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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Little boys and big trees

Gina Stevens

A little boy named Griffin takes a walk through the forest. He is struck by the beauty of the trees that surround him. 

Griffin, the hero of the children’s book, A Tree Could Be, is a real boy. He is the son of book author and illustrator, Gina Stevens. Inspired by her son, Stevens created the book to foster a love for nature among its youngest readers. She earned her degree in graphic design from Western Michigan University and is now the owner of the design studio called Nine18Creative.

A conversation with Gina Stevens.

Credit Gina Stevens
Cover image for Gina Stevens' book.

“After [Griffin was born in 2018], it’s kind of funny—I was working in corporate America and took my maternity leave,” says Stevens. “I ended up quitting my job after maternity leave was over, which left me some time to spend with Griffin and also explore some different projects. I wanted to write a story for Griffin, kind of a one-off. I was going to do the watercolors and make it a single-edition story. As I kept progressing, I got more studio time between naps and between taking care of him.”

With that extra time, Stevens found herself drawn into research about trees and about self-publishing. She had the graphic design experience and realized a book fell clearly into her skill set to produce and market. The single edition book turned into a book for all children.

“I wanted the book to be something about nature,” Stevens says. “Something about getting outside—that’s one of his favorite things to do, even since he was really little. We would walk in the woods, and it was amazing to see through his eyes.”

Credit Gina Stevens
Detail from 'A Tree Could Be'

A Tree Could Be carries an ecological message for children. As little Griffin hikes through the woods, he begins to notice the differences in the trees, how they provide habitat for animals and bring positive attributes to people, as well.

Stevens’ colorful watercolor illustrations add life to the story, paired with rhyming text that moves the young reader along on the walk. Griffin is finally inspired to plant a tiny forest of his own.

It is Stevens’ hope, she says, that the book will inspire children to play and explore outside, set their electronic toys aside for a moment and acquaint themselves to a world of beauty that gives us not only pleasure, but also life. Her book may be purchased at Nine18Creative. She is currently at work on a second children’s book—and Griffin is contributing illustrations.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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