- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

BANCROFT, Neb. (AP) - As mother and son, Jeanne and Justin Miller have undoubtedly shared countless memories together.

Most would be familiar to most of us: family trips and celebrations, help with homework, the motherly advice to a son experiencing parenthood for the first time.

But in 2012, their relationship took a different twist when a children’s book written by Jeanne and illustrated by Justin was published. A second book followed in February.

The Sioux City Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1p2O8wd ) the budding publishing career was unexpected, but Jeanne and Justin both said it has added a neat aspect to their relationship.

“It’s been a really fun mother-son project. It’s fun for me to see Justin use his talents like this,” Jeanne said.

It’s also been a great excuse to keep in touch. Justin lives in Indiana, where he’s studying to be a pastor. Their collaboration has led to extra phone calls as the two keep each other updated on what’s going on with the books and illustrations.

“That means something to me,” Justin said. “It’s something we get to share together. It’s time with my mom that I value.”

Jeanne still marvels about how it came about. After retiring from her first-grade teaching job in 2008, one of her retirement projects was to write a book for her grandchildren.

“It was in the back of my mind,” she said. “When you teach little ones, you read a lot of books so I thought I’d like to write a children’s book.”

So she wrote “My Eyelids Are Drooping,” a story about a grandma getting older, but her grandson doesn’t see her that way. It’s about having fun in every stage of life and not worrying about getting older. As she wrote, she thought Justin could draw some pictures to go with it.

Justin, a 2000 Bancroft-Rosalie High School graduate, was happy to have a chance to indulge his hobby.

“She just started talking about this and she asked me to illustrate it,” he said.

Jeanne took the creation to a printer in West Point, Neb., to make copies for her grandchildren. Soon after, her mother called her and told her she’d just seen an advertisement for Tate Publishing. She encouraged Jeanne to submit her manuscript to the Oklahoma publisher.

Jeanne thought, why not?

Within a week, the publishers called back. They wanted to publish the book. Even better, they wanted to use Justin’s illustrations, too. It was a thrill for both of them.

“I was excited about it. I’d never published any drawings,” Justin said.

When the publishers suggested a second book, mother and son were on board. Out came “Grandpa Has Shark’s Teeth,” starring Jeanne’s husband, Randy, and his exploits while entertaining the grandchildren. The story shows that toys wear out, but time with family is the best gift you can give.

Once again, Justin worked in his children and also the children of his sister, Jennifer, and brother, Tim. Having Justin illustrate the stories makes the books more special for the family, especially the eight grandchildren, Jeanne said.

“The neat thing about Justin doing the pictures is he puts a lot of things unique to our family in there,” she said.

Jeanne’s planning for a third book. And even though he graduates soon and will likely be busy as a new pastor, Justin is committed to doing the illustrations.

“I’ll always hold on to drawing,” he said. “If Mom’s still writing and publishing, I’ll stay involved.”

It would be hard not to, when you already share such a deep bond with your creative partner.


Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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