Last year was the year of the book in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast. My unofficial tally of books produced from this region in 2012, comes to a baker’s dozen.
Just squeaking in as the 13th title in late December, was the illustrated children’s book, I Don’t Like My Grumpy Face, by author Victoria Greenley, and illustrator Raylene Hale. Both women work in the Williams Lake school system.
As you might expect, Greenley wrote the story first before linking up with the illustrator. Actually, the story is a long poem, which works well for children learning to read.
Greenley is a speech and language assistant in School District 27, working at Cataline and Kwaleen elementary schools this year. She says the use of rhyming words is very important for children to get a better handle on literacy.
Both women credit Maria Lepetich who teaches reading recovery at 150 Mile House Elementary School, for inspiring them.
“I showed my poem to Maria and she encouraged me to publish it. When I asked her if she knew any artists who could illustrate it, she suggested Raylene.”
Ironically Greenley and Hale both knew each other from church. “But I didn’t know Raylene was an artist,” Greenley says.
Next Lepetich put the two women in touch with children’s author Bonita Forsythe of Lac la Hache. “We had coffee with Bonita and she read the draft and looked at Raylene’s sketches and approved,” Greenley says. “She was very generous with her time and knowledge.”
Explaining how the illustrations unfolded, Hale says Greenley gave her the story and they talked about it. “I thought of the image of a laptop computer and doing real things in a computer-based world,” Hale says of the cover showing Joshua, a “super cool guy”, emerging from the screen wearing a frown.
Hale says she and Greenley really worked well together, creating the concepts of the book as they went along. “We decided how old the character might be and the things he could do.”
Greenley says everything Hale thought of, she loved. “I had the idea vision, and Raylene had the picture vision.”
The theme of the book has a positive message that both children and their parents can grasp, Greenley says. “Children can adjust their mindsets to be positive. It encourages kids to think more on the positive and think for themselves.”
Even when Joshua thought he wanted to smile after getting tired of his grumpy face which he put on when told to clean up his room, his smiling face wouldn’t stick until he changed his attitude.
“He learned to see that cleaning his room had something in it for him too,” Greenley points out. “His clean room became a proud place to show to all his friends.”
The two women began working on the project last February, and Hale started creating pencil drawings for the illustrations. Then on the advice of her son, Troy, she bought a Cintiq graphic artist drawing board to attach to her computer. She took photos of each drawing and uploaded the pdf files into the computer and so she could colour them.
“It was a new experience for me,” Hale says. “I’d never used a drawing board before. It’s limitless what you can do.”
Greenley says Hale decided to use the primary colours to make the illustrations stand out. “A lot of people have commented how bright it looks. The illustrations jump out at you. I think the primary colours make it come alive.”
This year several of the schools in School District 27 have gotten into a Positive Action Program and the book ties well into that program. Several of the schools are already using the book.
Greenley says she thought of using emotocons from the computer as a theme for the book. “I thought it might reach the kids that way.”
After searching around for a publisher, the two women decided to self-publish through Trafford Publishing, once a Canadian company based in Victoria. Now however Trafford is based in the United States and that has posed some royalty problems that still need to be worked out. Meanwhile both women are marketing the book themselves by email and on Facebook. Greenley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Hale at email@example.com.
You can find Victoria Greenley on Facebook.
The Williams Lake Library is hosting Greenley and Hale for a special launch and reading of their book on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. Children are invited of course, and the book will be available for purchase.
And yes, Greenley and Hale have another book in the works. It’s called Touched by the Wind with a special focus on children who are hard of hearing or are visually impaired.
“It’s about acceptance,” Greenley says. “The manuscript is already set. It’s also a poem with rhyming words.”
She says Barb Doedel, a teacher with the deaf and hard of hearing, is working with them. “She wants us to meet some of her children.”
Hale, who works as a library aide in three schools, says she and Greenley are having fun launching into another project. “We laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Illustrating children’s books is something I always wanted to do.”