Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS 150th Birthday is a lovely children’s story that gives the history of the town of Ellsworth Kansas. Why was this an important book for you to write?
When your town is having a 150th birthday, and your town is rich in history, then that history needs to be included your children’s picture book. The huge four day celebration also included re-enactments, 150 prime longhorns, a cattle drive, two day rodeo, and much more. An adult commemorative book was in the works, so we thought one for kids should be done as well, leaving out the blood, death, and salacious parts. The kids loved it. So did the tens of thousands of people who traveled to this town from across the USA and overseas.
What kind of research did you have to do to maintain the accuracy of the history?
I used extensive curate material from the historical society for the parts and dates I wasn’t sure of.
Do you think it’s important for children to learn the history of their city or town?
Of course it is. One’s heritage is important, and children need to know where they come from, their roots.
“Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday” is a wonderful and fun children’s book that both children and adults will enjoy. The story hits the targeted age range of 4-8. The painted illustrations provided are a delight, and my grandchildren loved them. Who would have thought to write a book using dogs and squirrels as friends, and the old west thrown in? This book is perfect for home, schools, and libraries. I highly recommend this book. Susan Vance, Author and Realtor In this children’s picture book and seventh book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday, two dogs and a family of squirrels decide to help Ellsworth celebrate the 150th birthday of the town’s history. This book coincides with the actual 150th birthday of Ellsworth in the summer of 2017. Illustrations are found on each page, most of them painted. Big Whitey tells the history of Ellsworth, and Fort Harker, with historical buildings, notable landmarks, and scenes painted by the author. At the end of this story, Little Whitey asks his father if they can re-enact the old west, dress like cowboys, and do a pretend cattle drive just like Ellsworth, KS. The squirrels dress in cowboy and cowgirl gear, and they even have a chuck wagon cook. They herd longhorn cattle, sing the state song of Kansas, and have lots of fun during their re-enactment. At the end of the story, they enjoyed a barn dance, celebrated the 150th birthday of Ellsworth, and Uncle Stubby took pictures and ‘selfies’. Children will love seeing the old west come alive with two dogs and a family of squirrels dressed in western attire, and using a small amount of cowboy slang. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-8, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. The story illustrates how cattle drives worked, the long dusty trails, life in the old west, and illustrations that produce pure imagination in children. Note: Actual gunfights and ‘adult type’ history were left out in this wild western history of Ellsworth, KS.
Posted in Interviews
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B.C.R. Fegan’s Henry and the Hidden Treasure is the story of one little boy’s quest to keep his “treasure” a secret from one person in particular. Henry’s tale of overwhelming desire to keep his treasure box from his sister’s clutches leads the reader on a journey into a child’s imagination and its endless possibilities. The threat posed by his baby sister is the driving force behind a long string of scenarios designed to trick, intimidate, and trap his sister as he shields his beloved treasure from her greedy hands. Henry, for all his planning, learns a valuable lesson about jumping to conclusions in the process.
Henry and the Hidden Treasure is a delight in both text and illustrations. As a third grader teacher and parent and one who has read more than my share of picture books to Kindergarten through 5th grade students, I can say Fegan has written a real gem. Children of all ages love a surprise ending, and the author has more than provided such a conclusion with a fantastic build-up and an added bonus on the last page. Teachers appreciate the opportunity to have students predict endings, and Fegan and Wen’s last page of text allows us to do just that with the simple yet powerful lone illustration of Lucy stealthily peeking at Henry.
The author/illustrator team of Fegan and Wen has created a story for both families and classrooms. The older brother versus baby sister dynamic is addressed via detailed, colorful illustrations which demonstrate the intensity of a child’s imagination. Each subsequent illustration adds a sense of drama children find appealing. My personal favorite of all the illustrations, as a mother, is the one depicting the reality of Henry’s room.
Teachers looking to create text sets for their students will find Henry and the Hidden Treasure a delightful addition to sets alongside books like Charlie McButton Lost Power where sibling rivalry is the theme. With the open-ended conclusion given by Fegan and Wen, I certainly hope there is a sequel to the saga of Henry and Lucy.
Pages: 32 | ASIN: B0719JXRRT
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Bean in the Garden is the first book of the children’s series, Bean in the Garden, by Ann Bevans and Matthew Ethan Gray. The books are designed with preschool children in mind, so Bean in the Garden is short, colorful, and easy for young children to understand.
