By Derek Liebig
Casey Nicole enjoys the first day of school, but it wasn’t always that way
The 2003 graduate of Whitehall High is in the process of completing her Master’s Degree at Russell Sage, meaning she’s experienced around 22 first days of school. However, it’s her very first day of school and the way she handled her nerves that was the basis for a book written by her mother.
Judith Lloyd, Casey’s mother, is the author and illustrator of “A Very Important Pumpkin,” a self published children’s book released earlier this fall.
The 24 page-book is based on Lloyd’s and her daughters first day of school tradition.
Lloyd, a former aid at theWhitehallElementary School, remembers her daughters first day of school in a way only a parent who has sent their child off to school for the first time can.
“She was so nervous,” Lloyd said. “But then she saw this pumpkin growing in the garden and it just relaxed her. It put her at ease and I promised that she could pick it when she got home. That was very reassuring for her and helped her get through that first day. It was the beginning of a long and wonderful, first day of school tradition, for our family.
Casey got a pumpkin on the first day of school this year just like she did all those years ago.”
Although the name in the story has changed, it is Casey’s story none the less.
The leaf pile in the story where the pumpkins grew was Lloyd’sCliff Streethome and the illustrations in the book reflect the community.
“You look through the book and you can see the harbor and Benjamin’s Coal Company,” said Lloyd, who relocated to Queensbury in 2005.
Lloyd created all of the water color illustrations in the book, scanned them onto her computer and digitally enhanced them using Photoshop on her computer.
“I have always been a creative and artistic person and this was outlet for that. I consider myself more of an illustrator than a writer,” she said.
Over the years, Lloyd has put those creative talents to work in a number of ways, from her involvement with Girl Scouts and her time as a floral designer to building floats for parades and designing her daughter’s jungle themed prom.
“I’ve always found a place to channel my creative energies,” she said.
Lloyd said she came into writing late in life. As an adult, she enrolled in several Media Arts classes at SUNY Adirondack., eventually earning an Associate of Science Degree. The tutelage of several teachers and the skills she acquired were crucial to her ability to put the book together.
I enjoyed the classes I took and I had many wonderful teachers,” Lloyd said. “But my knowledgeable computer graphics instructor, Nick Paigo and watercolor instructor John Hampshire taught me the skills that were instrumental in the illustrations in the book.”
Despite the classes, Lloyd didn’t start out with any intention of penning a book.
Originally, it was a gift for Casey upon her graduation fromPlattsburghStateUniversity, but about a year later she decided to illustrate the book and publish it for a larger audience.
“It’s a very reassuring story. I wanted children to know that it’s okay to be a little nervous over starting school and that the feeling will go away. Hopefully it will plant a seed for other families to start a tradition for kids about to enter school,” she said.
Lloyd said putting the book together has been a very positive, but challenging experience.
She took pains to rewrite the story and remove herself so it sounded less like a memoir. She also got her first taste of the publishing world, sending the book to a number of traditional publishers only to receive polite response letters that said they would be in contact but then never called.
She said she has received a very positive response from the people who have read it, including her daughter.
“She can’t read it without crying. It’s her story.”
Lloyd said they no longer grow their own pumpkins but the tradition continues with a helping hand from the local farmer’s market.
“She still has this year’s pumpkin,” Lloyd said. “I hope the tradition continues with her family some day. I feel it’s a story and tradition worth sharing.”