Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult, Outdoors
Before Simpson became co-owner of Ookpik Wilderness Lodge on Babine Lake, she taught First Nations art and drama to grade-school children. She now spends her winters in a fishing cabin that was built in the 1930s, and the rest of the year in the lodge that was built in 1979.
“My closest neighbourhood is Old Fort,” she says, “population 20 during the summer and fall. Old Fort is a First Nation’s village on the shores of Babine Lake, belonging to The Lake Babine Nation. It is ten kilometres away by water and there is no access in the winter.”
Winter access to Ookpik Lodge is by helicopter or snowshoe only. “I usually park my truck in the village of Granisle, population 300,” she says. “For groceries and propane, I travel one hour by water and two hours by road to Burns Lake.”
From this locale, Simpson first wrote The First Beaver (Heritage $24.95), a self-illustrated storybook, for ages 6-11, about an aboriginal girl born with brown hair—instead of black—who becomes strong in spite of her difference from others.
Caroll Simpson’s The First Mosquito (Heritage $24.95) imagines the origins of the mosquito.
“In my studies, I have read numerous stories about the mosquito from the Iroquois, Tlingit, Tuscarora, Haudenosaunee, Nootka and many others. We have all been looking for a reason for the annoying mosquito."
“And there is a theme that runs through most of the stories about mosquitoes; a bloodsucking giant that killed people in the forest and people who pushed it into a fire where it became ash and then mosquitoes.”
The story concerns a young boy who wanders alone into the forest. Along the way, Simpson introduces her young readers to Lightning Snakes, Woodworm, Creek Woman, Mouse Woman, Two-Headed Serpents, the Wild Man of the Forest and a Bloodsucking Monster. A glossary of these legendary mythical creatures describes their traits and identifying physical details.
Simpson says that placing Northwest First Nation supernatural beings into the mix is meant to introduce the amazing art and ideas of the First Nation’s people before European contact.
“But this is my story,” she says. “Having lived alone for ten years in the northwest wilderness gave me a unique perspective and a glimpse of the spirits in the woods. Adding another seven years of married bliss gives me the time necessary to create it.
Caroll Simpson agrees that some stories of tribal or family history are owned by individual First Nations, but she contends that her two books with aboriginal characters are entirely her own making.
“My hope is to stimulate the curiosity of children of all ethnicities to reach further into the study of The First People,” she says. “In doing so they will gain understanding and respect for this art and culture here, on this land, that came before us and is renowned worldwide.”
And so progress is made, on various fronts. “After seventeen years I finally have satellite at Ookpik,” says Simpson, “but, we are still working out the bugs.”
Caroll Simpson on the porch of one of five cabins built in the 1930s for a fishing camp on Babine Lake. “Living on the shores of a wilderness lake,” Simpson says, “I ask my maker, why are there mosquitoes all the time?”
The First Beaver (Heritage, 2009) $24.95 978-1-894974-50-9
The First Mosquito (Heritage, 2010) $24.95 978-1-926613-67-3
The Salmon Twins (Heritage, 2012) $24.95 978-1-927051-52-8
Brothers of the Wolf (Heritage House 2014) $19.95 978-1-927527-96-2