Diane Polley of Essex soaks up inspiration while exploring the natural beauty of Cape Ann during her frequent walks. 

Marion Hall of Manchester has been painting local scenes for more than 20 years.

These two were brought together for the Cape Ann Reads initiative, which was developed to create homegrown illustrated children's books and to promote literacy.

They are hosting a free family book launch event on Saturday, Sept. 8, to celebrate the publishing of “Let’s Go! Animal Tracks in the Snow!” written by Polley, and illustrated by Hall. The drop-in event takes place at Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in Gloucester from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  There will be activities for children and "something special" to watch on the big screen as well, said Polley.

Catherine Ryan, director of Cape Ann Reads, said she is thrilled at the publication of this new children's book.

"Here's a fun fact — these two didn't know each other before the Cape Ann Reads contest," she said.

A mutual friend introduced the writer with the artist.

"After reading my story, Marion decided her style of painting would go perfectly with my words. I was so honored," said Polley. "She is a truly talented and well known Cape Ann artist and our collaboration has been such a joyful learning experience. We are very proud of the end product, which is truly a labor of love, since the world of editing and publishing was new to us. I am anticipating a wonderful few hours meeting families at a great venue on Saturday."

Polley said she has received positive feedback from those who have seen the preview copy and from those who attended the Cape Ann Reads reception at Gloucester City Hall last winter. 

Cape Ann Reads was a year-long initiative orchestrated by the four libraries of Cape Ann and supporting organizations, such as the Cape Ann Museum, to harness local talent for the story and illustrations.

This book exemplifies the high caliber of work that came forth in the Cape Ann Reads contest, which had 51 entries, said Ryan.

“Let’s Go! Animal Tracks in the Snow!” was an award-winning entry.

"This is a sweet book," said Ryan. "The drawings are so crisp and gentle. It's so earnest and dignified. You really can envision yourself in that cozy little house in the fresh snow."

The first section of the book contains a story, and the second section provides general information about the woodland creatures featured in the book, along with illustrations of the animals and what their tracks would look like.

Deborah French, director of Essex’s TOHP Burnham Library, said she was excited for Polley's new book to be presented to the public.

"She is an excellent example of a hidden children's writer that was brought together with Marion Hall, the illustrator, through the Cape Ann Reads initiative to create a wonderful picture book. I'm sure she has more to come for us all to enjoy," said French.

Hall said she was ready for this new artistic journey to be part of an illustrated children's book. She is a member of the Rockport Art Association, the North Shore Arts Association, and the New England Watercolor Society.

In all, she created 22 paintings that envelop the text as the tale unfolds on the pages.

"I tried to figure out what text would go on each page and how the painting would kind of surround the text and accentuate it, making it part of the composition," said Hall.

On the inside cover page, the artist's dog Reggie, a Sheltie, played a role in the design.

"I put water on his feet and I had him walk across a piece of watercolor paper, so those are real tracks. I then dropped color into the wet marks that he left," she said.

Even the back of the book has an illustration with a little mouse that walks around the text. 

The closing words say: "This story encourages children to use their imaginations to explore the natural world right outside their door."

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

What: Children’s book launch of “Let’s Go! Animal Tracks in the Snow!”

When: Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where: Cape Ann Cinema & Stage, 21 Main St., Gloucester

This is a free, family drop-in event with children's activities. Meet Diane Polley of Essex, the author, and Marion Hall of Manchester, the illustrator, who will be signing copies of their book, which will be discounted at this event. The book was an award-winning entry in the Cape Ann Reads contest. There will be light refreshments.

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