A Nature Series cover showing the artwork of James Melvin.

For 30 years Suzanne Tate and James Melvin have had an extraordinary partnership—Suzanne the author for the Suzanne Tate Nature Series and James the artist.

They’re about to celebrate that remarkable professional relationship with retrospective of their work at the Dare County Arts Council Gallery in Manteo.

The retrospective will open this Friday—which is all the first First Friday of the season—at the DCAC. 

The duo will also be introducing the 39th book of the children’s series—Merri-lee Monarch, a Tale of a Big Trip.

This may be one of Suzanne’s most challenging books yet. Not challenging to read—all of her books are outstanding for 3-7 year olds. It is the research that she had to put into the book to make sure that what she was writing was accurate./

Scientific accuracy is a hallmark of the Nature Series. Her first book, Crabby and Nabby tells the tale of blue crabs and how they shed. As research goes, it was a fairly easy book for her to write; at the time she was working with her late husband, Everett, shedding crabs.

Her other books, though, have taken considerable research and she has poured herself into learning about the fish, turtles, tree frogs and butterflies that live in the pages of her books.

The idea for Merri-lee Monarch began when she learned that a group of butterflies migrate between South Nags Head and the mountains of Mexico every year.

Suzanne is both the author and the drive behind the marketing of the books, but the magic for children is, no doubt, the Melvin illustrations. 

Melvin is an extraordinarily talented Outer Banks artist. He and Suzanne became acquainted when Suzanne was selling his prints to gift shops before the first book was written. One of the more striking features of James’ art is how effortlessly he seems to be able to shift styles from landscapes to Caribbean street scenes or to the pages of a children’s book.

Thirty years and 39 books is an amazing achievement. This is one that is worth checking out.