14 November 2012
Beth Larson Sherk has recently debuted two new children’s books, both short and meaningful. This novelist, playwright, director and theater teacher, currently has her novel, The River’s Bend on Amazon.com. But Sherk views writing children’s books differently and finds it a freeing experience.
“The good thing about short stories is that they’re short. You can get them together quicker. A novel is so long-term and very isolating. You really can’t share it while it’s gestating,” she said and adds that her brother Kevin Larson gives his own visual interpretation. “But the stories are so much more with the illustrations. Kevin adds so much from his own way of seeing things.”
The Three Sisters is a magical thought provoking book for children.
“I’ve always felt very strongly that honoring and protecting nature is a sacred duty but the original inspiration for The Three Sisters came from a pair of female ducks we had one year. They shared the same baby and one afternoon, they performed a wondrous ceremonial dance around their little duckling, their heads moving in unison, as if it were to a song no one else could hear. I remember thinking how much fun it would be to have human characters that moved in unison like ducks. These magical characters hung around in the back of my brain for a long time before they started to speak out in defense of nature. The story grew from there, as all stories do but exactly how I cannot say,” said Sherk.
Sherk lives in a rustic log house, built by her husband Grant, in rural Fluvanna, along the Rivanna River where they’ve raised two children, and an untold number of chickens, and bees.
The three sisters, dressed identically, same hair, caps, everything, appear at a town hall meeting where a developer is proposing a new development. However, the new development would be built on a marshland where wildlife nest and raise their young. A little girl follows the strangers to the meeting and later discovers the sisters are not what they appear to be. With the guidance of the three sisters -actually three Canada geese- the little girl manages to convince the townspeople and the town council that this is not the place to build.
“The Crocodile Smile story had its beginnings when I was teaching preschool many moons ago. There was a batch of rapscallion boys that year and they were perfectly delighted when I put them in the starring roles as the babies who outfox an old crocodile, meanwhile I got what I wanted, a nice quiet lunch,” she laughs.
Creating the illustrations is her brother Kevin Larson. Nature is also an influence on him as well. Kevin and his wife Susan also live surrounded by trees but in the heart of Fairfax City, not ten miles from Washington, D.C. His house backs up to pristine parkland, complete with deer, raccoon and fox, a perfect place to create art, according to his sister.
Other being inspired by nature, both Sherk and her brother share a creative streak, her with her writing and he with art. Drawing has been his passion since he was a boy and though he graduated with a degree in graphic art from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he soon found his way into fine art. Over the years that followed, he mastered watercolor and oil, specializing in landscapes and portraits. In 1991 he quit his graphics job and went to work as Mr. Mom, raising his 4-month old son, Ryan.
“Kevin’s playful personality soon made his house the Mecca of the neighborhood children who all seemed to end up in his living room day after day. Here, he soon found himself organizing games and art activities. From these experiences, came insight into the world of a child’s imagination,” said Sherk.
“Collaborating on artistic projects with my brother just seems the most natural thing in the world. We grew up in a household where art, music and literature were appreciated and encouraged. Our mother was a natural born storyteller with dreams of being a writer and our dad was an accomplished jazz pianist and amateur artist in his own right,” she said. “But perhaps even more importantly, the act of play itself was valued. Mom grew up in the Depression, the oldest in a big family and responsible at a young age for babies and housework, so she willingly gave us the freedom to play. Dad, despite being a generally serious, responsible kind of guy, was actually very playful in our growing up years. We have many happy memories of riding like airplanes on his feet, wild games of hide and seek after dark when we were little, and as we grew older, the after dinner drawing and word games, and crystal goblet.”