BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — When Merrill Rainey enrolled at Kent State University, his faculty advisor asked him a simple question: “Do you want to be an illustrator or a fine artist?”
When he couldn’t answer, he was sent down to the senior show in the art building. Fifteen minutes later, he had an answer: illustrator.
Now, more than 20 years later, Merrill has continued to put those classes to good use with yet another children’s book.
“My new board book that’s coming out, it’s different in the sense that it’s a book solely that the kids can interact with,” Merrill said.
Roar! I’m a Dinosaur encourages children to get up and move. The book, which can be held up to a child’s face like a mask, helps children transform into a dinosaur.
Merrill – who has been a stay-at-home dad, Boy Scout leader and involved community member – has spent years caring for and hanging out with children. His time with them has helped him form ideas for his books.
“Roar! came from observations of kids and how they play at a young age,” Merrill said. “Some kids just run through a toy room without any care, and other kids took some time to pay attention to what they were doing. As I was watching these kids run through these rooms, it really got me thinking what a great book it would be – having a kid hold a book up to their face and jump around the room.”
The pages of the book encourage the children to be a T. rex, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus and more while the children stomp, crunch and stretch.
Parents, grandparents, babysitters and friends can pick up the book for the kids in their lives through Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg. With a July 5 release date, the bookstore was set to begin stocking Roar! this week.
There will also be a release party on Saturday, July 9 at Gathering Volumes at 2:30 p.m. Merrill will be there to greet attendees and sign books.
In just a few months, Merrill will publish a follow-up to the board book. Oink! I’m a Pig, which is slated for an early September release, will follow a similar structure, encouraging kids to hold the book up to their faces and move around the room pretending they’re different farm animals.
The process to create each of these books isn’t simple. It takes Merrill approximately two years from sketching to release.
“The concept of the book started pre-pandemic, and then my literary agent, she was able to get it in front of the initial acquiring agent, who fell in love with the concept during the pandemic,” Merrill said.
Merrill, who has also created a series of paper toy books, which help children with their imagination, fine motor skills and STEM abilities, is not new to the book industry and has spent more than 10 years illustrating both his own and other’s stories.
“I think the industry is very inviting. The people I’ve met have been very willing to help out,” Merrill said. “Someone who’s looking to create a picture book should not give up.”
Alongside school visits and paper engineering workshops, Merrill also offers portfolio and picture book dummy critiques for those who are interested in illustration.
Merrill will also be hosting a digital art summer camp with the Create Art Studio + Workshop in Perrysburg at the end of July. More information and registration are available on the website thecreateartstudio.com.
All information on Merrill’s offerings and his books are available on his website, littlerainey.com. Fans of his book can also meet him at his release party on Saturday, July 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Gathering Volumes, 196 E South Boundary St. in Perrysburg. Copies of Roar! I’m a Dinosaur along with his Color, Cut, Create series will be available and children will be able to walk away with samples of the crafts from the book and selfies at the Roar! backdrop.