Marquette author writes, illustrates new children’s book
MARQUETTE — When your book has poems with names such as “My Lizard Friend,” “Sally the Snail” and “Professor Turtle,” it’s bound to be on the whimsical side.
“Dragonfly Soup” by Marquette’s James Keast definitely has that quality.
The recently published book includes 15 poems, each accompanied by a watercolor-and-ink drawing.
The write-up on the book on Amazon reads thusly: “What is Dragonfly soup? How does it taste? How does it smell? Freddy the firefly is trapped in a jar. Who caught him? And why? Will he be harmed? Or will he be set free? A curious fox finds herself in one, then another, then another unwanted situation.”
Why the title “Dragonfly Soup”?
“I just thought it was a catchy name — Dragonfly Soup,” Keast said, “and there’s a poem in there about making dragonfly soup.”
He explained the book’s process, which began with the poems.
“They just started popping into my head,” Keast said. “I’d be out in the woods collecting seeds, and this poem would just pop in my head. Well, then I’d run home and I’d jot it down quick and then keep working on it and working on it and working on it.”
He wanted to make use of the poems, plus he always wanted to focus on children in this effort.
“I just kept writing them and writing them and writing them after I got quite a few of them,” Keast said, “I’m like, ‘Well, I need to do something with these.”
He started on the illustrations, and then it turned into a book.
“It took me a while to get it where I wanted it because I didn’t realize I had to do all the editing and that kind of stuff,” Keast said. “On Amazon, they don’t do any of that. So, you have to do all of it.”
Fortunately, the Marquette Poets Circle helped him with the words, plus he used the digital writing tool Grammarly.
“I learned so much from this one,” Keast said. “I’m hoping the second one’s going to be just as nice or better.”
Keast said the book is geared toward children, particularly 5- to 10-year-olds.
He received help along the way through a poetry group that meets at the Peter White Public Library, asking the poets for advice.
“Some of the poems I wasn’t quite sure about,” Keast said, “and they were like, ‘Well, you know there’s all kinds of poems. There’s not just one kind of poem.'”
Not all poems have to rhyme, but the ones in “Dragonfly Soup” are that way.
For example, two stanzas in “Honey Bee” are:
I don’t know how you do it
turning pollen into honey gold.
I only know I will eat a lot of it
even when I’m quite old.
“Caterpillars” begins this way:
Caterpillars are really neat,
their fuzzy bodies tickle my feet.
I sometimes find them clinging to a weed,
inching along at a very slow speed.
Because of this, they’re not hard to catch,
I just wish they were bigger,
so, I could teach them to fetch.
Keast said sales for his self-published book are going well, with one even sold in the United Kingdom.
Keast’s artwork definitely is on the whimsical side as well.
One piece depicts a luna moth flying at nighttime, with a moon — complete with a smiling face — in the background.
Another piece shows insects flying around and hiding in a grassy area, with large, expressive eyes and feet-like appendages.
Yet another shows an entomological creature, this time with a more doleful expression, hovering around violet flowers.
In fact, insects figure prominently in the artwork.
“There’s a lot of insects in this one,” Keast said.
As with many children’s books, the illustrations are crucial
In fact, he acknowledging understanding what youngsters like, having taught commercial art to teens and adults — and that was strong art.
“That was kind of my purpose,” Keast said. “I wanted it to be really eye-catching, because it’s for kids.”
He’s already written a second book, although that will have a different theme.
“That one’s more like about graveyards and ghosts and ghost ships, kind of more creepy-type stuff,” Keast said.
Even though that book will be more macabre, he stressed it won’t be too scary for kids.
Keast, who is working toward being a full-time artist, also has about four or five other books in mind,
What can young readers get from “Dragonfly Soup” other than being entertained?
“It’s just fun,” Keast said.
He’s even gotten good feedback from adults as far as just enjoying the illustrations.
Amazon customer reviews include many compliments, with a 5-star rating of 100%.
One customer wrote: “The illustrations are adorable! A great book for a couple quick stories for the kids before bed.”
Another customer called it a “cool” and “unique” children’s book with the art having a lot more detail than most kids’ books.
“The poems are short enough at you could read a few to your kiddos at bedtime,” the review read, “but long enough that they tell a quite story.”
“Dragonfly Soup” is available on Amazon in paperback for $12.50 and on Kindle for $9.99.
Visit https://fairyartandmore.com/ to view learn more about “Dragonfly Soup” and view additional Keast artwork.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.