Children’s books typically revolve around cute talking animals or magical kingdoms, not historical landmarks. But Denise Seidler, a senior art history major at SUNY Cortland, has created a tale that weaves the two together perfectly.
Seidler’s book about a search for a missing parrot inside the historic, castle-like mansion of one of Cortland, N.Y.’s most prominent families began during her internship at The 1890 House Museum on Tompkins Street.
Seidler, a featured artist in Gandy Dancer, a SUNY-wide literary magazine, recently finished the book, Where’s Jac? and will print the work through The WordPro in Ithaca, N.Y.
Last fall semester, while the native of Manorville, N.Y., was completing her internship at the former home of the Wickwire family, one of Cortland’s most prominent industrialist families, James Miller, a SUNY Cortland lecturer in history, suggested the idea of creating a book.
“I was approached by Professor Miller about my interest in writing a children’s book, or doing something that might help promote local history and increase the involvement of children at the museum,” said Seidler, who quickly took on the project.
With the support of both Miller and Megan Eves, director of The 1890 House Museum, Seidler began creating the tale, loosely based on history. The story follows young Frederic Wickwire as he looks for his pet, Jac the parrot, with his brother Charles. While hunting for the bird the two search through the historic house, exploring different areas and pointing out artifacts that they would have come in contact with daily that are still present in the home today.
Although the story is fictional, the characters of both boys are based on two young brothers of the same family name who lived in the house during the Victorian era when the narrative is set.
Seidler researched several historical sources from the Victorian era to get a sense of what the daily lives of children were like, including what they did for amusement.
“It was a lot of fun to write,” Seidler said. “I have always been a writer but have never pursued it in any serious sense until now.”
Seidler continued to work on the children’s book this spring semester, illustrating the entire book with photographs she had taken at The 1890 House.
With the book completed, she hopes to promote local history and bring new visitors to The 1890 House museum, especially youngsters.
“I hope that the book will help engage young students’ interest in Victorian life as well as their interest in museums,” Seidler said.
Seidler intends for the book to be self-published and funded by crowd sourcing. For more information about the book or to support the project, visit the book’s GoFundMe page.
Prepared by public relations intern Kate Monno