By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Inspired by the natural beauty of North Idaho and bonded by a joint artistic endeavor, three local women have successfully published a coloring book with the hopes of encouraging local families to get out and explore the wild wonders close to home.
Patty Ericsson said the idea for a coloring book came to her in the place where the project’s story and scenery would eventually be set: the North Idaho Native Plant Arboretum, situated at 611 S. Ella Ave. in Sandpoint and stewarded by the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society. Ericsson said she walks in the arboretum almost daily.
“As I was dog-walking and enjoying the flora, I thought that more children could know about native plants through arboretum experiences,” she told the Reader. “As the idea percolated, I chatted with my neighborhood friend, Mary Toland, who — as a retired primary teacher and long-time arboretum volunteer — knows much more about the target audience and the arboretum than I do. Her response was enthusiastic, but I realized we’d need some financial support and an illustrator.”
That was fall of 2021. As of December 2022, Ericsson’s vision has come to life in the form of Busy Buzzy Bombus Bee, can you color what I see?, a coloring and activity book based around the story of a Bombus bee (also known as a bumblebee) that enters the North Idaho Native Plant Arboretum by chance thanks to a gust of lakeside wind. The bee comes across abundant flora and fauna (possibly even some fairies) during this arb adventure, giving readers and crayon-wielders a chance to learn about some of the plants and animals they have a chance to see on their own visit.
As for the funding, the book was made possible by a grant from KNPS given annually in honor of native plant society founder Lois Wythe, as well as advertising featured on the back cover.
Ericsson and Toland share writing credit for Busy Buzzy Bombus Bee.
“I’ve spent my life sharing learning space with young children,” Toland told the Reader. “The power and importance of sitting with a book and having a grownup read along cannot be underestimated … And, as a volunteer gardener in the arboretum, my knowledge of plants and flowers came in handy.”
“We ended up being an amazing team,” Ericsson added. “Our strengths complimented each other remarkably well. But the project would not have been possible without the artistic talents of Hannah Combs.”
Combs, a local artist and historian who works as administrator of the Bonner County History Museum, said she was grateful to have been given the opportunity to illustrate the book, which features black and white images of varying detail perfect for coloring enthusiasts of all ages.
“As someone who too often sets my drawing pad aside for a rainy day, and especially as someone who works at the museum and walks past the arb every day, it has been a real joy to actively engage with the many beautiful plants and animals in the arboretum in the process of creating this book,” Combs told the Reader. “I hope the Lois Wythe Grant continues to engage artists, writers and other creatives in sharing the beauty of the arb with the community.”
Busy Buzzy Bombus Bee, can you color what I see? is available to purchase for $5 at the Bonner County History Museum, All Seasons Floral, Vanderford’s Books, The Corner Book Store, Creations, Carousel Emporium and Winter Ridge Natural Foods.
“We believe we can use the art in this coloring book as an entry point for children’s journey of discovery,” Combs said. “If the drawings inspire children to go outside and look deeply at the plants and animals around them, it will set them up for a life full of wonder.”
Learn more about the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society and North Idaho Native Plant Arboretum at nativeplantsociety.org.
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