Deanna Volz has a story to tell that may one day become a children’s book.
Right now some illustrations from her Wittenberg University senior thesis “Let’s find the Yokai” are on display at Bowlby Library in Waynesburg as part of her art exhibition that will run until the last week of March. The storyline and illustrations are compelling.
“Yokai is the Japanese word for beast or monster,” she explained, pointing to a pencil drawing of a Japanese boy and a fox. Not just any fox – a two tailed Yokai.
The story is about a boy and his mom who travel together to find Yokais all over Japan. It’s a story she made up herself, based on legends from the country she visited during her junior year at university.
Volz said she watched Anime cartoons as a kid growing up on a farm in Marianna, where her family still calls home. The cartoons have English voiceovers, but the opening credits are in Japanese. Her love affair with the language “started with the way they pronounced words.”
She credits her mom with noticing her interest and finding Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minn., that would give Volz a summer of immersion in Japanese with native speakers and college language majors when she was 16. In 2014, Volz chose Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, because they offered Japanese, art and creative writing.
Volz studied in Japan her junior year, learned Kansai, a regional dialect and was encouraged by her language professor when she returned to illustrate her senior thesis. Volz is enrolled in the children’s book illustration certificate program at Hollins University and took the job as a literacy specialist and organizer at Bowlby Library last September. Through the library, Volz offers art classes to kids age 8 to 12 every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and tutors elementary students in literacy, along with appointments for tutoring older kids.
Volz can still be found in the children’s department during library hours, but not for long. On March 23, she is heading back to Japan to teach English as a second language for a year, possibly two, with Altia Central.
“I’ll be Skyping and sending postcards to Bowlby,” she said, noting that this is a chance for kids to learn another culture through her experiences.
The library is hosting a reception with refreshments for the exhibition on Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, call the library at 724-627-9776.