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Judging a book by its cover

Mary: A Study in Luke 1 and 2 is the second book published by Alexandria author Gretchen Nelson. Her first, The Camels are Coming, is an in-depth study of the 24th book of Genesis and was published in 2009. In Mary, Nelson paints a vivid picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and brings her remarkable and timeless story to life.

Contrary to the old adage, Jessica Larum judges books by the cover - especially when they show her own work.

When Alexandria author Gretchen Nelson asked Larum, an incoming senior at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria, to design the cover of her latest book, Mary: A Study in Luke 1 and 2, Larum felt "very honored."

Nelson and Larum became acquainted at JHS, where Nelson has been a substitute teacher for some of Larum's classes.

Although Nelson had witnessed Larum's talents in art classes, it was an English class that scintillated the idea. While Nelson was substituting, Larum did a presentation on Edgar Allan Poe, in which she interpreted his poetry and transformed it into artwork. Nelson was impressed by Larum's talent, and thus, the relationship began.

Contriving ideas for the artwork for Mary wasn't too difficult, noted Larum.

"She basically told me what she wanted... Simple, primitive and bold," Larum said of Nelson. Larum also created the artwork on the back cover.

The artwork is done in marker, and portrays the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, with the star of Bethlehem shining down on them.

Larum has always entertained an inclination for art, but exploitation of her talents has only picked up recently.

"I started more seriously in 8th grade," she said. "I started selling my work my sophomore year.

"Junior year, it got a little crazy," she added with a smile.

Larum's other passions include playing soccer, hanging out with friends, designing tattoos, and doing portrait work and photography. Another notable accomplishment is a design she created for the Alexandria Area Soccer Association.

In the future, Larum plans to pursue either art or psychology.

"I am very passionate about both," she said.

Whether hobby or career, Larum knows her life story will be interwoven with art.

What: Book signing with author Gretchen Nelson

When: June 30, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Book World, Viking Plaza Mall, Alexandria