By Karen Graham

When Leesburg philanthropist and author Karen Schaufeld was considering the subject for her fourth children’s picture book, she decided to focus the story on vultures, an often misunderstood — yet fascinating — bird that has a large population around Loudoun County.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase what vultures do, and it relates well to both genders. It’s also an important part of the food chain in the environment,” Schaufeld said.

Her fourth book, “Vultures, A Love Story,” will be released in the beginning of 2021, joining her three previous picture books — “The Lollipop Tree,” “Larry and Bob” and “How to Eat a Peach.”

“This is a love story,” she said.

It follows the life of a vulture named Igor whose parents give him life lessons in the beginning of the book, such as teaching him to stay away from fast food, and to stay cool by peeing on his leg.

Igor eventually leaves the nest to live on his own and find dead animals in the forest.

He meets a friend and they spend quality time together, while learning how to protect themselves and find food.

The books are illustrated by local artist Kurt Schwarz.

Earlier this fall, Schaufeld viewed Schwarz’s illustrations for “Vulture — A Love Story” for the first time at her home in Leesburg.

Schaufeld said she appreciates Schwarz’s ability to create an accurate and beautiful portrayal of the story.

“I’ve always really liked his style and his paintings have personality,” Schaufeld said.

Throughout each of the books, there is an insect integrated into the story on each page, drawing readers to search for them as they turn the pages.

She also tries to weave in some of the characters from the other books to create a sense of familiarity among all of her books.

As a children’s book author, Schaufeld has fond memories of reading “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown, “Peach and Blue” by Sarah S. Kilborne and “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney.

She hopes that young readers will enjoy her books and learn about unique subjects.

“We live in an area with incredible local talent. The opportunity to publish another book is so exciting,” she added.

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