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Art and compassion in a 3-D children’s book

Dec 1, 2016
by Leslie Lalonde, ‘15

For Julianne Black, ‘98, writing and illustrating children’s books began with the simple experiences and inspirations of raising a 3-year-old daughter. Now, thanks to 3-D experiences like augmented reality books, Black’s passion for children’s storytelling is helping kids across the country.

“Sleep Sweet” is Black’s sixth and latest in a series of digital books for the Fine Arts alumna from Flagler. They are a first-of-the-kind, released on the augmented reality, mobile application Spellbound. Through the downloaded app, users can immerse themselves in a digital book-reading experience, taking children through the story virtually.

Now it is helping kids stuck in hospital rooms at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan find an imaginative escape.

“This bridge that Spellbound is building between paper books and technology is amazing,” said Black. “Kids that might not bother with an actual printed book and gravitate straight toward their hand-held gadgets are reintroduced to the way the paper book feels in their hand … Kids in isolation, separated from family and familiar settings can lose themselves in a story — whether they can read or not. And when I see the pictures of these kids with my book, I just melt knowing that it is my art they are holding, hearing my voice reading them the story.”

“Sleep Sweet” has landed itself on the Gittle List in 2015, which honors the top 10 Indie children’s picture books each year, and is also a Purple Dragonfly Book Award winner, among other recent awards.  

Black’s inspiration to write children’s books goes back to her daughter’s first sentence, “Do you see the moon, mamma?” It sent Black on a creative journey. “I see everything new through her exploration,” she said. She hopes her own parental experiences, as expressed in her stories, will help other parents navigate their own.

Children’s books are kind of a full-circle revelation for Black. A childhood lover of classic children’s authors like Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, she always had an innate connection to the arts. After taking night classes to finish two degrees — a bachelor’s degree in multimedia and another in computer animation — Black was in the perfect position for digital production. Soon after, Black and her husband became pregnant with their daughter and her passion for writing ignited. After purchasing a few of her favorite childhood books for her daughter, she realized how to merge her passion with her career.

While the biggest driving factor in her self-motivated career is her daughter, Flagler College also contributed. “Flagler was a huge foundation for me,” Black said. “There are teachers and experiences there that I feel gratitude for daily.”

Black also worked with fellow alumnus Zach Lively to produce the lullaby-like acoustic guitar music in the 3D-version of “Sleep Sweet.”

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