Rory Haltmaier ’20 Writes Picture Book During Gap Year

Courtesy of Rory Haltmier

After her recent graduation from Andover, Rory Haltmaier ’20 has used her gap year to write a children’s book titled “Backwards Bedtime,” which tells the story of an owl and a bat who meet new creatures during the daytime. Haltmaier first came up with the idea to teach children to be kind to each other despite their differences.

“One day, the idea popped into my head: ‘What if an owl and a bat stayed up all day?’ Then it started morphing into more than just staying up all day and celebrating difference… We’re all struggling with how divided everything is right now. I feel like teaching children in a roundabout way to be kind to each other is always a good message to zero in on,” said Haltmaier. 

Throughout the story, Haltmaier contrasts the differences between animals to highlight diversity and promote respect. In one scene, the animals notice that they have trouble catching insects when they imitate each others’ hunting styles. 

“One of the examples from the book is when Obi the owl and Bitsie the bat go and meet a frog. All of these different creatures catch bugs to eat. The frog uses their tongue. The owl uses their claws and their beak. The owl and the bat try to use their tongues to catch the bugs like a frog, but that strategy doesn’t work for them; they have to use their own way. It’s about respecting each other and thinking what the other creature does is cool,” said Haltmaier. 

Haltmaier first began illustrating her book using PhotoShop, but found that the digital format did not capture her artistic vision and switched mediums midway through illustrating the book. 

“I was missing a hand-drawn quality to [the illustrations], and the vibe wasn’t right. I started experimenting with watercolor, and I fell in love with how the paint laid on the paper and how the coloured pencils showed up on digital scans… It wasn’t all wasted time, because I got all the colour palettes down, I got how to draw all the characters down. That was definitely a roadblock, but it definitely set me on the right path,” said Haltmaier.

At Andover, Haltmaier was an Illustration Editor for The Phillipian. She credits the paper for fostering her growth and creativity as an artist. Haltmaier also reflected on the impactful experience of taking Art-600 her Upper Year. 

“I did a ton of illustrating at Andover, a lot because I was on The Phillipian. Being an Illustration Editor really set me up for churning out illustrations every week and coming with ideas… I also felt like I grew a lot during that year of Art-600 in that we were doing our own projects, and we were very self directed. We had Ms. Zemlin to guide us a bit and each other to critique with, but it was really about our ideas and coming into my own as my [an] artist,” said Haltmaier. 

Although there is still plenty of work to be done, Haltmaier hopes to publish the book this year before entering college. 

“[I’m probably going to publish the book] this year before I head back to school during 2021… I have 40 illustrations that I have to whip out to finish this whole thing… I want to get this book done. It feels daunting at times, with the amount of drawing that I have but I’ll get there,” said Haltmaier.