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Estuarium hosts signing for children’s estuary book

“Squawk! My name is seagull. Let’s go to the place where the river meets the sea.”

Washington author Billie Mallison is scheduled to sign copies of her children’s book “My ABC & Coloring Book, Our River the Estuary” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The book-signing event coincides with the Washington Garden Club’s annual herb sale.

A combination coloring-and-estuary-facts book, it marries the alphabet with tidbits and scientific facts of estuarine life to give children a fun and informative introduction to the Pamlico estuary.

A is for animals, C is for crabs, E is for eggs — “in spring our water is alive with zillions of tiny eggs” — and Z is for zooplankton, Mallison writes throughout the book’s pages.

Mallison is a lover of all things natural and of the estuary.

“I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. I really wanted to do something to help the river. A lot of people don’t know how important our estuary is,” Mallison said.

Mallison’s fascination with the estuary stems from her years living near Hugh Sterling Sr., an avid naturalist and co-founder of the Bug House, a field museum begun in the 1930s by teenagers who were captivated by the area’s widlife, she said.

Sterling was “my mentor concerning the ways of the Pamlico River,” Mallison writes in her preface.

“When my son was small, we had a neighbor, Hugh Sterling. I called him ‘the old man of the river.’ One day, Mr. Sterling pulled up an eel pot and a net. I was amazed at what was down there,” she said.

The idea for the book has rumbled through Mallison’s head for some time.

“I’ve had it in my mind for a long time. I had to wait for semi-retirement before I could get to it. I had started a book about otters but never finished it. I wanted something more manageable so I came up with the ABC book,” she said.

Mallison is author of and artist for the 36-page coloring book. She hopes to start writing a few short stories about river animals in the near future. She also wants to share what she knows about the estuary with Beaufort County children.

“I want to talk to children’s groups. I want them to know the estuary is a whole world that is right here but we can’t see it because it’s under the water. I want to pass my appreciation of the estuary to the next generation because it was passed on to me. Mr. Sterling just loved the river. I learned so much from him,” Mallison said.

“My ABC & Coloring Book, Our River the Estuary” is priced at $6.95 and available at the Crab Pot Gift Shop in the Estuarium, Historic Bath Visitor Center and River Park North nature center in Greenville.