Readers of all ages are drawn to Bev Stone’s picture books
By Dianna Troyer
Adults revel in reading Bev Stone’s picture books as much as children do, especially the award-winning “They Told Us Something Wonderful Was Coming.”
“People who have bought that book tell me they give it to someone who brightens their life and makes the world sing,” says the author and artist, who lives near Burley. “It’s my favorite book because it reminds us all that we’re significant.”
She illustrated the rhyming verses with ladybugs, bees, fireflies, stars, and clouds that all agree “they told us something wonderful was coming, somehow … they knew about you.”
“The book is appropriate for any age,” a reviewer wrote for the Gittle List’s Best Indie Children’s Picture Books. “Its message is one of affirmation and the joy of life.”
That book and “Silly Socks & Other Stuff” both won the Mom’s Choice Gold Award, which is globally recognized for evaluating products and services created for children, families, and educators. They are among 13 children’s books Bev has written and illustrated.
She says creating award-winning books is gratifying, but equally important is donating profits from book sales to organizations benefitting children.
“I’m always looking for ways to help kids,” Bev says. “Every little bit helps.”
She and friends established the nonprofit Bright Day Foundation, which is in part funded by 100% of the money made from book sales. Donations are made annually to several organizations that help children, such as Camp Rainbow Gold, a children’s cancer and family camp near Fairfield; the Mini-Cassia Domestic Violence Shelter in Rupert; and Hope House in Marsing.
Donations to the Makea- Wish Foundation of Idaho came from selling hand-sewn stuffed animals. When Bev wrote “Snowpuppies,” the first in a series of books about 12 pups made of snow, she decided to make a limited edition of 50 stuffed animals that looked like the main character in her book.
“I like sewing by hand instead of using a machine, so I drew a pattern and got out my needle and thread, and started to sew,” she says. “It was a challenge. When I was at about 35 puppies, a friend who is a superb seamstress helped finish the last 15.”
Whatever Bev writes and illustrates, she says she thinks not only of children enjoying the books, but also of the adults who will be reading the books to children.
“I hope the books are entertaining and also provide a way for adults to talk to kids about some topics such as diversity, kindness, and respect,” she says. “Some books, though, I write purely for fun, like my new book, ‘Silly Socks Rock.’”
It is a sequel to “Silly Socks & Other Stuff,” a collection of whimsical and wise poems. Bev wrote it and collaborated with her son, Calvin, who co-illustrated it.
“It’s among my personal favorites because Calvin, who is a very talented artist, provided illustrations for the cover and inside pages at a very busy time in his life,” she says.
In one poem called “Friends,” Bev wrote, “My friends are beautiful people no matter how they’re made; my friends are beautiful people even when their colors fade.”
Although Calvin and his sister, Jamie, live far from Idaho due to their careers, they often collaborate with Bev. Calvin is a psychiatrist in California. Jamie, a child psychologist, is based in Chicago.
“Jamie is fabulous with words,” Bev says. “Calvin has always been a talented artist. I always think of them when I write.”
A book dedication expresses her gratitude for their inspiration: “Before I saw you, I loved you still, beyond forever I always will.”
Another recent book, “The Big Red Balloon,” describes the adventures of a balloon that happily escapes a seller’s hand with the help of a strong gust of wind. After seeing some beautiful sights, it finds its place and purpose in the world.
As Bev works in her home studio, she is surrounded by memories conveyed through her numerous paintings and photos of paintings that decorate the walls. Along with her book illustrations are sentimental scenes commissioned by committees as retirement gifts.
“I’m honored when people ask me to paint a scene that celebrates someone’s life or that portrays a time or place that is meaningful to that person,” Bev says.
She painted a watercolor of Bruce Newcomb astride a horse waving goodbye to people at the Idaho Capitol. A state legislator for 20 years, he served as speaker of the House for eight years before retiring in 2006.
The committee in charge of organizing a retirement party for Denton Darrington, a state senator for 30 years, asked her to paint a log cabin in the South Hills that has been in his family for generations.
She was also commissioned to paint the Reinheimer Ranch barn—an iconic barn at the southern entrance to Ketchum—by one of the grandchildren of the original owner.
“Preserving memories like those with a painting is really a joy,” Bev says.
It was an easy transition to go from painting scenes in watercolor and oil to illustrating children’s books, she says.
“It took me a minute, but I realized I really do love illustrating and I still paint those scenes and other things on canvas whenever I get a chance,” she says.
At book readings and other events, Bev says people often tell her they have an idea for a children’s book.
“I encourage people to self-publish—for their kids or grandkids if for no other reason,” she says.
Bev also encourages her readers to share their comments about her books or ideas for books with her by email.
“I love to hear from people, especially from kids,” Bev says.