Rushmore woman pens children's book in memory of grandson

Laurie DeNeui's love of children’s books, memories of grandsons Gibson and Griffin sitting in her lap and listening to her read, and encouragement from friends prompted her to start writing.

Laurie DeNeui
Laurie DeNeui holds a copy of her newly published children's book, "Inside, Outside, All-Around Love," which was written in memory of her grandson, Griffin Engelkes.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

RUSHMORE — In a span of less than three and a half years, Laurie DeNeui lost her 4-year-old grandson, Griffin Engelkes, in a tragic accident, was severely injured in a car crash in 2021 and lost her husband, Terry, in a motorcycle crash in 2022.

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She is on a never-ending journey of grief, lives with a traumatic brain injury and endures recurring pain from a spinal cord injury that temporarily left her paralyzed following the car crash.

Yet, through it all, DeNeui’s faith in God has never wavered. And when others might give up or give in, she continues to push through her grief with the hope of helping others.

A former sixth grade teacher in the Worthington school district for nearly 20 years — and a lover of books — DeNeui discovered writing to be therapeutic. She published her first children’s book in January, and has stories for four additional books at various levels of completion.

“Inside, Outside, All-Around Love,” written by DeNeui, illustrated by Santhya Shenbagam R., of England, and published by Sunsational Publishing LLC., is based on memories of Griffin and dedicated to him. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will be given to Donate Life America, the organization that worked with the Engelkes family after they chose organ donation for their young son.


“There are 1,900 children waiting for donations; 25% of those are under the age of 5,” DeNeui said.

The book follows the opening of the Million Dreams Lending Library outside DeNeui’s Rushmore home in 2020 in memory of Griffin.

“We made the Million Dreams Lending Library and I still had a lot of grief,” shared DeNeui. “I needed to do more; I needed to tell his story.”

Her love of children’s books, memories of grandsons Gibson and Griffin sitting in her lap and listening to her read, and encouragement from friends prompted her to start writing.

Book spread
Laurie DeNeui's newly published book features rhyme, rhythm, humor and memories, along with a common message of love.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

“I know in children’s books, most of them give you a deep meaning,” she said. “That’s what parents see, even though kids don’t.”

With that knowledge, DeNeui said she took her personal experiences and “just started to write.”

“My kids and grandkids have always loved rhyme and rhythm — it helps them remember,” she said, adding that her book uses rhyme, rhythm, humor and a common theme throughout.

“Inside, Outside, All-Around Love,” is a portion of a saying DeNeui often repeated to her children and grandchildren — “Up to the top, down to the ground … inside and out, and all around … I love you naughty.”


The phrase, DeNeui said, was meant to let her kids and grandkids know that whatever they did, she loved them. And the basis for the story is that no matter what happens, the parents love and the child feels loved.

Though DeNeui had no idea about getting a book written and published, she began by writing down words and phrases in notebooks. When inspiration struck, she reached for a notebook or used a recording app on her phone to ensure she’d have the words or phrases to add to the story.

She went through three full rewrites, scribbled words in numerous notebooks and compiled an untold number of handwritten notes before beginning the process of finding a publisher and illustrator.

“I sent it to friends, former colleagues, people I know,” DeNeui said. She asked them what they thought, and used their feedback to improve the story. “Just about everyone I know has never written a book, but I ended up with what I have. I wanted humor — memorable things.”

Book cover
The cover of Laurie DeNeui's newly published book.
Julie Buntjer/The Globe

As she looked for an illustrator, DeNeui connected with another writer who had started her own publishing company. She read DeNeui’s script and not only suggested an illustrator who could do original artwork, but offered to publish DeNeui’s first, and subsequent, books.

“I believe it’s just beautiful,” DeNeui said of the completed hardcover edition. On the last two pages of the book, she included a little story about Griffin, as well as his photo.

“There was no better way to honor Griffin than for me to put it in a book where it will always be,” she said.

“Inside, Outside, All-Around Love” is available for purchase through Amazon, and DeNeui is hoping to connect with some area businesses who will stock the book. She would like to do some book signings as well.


Her other children’s book scripts, which are still in the writing, editing and illustrating phases, include stories about frogs and toads, four dogs and a cat, and science. All are based on DeNeui’s experiences and memories.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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