Southport Central School’s kindergarten and first grade students and Southport Memorial Library patrons took a walk in the Fynbos (fayne-boss) Nov. 14 led by author Susan Schadler through her book, “come walk in the Fynbos with me.” Book illustrators Lynne and John Seitzer were also part of the afternoon’s walking party. By the end, everyone was wishing they could experience this enchanting area of South Africa.
All 34 paintings in the book are on exhibit at the library through December. The Seitzers’ colorful impressions of the land, plants and flowers complement Schadler’s story beautifully. The children enjoyed pointing out the paintings in the room the event was held, as they appeared during the reading.
The Seitzers showed the audience one of the photo albums filled from their two-week stay with Schadler in the Fynbos five years ago in November. John Seitzer told everyone that between the two of them they snapped 7,000 photos during that visit.
“We were seeing so many things we’d never seen before ... all of the plants, flowers and colors,” Lynne explained. “We couldn’t wait to get home to put all of the colors down. It was a different palette for us, and at the same time a little similar to our Southwest.”
The Seitzers had an extremely hard time deciding which photos to use. What helped was knowing the images they ultimately selected had to complement the story. Once they managed to narrow down the photos, each one was sketched out first. John showed the audience one of Lynne’s drawings of an arum lily while sharing that it took them three years for them to complete the painting project. Without missing a beat, on student said, “No wonder it took you three years!” Cue laughter from everyone.
The kids were shown the mock-up (imagine that classic image of a proud new parent showing off pics of their kids that drop down like a streamer) of all 40 completed paintings. Some of the students were a tad disappointed not to be getting a copy of the mock-up; others were happy to just to check it out. Thirty-four of the paintings became illustrations.
Schadler told the children over 9,000 types of plants and flowers grew in the Fynbos and, of those, 6,000 only grew there. She added that some of the native species only grew in an area the size of a 6’ x 8’ rug in the Fynbos.
Both author and illustrators painted a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Fynbos, but added that summer and fall brought additional types of flora. Schadler loves to take walks when she’s in this stunning part of the world. In fact, it was on one of her walks five years ago the idea to write a book about the Fynbos occurred to her; what if her grandchildren never had the opportunity to see this gorgeous place for themselves?
“I knew I could write the book, but illustrating was not something I could do,” Schadler said. And that’s when she thought of the Seitzers, who she and her husband met just over five years ago while in Boothbay Harbor. They discovered Lynne and John’s gallery, Joy to the Wind, met both of the artists and bought some of their work.
“I knew Lynne and John would be perfect – their knowledge of color and shapes … and I love their work.” Laughing, Schadler added that when she asked the couple if they’d be interested in the project, Lynne’s first reaction was no – they didn’t have enough time; John on the other hand disagreed, saying “Let’s think about this!”
In addition to the charming and informative story, the book includes drawings and information about each plant, animal and insect readers meet along the way.
And, as it turns out, Schadler and the Seitzers have proved to be the perfect combination of creativity: The book won a New Generation Indie Book Award and was a finalist for an Eric Hoffer Award.
Will there be a second walk through the Fynbos? Not likely, however, signed copies of “come walk in the Fynbos with me, are at the library at 1032 Hendricks Hill Road in Southport. For more information about the book, visit http://susanschadler.com/come-walk-in-the-fynbos-with-me