The Chronicle has no idea how often howling echoes through Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tearoom, but customers there definitely heard wolf-like sounds on Sunday afternoon. The occasion was a reading of “Moon Wolf,” a children’s book illustrated by students at Summers-Knoll School and written by the head of school, Joanna Hastings.
The book is a classroom project turned fundraising venture – it’s now sold at several local stores. “Moon Wolf” tells the story of a wolf who lives in the moon and leaps to Earth when the moon is full, enjoying many adventures and raucous howling along the way.
The 22-page book is actually an excerpt from a much longer narrative poem by Hastings, also called “Moon Wolf,” that was performed several years ago at Performance Network in its old digs in the Technology Center on Third and Washington. [That warren of buildings burned down in 2003 – the YMCA's new facility is now on that site.]
So how did the excerpt from her longer poem end up as a children’s book? The saga started at last year’s Ann Arbor Book Festival, an annual event featuring panel discussions as well as a vendor fair. Summers-Knoll had a booth at the festival to promote the school – as an activity for kids at the booth, they had materials to make miniature books using paper, stickers and markers. Hastings worked the booth with Kim Guziel, the school’s business manager, and while they were there they started making little books themselves, just for fun. That activity prompted Guziel to encourage Hastings to write a children’s book of her own.
Guziel kept nudging her, as did Melissa Bruzzano, a parent at the school. As Hastings thought about it, she realized that part of the long “Moon Wolf” poem she’d written years ago might work as a poem for children. And that’s what she decided to pursue, with the idea of having students illustrate the work.
Several parents got involved in the project too. Ruth Marks, an artist whose daughter Amelia attends Summers-Knoll, coached the students as they worked on the drawings, which were done in February of this year. Bruzzano researched book printers. She tried to find one locally, but none she contacted could produce the work in color, she said. A couple of local firms suggested she try Color House Graphics of Grand Rapids, and that’s where they ultimately got “Moon Wolf” printed.
Ruth’s husband, James Marks, owner of VGKids in Ypsilanti, did the pre-production work, which included selecting the artwork that ended up in the book. (Because not all the images could be used for the story, the final pages include photos of the kids and their art.) The project cost around $1,300 for 200 books, an amount that included shrink-wrapping the books.
On her head of school blog, Hastings wrote about the process earlier this year: “Most of the images were developed by several children. When the selections were made, no one knew who had drawn what. Each illustration is a collaboration and a fusion of energy from each class. That is what makes them so special, and makes me so proud of the finished product. I feel as if every child’s spirit is represented in the overall response.”
Some of those students were on hand Sunday to sign copies of the book. And after Hastings read it aloud once, two students – Maria LoCicero and Leandra Blander – read through it again, the second time embellished with sound effects from the audience, which consisted mostly of Summers-Knoll families. (Hastings had hoped for a broader community turnout. Before the reading began, she said she wished some of the families who came to town that day for the Taste of Ann Arbor would wander in for the book reading. It wasn’t clear that any of them did, despite the alluring howls.)
The books are selling for $20 at Crazy Wisdom, Downtown Home & Garden, Falling Water and Nicola’s Books. Proceeds will go toward needs-based scholarships at the private elementary school, which is located at 2015 Manchester Road in Ann Arbor.