Of course there’s a long story behind the story I am starting to write (isn’t there always, really?!) So let’s start at the beginning…
In 2007 I was working as the Communications Coordinator for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and was in charge of the promotions for an exhibition called “Hidden Treasure: Original Children’s Book Illustration from the Cedar Rapids Public Library.” This exhibit featured works from famous children’s book illustrators—people like H.A. Rey, Bill Peet, Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak–and I of course fell in love with it. I love children’s books and was amazed to find out that here in Cedar Rapids we had this truly amazing collection of characters from beloved children’s stories. It was then I decided I would eventually write a book about the collection.
Then just a year later, in June of 2008, a devastating flood hit the city of Cedar Rapids. Being that the Cedar Rapids Public Library is just a block from the Cedar River, it was of course greatly impacted. In what is believed to be the worst single library disaster in U.S. history, some 160,000 library materials were destroyed…everything but the children’s collection (which was housed on the second floor of the library) and thankfully the illustrations!
Now, here I sit in 2010 still thinking about how those illustrations were spared from the nasty flood waters. They will live on for generations to enjoy. And in order to be part of sharing their story, I am writing a book for young readers—which for now we’ll call “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim”—that tells the story of the collection, the flood that tried to destroy them, and how they were saved. It will be fiction based on very important facts and this is one story I sure am proud to be telling.