Marie in the Moonlight seeks to remind children of good qualities of little creatures

Miriam Sanders (photo by Dion Ogust)

“I’ve noticed people look askance at little creatures,” said author and artist Miriam Sanders, explaining how she came to write a children’s book about a night in the life of a mouse. “They get angry at mice in the house, ground hogs that pop up in the garden, moles that make tunnels in the lawn. I wanted to remind people of good qualities these creatures have.”

Her book Marie in the Moonlight has been published by her husband Ed Sanders’ new Meads Mountain Press, in a slim volume illustrated with Miriam’s gentle, expressive drawings. A book-signing will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 5 at the Golden Notebook Bookstore, 29 Tinker Street in Woodstock.

Miriam’s affection for small creatures led her to write a series of nature essays for the Woodstock Journal, the alternative newspaper she and Ed published in the 1990s and early 2000s. “Her writing was the reason a lot of people used to read the Journal,” said Ed, well-known as a poet, author, activist, and member of the rock band the Fugs. “She wrote an upbeat piece every two weeks, and they’re brilliant.” From the sassy blue jay to the handsome skunk, Miriam described interactions and reported intriguing facts such as the jay’s habit of placing ants among its feathers, presumably to discourage lice and mites through the ants’ secretion of formic acid.

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She felt it was important to inform people about the workings of the natural world around us. One day while she was working at the Woodstock Library, a man came in, happy to report that he had cleared mosquito eggs from the pond on his recently purchased property. It turned out he had destroyed a crop of frogs’ eggs. While bears in the back yard may be a source of worry, Miriam pointed out, “We’re in their front yard.”

She brings the same sympathy to her simple tale of Marie the mouse, who leaves her nest in a potting shed one moonlit night, encounters other creatures, forages for food, hides from danger, and then returns home. “She’s nocturnal, and so I am I,” said Miriam, who worked for over a year on the drawings. She has been an artist since childhood, attended art school, and also creates what Ed calls “hyperrealistic nature paintings.”

The book was designed by Susan Quasha of Station Hill Press. Check out the mouse tracks she placed along the spine.

“I got publishing in my blood early on,” said Ed. “I was part of the mimeo revolution, putting out manifestoes and street leaflets” in New York City in the 1960s. He had a mimeograph machine in the back of his Peace Eye Bookstore on the Lower East Side. In ten minutes, he could produce a batch of leaflets against the war or against police brutality and hand them out on the streets. A 1967 Gestetner mimeo machine still sits in his Woodstock workshop.

Meads Mountain Press uses print-on-demand technology from Ingram Spark. The press’s second publication will be selections from the 80 nature essays Miriam wrote for the Woodstock Journal. She will make a drawing to accompany each of the chosen essays. Next on the list is an update of Ed’s book 1968: A History in Verse (Black Sparrow Press, 1997), which addressed the tumult of Nixon’s election, the Chicago riots, the Paris uprising, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Ed will observe the 50th anniversary of those epoch-making events by writing new verses that look at the period through the lens of more recent political developments.

 

A book-signing will be held for Marie in the Moonlight at the Golden Notebook Bookstore, 29 Tinker Street in Woodstock on Sunday, March 5, at 3 p.m. For more information, call 845-679-2800 or see goldennotebook.com