Necessity is the mother of invention. Diana Peterson, executive director of Eau Claire’s own Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, could not find any new books about Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox, to sell in the museum gift shop. The popular yet older Scholastic book about Paul and Babe was out of print, and the authors could not get permission to reprint. So Diana took the proverbial bull – or ox – by the horns and decided to have the museum create its own book about Paul and Babe, with all book sales benefiting the museum.
“Paul is larger than life. His story is a fun one, and he seems like a nice guy, someone kids can look up to figuratively and literally.” – Diana Peterson, author of The Adventures of Paul Bunyan
Hot off the press, or maybe hot off the pancake griddle, this newest and latest book is a sheer woodsy delight. The Adventures of Paul Bunyan is 35 pages of just about every tall tale told about Paul and Babe and some new stories about the American icon, all under one book cover.
Expertly written by Peterson and exquisitely illustrated by Dacia Sjolund, a UW-Stout student and Minnesota illustrator and animator, the hardcover picture book provides extraordinary storytelling for all ages. Children, adults, parents, and grandparents alike will enjoy this book equally.
Sjolund will call Menomonie home this fall as she finishes her final semester at UW-Stout, graduating in December with a bachelor of fine arts in entertainment design. One of her professors let her know about the opportunity to work on the book with Diana.
“Dacia was the first student to respond,” shared Diana. “We had a meeting at the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, hit it off, and the project just took off from there.”
What will catch a reader’s attention first are the illustrations, which appear to jump off the page. It’s an art style called “paper cutout.”
“I was eager to try this style because it was light and fun and seemed appropriate for a children’s book,” said Dacia. “I discussed with Diana, showed her some examples, and she was on board. We met several times throughout the process of making the book. I would sketch and create the concept art for each page of words, and then I would show her what I had done.”
“I just love her whimsical designs and fresh ideas,” said Diana. “We could have worked with an experienced illustrator, but we would not have ended up with the same look and feel.”
Diana did a ton of research to write the book, and what she didn’t research, she made up.
“Paul is larger than life. His story is a fun one, and he seems like a nice guy, someone kids can look up to figuratively and literally,” she said. “Some of the stories were adapted from older versions that were not subject to copyrights, and many of the new stories were made up by me. Some of the older stories were not ones that kids today could relate to, and some of the adult versions were accepted in the 1930s but would be considered politically incorrect today.”
She paused to reference Out of the Northwoods: The Many Lives of Paul Bunyan by Michael Edmonds, who wrote that the tall tales about the giant and his colossal blue ox came about in the 1880s, when hundreds of novice lumberjacks joined the industry. Grizzled veterans would share a war story or two about the good old days working for Paul. These stories would be told in the bunkhouses of logging camps on Saturday nights, passing the time by staying up late, playing music, and telling stories.
“Many states take ownership of Paul and Babe, and states with a rich logging history claim the stories for their own,” Diana continued. “However, Wisconsin has some authority to do so. The first Paul Bunyan tales that were written down were discovered near Tomahawk, Wisconsin. And, the nature magazine The Outer’s Book in Milwaukee actually published the Paul Bunyan tales for the first time.
“Working on the book was a labor of love for both of us, and we both learned a lot,” Diana said. “If we had realized how hard and complicated the process would be after the writing and illustrating were done, we might not have had the courage to take the project on.”
The Adventures of Paul Bunyan, written by Diana Peterson and illustrated by Dacia Sjolund, is available for $20 in the gift shop of the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum in Carson Park as well as The Local Store. All sales of the book will benefit the museum.