ANNA MARIA -- They used scraps of paper, yarn, fabric and glue to piece together creatures. There was "Tita the Talkative Turtle" and "Toby the Smelly Turtle" who fell into a bed of flowers.
The turtles -- including raccoons and a band of baboons -- are characters in a storybook project by children at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. About a half-dozen girls sat at an oval-shaped table Friday afternoon and worked on individual pieces under the supervision of art educator and volunteer April Gladden and Marie Rice, another volunteer.
Rachel McGrath, a soon-to-be third-grader, was making a fox named Susie.
"She's really nice and she is a vegetarian," the 8-year-old said. "I think this project is awesome and I really am thankful for the people who came here and did this."
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The idea for the book came from the Bridge Street Merchants Leaders Association, according to volunteer Lisbeth Rodriguez. The community center, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring group and Cultural Connections of Anna Maria Island collaborated on the project, which will result in the children's book being sold in Bridge Street stores in Bradenton Beach.
The children worked for weeks on the book. They will receive a portion of the profits to increase educational programs for them.
Gladden, who teaches at Manatee School For the Arts, said she has the children working in the simplistic style of Eric Carle, an illustrator and writer of children's books most famous for "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."
The book, which will include rhymes, centers on seven baby sea turtles with unique personalities who must find their way back to Bridge Street after being separated.
"From my understanding, (the volunteers) gathered information from the kids about what the turtles might experience in a more imagined kind of way," Gladden said.
Growing and learning
Marie Rice, a newly retired early childhood educator, sat beside a girl who pieced together a bird.
"I love watching them grow and learn to work with each other," the 54-year-old said.
Rice said also she loves sea turtles.
"It's given me a chance to use some of the things that I've learned about sea turtles," she said as she looked over some of the artwork before her.
By 3 p.m. Friday, a row of fresh artwork dried on the floor near a wall -- a light blue turtle with lime-green sequined flippers and a geometric sun in a range of yellow hues.
"They (the children) seemed to be talking with each other about what would make sense, what would look good -- so they're tuning into the logistics of creating things that make sense," Gladden pointed out. "I think there's growth in just their visual understanding."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.