Children's author and illustrator speaks at area schools, libraries

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

On Tuesday more than 75 Jackson preschool students wearing cowboy hats, fringe vests and bandanas sat around well-known children's author Lisa Campbell Ernst.

"I always wanted to be a cowgirl when I was little, and if you ever imagined you were another character, that means you are an author," Ernst told the children inside Jackson's Riverside Regional Library.

An author and illustrator, Ernst read her cowgirl-inspired book "Hannah Mae O'Hannigan's Wild West Show" to the children.

The book tells the story of a young girl who grows up in the city but dreams of being a rodeo star. Her parents eventually allow her to move to her uncle's ranch, which she saves from a herd of hamsters.

The YELL Foundation invited Ernst to speak with children at Jackson, Scott City and Trinity Lutheran schools, Riverside Regional Library in Jackson and the Cape Girardeau Public Library.

Ernst, who is originally from Oklahoma, lives in Kansas City, Mo. with her husband and two daughters. She has written and illustrated more than 20 children's books.

"It's a great profession," Ernst said after she read to the children. "There are frustrating days, but overall it's a lot of fun."

She began her career in the early 1980s when she moved to New York with her portfolio of illustrations. She provided pictures for several nonfiction authors, but none of the books really caught her interest.

After her success illustrating several books, a publisher suggested Ernst write and illustrate her own books. The first book, "Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt," was published in 1983.

Ernst said she gets her story ideas from everyday events, memories from her childhood and from her own children.

"I'll write something down in my journal, and then the next day it will seem really silly," she said. "But those sometimes turn out to be the best stories."

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