The trickster rabbit is, well, up to his old tricks again in Bridget Ryan and Jason Carter’s new book. It seems that Boo, the critter itself, might have an endless series of tales to tell. It’s a good thing that he has his brother, Peek, to join him in a race around the world.
The character of the trickster, Carter said, has always been more than something readers were meant to relate to.
“It was also something to give me an opportunity to explore these traditional tales, at the beginning, and find out what it really meant for me as an urban dweller,” he began. “From there it was just about us making it our own, thinking that trickster characters are a great learning tool.”
Far from being pure adventure stories, these ones have some subtle teachings about morality and compassion to make them more important in the world of children’s literature.
That, and Carter’s dazzling art.
Boo made its first presence known in 2011 with the release of Who Is Boo: The Terrific Tales of One Trickster Rabbit. Boo comes from Nanabozho, the Ojibwe word for such a character in those cultures.
Their research helped them to understand this figure and how it plays a part in many cultures. Unfortunately, Carter continued, the trickster myth doesn’t always lend itself appropriately to tales for children.
“The stories were really, really, really, really dark and not fit for children,” Ryan said.
“Grimmer than Grimm tales,” Carter added.
“We took the name ‘Nanabozho’ and called it ‘Boo’ and created our own character. We created this new series in children’s literature and hopefully it will land with kids,” Ryan continued.
In the first Boo book, for example, he encounters a wolf that is lonely and sad. Boo thinks left and right, up and down, and realizes that the wolf shouldn’t be sad because it always has the moon to keep it company. There are other such encounters that always end up on a positive note. Along the way, he also coaches himself with some sage advice, like: “In a race against others, never get ahead of yourself.”
Who Is Boo 2 continues on with the race, this time focusing on the prairies. The animal encounters continue too.
Ryan started writing these stories for her niece. In a way, she was inspired by her and all youths who seem to be growing up in a culture that’s vastly different from hers when she was their age.
“The urgency for me came from seeing the kids today who are so into their phones, into computers, into devices of social networking and games and things like that… it’s like we’re losing the idea that curiosity is a good thing,” she stated. “The whole thing about Boo is that, even though he’s in a race around the world with his brother, he always has time to stop and inquire in helpful tricky ways to better someone’s situation.”
The two were both happy to announce that the new book also ends with a look forward to the brothers’ continuing adventures. Who is Boo 3, they said, should come out next summer.
“With ending each of the books: ‘Who will Boo meet next?’, the possibilities are endless,” Carter mused.
To help launch Boo 2, Carter has also developed an exhibit of new works, all inspired by the books. There are 10 new rabbit sculptures (created from soapstone, wonderstone, chlorite and alabaster), and 20 new paintings featuring the landscapes and characters.
He explained that it’s very gratifying to be able to have art that speaks to people not just in the gallery but on the page too.
“It’s been great as a visual artist to be able to see the work on that level but also to have it influence and see so many eyeballs.”
Who is Boo 2: The Continuing Adventures of One Trickster Rabbit
Double launch event today from 1 to 4 p.m.
Enjoy music, wine and juice boxes
Both the writer and illustrator will be in attendance to do readings from the book.
The event also features The Trickster Series, a gallery exhibit by Jason Carter, with paintings and stone carvings inspired by the Boo books. The exhibit will be on display until Thursday, Dec. 5.
The Bearclaw Gallery
10403 124 Street in Edmonton
For more information, please visit www.whoisboo.ca.