When Anna and Bobby closed their eyes to make a birthday wish on December 11, a birthday shared with the state of Indiana, they had no idea of the adventure that would ensue.

What happened next to the two 10-year-old book characters set them on a historical quest—they travel back in time with Native American leader Tecumseh to experience firsthand the history of Indiana, which became a state in 1816.
Bobby, a character in "The Gifts of Indiana," meets President Benjamin Harrison. Artwork by Taylor Bowen '18

Their story, in the children’s book “The Gifts of Indiana: A Tale of Three Birthdays and One Grand Adventure,” aims to introduce fourth-grade students to integral people and events in Indiana’s history, such as Eli Lilly, Benjamin Harrison, Madame C.J. Walker, and the Indianapolis 500.

The book, set to be published this spring, is a collaborative project among Butler University undergraduate students.

The project began with the goal of helping young students engage with state history to celebrate the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial anniversary. The State Bicentennial Commission endorses the project and will support the publication and distribution of the book to fourth-graders across Indiana.

Katy English ’15, Education major and one of the authors, said preparing the manuscript for the children’s book required more than just writing.

English said she worked with other student writers to research Indiana history and interview experts to determine which famous Hoosiers to include in the book.

“I really liked the creative writing part,” she said. “It’s something you don’t get to do much of in college. It also opened up a lot of connections for me in education and other things, like Indiana history, when we did research. I found a lot of great resources for me as a teacher.”

Catherine Pangan, College of Education Associate Professor and book project adviser, said students from four of Butler’s academic colleges worked together to write, illustrate, publish, and distribute the book—Eileen Carroll, sixth-year Pharmacy student; Annie Luc, senior Education major; Matt O’Brien, senior Education major; Katy English, senior Education major; Kim Van Wyk, senior Education major; Catrina Cranfill, senior Marketing major; Chloe Pahl, junior Marketing major; and Taylor Bowen, a freshman Art + Design major.

“The people working to publish this book are reflective of everything we do at Butler,” Pangan said. “We have the artists and the innovators, the educators, and the business people. We need representation from everybody to bring this book to life.”

Catrina Cranfill, a senior Business Marketing major, said the book project would not be possible without the collaboration of Butler’s academic colleges.

“We need all of these different minds,” Cranfill said. “I might not get the art or the writing, but we have artists and authors. It’s creating a whole piece.”

Cranfill handles the marketing and communications function for the project. Much of her work focuses on brand development and fundraising.

A fundraising campaign for the book on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo went live in late November, and the campaign closed on January 3 with almost $2,000 in donations.

Book presale is now open at the Gifts of Indiana website for $10 per copy or $200 for a 25-copy classroom set. (Buy the book here.)

Pangan said the goal is to place the book in the hands of all fourth-graders in Indiana. As the 2016 Bicentennial celebration nears, she said she cannot wait to see Indiana youth inspired by history that Butler students curated.

“I feel like I can already see how excited fourth-graders will be as they read this book together,” Pangan, a former fourth-grade teacher, said. “We are really going to make history come alive in the imaginations of these students.”