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Specs of Spectacle Island:
A story of an island from trash to treasure

Be courageous! Get out and explore!

"Once an environmental disaster, Spectacle Island was transformed from a heap of burning trash into a beautiful lush island with trails, beaches, and great views of Boston Harbor. It is now one of the most popular islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. We are pleased to have this brilliant and creative children's story about the restoration of Spectacle Island that teaches children about the environment and the importance of having access to public open space, clean water, and clean air."
- Kathy Abbott, President and CEO, Boston Harbor Now

When asked, most people know of the Big Dig. When asked, "Do you know the story of Spectacle Island?" Very few know it was a garbage dump for the city of Boston for almost 50 years and was leaking toxins into the harbor and an environmental disaster. This is a story about the transformation of Spectacle Island, once a garbage dump polluting Boston Harbor, into a state and national park!


I was a huge fan of the Big Dig, which included the reclamation of land and the restoration of Spectacle Island. The island closed in 1959 after years of internally combusting into balls of fire, and a bulldozer sank into the mound of trash. When the island reopened to the public, I got on the boat. The experience of walking the island trails and seeing the Boston skyline from the top of the hill was magical and inspired me to write this story.


Specs of Spectacle Island: A story of an island from trash to treasure is historical fiction for young readers about Specs, a chipmunkel born and raised on Spectacle Island, and his journey during the Big Dig. The chipmunkels living on Spectacle Island were forced to live underground to escape the dangers and turmoil during the island's restoration. Specs, annoyed with having to live underground, leaves the island in search of a better life.

Written by Donna M. Keefe and illustrated by Amber Luecke, Specs of Spectacle Island: A story of an island from trash to treasure is a fully illustrated, full-color, 40-page historical fiction for young readers.

What people are saying:

"I lived in Boston during the Big Dig project so bought this book for the grandkids to learn about the project…Very clever style of writing to make a children’s book educational and interesting for all ages.”

"Great For Kids AND Adults. I am a teacher so I am very familiar with Children's Literature. I read a lot. I read this book with my 5 year old granddaughter. It was very well written, easy to understand BUT the bonus was the book is a learning experience for both children and adults. The author included a column to the right on the page with more details about the island and the Big Dig in Boston. There are also a few pages at the end that go into more detail. It kept us both engaged. My granddaughter cannot wait to take a Boston Harbor Cruise to see the island. I highly recommend this book."

“I enjoyed this book immensely. Having lived through the Big Dig, I realized I really didn’t know much about the history behind it. I learned so much from this wonderful story.”


“…Spec's story touches on many relatable issues; he looked a little different from his peers: it took courage to leave the familiar; had to make new friends; and adjust to new surroundings. He learns that challenging ourselves and taking a risk can change our perspective…Adults will learn the history of the Big Dig and Spectacle Island. There is something here for everyone !”


“Incredibly cute, charming, educational and visually appealing children’s book! Specs the chipmunkel takes you on an adventure that tells the story not only about the importance of greening our urban landscapes but more importantly about the spirit of exploring, being courageous, making friends, and what makes home so special. And the side-by-side historical facts of Boston’s Big Dig make this book a real winner!”


“This is such a great book. A history lesson for the children of Boston - they will never walk around the city again without looking for Specs and his friends. Specs takes you through his life during Boston’s Big Dig and shows you the twist and turns he endured. A fun read for all.”

Available in paperback
Get an autographed copy and free shipping with PayPal
Can be found at:
Porter Square Books in Cambridge
Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport

Recycled furniture. Artistically painted found and used furniture recreated as functional art for any home or office environment.


I am an artist, designer, and writer passionate about recycling and the environment, the use of public space, and public art. I have a tremendous appreciation for creative and unique design, reuse and repurpose, and how art and design influence our everyday experiences.

I lived in Cambridge, MA during the Central Artery Tunnel Project, affectionately known as the Big Dig. The idea of dismantling the overhead expressway and rebuilding it underground captivated me. I followed the developments taking tours of the Big Dig and the Zakim Bridge, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and finally, Spectacle Island when it opened to the public in 2006. The ingenuity and collaboration behind this enormous project and developing a solution for the island dump polluting Boston Harbor, a huge environmental disaster, was magnificent. The transformation of Spectacle Island is a fascinating story. The results of the Big Dig project are astonishing. Witnessing the execution of the massive project as it morphed over the years and the results of the changing landscape and a healthier city inspired me to write this story. Specs of Spectacle Island: A story of an island from trash to treasure was published in June 2021 and tells the fascinating story of a lively island that was turned into an environmentally destructive land and how it was restored and became one of the Boston Harbor Islands state and national parks.

I currently reside in Salisbury Beach, enjoying the natural beauty of the North Shore and living near the ocean with its restorative benefits that accentuate my creative endeavors. With my love of design and the arts, I am a member of the Salisbury Cultural Council and the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association. Additionally, I offer interior design consulting services and custom-painted furniture using your color palette.

I recently began creating public art installations. They are challenging and fun, and I enjoy being out in the open and talking to the public when working on the installation.

driftwood sculpture  installation 2020

"Drift Away"
Driftwood sculpture

Photo of artist in front of the painted utility box

Painted utility box

Existing condition of railing on the balcony of vacant building

"The Colors of Quirky"
Fabric installation on the railing of a vacant building
Top photo: Before
Right photo: After


Completed fabric installation changing the landscape of the beach center covering the rusted railing of the balcony

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donna.m.keefe  |  |  617.930.4740
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