By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Lori Sevener took a page from her Korean ancestry when it came time to celebrate daughter Madelyn's first birthday.
She threw a huge party and, with her brother, Scott, created an elaborate gift: a children's book dedicated to Madelyn.
"Milestone birthdays in Korea are the first and 60th, so I knew I wanted to take a little bit of the Korean tradition and make it this big bash," said Sevener, of Gaylord, who, along with Scott, unveiled "A is for Awesome" at Madelyn's birthday celebration in September. "How many kids can say, 'I had a book written for my birthday?'"
Sevener, 25, is a part-time artist who has collaborated with her brother, a part-time humor columnist in Wesley Chapel, Fla., for more than a decade. Together the two created an online comic strip, "Ink, Pain and Tears," from 2000 to 2006.
"I've been drawing for a very long time," said Sevener, who was born in Incheon, Korea and adopted in northern Michigan when she was 3½ months old. "It all started when I started drawing my childhood dog, Brandy, when I was about 11."
The 32-page children's book is a departure from the pair's usual offbeat cartoon style, Sevener said. It draws on their favorite childhood themes — from monkeys and dinosaurs to ninjas and pizza — to explore the alphabet.
"This was kind of uncharted territory," she said. "It was really neat to be able to take a different path to our art and creativity. Scott and I both have a very dry humor. So it was nice to use the creativity from a children's aspect and be silly and funny in a different way."
Alphabet books can help children attain pre-literacy skills like letter knowledge, print awareness, vocabulary, print motivation, narrative skills and phonological awareness, according to children's authors. A list of Amazon.com alphabet books offers themes based on animals, superheroes, fruits and vegetables, construction, extinct animals, race cars and bugs.
Sevener said "A is for Awesome" was about four months in the making and was completed just hours before Madelyn's birthday party on Sept. 6.
The brother and sister team had a special copy printed at an office supply store and read it for Madelyn and party guests.
"She, being 1, didn't have that much interest," Sevener said, laughing. "She would rather toddle around and meet people."
The celebration was special in more ways than one.
Madelyn received a traditional Korean outfit, or "Doljanchi," to wear on her first birthday from her grandmother in Korea — Sevener's birth mother, with whom she connected about two years ago.
Sevener and her husband, James, also presided over a traditional Korean fortune telling game, or "toljiabee."
"Several items are set out and whatever item Madelyn crawls to first predicts her future," said Sevener, who planned to send her birth mother photos from the celebration.
"She chose the pencil so she'll be a scholar. The other thing she quickly picked up is a paintbrush."
"A is for Awesome" (Comedic-Genius Media, $5.99) is available online at awesomebookseries.com.
Sevener said she and Scott hope it will be the first in a series of "Awesome" books written for each other's children.