Fall City author takes son through history in new book
October 2, 2008 · Updated 10:46 AM
FALL CITY - Michael Class knows what a 12-year-old boy would say if he were present at the most important historical events of the past 150 years.
He knows because his son Anthony has been there, figuratively speaking.
Michael Class, the pen name for Michael Martucci of Fall City, recently published a book that places his son at events stretching from the 19th century to modern times. Anthony was transported to the historical events with the help of a magical picture frame that he steps through to interact with people like Charles Lindbergh, Jonas Salk and Thomas Edison. After each of his travels, Anthony reflects on what he has learned about life. Michael hopes the reader will learn the same lessons and have as much fun as Anthony did along the way.
"The people of the past have something important to tell us: That the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose, and doing the right thing always matters," Michael wrote on the inside of a preview copy of the book.
The idea for the book germinated in Michael's mind in the 1990s when he was working for Corbis, a stock photo company in Seattle. At the time, Corbis was helping produce a lot of CD-ROM-based educational products that used images to help teach lessons. Michael always believed using photos was a good way to tell a story and thought of it later when he wanted to help chronicle his own family's history.
After Corbis, Michael worked for a company that went public and he earned money to take some time off to work on his family history project, which had evolved into placing Anthony in the family history and, subsequently, in other events, as well. By producing pictures of the events with Anthony in them and having him interact with historical figures, Michael had a character telling stories in a more engaging way than a typical recitation of historical events.
To make the book as historically accurate as possible, Michael set out to get as much original source material and formed the narrative around that. For Anthony's "interview" with Charles Lindbergh, Michael gathered quotes from Lindbergh and arranged Anthony's interview around them.
The book's 312 footnotes lead to extensive forays into the topics cited. A footnote about a strange language Anthony hears while witnessing the Battle of Iwo Jima leads to a whole story about the secret code the American military used based on the Native American Navajo language during World War II.
"I wanted it to be useful in a classroom," Michael said.
Getting quotes from historical figures and, moreover, the permission to use them, made up a bulk of the book's production. The estates of historical figures guard quotes or pictures about them closely and Michael wanted to make sure they would all approve of a story where they interact with, and in some cases pose, with an inquisitive 12-year-old boy.
Michael said the pleasant surprise was that most of what he wanted to use was graciously given to him once people found out what he was doing and saw early proofs of the chapters. Paul Simon let Michael use a quote from his song "Bookends Theme" for virtually nothing, Buzz Aldrin ordered a handful of books for himself to pass out to students and Jonas Salks' son (who is a physician in Seattle) e-mailed Michael telling him how much he liked the depiction of his father.
Each chapter is about a historical event but each also carries a moral message. The chapter about Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic is about perseverance. The story of Lou Gehrig is one of a virtuous life. Anthony's observation of D-Day and the liberation of the Holocaust camps is a testament to reality of evil and the need to fight it.
Michael wanted the book to be visually impressive, though, for its intended audience of adolescents. He went back to Corbis and purchased historical pictures. He then shot photos of Anthony with a blue screen behind him and placed him into the historical shots with the help of the photo editing program, Photoshop. His first tries were so poor that he took classes at the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle to master the program. While he did become proficient at editing photos, Michael estimated he spent about a week on each of the 82 pictures in the book, spending time shading in shadows for Anthony and altering his color to blend in with the black and white or sepia tones of the photos.
In some of the pictures, Anthony is quite prevalent (next to Buzz Aldrin on the moon) and in others, barely visible (on a street corner looking at a bread line during the Great Depression), but he is always there in a kind of "Where's Waldo?" way.
"I'm always the shortest one in the picture," Anthony said.
The final, personal touch to the book is a list of recommended resources for readers interested in learning about the events and times covered in the book. At the end of the book after each chapter's footnotes, Anthony lists things to do and see for more information, from Web sites to movies to monuments. Michael hopes these lists, along with the footnotes, are what will spur readers to do their own research about historical events.
"I want to get a letter from a 15-year-old saying that they liked the book so much they went on to learn about something for themselves," Michael said. "That will be worth all the money I put into it."
A lot of the money went into the final production of "Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame," which turned out to be a hefty, elegantly printed, 225-page coffee table book. To publish the book, Michael started his own publishing company, Magic Picture Frame Studio, and got the tome printed with the help of Marquand Books, a Seattle imprint that produces high-end, illustrated books for subjects such as art and architecture. He has a warehouse in Ohio and a garage in Fall City full of the books and he will start making the rounds this fall to schools in the Snoqualmie Valley School District to see if they would be interested in it. It is available for sale online and should be in some bookstores and on Amazon.com in the future.
Going through the four-year process of researching, writing and publishing a book is both a blessing and a curse for future projects, Michael said, because he knows now what he didn't know then. He left some chapters out of the book so he already has material for a second one. Anthony's sister Angela is excited to co-star with her brother and climb thorough the magic picture frame with him into more adventures, too.
But Michael knows the amount of work that goes into producing a book like "Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame," and while he can avoid some of the frustrations that he went through the first time, he can expect it to still be a lot of work. He remembered a quote he heard from another writer when he thought of the best way to sum up the experience of the book writing process.
"How do you write a book?" Michael asked rhetorically. "You put a blank sheet of paper in front of you and bleed all over it."
* For more information on or to purchase "Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame," ($35, hardcover) call (800) 247-6553 or visit www.magicpictureframe.com.