Sept. 28, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
Click here first: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCYApJtsyd0
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Children’s story character Annie Mouse has an alter ego – her creator and author Anne Maro Slanina, Slippery Rock University associate professor of elementary education and early childhood. Slanina’s passion is the famed U.S. Route 66. So, Annie’s latest adventure takes her across the America on the nostalgic roadway.
Slanina, who joined the SRU faculty in 1998, has authored four previous “Annie Mouse” books. Her latest is “Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure.”
All of the Mouse Family books are designed to provide parents, teachers and others both an enjoyable read for their children and the opportunity to talk about important family issues and values in a disarming way. Topics such as fears, make-believe, going to the hospital, making new friends and, in the latest offering, taking a family vacation are covered. The latest book can also be used as a travel guide and to supplement social studies textbooks, Slanina said.
“My real passion is Route 66; it began with my first trip across country. I have driven it yearly since 2006 to visit my son, Michael and his family, in Arizona. I have just fallen in love with it,” she said. Over the years, Slanina has picked up all number of trinkets, brochures, fliers, souvenirs and memorabilia along the way, including the Route 66 earrings she wore to the interview. And, she has made innumerable friends.
“The trip for Annie and her family was just a natural,” she said, adding she first started working on the book during her first trip. “The book is really a great way to open communication,” she said.
The latest book is now on sale at numerous stores, restaurants and souvenir shops along the roadway. “There are even copies available at the souvenir shop in the Grand Canyon,” Slanina said.
The Route 66 book opens with Annie, the series’ principle character, arriving home on the last day of school to find the family car already packed. She initially thinks the Mouse Family is moving, but quickly learns that a family trip is planned instead.
“This is the longest book I have written, at 48 pages, but it could have gone on for 2,000,” she said, explaining that with the stories she has to tell from her own trips and the stacks of photos, postcards and information she has gathered.
Slanina took all of the color photographs in the book. David Keppel digitally added the animated characters to the photos. “Keppel did a terrific job of working with the photos and the layout of the book’s pages,” she said.
“It was really difficult trying to determine which photos to include and which to leave out,” she said.
The book takes the family to some of the famous, and not so famous, stops along the famed highway.
U.S. Route 66 is also known as the “Will Rogers Highway” named after the famous American humorist, as well as the “Main Street of America” or the “Mother Road,” among other titles. Established in 1926, in its heyday Route 66 ran continuously from Chicago to Los Angeles, covering 2,448 miles. However later expansion of the U.S. freeway system left parts of the original route closed, abandoned or merged into other numbered roadways.
Those of a certain age will remember the “Route 66” hit recording done in 1946 by the Nat King Cole Trio and later performed by Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Manhattan Transfer and Depeche Mode. There was also a weekly television show of the same name in the 1960s staring Martin Milner and Tod Stiles, and including George Maharis.
“There is also a renewed interest in the roadway as a result of the Disney/Pixar movie ‘Cars,’ which highlighted the plight of Route 66 towns and also employed the ‘Route 66’ tune,” Slanina said.
“Since I don’t like to fly, my only option was to drive to visit my son’s family. So I started my first trip and I met wonderful people along the way. Along much of the road once thriving businesses are now closed or are shoestring operations because the newer freeway system draws travelers from the original route. But, I still keep traveling the old roadway and stopping to see people who have come to be my friends,” Slanina said.
Her latest book starts in Joliet, Ill., just south of Chicago, and takes the Mouse Family to such sites as “The World’s Largest Totem Pole” in Foyil at Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park and the “Blue Whale Swimming Park” in Catoosa – which is now closed for swimming. There are stops at “The Midpoint Café” and “The Big Texan” in Texas, along with visits to Sapulpa, Bristow and Depew.
“Part of the overall idea is to plant the seed of an old-fashioned family vacation, putting away the video games, seeing some of the unusual sites of America – and just spending time together as a family. The adventure has the potential to draw the family closer together and enhance family communication, while also building academic skills. This is a great way for children to see things firsthand, often related to things they are learning in school,” Slanina said.
Slanina points with pride to a photo she took of the once-famed Riviera Restaurant in Pontiac, rumored to have been a favorite hangout of famed gangster Al Capone. “It may be among the last photos taken of the restaurant, because it burned down last year a few weeks after I snapped the photograph,” she said.
Slanina took delivery of her latest work from the printer in May and promptly set out both to again visit her family and to deliver copies of the book to potential booksellers along Route 66.
“It was a great experience, but also frightening. I was just 20 miles outside Joplin, Mo., on May 22, visiting with friends when tornado warnings were issued. I had been scheduled to be in Joplin, but had made a last-minute decision to stay longer visiting my friends in Neosho. After the tornado, I drove 100 miles south to stay with relatives until the volatile weather stabilized. The devastation was terrible,” she said. The tornado that hit was rated at EF5 and stretched five-miles wide.
“Because there are ‘Road Ends’ signs along Route 66, I have to periodically hop on an interstate and follow special Route 66 maps to find where the old route picks up again. You have to do a little research if you want to drive as much of the original roadway as possible,” she said.
The book includes an “Autograph Page” already signed by Annie Mouse and open to others that travelers meet along their own vacation route.
Slanina is also writing a teacher/parent guide that will be available online to help structure discussions with their children.
“I am a Route 66 enthusiast, and I really encourage parents to explore the beautiful United States with their children. Road trips on historic highways, like Route 66, help bring families closer together and expose children to the many wonders of the nation’s countryside,” she said.
In addition to the actual photos in the book, drawings of Annie and her family compliment the pages. The illustrations are done by Kelsey Collins, a May SRU elementary education and early childhood graduate.
Slanina’s other “The Adventures of Annie Mouse” works are “Annie Mouse Meets Her Guardian Angel,” “Baby Brother Goes to the Hospital,” “Annie Mouse Meets a New Friend” and “Where the Rainbow Touches Ground.”
Slanina said the books are available for purchase at the SGA Bookstore in the University Union and from Amazon.com as both e-books and print. More information can be found on her website, where books may also be purchased at www.anniemousebooks.com.
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