Some of the state’s most recognizable landmarks make an appearance in “Amazing Alabama,” a coloring book by Georgia-based illustrator Laura Murray.
The work, published by Montgomery-based NewSouth Books, dedicates a page to each of Alabama’s 67 counties, and includes agricultural, historical and cultural iconography from Calhoun and Cleburne counties.
A coloring book collector, Murray was inspired to pursue the project when she realized she was unable to track down a coloring book about the state at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery two years ago.
“If I wanted one, there had to be somebody else who wanted one, too,” she said. “I am 40 years old and I still buy coloring books today. I don’t always color in them; I just love the way they look.”
Murray said she began work on the project almost immediately after she returned home from the Book Festival. That was in the spring of 2016. The book was published in November 2017.
The longleaf pine, the Dr. Francis Medical Museum and The Anniston Star are among the features highlighted on the Calhoun County page.
“I had to have The Anniston Star, and I was absolutely in love with that little doctor’s office there in Jacksonville,” Murray said. “I feel like The Anniston Star has really been a great political voice here in our state, and it has such a great history.”
The Cleburne County page includes Cheaha State Park, shape-note singing and a nod to wine-making. Murray said she was fascinated by the Cleburne County town of Fruithurst and captivated by the tradition of Sacred Harp singing, a musical tradition that is practiced in Cleburne County and attracts people from across the country to Alabama.
“I think that is the most hypnotically beautiful sound,” she said.
To determine which of each county’s attractions to include in the book, Murray traveled Alabama’s backroads and relied on insight from friends in the state. She also scoured the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, examined the National Register of Historic Places, and reviewed the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Murray said she was careful to exclude references to battle sites and to highlight the state’s role in the civil rights movement. For example, she excluded Fort Mims, the site of a Native American massacre in Baldwin County, and redrew the Chilton County page to include airplane hangars used by the Tuskegee Airmen.
“I tried really hard to put things that people will be proud of if they are from that area,” Murray said.
Now that the book is published, Murray said she is using social media to connect with people who are using the book.
In one instance, she said, she connected with someone who was keeping the book in their camper and coloring the page for the county they were visiting as they traveled.
Moving forward, Murray plans to publish more books like “Amazing Alabama.”
“This is one of those things I never planned on doing, and I loved it,” she said. “I’m working on a Georgia version, and I have, like, four other books I have in my head.”
“Amazing Alabama” is available at bookstores throughout the state, or online at Amazon or NewSouthBooks.com.