An Okotoks artist teamed up with her sister to create a children’s book series that empowers girls.
Seeing a lack of what they saw as empowered female characters even in modern children’s books, Christine Walker, owner of Paintworks art supply store in Okotoks, partnered with sister Stephanie Horman to create a series of their own.
Over the past year, Darly’s Adventures came to be.
At the centre of these books is the titular character Darly, who’s travelogues take shape as bedtime stories.
The books were also a way to honour the book's creators' mother Darlene, who passed away four years ago.
Darly’s name is a combination of Darlene and her granddaughter’s names, which all end with an “ee” sound, said Harmon.
The collaboration began when Walker would read her sister’s daughters bedtime stories via Skype, as they live in Kelowna.
Walker said the idea dawned on them as they realized they didn’t enjoy the story they were reading one night.
“My sister's like, ‘Well, I can tell what you're thinking,’” said Walker. “I didn’t love the story.”
Horman recalls the moment too.
“We have an illustrator and a writer in the family, why aren't we doing something like this?” said Horman.
“You know when you're just joking around like, ‘yeah, we should do this,’” Walker said. “And two hours later she called with the story for the book.”
Walker loved the story immediately and after some brainstorming, they came up with the concept that would become Darly.
“I had been tossing around different ideas of children's books, because it's still pretty hard in today's landscape to find strong female roles that are going on adventures,” Horman said.
“It's still over-populated with the princesses and getting saved by the prince and that kind of thing.”
Much of Darly’s adventures take place inside her imagination.
Horman recalls asking her five-year-old daughter Avery where Darly’s first adventure should be.
Avery’s answer: “Nowhere.”
“I was like, well, that's not to help at all, but then I was thinking about it. I'm like, actually, yes, I love that,” Horman said. “Let's go on an adventure to nowhere.
“And we can show that, with kids, even if you're not leaving your house, you can go on these great adventures in your imagination.
“The first book is an actual adventure to nowhere, but every adventure after that does have nowhere incorporated into the storyline.”
The idea of adventuring in place proved to be quite prescient.
“So it was quite funny, too, that we had kind of come up with this concept of Darly going on these adventures with never leaving home before COVID-19 hit,” Walker said. “We had actually written three books, two of them were illustrated.
“Then we were getting ready to self-publish, and COVID hit.
“So we sat on it for a couple of weeks, but we're so excited because we had accomplished this.”
With COVID, the only feasible option for the duo was self-publishing.
“It's been a lot of trial and error over the past year just to figure out how to put words on paper and print them all together,” Horman said.
There’s a philanthropic twist too.
Part of the proceeds from book sales go to help charities close to the sisters’ hearts
Darly’s Trip to the Moon raised money for Adele’s Over the Rainbow Baskets, which helps support families whose newborn has Down syndrome. Sales from Dear Grandma help raise funds for Look Good Feel Better, which works with women with cancer to adapt their makeup and hair techniques. The partial proceeds from Darly’s Adventures in the Garden go to Mamas for Mamas, which supports mothers and caregivers in crisis.
There are currently five story books and one colouring book, with more to come, said Walker.
The books can be found at https://darlysadventures.com