Saanich resident and orca activist Mark Leiren-Young holds up his recently published children’s book, Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Vancouver Island orca activist publishes children’s book

Mark Leiren-Young’s new book is an ‘introduction to the orca-verse’

When Saanich resident and orca activist Mark Leiren-Young was growing up, he didn’t enjoy science class and had no plans to be an author. Yet, he has been writing about orcas for over 20 years and recently published his second book about them.

Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales, published by Orca Books, is aimed at middle school students and is the first in the Orca Wild series that will feature various authors. Leiren-Young refers to his book as an “introduction to the orca-verse.”

The book is a reference guide to orcas around the world. Leiren-Young hopes the book will appear everywhere from classrooms to BC Ferries to bed and breakfasts for folks of all ages to enjoy.

Leiren-Young wears many hats – he’s an actor, comic, documentary filmmaker, science journalist and now a children’s author. However, he feels the title “orca activist” has replaced all others. He spends so much time writing about, filming, and advocating for orcas, he feels he’s almost a member of J pod – the name given to the southern resident orca pod near Vancouver Island.

In 2016, Leiren-Young’s first book, The Killer Whale Who Changed the World, was released. It outlined the history of Moby Doll, an orca who lived at the Vancouver Aquarium after being accidentally captured. Moby was the first orca in the world to be captured and displayed. Before her, people thought orcas were monsters, Leiren-Young explained.

He became interested in orcas about 20 years ago – he felt the concept of humans meeting what they thought was a monster sounded like “real-life science fiction.” After having no luck pitching a documentary film about Moby, Leiren-Young wrote feature articles and produced a radio documentary on the subject. When he won a Jack Webster Award for the radio documentary, Moby Doll: The Killer Whale that Changed the World, Greystone Books approached him with a book deal.

After Moby Doll’s story hit the stands, Orca Book Publishers asked Leiren-Young to translate the story into something for kids and Orcas Everywhere came to life.

READ ALSO: Remains of local mother orca and calf reunited in upcoming exhibit at Royal BC Museum

He said his lack of a background in science helped him ask “kid questions” when interviewing the world’s top oceanographers and Indigenous folks. His lack of confidence in his own knowledge also encouraged him to fact-check rigorously.

What’s next for Leiren-Young? He’s still in orca-mode.

“The number of things I’m doing on whales is loopy,” he said.

He’s currently writing the Royal B.C. Museum resident whale exhibit and has begun working on a picture book as well as a baby book about orcas.


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Island company tastes sweet success with sugar kelp

Cascadia Seaweed is experiencing rapid growth after launching six months ago

Dunsmuir Middle School works with students following in-school protest over cell phone policy

Pupil said he wants students to be included in decisions that impact them

Island First Nations councillor says ‘Hereditary chiefs have the ultimate power’

Ahousaht future hereditary chief Jaiden George explains Indigenous governance.

Forestry strike, curtailment had far-reaching impact on Vancouver Island

Island business community buoyed by mediation breakthrough

BC Ferries gets injunction against demonstrations in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

The preemptive injunction is a ‘last resort in the interest of public safety,’ spokesperson says

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Nanaimo-bound ferry breaks down, but another available for service

Two sailings cancelled Sunday on Tsawwassen-Duke Point route

Most Read