Co-authors Odette Barr, Colleen Landry and Beth Weatherbee are set to launch their latest project Take off to Tantramar, an adventure book that brings their love of nature, New Brunswick and storytelling to life.
Take off to Tantramar follows on the heels of the success of their first children’s book Follow the Goose Butt, Camelia Airheart. An early chapter book aimed at early middle school-level readers, Follow the Goose Butt was a hit with children of all ages when it was released last summer and tells the humourous tale of a young, curious Canada goose with a faulty GPS – goose positioning system.
Their most recent collaborative effort sees the return of their much-loved Camelia. A sequel to the first book, Take off to Tantramar is this time a picture book targeting early readers from Grades 2-4. But as the teachers have come to realize, readers of all ages and skill levels are enjoying the stories, with settings they identify with and learning more about their own province.
“The kids are always so excited when they see place names and things they recognize,” said Barr.
Barr, a biologist who worked as an interpretive naturalist with Parks Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service before turning to teaching, is not only a co-author of the books, she is also the lead illustrator. Currently working at Port Elgin Regional School, Barr develops and teaches online science courses for high school students.
The three women say working collaboratively on a project like this can be a challenge at times but it’s always a fun process.
“It works well. We brainstorm a lot at the beginning,” said Barr. “We kind of get a strong framework in place, then we start to narrow down the details.”
Landry, who teaches high school writing and fine arts in Moncton, has authored several magazine and newspaper articles as well as a popular and humourous blog. She is of the mind that “three heads are better than one” and, with such varied backgrounds, each woman brings her own unique perspective to the table.
Weatherbee is a music and English teacher at Port Elgin Regional School and has a broad drama background, having volunteered for many years with Showcase Productions in Amherst. Her first book was published by Born to Read NB.
The three authors began working together following a Born to Read writing workshop they attended together in Saint John three years ago. Getting lost on their way to the workshop, the ladies began discussing writing a children’s book together and how it would be funny to write about a character with no sense of direction.
“We just began throwing out some ideas,” said Weatherbee.
By the end of that trip, they had an idea for the book; they knew they wanted a character based on a Canadian icon, they wanted it to be in New Brunswick, and they wanted a strong female lead.
That summer, they began to get together once a week to flesh out their story and illustrations. Then they pitched their book to Kate Hanson, who Landry knew from some of her writing groups. Hanson was in the midst of launching a new publishing company, Chocolate River Publishing, which aimed to get New Brunswick stories out to young readers.
“We just took a leap of faith,” said Landry.
Their first book was launched last year and they hope to continue the Carmelia Airheart series with the release of a chapter book every other year followed up by a picture book in subsequent years.
The women spent last summer driving around the province – singing, acting and performing during their readings at libraries, book stores, festivals and more – and have been thrilled so far with the feedback they’ve gotten from all ages, including older students and adults.
This summer, they have plans to do the same and are already booked up for a number of speaking engagements throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“We’re having so much fun,” said Landry.
Take off to Tantramar will be launched at the Tantramar Wetlands Centre in Sackville on Saturday, June 17. The event will take place from 1-3 p.m. and Barr said everyone is invited to drop in at anytime during the launch as “there are lots of things for kids to see and do.”
Books will be available for sale at the launch and following the event at Tidewater Books in downtown Sackville.