Stratford children’s author Jon-Erik Lappano is getting ready to release his fourth picture book, Martin and the River, on March 1.
Just in time for spring, award-winning Stratford children’s author Jon-Erik Lappano is set to release his fourth picture book, which draws on his experiences growing up alongside the Upper Thames River and its wildlife in Mitchell.
In Martin and the River, Martin loves his river. He watches the great blue herons, he looks for crayfish and otters, and he builds forts and lies in the tall grass near the water. But one day, Martin’s parents tell him they have to move from the country to city.
While exploring his new home, Martin finds the that none of the city’s charms, from the museum to the subway, can compare to his river. However, when his parents bring him to a little stream running through a nearby park, Martin discovers much of that same magic can indeed be found in the city.
“It’s inspired by my childhood growing up in Mitchell, just close to Stratford here, and spending countless hours biking down to the Upper Thames River where I used to look for minnows and spot great blue herons and that sort of stuff,” Lappano said.
“That time in nature was really pivotal for me in my childhood, and I think it really shaped who I am as an adult. I also spent a lot of my time in urban centres and living in the City of Toronto, so the book really explores the notion that we can find connection to nature in any place that we live.”
Through his first three children’s books – the first of which, Tokyo Digs a Garden, won the Governor General’s Literary Award – Lappano’s stories have largely been centred around the natural environment and seeing the natural world through a child’s eyes.
“All of my books taken together certainly have an environmental theme to them, and I don’t know that it’s a conscious thing, but I think it’s the way I sort of interpret the world,” Lappano said. “Since I was young, I always found meaning and connection in natural spaces. I think it’s how I’ve embedded meaning in my life and it’s where I search for meaning. I’ve also got a natural curiosity and wonder for the world around me … and because of that, my stories reflect that theme.”
Like his previous books, Martin and the River is accompanied by colourful and whimsical illustrations. While Lappano has worked with a few different illustrators in the past, the artwork in this book is by Montreal artist Josée Bisaillon, who has illustrated more than 40 picture books, including The Snow Knows by Jennifer McGrath, which won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.
“The illustrations in this book are spectacular,” Lappano said. “(It’s) the colour, the light and just everything that she does to bring this story alive. I think one of the things I was most grateful for in working with Josée was her ability to bring this sense of childlike imagination onto the page. So much of the story takes place in Martin’s imagination and just him projecting his imagination onto the world around him, and she capture that so beautifully.”
Martin and the River will be available for purchase on March 1 at Fanfare Books and Fundamentals Books and Toys Inc. in Stratford, as well as through most online book sellers.