January 5, 2013

Book explores elephant's journey in area river

KEESEVILLE — “What’s An Elephant Doing in the Ausable River?!!” is the debut book of author/illustrator George “Speedy” Arnold of Keeseville.

The impetus for the book was an Arnold’s Grocery customer who commented about the plethora of frog books and dearth of books on elephants.

“Within the two-minute span, I just had a story that I made up in my head about an elephant ... and specific spots along the Ausable River,” Arnold said.

Previously, he illustrated seven children’s books including those of childhood friends, Jim Goff’s “The Little Brook in the Field” and Maureen Akey’s “The Adventures of Molly the Monarch Butterfly and Friends.”

Arnold relied on his juvenile explorations along the Ausable River to write the 60-page book with 130 color illustrations.

“When we were younger, there used to be a circus that came to town. I just put the two thoughts together and came up with a story,” Arnold said.

He started the project three or four years ago.

The protagonist, a boy named Jack, and his dog, Homer, are most happy while adventuring along the river.

The familiar is seen from a different perspective when the two encounter Priscilla, an elephant and escapee from a traveling circus.

“Some of the places are in my childhood along the river, (and it) ties in the local historic bridges and the elephant head at the chasm, which is why it all comes together,” Arnold said. “I weaved in the elementary school where the circus used to park, Jackson Street and the Ausable River.”

The book began as a short story, which Arnold showed to Lawrence Gooley at Bloated Toe Publishing. Gooley encouraged him to expand the narrative.

Arnold sketches with pen and ink, which he fills with colored pencils.

“I rewrote it,” Arnold said. “The next thing I knew, I had a nice hardcover story.”

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