J Is For Justify

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Review by Michele Harn

J Is For Justify, by Lesley A.J. Baumann, is an author-illustrated children’s alphabet book that is equal parts pictures and text. Colorful illustrations of 26 famous, and not-so-famous, Thoroughbred race horses, from American Pharoah to Zenyatta, run across a full page, opposite a page with poetry about each horse’s history. The illustrations are Baumann’s detailed horse drawings, and the colorful background patterns are derived from the jockey’s silks.

Anecdotes about the horses include details about 2018 Kentucky Derby winner Justify’s knack for achieving impossible goals; Rachel Alexandra’s ability to outrun the boys; and the fact that Secretariat’s heart was twice as large as that of a normal horse. There are details about the horses’ birthdays and which ones won the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown. 

How did Bauman come to publish this book? Sometimes an idea ruminates for a while before seeing the light of day. Bauman’s idea to write and illustrate a book was her companion for many years. But what would be the topic?  She tells of folding a piece of paper and writing all the alphabet letters on it, but “I don’t think I can think of Thoroughbred names for all the letters,” she told herself. “When I did (think of all the names), then I researched the jockey silks, colors, etc.” At that point Lesley just started, and J is for Justify became the name of that book.

With a degree in Graphic Design, Lesley deviated from her usual media and created all the images with her iPad. Her 20 years as a graphic designer and time spent working for a book printer during college gave her all the tools she would need – plus the Apple Pencil, which she describes as a breakthrough for computer drawing. She would learn the other skills needed by a self-published author along the journey.

The 26 digitally created images of running horses become a motion picture when you flip quickly through the pages. See that action and find more about the book at: https://jisforjustify.com/ 

Its timely publication in May 2019, right after Justify won the Triple Crown, earned it a place on the shelf at race track gift shops, such as Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.

The moment she first held the printed book in her hand it “felt brand new!” she said. “And to see my son lay on the floor and read it…” her thoughts trailed off to that sweet memory.

There will be more books to come. The next will likely be inspired by her Saddlebred horse, Clever. But there are also many more Thoroughbred racing stories to discover.

Find more information about the book at jisforjustify.com. A companion coloring book is also available at the book’s website.

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