Town basis of new kids’ book

Heather Latter

Families interested in some summer reading might want to pick up a copy of Nathalie Donaldson’s recently-published children’s book, “Ant’s Adventure on the Great Canadian Main Street.”
“It promotes Fort Frances,” explained the Betty’s employee, who not only wrote the 28-page rhyming story but illustrated it, too.
“It incorporates places in Fort Frances,” Donaldson said, referring to locations such as the museum, bank, and post office.
Donaldson said the idea was suggested by Betty’s co-owner Doug Anderson.
Anderson noted he and his wife, Ann, had been visiting a friend in Greenville, S.C. when they noticed the “Mice on Main” program in their downtown.
“Greenville had gone through troubled times as the paper mill and two textile mills [there] shut down,” Anderson wrote in the forward of the book.
“The ‘Mice on Main’ project has revitalized their downtown with a book about a family of mice and figures of mice around the downtown for children to find.
“As we noticed the vibrance of their recovery of a wounded downtown, we saw a way to improve downtown Fort Frances,” Anderson added, noting he approached Donaldson to do something different while still using the idea of creating a story and activity for families.
“We came up with the idea of bugs on Scott Street and would bounce ideas off each other during free time at the store,” he recounted.
Donaldson said the story is about an ant who decides he wants to see the downtown.
“He talks to Butterfly to see if she knows what goes on downtown and she’s kind of rude to him, so Ant takes off,” she summarized.
“Later, all the ants find out that Butterfly was rude to him so they think that’s why he left and they all go off down the street looking for him.
“But when they are down the street, they discover cool things about Fort Frances.”
Donaldson noted the idea was to create a story about life in Fort Frances that also includes an interactive element for families with young children.
“All the insects in the book will be placed along the street in their favourite location according to the story,” she explained.
“Children will be able to find the insects ‘hiding’ as they walk along the street, carrying the book along with them.”
The plan is to have the insects in place for “Mall Day” (June 30).
“It is our hope that this book gets more families out walking and spending time together while increasing business on the street,” Donaldson reasoned.
“Our goal is community improvement and family support.”
In addition, there are extension activities at the back of the book, including cut-outs of the insects from the story.
“The way they work is, for example, Fly is at the restaurant in town so Fly could be wherever food is in your house.
“So you can hide them around your house, day cares, schools,” Donaldson noted.
The also are talking points in the book to get children thinking about the story and applying what they learned.
Donaldson said the locations used in the book are very common to small towns, such as a post office, flower shop, and restaurant.
“[So] the book can be used in other small communities across the country in the same way we plan to use it here,” she remarked.
“It’s fantastic,” enthused Anderson. “I can see all kinds of things that a person can take out of there.
“Just thinking about a lot of things. It really is wonderful.”
For instance, children will learn about their community, different insects, self-confidence, being a good friend, and more.
“This book, as well as providing an activity for families, is also successful as a stand-alone story of friendship and self-acceptance,” Donaldson said.
“It is about finding what you love about yourself, and what you love about your home and environment.
“The insects accept that not everyone will love them for everything that they are, but it is the things they love about themselves that are most important,” she stressed.
“Underneath the fun of a scavenger-hunt type community activity and colourful pictures is a message of finding that unique strength in yourself and being proud of your differences.”
Donaldson said they’ll know the book is a success when they see families walking down the street with the book—finding the insects as they walk and having fun while getting exercise as a family.
“We want to do more to beautify our town and add some fun to the ‘Great Canadian Main Street,’” she noted.
Donaldson said the book was self-published through FriesenPress, the same company her grandmother, Liz Donaldson, used when she wrote the book, “Stitches in Time.”
The younger Donaldson is taking after her grandmother in becoming a published author, but it’s something she said she wanted to do.
“I always enjoyed writing and drawing,” she remarked, noting when she was approached about the idea, she certainly wanted to take on the project.
She used pencil crayons and markers for the illustrations, with the background being watercolour.
“I did all the prints, and then we scanned them and sent them over the FriesenPress and they got them printed,” she explained.
But while it all sounds simple, Donaldson conceded it was a lot of work.
“It takes a long time to get a book published,” she remarked, adding they worked on the project for about two years.
“But seeing the final product, it’s pretty exciting,” Donaldson enthused.
And she thinks all kinds of people will like this book.
“Adults and children will be excited to have a book that is about their town,” she reasoned.
“Tourists will be excited to have this memento of the place they visited on their summer vacation.
“Families will send copies of the book to loved ones to show community pride where we live,” she added.
“We don’t know of any other children’s book that are about the town of Fort Frances.”
Donaldson also said this book is just the start. “There will be more,” she pledged.
“Ant’s Adventure on the Great Canadian Main Street” costs $12.99 and is available at Betty’s.
It also is available online from the new Betty’s online store (bettystheoriginal.com) or directly from FriesenPress.