West Brownsville mother, daughter collaborate on children’s tale – Tribune-Review

The Monongahela River is very important to the Mitchell family of West Brownsville in Washington County.

Brianne Mitchell’s grandfather had a commercial marina, and her grandmother was a barge cook for years.

“I spent every day in or near the water as a child,� Mitchell said.

The river was the spot husband Herbert G. Mitchell III chose to propose to her.

So when potential publishers wanted to change the river’s name in a children’s book she wrote with her daughter, along with other editing changes she did not agree with, Mitchell balked.

“I created my own publishing company,� she said.

She wanted to use recycled material for the book’s pages and wanted it to be printed in America.

“Some things I was not willing to give up,� Mitchell said.

“I was not trying to make a million dollars. I was looking to do a project with my children,� she said.

“Della and Lila Meet the Monongahela Mermaid� is the first book Mitchell, a former college professor, worked on with Della, 7.

“All I knew was my daughter told me this really cute story. She tells me stories all the time,� Mitchell said.

The mermaid tale in particular caught her attention.

“I thought, ‘Oh, this might make a nice book,’� she said.

The book’s credits include “as told by Della Mitchell� and “arranged by Brianne Mitchell.�

The story is about two sisters meeting a mermaid in the river.

The book includes a history of the Monongahela River, and a full-page color map of southwestern Pennsylvania towns.

It includes Pennsylvania wildlife — bald eagle, white-tailed deer, gray squirrels.

The book teaches its readers about the harmful effects of water pollution. Its characters write to the president in their efforts to save the river.

Principal players in the book include little sister Lila, 4, and some of Della’s classmates, family members and friends.

In addition to capturing her older daughter’s imagination in story form, Mitchell hopes the book will create a spark for other children.

“We want other kids to read and write and publish books,� she said.

“So many little kids see us at book signings or schools and say, ‘I wrote a story,’ or ‘I’m writing a book like Della,’� she said.

Mitchell found Welsh illustrator Sian Bowman online and sent her the manuscript.

Bowman’s contribution of enchanting pastels bring the mermaid’s and the girls’ adventures to life.

The family has held readings at Barnes & Noble Booksellers and their church vendor fair.

In June, the family flew to England and Wales to introduce the book to European readers alongside Bowman.

On Saturday, they plan to ride on a float during the WPXI Holiday Parade in Pittsburgh.

The family has set up a “river fund,� Mitchell said, to use book proceeds to help children in her daughters’ California Area School District who may be in need.

“We just want to use this as a platform for southwestern Pennsylvania. We want to use this to help children and families where we are and where we live,� she said.

The book is available at Barnes & Noble Booksellers and on Amazon.com, and Flowers by Regina in California, Pa.

Two more books, “Della and Lila Go on a Treasure Adventure� and “Della and Lila Meet the Monongahela Monster,� are planned.

“My whole life I always said, ‘I’m going to write a book,’� Mitchell said.

“It’s not a great American novel. It’s not even my idea. My girls inspired me. They were ultimately responsible for it. I just facilitated it,� she said.

Herb Mitchell, along with other family members, all helped to make the book happen, Mitchell said.

“It’s truly a dream come true,� she said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.