Betsy Mable Peterson and Katie Mable’s new children’s book, “The Orphans and the Oak,” grew from their family’s tradition of gift-giving through art.


The acorn played a central role in the childhood of Betsy Mable, her brother Skip, and their three siblings. Their mother, an artist and teacher, used the acorn (ever present in their front yard on Burr Oak Drive) to teach imaginative problem-solving. “Draw the acorn as if it had a bite taken out of it,” she would charge. Or, “Draw it as if it were smashed,” or “Create it as if you were seeing it from above.”


Skip Mable grew up to be a graphic designer; his sister Betsy became an artist. As a Christmas gift tradition, Skip began creating images that would reflect a significant personal or family milestone that had occurred during the year.


In 2011, the year both their parents died, Betsy and Skip were seeking an image that would honor their parents. One day, both on their computers—-Skip in Lancaster, Penn., Betsy in Perry, Iowa—they joyfully discovered that if you turned an acorn leaf upside down, it became a Christmas tree. And so their Christmas-Oak image to honor their parents was born.


Also born was the children’s book that grew from their experience: “The Orphans and the Oak,” written by Skip’s wife, Katie Mable, and illustrated by Betsy Peterson.


“We finished it in 2011,” remembers Katie Mable. “We shopped it around, looking for a publisher. But we got busy and put it on the back burner.”


On Thanksgiving day, 2018, on his annual Thanksgiving run, Skip Mable collapsed and died.


“A friend told Betsy and me to bring the book to life,” says Katie Mable. “She told us, ‘You need it, your children and grandchildren need it, and others need it too.’”


The book, dedicated to Skip Mable, and Betsy Peterson’s parents, Robert and Marjorie Mable, is available in Perry at Betsy Peterson’s Designs.


Book signings and readings of “The Orphans and the Oak” were held during Art on the Prairie on Nov. 9 and 10.