by Tiffany Roney
An Abilene resident said her grandson inspired her to write her first children’s book. Now, Doris Johnson has six titles available at bookstores and libraries across Kansa and Colorado. Johnson collaborated with Dani Otten, freshman at Abilene High School, to publish her newest book, Chacho.
Chacho revolves around a grandmother, a mother and a child – in this case, a child who tends to mix up the instructions he receives.
Johnson said Chacho, the main character, runs errands for his mother to his grandmother’s house, where his grandmother gives him items like homemade bread, butter and a puppy. Once he receives the items, though, he is unsure how to make best use of them.
“It ends up good and humorous, because the grandma gives him cookies to take home and share with his family, and so then his dilemma is, ‘Do I put them under my hat and carry them home, do I tie a rope around them and lead them along home’ – all these different options, so he can’t really decide,” Johnson said. “He solves that problem by sitting down on the path and eating them. So, I don’t know if that’s a good lesson for young children or not, but at least Chacho solved his problem.”
Johnson solved her problem of finding an illustrator by asking Toni Britt, art instructor at Abilene High School, if she could open up a contest to find a student to illustrate the book. Britt pointed Johnson in the direction Otten.
Britt said Otten’s work caught her attention when Otten, then an 8th grader, asked Britt how to price a drawing of hers that someone was interested in purchasing. Now a freshman, Otten recently created a giant poster with 25 original characters.
“I could tell that she knew how to create some great illustrations, and they’re very childlike, almost Dr. Suess-like,” Britt said. “I’d just told her aweek before that if anyone ever came to me and told me that they had a book to illustrate, I would recommend her, and the next week, Doris came – so that worked out perfectly.”
Otten said she thought the opportunity was cool, and she planned right away to create the illustrations in colored pencil, her favorite medium.
Johnson said she was not sure at first that she liked the idea of colored pencils because she wanted bright, vibrant colors. Then, Otten showed Johnson some of her work, and Johnson said it was awesome.
“It was bright, intense colors, and she showed me her set that she worked with that had about 200 different colors – so many shades and colors of greens and oranges,” Johnson said. “It turned out fabulous.”
Otten used her own time outside of school from mid-September until just after Christmas 2012 to complete the illustrations. Britt oversaw the project, and Johnson paid Otwork.
“It was a win-win – she was thrilled with what I paid her, and I was thrilled with her work,” Johnson said. “You know, I’d have her do work for me again in a heartbeat.”