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Kid Lit: Children’s Books by Local Authors & Illustrators

By Erin Pesut

Now that it is the back-to-school season, it is time to put your electronics away and get back to reading! Meet five local authors and illustrators who have written books for all ages to enjoy.

The Tristan Trapp Series

By Martha Goetz

Illustrated by Laura H. Reeves

Martha Goetz and Laura Reeves are the author-illustrator duo behind the Tristan Trapp series of children’s books, inspired by the bedtime tales Martha shared with her own children when they were small. When Martha wanted to publish children’s books, she knew she’d need an illustrator. Laura Reeves, Martha’s own student back in ninth grade, had recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and wanted to illustrate. They were a match.

The Tristan Trapp series is a collection of five (soon to be six) books that capture the magic of childhood. Tristan Trapp, a mouse, navigates his life from Christmas surprises to a new baby sister while the stories explore and teach values such as generosity, acceptance of others, and honesty. Laura’s illustrations are whimsical and light-hearted. She sketches with pencil, uses watercolor, and traces pen on top in black ink, the same loose, sketchy style she fell in love with when she discovered the style in ninth grade.

 The duo relies on each other to makes these stories come to life. Martha enjoys the elaboration, starting with a seed of an idea and adding in the details. Laura says her favorite part is the first sketches. “Once I start laying in the color,” she says, “it’s a magical thing. I watch all of the characters come to life.”

Sold locally, these books can be found at Betty Kelly’s Gift Shop, The Pilgrim, and online at www.tristantrapp.com. Book proceeds are donated to Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, a foundation that has touched Martha’s heart.

2.) Gracie’s Gift

By Caroline Merino

The first line of the book, a rhyming couplet, came to local artist and painter Caroline Merino in December of 2016 while she was sitting in church. The talk was focused on the season and on gifts and receiving. The line goes like this: In a small house on the edge of a cliff, a little girl and her goat received a mysterious gift.

Gracie’s Gift goes on to explore the story of a young girl and her goat, Pip, as they understand the meaning of sacrificial giving. This is the first book Caroline has written, but the fourth book the Caroline has illustrated. As she wrote, Caroline brainstormed with her Sunday school class and her young art students and ultimately came up with the final story. She fielded many ideas from her students, one of which was the changing of the name of the goat from Pip to Chippie Fluff. Unfortunately, not all edits could be accommodated.

For her endeavors, Caroline chose to self-publish as it offered her the opportunity to be in charge every step of the way. She hopes her work is impactful. “I want to have a story that parents can read with their kids. Something that offers a teachable moment and a way to talk about giving and sacrificial giving. Gracie loves her coat, but she’s willing to give it up.”

Most children’s books are landscape orientation, but Caroline chose Gracie’s Gift to be portrait landscape, just like one of Caroline’s favorite children’s books when she was a girl, Madeline. 

Gracie’s Gift is on sale at carolinemerinoart.com and in local shops in Fayetteville.

3.) Soli

by Christine Dennet

Soli, the first book in Christine Dennet’s self-published trilogy about a lost princess, a prophecy, and a female heroine, started taking shape 15 years ago. When she is not working at Fayetteville Woman’s Care (as Dr. Christine Booth) or taking care of her ten-year-old twin boys, Dennet can be found writing.

For Soli, she began typing it out in 2010, completed a manuscript in two years, and deciphered the ins and outs of self-publishing through Kindle on Amazon for another year after that. She worked alongside other artists to determine the cover design and to create a fantasy map that can be found following the title page.

Dennet worked with First Editing for edits and the one aspect of the book she could never get right: the book jacket. “I tried for one year to write the jacket. I could never get it to sound right. I’m glad they were able to make that easy for me.”

Dennet has been invited to read in local classrooms and speak about her writing process (slow and steady, at the dining room table, jotting notes in a “little red journal” while she’s stopped at a traffic light), but her most rewarding aspect of the book is seeing people enjoy the imaginary world she created. Picking up her sons one day, she saw one of their schoolmates mid-story, reading Soli. When the boy looked up, realized who she was, he came up to her, book pressed to his chest saying, “Your book is amazing.”

Her best advice? “Writing is like exercise. It’s about discipline.” She also encourages courage: “Don’t be afraid to write. We don’t have to be the best writers. If we have a story in our head it deserves to be written down. Don’t be afraid.”

Soli, a book for all ages, from as young as 8 to as old as 108, is available on Amazon, Google, and Kindle.

4.) Miracle

By Chanavia Haddock

Art by Liz Amini-Holmes

Miracle is the story of one little girl, Piper Rose, and her journey of discovery as she seeks the answer to a simple and profound question. The story came to local author Chanavia Haddock in Barnes & Noble right here in Fayetteville! She needed a miracle herself and the flash of inspiration struck. She worked to rewrite and revise the story for two years until ultimately coming back to the original draft she wrote in Barnes & Noble on the back of a Fayetteville Academy bake sale flyer from her daughter’s school.

Although Chanavia did the all of the original drawings herself, she chose to work alongside the San Francisco-based illustrator Liz Amini-Holmes for the final edition of the book. In the future, this duo will be teaming up to work on other stories exploring single powerful words with the same concept for a series. Be on the lookout for Love soon!

Chanavia has received praise and acclaim for her book. Publisher Weekly reviews the book and writes, “. . . the overall effect is that of a contemplative nursery rhyme,” and that the scenes “exude a quiet, wintry peacefulness.”

“That’s the beauty of it,” Chanavia says, “It doesn’t have to be a big spectacular thing. Sometimes it’s just the simple things in life.”

 Miracle can be bought on Amazon, Target.com, Barnes & Noble and the publisher’s website, in addition to a variety of brick and mortar stores from New York to California. Visit chanavia.com for more information.

5.) Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford is a professor of English here at Fayetteville University and is also a New York Times best-selling author and poet. Carole has written more than 50 books, including  Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, Becoming Billie Holiday,  Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, and Freedom in Congo Square. Carole has received many honors including Caldecott Honor Medals from the American Library Association, multiple NAACP Image Awards, Coretta Scott King Awards, among many others. In her work she explores themes of civil rights, voting rights, and the lives of important historical figures.

Carole made up her first poem when she was only six years old. Her mother was driving her home from school. “She parked the car and I dictated it to her,” she recalls. Later, when she saw her work published in a maga zine in 1980, she knew she wanted to be an author.

In regards to her books, Carole says, “I hope that these will be a legacy and my contributions will stay in print even after I go out of print.” Carole’s prolific writing nature means that her latest, most recent publications will continue to debut later this year. For an entire list of published titles and more information visit cbweatherford.com.