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Western artist Charles Russell subject of new State Historical Society children’s book

Using history and art, author Emily Crawford Wilson crafts an afternoon of magical mischief, through a modern fairy tale based on the life of Western artist Charles M. Russell (1864–1926). Charlie Russell and the Gnomes of Bull Head Lodge, written by Wilson and illustrated by Montana-based artist Jeanne Bowman, is the most recent children’s picture book available from the South Dakota Historical Society Press.

The story takes place deep in the woods of Glacier National Park, where artist Charlie Russell struggles to create his latest painting. With fellow artist Joe De Yong, he hikes into the wilderness to clear the cobwebs from his mind. Just as the artists disappear from sight, three gnomes—funny little creatures that Charlie built from twisted branches and birch bark—POP! POP! POP! to life. They know how to inspire Charlie’s next masterpiece! Jumping down from the porch, they search the forest floor for just the right thing to jog his imagination.

“Bowman’s illustrations capture the whimsical tale of Charlie Russell’s gnomes in this enchanting story by Emily Crawford Wilson,” says Dedra MacDonald Birzer, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press. “Children and adults alike will delight in this tale of finding inspiration in the strangest of places that also provides a glimpse into an influential artist of the American West.”

Not only did Russell paint, he also used objects he found to create nature-based sculptures. These artifacts of his creative mind, his gnomes, along with the thousands of letters he wrote, helped Wilson develop her story, and she hopes to inspire creativity in its readers. At the back of the book is an author-led “Build-A-Gnome” craft that encourages children to use found objects in constructing their own magical creature. Wilson also provides information relating to the history of Russell.

Wilson and Bowman both share a love of the outdoors and dreams of the magical possibilities found playing in old-growth forests. Wilson is the former Senior Curator of Art at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Mont., where she developed numerous exhibitions of Russell’s artwork and wrote many articles about the landscape and people who influenced him. Bowman studied art at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.

The South Dakota Historical Society Press is committed to producing books reflecting the rich and varied history of the Northern Great Plains. “Charlie Russell and the Gnomes of Bull Head Lodge” is available for $19.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased through most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit or call 605-773-6009. For distribution information, contact Members of the South Dakota State Historical Society receive a 10% discount on book purchases; for membership information, contact or call 605-773-6000.

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

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