Author Event: Sharon Smithem, Illustrator: Mushroom House Man
Along the shores of Lake Michigan in the small town of Charlevoix sit unique mushroom-like homes created by architect Earl A. Young. Seeing nature and home in this playful tumble of bumpy stone walls and wavy roofs fills the soul with delight. When Alice B. McGinty—author of nearly 50 books—saw these homes in 2017, she knew she needed to write about them.
“Seeing the playful, whimsical mushroom houses of Charlevoix for the first time touched the child in me,” said McGinty. “There’s magic in the way those homes made me feel! I felt Earl Young’s passion for creating homes as if Nature had built them herself. I wanted to investigate and capture his creative spirit in the way I best know how—by writing a book.”
The result is the award-winning author’s most recent release for young readers, Mushroom House Man: The Story of Earl Young and His Cottages of Stone.
In Mushroom House Man, young readers can discover the true story of Earl Young through McGinty’s writing and Sharon Smithem’s illustrations. With nature as his teacher and an unstoppable creative spirit, Earl
Young transformed the boulders from Lake Michigan’s northern shores into Charlevoix’s fairytale cottages, which are now known and beloved worldwide.
McGinty—whose children’s books include several involving the histories of fascinating characters including Darwin, Venetia Burney, and Gandhi—possesses a passion for sharing such stories with young readers.
“I enjoy writing biographies because I love finding the story in a life,” said McGinty. “I go about discovering who a person is, deep down, and what drove them to accomplish what they did. And once I’ve found that gem, I polish it ’til it shines! I believe reading biographies is very important for kids because they can be inspired when they read about someone who began life with an interest that might be similar to their own, and then see the persistence and passion it took to pursue it. Reading picture book biographies is a way to make the lives and accomplishments of many diverse people accessible to young people. Young readers get the chance to make new friends from throughout history!”
While Mushroom House Man is characterized as a children’s book, McGinty considered an older audience as well while writing.
“Earl Young’s homes bring out the child in all of us, no matter how old we are! I definitely wrote the book with two audiences in mind—first were the children because I wanted to make Earl’s story accessible to them. Next, were people of any age who are fascinated with Young’s homes. I wanted to capture that gem of Earl A. Young’s creative spirit and convey it using as few words as possible and in a way which is engaging, informative, and inspiring for people of all ages.”
While words have the power to effectively convey a story that readers can visualize in their minds, illustrations truly bring the images to life. McGinty was fortunate to find the right Illustrator for her project.
“I found Sharon Smithem completely by accident, but I believe she was the perfect illustrator for this book,” McGinty said. “Her artwork makes the book come to life in just the right ways—from the historical time period to the natural creative spirit to the whimsicality of Earl Young and his homes. The illustrations truly are stunning!”
Mushroom House Man: The Story of Earl A. Young and His Cottages of Stone is published by Mission Point Press of Traverse City, Michigan.