Willie Sellars and Kevin Easthope are thrilled and humbled to learn that their children’s book Dipnetting with Dad won the Gold Medal for the Moonbeam Award’s Best First Picture Book.
“We are excited and humbled trying to take it all in,” Sellars says.
For eight weeks in January and February Sellars and Easthope visited 76 schools around the province giving presentations with the book, and introduced the book at another 144 book launches.
“It was a lot of fun to do that,” Sellars says. “I am super proud of the book and the recognition it has received.”
Easthope says talking with students and teachers on those school visits finalized his goal of returning to school to become a teacher. He is now working on his teaching certification at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.
“It was a very worthwhile project,” Easthope says. “The award feels really good and makes me feel like more of an accomplished artist.”
Set in the Cariboo Chilcotin Dipnetting With Dad, published by Caitlin Press, is a delightful and colourful story of a father teaching his son the Secwepemc method of fishing known as dipnetting.
Together they visit the sweat lodge, mend the nets, select the best fishing spot, and catch and pack their fish through rugged bush back to the family home for traditional preparation.
Easthope’s contemporary and dynamic illustrations bring the characters to life as they jump off the page and pull you into their world.
Easthope says he developed the characters in the book working from photographs of Sellars’ family. His artistic process involves numerous drafts and redrawing the characters and scenes until he gets them just right.
Sellars says there isn’t enough First Nations literature in schools now and he encourages other First Nations people to be proud of where they are from, tell their stories and get them out there for the public to read.
There are so many positive stories that can be told about First Nation cultural traditions such as the powwow and hunting methods, he noted.
“People will pay to hear our stories. That is what we are finding with the success of this book,” Sellars says.
Easthope is happy that the Moonbeam award is a U.S. award which brings international attention to the First Nations culture in Canada and will hopefully expand the horizons of where Dipnetting with Dad with reach young readers.
He says Dipnetting with Dad helps to inspire confidence in First Nations children that they can accomplish a lot in their lives and overcome any frustrations that may come their way.
Sellars and Easthope have a few more books in mind but developing them will take time between their current work and school commitments.
Sellars is in his second term as councillor with the Williams Lake Indian Band.
He is married with two children and also keeps himself busy practicing his culture and playing sports.
Easthope was born and raised in Williams Lake and attended UBC Okanagan where he graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2008. He is both an artist and musician, and a forest firefighter.
Some of Easthope’s other art work can be seen this month at the Station House Gallery where he is among 16 artists featured in the show Into the Wind, all about the art of motorcycle culture.
Although he was away at school and unable to attend the opening his new wife of just two weeks, Natalie Easthope, was there to represent him.
Dipnetting with Dad, was also a 2014 Ontario Library Association “Best Bet” and was shortlisted for a Shining Willow Award and a Chocolate Lily Award.
Dipnetting with Dad is also on Facebook.