A book in the making since 1993 now is a published work for Mike Norris and Minnie Adkins.
The children’s book is called “Bright Blue Rooster” and is published by Joey Books/Acclaim Press. The latter produced their first published children’s book, “Sonny the Monkey,” in 2012.
Both “Rooster” and “Monkey” are unique books because the illustrations in them are photographs of folk artist Adkins’ carved works. Norris, former director of communications for Centre College, supplied the words and music for the books.
A self-published version of the tale was released in 1997 and quickly became a favorite of a generation of Eastern Kentucky school children. The Joey Books version features new carvings and paintings by Adkins.
Norris said Adkins and he received many invitations to schools to talk about “Bright Blue Rooster.” She would carve linwood “with a sharp knife and 70 years experience” while he talked. They would sing a song and eventually Adkins’ carving would end up in the hands of one of the enthusiastic pupils.
“This is really a different book from the one we made years ago,” Norris says. “The publisher’s insistence that there be a three-dimensional illustration for every page caused us to have to rethink the whole project. It took about eight months for Minnie to do the new carvings and paintings for backgrounds, but the result was worth it.
“Children seem to especially like the ‘Kudzu Man’ Minnie came up with to illustrate the lines, ‘Granny run in the kitchen, started wringing her hands. Said the kudzu stole her frying pans.’”
The unique photographic illustrations, by Danville photographer Chris Floyd, of Adkins’ wood carvings, combine with the music and lyrics to an accompanying song to provide a complete sensory experience for young readers and listeners.
Adkins, who lives in Isonville, has received many honors for her carvings, including the Folk Art Society of America Distinguished Artist Award, the Centre College Norton Award, and the Morehead University Appalachian Treasure Award. Her work is part of many permanent collections.
Norris, a native of Eastern Kentucky currently living in Lexington, is known for his ability as a storyteller and songwriter. His compositions have been recorded by country, folk, and bluegrass artists, and he has been a staff musician at the Hindman Settlement School Appalachian Folk Week for many years.
In “Bright Blue Rooster,” readers have the choice of reading the story or singing it. (Sheet music is included, and an optional CD recording is available through the publisher.)
In addition to the bookstore version, a Collector’s Edition of “Bright Blue Rooster” is also available. Each Collector’s Edition is signed and numbered and each book contains an original drawing by Adkins, as well as the accompanying CD, affixed to the inside back cover. The CDs contain an original song complementing the story, a narration of the story, and an interview with Adkins.
Collector’s Editions are available from the authors; Morris Book Shop, Joseph Beth Booksellers, and the Ann Tower Gallery in Lexington; and the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead.
The bookstore version of both books is available through the publisher’s website, www.acclaimpress.com, as well as through major retail outlets and online vendors.
Adkins and Norris currently are in the early stages of work on their third collaboration — a collection of Appalachian nursery rhymes. Titled “Mommy Goose,” the volume is targeted for completion next year.
“I’m very excited about the next book. ... ‘Mommy Goose’ is pretty much written,” noted Norris, adding there will, of course, be a song to along with it.
Norris says that while the primary goal of this book is “to be fun for children,” there is an underlying implication that Appalachian English, sometimes dismissed as “non-standard,” is “exactly correct” when used in the proper context. As an example of this stance, he quotes the “author information” that will introduce the rhymes under a photo of “Mommy Goose.”
ABOUT “MOMMY GOOSE”
Mommy Goose is an Appalachian bird.
Like cows love corn, she loves words.
Corn can be yellow, blue, or white,
And words change colors in different light.
To talk like your flock is no disgrace.
Just use the right word in the right place.
Excerpt from “Mommy Goose”
The raccoons ate up all our corn
Climbed in the car and honked the horn
They played the radio and danced
And tried on Grandpaw’s underpants.
With handy hands like me and you
There’s not a lot they can’t do
If how it goes is how it went
They’ll own the place and we’ll pay rent.