Author Mary Montague Sikes married her art and writing skills to create “An Artful Animal Alphabet,” a new children’s book featuring an old Richmond legend.
Published last spring, the book takes readers through a series of 26 short tales and paintings of animals that represent each letter of the alphabet. The book is a family affair: some animal paintings take inspiration from photography by her daughter, Amy Sikes, which were taken in Australia and Tasmania.
The book’s animal paintings began as a series on SIkes’ art blog, Notes Along the Way. With an animal for every letter of the alphabet, Sikes felt the finished project had potential as a learning aid for children.
“It seemed like something that would be fun for a children’s book,” said the West Point resident.
The book starts with Old Pompey, the last of the alligators who made their home at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.
The Jefferson Hotel had a lively lobby in the first half of the 20th century. Alligators in pools greeted hotel visitors, and guests donated their pet alligators to the troupe. All that came to an end when Old Pompey died in 1948, according to the hotel’s website.
Sikes heard about the alligators from her father and said the story had always interested her.
The work is Sikes’ first children’s book and is a departure from her nonfiction travel books and novels. While she doesn’t know if she’ll write another children’s book, the change has given her a chance to work in a new format.
“I guess I have to try everything,” Sikes said.
“An Artful Animal Alphabet” is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Sikes also donated a copy of the book to the West Point library.
Book signing events are planned to take place Nov. 10 at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art in Petersburg and Nov. 17 at the Crossroads Art Center in Richmond.
“An Artful Animal Alphabet”
“An Artful Animal Alphabet” is available for purchase at Amazon.com. A copy of the book is available at the West Point library.
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.