The Times photo by Betsy ReasonAuthor Jeanna James (right) and illustrator Sammy Shertzer will sign copies of their new book, “Seas Apart,” Saturday at Barnes and Noble in Noblesville.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Author Jeanna James (right) and illustrator Sammy Shertzer will sign copies of their new book, “Seas Apart,” Saturday at Barnes and Noble in Noblesville.
Noblesville's Jeanna Janes got a wake-up call when her grandfather died four years ago. A mason by trade, he had hoped that she would use her creativity and become a painter. Even though she wanted to be an actor.

Instead, she found herself sitting in the hallways of Noblesville's White River Elementary, reading with students.

"It inspired me to hear their feedback, their inspirations and interests," said Jeanna, 44, who channeled her creativity into writing "Seas Apart," a mystery-adventure book for middle-grade students.

She didn't have a lot of confidence as she developed her storyline. But with support from White River's teachers and staff, Jeanna was on her way to publishing her first book.

The Kentucky native moved to Noblesville in 2004. She and her husband, Brian, have two sons Cole, 14, a Noblesville High School freshman, and Clay, 11, a Noblesville East sixth-grader.

A volunteer and past PTO president at White River, where she led a book club, Jeanna asked her fifth-graders to read her story and confirm her hopes, that she "created was something that most children would love."

The book, targeted to ages 9-14, is an adventure about a boy and a girl who are tracking clues about a mysterious ancestor.

"I'll never forget expecting half of them to quit reading it, quit coming to book club, or worse, tell me they hated it," Jeanna said. But to the contrary, "They loved 'Seas Apart,' all of them, and that is precisely when I knew I had to get it published."

Dialogue was "tricky," said Jeanna, who had to explain the meaning of a few words in the book to her son, who read the book when he was younger, when she was writing the story.

But her greatest challenge would be visual, or showing the story as she told it. Until she found 14-year-old Sammy Shertzer, a Noblesville High School freshman art student whose mom, Amy Shertzer, was friends with Jeanna.

Sammy created 42 "chapter pictures," plus a picture for the prologue, a two-page map inside and the cover art. "She has a natural ability that's developed as she's gotten older," Jeanna said. "I have been so impressed, not only with her skill and ability, but with her passion to make her artwork perfect, the best that she can do."

Sammy has been drawing since she was "really little" and takes art classes with art teacher Dennis Scheele at NHS. She loves art and music, plays clarinet in her school's marching band and is in drama club.

Jeanna's greatest passion is to motivate kids to read. She has also met with fourth-graders at Hinkle Creek Elementary and has four more school visits scheduled for spring. She likes to show students the artwork that Sammy creates and then asks the students to tell what they think the story is about. "It is so fun seeing what they come up with and also to see them engaged and using their imagination."

They will sign copies of their book from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday during White River's book fair at Noblesville's Barnes & Noble, where the book is for sale. Teachers will read stories, and there will be a scavenger hunt and a craft area.

The book is also available at The Wild Bookstore in downtown Noblesville and on

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