British Columbia

Army of Hearts idea translates into powerful childrens' book

'An Army of Hearts' is a crowd-funded children's book that tells the journey of a young girl who rallies support for a sick loved one based on the author's own real life experience.

Author Alex Duncan tells the story of a young girl's journey to rally support for a sick loved one

Vancouver's Alex Duncan penned the children's book "An Army of Hearts" after launching a successful Indiegogo campaign. (Alex Duncan/Vimeo)

There is no universal way to cope with grief or loss — but many find comfort in the support of others. So when Alex Duncan watched her father undergo treatment for cancer, she decided to rally an army of support for him.

She wrote him a short poem, accompanied by hundreds of portraits of her dad's friends and family, each holding a heart to showcase their love and support. Then she put it all together into a book titled An Army of Hearts.

"People responded so enthusiastically — and when I presented it to my dad, that energy transferred," she said on CBC's North by Northwest. "He was so moved by the fact that everyone had taken the time to make it for him."

An Army of Hearts was originally written for Alex Duncan's father as he underwent treatment for cancer.

But Duncan's idea didn't stop there. The poem has since evolved into a children's book filled with unique illustrations that was officially released this summer.

An Army of Hearts

The book, released under the same title An Army of Hearts, reflects the Duncans' life story: it's about a little girl and her dog rallying together an army of support to save a sick loved one from loneliness. The final line of the novel emphatically states, "love is greater than cancer."

"The story in the book although I wrote it for my dad  it is quite universally applicable," said Duncan."It's such a universal reality to have a run-in with this disease."

Duncan says she values children's books in their ability to tell complex stories in simple and powerful ways, and thought it was important to communicate such a particular and prevalent experience with a wide audience.

"I think it's interesting to deliver these messages in such a straightforward way, in this really beautiful package because often we try to avoid, as adults, or we try to deny, what is happening because it is really hard," said Duncan.

Putting it all together

Duncan launched a successful Indiegogo campaign to fund the project, which included a video to garner support. She was able to hit her $15,000 goal, and brought on local artist Paul Morstad for the illustrations.

An illustration by Paul Morstad featured in An Army of Hearts. (Paul Morstad/Alex Duncan)

"[Morstad] really respected and enjoyed my vision, and then brought so much of his own flavour to the table," said Duncan.

Some of Morstad's illustrations includes an old man (who might be a genie) riding a tortoise, and a prizefighting orangutan going toe-to-toe with a small cat.

"His ideas and the life he brought to this book are truly greater than I could have ever imagined."

An Army of Hearts is available online and at bookstores across Vancouver.

With files from CBC's North by Northwest

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Alex Duncan uses life experience to pen a powerful and personal children's book