Former classmates collaborate on children's book

KEESEVILLE - When George "Speedy" Arnold III and Maureen Akey graduated from Keeseville's Our Lady of Grace Academy together in 1970, they probably didn't expect to be writing and illustrating a children's book nearly 40 years later.

The two Keeseville natives joined forces in 2008 to produce "Molly: A Butterfly's Story," the first in a series entitled "Molly the Monarch Butterfly and Friends," released in January.

The book, targeted for beginner readers, is the second one illustrated by Arnold, who somehow finds time for artwork in between his time school bus driving, running his family's convenience store, and working as the town's tax assessor.

"As long as I have a little bit of downtime and a pen, I'm going to be sketching," he said.

Growing up on her family's farm on Cold Springs Road, Akey developed an interest in living things, particularly butterflies. She later moved to Melrose, Fla. where she teaches biology at a local college. She also puts on butterfly-themed puppet shows, which became the basis for her first children's book.

"When I was home on a visit, I stopped in [at Arnold's] to discuss the idea," recalled Akey. "We sat around his kitchen table and I presented the book draft, some ideas for drawings, and he agreed to try it."

The two worked across the 1,800-mile divide to coordinate images with words. After nine months of back-and-forth ideas, the story of Molly the Monarch Butterfly was finally brought to life.

"Somehow, he was able to transform all my definite ideas for what I wanted for images and create the perfect sketch to capture the essence of the spirit of the story," said Akey, "He also contributed wonderful drawings from his imagination as well."

Both Akey and Arnold recalled indications of each other's hobbies and interests from their grade school days.

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