‘Big Brownie’ children’s book to be distributed at Brown Trout

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Richard Rensberry, center, wrote a children’s book, “Big Brownie,” to be distributed at the 47th Annual Michigan Brown Trout Festival, July 16 to 25. Next to him on the left is Peggy Donakowski, festival president, and on the right is LeAnn Schultz of Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union, who sponsored the books.

ALPENA — Anglers of all ages, area residents, art and poetry lovers, historians and nature enthusiasts will likely enjoy “Big Brownie.”

Children who attend the PNC Bank and Michigan Brown Trout Committee Family Day will receive the free book by Richard Rensberry, who will be on hand signing autographs. Books will be distributed on Family Day, July 18, to kids in attendance.

Family Day will be held directly after the Kiddie Classic Tournament, which will be from 7 a.m. to noon, free to children ages 1 to 14. Family Day will feature a variety of activities for kids of all ages, from noon to 2:30 p.m.

This is the first time a children’s book has been written about the Michigan Brown Trout Festival, according to festival president Peggy Donakowski.

Written by Rensberry, of Fairview, and illustrated by Michael Payton, the book is available for $10.99 on Amazon as well.

“My family has been in the Brown Trout since it began,” Rensberry said. “And I was out of state, but I would always come back to visit my family, and a lot of times it would fall during the Brown Trout Festival, so I always have had an interest in it.”

He said the book has been two years in the making.

“We started talking in 2019,” Donakowski said. “He came to me with the idea … we’ve never had a book written.”

Rensberry was planning to do it in 2020, but the pandemic halted plans for that.

“When COVID hit, I knew it was doomed,” he recalled. “So I just put it on hold. But, this year, I contacted Peggy again, in March, and said, ‘I’m going ahead with this book.'”

Rensberry found the illustrator, Michael Payton, online, which he said is customary these days. Payton lives in Colorado Springs.

“He was such a nice guy, and he had never done a book illustration before,” Rensberry said. “But I said, ‘You’ll work out fine. If you’re willing, let’s go for it. And I told him he’d have to be pretty quick.'”

All the illustrations are oil paintings, Rensberry explained. The dominant colors are green, gold and blue, as you follow Big Brownie through his journey in the water.

“I have other books, and he’s done covers for my other books,” Rensberry said of Payton. “He fishes. All he needed was direction.”

In 2013, Rensberry and his wife Mary started a company called Quick Turtle Books, featuring about 35 children’s books that Rensberry has written, many of which Mary has illustrated.

“We write books for causes and small businesses,” Rensberry said.

To see more of the Rensberrys’ work, visit their website at BooksMakeBooms.com.

Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union sponsored the “Big Brownie” books.

“There’s no way that Brown Trout could have afforded to do this book, and have it ready for this year, without Alpena Alcona,” Donakowski said.

She added that they are making sure this book will get into all the school libraries in the area, the Alpena County Library and Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan.

“Peggy reached out to us, and we love to be involved in our community, and kids are important to us, and financial literacy is important to us, so … it’s just a perfect fit for us to work together,” said LeAnn Schultz of Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union. “It was a great opportunity, and we wanted to do it.”


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