MOTLEY -- A lifelong dream has been fulfilled for two mothers in Staples and Motley.
Sandra Opheim, an English teacher at Motley Staples Middle School and a Staples resident, and Lori Horton, a Motley artist and Reading is FUNdamental volunteer coordinator at Motley Elementary School, have written and illustrated a children's book, "Whose Hat is That?"
Published last month by Range Printing in Brainerd, the 36-page color book is designed as a fun teaching tool for young children on topics like friendship, trust, honesty, community helping and rhyming. The story revolves around Cat, who finds a hat in the park. He and his mischievous sidekick, Mouse, search for the hat's rightful owner.
Sandra Opheim (left), Staples, and Lori Horton, Motley, recently published a children's book, "Whose Hat Is That?" Brainerd Dispatch/Jodie Tweed
Reading is a priority for both women, who between them have five young children. Opheim and her husband, Rod, have three children: Mardi, 5, Kelsey, 3, and Samuel, 6 months. Horton and her husband, Chris, have two daughters, Delany, 8, and Azalea, 6. Horton, a stay-at-home mom, coordinates the Reading is FUNdamental program at Motley Elementary School, which provides free books to children three times a year.
This year, thanks to donations by Staples-Motley area businesses, the program will give free copies of "Whose Hat is That?" to Motley Elementary School kindergarten through fifth-graders and kindergartners at Staples Elementary School.
Horton has created colorful murals at Motley Elementary School and has done commissioned work, including artwork on silos and barns. She said she's always wanted to work on a children's book and was thrilled when Opheim approached her and asked if she wanted to illustrate this book.
"We were willing to take a risk together," said Opheim.
"Whose Hat Is That?" teaches children about friendship, trust, honesty and helping through a story that features rhyming.
Opheim, a former St. Francis of Assisi School principal, earlier had written a children's chapter book but abandoned the effort after believing the story needed major revision. Neither Opheim nor Horton published this book to make money, they said. Their goal simply is to break even financially, encourage children to read and possibly inspire students at Motley Elementary School to aspire to write their own books someday.
"We're just the average people they see every day at school," said Horton.
Sitting in the Motley Elementary School library, Azalea (left), 6, and Delany Horton, 8, read the children's book their mother, Lori Horton, illustrated. Horton used Delany as a model as she designed characteristics of the main character, the Cat. Brainerd Dispatch/Jodie Tweed
Opheim wrote the story line while Horton illustrated the book, using her husband, Chris, and daughter, Delany, as models for a few of the characters. Both daughters gave their mom helpful ideas on the kinds of trouble Mouse gets into in the book. Horton said her daughters worked on writing their own books while she was working on the illustrations. Opheim's eldest daughter also said she wants to be an author someday. The kindergartner was inspired by her mom.
Opheim has been invited to a South Dakota reading convention in Aberdeen for her book and will have a booth at the Education Minnesota convention in St. Paul in October. Both women plan to go into area classrooms to read and discuss their book.
'Whose Hat Is That?'
-- Written by Sandra Opheim, Staples, and illustrated by Lori Horton, Motley.
-- Cost is $6.25.
-- The children's book is currently available at the Greater Staples Hospital gift shop and soon will be available at other stores in the Brainerd lakes area.
-- The authors will host a book signing and reading and art activities for children 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Staples Public Library. Books will be available for purchase at the book signing.
-- For more information or to buy a book, contact Better Than One Publishing, 27582 120th St., Staples, MN 56479 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Opheim said it's been difficult to find the time to market their book right now because the school year just started. They hope to get their books into area bookstores and gift shops this fall.
The women said they are considering writing another children's book.
JODIE TWEED, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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