Bean sets out to take a walk around the garden, and packs his favorite toys in his backpack. On the way, he meets Mrs. Berg, who has a new teapot but is out of tea. Bean offers to get her some tea as part of his adventure. Along the way, he meets three little peas who are about his own age, and they all have toys just like his. When he discovers a hole in his backpack and all of his toys are gone, he realizes the three peas were trying to return what they had found. The story is all about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the illustrations. Mr. Gray’s artistry fills the page with bright colors and engaging images. This is a world of vegetable people. Bean is, of course, a bean and his mother is a lovely red beet. His neighbors include a friendly lettuce, Mrs. Berg, and a potato, Miss Tots. The clues to Bean’s toy dilemma are right there in the pictures so adults can encourage their children to search for the “lost” toys as they read along. Kids may also want to look at the pictures and imagine their own Bean adventures.
Another message I got from the story is that some things that seem bad, like a hole in your backpack, don’t have to be a big crisis. Bean reacts with shock when he realizes his toys are lost, but instead of being angry, he realizes that the three peas were trying to help him all along. It’s a good way to teach children about kindness and understanding, especially since kids who will be reading this are learning how to control their expectations and emotions.
There are three books in the series thus far, each available in both print and eBook formats. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can’t go wrong adding this book to their reading list. You can get more information about the authors, the series, and links to purchase the print and eBooks at http://beaninthegarden.com/
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B01LNRBK7K
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Chicken: A Comic Cat Memoir is about a girl named TJ who grew up allergic to cats, but over time, the allergy faded. As an adult she finds a tuxedo cat with bright green eyes. It’s a beautiful story of life, cat’s, and loss. What was your inspiration for this story?
My daughter who, when she was 5-years-old, repeatedly wanted to hear this true story about how we found our cat, Chicken. I told her every night for a year, at which point she suggested I “make pictures” for it. That lead me down an unexpectedly long path to finally officially publishing.
Do you have cats? If so, what are their names? What do you think your cat named you?
Yes, we now have Cha-cha who, like Chicken, also found me in a dream. I’d have to say Cha-cha named me “hu-mom” (made up word for human mom) because she wanted me to find her as much as Chicken did. She’ll be the star of the next story!
Through the story there are little doodles and background decorations that tell a different story. Can you tell us more about that story and why you chose to weave that in?
About halfway into creating the artwork, it hit me that through telling the cat’s story, I was telling my own. I think that every life is multi-layered and wanted to communicate some of those other layers that coincided with the one of finding a cat through a dream that then materialized. While I wanted to offer a “nod” to some of the details of my life as a relatable subtext, I didn’t want it to take over the primary cat story as told to my daughter. I think this may be why much of the positive feedback I’ve been getting is essentially saying it’s “fun for all ages.”
I liked the artwork through the story. I thought it went very well with the story. Were there any panels that you didn’t include in the story? What was the biggest challenge in creating the art for the book?
As the author/illustrator, I did all the writing and artwork. Once I did the rough sketches and managed to capture the accurate mood of most of the panels, I was preparing to ink them in the way that traditional cartoonists work. However, I faced a rather daunting creative block in taking that next step. I didn’t do anything for about two whole years and then my daughter and I made a mini book called The Frizzball from Outer Space. The fun of working on that project and getting it done so quickly, gave me the courage to begin the Chicken illustrations. Once I got ball rolling, I quickly realized that I wanted to include some photography and collage so it made more sense to to all of it digitally. My background is in graphic design—both practicing and teaching it—so I know how to use the tools of the trade. What I hadn’t done before this book, was create artwork on an iPad. While I’m always up for learning something new, it took so long to get up to speed that by the time I reached the end, I had to start back at the beginning and re-do most of those first panels. Also, there are limits to digital tools and, in some instances, such as creating the front cover title art for the word “Chicken,” I was only able to attain the look and result I wanted by doing it by hand with brush and ink then scanning it in. In the end, keeping track of and backing up the thousands of files it took to create this was a real accomplishment in and of itself!
What is the next book that your fans should be on the look out for?
When you get to the end of Chicken, the next character presents itself. It’s very small, but if you look closely you’ll see the star of the next book.
A true tale about the magical meeting of a cat and her person told in 72 full-color illustrations in a rustic, cartoon, doodle, collage style. A cat allergy sets the stage for this colorful romp in which a cat named Chicken finds her way into the arms and affection of TJ, an artist in search of adventure and meaning. Brought together by seeming divine intervention, the storyline ranges from funny to emotional, sweet to silly, thoughtful to mystical, as readers travel with TJ and Chicken between coasts, encountering diverse friendships along the way.
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