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‘Murphy the Manatee Visits Memphis’

  • Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom


As fishermen go, James Jackson fits into the avid category. What he and a friend happened upon while fishing along the banks of the Mississippi River has evolved into a children’s tale.

by Joyce Douglas
Special to the Tri-State Defender

As fishermen go, James Jackson fits into the avid category. What he and a friend happened upon while fishing along the banks of the Mississippi River has evolved into a children’s tale that had a lot folks – parents and children – trying to catch up with him last Saturday (March 17).

As an author, Erin Thorpe is committed to expanding young minds through reading. (Photos by Isaac Singleton)

‘Murphy the Manatee Visits Memphis’ was a team effort involving (l-r) the central character’s creator, James Jackson, the book’s author, Erin Thorpe, Lonnie Robinson, who digitally designed and illustrated the self-published work, and illustrator Lana Andrade, who was unable to attend the March 17 book signing at the Memphis Children’s Museum.

James Jackson (right) went fishing, found a manatee and eventually reeled in a children’s book. One young lady reads the book at a recent book signing.

The venue was the Memphis Children’s Museum and the draw was a book signing for “Murphy the Manatee Visits Memphis,” which is a new children’s book loosely based on the real-life event with which Jackson has become inextricably intertwined.

Jackson, a native Memphian and an Army veteran, and his fishing buddy discovered a live manatee stuck in the shallow waters near the bank. The unusual discovery netted national media attention, including an attempt from wildlife organizations to save the manatee.

The experience was both interesting and intense. So much so that Jackson thought it would be priceless to have the incident creatively captured and enhanced in a colorful children’s book. He needed a team.

The need gave way to a collaboration involving Jackson, the author, Erin Thorpe, and two multi-talented artists – Lana Andrade and Lonnie Robinson.

During Saturday’s book-signing event, children were entertained by Thorpe’s readings, which included Murphy the manatee’s incredible journey to Memphis and his meanderings throughout the city.

“Although Murphy is an adventurous and fun loving character, he believes in the impossible and never gives up on his dreams,” said Jackson, the father of seven children.

Thorpe enjoys her daily commitment as the teaching principal/director of 1st Class Montessori School in Midtown. Her love for expanding young minds led her to write a children’s book during her undergraduate studies at the University of Tampa. Thorpe, who is married and has a son, is awaiting the arrival of her second child.

Andrade is a native Memphian and University of Memphis alumnus. She is a freelance illustrator and caricature artist.

“Murphy the Manatee Visits Memphis” was designed and digitally illustrated by Robinson, also a native of Memphis. He is an alumnus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and recognized nationally as an artist, art director and graphic designer.

Self-published through AuthorHouse, “Murphy the Manatee” visits Memphis is available online at www.amazon.com.



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