During my master’s degree, I decided to take one elective outside of my focus on bookbinding and had a very enjoyable summer stitching together books and listening to world history on book craftsmanship. For our final project, we had to create content for the book in addition to the structure. I had just finished a year as a school librarian in Shelbyville, IL and was inspired by my fifth grade classes. During my lesson on evaluating information sources, I showed my students websites with nonsense such as jackalopes or dehydrated H20. When I showed them a website about tree octopuses, not one, not two, but all three of my classes didn’t believe that it was fake. Thus, the inside joke about the Shelbyville Tree Octopus was born. This ridiculous creature is one of many I made up and featured in my field guide.
The content and structure of this book were created by the craftsmanship and imagination of Heidi Uphoff. The content was inspired by the stories Heidi use to tell her elementary school students. The mixture of real and ridiculous, true and whimsical was a lesson on evaluating information. Heidi modeled the book structure after the long stitch book and the “Book with Flap and Closure” found in Bookbinding: Techniques and Projects by Josep Cambras. The collage aspect is made of cutouts from How to Know the Spiders by B.B. Kaston, Field Book of Insects by Frank E. Lutz, A Treasury of Railroad edited by B.A. Botkin and Alvin F. Harlow, Wild Flowers by Homer D. House, and Pioneer Women by Joanna L. Stratton.