Our thirty-fourth President, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), who spent his childhood in Abilene, has receded into history for most Kansans, even those who lived under his two terms as President, from 1953-1961.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower was the Baby Boomers’ President.  Although a Republican, and a professed conservative, he continued all of the significant New Deal programs put in place by Franklin D. Roosevelt, especially Social Security, which he expanded to cover millions more Americans. Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states under his administration,

Eisenhower oversaw the rise of the “military-industrial complex,” including the massive Interstate Highway System, begun in 1956.  His interventionist “Eisenhower Doctrine” had profound consequences for foreign policy up to the present day.

He was the first media-friendly President who enjoyed the press and TV coverage of his passion for golf.

In all, he was fortunate enough to serve as President during a long period of growth and stability in the United States, and though he left office somewhat unpopular with the public, his reputation has improved, and recent surveys rank him among the most popular of all past Presidents.

Roy Bird, the Director of the Kansas Center for the Book at the State Library of Kansas, has written a non-fiction picture book celebrating the early years of the military hero who became President, titled Little Ike: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Abilene Boyhood.

"Little Ike" Eisenhower

Eisenhower’s childhood in Kansas has never been the subject of an entire book before, and author Bird is working with Sherri Rowe of Rowe Publishing on the book, which is due out this fall. Roy has asked Gwen Battis of Silver Lake to be the book’s illustrator.

Gwen Battis

Gwen is the former Director of Silver Lake Library, and currently the Assistant Director, having stepped down from the top job last year.

Gwen is a talented illustrator who was thrilled to be invited to collaborate on the Eisenhower project. “I am excited about this opportunity to work with Roy and jump back into illustrating!”

Gwen notes that she has done quite a bit of research already, visiting the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, and getting reference pictures from Old Town in Abilene, where he grew up. “I need to get some reference shots of key buildings in the city that were there in the time of Little Ike.  I find that I enjoy creating the artwork, but also all I learn on a project like this.”

“I will send sketches to Roy to find out if they are what he is thinking and he will OK them or suggest other scenes that he may be picturing in his mind.  After the sketches are confirmed, I will begin coloring in the pictures using watercolor and colored pencil.  I will then have them scanned in a high resolution file to send to Rowe Publishing.”

“I am mostly self-taught and have worked in graphite pencil until, as an adult, I tried a watercolor class and started to work with color. Now that I’ve discovered colored pencil and pastels, I really enjoy color…but oh, so many choices!”






Above are some examples of Gwen’s work. It’s easy to see why Roy asked her to illustrate Little Ike.  More of Gwen’s art can be seen at www.artwanted.com/gwenbattis