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Cover of Scott Kelley’s “I Am Birch”

Scott Kelley’s journey toward publishing I Am Birch, a children’s picture book with Islandport Press (2018), began at a moment when nostalgia met three historic photographs. But what happened next was infused by his role as a father to Abbott and by his working relationship with Islandport.

“I wrote the book for Abbott. We read 35-40 books a week together. He was my first editor. Abbott’s influence forced me to simplify, to strip the book down to the bare essentials. Although we live in a world of extraneous nonsense, he shares my love of minimalism. He’s very attached to I Am Birch and very proud of it. He loves it.”

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Scott Kelley reading I Am Birch to his son, Abbott

Scott said that the book has affected people in ways that he didn’t expect. Inspired by the Gluskap story about how the rabbit got his ears, this book about a birch stump shares a cautionary tale.

“It’s a book meant for adults to read to children. Like The Lorax, it shares an important message for our world. The reader sees a streak of baseless fear mongering in the book. It just keeps going. This is not dissimilar to our world right now. We are living in a culture of fear. The moral of I Am Birch is that we need to take care of the world around us.”

ScottKelleyAbbot Islandport Press started working with Scott after seeing his 2017 Birch (a published catalogue that accompanied a Rockland, Maine exhibit). Together, they began to revise it into a children’s book. Scott said,

“It was an interesting process. Of course, the watercolor paintings had already been photographed before they were sold. But we needed to convert the catalogue to the desired page count and format; this led to taking some images out and putting new ones in. There wasn’t a continuous narrative thread in the catalogue before either, but now there is. It sports a new title, I Am Birch, and a new cover. I’m very happy with the new edition and I look forward to seeing its release on April 27th.”

When asked what other books he likes to read to Abbott, Scott shared some of the titles on their list of favorites:

  • Margaret Wise Brown’s Little Fur Family;
  • Chris Van Dusen’s Hattie & Hudson;
  • E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web;
  • Jacqueline Kelly’s Calpurnia Tate Series;
  • Oliver Jeffers’ Here We Are.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Scott, and Abbott, and snag your copy of I Am Birch at the April 27th release party at the Maine Historical Society from 4:30-6:30 p.m..

Patricia Erikson blogs about Maine, travel, and writing from a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, follow Patricia on Instagram at @seashorewrite or subscribe to Peaks Island Press in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com

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