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McDonald celebrates her childhood in picture book about apples

September 18, 2006
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@dcn.davis.ca.us

Title: “The Apple Lady”
Author: Mary McDonald
Illustrator: Wendy Pond
Price: $16.95
Publisher: Central Coast Press

A successful children’s picture book depends upon the collaboration between illustrator and author and in the case of Mary McDonald’s “The Apple Lady,” this partnership has worked perfectly.

Wendy Pond is the artist who provided the cheerful, colorful illustrations for the story of an apple farmer and her young granddaughter. Perfect for this autumn, it’s a celebration of Pippins, Winesaps, Jonathans, Reds, Romes, Goldens and of the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter.

McDonald, a Davis resident for 14 years, said she set the story of “The Apple Lady” in See Canyon, outside San Luis Obispo, where she once lived.

“Everyone in the canyon was an apple grower,” she said. “My mom and dad had 20 acres of apples and we kids did all the work: pruning, grafting, spraying, picking, selling and pressing for cider.”

McDonald said the apple lady in the book is an exact description of her mother.

“Everyone in San Luis Obispo knew her as the apple lady,” McDonald said. “She died in 1998. But the story is a description of how she interacted with my children when they were younger.”

McDonald and her husband, Craig, have four children. When they first moved to Davis from Seattle, Mary McDonald learned that she had multiple sclerosis. Ill, and needing to rest for hours a day, Mary became interested in writing a children’s book honoring her mother, Bobbie DeVincenzo.

A developmental psychologist by training, McDonald said her first love has always been writing from scientific papers to children’s books.

Still, the manuscript languished for many years.

“I wrote this book 10 years ago and didn’t do anything with it,” she said.

After her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage, the manuscript was unearthed. It was McDonald’s stepmother who insisted that the manuscript be published. But it lacked an illustrator.

Then McDonald’s father down in San Luis Obispo met an artist – Wendy Pond -- who seemed to be everything he and his daughter were looking for.

“We met and talked and for two years (Wendy) lived in See Canyon and got to see the apple stand in operation,” said McDonald.

The resulting illustrations are true to life and to the world of apples.

“I feel that it is a memorial to my mom for my kids,” said McDonald. “It’s a nice gentle story – I wanted her love and nature to come through.

“We are marketing the book ourselves,” she added. You can find it on fruit stands up and down California, she said. Locally, it’s available at Borders and The Avid Reader.

Thankfully, McDonald also is much better physically.

“Over the years it has gotten better,” she said. “It’s not nearly as bad as it was when we first came here.”

Now McDonald is working on her second book, a chapter book being published by the Texas group she works for, Gospel for Asia, which supports missionaries in India and Asia.

The chapter book is called “Back to Bundy” and it is a collection of 20 stories about missionary work in Asia.

McDonald may also sell her book at Impossible Acres, which is owned by her sister, Katie Kelly. When you stop by, look for “The Apple Lady.”

-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at gizmo@dcn.org and watch for more local writers to be featured biweekly at this web site.

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