FROSTBURG — Each year, Storybook Holiday organizers have a special author or illustrator attend the event to read their books. This year, both an author and illustrator will be in attendance and they are from neighboring Garrett County.
The Frostburg State University Children’s Literature Centre have announced Deborah Wagner-Brenneman and Melinda Bishoff as the featured author and illustrator for their book “The Perfect Tree for Mrs. B.”
Wagner-Brenneman teaches fourth grade at Accident Elementary School; Bishoff teaches art at both Accident and Friendsville elementary schools. Brenneman also taught at Route 40 Elementary School and the Hickory Environmental Education Center.
“The Perfect Tree for Mrs. B.” is Brenneman’s third book. She also wrote “Look What’s Under My Bed” with her daughter Danielle, illustrated by Joe Santoro, and “Snakes Give Me A Freak Out!” illustrated by Elizabeth Friend.
Brenneman’s time at Route 40 Elementary School served as the inspiration for “The Perfect Tree for Mrs. B.”
“Every year in November, I would take my pre-K students to go help me pick out a Christmas tree from a local tree farm, a tree farm right next door to the school. I would tell them that I wanted the perfect tree, not lopsided and with no imperfections. When children are that young, they take everything very literally and they would search and search for the perfect tree, pointing out imperfections. It was then that I realized I was focusing on the wrong thing as students began asking me if they were perfect. I knew then I needed them to realize they were perfect just the way they are,” Brenneman said. “Those memories of that precious time are what sparked this book. I woke up one morning and wrote the entire book in 2013.”
After completing her book, she began to look for an illustrator. Through a series of colleagues and connections, Brenneman and Bishoff communicated through email and Brenneman explained what she was looking for to bring her book to life.
Bishoff said Brenneman’s story deeply resonated with her and she knew she wanted to be a part of the project.
“I fell in love with the story and wanted to do my part to complement Debbie’s beautiful story. I wanted to let kids know they are perfect just the way they are. Kids are so hard on themselves and each other. This book reminds kids to see the heart of each other and know that God made them exactly the way they should be,” Bishoff said.
Bishoff went to work and used her son Mason as her model for the boy featured on the front cover.
“It was summer and the temperatures were in the 70s and 80s and here we were putting my son in a snowsuit so I could photograph him for the initial drawings,” Bishoff said with a laugh.
The moment Breneman saw the drawings she knew she had found her partner.
“They were beyond what I expected and I could not have been happier,” Brenneman said.
The pair had their book published last year and have since attended several book signings and school events, sharing their story and “The Perfect Tree for Mrs. B.” The women selected Christian publisher WestBow Press to produce the book, which can be found for sale at WestBowPress.com, Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and BooksaMillion.com.
Bishoff and Brenneman said they are honored to be the featured author and illustrator for the 2019 Storybook Holiday and even more excited to share “The Perfect Tree for Mrs. B” with area families. The pair will be in the annual Storybook Holiday parade Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. on Main Street in Frostburg and will participate in several activities throughout the day.