Suppose you were tasked with summing up Kansas City in 11 phrases that will resonate with children and adults. Next, how would you illustrate those phrases with complementary drawings, paintings or photos?
After working in New York City for 10 years, Angela Kmeck returned home to Kansas City with her New Yorker husband and their infant son. She saw her hometown in a new light and was inspired to create a children’s book that would instill “a pride in Kansas City, pride in where we live and where our children are growing up.”
She said she knew that there were tons of books about New York City for children, and was surprised that none about Kansas City existed.
Angela decided to remedy that need by using her background in children’s television to write and publish a book about Kansas City for children.
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After writing the book, she needed an artist who could illustrate her words. When she saw John Hare’s work on the Kansas City Artists Coalition website, she “knew it was the perfect fit.”
She reached John by email.
“When Angela contacted me I could tell this wasn’t just another illustration solicitation by some new author with a vague story idea. Her email was well-written and specific. I was intrigued.”
They arranged to meet at Chez Elle. John said, “We hit it off awesomely. It was darn near serendipitous. We had to move forward on the project lest we insult the universe.”
Thus was born the first board book about Kansas City for children and adults, “This is Kansas City,” copyrighted and published by Possum Trot Productions.
The book opens with historic images adults will understand and children will learn to appreciate later: “Land of heroic roots.” “Paris of the Plains.” From there it transitions to some of the many qualities that brand our city: jazz, barbecue, home teams, fountains, Plaza lights, arts, farmers markets — summed up at the end with words that could serve as catch phrases to attract tourists and convention planners as well as inspire hometown pride in every Kansas Citian.
Although Kansas City’s philanthropic spirit isn’t highlighted in the book, the book itself is a philanthropic initiative. Possum Trot donates a portion of proceeds to the I Love Children’s Mercy Fund.
Angela remarked that when she and John do school and library readings, “I love how kids respond with excitement to the art in the book, especially if they have been to one of the places mentioned. We have a soft spot for literacy and hope our book plays a small part in a love for books for local children.”
What’s next? Angela and John may add some places to “This is Kansas City” in future editions — Union Station, the Bartle Hall sculptures, and Steamboat Arabia, for example. They also are developing a Kansas City themed young adult mystery series.
There is potential for “This is Kansas City” volumes with a single focus such as arts and artists, foods and beverages, parks and the zoo.
“We’re also working with some other local authors on a few projects we hope to get published for them in the future. There really isn’t a limit on the kind of projects we’ll entertain. We’ve sort of honed in on books this first year but we’re starting to think outside that box, too,” Angela said.
Of course I’d love to see Angela and John come up with “This is Kansas City Barbecue.”
The book is available locally and online. For more information. contact Angela or John at Possum Trot, P.O. Box 15341, Kansas City Mo., 64106.