Evans native Jill Leonard released her self illustrated and self-published children's book, Wesley the River Guardian, on May 13 based off of her hometown and life on the Sabine river bend.
Wesley the River Guardian is a folklore and legends book about life on the Sabine River, from stories told by the River Rats, a misunderstood critter.
Leonard wrote, illustrated and published this book about her hometown as a way to give back to her community and to honor the children of the river bend community and their roots to those banks.
Written during the pandemic, Leonard was limited in her supplies and resources, using grocery store brown paper bags and cheap supplies to create her illustrations and taking inspiration from her hometown and all of the charms she loves about it.
The book tells the story of being a good neighbor, being a good person with good morals and is based on people from the community that show these values.
“All of the characters in the book you can learn a lesson from,” said Leonard.
“We are the examples for our children and if we do not teach them how to treat others what are we doing,” said Leonard.
“I live in my family’s River House that my parents built back in the 70’s just a little creek trail back off the Sabine River. River rats are known for surviving anything and that's pretty much what we do. I wrote this story thinking of myself as a granny someday, telling my grands a yarn about my alligator statues named Wesley, at the entry of our home. The story happened while painting statues and the real Wesley drove by and things just took off from there. We were about a month into the 2020 coronavirus stay home order. I only had a few craft supplies and paints. I even had to tape my paintings to brown paper bags, but just like a old river rat there was a will to make it work! River life isn't for the faint of heart and our people are a hardy bunch.” said Leonard.
The series will be between 3-4 books.
“River Rat'' is a not well-liked term, but they are misunderstood. I am a River Rat. It proved we can survive anything, we proved that we can after the flood of 2016. It is an affectionate term of endearment. “ said Leonard.
The book features local places such as Bonner’s Bluff as well as Old Man Wesley, based off of local Evan’s man Wesley Smith.
Wesley Smith is an actual guardian and caretaker of the community, he actually is Old Man Wesley. I dedicated the last page of the book to him, he inspired me to tell the tale of the guardian of the River,” said Leonard.
“The river is a landmark of our entire community and generations to come will enjoy the gift it is for all of us.” Wesley.
Leonard still lives in Evans, LA right down from the Sabine River, and considers herself a River Rat and one of the few are blessed to be able to call that area home and so are the children of her community.
Leonard has sold her artwork worldwide but considers writing this children's book about her hometown her greatest accomplishment.
“Being able to share where I am from and why it is unique is a life gift, it is the best thing I have done,” said Leonard.
The book is dedicated to Leonard’s children as well as the children who “have the birthright and legacy of growing up walking the sand of our part of the river bend. May you always keep its magic in your heart wherever you go.” states Leonard.
“The rats have a lot more stories to tell, the rats are not done telling me their secrets, look for more books to come.” Jill Leonard.
Wesley the River Guardian is currently number one in New Releases and number two on Best Sellers for Children's Multicultural Literature.
The book is dedicated to Leonard's children and all children of the river bend and all the children of her community.
The first book of the series can be published on amazon.com.