Dying Man, 30, Writes Children’s Book for Newborn Niece: ‘I Wanted Her to Know Me’

Daniel Hart L’Ecuyer, a Missouri native, faced with terminal cancer, authored an illustrated children’s book titled “The Genie in the Pages” for his niece to remember him by. Celebrating his 30th birthday, L’Ecuyer’s joy was mixed with the somber realization that he might not witness his niece’s growth due to his health condition. His mother, Kristine, suggested he leave a written legacy, leading him to quickly compose a fairy tale that was published in September.

The book, now available on Amazon, is a story of two children on a quest to find their uncle who is rumored to have transformed into a genie within a book’s pages. L’Ecuyer, who has penned poetry and short stories previously, wishes through this endeavor for his niece to know him. Even as he receives hospice care at his parents’ house, he finds hope in the time he spends with Ellie Rose, his sister Maddie’s daughter, who was born in July.

L’Ecuyer’s writing journey began after a rare cancer in his sinus cavity was diagnosed in 2019, leading to the removal of his right eye and subsequent treatments that briefly held the cancer at bay. In 2021, after an aggressive recurrence in his right cheek, and unsuccessful treatments, L’Ecuyer chose to stop the treatments and live his remaining time to the fullest.

In creating the book, L’Ecuyer was inspired by Russian fairy tales and worked with his mother’s friend, Mary Pat Williams Kanaley, a cancer survivor and illustrator, who brought his words to life with enchanting images. The creative process served as a therapeutic outlet for L’Ecuyer during his last months.

The protagonist of “The Genie in the Pages” notably resembles L’Ecuyer, featuring an eye patch and glasses. This visual connection extends the book’s personal nature and his legacy.

The concept of the book as a legacy was also inspired by a family loss. Daniel grew up curious about his Uncle Mike, who died in a car accident in 1976, and this influenced the advice his mother gave him about leaving something memorable for his niece.

The story of Uncle Daniel is intended to be a joyful and mystical avenue for his family to discuss him with future generations, as expressed by his sister Maddie and her husband David, both medical doctors. They are grateful for the book as it offers a way to introduce their children to the “fun, silly uncle” in a lighthearted manner.

As Daniel’s days are spent in rest, cared for by the BJC hospice program, the physical book serves as a tangible connection between him and Ellie. “The Genie in the Pages” stands as a poignant testament to L’Ecuyer’s love and creativity, a gift that will keep his memory alive for Ellie and any future nieces and nephews.