First- and second-graders at Carman Trails Elementary recently received an up-close-and-personal look at writing and illustrating a children’s book.
Two local authors – native St. Louisan Julie Dubray and longtime resident June Herman – visited Carman Trails to talk about “Goodnight St. Louis,” which they published during the yearlong 250th birthday celebration of the city.
The book is a whimsical journey through the sights and sounds of St. Louis, featuring well-known destinations, such as the Saint Louis Zoo and Gateway Arch, and some that may be lesser-known, such as Meeting of the Waters Fountain at Aloe Plaza, located outside Union Station. Dubray said the book is unique.
“There are a number of books on the various attractions offered in our area, but there was not a children’s book that really highlighted our city,” she said.
The book, and some other merchandise, is available in over 100 retail locations, all based in our region to support local businesses. Although marketed as a children’s book, it appeals to all ages. Paul Tandy, Parkway chief communications officer, has a copy on his coffee table.
“My friends from out of town gravitate to it. Initially, they don’t realize all the cool places mentioned in the book are real,” Tandy shared. “Then, the next logical comment is, ‘let’s go!’ It’s a great way to showcase all the wonderful things there are to do in St. Louis and how blessed we are to live here.”
Carman Trails Principal Dr. Gina Piccinni explained that the authors’ visit was broken into four workshops of two classrooms each to really capture the attention of the school’s young students.
“We place a lot of focus on literacy and the importance of reading,” Piccinni said. “We want to build a solid foundation of literacy in the early grades that will hopefully continue throughout the students’ school careers.”
Carman Trails teacher Diandra Maguire said she is amazed at the explosion of literacy in first and second grades.
“First grade is a huge year in learning to read and in turn, as they get older, reading to learn,” Maguire said.
Although the authors explained the writing and editing process – the book took a year to complete from conception to print – it was the illustrations by Karen Heyse, a muralist by trade, which captured the attention of the young students. According to the authors, Heyse’s favorite part about illustrating “Goodnight St. Louis” was creating a uniquely artistic vision of the city, its landmarks and attractions. Her vision was not lost on the kids.
“It had a lot of different colors and a lot of detail,” said first-grader Joseph Hamad, a student in Maguire’s classroom.
One artistic detail is a cardinal in each illustration, a fact that Mabry Hamilton, a student in Alicia Goyal’s first-grade classroom, was the first to notice.
Kaelen Fesler said she enjoyed the authors reading the book to the students while images flashed across a smart board.
While many students said they would like to be illustrators when they grew up, first-grader Jossalin Day imagined a bigger future.
“I think I would like to be a writer and draw the pictures,” Day said.
From a teacher’s point of view, Maguire said she appreciated the emphasis placed on the edits and revisions required before the final product was produced.
“It provided a real-life example of the work it takes to produce something quality. That is something they [the students] can use in their daily work,” Maquire said.
The reactions from students generated the excitement that Piccinni desired from her original vision of the assembly.
“Relevance brings an excitement to reading,” she explained. “What makes [reading] more relevant than a book from your own hometown?”