Kathryn Lescroart Detzer is a pastel artist with a background in graphic design, book editing, illustration, and calligraphy. She originally designed and illustrated this little book in 1984 as a Christmas gift for her nieces and nephews. She thought the ABC format was fun and a good way to expand her nieces and nephew’s emotional vocabulary while teaching them the letters of the alphabet.
She was working at a high school at the time and remembers asking kids to pose, “act happy or act disappointed,” and so on. She did sketches capturing their body postures and facial expressions and reworked them in ink. It wasn’t too difficult to come up with a feeling for each letter but she had to cheat on X!
After I had an illustration for each letter, I did the layout on a big (what they used to call) paste-up board. I wanted to have it printed and published so badly but it was quite expensive (before it was digitally possible). My husband had just inherited some guns and he had lost any interest in hunting and I did not want guns in the house. He ended up selling them so that we could afford to have my book printed in black and white at a small printer in Placerville, CA. I printed about 150 copies and gave them to my family and friends. I have one or two yellowed copies left on my bookshelf.
What inspired you to bring the book back?
Fast forward thirty years. I have two grown sons of my own now and work in a neuropsychologist’s office, in addition to having an art studio. I have become familiar with children who have pragmatic difficulties affecting their social communication. That is, they have difficulty reading social cues such as facial expressions. It occurred to me that my little book might be the perfect way to help these children recognize the feelings of others or express their own feelings.
Teacher friends and parents of some kids on the autism spectrum shared the need for a book about feelings and it wasn’t long before I decided to rework the entire book, updating the characters, changing some feelings (I changed GROOVY to GUILTY) and adding color. The ABC Book of Feelings (Second edition) is the result!
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
The ABC Book of Feelings can be read alone, or in a group. The vocabulary is very simple and even very small children will enjoy the characters and their reactions. Delightful and playful characters illustrate all the emotions, literally from A to Z, not just happy and sad.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
I think it’s the perfect discussion starter for kids including those unable or unwilling to express what they are thinking and feeling. I hope it will inspire them to open up and express what’s on their minds.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book?
Great for classroom discussion, therapy or at-home interactions.
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