STONINGTON – This is the book that celebrates Mystic from a bird’s eye view. Literally.
That’s the best way to describe Tish Rabe’s ‘Mystic by the Sea is the Best Place to Be’, a new children’s book written from the perspective of a family of gulls and produced to help celebrate the 100th anniversary from the Mystic Bascule Bridge, which was July 19.
The bridge is the oldest drawbridge in the United States. Led by the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, the community has been celebrating the bridge’s centennial since April of this year, including this weekend at the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, and will continue through October 15.
Rabe, a prolific children’s book author and resident of Mystic, contributed to the festivities in her own way. “Mystic by the Sea is the Best Place to Be” was released on July 16, commemorating the bridge and the charming sea town whose two halves it connects.
Rabe had written for Disney, Doctor Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat”, Sesame Street and other popular children’s literature titles and publishers before founding his own publishing company in June 2020. After joining the Greater Mystic Chamber , she was approached in January 2021 by Membership Manager Morgan Yandow to write a book about Mystic.
When Yandow asked Rabe, a family of seagulls flew over Yandow’s head, and Rabe said his mission for the next four and a half months was to present the quirks and attractions of Mystic through the perspective of a family. four seagulls: Mason, the father, named Masons Island; Marina, the mother; Marco, the son, named in honor of the community’s Portuguese fishing heritage; and Misty, the girl, abbreviated from the name of the town.
“She’s a poet and her pages are beautifully illustrated…she brings them to life with the words she chooses,” said Bruce Flax, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber. “Being a resident for 15 years, she clearly knows the area, and that helped her put the words in place because it’s so familiar.
Rabe partnered with Italian illustrator Andrea Boatta for the artwork throughout the book, which blends perfectly with the author’s text.
“(Boatta) could draw animals and buildings, and that’s really the key to a book that involves architecture,” Rabe said. “I kept the text to a minimum, as I wanted to focus on the images. The illustrations in this book are truly spectacular.
As for the animals found in the book, the original plan was to feature sea creatures tied to Mystic’s ocean culture. But Rabe changed his mind.
“I suddenly realized that people come here from everywhere. So we have giraffes on Main Street and sheep at the Seaport, there’s a Koala bear on the rigging of the Charles W. Morgan…it’s a celebration of the diversity of people who come to visit Mystic.
The city’s 350-year history was another powerful source of inspiration for Rabe.
“It’s so family-friendly to walk around showing the kids animals and sailboats. There is a lot to learn about history and the history of seafaring,” she said.
One of the most striking examples of Mystic’s historical heritage is its Bascule Bridge over the Mystic River. Flax teamed up with the Mystic River Historical Society and former Groton Town Mayor Jim Streeter in April to talk about and celebrate the bridge. They were expecting around 50 conference attendees, but to their surprise, more than 200 people showed up to learn more about the landmark.
On June 30, the Chamber celebrated the retirement of veteran bridge operator Rod Coleman.
“We held a ceremony for him at the visitor center, and it was eye-opening, the number of people who came out to support him and the coverage it got. (It was) very emotional,” Flax said.
On Saturday, October 15, the Chamber will hold an official bridge anniversary dedication day, with presentations and speeches from officials and dignitaries on the bridge in the afternoon and food and music along from rue Cottrell at night, complete with a fireworks display on the river around 8 p.m.
“Mystic by the Sea Is the Best Place to Be” is available at Bank Square Books, Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Visitors Center and online at mysticchamber.org. Rabe will also offer a book signing and meet and greet at the Mystic Visitors Center on Tuesday, August 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.