The partnership between the author and the illustrator of a children’s book is clearly critical to the quality of the finished product.
Red Deer-based artist Marianne Harris has provided her exemplary skills to an engaging and clever, newly-released book called Snot, Snails and Salamander Tails which was penned by Lloydminster author Ann Campbell.
It was last summer that Campbell was introduced to Harris. “Marianne was putting on a paint party for her family, so I got to go in on that,” recalled Campbell. “She’s an amazing artist.
“I’m so lucky to have had her do this – she’s done a really good job,” she added. “Of course, when I was in her house, I saw a lot of her work which is just gorgeous.”
Campbell then gave Harris a copy of the manuscript and an initial picture of the troll, as the story is essentially a spin-off of the Three Billygoats Gruff, she said.
“She later sent me a picture of how she viewed the troll, and it was just awesome. He was just disgustingly funny,” she laughed. “It was perfect.”
As to the book, Campbell said the story circles around the troll and his dreadful strew.
“The troll’s dilemma is that he has to make stew to eat everyday – from snails and salamander tails from the river. And he has a chronic runny nose, so there is snot, snails and salamander tails that make up his stew everyday. And he’d like to get the goats into it because that would be change for him.
“He tries to catch them, but they always outsmart him,” she added with a smile. The goats also practice tap dancing on the bridge which also doesn’t go over too well with the troll. “So that also makes him mad, and now he wants to eat them more than ever.”
Ultimately, the goats’ grandpa helps them outsmart the troll and in the end, they basically help him figure out something different to put in his stew, she added.
This release marks Campbell’s fourth title.
“I started writing in about 2000 – I took a course in children’s writing,” she explained, adding that she has also worked as a school teacher. Inspiration for her first book came from a teddy bear that belonged to her dad.
“In 2000, there was a school built in Lloydminster that was named after my dad – it was called the Jack Kemp School.
“His old teddy bear, which is over 100 years old now, is in the showcase with his pictures and some other things. There was quite a history to the life of that teddy bear – he’s been thrown out even before (dad) got it. And so I decided to write a story telling how the bear went from the trash to a place of honour like that,” she explained.
”I thought the kids in the school needed to know the story of the teddy bear – so that got me started. Then I got hooked on it! I just absolutely love it.”
Of course there are more twists and turns along the way as to the plot, but readers will have to land a copy to find out how the tale fully takes shape.
For Harris, the project has also offered a fun way to express her creativity. “I started the first image – the troll stirring his pot of stew – and asked what she thought,” she recalled. “She loved it!” Harris enjoyed the experience of creating pictures for a children’s book, as it provided a fresh exploration of a specific genre.
This also marks the first time she has illustrated a book.
“I want to get as much life/variety/experience in art-related stuff that I can so I’ll just take on the challenge, whatever it is,” she added. With this project, the challenge was in giving each character a unique personality via the details of its given image.
But Harris’ raw talent shines through – page by page, the delightful, colourful images nicely complement Campbell’s brisk and lively tale. The book, along with Campbell’s other titles, are available on Amazon.
Harris is meanwhile busy with her own artistic ventures as well. Art Battle is coming up on June 23rd at Bo’s Bar and Grill.
And she’s also part of the Red Deer Arts Council Open Studio Tour, June 24th and 25th.
The Council has partnered with 12 visual artists in 10 studios. They will open the doors to their private art studios from and welcome the public to see the process of creating fine art.
Visitors can download or print a tour guide that includes a map to help find all the studios, and artist bios to read before arriving on scene. The downloadable/printable map and brochure is available on the Arts Council web site or facebook page.
Harris’ studios will be open for longer than the usual tour hours – from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the first day, and from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the second day.