Children's book dynamic duo

Illustrator Lily Winans and author Molly Gebler have teamed up to create “Blossom,” the first in a series of five books based on local Chagrin Falls traditions. Lily, 15, is a freshman at Chagrin Falls High School. 

Friends and fans of Molly Gebler say she has more ideas per minute than most people have in a year, and this week she proved them right with the May 1 release of her latest brainstorm, a children’s book based on the beloved Blossom Time hot air balloon races.

The brightly illustrated soft-bound, 30-page edition is titled simply “Blossom,” the story of an un-piloted balloon of the same name and what happens after she makes an unscheduled landing in Chagrin Falls’ Riverside Park.

Readers thinking this is the story of how the balloon event got its start would be correct. In truth it was local balloon pilot Dr. Bill Lavigna who introduced the event and made it part of Blossom Time in 1989.

Mrs. Gebler’s “Blossom” is the first of five books she is planning, each based on a local tradition, of which there are many, she points out.

Each new book will publish around the time the tradition occurs. Mrs. Gebler is keeping the subjects of those books under wraps until their release.

She adds readers may recognize some of the characters introduced in the story along with illustrated views of the village everyone will recognize.

“Blossom” has been marinating in the author’s imagination for quite some time and written three years ago but nothing happened to move the project forward because Mrs. Gebler could not find someone to illustrate it.

Enter Lily Winans, an about-to-be sophomore at Chagrin Falls High School, and who, some might argue, is not too much past the age of Blossom’s target audience.

“I needed someone local who understood the traditions that I was writing about and I see the amazing talent in the local schools all the time, so I reached out to the art teachers and they directed me to the perfect candidate,” Mrs. Gebler said.

“I met with Lily to interview her and review her portfolio. There was a certain look I wanted for the books and remember the chills I got the moment I turned the page in her portfolio and saw the style I envision,” she said. “I knew she was my illustrator.”

Mrs. Gebler said she asked Lily then and there if she wanted to be a published illustrator at the age of 15. The answer was an unqualified yes.

When her teacher announced the project in class, Lily said she jumped at the opportunity to apply.

“No one else seemed very interested, but I thought it would be a great opportunity so I contacted Molly who felt that my stylized drawings with bright color schemes and simple designs would fit the book very well.”

Amazingly, this is not Lily’s first professional illustrating job. “When I was 14, I did a small illustration job for a man who wanted ten drawings for an instructional handbook for a product he invented.

“A tool to clean cloth diapers,” she said.

Lily added that it was not as much fun as illustrating “Blossom.”

Mrs. Gebler’s description of how she saw Blossom were not difficult to transfer to paper because “she has such a distinct, playful personality,” the young illustrator noted.

She plans to study graphic design in college with hopes of one day opening her own studio.

Mrs. Gebler said in addition to the illustrator, she stayed local for the publisher, hiring Ron Humphry and his Windjammer Adventure Publishing group.

“Ron was amazing. Consider this was my first go at this, he walked Lily and me through each step so the next one (book) will be a breeze.”

Editor on the project was Chagrin Falls High School Alumni Rob Bryant. Together Mrs. Gebler calls Lily, Ron and Rob her “dream team.”

Mrs. Gebler said publication of “Blossom” is made more meaningful now that she is a new grandmother of infant twins Johnny and Mary.

“I’ve read it to them, and they really loved it,” she quipped.

With Blossom now launched, Mrs. Gebler is at work producing the next tradition book which remains untitled for now. “Poor Lily, she no sooner got done with ‘Blossom’ then I handed her this next one.”

“Blossom” is available through Mrs. Gebler’s website and is $12.95. The author and illustrator will hold a signing party during the Balloon Glow event on the Friday night of the Blossom Time weekend.

When not authoring books, Mrs. Gebler is executive director of the Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce.


A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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