Librarian writes, illustrates children’s book

By Jean Volz

A recent addition to the children’s book section at Founder’s Memorial Library is not only a colorfully written and illustrated story, but also the work of one of NIU’s librarians.

Charles Larry, an NIU professor and humanities librarian, said his book, “Peboan and Seegwum,” incorporates his love for nature with his passion for painting.

This devoted earth lover cited his inherent curiosity about Native American culture as one of his motivations for writing the book.

Additionally, Larry said he has always been interested in the way our country looked before the concrete jungles were erected.

Larry, a self-proclaimed nature buff, said he absorbed himself with the research for the book by spending a vast amount of time in the picturesque North Woods.

During that time, Larry said he used five rolls of film to capture the essence of the setting for his story. He then painted the scenes and incorporated them in his book as illustrations.

“It is a perfect picture book,” he said.

Larry took the story of Peboan and Seegwum from a collection of Anishinabe folklore published in 1839 by Henry Schoolcraft in a book called Algic Researches.

Larry said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used the same stories for the basis of his book Hiawatha.

Although the story is seemingly simple in “nature,” Larry said it is quite allegorical.

He said the story is about the changing of the seasons, from winter to spring, but is told through an old man and a young boy who symbolize the two seasons.

Larry’s illustrations complement the story by showing the Anishinabe hunting for bears, ice fishing and making canoes along with other activities of these Native Americans of the North Woods.

“In my version, the transition is relatively gentle, but in others it’s not,” he said.

Larry said he used the landscape as the main character.

With regard to what he hopes people can absorb from the book, Larry said, “I hope it makes them more sensitive to the beauty of nature.”

Larry has already had one sitting to sign copies of the book at the Junction Book Room. On Nov. 20, he will sign copies of the book at the Art Institute of Chicago, and on Nov. 21 at the Canterbury Bookshop in Madison, Wisc.

“It is a perfect picture book. … I hope it makes them (readers) more sensitive to the beauty of nature.”