'Ogopogo Odyssey': Victoria teacher works with Disney illustrator to create children's book

Dorothy Hawes' book explores the First Nations' take on the legend of Ogopogo, whom they call "N’ha-a-itk".

Dorothy Hawes consulted with the Okanagan Indian Band to ensure the accuracy of its take on the legend

Victoria writer Dorothy Hawes' book 'Ogopogo Odyssey' was illustrated by Maggie Parr, who works for Disney in Los Angeles, California. (Dorothy Hawes/Maggie Parr)

A Victoria writer has explored the First Nation's connection to Ogopogo in her new children's book Ogopogo Odyssey, in which the mythical monster said to live in Okanagan Lake has been brought to colourful life by an illustrator who works for Disney.

Dorothy Hawes' Ogopogo Odyssey tells the story of a young boy who has a chance sighting of the creature while visiting his grandparents in the Okanagan Valley.

"Of course he's thrilled to discover that he's seen this famous creature, but no one believes him until he meets a native woman who tells him a really interesting First Nations story about the Ogopogo or the N'ha-a-itk as they refer to the Ogopogo," Hawes told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

Hawes said she grew up in the Okanagan and swam in Okanagan Lake "countless times," and added that the legend of the creature is "just part of growing up in that area."

Ogopogo's First Nations' roots

Hawes, who is also a teacher at St. Michael's University School in Victoria, said she felt it was important to bring the story she'd written to the Okanagan Indian Band to make sure she was being accurate and respectful in terms of how they regard the creature.

She said that while she was researching the legend, she came across several First Nations stories about the N'ha-a-itk, which is variously translated as "water demon" or "lake monster."

Maggie Parr (left) and Dorothy Hawes, who met at a writers' conference and collaborated on this book from their home bases in LA and Victoria respectively. (CBC)

"I really wanted them to be aware this story was coming out and really wanted them to be engaged in providing me some feedback," she said, adding she met with a woman from the community who was able to give her more insight.

"I was able to make a few changes that I think have made the book a better book and also hopefully a good resource for people who are interested in First Nations stories."

Hawes' book was brought to colourful life by Maggie Parr, an illustrator for Disney in Los Angeles.

The two met by chance at a writers' conference several years ago and remained friends.

When asked if she knew about Ogopogo before Hawes asked her to illustrate the book, Parr laughed and said, "not at all."

"I had no idea that Canada had its own Loch Ness monster."

She said that she was able to easily work with Hawes from Los Angeles — corresponding and sending jpeg images via email — and said they are both open to collaborating again.

"We do have an idea for another story. Different kid. Different monster."

Could the Sasquatch be next on their list?

"Could be," Hawes said.

With files from CBC's All Points West


To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled:  Victoria teacher works with Disney illustrator for picture book 'Ogopogo Odyssey'