By Melissa Wagoner
When award-winning writer Jonathan Case was writing his latest graphic novel, Little Monarchs, he already knew its promotion would be different than just about any book he’d ever written.
“It’s a road trip book,” Jonathan said. Referring to the premise of the novel, which follows ten-year-old protagonist, Elvie, and her biologist caregiver, Flora, on a post-apocalyptic adventure across the Western United States, following the annual migration of the monarch butterflies.
It’s an epic journey, one Jonathan himself took ten years ago, when he was researching the book, and which he wanted to take again now that the book was finished.
“Jonathan has a real passion for getting kids outside and loving nature and having adventures with their families,” Jonathan’s wife Sarah said, describing the impetus for both the book and its promotional tour, which involved six stops in six different states and just over 30 days of truck camping with their two daughters – ten-year-old Dorothy and Miriam, who is four.
“We were camping because that’s what went into the book in the first place,” Jonathan said. “And we like staying outside.”
And outside they were, in places like Arches and Canyonlands National Park, where they were able to utilize the Every Kid Outdoors pass offered free to all fourth graders by the National Park Service.
“We saw dino footprints,” Miriam said, recalling one of her favorite memories from the trip. It involved days spent hiking and exploring but also driving, homeschooling and, of course, promoting the book.
“Sometimes they were in the tent,” Jonathan said, when asked about his daughters’ role at the almost daily book signings, some of which were held outside, with the truck and rooftop tent as a promotional aid.
“And sometimes they helped me,” he continued, referring to times when the girls would hand out books. “And sometimes I was peddling my book and making mac and cheese.”
Because, along with selling books, there were also times when Jonathan was parenting on his own while Sarah continued to work, sometimes flying ahead, leapfrogging the rest of the family, so she could find a wi-fi connection and have some quiet time.
“It was one of the things we did that was great but also really challenging,” Jonathan said. “It was just the amount of logistics.”
But overall, the trip went largely to plan, despite an unexpected two-inch snowfall in the Olympic National Forest, smoke and 40-mile-an-hour winds in New Mexico and a broken brake line two hours south of the last scheduled stop in Berkeley, California.
“I had been thinking about it for years so we were always warm and comfortable,” Jonathan said. The family was able to not only overcome the obstacles but to make memories that, when all is said and done, are more valuable even than the publicity gained for the book.
“It became more about inspiring kids and families and protecting monarch butterflies than selling books,” Sarah confirmed.
And that’s still the objective, even now, with the Cases back in their Silverton home. They continue to share their love for adventure, nature, art and creative storytelling with the community they adore.
“I created Little Monarchs to invite people, especially kids, to engage their imaginations outside – and I don’t think there’s a better place to do that than Silverton,” Jonathan, who moved with his family from Portland to Silverton in 2020, said. “There’s so much beauty and so much potential for adventure around us here.”
A post-apocalyptic graphic novel written by Jonathan Case, for children ages ten and up.
Silverton Arts Center, 303 Coolidge St. Opening July 8, 5 to 8 p.m. with refreshments, book signing and free sketches for kids
Regular Hours July 11-31
Monday – Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Weekends Noon to 4 p.m.
Silverton Arts Center, July 9 & 10.
1 to 2 p.m. – Making a graphic novel. 2 to 3 p.m. – Illustration workshop.
3 to 5 p.m. – Open studio.