Seth Casana’s Elby Brass band has brought folks to their feet in joyous dance in Market Square, and his Whurk magazine has profiled trailblazing local artists. This Saturday, he will unveil yet one more gift to the community—this time to the littlest ’Burg-ians—with his delightful picture book “Anna’s Super Glasses.” He will appear for a book signing at Jabberwocky from noon to 2 p.m.
This enchanting story follows the explorations of an imaginative little girl, Anna, as she enthusiastically embraces the two very different worlds that she experiences as her eyesight goes through a dramatic transition.
The book opens with Casana’s pen-and-ink illustration of Anna bounding down the steps of her home, equipped for a treasure hunt with a little shovel and map, as her cheerful mother waves goodbye. Soon the reader sees just why it is that Anna is so excited about being outside. Her yard is a magical realm, which is home to a spectrum of fascinating characters—such as the Yellow-Breasted Shufflebottom, the Crested Poppybuster and a herd of Gentle Willowfluffers—all of whom have become her friends.
Then one day, Anna’s mom takes her to visit an optometrist, who checks her vision through a “wild machine” with multiple lenses. Anna is presented with a pair of butterfly-style glasses, which she accepts as her personal “superhero” mask. Back home, she bounds down the front steps to explore the world with her new super-vision, excited to see what she will discover.
Much to her dismay, it is not the new things that Anna sees, but the absence of the familiar creatures that is most startling. In the places where she typically found her friends, she saw only ordinary objects such as a coiled garden hose, a mailbox and a series of boulders—all of which had a shape faintly reminiscent of her very extraordinary companions.
Yet, Anna’s distress will soon disappear, as she discovers yet another magical realm revealed by a keener optical vision, which complements the vision of her imagination and reveals the wonders of the natural world.
“This time, Anna uses her creativity and curiosity to discover something that other people can share, not just her own personal world,” said Casana.
Although Casana and wife Anna are now parents of a little daughter, Coco who is nearly 2, the idea for the book did not emerge after her birth. In fact, Casana had written a prototype of the book for friends and family 10 years ago. Among the recipients of that version of Anna’s story were friends Zach and JoEllen Santulli, who also have a preschool daughter.
The new book came to mind when Zach, a music teacher at Fredericksburg Academy, was engaging in a project with his second- and third-graders to use their instruments to develop a picture book into a “mini-musical.” When he approached Casana about using “Anna’s Super Glasses,” he embraced the idea and went to work to produce the current more polished and finessed version of the book. After much investment and practice, two performances were presented on the school’s stage, with the pages of the book projected on a huge screen, Casana serving as an enthusiastic narrator, and the young students conveying the drama through their musical compositions.
Casana recalled the response of the students—both on and off the stage—about meeting a local author. “They were overwhelmed with excitement, knowing I was the guy who made the book. They thought that was pretty special. I could hear them saying, ‘He actually wrote the book!’”
Casana said that one of his greatest challenges in writing the book was to convey that, although Anna’s experience of the world underwent a dramatic transformation, it was not a sad story. “Anna had these imaginary friends, but now she is growing up and moving beyond them. But it is not because they stopped loving her or she stopped loving them. That is why their presence and personalities depicted in the drawings that she posted on her wall by her bed in the final illustration are so important,” he said. “When you grow up, there are things that you have to leave behind. That is part of growing up and it is not always easy. But those things will always have meaning and, in some sense, will always be a part of your life.”
Any parents who have seen their kindergarteners leave a beloved stuffed animal behind on their beds as they board the school bus will understand this emotion—as will any parent who has driven back home after dropping off their “kindergarteners” at their college dorm. And the tear that may appear in their eye is due—not to sadness—but to a recognition of the beautiful unfolding of life. (So, kids, be patient with that adult who may be reading this story to you.)