By Kate Benedetti
Adjunct art professor Joshua Brunet catapulted his name into the world of children’s literature last month with his illustrations for the book “I’m In Love With a Big Blue Frog” by Les Braunstine.
Released by Charlesbridge Publishing Feb. 1, the book is adapted from the lyrics of a song of the same name sung by 1960s folk group Peter, Paul & Mary.
Already a success, the book tells the story of a young girl’s happy if unconventional relationship with a six-foot-three-inch frog and her loyalty to him in spite of the neighborhood’s disapproval.
“Big Blue Frog” is Brunet’s second children’s book, although he has been a freelance illustrator for more than 10 years.
A lifelong artist, Brunet is director of communications at Englewood Baptist Church.
At Union, Brunet has taught classes in drawing and two-dimensional design and is offering a course on art in the classroom for elementary education majors.
Brunet began designing the book’s characters in August 2011 and worked until December perfecting them.
“I had a drawing class at that time, and I was constantly showing them [my designs] and saying, ‘Hey, guys, what do you think of this?’” he said.
Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, the two surviving members of Peter, Paul & Mary, also were highly involved in the book’s production; Brunet collaborated with them via email.
He began painting in April 2012 and continued until June, producing 16 oil paintings.
He said the song’s original message, a protest against racial discrimination, inspired and influenced his work.
“[Yarrow and Stookey] really wanted there to be an animosity and an anger in the neighborhood against these two,” Brunet said.
The vibrant illustrations show the girl and frog walking through a park or sharing a milkshake while humans and animals look on, frowning.
One page states, “The neighbors don’t like it and it’s clear to me and it’s probably clear to you/They think values on the property will go right down if the family next door is blue.”
In the picture, a family of black sheep stands in its yard beside a “For Sale” sign.
Brunet mentioned a blog post on hid book written by a man who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1960s.
“He remembered that in his neighborhood, when a black family would move in, that all of a sudden … he’d see ‘For Sale’ signs going up,” Brunet said. “He thought it was really powerful how those images are in there, because he lived that.”
Brunet wants to encourage undergraduates to stick with their passions.
“This is the first real big break I’ve ever had. I’ve always been passionate about art and illustration … so I just kept plugging away,” he said. “If you feel the Lord has called you to something, He’ll bring it out in time.”