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NCCIL: Story Time in Abilene

Just thinking about The Velveteen Rabbit is enough to make me choke up and mumble something incoherent about stuffed toys being real. Although we – hopefully – read many books during the course of our lives, it is our first exposure to literature that stays with us.

NCCIL Exterior, Abilene
Picture book illustrations are such an integral part of the tale that we sometimes forget that they are also works of art. While the story of The Velveteen Rabbit is beautifully crafted, I wouldn’t have found it as entrancing without Michael Hague’s illustrations.

The folk at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature agree. The museum is housed in a brick building in the historic section of Abilene, Texas. As the space isn’t large, changing exhibitions focus on the work of one illustrator at a time. These exhibitions then travel to cities and towns around the nation.

Stopping at the NCCIL was my idea. Lane was along for the ride, free from any expectations. But within moments of arriving, her face was glowing with surprise and appreciation for the work of Raúl Colón, the featured artist. His style is soft and inviting, whether he’s depicting the life of baseball player and humanitarian Roberto Clemente, or lulling readers to sleep with his pictures of the moon.

I wasn’t surprised by the power of illustrations, but I was surprised to find this museum in Abilene. I’d have expected the NCCIL to be in a city famous for its independent bookstores or in New York, the epicenter of the publishing industry.

Well, once upon a time, there was an author/illustrator William Joyce, who set his book Santa Calls in Abilene…

‘I’d never actually been to Abilene… The book had been out for about two weeks when I got a call from the Mayor. The next thing I know they’d built a museum, and erected a statue to one of my characters.’ – William Joyce

  • The NCCIL is free, but donations are appreciated.
  • There is a small store on site.
  • Metered street parking is available out front.
  • The museum hosts and is involved with many art-themed events throughout the year, including art camps and contests.

Lane & Juliet

The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.

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