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A-rhyming we will go

Local author pens eighth children's book

Lucy Nolan has conducted a love affair with the sea and saltwater since she was a little girl playing on the shores of Pawleys Island and Florida's Amelia Island.

Now, the Forest Acres children's author has employed some coastal and nautical lore in an adaptation of Mother Goose rhymes titled "Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Gulls and Boys."

In this re-telling, Mary is a mermaid who has a clam instead of a lamb that follows her everywhere.

But the clam's slow pace meant he didn't arrive at the school house until July.

"Where were all the boys and girls to play with as he'd dreamed?

School was out for summer break - boy, was that clam steamed!"

You'll find Jack and June climbing up a dune, four and twenty pelicans making a lunch of peanut butter and jellyfish, and an old woman who lives in a shell, outfitted with oyster beds.

You'll also travel lazily down the Mississippi River and weather an icy storm on the Great Lakes, not to mention roll across the great West in a prairie schooner "a-sailing on a sea of grass."

Nolan's inventive verse allows her to travel all over the United States, a blueprint that came about after her first concept - a rhyming book about the South Carolina coast - failed to lure any publishers.

"Then I made it a Southern book," she said, but she still had no nibbles from regional publishers.

Finally, after 10 years and 60 verses, her idea to expand it "from sea to shining sea" caught the fancy of Sylvan Dell Publishing, which is based in South Carolina.

But, alas, "by the time the book was published there were no South Carolina rhymes," she said.

That doesn't diminish the appeal of the 17 verses that make up "Mother Osprey." The illustrations drawn by Californian Connie McLennan are fanciful enough to grab any child's attention.

Nolan has yet to try out the book on her 5-year-old daughter, Angelina. But she said the child keeps her author mother grounded in reality. "She is not the least bit impressed," Nolan said, that her mother is the author of eight children's books.

Nolan, who works in the marketing department of CSC Inc., began penning children's books at age 16. Her first novel, a Nancy Drew-style mystery called "Secret at Summerhaven" sold when she was only 20, but she said it took another four years for it to be published.

Since then, Nolan, 47, has written "Lizard Man of Crabtree County," the story of a little boy whose antics stir up mischief; "Jack Quack," the tale of an awkward drake who transforms himself; "A Fairy in the Dairy" about a whimsical cow; and a series of chapter books about a pair of wacky dogs called "Down Girl and Sit."

One in the series, "Down Girl and Sit: On the Road," won the Texas Bluebonnet Award in 2008, a competition conducted by the Texas Association of School Librarians and the Children's Round Table.

Many of her manuscripts, she readily points out, were rejected before being published, a lesson she likes to share with would-be authors and librarians.

Try, try, and try again, she said.

Richland County librarian Laura Kennett said Nolan's latest book will be a welcome addition to the library's holdings.

"We are really big believers in Mother Goose," Kennett said, noting that the rhyming in the poems and repetition of words pertaining to time and position are critical as youngsters develop early vocabulary.

It's also nice to tout the work of local authors such as Nolan when she and other librarians read to children.

"That is one of our missions," she said. "When we do our story time, we always point out the author and illustrator, that it was created by someone and that you (the child) could create these stories and these drawings."

While children will delight in the pure spirit of the rhymes, they can also learn about the lives of sea creatures that populate the poems.

She has included a map of the United States with keys to each poem and a "For Creative Minds" section that explains fascinating sea facts, including how a sea otter keeps from drifting while asleep. (He wraps himself in long strands of kelp that are anchored to the sea floor.)

In "One Flamingo," Nolan explains that groupings of animals sometimes have very odd names.

"A band of roving jellyfish is called a smack - how odd! And whales that swim together form a group that's called a pod.

Seagulls form a colony, and curlews form a herd. But cormorants are called a gulp - they're such a silly bird."