Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On April 29, Joseph Dandurand will see the release his third children’s book The Girl Who Loved the Birds.
Dandurand, 55, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation, recently received the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence for his extensive list of published literature. He is the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize recipient.
Over the past 30 years, Dandurand has published 14 books of poetry, three children’s books, and a number of plays, including Th'owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, which will tour across Canada in 2023.
“About five years ago I was given the opportunity to be the storyteller in residence at the Vancouver Public Library and when I took on that job I realized I had nothing for children,” Dandurand said. “So I thought ‘oh, I better write some children’s stories and plays.’”
The Girl Who Loved the Birds is a beautiful story about the life of a woman, from girl to Elder. It’s published by Nightwood Editions and distributed by Harbour Publishing.
It begins with a young girl who would spend time helping the birds she encountered in the forest, sharing her food while also gathering nesting materials for them.
“I collect images in my head,” Dandurand said about how he develops ideas for his stories. “This story began with an image of a young girl collecting sticks, and then I will think ‘well why is she taking sticks’.”
Once he has his first inspirational image for a story, the remainder just pours out of him, Dandurand explained.
His words very clearly created a picture, and the book’s illustrator Elinor Atkins said she was able to visualize his words clearly and then her own inspiration evolved.
“When I read his stuff, I just kind of see what he is writing, so it’s a very symbiotic kind of creative relationship and I am very thankful for it,” she said. “I’m more than willing to always be on his team and work with him. I think we work so seamlessly together. He has the gift of writing; it just comes to him, I feel, from another place.”
As the story continues, readers experience the character age, but she continues to visit the forest to help her feathered friends.
During her final visit, the birds comfort and guide her as the Creator takes her to the other side.
“The teaching that we always teach our children is when you take something you always give something back,” he said. “I hope that children will see it and reflect on the idea of life and that cycle.”
Each of the images were originally painted by Atkins using a medium called Gouache, a type of paint that is a hybrid of watercolor and acrylic.
“It was definitely a learning experience using something I haven’t used before, but I ended up loving it,” Atkins said.
The 24-year-old artist, also from Kwantlen First Nation, has been creating since she was only a couple years old. She has used a wide variety of mediums to create her visual art and has worked on many projects, including large scale public art.
“My parents have pictures of me when I was a baby, only one or two years old, and I was just sitting at a table. My feet aren’t even touching the ground and I’m sitting there holding a pen properly and drawing,” she said. “It’s just something that has just been in my blood.”
Her partnership with Dandurand began when he saw one of her pieces at a local craft show. She had a display of one of her prints and he asked if he could use it as the cover of his book.
“She’s just this brilliant, gifted artist and she does all the covers for my books of poetry now and she does all the illustrations for my children’s books now,” he said. “She’s just an amazing kid. I love her. I think this book is so beautifully done.”
The Girl Who Loved the Birds is available on Amazon for order.
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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.