He writes, she draws.

They’re a creative team for the ages.

Hubert Nett of Cedar Grove and his granddaughter Julia Tipple of Sheboygan recently published their second children’s book, “An Unusual Friendship.” Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

That grandfather and granddaughter author and illustrator team is back at it, this time with a little more intricate publication.

“An Unusual Friendship” is the second children’s book recently published thanks to the unique partnership of Hubert Nett of Cedar Grove and Julia Tipple of Sheboygan.

The pair’s endeavor started a couple of years ago with a phone call from Nett to Tipple after she finished a day of online classes thanks to the pandemic.

“This is weird. I don’t usually get a call from him,” she said of her grandfather.

But Nett remembered pieces of artwork Tipple gave him and his wife Diana when she was younger, a painted yellow flower and a Christmas painting that read “Joy” with a wreath for the letter O.

Nett, who taught science for 33 years at Cedar Grove-Belgium High School, has a passion for nature and had long wanted to write a children’s book. He started with a tale about a beloved tree in his yard, “The Joy of Being Adopted,” and he wanted Tipple to illustrate it.

She agreed but neither knew what they were in for. Nett’s expected few pages of artwork turned into an entire 48-page book’s worth.

Their second book is only 31 pages but has a more complex story and more challenging paintings. “A Unique Friendship” follows the bond between a dog and a fawn and furthers the bond between a grandfather and granddaughter.

Tipple, the daughter of two teachers and a junior at Sheboygan North, doesn’t have any formal art training but likes doing watercolor and acrylic painting in her spare time. Her favorite part of this project, however, was “being able to work with my grandpa,” she said. “With 22 grandchildren, it’s hard to find a way to connect with each one.”

Nett, 82, loved connecting with his 16-year-old granddaughter as well.

“That’s a lifetime, you know,” he said of the 66-year age difference.

Nett is impressed with Tipple’s development as an artist.

“Such a maturation between her first book and this one. It’s not a dog but a dog with a mission. To me, there’s some emotion in there,” he said.

Tipple had to rely on old family photos of Nett’s dogs for the illustrations.

Nett writes the manuscripts and gives what Tipple calls a “general description” of what he wants for illustrations. She creates rough outlines, then fills them in with watercolors.

“It was a lot less revising and redoing the pages. I think I caught on to what he wanted,” she said of the second book.

Nett hopes young readers catch the messages he tries to convey in his books. The first one about a tree had a more humanlike experience.

In a review online, a doctor compared the tree’s journey to that of an adopted child, Nett said.

“There’s disappointment in life but there are ways to overcome them and there’s some good that’s always wanting to pop up to you,” he said of what he hopes to communicate.

“There’s always good. You just have to look for it.”

Nett said he appreciates the responses the first book received.

“You get comments from people who were adopted or were part of the process,” he said, “and the comments we receive about her work are just great.”

Nett used a rare perspective in developing his main characters in both books.

“The books are all done in the first person.

They describe themselves,” he said.

“I think it’s kind of unique. I find it very easy.”

The nature-themed stories help Nett get across another element he wants to emphasize.

“My concern is that kids today do not come in contact with nature as they did when we were younger,” he said.

That drove one of his efforts as a teacher. Nett converted 20-plus acres of land near the school into a prairie that included hardwood and evergreen trees that was designed to be an outdoor classroom.

“Unfortunately, it was also the ideal place for a new high school and soccer field,” he said.

A small piece of the undeveloped land remains, and people still walk in the area today, Nett said.

Nature has always been part of Nett’s life since he grew up in a rural area near Kiel.

“I was raised on a farm. We raised our kids out in the outdoors,” he said, adding his children aided in trapping.

“They always helped with the hides, getting them ready for sale,” he said.

The family also took fishing trips to an area east of Toledo, Ohio, on Lake Erie near the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant.

Tipple has gone camping and said she is gaining a larger appreciation of the outdoors through the books.

Nett said his third book will push Tipple even further, with illustrations of a blue heron, great white egret, insects and other wildlife.

“Her talents will be challenged with the next one,” he said.

Completing the books has done more than deepen the bond between Nett and Tipple and made the teen a better artist, however.

Nett hopes it’s an inspiration for other senior citizens to embark on new ventures.

“You’re never too old to start something new and to give you a different outlook on life,” he said. “It’s amazing how it can change one’s life. It has accelerated my daily activities.”

A book signing for “An Unusual Friendship” will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Koffie Trader and Photo Pop Shop, 221 S. Main St., Cedar Grove.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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