A book that is deeply ingrained in the Okanagan’s history has been brought to life after a long wait.
On Oct. 20, author, Karen Autio and illustrator, Loraine Kemp will present their book Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon their multifaceted collaboration that is friendly for all ages.
Autio decided to write about the history of the Okanagan for children and she sought out a First Nations advisor to help her get the details about the syilx/Okanagan people right. She worked with Jordan Coble, Westbank First Nation member and cultural and operation administrator at Sncəwips to respect the syilx/Okanagan perspective.
“The inspiration (for the book) started back in 1966 when we moved to Kelowna and I learned about the wild horses and the canyon. I wanted to get there and see it, but it is not easily accessible. I researched more and more and by 2006 I wanted to write a story set in the area,” said Autio.
The journey to get to Wild Horse Canyon took the women nine hours round trip, and they made several while creating the narrative non-fiction book.
The book almost never saw the light of day after the first publisher’s building caught on fire, however Kemp’s illustrations survivied the blaze.
“The publishing warehouse was up in the forest and it took eight hours to put out,” said Kemp. “My illustrations were there in the fire in a leather bound case, 32 illustrations…I would have been absolutely devastated.”
Told from the perspective of a ponderosa pine, Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon, weaves First Nations history with accounts of European settlement and natural history in a story that spans more than two centuries. The narrative is supported by non-fiction exposition that covers the storied history of the Okanagan.
“A lot of people think it’s only a children’s book, but we think it’s also a coffee table book. It’s just so accessible for anyone to read. The first part is a picture book and the second half is far more dense with historical content and you can read about what really went on, the story part is narrative non-fiction,” said Kemp.
“It’s mostly fact with a little non-fiction. The notes in the back will confirm what is in fact true in the story, there is also a timeline for readers to refer to,” said Autio.
The pair will be hosting a book launch Oct. 20 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Okanagan Regional Library Kelowna Branch and on Oct. 24 from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Okanagan Regional Library Westbank branch.
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