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A collaboration between local students and professional authors and illustrators is about to begin a new chapter, with the unveiling and release of the completed book New Stories for Newtown at C. H. Booth Library.
The deadline for a contest, “Newtown Stories for Newtown: Words and Images” was October 31, 2014. Since then volunteers and members of an organizing committee have been working to turn the submitted entries into a book.
The contest was created to make the experience of the New Stories for Newtown Book Fair more interactive. For two years in a row authors and illustrators visited local schools for the effort to inspire Newtown’s young artists and writers.
Original works of art, illustration, poetry, fiction, graphic novels, digital art, paintings, collages, prints, fabric art, and photography were all accepted for the effort. The contest asked each entry to follow the theme of “What inspires me.”
New Stories for Newtown: Words and pictures from the students of Newtown and their friends will be available for purchase at the library starting June 27 for $20. All contributors to the publication will be given a copy.
Publishing the book, C.H. Booth Library Children’s Librarian Alana Bennison said, was funded through the Books Heal Hearts program. The program, administered by the town’s library, was created with donations given in response to 12/14, according to the library. The $20 charge per copy, Ms Bennison said, will go toward further funding the Books Heal Hearts program.
The book was designed by Alex Isley Inc, and it was published using the website Blurb.com.
Ms Bennison and Newtown resident and children’s author and illustrator Ross MacDonald are enthusiastic about the possibility of another collaborative project like New Stories for Newtown. Ms Bennison said a future project would be different, but it would still highlight the local talent and creativity.
The finished book being released later this month is better than the team expected, according to Mr MacDonald.
“It’s great, really great stuff,” said Mr MacDonald. “People really put a lot of thought into it.”
Mr MacDonald said 23 professional authors and illustrators contributed to the book.
The opening for the book reads, “This project could not have happened without help from a lot of people. We would like to thank the children’s book and young adult authors and illustrators who contributed their time and work. Not only did many take the time to create pieces for this book, but also for two consecutive years, many authors and illustrators traveled to Newtown to meet with students in the schools, and give readings and performances and book signings to the general public over a two day period during the New Stories for Newtown Book Fair. We can never thank them enough for their generous gifts.”
Organizing committee members Candace Woods, Kim Weber, Mr MacDonald, and Ms Bennison all smiled as they scanned copies of the book on Friday, June 3.
“I love it,” Ms Bennison said, looking at the final illustration in the book, on page 135 by Mr MacDonald.
The illustration shows a boy and a girl with the view of the Main Street skyline, complete with trees, the flag, and steeples. Over the depicted hills, a rainbow bends, as if pointing toward the town.
“It makes me cry thinking about the rainbow,” said Ms Bennison. Clutching her hand to her heart, she added that the illustration reminded her of books she read when she was just learning how to read.
Mr MacDonald’s illustration is printed alongside a student’s written submission, “The Sunrise Shop,” by Kate Luongo.
Mr MacDonald noted a collaborative piece between author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and illustrator Lisa Brown. The piece begins on page 16 of the publication and is called, “An Alarming Mystery.”
“In fact,” the piece reads, “this mystery is so alarming that the author and the illustrator were too frightened to finish it. Please do it for us.”
“An Alarming Mystery” unfolds to page 20, with blank space ready for intrepid readers to fill in the blanks.
Ms Weber and Mr MacDonald also paused when looking at Brian Selznick’s contribution on pages 118 and 119: two drawings and a memory of visiting Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“It is thoughtful and moving in a way that is not really specific,” Mr MacDonald said.
Flipping back a few pages, Ms Weber smiled when rediscovering Nick Bruel’s contributions on page 104 and 105. She also noted author Tom Angleberger’s contributions on pages 56 and 57.
Chapters divide the submissions by age of the students. The professional submissions were placed throughout the publication.
Ms Bennison said the more copies sold would mean more funding for the Books Heal Hearts program and more money for future printings of this book or other endeavors.
More information about C. H. Booth Library’s Books Heal Hearts program is available at chboothlibrary.org/books-heal-hearts.