SHREWSBURY – The father of Shrewsbury resident Fern Davis Nissim was trying to explain to his grandchildren the story of his family’s emigration from Eastern Europe to the United States.
But the children struggled to understand the story, leading Nissim’s father to create an allegory about a little red ant trying to escape bondage and gain freedom.
That was in 1977. More than forty years later, Nissim took the same story of ants further with a series of illustrated books for children.
“He created the original story, ‘Antiline the Ant,’ and then he gave it to me and he said, ‘Why don’t you do something with it?'” Nissim said of his father. “I read it to the children; they loved it, but I never did anything more with it because I was so busy with my own career and raising kids.
Nissim began writing what is now his “Little Red Ant Books” series around 2019, however, updating the story, rhyming it and finding another artist – Marlborough-based Sue Fleishman – to help develop. illustrations.
Their first book was called “Antiline’s Brave Adventure”. They have since released a sequel, “Antiline’s True Discovery”, and finalized a third book, which is now expected to be released in the coming weeks.
“Of the three books in total, I hope the kids will get the gist of the story, which is freedom, friendship, and community,” Nissim said. “Those are the three keywords I try to focus on.”
Upcoming Book Sheds Light on ‘Community Circles’
“Antiline’s Brave Adventure” sees Antiline, a Serv-ant living under the rule of Tyr-ant, traveling in search of a happier life until she finally finds an accepting home.
“The True Discovery of Antiline” chronicles Antiline’s journey to learn more about her family ancestry and her ancestry as Queen Victori-ant. She eventually discovers the importance of sharing and learning from other people’s stories.
Nissim described the forthcoming “Antiline’s Community Circle” as a practical book for creating a “community circle” of friends.
Beyond his writing, Nissim is also developing an advisory group to garner interest from parents, teachers, and community groups. She hoped to work with this advisory group to create places to promote Community Circles, which she describes as “bringing together a group of people for one main purpose, which would just be to get to know each other.”
Fleishman said the end of the third book features line drawings, designed to engage young readers. She said the decision to include this was influenced by a lecture she and Nissim had at Tatnuck Bookseller in Westborough a few summers ago when a child made his own drawing of the Antiline character.
Fleishman said the child and his mother, who are second-generation immigrants, spoke about their own traditions and family histories.
“It’s a book for young children, and young children love to draw,” Fleishman said.
The collaborative process creates books
Nissim explained that she and Fleishman had a background in art, although neither had done illustration before.
In their collaborative process, it was Fleishman who designed the characters for the Little Red Ant Books. Nissim paints backgrounds.
Fleishman specifically sought out gesture drawings and movements of children to inform his character designs.
“Despite the fact that the way we draw and paint is different, it works together,” Fleishman said.
Books available for sale
Where many modern books are developed through the use of digital art tools, Nissim pointed out that all of these Little Red Ant illustrations are done by hand.
Nissim said the books had received a good response, with Nissim reading in libraries before the pandemic, among other things.
The books are self-published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which means they’re also available for purchase. through Amazon.
The books are also available in person at Tatnuck Bookseller and TidePool Bookshop in Worcester.
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