A&E » Arts

Reliving her youth, for the youth

Local children’s author Sara Leach releases new picture book, Sounds of the Ferry



Despite what you may think, children's author Sara Leach, does not want to be a kid again. Sure, the Whistler resident has the uncanny ability to articulate in her books the wonder that defines any child's life. And yes, her books recall childhood awareness so vividly that it seems she never left childhood in the first place.

But alas, she is all grown up with kids of her own, and that's enough for her.

"There's the freedom of being a kid that I'd like to have again," she says, but that's it. Adulthood has its charms too.

Like, for instance, her grown-up ability to write books that people actually read. Her first picture book, Mountain Machines, released in 2009, was an instant best seller. Her first child's novel, Jake Reynolds: Chicken or Eagle , is now standard reading for elementary schools in Whistler and Richmond.

Last week, Poppy Productions released Leach's second picture book, Sounds of the Ferry, featuring Mountain Machines illustrator Steven Corvelo .

"After Mountain Machines, I knew that I wanted to do another book...and a friend of mine said, 'You should write one about the ferry. There aren't very many books about ferries,'" she says, coincidentally on her way to the ferry terminal with her family.

Her initial plan was, like Mountain Machines, to write another counting book. She took a research trip on the ferry with that idea in mind but soon abandoned it when the noises of the ferry and its plentiful passengers kept drawing her attention away.

The result is Sounds of the Ferry, a rhyme-laden ferry ride documenting everything from departure to arrival. Corvelo's lively illustrations are rife with visual gags.

Leach, who is a teacher and teacher-librarian at Spring Creek Elementary, has two kids of her own - six and nine years old - and she says she'll run ideas past them while working on her books. If they're turning away or confused about something, that's her cue to fix this line here or that rhyme there. It's also a method to smooth out the kinks in her prose.

"Reading it aloud is a huge help to me because I can see where I was getting tripped up on words and where I needed to work on the rhymes some more," she says. "Of course, before (the book) has any illustrations it is a very different experience than reading it once it's been illustrated."

She says she has no desire as of yet to write for adults but she may write young adult novels to target her children's age group as they grow up. She's already completed a second youth novel entitled Count Me In , due out this fall, aimed at nine to 13 year olds.

While it's helpful for her to have her own children to bounce ideas off of, she says it's not necessary for children's writers to be parents, but it's important to be around children in some context. As a teacher, she interacts with literally hundreds of different kids, observing how they speak, how they develop and how they interact with the world around them. As a librarian, she's read literally hundreds of children's books and says she has a real sense of the rhythm of the language that kids relate to.

"I like creating a world and shaping that world the way that I want and shaping the adventure of the kids and feel those emotions," she says. "It's also fun to kind of relive youth and I usually draw on emotions that I felt even though they aren't necessarily specific events that happened to me."