Color your way through Alabama

By JENNIFER COHRON, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 11/26/17

When Laura Murray couldn’t find the coloring book she wanted at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery last year, she went home to Auburn and drew it herself.

The result is “Amazing Alabama: A Coloring Book Journey Through Our 67 Counties.” The county-by-county coloring book was released this month by NewSouth Books.

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Color your way through Alabama

Posted

When Laura Murray couldn’t find the coloring book she wanted at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery last year, she went home to Auburn and drew it herself.

The result is “Amazing Alabama: A Coloring Book Journey Through Our 67 Counties.” The county-by-county coloring book was released this month by NewSouth Books.

Murray, a pen-and-ink illustrator with a background in graphic design, provided sketches of local landmarks in each county as well as text detailing their significance.

The page for Walker County features Jasper’s First United Methodist Church, the Bankhead House and Heritage Center and the Alabama Mining Museum. Murray also included several chickens – an homage to the importance of poultry to the local economy.

Murray, a Georgia native who now lives in Auburn with her husband, children, and two pets, is a collector of coloring books. “Amazing Alabama” is the first of her own design.

She pitched the project to a friend at NewSouth Books after returning from the Alabama Book Festival and received an enthusiastic response based on a handful of sample sketches.

“It was really a book before I had figured out what it was going to be. The companion copy was my husband’s suggestion because somebody from Huntsville would have no idea what I was putting in there for Etowah County. Some things were self-explanatory, but I really felt the little things needed explanation,” Murray said.

She began her research of each county at the Encyclopedia of Alabama, an online resource supported by Auburn University and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

Murray also referred to the National Register of Historic Places and the Alabama Historical Commission’s Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

“The National Register has things that have national significance. The state’s may be a building, but it could also be a site, like the birthplace of Rosa Parks,” she said.

To round out her research, Murray relied on friends and acquaintances around the state to help her decide which landmarks were most significant to the residents of each county.

“Greene County was extremely difficult because they had an overabundance of historic buildings that were registered. I had no idea what to pick. I have a good friend who is a professor at the University of West Alabama. She helped narrow it down,” she said.

While some counties had so many sites to choose from that Murray worried about leaving some out, she struggled to find enough to fill other pages.

For most counties, Murray settled on between three and five landmarks.

“Morgan is probably my favorite in the book. I have six on Morgan County, but most have four. The ones with three were either the more difficult ones or the things were big,” she said.

Murray, whose knowledge of the state was limited to its significance to the space program when she moved from Georgia, learned about several interesting places while working on the coloring book.

Examples include the boll weevil monument in Enterprise and a nearly five-mile wide crater in Wetumpka created by an asteroid that struck the state over 80 million years ago.

Murray was also interested in the cupola on a C.M.E. church in Lowndes County – the only artifact that remains of Alabama’s first capitol building in Cahaba.

“I probably could have done six books if I wanted to get everything in. There are so many incredible things about our state that people don’t know,” Murray said.

Murray began working on the book in May 2016 and finished the final sketches in January.

She spent an additional month working on the text for each page.

The publication of “Amazing Alabama” coincides with the celebration of the state’s bicentennial.

Murray encourages fellow coloring book lovers to consider coloring their way through the state.

A map at the front of the book is ideal for keeping track of which counties one had visited.

“It’s great for someone who doesn’t live in the southern part of the state and wants to learn about the Black Belt, someone who is homebound and can’t travel, kids who are learning Alabama history,” Murray said.

“Amazing Alabama” is possibly the first county-by-county coloring book created for a state, according to Murray.

Her next project is a coloring book for her native Georgia, which will require more of a time commitment than her first coloring book.

“I found out recently that Georgia has the second most number of counties for any state. Alabama has 67. Georgia has 159,” she said.

“Amazing Alabama” is available at major bookstores as well as from NewSouth Books.