Visitors to the Town of Newtown municipal website may be used to seeing meeting agendas or community announcements.
But this week the website is also promoting the latest work from former Newtown resident and illustrator Steven Kellogg, who collaborated with noted author and UConn alumnus Patricia MacLachlan on a children’s book inspired by the tragic events of 12/14.
On October 29, Random House Children’s Books will release Snowflakes Fall, a richly illustrated book that hopes to validate both the sadness that comes with great loss, as well as the power memories play in the healing and renewal process following tragedy. Residents learned of the project back in February, when Publishers Weekly announced the collaboration.
According to Mr Kellogg, who lived in Sandy Hook for 35 years as he produced dozens of books, “It is my hope that this book celebrates the laughter, the playful high spirits, and the uniqueness of the children of Sandy Hook and of children everywhere.”
He was “personally depressed,” he said, following the shooting, having been involved in the Sandy Hook School community when raising his family in town. Mr Kellogg said in a promotional video that he hopes the book will help promote discussions among families about loss and renewal in their own lives.
Ms MacLachlan writes in the dedication page of the book that she wrote Snowflakes Fall after learning of Mr Kellogg’s sadness and his concerns for Newtown.
“This is the sadness that the world felt, and that I felt, too,” she writes. “What brought us comfort was the idea of renewal and memory, and while writing Snowflakes Fall, I thought about all children and families affected by loss.”
In a note to The Bee in April, Mr Kellogg said he had been working at “an intense, overtime pace on the paintings for … Snowflakes Fall.”
The paintings by Mr Kellogg and Ms Maclachlan’s words had a very tight deadline, said the illustrator, in large part so that the book could be published and distributed “in time for its gentle voice to be heard before the first anniversary of the tragedy on December 14,” he wrote. The illustrator said he was very supportive of that goal, even while working under “more pressure than I would normally have wished.”
The pressing deadlines created a special outcome, however. According to Mr Kellogg, “The project seemed to benefit from that intense immersion, and I was amazed at the way in which the book attained a very gratifying momentum, and almost seemed to come together by itself.
“I am very pleased with the paintings that I delivered to Random House on the deadline, and now, having seen the typography in place, I am happy to see how harmoniously the verses that Patricia wrote flow into and among the illustrations,” his note continued. With the book finished, he said, he felt “a sense of fulfillment and relief to have been able to create a gently positive response in the children’s book format to the shadows that had descended on me with that dark news from my old community that came on December 14th.”
Random House and Random House, Inc, had already promised in February, upon announcing the collaboration between Ms MacLachlan and Mr Kellogg, to make “a significant monetary donation” to an organization to be determined by Ms MacLachlan and Mr Kellogg that benefits the Sandy Hook community, as well as to a national child-focused organization.
This week the publishing house’s website states that in honor of the community of Sandy Hook and Newtown, the publisher has made a donation to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
RHCB had also promised to donate 25,000 books to First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books to children in need, in honor of the residents of Sandy Hook. The books will contain bookplates signed by the author and illustrator.
According to Newtown Human Resources Director Carole Ross, Mr Kellogg is planning a return to Newtown after the book is published. He is planning to offer an author talk and book signing at C.H. Booth Library. Details of that visit will be available once they are finalized.
Snowflakes Fall is suitable for ages 3-7, and children in preschool to grade 2. It is available as a hard-cover 32-page book ($17.99, ISBN 978-0-385-37693-8) and for Kindle ($9.78 through Amazon.com) or as an ebook from the publisher ($10.99).
A video about the making of Snowflakes Fall can be viewed here.