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Making kids laugh -- au Francais

When Sarah Hornisch finished her high school studies in December of 2006 she found herself uncertain what she wanted to do with her life. Rushing off to college with her Rosemount High School classmates, she figured, would be a waste of time and money.

So, Hornisch decided to take a year off and focus on her passion: Art. It's a common story, but what sets Hornisch apart from crowds of high school graduates who take time off to "find themselves" is what she's accomplished since leaving RHS.

Late last year Hornisch self-published her first children's book. In French.

"I've always wanted to write children's books," Hornisch said. "I like being able to make little kids smile and laugh. I have a couple little sisters. I get to try out the book and illustrations and if they like it, it's a success."

Hornisch's book actually started as a project for a French III class at RHS. The story is about a "manipulative French girl" who brings home increasingly inappropriate pets in an attempt to convince her parents to let her have a kitten.

RHS French teacher Cristina Sturm has been assigning the children's book project to her French III students for the past four or five years but she borrowed the idea from a former teacher at the school.

"Most of the job (was) already done, so I could just get my hand on how to publish a book without having to do the illustrations and come up with the storyline from scratch. I had it waiting. I think at the time I wrote it it was in the back of my mind I might do this someday."

To put together the book Hornisch scanned her illustrations into a computer and laid out each page. She visited her high school French teachers to make sure the grammar was all just right.

Hornisch sent the files to a printing company in Chicago and had 100 printed. Getting the finished books back was a thrill, she said.

"I was very excited," she said. "It's great. Now I can try to hawk them out to publishers. If I want to I can distribute them more widely than just selling them out of my hand. I think, too, because it's written in French, I'm going to see if I can get it into the French immersion schools."

Sturm called Hornisch's book "outstanding" and plans to buy one to someday share with her grandchildren. She believes the book will be popular among French teachers.

Hornisch knows the market for a book in French is more limited than it would be had she written in English, but she's OK with that.

"I don't think I'll ever be in it for just the profit," she said. "Certainly, for a French book, the market is going to be French students or maybe parents who took French when they were in school and want to pass them down to their children."

Other projects

Hornisch has found other art projects to keep her busy, too. She's been painting scenes inspired by photos from the North Shore and turning them into note cards she sold to a gift shop in northern Minnesota. She said she still hasn't made any decisions about college.