Island artist Tara Reynolds has created a fresh look in children’s early reading books with the debut of “Alphabet Zooup,” fresh off the press from Vineyard Stories.
The book has a zany, offbeat personality reminiscent of a first read of Dr. Suess — that kind of “Well, this is different, wonder what’s on the next page?” reaction. Ms. Reynolds, 24, has combined proficiency in collage and fine arts training at Savannah College of Art and Design with a whimsical sense of copywriting as she trots us through the alphabet, A to Z.
Ms. Reynolds created 26 different characters, which represent the letters, accompanied by full pages of art that illustrate the storyline for each letter. Food is big in this book. For example, “Herbert the Hippo hikes up a hill of hotdogs” and “Ian the Iguana eats ice cream on an island,” and my personal favorite, “Donnie the Dolphin dives through donuts in the dark.”
Try reading this book without indulging in alliteration yourself. I couldn’t. Calling for an interview at Tara’s home, Jack the Journalist became a joyful joker. I’m better now, but “Alligator Zooup” is the literary equivalent of a toe-tappin’ rhythm.
According to the author, the book has received good early reviews from the toughest critics: kindergartners and pre-schoolers in Oak Bluffs, and students at the Charter School and Grace Church Pre School. Edgartown tots got their chance this week to meet Vinny the Vulture, Grace the Goose, and Owen the Octopus.
This Saturday between 5 and 8 pm, we all get a chance to meet the author and the cast at “Alphabet Zooup’s” coming out party in the front room at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury. “We decided to have a party rather than a book signing. We wanted something for the kids so there’ll be cupcakes, lollipops, and juice boxes for kids and a beer or a glass of wine for the grown-ups,” Ms. Reynolds said this week, fresh from an off-Island trip to stock up on party decorations and fixins, including pink flamingos. The book came together quickly, but like many overnight successes it was years in the making. “I spent three or four months on the words and illustrations and sent them to Jan Pogue at Vineyard Stories,” Ms. Reynolds said. “I really didn’t expect that much, but she liked it right away.”
But inspiration to art began 21 years ago. “We noticed she was always drawing, using crayons and pencils, so we encouraged her,” said Ellen Reynolds, Tara’s mother, last week.
“That’s true,” the author-artist said. “I owe a lot to art teachers on the Island like John Athearn, who patiently drew with me for hours. I went to Pam Benjamin’s art camp as a little kid and Janice Frame was a real inspiration in high school. She introduced me to collage.”
Ms. Reynolds’s fascination with collage as an art form “started the whole book idea,” she said. Her skill produces images that look three-dimensional. She has been commissioned to do a number of pieces, including renderings of the four fish featured in the 2013 Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.
Is another book being born in the back of her brain? “Probably, and maybe it will have a plot,” she said. “But Jan Pogue gave me some good advice: she recommended that I enjoy this one for a while.”
Book Party for “Alphabet Zooup,” Saturday, June 15, 5–8 pm, Ag Hall, West Tisbury. With author Tara Reynolds. For more information, visit vineyardstories.com.