BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Whitney Anderson is a born-and-raised West Coast artist, but her latest children’s story is a love letter of sorts to the Midwest and her family living here.
Inspired loosely by her grandmother Gale Lindke’s gardening adventures, Bunny and the Woodchuck tells the tale of two troublesome critters who can’t seem to leave Gigi’s garden alone.
The real garden, where the actual bunny and woodchuck spent time displacing plants and dirt, is located in Maumee.
“This is where my mom was raised,” Whitney said. “She lived in this house since she was 11 years old, so it’s a very special house and I have very special memories coming here.”
The rest of her mom’s side of the family lives in the area, so Whitney grew up visiting – taking trips to Cedar Point and exploring the local hotspots.
Whitney is also close with her grandma, and one day, when the two of them were talking, she heard about two pesky critters wreaking havoc in the garden. The little update on Gale’s life at the moment then spun into a story that Whitney couldn’t wait to write and illustrate.
“I thought it was really cute,” Gale said. “I didn’t think she was going to take my comment about the woodchuck getting in my garden and do something with it. It surprised me when she told me she was writing a book about the woodchuck and the bunny.”
A small twist in Whitney’s book, though, is that the bunny and the woodchuck, though they might seem like adversaries of the grandma, aren’t antagonists. The two critters are set on eating the food that Gigi has planted and she spends the story trying to protect her space, but in the end, the characters learn to compromise a little with each other.
“You would like to call the bunny and the woodchuck the culprits, but they’re so cute and innocent-looking, it’s hard to do that,” Whitney said. “You might think the grandma is being too strict and disciplinarian with the critters, but she’s really cute, too, and they end up being friends in the end.”
Though the story strays significantly from the real-life events that inspired it, Whitney used the opportunity to pay homage to some of the things she loves in the area – from her grandma and her love of pink to Maumee, Cedar Point and the critters in Ohioans’ backyards.
“Right when the grandma (in the book) wakes up in the morning, her mug says, ‘I love Maumee.’ It’s one of those little gift shop coffee mugs,” Whitney said. “It’s like a little cameo appearance.”
Whitney, who has published several books before this, is occasionally inspired by events in her own life and sometimes the stories come to her out of thin air, she said.
Each book is also different in how it gets made. The length of time she spends on illustrations varies greatly – some illustrations requiring 20 or 30 hours, while others are a couple hundred hours – and some of the books need a few illustrations completed before the story is filled in around them, while others have the storyline fleshed out before illustrations.
“I’m all over the place. I don’t have a strict process,” Whitney said. “It’s controlled chaos.”
She has added to the chaos with more books coming out soon, too. One involves a human butterfly and, in the other, an ice cream blizzard takes over a small town.
It’s hard to keep up with all the work necessary for the books. Not only is Whitney the author and illustrator, she’s also the editor, marketer and publisher because she self-publishes each of her works. It means her hard work is slow to pay off, but usually worth it.
The other thing that makes it difficult for Whitney is these books are something she does in her free time.
“I’m a fine artist full time,” Whitney said. “I’m multidisciplinary, so that’s a hallmark of me as an artist.”
Examples of her work, along with all of her books, are on her website, whitneylanderson.com. The website has links to purchase each of Whitney’s books via her Etsy page.
“My Etsy shop is where people should buy my book because all of the money goes directly to me. I can even sign my books,” Whitney said. “Also, if they want to support their local bookstores, I encourage them to go in the shop and ask for my titles.”
With a purchase from her website, Whitney might make $3.00 via the sale, whereas purchasing through a bookstore might put her closer to $1.00 in profits. It’s important, though, she said, to support local bookstores and authors when possible.
“You’re keeping money in the community and you’re helping me out, too,” Whitney said. “It’s a win-win for all.”
That’s all Whitney wants – to support the communities and people she loves by telling stories and creating art. In Bunny and the Woodchuck, she does this through the lesson on compromise, where, after the bunny and woodchuck disappear, they are brought back to Gigi by her grandchildren, and she learns to live peacefully with the two critters.
As for the real bunny and woodchuck, Gale hasn’t seen them in a while, but she’s pretty sure her grandchildren know not to bring them back to her. She’s happy to keep interactions with the critters strictly in the book.