When I took up sketching a few years ago, I had no idea where it would lead. I just felt the need to get back into painting after decades of wistfully thinking about it and wishing I had time to do it. I really hadn't spent time drawing or painting since my college days, and it's been so interesting to see all the opportunities that have come my way as a result of taking that one small step to start sketching again.
Two months ago, I got a call from Melissa Harker Ridenour, asking if I would be interested in illustrating a children's book that she had written. With only a few moments of hesitation, I gulped and said, "Yes!", and my foray into the world of book publishing had begun!
We were up against a tight deadline, and I only had a couple of weeks to get all the illustrations done, but I managed to finish just in time. The book, What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, was introduced by Headline Books at Book Expo America in New York City on May 24, 2011.
I was so excited the day I received a copy of the newly published book and saw my illustrations in print! Here is the front cover ...
The book teaches children in a non-threatening way to take a proactive role in staying safe, and teaches them concrete ways to respond to dangerous situations. The cover illustration was taken from this larger painting showing a young girl who's puzzled as to what exactly a stranger is.
Chapter 1 offers guidelines to help children decide whom they should trust, and reassures them that adults are doing everything possible to keep them safe.
Chapter 2 is titled "What Would You Do?" and offers up various scenarios where a child might feel uneasy or be in danger, then gives suggestions for appropriate actions to take. The introductory illustration shows two children running away from a stranger who has gotten out of a car and called to them.
One of the scenarios shows a young boy who is feeling a little worried about the man who has gotten on the elevator with him.
This page shows a lost child finding help from a mall security guard after getting separated from his parents.
Acronyms like S.K.Y. (Scream Kick Yell) can help to remind a child of the actions to take in case of an emergency.
Chapter 3, entitled "What Have You Learned?", offers the reader a review of the main ideas presented earlier in the book: be cautious, take firm action, and tell an adult if something bad or scary happens.
Chapter 4 has a series of word scrambles for kids that reinforce what they've learned in a fun way. In the illustration a young girl works to unscramble the puzzles and figure out the messages.
The final chapter of the book, entitled "What Should Parents Do?", encourages moms and dads to discuss the book with their children and to "teach them, in a nonthreatening way, to exercise caution, to be empowered, and to trust their instincts."
(It's funny, but that picture looks an awful lot like our family about 20 years ago - me, Fred, and the two kids. All that's missing is a big hairy dog!)
So, I'm pretty tickled to see my name listed on Amazon as the illustrator of What Would You Do? It's amazing what can happen when you take a step in the direction of your dreams. Just picking up a pen and drawing that first sketch a few years back set things in motion. Maybe this is only the beginning. I'm excited to see what the future holds. You just never know what tomorrow might bring!
What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Books-A-Million.com and at Barnes and Noble retail outlets. The author, Melissa Harker Ridenour, is available for school workshops and speaking engagements on the topic of child safety. For more information, go to http://www.authormelissaharkerridenour.com/