Mysterious turns magical for kids and adults |

Mysterious turns magical for kids and adults

Sandy Ferguson Fuller
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Among the hundreds of picture books published each season, it’s a treat to discover one that celebrates both the alpine grandeur of Colorado and its resident artists.

It’s also a pleasure to savor a true tale about a special bond between man and beast.

Such is the story about John and Maria, and the unique friendship they forge.

“Maria’s Mysterious Mission” is a book for young and old to enjoy together. This original collaboration was developed by award-winning author Claudia Cangilla McAdam; veteran illustrator Anna-Maria Crum; and renowned Colorado-based nature photographer John Fielder.

Fielder, who is a character in the book, doesn’t need much of an introduction. He is a conservationist, accomplished outdoorsman, and perhaps the guru of Rocky Mountain nature photography. He is widely admired for his spectacular and sublime images of flora, fauna and landscape. He’s traveled many years and trudged thousands of miles to capture his images and interpretations of our state. His gorgeous coffee table books are standard gifts for virtually every real estate closing in the area. Seldom is a home or book shelf in this area unadorned with at least one Fielder book.

On the other hand, Maria, the other main character in the book, is a newcomer to the Rockies. She is a lovable llama from South America. When she meets John, she is still homesick for her former life in the rugged Andes Mountains.

Always admired in her own homeland for her loyalty and hard work, Maria spent each day there portaging precious cargo for her people. She trekked with loads of many shapes and sizes up, down, and around the steep muddy passes.

When John adopts Maria from a rancher to accompany him on a pilot mountain mission, the llama worries about her future. She wonders about her mysterious load as she climbs her first mountain in her new home.

What has the man packed upon her back? Certainly not timber, corn or potatoes, shovel or sickle, wool, grain, bandages or burlap bags; nothing familiar like she used to carry for her people in the Andes.

Then John surprisingly lifts one blue pack from Maria and slings it upon his own back. “Well, that’s a change!” Maria says.

Maria is no common llama. Soon she notices that the blue pack is never out of the man’s sight or reach. Certainly she should protect the pack, if ever the need be, and protect it she does. Immediately John recognizes and values her intelligence, loyalty and work ethic. When Maria finally learns what’s inside his blue pack, she decides that her new job is definitely worthwhile. She views her new life through different eyes. And that is the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

This touching personal story is brought to us in polished words, colorful illustrations, and vintage photographs by the talented Colorado trio. Claudia Cangilla McAdam writes for both children and adults.

A nature photography enthusiast herself, she was drawn to Fielder’s work as a vehicle for her own creative expression. Mostly recently, they combined inspirations in the 2006 collaboration “Do You See What I See?.”

Anna-Maria Crum joins the team for this second picture book. Her drawings and paintings appear in a variety of popular children’s books, and her free, spontaneous style speaks clearly to kids.

This team effort provides the most memorable aspect of the book. The classic appeal of the picture book genre is that text and visuals may work together to enhance and expand the story to a higher level.

The signature magic in this book is the blending of Crum’s colorful, naive-style paintings with Fielder’s rich, precise photographs to achieve yet another level in children’s books.

Readers will enjoy discovering on each page where the illustration stops and the photography begins. Such a fine picture book may be shared over and over again by an audience of all ages.

Just like John and Maria in the story, this artistic trio has begun their own unique relationship.

Sandy Ferguson Fuller works at The Bookworm and is a literary agent, publishing consultant, and children’s book author/illustrator. She wrote and illustrated her own book, “Moon Loon,” in 2004.

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