As Weeki Wachee Springs Park once again opens its gates to the community, we are reminded of the endless tropical beauty and exotic appeal of Weeki Wachee, a jewel of the Adventure Coast. This appeal also is captured, and to adorable effect, in a newly released storybook written and illustrated by two Weeki Wachee residents, friends, and neighbors who share a definite creative streak.
Patrick the Playful Peacock is a full-color, 26-page storybook aimed at readers aged 4-9.
"Patrick teaches us to take a chance when we are looking for new experiences," reads the book's description. "Follow his day of adventure as he explores the beautiful Weeki Wachee Woodlands."
The book stemmed from the imagination of People Helping People board member and retired Registered Nurse Maureen Fox Soliman, who wrote the story, and art student Cristine Joy Gilbert, who filled its page with vivid colorful illustrations.
Soliman and Gilbert credit a third neighbor with the creative inspiration behind Patrick the Playful Peacock: a lush feathered peacock who traipsed through yards of their neighborhood in Weeki Wachee.
"It's so beautiful here," said Soliman. "There's so much natural beauty, it's an inspiration. And I just loved the wildlife here. I love seeing the peacocks and turkeys with my grandkids."
One peacock, a frequent friendly visitor to her back yard, particularly charmed and inspired her.
"He inspired my creative streak," said Soliman, who discovered her love for writing in high school and studied her craft throughout the years.
This new feathered friend also inspired her friend and neighbor Christine Gilbert, a professional digital and traditional artist (https://www.artstation.com/crisgil) currently completing her MBA degree at St. Leo University.
"I loved his patterns, his eyes, his colors, his wings, his tails," said Gilbert. "One day he came around and saw his reflection in a car window."
Gilbert committed this image and others to paper, drawing from her favorite media to bring Patrick to life.
"I love everything from watercolors to digital art and bright colors," she said. "With this book, Maureen came up with the story, sent it piece by piece, and I would do my part; art lines and illustrations."
She also loved collaborating with a friend to tell Patrick's story. "It was so nice of Maureen to include me in her story," she said. "It was fun and cool to work together."
Soliman extols Gilbert's artistic talents and also has high words of praise for her primary audience. "My grandchildren," she said. "The book is dedicated to them, and they're so excited about it."
Readers are also excited about Patrick the Playful Peacock, which holds a 4.1-star rating on Amazon, with one reviewer stating that the book displays a side of Florida that tourists don't often see. You can order the book on Amazon.