In­ver­ness au­thor pens Gi­ant Macaskill pic­ture book

The Casket - - Health&wellness - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

It’s the per­fect pic­ture book gift idea for the Cape Bre­ton or eastern Nova Sco­tia fam­ily liv­ing away from home. And, re­ally, that should come as no sur­prise when you con­sider the au­thor is In­ver­ness na­tive Tom Ryan and the story is about An­gus Macaskill; the man known as the Cape Bre­ton Gi­ant or, more sim­ply, Gi­ant Macaskill.

Re­leased in Oc­to­ber, Ryan said re­cep­tion for A Gi­ant Man from a Tiny Town; A Story of An­gus Macaskill, has been fan­tas­tic, which in­cluded the official launch event at a “packed to the rafters” In­ver­ness County Cen­tre for the Arts Oct. 13.

“We al­most sold out of books,” Ryan, talk­ing to the Cas­ket Nov. 13, said. “Peo­ple were buy­ing mul­ti­ple copies and hav­ing them signed for grand­chil­dren and nieces and neph­ews in other parts of the coun­try and be­yond; it was a re­ally nice ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’ve al­ways felt re­ally sup­ported by my Cape Bre­ton and Nova Sco­tia fam­ily but this book re­ally took it to the next level. I’ve been amazed by the sup­port and en­thu­si­asm … it’s be­yond my ex­pec­ta­tions.” This book is unique for the vet­eran au­thor in that it’s his first pic­ture book.

“I’ve been writ­ing chap­ter books, nov­els for kids for sev­eral years and I had never done a pic­ture book, but I al­ways wanted to,” he said.

“I had some dis­cus­sions with Whit­ney Mo­ran who is the man­ag­ing editor at Nim­bus [Pub­lish­ing], about three years ago now, and dis­cussed with her some op­tions. I knew I wanted to do a Cape Bre­ton pic­ture book and the idea I was most in­ter­ested in was some­thing his­tor­i­cal but fun for kids, and the An­gus Macaskill story was pretty much at the top of my list be­cause I knew no one had done a pic­ture book with An­gus. She [Whit­ney] re­ally liked the idea and we took it from there.”

The il­lus­tra­tor for the book is Christo­pher Hoyt. Ryan said he was fa­mil­iar with Hoyt’s work prior to work­ing with him on this project.

“Whit­ney and I had worked to­gether in the past and she knew I had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted the book to look,” he said.

“So we worked to­gether to come up with a list of pos­si­ble il­lus­tra­tors and Chris Hoyt was, re­ally, my num­ber one from the get-go, so we ap­proached him be­fore we ap­proached any­one else. What I liked about his work is it’s re­ally colour­ful and has a time­less feel. He also has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in his­tor­i­cal il­lus­tra­tions, so it seemed like a re­ally good fit. I knew his stuff could ap­peal to chil­dren while still be­ing ac­cu­rate, his­tor­i­cally.”

Ryan noted Hoyt was en­thu­si­as­tic about the project and did a lot of re­search to make sure the time-pe­riod el­e­ments in his il­lus­tra­tions were just right.

“He painstak­ingly re­searched ev­ery­thing from the clothes peo­ple were wear­ing in Cape Bre­ton at the time, farm­ers and fish­er­men, right down to the cities Bar­num and Bai­ley’s [cir­cus] would have trav­eled to in those days; city scenes from Lon­don [Eng­land] to Ha­vana, Cuba, which are ac­cu­rate to the time. He just did a great job.”

As for the mid-oc­to­ber tim­ing of the re­lease, Ryan said it re­lates to him want­ing the cover of the book to re­flect an au­tumn sea­son in Cape Bre­ton.

“I wanted it to have a cover in­spired by the fall; I also knew Celtic Colours would be hap­pen­ing and we might get some in­ter­est there. And that worked out, my launch was dur­ing a Celtic Colours event,” he said.

“I also did school vis­its for about two weeks all around Cape Bre­ton. It was the first time I’ve done school vis­its around Cape Bre­ton which was great. I also knew, with Christ­mas com­ing up, it’s a book grand­par­ents can send to their grand­chil­dren who might be liv­ing in Al­berta.

“It’s a book that is made to last; peo­ple have re­ally re­sponded to it be­ing a book which could be passed down through gen­er­a­tions.”

A Gi­ant Man from a Tiny Town; A Story of An­gus Macaskill can be found in most book stores in At­lantic Canada and can be pur­chased on­line through Chap­ters or Nim­bus.

Ryan also in­tends to do an­other book sign­ing event in In­ver­ness dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, with a date still to be de­ter­mined.

Richard Macken­zie

The clever cover il­lus­tra­tion by artist Christo­pher Hoyt for A Gi­ant Man from a Tiny Town; A Story of An­gus Macaskill.

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