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Detroit Lakes residents Megan Hagel and Jackie Jenson just published their first children's book, 'Jon and the Soggy Leaf.' Hagel illustrated the book and Jenson penned it. They will be having a book signing on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at La Barista. Photo by - Vicki Gerdes

Detroit Lakes author, illustrator publish first children's book

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Just in time for Christmas, two creative Detroit Lakes residents have joined forces to publish a new children's book.

Author Jackie Jenson and illustrator Megan Hagel are the masterminds behind the new book, "Jon and the Soggy Leaf," which was recently published by the Edina, Minn.-based Beavers Pond Press.

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They will also be having a joint book signing with fellow local author Carmen McCullough ("When She Turned 40-ish") on Friday, Dec. 14 at La Barista, located just inside the northeast entrance of Washington Square Mall. The book signing will take place over the lunch hour, from 11 a.m, to 1 p.m., and will also include an opportunity to sample La Barista's variety of tasty cocoa selections.

The location of the book signing is no coincidence: Jensen and Hagel say that the book's narrative and illustrations evolved gradually, over "lots of coffee and conversation" at the local hot spot for coffee lovers (which has a tasty food menu as well).

Both women now have offices inside the BES Center -- which stands for Business & Entrepreneurial Services -- on the Detroit Lakes campus of Minnesota State Community & Technical College. The BES Center offers incubator office space for fledgling local businesses such as theirs. Hagel's visual arts-oriented business is Hagel Creative, while Jenson operates Write Words, a writing consultation business.

But they originally met at a conference for children's book authors and illustrators in the Twin Cities, through the auspices of former Detroit Lakes resident Kelly Pratt, whom the women both refer to as "our Yoda."

"She will be at the book signing," Hagel said. "Jackie said she'd always wanted to writ a children's book, and I always wanted to illustrate a children's book, so our Yoda said, why not get together and do it?"

The two women proved to be kindred spirits, as Hagel's bright, colorful illustrations were an ideal match for Jenson's descriptive narrative.

"We're both mothers who read aloud to our kids," Hagel said, so they wanted their book to have a high quality narrative -- which it does, she added.

Jenson worked "many long hours" with an editor to create the book's rhythmic rhyme scheme, Hagel said, "to make sure the rhyming was just right."

The text employs a method of rhyming known as scansion, which actually helps children learn to read for themselves as the book is read aloud to them.

"They listen to the patterns of speech, and remember the words," Jenson said, adding that Dr. Seuss's books are the ultimate example of perfectly used scansion.

The story follows a little boy named Jon, who becomes very sad when he sees the colorful leaves falling from the trees and turning soggy, signaling the end of fall.

But soon, his grandmother shows him that the end of fall activities is just the start of winter, which can be just as much fun.

"It's about Jon discovering that change can be a good thing, (because of) all the wonderful things that come with it," Hagel said.

Jenson is equally complimentary of Hagel's illustrations, noting that each page of the book includes lots of small details that require a second, third and even a fourth look to reveal them all.

"She captured every season perfectly -- which I love," Jenson added.

"Jon and the Soggy Leaf" is available online at Amazon.com as well as their own websites, jackiejenson.com and meganhagel.com, and can also be purchased directly at the BES Center.

Jenson is listed on the book's cover as "J.S. Jenson," which she said was an homage to one of her favorite authors, T.S. Eliot.

Though they only recently got to know each other, both Hagel and Jenson have local roots. Hagel, who now lives in Detroit Lakes with her family, was born and raised in the Perham-New York Mills area, while Jenson grew up in Detroit Lakes, where she now makes her home with her husband and three daughters.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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