Kathleen D. Bailey
EPPING – Angela Welch loves good stories, and the retired special education teacher has always been intrigued by Paul Revere’s drive to Portsmouth, four months before the gunshot heard around the world.
She wrote a rhyming version of the story, and friends said to her, âYou should post this.
âI was always, ‘Well, I don’t knowâ¦’,â she said.
After his retirement, Welch dusted off the manuscript and asked a former colleague, Sarah Boudreau, Epping’s art teacher, to illustrate her book.
The result is “Revere’s Blame: The Portsmouth Alarm” a look at New Hampshire’s first role in the American Revolution. The book won Honorable Mentions in Picture Book and “New Author” at the Purple Dragonfly Awards for Excellence in Children’s Books.
The book was also the start of a second career for the two women.
Welch taught briefly at Epping earlier in her career, then moved to other districts, first retiring from Salem in 2013. She returned to Epping “part-time” as a reading teacher from title 1, a role she held until the pandemic struck.
A former guide to the American Independence Museum, Welch has always been fascinated by New Hampshire’s role in the Revolution, including Revere’s lesser-known journey to Portsmouth.
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When news reached the Sons of Liberty that General Thomas Gage was planning to seize ammunition from the Patriots at Fort William and Mary, New Castle, Revere jumped on a horse in December 1774 and rode ahead to warn them. The valiant men of New Hampshire responded, hiding their ammunition inland, and the British were outmaneuvered.
When she resurrected her Revere nursery rhymes for the book, she thought of Boudreau, explaining, “I can’t even draw a stick figure.”
Boudreau read the story: âAnd I loved it,â she said.
A partnership is born
Welch and Boudreau worked on the book remotely during the pandemic, corresponding by phone and email. Welch found Boudreau’s delicate watercolors the perfect complement to his poetry.
For Boudreau, the project “kept her sane” during the pandemic. She was at home with her own children and also tried to teach art from a distance. Illustrating Welch’s words reminded her who, deep down, she really is.
âAs a teacher and parent, you lose those moments of yourself,â she reflected as she relaxed in her colorful art room. “I realized I still need it. It’s my heart, my essence.”
For Boudreau, the book was a lesson in life for her and her students. When working on the painting of Revere riding in the snow, which would become the blanket, she had issues with the shortening of Revere’s leg.
“I wanted him to go north, away from us,” she said, “and the legs had to reflect that.” She had to get out of it, and it became an object lesson for her and her little Epping artists. âI told them I had a problem, but I made it work,â she said.
The Revere book was also an object lesson that yes, Epping’s teachers – and children – can become writers.
âMy students would look at me and say, ‘You mean you can buy this in some places,’â she said.
The project made professional writing and art more accessible to her students, she said.
The book leads to more books
Welch and Boudreau have already completed a second book, which has just been released, and they are working on more.
In the new book “Colors of New Hampshire”, Welch again performed a teaching experiment, an exercise she did with students on the colors of New Hampshire.
âHow can you choose just one color? ” she asked.
Instead, the book riffs on the many colors of the Granite State – the red brick mill buildings, the blue ocean and lakes, the brown covered bridges, the orange pumpkins. One day, she was driving to work and noticed a bright yellow hot air balloon above the horizon, which made its appearance in the book. Boudreau added natural phenomena such as purple lupines to Sugar Hill.
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Boudreau’s blanket incorporated everything, with the shape of the state filled with a rainbow of its colors.
âWe want kids to take a closer look at their world,â Welch said. And an appendix lists the places they can go to observe things in the book.
The duo is not over yet. Welch, a shameless history buff, takes a look at George Washington’s tour of the North, including four days in Exeter and Portsmouth, to promote the all-new Constitution of the United States.
Boudreau’s thing is nature, and, Welch said with a smile, “The next one after this one will be nature-driven. I promised him that.”
The books are priced at $ 10 each. For more information, visit the authors’ website at www.lunabooksnh.com.