An Enlightening Collaboration

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Author Flora Wyatt collaborated with WAHS senior and illustrator Laura Bendick to create Let’s Explore Lighthouses. Photo: Gabe Anderson.

At age three, Keaton Wyatt loved trains. But the diminutive lighthouse included with his first train set soon became an additional fascination. When his devoted Gramie—Old Trail resident Flora Wyatt—searched for an age-appropriate book on this topic, she came up empty-handed. Her compromise, the coffee-table book The World’s Greatest Lighthouses by Anna Maria Lilla Mariotti, became his favorite, even travelling to school for “bring your favorite book” day. So Wyatt, a retired University of Kansas education professor who had specialized in remedial reading, decided to write her own. Using limited vocabulary and an easy-to-read font, she wrote and self-published Let’s Explore Lighthouses to present basic information to a primary audience. The book covers the purpose, history, and operation of lighthouses, and explores famous lighthouses such as the Tower of Hercules in Spain and the oldest U.S. lighthouse, Boston Light. Keaton, now five years old, can already read the book himself!

Needing an illustrator, Wyatt approached WAHS art teacher Nancy Mehlich for a recommendation. After Mehlich invited everyone in her AP art class to illustrate a sample page, Wyatt chose WAHS senior Laura Bendick for the job. Working throughout the summer of 2017 in her home studio—while also working with the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum’s Young Art Historians Program—Bendick produced 18 stunning, full-page illustrations to accompany Wyatt’s informative text. Bendick worked in watercolor, basing the paintings on print and online photographs. “I tried to mix up the composition by placing the lighthouses at different locations on the page, and showing them in a variety of seasons and times of day,” Bendick explains. Wyatt has given copies of the engaging, colorful paperback— which includes resources and further questions in the back, along with a photo of the lighthouse Keaton and Cooper built out of flowerpots and a solar light—to the Crozet Library, Keaton’s school, and many of his friends. It is available at Over the Moon Bookstore in Piedmont Place, where a book launch was held Tuesday, December 5.

A detail of Bendick’s watercolor illustrations.

This project has established a continuing collaboration between Wyatt and Bendick. They are currently working on illustrating the old song “Twenty Froggies Went to School” that Wyatt learned from her own grandmother, which they will frame to hang above the children’s piano. “I am also thinking of doing a book about what young animals need to know, like how to spin for spiders, and how to swim and catch fish for polar bears,” she confides. Bendick, who also designs all the WAHS theatre production flyers, is currently finishing her AP studio art portfolio for college applications, where she plans to double major in Studio Art and Art History. “Who knows? I may end up illustrating more children’s books some day!” she adds.

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