Island publisher and illustrator collaborate on children’s story

“Nighttide on a Vineyard Farm” by Patty Schaal, illustrations by Margot Datz, Vineyard Stories, 2010, 14 pp., $21.95.

“Nighttide on a Vineyard Farm” is a children’s story that combines Patty Schaal’s delightful prose with Margot Datz’s beautiful illustrations. This short but charming tale follows nighttime on the Vineyard from pinkletink frogs dancing in the pond to farmyard animals in repose, to a child’s slumber above the barnyard. Though the story is simple, captivating illustrations help to create a charming tale and feeling of sincerity encompassing its depiction of Island nights.

This is Patty Schaal’s first book. The author lives in Western Pennsylvania but has called Martha’s Vineyard her home away from home for the past 25 years.

Margot Datz has been an Island resident since 1978, at which point she shifted her career in visual arts from sculpture to mural painting and trompe l’oeil. She has illustrated four children’s books for singer/songwriter Carly Simon, and written and illustrated her own book for women, “A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids.”

Ms. Datz was not planning on illustrating further when she was approached by Jan Pogue, editor and president of Vineyard Stories, whose work as a publisher she has greatly admired. Ms. Pogue notes that her interest in “Nighttide” was also an exception, as she rarely publishes children’s books. “Both Margot and I made an exception for this book, as we both fell in love with the words,” Ms. Pogue observes.

“The story was light, evocative, and open to rich illustration,” Ms. Datz adds. “The pleasure for me in illustrating the story was painting the animals from the inside out, in an intimate fashion.” Ms. Datz recalls her trips to Allen Whiting’s farm, whose hosts warmly welcomed her to explore the barns and their inhabitants for visual cues. “I didn’t try to convey one particular farm in the story,” she says, “but rather the feeling of Vineyard farms in general.”

Ms. Datz will be at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury this Saturday, July 24, from 4 to 8:30 pm. for an evening with her work. She will present a collection of paintings, illustrations, limited edition prints and book signings for “Nighttide on a Vineyard Farm” and “Landlocked Mermaids,” as well as prints. Two dollars of every copy of “Nighttide” sold will go to the Island Grown Initiative.

Sam McCoy, Calendar intern, is a recent graduate of Cornell University, currently living in Chilmark.