Thursday, November 29, 2012

No batteries required to enjoy these local works

Publishing your ideas used to mean overcoming many barriers. But today, those with a drive to see their work in print can enter the system easier and sooner. Case in point are a couple of young Barrie women whose children’s books could find their way under your tree this Christmas.
One has partnered with experienced local author Gwen Petreman on Gwen’s seventh picture book. This retired teacher writes engaging tales that engage children’s minds and present interesting facts to supplement the story. Her latest is The Weird Week. For this project, Gwen wanted to find an illustrator so she could focus on story and design. Luckily, through a chance meeting at the local hair salon, she learned of Charlit Floriano, a talented student of illustration at Sheridan College. Charlit recently won an international contest to design the album cover for English indie-rock band Florence + the Machine and has done a wonderful job creating the colourful, whimsical creatures of this story.
Gwen’s other passion is increasing Barrie’s tree canopy, so she is donating 10% of all sales from now to Christmas toward Living Green’s tree-planting projects. More on these in a future column. Gwen also does free meet-the-author presentations in schools; to book her for your classroom, email
Another local young author, Bailey Thompson, was so inspired by her gerbils’ antics that she decided to build three series of books around them, each illustrated with real photographs of her subjects acting out the story. She’s spent the last four years taming and training gerbils to act on a green screen, to the point that they appear to listen to the scene and act it out with precision!
Since no publisher could match her ambition to publish a new title every month, Bailey started her own publishing house, Gerbil Meets Mouse. She is now preparing three series for release: Gerbs in the House, a father & son who escape their cage to live in a Victorian dollhouse, Melvin, a hat-loving gerbil and his fantastical dreams, and EcoGerbs, on a mission to change the world. 
Gerbs in the House: The Discovery is available for pre-order in a special expanded edition due for release December 10, with the regular version coming February 15th, and another book on the 15th of each following month. You can order them all at
You may have seen the Facebook post urging you to buy local this year, or hope to shun the preponderance of electronic toys on offer. Thanks to authors and illustrators of this caliber, you can buy something local that your children will treasure and that won’t annoy everyone with beeps, pows, and pings. No batteries required to enjoy these brilliant visual stories.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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