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With Mother’s Day just around the corner, on May 8, what could be better than snuggling up with your loved one and reading a good book?
Those special moments together are exactly what inspired the read aloud children’s book, Mom’s Bed, written by Elizabeth Busel and illustrated by Katie Rissolo.
Growing up in Sandy Hook, Rissolo went through the Newtown school system and always had a passion for being creative. She enjoyed taking art classes and went on to graduate from Newtown High School with the Class of 1999.
She attended Keene State College in New Hampshire for her undergraduate degree where she majored in film production and minored in fine art.
“Then, when I went to graduate school, I was in the interior design program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn,” Rissolo said.
That path led her into a busy career as an interior designer, but she never gave up on exploring other creative outlets.
“[Book illustrating] was always something in the back of my mind that I wanted to do,” Rissolo said. “Elizabeth was a teacher for years and taught my kids at the Washington Montessori School in New Preston … We got to know Elizabeth, and she’s wonderful. She’s so great with the kids and she had all these stories that she had written years ago.”
When Rissolo learned that Busel needed an illustrator for Mom’s Bed and the series of books to follow, Rissolo jumped at the opportunity.
“I said I would love to do it. Even though I am working and doing other things, it’s something I wanted to take on to do on the side and try it out. This is the first time I had really taken on a project like that,” Rissolo said.
Not only is Mom’s Bed Rissolo’s first time illustrating a book, it was also Busel’s first published work.
For the last thirty years, Busel has dedicated her life to working with young children and would read her stories to students over the years for fun.
She always aspired to be an author, and never gave up even when she experienced the lows of rejection from publishers. The whole time, she continued to receive encouragement from her family and friends saying that she needed to share her writing with the world.
Busel’s dream of publishing Mom’s Bed came true in December 2021 when it was released through Hobo Jungle Press, which has offices in Sharon, Connecticut, and St Vincent & the Grenadines.
“I know kids, and what they want to do more than anything is memorize books. I made this book so that they can easily memorize it,” Busel said.
The book’s theme is about all the fun and imaginative scenarios that children can do in mom’s bed — pretending it is everything from a cave or a trampoline to a tent for camping.
Busel pulled inspiration from her own upbringing as an only child jumping up and down on her parents’ bed on Saturday mornings, but the book also greatly reflects her personal experience as a mother of two children.
“Being divorced and a single mom, I was with my kids 24/7 and they needed me as much as I needed them. They were trying to cling to me,” Busel said.
In the early morning hours, before she would have to get out of bed, her children would hop into bed with her. It became a ritual that they all looked forward to.
“They would play on me, over me,” Busel recalled. “Most of the time, I was in the bed when they were doing all these things, but I found as time went on that the bed became this place that they connected with. I would be making dinner and they would go in and come up with these wonderful, inventive things to do on my bed.”
Through the ups and downs of navigating through that difficult chapter in their lives, the bed remained positive and consistent.
“It was our safe haven, that bed,” Busel said.
When it came down to creating the illustrations for Mom’s Bed, Busel gave Rissolo a lot of artistic freedom to play and figure out what would work best.
“Her vision was my vision. I would tell her, ‘Here’s what I’m kind of thinking,’ and all of a sudden, she’d make it come to life. I thought, ‘This is amazing.’ It’s like we were meant for each other,” Busel said.
Rissolo’s process for creating the finished product was not without its challenges, though. She estimates she made three full drafts before she was satisfied with the results.
“This was my first time illustrating and it was a huge learning curve for me,” Rissolo said. “You’re telling a story and you’re bringing in different elements. One of the challenges for me was how do you make sure the children look the same, have the dog and cat have a similar look, and in the next series how do you keep that thread going? It’s not something I’m necessarily trained to do, it’s not a one-off art piece.”
She wound up drawing the pages all in pencil, going over those images with watercolor, and then scanning the pages into the computer.
“In my line of work in interior design I’m pretty comfortable using computer programs, so I would scan them in and make small alterations,” Rissolo explained.
An important aspect to her illustration process was that she wanted to stay true to Busel’s vision.
“What was fun about the book was Beth’s writing is very simple and straightforward, which I think is what makes a good children’s book. It’s accessible and simple to understand. The whole point was the children taking something as simple as a bed and imagining putting themselves in all those different scenarios,” Rissolo said.
She brainstormed different ideas for household items that could be incorporated into her paintings, and she also got input from her children to get their perspective.
“Each page I made an effort to not repeat. For instance, I didn’t make one background then change the kids in each one. Each and every page is unique. I redrew the bed and the room every single time, so there are slight differences in each one,” Rissolo said.
As a result, the book can engage children every time it is read to them, because there is always a new detail to spot — whether it be the weather out the window, the children’s clothes, or where the dog and cat are on each page.
“I tried to bring in different elements. That was a fun thing to work on and imagine all those different scenarios,” she said.
Mom’s Bed is the first installment of a four-part series. The next book will be titled Dad’s Couch and it is anticipated to be released later in 2022.
“Katie just finished illustrating Dad’s Couch,” Busel said.
Rissolo teased that she will continue the same illustration style and that readers can look forward to seeing the subtle differences of the father’s slippers on each page.
The last two books of the series will be Papa’s Chair and Granny’s Kitchen.
Bushel shared, “Up until December, I’ve always been working and didn’t have the chance to dedicate my time to being a children’s author, which is what I want to do more than anything in the world. So now, I’ve been able to dedicate all this time, effort, and energy to writing … This is what I want to do. I want to write. This is the path I want to follow.”
Busel says Mom’s Bed is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as local bookstores, including The Silly Sprout in Litchfield.
For more information about Mom’s Bed and to connect with Busel for interviews or book signings, e-mail email@example.com.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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