Peterborough artist helps bring McCartney’s ‘Hey Grandude’ to life
Nine months after submitting four sketches to her agent in the U.K. in regard to a new children’s book being prepared, artist Kathryn Durst of Peterborough and Toronto received exciting news.
Paul McCartney, the Sir Paul McCartney, one of the creative geniuses of the Beatles, now in his 77th year, had composed a story for kids, and after looking at her work, had invited Kathryn to illustrate it.
He has eight grandchildren whom he refers to as “chillers,” and they call him “Grandude.”
His book was to be called “Hey Grandude!” It’s a fantasy about four children, bored at home on a rainy day, who are saved by their grandfather, who presents postcards illustrating faraway adventures. The cards, along with a compass, have the magical power to whisk the kids away to these places and immerse them in dangerous happenings.
In the South Seas, fun on the beach is interrupted by swarms of attacking crabs. In the Wild West, cowboys and cacti provide delight until a herd of rampaging buffalo disturbs the peace. After escaping the stampede, the chillers and their grandude make it to the Swiss Alps, where singing and strumming amid the wildflowers charm them until a roaring avalanche comes surging down the mountain. Safe and sleepy, the foursome and their guardian welcome home again. To dream.
McCartney’s book has made it to the top of the bestseller list for children’s books in the New York Times. And Kathryn Durst hopes its success and her part in it will allow her to continue her work illustrating children’s books and to make her home in Peterborough.
She has four nieces and nephews nearby to whom she dedicates her work.
Durst grew up here and went to St Peter’s, where she says she was encouraged by teachers Mary Claire Nepotiuk and Greg Burke. Then she went on to Sheridan College in Oakville for its animation course.
Her dream has always been to illustrate children’s books. The Dursts were always an artistic family. Grandmother Durst, Kathryn’s paternal grandmother, entered the Ontario College of Art and Design at age 50.
Daughter of Dan Durst, a well-loved teacher at St Peter’s and Holy Cross, who himself taught photography and technical subjects, and of Loretta Durst, who works at Trent in student aid, Kathryn tells me over coffee at Dreams of Beans that her decision to engage a British agent was a good one. The largest children’s book conference in the world is actually in Bologna, Italy, she says. “That is a fantastic gathering.”
I have known Dan and Loretta Durst from their longtime volunteer work with the local charity Friends of Honduran Children. Kathryn spent time with them in Honduras.
She was amused when Paul McCartney asked her to make the Grandude somewhat slimmer in her designs, and to make him “a little eccentric.” Hence, grandude has a white ponytail.
A large and colourful book, “Hey, Grandude!” shines with energy and a sense of fun. Kathryn, who plays accordion, manages to slip one into a scene.
She can’t estimate how many hours of work are represented here, but McCartney invited her to London recently to take part with him in the book launch and to sign autographs along with him. She is doing some talks and encouraging Sheridan students particularly. Another Peterborough young person succeeds.