Arts & Entertainment

A book of his own

Herb Leonhard's storybook heroes aren't your average knights in shining armor.

His are lanky, odd-looking heroes with big noses, the Prosser artist and writer said.

Leonhard usually designs and illustrates book jackets for other people, some of whom are famous. For instance, he illustrated the Lyrics book for singer Tori Amos, which was published in 2001.

He's also illustrated books for other writers, as well as a series of eight picture books for the Korean Children's market.

"After spending 24-odd years illustrating children's books for other people, I felt like it was time to do one for myself," Leonhard said.

That book is titled Sir Norman and the Dreaming Dragon. He not only did all the illustrations for the book, he wrote the story as well.

And it's a story perhaps written for all the physically imperfect people in the world like Leonhard himself, he said.

"The story called for a gangly, slightly funny-looking guy with a big nose so, of course, I had to model for him," Leonhard said. "A classic bit of type casting."

He'll sign copies of Sir Norman and the Dreaming Dragon from 2 to 5 p.m. July 26 at Hastings in Richland.

Leonhard whet his imaginative talent as a kid. He was born in Germany but immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 3. The family first settled in Los Angeles but soon moved to Portland, where Leonhard grew up. He earned his bachelor's degree from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in downtown Portland.

He's currently a graphic designer for Sara Nelson Design in Pasco. But freelance graphic design is what he'd really like to do full time. And writing the stories to go with his images makes him even happier.

"I've always liked the idea of people using their special individual talents to solve problems in unexpected ways," Leonhard said. "For instance, the way Sir Norman uses his empathy for the dragon to turn a potentially bad situation into something positive," he said.

Sir Norman and the Dreaming Dragon cries out with chivalry in a sort of 21st century way.

"In the end, it's the princess who saves the knight rather than the other way around. You go girl!" Leonhard joked.

The book was published about a month ago, after he struggled with trying to find a book agent.

"It's quite a learning experience when you're trying to get a book published," he said. "With little response from agents and publishers, I decided to self-publish it."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;