Buckland man writes ‘Fractured Tale’ children’s book

  • Local author/illustrator Richard Belair’s newest illustrations. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Local author/illustrator Richard Belair with his book “A Nearly Fractured Tale.”

  • Local author/illustrator Richard Belair wrote “A Nearly Fractured Tale.” Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Richard Belair’s “A Nearly Fractured Tale.”

  • Local author/illustrator Richard Belair wrote “A Nearly Fractured Tale.” Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Richard Belair always loved to draw, and, as a young father, he loved to read to his children. Now a grandfather, Belair has written and illustrated a children’s book of his own: “A Nearly Fractured Tale” (Balboa Press).

From an ax-wielding beaver who chops wood despite his “nearly fractured” tail, to a child-sized doctor who climbs a stepladder to look down the throat of a sick giraffe, each double-paged, colored-pencil illustration and accompanying rhyming verse presents a complete vignette. The book does not have a plot, but is reminiscent of the Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes — only with more modern situations.

Consider the computer-geek dog, who goes “phishing” on his laptop, in a little row boat named “Taking Paws.” Or the cartoony “bookworm” in his mortar board cap and spectacles, reading a book chapter on “Robin Predator.” The illustrations are filled with visual puns, like the beaver who cries “dam” as he chops a tree on the edge of a dammed river.

For Belair, who grew up in Conway, writing for children was a happy accident.

“I joined a writer’s group in Gloucester, thinking it was for adult writing,” Belair said. “But it happened to be a children’s writers group. I stayed. And, as I sat in, I realized a lot of people couldn’t illustrate.”

He said a writer in his class wanted him to illustrate her book, but the plot did not inspire him. That’s when he started thinking about writing and illustrating a book of his own.

When he told his daughter, Alicia, he would like to write a book, she suddenly quoted a passage from a storybook Belair read to her nearly 30 years earlier:

“I eat my peas with honey;

I’ve done it all my life.

It makes the peas taste funny,

But it keeps them on the knife.”

“They were funny lines, but simple,” Belair said. “My impetus was: If my daughter remembers it after 30 years, that’s good enough for me.”

Belair said his biggest inspiration was children’s book writer and illustrator Wallace Tripp, who illustrated an anonymous poem in the children’s book “A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me: A Book of Nonsense Verse.”

“I contacted (Wally Tripp). He’s quite elderly,” Belair said. 

Tripp appreciated the call.

“He loves the book,” Belair said.

“My take is, when children go to bed and are being read to, that leading into the nighttime can be scary. This is meant to be a happy take on it,” Belair said. “It’s a time of bonding between the parent and child. It’s a transition between awake to sleep — a happy transition.”

Belair wrote a second book, geared for older children, about dreaming. It’s called, “Night Pictures Behind My Eyes.” The title is a direct quote from a child, who was trying to describe his dreams to his father. This book hasn’t been published yet.

Belair, 69, who has homes in both Gloucester and Buckland, was a stonemason for 45 years. He is now a massage therapist.

“Through my entire life, I drew out my projects, drew characterizations of my friends,” he wrote on his book. “I drew everything.”

Belair said he developed the ability to observe and define the lines of people’s faces “enough to place them into a scene others would recognize.”

“A Nearly Fractured Tale,” which is self-published, can be purchased online from Amazon.com, from Google Books and as a Kindle edition.

Staff reporter Diane Broncaccio has worked at the Greenfield Recorder since 1988. Her beat includes West County. She can be reached at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or: 413-772-0261, ext. 277.