The book was inspired by a larger effort from the grassroots group Bring Back the Kern to raise awareness about Bakersfield’s mostly dry river and efforts to revive a more regular flow of water through town.
“The bigger picture is, we’re not just making a book. This is an educational tool and a way to get kids passionate about this project,” said Indy illustrator Jennifer Williams-Cordova in reference to the larger river efforts.
When Bring Back the Kern brought the idea to author Teresa Adamo and Williams-Cordova, “The things they were talking about really resonated with us,” Adamo said. “We want kids and families to understand the value of a running river and the benefits that brings to the community and the environment.”
Of course, this is a children’s book so doesn’t wade into the byzantine rights structure and legal issues surrounding the river.
It’s a tour from the river’s mountain origins all the way to the Buena Vista Lake Aquatic Recreation Area west of Bakersfield.
Cute animal characters lead the tour, accompanied by “sing-songy,” easy-to-follow prose.
“It’s our utopian version of the river,” Adamo said.
The idea for the book came from Bring Back the Kern, which has been pushing on multiple fronts to increase community awareness and appreciation of the river as well as pressure the state Water Resources Control Board to deed some portion of the river back to the public to run in the river bed.
In 2010, the state board determined there is unappropriated water on the river but hasn’t said how much or who should get that water. Several different entities applied for the water with the City of Bakersfield pledging to run it down the riverbed through town. Bring Back the Kern has appeared repeatedly before the state board in the past year asking for a hearing and for the board to give any available water to the city for use in the riverbed.
The state board recently announced it will begin the hearing process on the Kern River. A date has not been set for the first hearing.
That’s not part of the “The Mighty Kern’s” story, but some of the river’s history and legal issues are captured in a foreword written by Bring Back the Kern.
The group is promoting the book as a way for “readers, young and old alike, to envision a flowing river ‘year-round.'”
This is the first time creators of the “Indy” book series have used Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding platform for creative projects.
Until now, the Indy books were created, written, illustrated and published by Adamo and Williams-Cordova at their own cost. As the books have sold, those proceeds funded creation of the next book.
So crowdfunding is new to the duo.
Their goal is to raise $6,500 by May 23. The way Kickstarter works, if they don’t hit that goal, they won’t get the money and funders will get their donations back.
Cost of the book is $15. Each book will include a fold-out map of the river. And Williams-Cordova and Adamo have added some fun “extras” to entice more donations, including having a person illustrated into the book in one fishing scene, or having someone’s name painted on the side of a ski boat. They expect to get the book out to buyers by Aug. 1.
“People have told us they would love to be in one of our next books, so we’ve reserved some characters if someone wants to buy a gift for their grandpa or someone else,” said Adamo.
And where’s Indy, Adamo’s shelter dog who inspired the series, in all of this?
“She does make an appearance,” Adamo said.
Indy, a “s’medium” sized poodle-ish dog, was abandoned at Yokuts Park along the river and rescued by Kern County Animal Services where Adamo and her husband, photographer Felix Adamo, adopted her in 2008.