Local Talent: A Unexpected Partnership

Meet Ann Benzo and Hannah Kircher, the author and illustrator of the recently self-published Lost & Found Leon—Who is Leon Anyway? Ann Benzo is a retiree and grandmother who enjoys the perks of her secluded life in the country with her husband. Hannah Kircher, on the other hand, is a high school senior and a competitive archer. The two of them together have become the perfect, unexpected team responsible for the smiles on the faces of beginning readers. “[I’ve] known Hannah’s parents for years through church,” Benzo says. “[I] watched her grow into this beautiful talented young woman.”

This book was inspired by Benzo’s grandson, Leo. He mistakenly left a “filthy sock crammed in the couch” after a weekend visit, and the lightbulb flickered on for Benzo. The children’s story follows Leon, a missing sock, as he stumbles through adventure after adventure on his mission to find his brother. “I chose Hannah to illustrate because she has an amazing talent for expression with eyes and for expressing flow of fabric,” explains Benzo. “[She’s] got real determination. A faithful employee.”

For Kircher, who was 16 when they started on Leon, illustrating a book was “quite the experience.” Normally, she exercises her artistic ability for herself. She’s been drawing for as long as she can remember, and finds that art is often the way she expresses herself best. She says her style is very different from what was featured in the book. When asked to illustrate a fifty-page book, Kircher found herself in unfamiliar territory. “For the first few months I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up going to her house every day to work so she could give me her ideas and opinions right away,” Kircher explains. “It was a lot of back and forth, checking to make sure I had drawn out what she had envisioned.” 

Benzo was also new to the book-production process. For her, rhyming comes naturally. Her favorite children’s book to read was a tongue twister, so the silly, poetic lines of her own book were second nature. But just like trying anything for the first time, Benzo says there is difficulty, but so much more fun and excitement than any struggles. Benzo notes that “the best thing about this book was working with [Hannah]!”

In the future, Benzo says she has other concepts in mind, and Kircher will be her go-to for more illustration. To children everywhere, who have read her book or not, Benzo says to keep reading! “Enjoy your books! Read, write, draw,” she says. “Oh, and try to keep your socks together!”

Perhaps one day we’ll see another children’s book from this dynamic duo. For a fun, lighthearted kids’ read that is certain to make you smile, order a copy of Ann Benzo’s Lost & Found Leon today on Amazon at DPGazette.com/benzobook (affiliate link) or through the author, by texting (208) 818-6910.

Artisans and creators have exceptional talents and abilities that often get overlooked or underpraised. If you or someone you know has an ability that you think should be highlighted, write the editor at [email protected] or Editor Deer Park Gazette, PO Box 1581, Deer Park, WA 99006.

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