Gabriola Island-based landscape painter Mary Mitchell and her uncle Steve Mitchell, an author who lives on Bowen Island, have written and illustrated their first children’s book.
Lily and Flinge and the Piece of Kibble stars Mary’s two dogs and follows Lily as she searches for a piece of kibble to give Flinge on his birthday. Her extra-sensitive nose leads Lily on a search across the Americas, where she meets exotic animals that aid in her quest.
Next month Mary will be presenting the book at the Gabriola Library.
The project started three years ago at a family gathering when Steve noticed some of Mary’s paintings. She had recently moved away from realism and towards a more “fun” direction, incorporating her pets into her work.
Mary said paintings inspired the plot, which then inspired further paintings.
“The story was based on the paintings, and then as [Steve] kind of gave me this story idea he had I started painting some more pictures,” she said. “I was inspired by the idea of the dog travelling and meeting these animal friends and different locations. So there was a lot of back and forth.”
With Mary and Steve living on opposite sides of the Strait of Georgia, much of that back and forth happened remotely. Mary said the book was a family effort, with other relatives making suggestions of their own regarding scenes and characters. Some of the animals Lily meets on her travels include a coatimundi, which Mary describes as a Central American raccoon, and a sloth on a motorcycle.
“One of the objectives when creating the story was to try to create something that would be interesting to adults, too, when they read it,” Mary said. “That it would be appealing to kids and interesting for adults. Not too simple a story.”
The duo took half a year to create the story and paintings. After taking a break from the book they reconvened at the beginning of last year to do rewrites. Last summer Mary redid some of the paintings and earlier this year the book became available at Page’s Resort and Marina on Gabriola Island and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Mary said it was satisfying to finally hold the finished product in her hands.
“I think it turned out well and it was a lot more work than I ever anticipated it was going to be,” she said. “When we set out on it … the story went back and forth and was so collaborative, I didn’t know this was where we’d end up. But I’m quite happy with where we did.”
WHAT’S ON … Lily and Flinge book reading and discussion at the Gabriola Library, 5-575 North Rd., on Aug. 25 at 2 p.m.