by Scott Hayes
It isn’t every day that a book like this comes along. That’s because it isn’t every day that an author and artist like Shelby Wapoose comes along either.
The 14-year-old has just published her first book, and it’s as dark and mesmerizing in its imagery as in its language. Somethings Aren’t that Magical describes a troubled young life but ultimately one of triumph. In some ways, it’s akin to peering into someone’s diary. In others, it’s a view of a developing artist’s early sketchbook, full of raw emotion and talent.
It was published with the help and financial assistance of the Visual Arts Studio Association and the City of St. Albert, which provided her with a Lieutenant Governor Distinguished Young Artists Award for $200 earlier this year.
Carol Watamaniuk, the president of VASA, explained that Wapoose originally signed up for work experience with the organization’s artists as part of her education at Sir George Simpson Junior High. Once there, she received a wealth of encouragement and mentoring under many guides.
Watamaniuk said that it was an experience for her, too.
“When she arrived, I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for it. She was very quiet. She brought along her portfolio of drawings and that’s what blew me away.”
“When she spoke to me, she spoke in a very poetic way, and very philosophical. I said, ‘Shelby, have you ever written about your drawings?’ She said, ‘No, I’m not a writer.’ I said, ‘Yeah, you are.’ We decided that her work experience would be to put this book together.”
While the stories are tough, the triumph is that this book was published. Indeed, it is not a fairy tale anthology of joy and amusement at the wonder of life. Wapoose deserves as much acclaim for fighting through her struggles as she does for her artistic abilities. The author even interviewed her own grandmother, a residential school survivor, for the introductory poem that sets the tone for the rest of the book like the tone of a tower bell gonging next to your head.
A lot of the images are monstrous, ghostly, troubling, and horrific. They are creatures reminiscent of Creepy Pasta characters and straight out of nightmares.
Despite how tough it is to look at these creations and to imagine the artist’s suffering in order to devise them out of her imagination, the book is an important one to read for its insight into the mind and soul of a young woman who has used art as a tool for endurance.
The book will be launched tomorrow at a special reception at VASA. Copies of the book will be sold for $25 each. The artist-author will be in attendance. Mayor Nolan Crouse will speak at the event.