Author Tags: Illustration

Born and raised in Montreal, Vancouver painter Ruth Campbell graduated from Emily Carr College of Art & Design after gaining degrees in arts and law. She has illustrated Mark Ellis' children's book Words (Oolichan $19.95), the story of a reading-challenged child who receives help from a compassionate teacher-librarian. After she tells him she can't seem to control the way words dance around, he helps her learn how to read and also to write her own stories. "Imagining the illustrations for this story," says Campbell, "I realized the characters needed to have fun. In addition, the child needed to feel like a real girl, so she became a bit like me. She has lots of freckles and pets, just as I had when growing up." In 2007 she illustrated Ron Smith's picture book, Elf the Eagle (Oolichan), shortlisted for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize. In 2008 she illustrated Jake the Baker Makes a Cake by P.K. Page (Oolichan).

[BCBW 2008] "Illustration"

Elf the Eagle by Ron Smith & Ruth Campbell (Oolichan, $19.95)

from Louise Donnelly
Former Malaspina College English professor Ron Smith—a poet and editor who helped Randy Fred establish Theytus Books, Canada’s first Aboriginal press—is most often described as the founder of his own publishing company, Oolichan Books, based in Lantzville.

His Vancouver Island home is situated on the waterfront, surrounded by nesting eagles, but it wasn’t that idyllic setting that inspired Elf the Eagle, the first in a planned series of picture books about a runty and fearful baby eagle’s adventures. It was Smith’s own fear of heights.

Elf the Eagle opens with Elf as a fuzzy ball of fluff, his egg tooth throbbing, breaking free of his shell into the terrifying world of a sky-high nest. There is nothing below but water and dagger ferns and “sharp, scary rocks.” What were his parents thinking?

Ages 5-8

In the days that follow, as dark brown feathers replace the white fluff and his show-off sister Edwina aces her first solo flight, Elf cowers in the nest. Edwina taunts him, his parents bribe him with food held temptingly just out of reach, but it’s a clumsy tumble that sends the eaglet hurtling down towards rocks that “loom as big as a whale.”

At the last moment Elf manages to open his eyes, bravely somersault with an updraft of air and is soon gliding higher and higher, “wheeling and soaring in the blue, blue sky.”

Having taught in Italy and had his poetry translated into a bilingual Italian-English edition, Smith will oversee an Italian version of Elf, also illustrated by Ruth Campbell, whose fetching illustrations have captured the majesty of the parent eagles, Edwina’s avian insouciance and Elf’s fearful black marble eyes. As an Emily Carr graduate living on Vancouver Island, Campbell says her portrayal of Elf is a product of her sympathy for all of us who have to leave our comfortable nests.

Having undertaken volunteer work with wildlife rescue, Campbell writes, “Freedom and independence [are] ambitions of the human care givers, not the fledglings themselves, since young birds are quite happy…being fed juicy tidbits…and having all their needs attended to.” 978-0-88982-241-2

-- review bu Louise Donnelly

[BCBW 2007] "kidlit"