Teresa Schapanksy and Elly Mossman are a match made in literary and illustrator heaven.
Once they found each other – and they literally live only a short distance apart – it was full speed ahead on completing the Along The Way 12-volume children’s book series. The B.C. book launch was just before Christmas at the Author’s Corner at the Public Market in Chemainus, with Duncan’s Schapansky and Mossman both in attendance.
“She’s a half block away from me,” said Mossman, who formerly lived in Chemainus and did editorial cartoons for Black Press newspapers, including the Courier, prior to the pandemic.
Mossman and Schapansky just had that natural connection from the beginning and the results can be seen in the finished product.
“It was mostly emails back and forth,” said Mossman of that initial contact.
Schapansky had been looking for just the right illustrator to properly complement her written accounts of the geographical series that introduces young readers to all the Canadian provinces and territories through a dinosaur named Albert. Make-believe road trips are taken by Albert to highlight points of interest around the country, with geographical and historical facts as well as an emphasis on different cultures, cuisine, science and more.
“In the beginning when I saw what had already been done, it wouldn’t compute,” said Mossman.
When Schapansky came over and saw what Mossman had done, it was a different story.
“I just started working on it,” noted Mossman. “She was so delighted with what I was doing.”
Mossman wrote and illustrated her own series of books called Grampa Was An Alien. The sixth book in the series is due out in January 2022.
She also has written and illustrated a book called Nmp-Chks & Numskuls.
“I had the pleasure of seeing them before publication,” said Schapansky of the Grampa Was An Alien series. “They’re just delightful. “She’s so creative.”
Schapansky’s project has long been in the making, but didn’t come to fruition until she brought in Mossman as her accomplice.
“The inside illustrations were substandard,” Schapansky said. “Elly has just been a godsend.”
Schapansky actually grew up in Lake Cowichan. She moved to Alberta at the age of 16, but came back 15 years later to settle in Duncan. Long-time residents of Lake Cowichan will remember Walt’s Drive In and that was run by Schapansky’s great uncle on her mom’s side.
Writing has always been a passion for her and doing this series stands out as a particular labour of love.
“I started writing when my daughter was nine years old,” Schapansky said. “I knew if I wrote a story she’d read it. It just took off from there.”
That eldest daughter is now 30 and Schapansky has two other daughters as well as a grandbaby.
Schapansky’s previous claims to writing fame include the recent best-selling series, Coinkeeper: the Avery Chronicles.
That series still has more tales to be told.
“I have to,” laughed Schapansky. “I left Avery stranded in Mexico.”
“All of my books are self published,” she added.
The basis for the Along The Way series actually began in 2005 while Schapansky was living in Alberta.
“Even then, I said Canada is to be celebrated,” she said. “Why not promote literacy and educate at the same time.”
Schapansky’s happy how it all came together with Mossman’s finishing touches.
“There’s so many things to know about Canada,” she said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
There are icebergs in Canada, of course, and all sorts of other unique features waiting to be discovered in the books – not just for young readers, but adults will probably learn a thing or two as well.
“We take things for granted,” said Schapansky. “They’re just here. But how did they get here and how did this happen?
“It’s so hard not to go off in different directions. There is so much to Canada.”
“I had to do my own research for the illustrations,” added Mossman. “I learned a whole lot, too.”
The illustrations will all require a closer look as well.
“She’s put a provincial bird on each cover,” Schapansky indicated.
“I dropped them in at the last minute,” said Mossman.
That will be an education in itself because few people likely know the provincial birds of each province and territory.
The Along The Way series was officially released Nov. 4 on Amazon. The first shipment sold out in Alberta where the first provincial book launch was also held ahead of Chemainus for B.C.
The Along the Way series is available on Amazon, with more information on the author’s website at www.teresaschapansky.com about other retail locations.
A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each book will be donated quarterly to local children’s mental health programs, managed by the Kids Strong and Free Foundation. The series is also available to educators at a discounted price.
Some things are just meant to be and the chemistry between Schapansky and Mossman that came out of the blue seems to fit into that category.
“We have so much in common, the two of us,” confided Mossman.