Family Tales Translate into Children’s Classic

by : Lisa M. Hendey

One of my new favorites is The Ballad of Blue Eagle (Synergy Books, October 2004, hardcover, 48 pages). This first in a planned series is a father-son team project created by Steven E. Jones and his son, illustrator Steven E. Jones, Jr. A lifelong Texan, Jones grew up listening to his father tell tales of Blue Eagle and his life safeguarding the various creatures of Peaceful Valley. After his father’s death, Steven wisely wrote these stories down for posterity. The Ballad of Blue Eagle is a beautiful collaboration between Jones and his son Steven Jr., who has artfully illustrated this classic children’s hardcover. Steven Jones Jr. brings the characters of Peaceful Valley to life with his bold and sweeping watercolor scenes. The themes present in The Ballad of Blue Eagle emphasize virtues you will want to share with your own children: peaceful coexistence, community, friendship and not judging others.

I had the opportunity to speak with the author and illustrator and am pleased to share their comments on the book and the importance of sharing stories in our families.

Q: Thank you for your time and for participating in this Book Spotlight interview. Please tell our readers how you decided to take on the project of writing The Ballad of Blue Eagle from your collection of family stories.

A: This is an interesting question, you see, I actually wrote this story as a tribute to my father shortly after he died. That was in 1980, when my son was only 8 years old. I wanted to have it for our family as a piece of memorabilia that we could share, there was no serious thought of it being published, - we needed an illustrator. Finally, my son grew up to be an artist/graphic designer, and wanted to illustrate the story. This is when the publishing decision was made.

Q: What was it like to work collaboratively as a team on this project?

A: It was a lot of fun. There was some frustration involved for both of us because it was new territory, and both of us could only work on it part time. The main thing I experienced though, was gaining a new respect for my son. I knew he was talented, but I didn't realize just how capable he really is.

Q: Steve, how did it feel to see the characters of your stories come to life through the artwork created by Steven?

A: Wow! This was amazing. I never talked to Steven about how I thought it should look, and yet he created images that were almost identical to the visions I had when writing it. I think I got a little emotional.

Q: I am always looking for wonderful stories to share with my children and find it a bonus when these stories include a moral or teaching component. I loved Blue Eagle for its emphasis on a peaceful community. What do you feel is the moral of The Ballad of Blue Eagle and why was it important to you to include this theme in your book?

A: There are a number of messages and moral lessons in this and future stories. Some more subtle than others, some examples are:

Stop and smell the roses! Toby's "see the wonders that be!" Don't be in such a hurry that you miss life's beauty, natures grandeur. (God's creation)

Friendship, friends helping friends - Toby and Pete did their best for Sammy.

Don't underestimate others - Toby, the slowest and least likely, turns out to be a hero!

Q: Steven, how did you conceptualize the illustrations for the book and what were your goals with the artwork?

A: I wanted to achieve a more traditional, classic look and feel with the artwork. Initially I was using a computer to color the illustrations, but felt that the look did not match the story, so I decided on watercolor, which has a softer, more natural look. The character illustrations themselves maintain a bit of realism without sacrificing character and emotion. I was also used Texas Hill Country, where many of the original stories were told, as an inspiration for the setting.

Q: Will we hear again from the creatures of Peaceful Valley? Do you have plans to make the book a series?

A: Yes, the second story is nearly finished. I'll be sending the manuscript to Steven for illustration in a few days.

Q: How can parents share the art of storytelling with their children and why do you feel this is important?

A: Reading to children is the best way to get started. The stories may be other's, but they can serve to stimulate our imagination to build on the story or create our own. Taking time regularly to read to them, ingrains the reading habit, which will serve them well for a lifetime.

Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?

A: When I was a child, we didn't have computers or TV sets. It was not uncommon for families to tell stories, read together, or play games for entertainment. Today, it is far too easy to turn on the TV or computer and leave it to others to provide the entertainment. We lose the growth that comes from interacting together as parent/child or as a larger family group. My father was able to impart a lot of wisdom through his storiesFeature Articles, things I may never have learned without them.

For more information on The Ballad of Blue Eagle visit