GALLIPOLIS — A native of southeastern Ohio with close ties to Gallia County will be making her way back home on Saturday to introduce a work to the children in the region — a book in which she takes a great deal of pride and hopes will also inspire pride in the youngest generation of Appalachians.
Stacie Vaugh Hutton, author of Shovelful of Sunshine, a book that celebrates family, coal mining and the Welsh heritage of the region, will be on hand for a book signing from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, February 16 at the downtown Gallipolis Foodland.
Hutton, who was born in Parkersburg, W.Va., and was raised in Athens County near the Washington County line, attended college at the University of Rio Grande where she currently serves as a trustee.
The author, who worked for several years as a teacher before devoting her career to writing, currently resides in Columbus and has written some books for adults, but, with Shovelful of Sunshine, has made her debut in the world of children’s books, a debut that has, thus far, been met with much fanfare.
Shovelful of Sunshine, released last October, was recently recognized by Mom’s Choice Awards, a company that evaluates products and services created for children and families.
According to Hutton, her book received the Gold Award, the highest distinction Mom’s Choice offers family-oriented products.
“It completely makes sense to me as in southeastern Ohio we have some pretty strong family bonds, and, so, when we got that award, it absolutely fit the manuscript and fit what we were trying to achieve,” she said.
The 32-page picture book illustrated by Cheryl Harness, which took approximately a total of six months to write, according to Hutton, has also been recognized by Amazon.com as a Hot New Release and has also been featured on national talk radio.
However, maybe of more importance to Hutton is the feedback she has heard during her travels from those for whom the book was written to praise — the coal mining and Welsh families of the Appalachian region.
“We’ve heard from lots of coal mining families and Welsh families that have said that the characters and depictions are very accurate and that’s exciting,” Hutton said. “When someone tells you you’ve got it right, that’s nice to hear.”
This heritage of the hills of Appalachia, and, particularly, southeastern Ohio, is exactly what Hutton is seeking to preserve in her book, and it is her hope that Appalachian children who read Shovelful of Sunshine take away pride in their family and in the region where they were born.
“It took a lot of brawn to build this country and we in southeastern Ohio had a lot to do with that, and I’m very proud of that — it’s something we should all be proud,” she said. “Kids reading this in southeastern Ohio, I hope that they take away a great deal of pride in our region.”
Due to her extreme pride in her heritage as a native of southeastern Ohio, Hutton was adamant, when writing the book, about not stereotyping the people of the region, particularly coal miners, through the use of sensationalized dialects or other themes common in Appalachian titles.
“I wanted to make sure that in this book that Appalachian people were portrayed in a very, very positive light and I wanted to make sure that coal and the coal industry weren’t sensationalized,” she said. “I think I accomplished those things.”
While coal mining takes a center stage in her work, Hutton also focuses on the experience of the Welsh families who immigrated and helped build the region, and because of this, during Saturday’s book signing, Hutton wishes to sign copies of her work in honor of a coal miner or other immigrant relative of the person who is purchasing the book.
The reasoning behind signing her book in this way, which she has been doing since promoting the book last October, is purely a means by which to not only honor that immigrant family member but also to ignite a desire in children who read the book to learn about their own history.
“It personalizes the book and it encourages discussion of grandchildren and grandparents about family heritage,” Hutton commented. “That’s one of the things that I hope that this book does, it encourages kids to dig in a little and ask some questions of their grandparents and we’re finding that that’s happening and it’s very exciting. It’s something to be proud of.”
Shovelful of Sunshine is currently available for purchase at all Foodland stores and will also be available for purchase during Saturday’s book signing at the downtown Gallipolis Foodland store.