Thursday, September 6, 2012

"The Home Team" Hits the Ice

I got my copies yesterday of The Home Team, just off the presses from Friesens' in Altona. This my latest children's picture book and is published by Always Books and commissioned by the Winnipeg Jets. I must say, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out... sure, I'm a bit biased, but there it is.

Working on The Home Team with author Holly Preston was great, and included a road trip to Canada's heartland. We spent a few mid-winter days in Winnipeg (February, to be precise), exploring sites that were to play a role in the story. We walked up and down the frozen rivers (the Red and the Assinboine), poking our heads into many of the weird and whimsical warming huts that dot the icepath.

The Forks, where the two rivers meet, was front and centre in the book where our junior Jets did a lot of their skating...

The MTS Centre on Portage Avenue was also on our list to visit-- since our junior Jets end up going to see the Jets in action, we had to check it out, too. In fact, Holly and I got to see the Colorado Avalanche play against our heroes. 

We also cruised various areas of the city, looking for a neighbourhood that our characters could call home.  My wonderful cousin Stefanie, a long-time Winnipegger (or is it "Winnipegonian"?), drove us around the south end of Winnipeg, outlining the characteristics of each neighbourhood -- Linden Woods, Waverley Heights, North Fort Garry, Assinboine Park (not necessarily in this order). We even came across one house with a skating rink right in the front yard, festooned with Jets' posters and banners, benches, official-looking ice markings, night lights. No sign of a zamboni... maybe it was in the garage.

The neighbourhood I eventually settled on as the backdrop is a mash-up of many of the areas Stefanie drove us through... I knew I wanted somewhere fairly central to downtown Winnipeg, with homes from the 1950s - '60s and lots of trees.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I include this scene below... a full-spread from inside MTS Centre, where one of the Jets flips a puck to our excited fans

Hope you enjoy The Home Team... and let's hope we get a hockey season this year!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wascana's Wild Goose Chase!

I've recently spent some time getting to know the Canada Goose... see what I mean?

Let me back up... Regina's beautiful urban park, known as Wascana Park, is about to turn 50-years old this summer, so in celebration of this landmark, author Jean Freeman decided to write a children's book about the park.

The main characters of the story are Lucy and Alexander, a pair of Canada gooses, er, I mean geese who've made Wascana Park their home. The two of them pass through the seasons of the park, moving to various well-known venues around the lake, often just missing one another. This is where the title Wascana Wild Goose Chase! comes in.

Illustratively, I was able to incorporate not only all the beautiful greenery and landscaping, but some of the interesting architecture of the surrounding buildings, starting with the Saskatchewan legislature. This gorgeous building was completed in 1912 and very nearly didn't make it past its first year. The infamous Regina cyclone just barely spared the new building in the summer of 1912, carving a path right around its periphery. Anyway, I digress...

In addition to the pictures and Jean's rhyming story line, she's also included on each page a series of stamps, in which she provides interesting tidbits about the scene, such as where the name "Wascana" came from, why the city was referred to "pile o' bones," where did the Queen's favourite horse come from, and more goodies of this nature.

I had a lot fun recalling my youth in Wascana Park, especially hanging out at Wascana Pool.... here's just a snippet of the pool illustration that appears in Wascana Wild Goose Chase...

The illustration that took the most time is, happily, also the one that made it to the cover... here it is, complete with Jean's stamps...  talk to you later!

PS... can you find Lucy in the above picture?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A day with the Snow Queen, Gerda and Kai

Another great day with the Calgary Pro Musica Society in the beautiful Rozsa Centre on the University of Calgary's campus!

Once again, I had the great fortune of organizing CPMS' craft room, and once again, my wonderful volunteers and I had hoards of artistic, craft-happy kids and parents come through before and after CPMS's two matinees.

This year, CPMS put on The Snow Queen as part of their children's series, so a craft that reflected the Hans Christian Andersen tale was in order.

I settled on articulated paper puppets as the craft which, for a number of reasons, was a good choice. Firstly, kids only have between 15 minutes and an hour to complete their craft. Secondly, paper puppets aren't terribly messy. Thirdly, kids love puppets.

And finally, the supply list is mercifully short...

  • pencil crayons or crayons (or both)
  • scissors
  • paper fasteners (found some super tiny ones in the scrapbooking aisle at Michael's)
  • popsicle sticks  

I designed three puppets, outlined them in black felt maker, and had copies made at Staples on 100 lb card stock. Don't try to copy them yourself-- you'll go crazy.

I've also designed blank, morph-like looking puppets so that kids can decide for themselves what they want their character to be. I saw a hockey player, a fairy, a gryphon and a caricature of Barack Obama.

But, back to the Snow Queen.

Here's what she looked like before colouring, cutting and attaching her body parts....

and here's what she looked like afterwards. See how she bends at the waist thanks to that little fastener...


Gerda and Kai were slightly smaller than the Snow Queen (she's a more imposing character)...

And here's a sample of Gerda with dark hair done by one of my crafty kids... she looks great either way. Only her artist knows for sure what colour her hair should be. 

Hope to see everyone again at next year's show!