Louisville Magazine

JAN 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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82 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 1.19 ARTS Back in Time Memories of Portland. James Higdon, a journalist and the author of The Cornbread Mafia, has written a new book, The Nearly Forgotten History of Portland, Kentucky, which is a narrative look at the Portland neighborhood pre- 1900. We had a quick chat with Higdon, who told us a story about Charles Dickens visiting Louisville and meeting the 7-foot-8-inch Jim Porter, purported to be the tallest man in the world at the time. Dickens wrote that Porter showed him a gun he'd made that was as long as Porter was tall. READ NEAT Making Us Believe A creative benefactor turns kids into authors. Morgan Villanova would tell you she wasn't sick. Freshly five years old with a five-pound Wilms' tumor on her right kidney, she didn't understand why she couldn't go to friends' parties, or why kindergarten moved from school to home, with Mr. Davis dropping in to teach reading and writing. During six months of post-surgery chemotherapy, she'd make books. Simple, on construction paper. She'd write about Christmas trees, magic chairs, having cancer. Her mom, Denise, who'd had to leave her job as a preschool teacher, would take Morgan to doctors' appointments while Dad brought home $450 every two weeks as a contractor for LG&E. Money was tight when the Villanovas met Jason Howlett, the founder of Make Believe Book Company. The organization creates self-published books written by children with life-threatening illnesses; they receive 51 percent of profits to help cover medical costs. A graphic designer by trade, Howlett started the company in 2017 after watching a local news story about a boy with terminal brain cancer and his single mom of three who was financially struggling. "I donated to their GoFundMe, but I knew she needed more help than that," the 38-year-old says. "I was eager to figure out a solution that could reach a bigger audience to provide the family a more perpetual income. I also wanted to make an activity that isn't so focused on (the sick child's) affliction, but on the great things they can do." Morgan was the second child Howlett worked with. (The first was a 10-year-old family friend named Miley Hodge, who's been battling cancer since five and has had a leg amputated.) Howlett interviewed Morgan about her story (the characters, what happens next, the knock-knock jokes) and then shaped it into a book about Guitarman and the Girl Who Defeats Villains, who together rescue the funny pizza delivery guy, Justin — named after Bieber, of course. (You can find Morgan's book and Miley's — about two girls in Paris — online, at the Flea Off Market or at pop-ups at Pottery Barn Kids.) Howlett used stock images for the buff bodies, comic-book bubbles for BANG! and POW! "I have grander plans of expanding our illustrations to work with local artists," he says. "And working with as many kids as we can." Now eight years old and two years cancer-free, Morgan plays soccer and baseball, dances hip-hop and tries to keep her Pokémon cards away from her sister, Maddie. She says the message of her story is: "Have fun and be brave." — Arielle Christian

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