Young bookworms in Edmonton will soon be able to learn about their hometown's history, courtesy of a new book about a time-travelling moose.
Rutherford the Time-Travelling Moose tells the story of Robin, a young Edmontonian, who meets the rather remarkable Rutherford while on a trip to grandma's house. The two quickly hit it off and head out on an adventure through time.
"It's an introduction for really young kids about the idea that the place they live wasn't always the way it is now," says writer Thomas Wharton.
The idea behind the book came from The Friends of Rutherford House Society, which put out an open call for writers and illustrators interested in creating a children's book about the history of Edmonton.
As the two winning submissions, writer Wharton and illustrator Amanda Schutz worked together closely, passing ideas back and forth in what amounted to a literary blind date.
"I know for myself I really wanted Thomas to feel like he was involved in the decision-making around how the characters look, what age they might be," Schutz said of her designs.
At the same time, Wharton sent all of his drafts to Wharton for her final approval.
Book strikes chord with Edmonton students
In the end, the two decided to start at the very beginning — all the way back in the ice age.
"There's nothing and there's no one," Wharton said. "There's just ice and snow and they run into a mammoth."
From there, Robin and Rutherford's adventures take them to a First Nations village, to the Alberta legislature where they meet 'The Famous Five' suffragettes, and even to the 1984 celebrations following the Oilers' first Stanley Cup victory.
"A little bit of everything, that was the idea," Wharton said of the storyline. "The story is kind of driven by (Robin's) personality because she's the kind of kid who's like 'Oh! Let's go there! Let's see this!' "
And so far, it's been a hit with its test audience, a group of Grade 3 students who got a sneak peak of the story.
"They really got into the story," Wharton said. "There's a scene in the book where you see a lot of immigrants coming to Edmonton and getting off the train and starting their new lives. So I asked the kids 'Probably some of your families came from someplace else?' and all these hands shot up.
"After the reading some of these kids came up and wanted to tell me where they had come from" Wharton added. "That was one way that I saw that these kids were connecting with the story."
The first edition of the book will be unveiled at a 2 p.m. media event on Wednesday at Rutherford House. The official release party, where the public can pick up their own copies, will be held on Saturday at Audrey's Books on Jasper Avenue.