At 71, Lois Joann Witham is getting back to her roots and her childhood.

She has just published her first children’s book titled “The Pork Thieves,” which is a true story passed down in her family for several generations.

The thin book about six children who stay at a farm by themselves one night wraps stories within stories, all of them local legends.

“It is a true story that took place in Maine in 1820,” Witham said. “My great-great-great grandmother was 9 years old.”

Joanne, the great-great-great grandmother, and her brother, stay at the farm and listen to the other children tell stories about Mollyocket, the famous Indian woman who has spawned many myths in these parts. At some point in the night, thieves break into the cellar and steal pork, frightening the children who have been listening to mysterious fables.

The story takes place in this area, and spots like Bethel and Paris Hill are named, but Witham does not place the farm in any particular location. Her words and drawing instead convey the era.

“It shows, in the pictures and stories, how they lived and played and dressed,” said Witham, who did all the illustrations.

Witham’s mother, the one who passed to her so many of the stories, grew up in Oxford, where her grandfather worked as a country doctor. A camp on Thompson Lake has been in Witham’s family since 1890. She now splits her time between Mechanic Falls and Otisfield.

Witham grew up in Reading, Mass., and attended Tufts College. She taught physical education, kindergarten and special education at schools in New England before moving to West Virginia with her husband and family. There, she became a pastor of three Methodist churches.

She moved back to Maine three years ago.

Realizing she liked to create children’s book came as somewhat of a surprise.

“I just started taking art classes last year,” she said. “I liked to dabble in art, but raising a family and working I didn’t have time.” She described her style as “primitive,” a bit like Grandma Moses.

As for writing, she has something of a mission. “Well, I always liked to write, and I always enjoyed humor a bit, and happy endings, so I probably wouldn’t be good with a sad story. But I like uplifting, and kindness, and I want to emphasize the goodness in people and look for the best.”

She said she has another idea for a story, based on her daughter Eleanor. When Eleanor was small, she didn’t like her name, so adopted alternative ones. Finally she ended up with the moniker, “Linda Parsley Violet Snowflake Snow Stewart Colonial Witham.”

That book will be titled, “My name is ___.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.