BY CARMEN SIERING
Retired clinical psychologist Jim Kenny, 83, and his wife Mary, 81, are the parents of 12 children, some adopted. They were also foster parents to many children over the years. Kenny says when his children were young, he frequently told them made-up bedtime stories about monkeys in the jungle. Last year he decided to put one of those stories on paper.
The result, Little Lost Monkey, addresses issues of parental loss, foster care, and adoption through the eyes of Chipper, a monkey who embarks on a journey to find a new forever family.
When it came time to find an illustrator, he didn’t realize it, but he already knew where to look. The Kennys’ daughter, Bitta Dewees, is the director of service development and expansion at Stone Belt, and he was familiar with the talented artists there. In fact, he and Mary were in the market to purchase a Stone Belt work of art.
“Mary and I were at Bloomington Playwrights Project and saw the Stone Belt artwork [in the lobby],” Kenny says. “We were going to buy just one piece and ended up buying five, and I started thinking, why not get a Stone Belt artist to do the artwork? All of their work has that emotional feel we want to come across in the book.”
Stone Belt is a nonprofit organization that provides education and support to individuals with disabilities.
Selecting the artist was done through a contest, with art instructor Karen Holtzclaw asking her students to submit drawings of monkeys. She and Kenny chose the work of 43-year-old Carla Mann. Over the course of nearly a year, Mann and Holtzclaw worked on drawings of monkeys, snakes, lions, and other jungle animals.
“It took a while, but it was worth it,” Mann says, “because look what happened—a book!”
Stone Belt CEO Leslie Green notes that Mann’s work has been recognized before. “She’s had some commissioned pieces,” Green says. “She’s an in-demand artist.”
In order to facilitate publication, the Kennys gave what Green calls a “very generous donation,” which resulted in the creation of Stone Belt Press, and also paid Mann for her drawings. All proceeds from the book support programs at Stone Belt.
“I think it’s a really neat connection,” Kenny says. “I wanted to get a foster-to-adoption story out, telling the story of children who need homes, and we’re also sharing the talents of people with disabilities while helping the programs here.”
Little Lost Monkey can be purchased at Stone Belt, 2815 E. 10th St., at Bloomingfoods, 3320 E. 3rd St. and 316 W. 6th St., or on Amazon. For more information about Stone Belt, or to purchase the book online, visit stonebelt.org.