A Promise Fulfilled

Family publishes woman's book years after her death

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Sybil Kane (1902-1994) was a woman so fascinated with insects -- from the night gleam of a glowworm in the tall grass to the songs of katydids in summer and fall. She spent much of her adult life writing poems and drawing pictures of the six-legged creatures for a children's book.

"The Insect Wonderland," a full-color illustrated alphabet book, has just been released by Kane's niece, Carol Kane Simerly and her grandniece, Marguerite Young.

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Sybil Kane (1902-1994) was a woman so fascinated with insects she spent much of her adult life writing poems and drawing pictures of the six-legged creatures for a children's book.

"Incredibly, at the young age of 82, I have fulfilled my promise to Sybil and now embark on the adventure of sharing this treasure of fine art," Simerly said.

Whimsical color illustrations greet the reader's eyes for each letter of the alphabet along with a fun and informative poem about the particular insect Kane wrote to go with each letter.

"Q is for queen bee," one page begins. "Just once in her life / Does she go out to fly, / And that's for her wedding / Up high in the sky."

The queen in Kane's illustration wears a gossamer wedding veil as she flies. On the facing page, a worker bee cleans the honeycomb with a broom.

"L is for the ladybird or, as the insect is more commonly known, the lady bug," she writes. "Her grubs change their jackets / Three times as they grow / And finally turn into / The beetle you know."

Kane was an amateur entomologist and naturalist. She never collected bug specimens to pin and show under glass and could call birds to her with just the right whistle or warble.

She traveled Europe extensively with her father, yet was ill her whole life.

"She never married. This was her life's work," Simerly said.

"She came to know many famous people when she was with the Art Students League and became friends with a famous entomologist of the day," Simerly said. The famous entomologist vetted Kane's work for correct facts.

"He was very proud of her," Simerly said.

Although Simerly grew up in Ohio, she was close to her aunt who lived in Pennsylvania and spent time with her as a child and an adult.

Before her aunt died, Simerly worked with her on some of the beetle pages.

There were no computers when Kane sought publication for her book and was told by publishers it was much too expensive to produce.

Simerly faced similar rejection letters when she submitted the book to publishing houses.

Kane's health deteriorated in the last decade of her life and she spent her final six years blind and was unable to complete her book.

Young enjoyed visiting with her great-aunt who she knew as a wonderful storyteller.

It was sad to see the talented woman try to paint ducks on the lake with watercolors as her sight failed.

"All of a sudden the scene would be purple as her paint brush trailed across the picture," Young said.

As an adult, when the illustrations and poetry came into her possession, she shared them with her students.

"Their enthusiasm and wonder after reading the verse and seeing the beautiful illustrations inspired my dream of publishing this treasure," Young said.

It was hard work to get "The Insect Wonderland" into a sellable form.

The illustrations that were drawn in colored pencil on now browning poster paper had to be combined with the original typewritten poetry in a format pleasing to the eye.

A few of the illustrations needed to be extended to cover the whole page.

Comic sans was eventually chosen as the font, in black on most pages, but in yellow on the glowworm's page.

It was Simerly's decision what color the backgrounds for the illustrations would be.

Family friend and artist Parry Morton designed the book's cover. One World Press out of Prescott accepted it for publication, but the book was sent to China for printing and then reprinting when a couple of the pages did not come off the press just right.

"Filling out the whole page makes it much more a work of art," Simerly said.

"This is the way she would have wanted it to be finished," Morton added.

The book debuts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 in the Payson Public Library meeting room. Morton, dressed as the Forest King, and Young, as the Firefly Fairy, will be on hand at the signing along with Simerly.

Release party for "The Insect Wonderland"

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

Where: Payson Public Library meeting room

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