the idea that individual differences do not need to hold us back.”

For more information about Norbert: What Can Little Me Do? visit the publisher’s website: http://pollyparkerpress.com/the-book/

Praise for Norbert

“Wonderful artwork, a handwritten text, and a memorable story make this a book that children and their grownups will greatly enjoy reading and looking at.” Marya Jansen-Gruber, Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews


Julia Torres is a senior at Saint Joseph’s University majoring in English. She became a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2013. Saint Joseph’s is home to the Phi of Pennsylvania chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.