Tom McDade and Melanie Morse. Photo by Nancy J. Parisi.
Tom McDade and Melanie Morse. Photo by Nancy J. Parisi.

Story: A Kid Book, Community and Determination

by / Nov. 25, 2014 7pm EST

Work/life partners Melanie Morse and Tom McDade, principals of the multimedia “commercial storytelling” company Honey + Punch, have collaborated on a children’s paperback. With a concept and feisty characters developed—and redeveloped—over the past five years, The Adventures of Seymour & Hau has been officially launched.

A festive booksigning and selling party happened at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center on Saturday, November 22, drawing an impressive number of families, neighbors, and artists. Hallwalls executive director Ed Cardoni, a neighbor of the authors, suggested the site. Melanie’s three boys were put to work during the event, cashing out customers (Jake), acting as greeter with bookmarks at Hallwalls’ front door (Charlie), and assisting with the kids’ activity table (Elliot), where, amongst other things, kids could try their hand at writing the word friend in Arabic or French. Melanie’s mother, Patty Tyrer, was at the Moroccan-themed food table serving hot mint tea and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

The adventures, a series of an ambitious projected 40 books, focus on one exotic location at a time as explored by tween Seymour and lovable green alien sidekick Hau—a contribution to the human/alien caper canon. Its other plot mission is to have the duo (“see more” and “how,” get it?) assisting a child somewhere in the world while collectively troubleshooting to solve a mystery or crime.

Black-and-white drawings throughout the book were made by John Soleas and Jon Westwood; well known local illustrator and designer Michael Gelen of Inkwell Studios created the series’ compass-inspired logo. After talking about his Seymour & Hau design, Gelen said, “I love The Public, by the way.”

This premier Seymour and Hau story features them landing—with a thud—in Morocco and aiding in the capture of camel bandits: Moroccan kid Taymir introduces Arabic words (carefully spelled out phonetically and defined) and nouveau cultural sites such as the medina (market), and various sights and scents. There is much ink about snake charmers at the medina, sure to appeal to some children, as well as camel facts. A second font, to resemble handwritten notes, defines different concepts throughout the book and is a device to recap the plot.

The exhibition now on view at Hallwalls, sculptural works made from everyday objects by Jozef Bajus—Lendfield—offered perfect exploratory opportunities for children roaming the galleries. In one corner an iPod looped a reading of the first chapter and teens gathered around for a listen and to momentarily escape the crush of people nearby.

The authors, parents living in Elmwood Village, explain their motivation for working on this ongoing project between paying gigs. “Tom and I came up with this concept on a plane ride home a from a friend’s wedding. It all came out pretty quickly once the ideas started flowing, it was the story I was waiting for. I wanted to offer a story that could make the world feel a little closer—I had in my head a drawing of the Earth from outer space, with an arrow that says, ‘I’m from here,’ Melanie says.

Tom adds: “I’m a storyteller by nature and by trade, and my love for children made me want to share my love for travel and the richness of other cultures, with the hope of planting the seed of curiosity of places near and far.”