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Whitney Library exhibit turns pages of darker kind of children’s book

Good art can be a little dark and disturbing. In the case of a new exhibition at the Whitney Library Gallery, it can also be classified as creepy, spooky, kooky, mysterious and more than a little fun. The show features dark drawings and haunting images, much of them from a new children's book, "The Stumps of Flattop Hill," by Las Vegas-based author Kenneth Kit Lamug.

An opening reception is scheduled from 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 3 at the library, 5175 E. Tropicana Ave.

"When I saw the work, I thought it was perfect for the gallery," said Darren Johnson, gallery services coordinator for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. "It isn't unusual that we see work that is related to a book, but it fits great at the library."

This book isn't the type of children's book such as "The little Engine That Could" or "Green Eggs and Ham," all bright colors and a simple moral. It's creepier and darker — both literally and figuratively — and ends more ambiguously than most children's books. For the right kind of child — or an adult who remains young at heart — it may be just the right sort of book.

"It's a picture book, but it's not for all kids," Lamug said. "There are certain people who might say they don't want their kid to be scared. I look at it as a Grimm's fairy tale kind of book or a campfire story. It is scary. In a way, it is a fairy tale for adults."

The story follows Florence, a little girl who is dared to go into the mysterious house on Flattop Hill. Strange things happen.

"It's kind of a culmination of different things," Lamug said. "I grew up in the Philippines. It's a superstitious culture, a melting pot of local and foreign folk tales. There are different stories of haunted houses, ghosts, monsters and other things. Kids would push each other to dark, weird places to scare each other."

Lamug became a storyteller because of that environment and because he was fascinated with the hero's journey.

"The protagonist would go from their normal world and try to explore and face their fears," Lamug said. "They would go and find the existential truth of whatever their desires or goals are."

The art for the book and on display at the show features dark swatches of black and painstakingly executed crosshatching and subtle tone work.

"He has a real finesse," Johnson said. "I've spent quite a bit of time marveling at the delicate lines and shading he does. There's a funny aspect to his work that is somehow enhanced by the fine lines."

It isn't a surprise that the work is reminiscent of the funny and creepy work by artists such as Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson. Lamug said he was inspired by similar artists.

"As I developed my drawing skill, I was fascinated by Edward Gorey," he said. "This book was greatly influenced by his style and that of Tim Burton, but I wanted to do my own version."

The book is set to be on sale March 16. Lamug said the reaction from his peers and others who have seen advance copies has been overwhelmingly positive. He's gotten quite a bit of feedback from fellow members of Nevada SCBWI, the local branch of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

"The group meets regularly and discuss each other's work," Lamug said. "They bring in big agents, writers, illustrators and art directors to speak. They coordinate with UNLV to get some big names, and they have teachers and budding writers and artists come over."

Lamug doesn't know exactly how long it took him to create the book. Some pages were done in a single night while others took days to finish. He felt the hardest part was planning and laying it out. He's said he's satisfied with the finished work and doesn't see it as a strictly whimsical and creepy book.

"It's about a little girl who explores and faces her fears," Lamug said. "It's up to the reader to decide if the house is haunted or not. Toward the end of the story, if you look at her facial expression, it's not dread. It's a mystery. I think there's more story that isn't in the book that each reader needs to work out for themselves."

The exhibition is set to be on display from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday through May 3 at the Whitney Library. Visit lvccld.org or call 702-507-4010.

For more on Lamug, visit rabbleboy.com.

— To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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