N is for New Hampshire shows off New Hampshire in a way you probably haven’t seen before.
The alphabet book was written by Rebecca Rule with photos by Scott Snyder, and it’s dedicated to the Old Man of the Mountain. Islandport Press releases it this November, with a book launch at MainStreet BookEnds Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m.
The assignment gave Rule, of Northwood, and Snyder, of Henniker, a place to unleash photos and stories that have been waiting for eyes and ears.
“All my books, really, are receptacles for storytelling. And I’ve been telling stories for a long, long time,” said Rule, a New Hampshire storyteller and author of many books, including three by Islandport Press: The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever!, Live Free and Eat Pie! A Storyteller’s Guide to New Hampshire and Headin’ for the Rhubarb: A New Hampshire Dictionary (well, kinda). “I have so many stories and nowhere to put them. There’s a lot to write about in New Hampshire. … If you live here long enough, you get to learn a lot about it.”
With each letter in the book is a rhyme, photo and 200-word New Hampshire story. “F is for Fairs” is illustrated with a nighttime scene at the Hopkinton State Fair. A blue and white carousel stands in the back, and up front are giant slides and games under carnival lights. The “M is for Maple Syrup” page describes how the sweet stuff is made, and it sits alongside a photo of the Heritage Farm Pancake House in Sanbornton.
Some tell a bit of history, like “L is for Lilac,” which details how the first lilacs in the country were planted by Benning Wentworth in the mid 1700s. Or “C is for Chinook,” New Hampshire’s state dog, first bred in 1917. (It was named after a real dog named Chinook, who led the first dog team up Mount Washington and embarked on a South Pole expedition with explorer Admiral Richard Byrd at age 12, only to walk off into the Antarctic and disappear.)
But Rule said her favorites are the whimsical pages, like “X marks the spot,” which sits along a bright, sunny picture from Star Island and is accompanied by a legend about the Isles of Shoals — the same place, supposedly, where Blackbeard stashed his pirate treasure.
For some letters, she looked to her library of New Hampshire-themed books. Others use tales she’s heard or told before. Some original ideas made the cut and some didn’t, like the yellow snow in her “S is for Snow” rhyme and her “U is for UFO” page. (“I wanted to do ‘B is for Betty and Barney Hill,’ or ‘U is for UFO,’ but we couldn’t seem to get any UFO pictures,” Rule said, laughing.)
On the cover is the image for “J is for Jacob’s Ladder,” about Sylvester Marsh and his quest to build the “impossible railway” from the base to the summit of Mount Washington. Snyder rode the railway in the middle of the summer to get the photos, and when he got to the top, a couple inches of snow sat on the ground. By the afternoon it had melted, and it was 60 degrees the rest of the day.
Other topics include the African Burial Ground in Portsmouth, the 100-plus waterfalls in the Granite State, the tides of Great Bay, the Kancamagus Highway and the Ocean Born Mary, a legendary red-headed ghost whose gravestone (Mary Wallace) stands in Henniker, not far from Snyder’s home.
These new tales startled and delighted Snyder, who traveled from the coast to the Canadian border to photograph. The rest come from his landscape photography portfolio.
“To be able to repurpose those photos to be part of the book was really great,” he said. “The assignment was awesome for me. I don’t often get an assignment where I get to shoot what I want. The only restriction I had was we needed to have things in by deadline. … There were things I had no idea about, even in my hometown.”
Which, Rule said, was one of her goals in creating the book’s text.
“I hope these are stories that will surprise people,” Rule said.