Monday, April 15th, 2024

Millersville Student Illustrates COVID-19 Children’s Book

Millersville University (MU) senior Hannah Mills met the person who would change her life in sixth grade.

Mills, an art education major at Millersville, was introduced to teacher Emily Bengels through the Gifted Education program at Readington Middle School, New Jersey.

Fast forward to 2020, and Bengels put Mills to work again. Her former teacher authored a children’s book titled “Corona-Alona,” which aims to tell the story of the COVID-19 pandemic through the eyes of a once-empty house that is now bubbling with company. Mills, with a little more free time on her hand, agreed to be the illustrator.

The book, officially published in June, can be purchased online. Bengels and Mills also developed a website for more information.

“It was both really fun and really challenging,” Mills said. “This was definitely a new experience for me.”

After writing the first draft, the two discussed their visions for the illustrations. Mills, who considers charcoal and graphite drawing to be her fortes, worked with watercolors for the project. The first draft included 28 individual paintings that took about one month in time, and a few more were added as the process went along.

Mills originally attempted to paint the book cover first, but struggled, she said. The senior moved on to illustrating the inside of the book to give her a better feel for what the cover should look like.

Above: Hannah Mills poses for a photo.

“I tend to work more realistically,” Mills said. “Which made it challenging at first. The nice thing was, Emily gave me full creative freedom, so I just needed a little bit of time to really understand the direction I wanted the illustrations to go.”

The concept of the book meant a lot to teacher and student alike. Bengels works with kindergarten students and hoped to write something that communicated to them what was happening in the world, Mills said. She also altered the book to include the perspective of grandparents, who have also been isolated during the pandemic.

Mills also has a passion for working with children and hopes to one day be an elementary school art teacher.

Mills credited her time at Millersville for broadening her illustrative horizons. “I think my professors have helped me open my mind up more to all the possibilities with art,” she said. “I used to be close-minded with what art can be defined as. I was always interested in portraits but this program has pushed me to push my boundaries.”

Do you want to study art at Millersville?

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