By Anne Boys-Hope –
In 2007, writer Louise Bradford came face-to-face with a young moose in Lake Superior Provincial Park. That moose became her muse, and the central character of her first picture book – Wade’s Wiggly Antlers.
“I stood looking at him, and he looked at me. And then he ran off into the woods,” says Louise. “That magical moment stayed with me, and I told my boyfriend: ‘I’m going to write a story about him.’”
She noticed that her furry friend didn’t have any antlers, and that sparked an idea for a story: “What’s it like for little moose to lose his first set of antlers?”
So began the painstaking process of getting her ideas onto paper: jotting down notes, doing research at the Rosemount library, taking creative writing and illustrating classes, and writing and rewriting her story to get it just right.
In 2014, on a whim, Louise submitted the story to the CANSCAIP children’s writing contest, and was chosen as a finalist. Soon after, she got a call from Canadian publisher Kids Can Press—they offered to publish her book. Louise, who lives in Hintonburg, got the good news while she was at the hair salon.
“I think I screamed. I had to go outside with my head full of foils to call everyone I know and scream.”
That’s when the real work started. Louise worked closely with an editor, and then with illustrator Christine Battuz. “It took three years from start to finish. With a children’s book, you use very few words, and every word and every image has to sparkle.”
Wade’s Wiggly Antlers is being released in May 2017—ten years after that fateful day in the woods. It tells the story of a little moose named Wade who likes to have fun but is afraid to lose his antlers. His antlers, after all, are excellent perches for giving friends a ride and flying kites.
“He’s worried because his antlers are wiggly. So he decides he won’t move too much so his antlers don’t fall off,” says Louise.
Wade’s worrying eventually gets in the way of having fun. But he overcomes his fears, and by the end of the story, he’s ready to let his antlers go.
“It’s about the process of accepting change, it’s hard,” says Louise. “I think of Wade when I’m going through changes.”
Early reviews are glowing. Kirkus Reviews called the story, “A valuable lesson, nicely and sympathetically delivered.”
This is Louise’s first foray into the world of children’s literature, but she’s been writing since she was in elementary school. She’s had several stories produced by CBC radio and CBC television, and works as a speech writer in the federal government.
Adding “children’s book author” to her resume is a dream come true. She gained a deep appreciation for children’s books (Red is Best by Kathy Stinson is her favourite) when she worked in early childhood education. She loved reading to her two boys when they were little.
“I’m just blown away by the talent of children’s writers,” she says.
Louise’s own childhood was creative. She grew up in an artistic family, and was inspired by her grandmother and namesake, Louise Bradford.
“The connection to writing was with my grandmother. We never met, but I grew up in her house in Sault Ste. Marie,” says Louise. “The house was filled with her art and her writing. I would find her stories and I would read them.”
Like her grandmother, Louise is inspiring the next generation of writers, artists and storytellers. She is a two-time recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts Artists and Community Grant for her work with at-risk youth. This fall, she’s starting a year-long journey to visit schools in B.C. and in First Nations communities.
“I love working with youth and with kids,” says Louise. “Their resilience is amazing. They give me more than I give them.” Amazing and resilient – just like a little moose named Wade.
Wade’s Wiggly Antlers will launch May 3-6 at World of Maps during The Happening. On Saturday, May 6, Louise will be on hand to sign books. For more information about the book launch, go to thehappeningottawa.ca. Information about the author can be found at louisebradford.com.