St. Thomas alum returns with a story

Karen Ritz, professional children's book illustrator, speaks to students

For students at St. Thomas the Apostle School, Mother's Day this year yielded an unexpected treat.

Karen Ritz, St. Thomas alum and prolific children's book illustrator, returned to her Alma mater Friday, May 7, to give a presentation on her art and the illustration business.

Ritz now lives in St. Paul, Minn., where she practices art, teaches and gives presentations like the one at St. Thomas. Students in third grade to eighth grade heard her speak about making illustrations for books.

I really want to talk to them about visual language and how you tell a story in pictures, Ritz said beforehand. "It's probably their only exposure to that and they can apply it to their own work."

Ritz got her start at St. Thomas, drawing in her free time.

"It was my kindergarten teacher that said I was going to be an artist when I grew up," she said. "I was always a voracious reader. Even though I like to draw, it was when I connected the drawing to the written word, that was my inspiration."

"I think its just wonderful when we can have someone like Karen who can come back and visit,' said Principal Thomas Kane. "I hope the children today realize the education they are getting at St. Thomas will stay with them for the rest of their lives and Karen is a reflection of that."

Ritz has illustrated more than 40 books, and recently published her first book that she wrote as well. It's about a family moving from a house to an apartment, from the viewpoint of the family's cat. The story is somewhat autobiographical; Ritz now lives on the 30th floor of a St. Paul apartment building overlooking the Mississippi.

The first printing sold out in just two months.

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