Turn to the opening page of Sandy Winborn's new book, and you'll find a watercolor picture of a young, red-headed girl — or is it a boy? — and the words, "Hello! I've been waiting for you."
The words couldn't be more appropriate.
Winborn, a longtime Davenport artist, has had the idea for this children's alphabet book for more than 30 years and now, finally, with COVID-19 time on her hands, has self-published 50 copies.
Titled "The Hide and Seek Alphabet Book," each right-hand page contains an elaborately illustrated letter of the alphabet with "hidden" objects of words that begin with that letter. "S," for example, has a snail, snake, stars and swirls.
On each opposite page there is the red-headed child with a terrier puppy — like Toto in "The Wizard of Oz" — along with a list of words. The idea is to try to find pictures depicting the words hidden in the letter illustration. Some are not easy.
An adult reading the book with a child could have the child find the objects and also use the time to teach what the objects are — marbles and mushrooms, for example. In some cases the words are not objects at all but concepts such as never, now, nothing, no and none.
Winborn got the idea for the book years ago when she was painting embellished letters, called Illuminations," to sell individually on the juried art fair circuit, including the East Coast, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.
Her inspiration was the Book of Kells, a manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament created in a monastery in Ireland around 800 A.D. The text is a master work of calligraphy, and certain lavishly decorated letters are called illuminations. The name comes from the Abbey of Kells, which was its home for centuries.
Customers bought Winborn's letters to spell out words or to represent their name.
She painted about three letters a year, going through a dictionary to find words appropriate for the design.
Although she finished the letters in the mid-90s, other projects occupied her time and because she didn't know how to go about publishing a book, the alphabet idea languished.
Then, with the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, she decided to get it finished.
Because she couldn't find a publisher, she and her husband Ed (a former Davenport mayor and chairman of the Scott County Board of Supervisors) took some savings and paid for publication with Instant Publisher in Tennessee.
Now Winborn has the challenge of trying to sell the books in this age when in-person promotions aren't safe.
She has done two books previously; one is a coloring book and the other a story that her daughter, Katie Becker, wrote while battling cancer and Winborn illustrated. Following Katie's death at age 46 in 2017, the Winborns had copies printed for family.
But Winborn wants her alphabet book to have a bigger reach, both for its own sake and because there are other books she wants to write.
"I have so many stories in my head," she said on recent day, sitting on her front porch. "I don't want to stop. But you need some encouragement to go on. You don't make a cherry pie if no one's going to eat it."
"Spirit of the Earth" and "Junk Food Dragon" are two children's titles she'd like to publish. She also has an idea for an adult meditation book using 26 paintings of flowers she has made in the past. Although she sold most of her work through the years, the originals are preserved on photographic slides.
"I think when people look at a painting they meditate. Paintings make you happy or sad. You look at the color and shape."
She'd like to arrange her pictures with words that lead readers through a relaxing experience. "They'll be able to become thoughtful and, at the the end, they'll feel happy and feel they've had a good experience."
But she's faced the dilemma of nobody wanting to buy cherry pie before.
She feels people today are more apt to "go to a big box outlet (and) buy a picture painted in China to match their couch and rug" rather than something personally meaningful by a local artist.
"It's a decorator thing," she said.