Robert Budd was staring out at the Skeena River in northern B.C. on a warm summer evening, when the idea for his latest book literally swooped by him.
The Fairfield resident and his young family were visiting his friend and well-known First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers at his home in Hazelton in August of last year. Their children were playing in the backyard, as Budd and Vickers watched from the deck with the sun setting in the distance and the sound of the river rushing in the background.
Suddenly, two eagles swooped by and landed in a nest in a tree about 30 feet away from them. It was a breathtaking experience for the duo. In that moment, another friend mentioned there should be a book explaining the feeling of the West Coast to children.
“It hit Roy and I in that second. We were like ‘yes, there should be’,” Budd explained. “It was really inspired by a beautiful moment out on Roy’s deck over the gorgeous Skeena River.”
Budd and Vickers quickly jumped to work brainstorming how they would illustrate the beauty of the West Coast, with its flowing rivers, sunsets, and unique animals. The end product is Hello Humpback!, a board book, introducing children aged two to six, to the names and habitats of northwest coast animals, and the traditional imagery in indigenous art used to represent them.
The book, which is the first installment in the duo’s new children’s series, journeys through B.C.’s ecosystems to portray wildlife such as hungry sea otters, hopping orcas, cheeky ravens and roaming bears, and highlights some of the province’s iconic landscapes such as mountain views, totem poles, flowing rivers and tidal pools.
Budd wrote the story, while Vickers illustrated it, but both focused on creating a full sensory experience to help children understand the names and scenes they see when they step outside their door.
“We’re huge proponents of the notion that little children especially learn with their emotions, they don’t learn with their brains. If you can connect to their emotions with colours, you can turn them on that way. Embedded in that, they’re learning,” Budd said. “Speak to them with colour, speak to them with imagery in plain but evocative language.”
This isn’t the first project the duo have worked together on. Budd first met Vickers on Nov. 11, 2011, and their friendship and careers have blossomed from there. Since then they have collaborated on six other books, including the award-winning Northwest Coast Legends series.
Hello Humpback! can be found at Munro’s and other local book stores.