By Rachel M. Anderson, RMA Publicity
(East Bethel, Minn.) – When Margaret McBride and Barry Smith walked into a bookstore a couple of years ago, they picked up a copy of Aesop’s Fables and began flipping through the pages.
“I said to Barry, ‘This book is great but it’s kind of outdated. Why don’t we do something that would speak more clearly to today’s society,’” said McBride.
“I agreed with Margaret,” said Barry. “The language and lessons in Aesop’s Fables are not as relevant in today’s world.”
He and McBride went home that day and decided the time had come to “reinvent the wheel.” Over the next several months, they worked on the collection of stories that has turned into Jack the Rabbit and Friends. The read-aloud book series is designed to appeal to children who are between the ages of 4 and 11.
Jack is the leader of a group of “critters” who live in the desert southwest. Each animal has his or her own distinct personality and gifts, and enjoys days filled with adventures and laughter. Every story has a life lesson or moral, but far from being preachy and old-fashioned, they draw the listeners in and hold them enthralled.
Jack the Rabbit and Friends was originally released in 2012 as a 185 page book containing 28 stories. For 2014, McBride and Smith are re-releasing the stories in a series of books that will feature illustrations. “We had great feedback after the original book came out. The only thing people said was there were no pictures, so we decided to add some,” said Smith.
Smith and McBride hired internationally known artist Randall Raduenz, who to date has drawn nearly 100 sketches for the series. Books One and Two will be released on June 6 at the Stillwater Art Guild.
Gallery Book One includes five stories; Jack the Rabbit, Homer the Groundhog, Charlie Meets New Friends, Charlie, and Charlie and the Bears. Book Two includes Chip Chipper and the Phantom Wolf, Summer Days, Trash Collector, Nosey and MD, and Homer Can’t Jump. In these, Jack and his friends teach lessons such as: You can be trusted… Quick thinking saves the day… Everyone is different and that’s good… and even someone young and small is good at something, and more.
A total of seven books in all are planned and will be released later this year. McBride and Smith are self-publishing the books so they can retain creative control.
“We felt in the hurried world of society today there is something missing in what parents are teaching young children. They are not taking the time to teach what we learned as kids: the importance of working together, working hard and not giving up your dreams. This is our way of bringing the memories of what they grew up with back to them,” said Barry Smith.
“We consider this book series a way for parents, grandparents and caregivers to read to kids, which not only promotes togetherness, it allows kids to just close their eyes and go into a world that is just all their own. We hope the books will encourage kids to use their imagination,” said McBride.
Copies of Jack the Rabbit and Friends will be available for purchase at the Stillwater Art Guild Gallery beginning June 1st.
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About the Authors
Barry Smith and Margaret McBride of East Bethel, Minn., are newlyweds, married in Oct. 2013. They both have adult children from previous marriages, but no grandchildren yet.
Smith is a Vietnam War veteran who pursued a career in business after military retirement. He owned a cabinet making company until 2004 when he retired.
He has always had an interest in both writing and art, and while in the military he often wrote short stories about his experiences. He explored his interest in art by drawing pictures of places he had seen around the world and watching famous artists teach their techniques on PBS.
McBride is a former high school teacher who taught English and History in Texas and Indiana. After moving to Minnesota, she returned to school and became certified as a Christian spiritual director. In 1998, she and her late husband, Rodger, launched the Michelle Project, a faith-based non-profit that helps low income single moms and their children find stability, healing, and direction in their lives. For this work, she was awarded the Virginia McKnight Binger Award for Human Services.
In 2009, she met Barry Smith through the online dating portal, Senior People Meet. Right away, he re-introduced her to writing and painting. Together, they have created over 50 original acrylic and oil paintings, numerous short stories, and are finalizing their first novel. They also co-founded Marbar Creations LLC, a company to market their work as well provide an outlet for other like-minded creative individuals to display their wares and link to the artistic community.
More than 30 of their paintings will be featured in a special showing at the Stillwater Art Guild Gallery during the month of June 2014. They will be signing books at the Art Guild every weekend in June.
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