Calgary

How one boy's love of cowboy culture inspired a book for royal baby Archie and hospitals across Canada

A made-in-Alberta children's book will be delivered to England's royal baby Archie later this month, and 230 copies will be donated to children's hospitals across Canada in his honour.

'Let's take the excitement about Archie's birth and turn it into something that does good here in Canada'

Derrick Clough, who is 3 years old in this photo, inspired his mom to create a children's book about the Canadian Rockies. (Dekkie Clough/YouTube)

A made-in-Alberta children's book will be delivered to England's royal baby Archie later this month, and 230 copies will be donated to children's hospitals across Canada in his honour.

The idea for the book began with five-year-old Derrick, who's often spotted in Carstairs, Alta., decked out from head to toe — literally from his hat to his boots — in cowboy gear. 

When his mom, Ayesha Clough, took him to the library to borrow some books on horses and cowboy culture, she was shocked at how limited the selection was.

"They had unicorns and ponies, but nothing about horses. And that just struck me as odd, given that we live right here in Alberta, which is Canada's heartland," Clough told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Months later, it occurred to her that she could help fix that. The result was Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild.

Lia Golemba, left, is the creator of the book's artwork, and Ayesha Clough is the publisher of Red Barn Books. (Supplied by Ayesha Clough)

The book brings kids on patrol with three real-life national park wardens in the beautiful backcountry of the Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia.

The Wardens, from left: Ray Schmidt, Scott Ward and Bradley Bischoff. The trio plays songs inspired by the land they've protected for years working for Parks Canada. (Andrew Querner)

It's based on the song Government Cowboy by The Wardens, a musical trio that Derrick also happens to love and whose songs he's been singing for nearly half his life.

Clough called the Wardens to pitch the idea of a children's book collaboration. 

"And they just got back to me right away and said, 'You know what? Anything that gets kids reading, we're behind it 100 per cent.'"

To create the book, Clough enlisted the help of Lia Golemba, who carved the book's artwork, stamped it onto paper, and then digitally scanned and recoloured everything. 

An example of the illustrations that Lia Golemba created for the children's book. (Supplied by Ayesha Clough)

"She wanted the book to have that very rugged, tactile feel, just like the backcountry of the Rockies, and just like the Wardens' music," Clough said.

The images that overlay each page were based on pictures that the Wardens provided of their actual careers spent patrolling the Rockies.

"If you see a cabin in the book, it's an actual cabin that exists out there somewhere in Banff or Jasper. If you see some mountains, it's the Three Sisters. It's a very, very Alberta book," Clough said.

The royal edition

Clough was working on the book right around the same time that Meghan Markle was pregnant with baby Archie, and she thought it would be a nice gesture to send a finished copy to the youngest royal, given his mother's strong ties to Canada.

Markle lived in Toronto for years while shooting the popular TV series Suits before marrying Prince Harry and becoming the Duchess of Sussex.

"Then I thought, well, he probably gets gifts every day from all over the world. What about kids right here in Canada who would love to have a beautiful gift like this?" Clough recalled.

"And I got to thinking about sick kids, and all the time that they spend in hospitals, undergoing all these painful treatments. And I thought, you know what? Let's take the excitement about Archie's birth and turn it into something that does good here in Canada."

So in her Kickstarter campaign, she included an option for people to put $120 toward the book. In return, they could pick a Canadian hospital that would receive 10 books in their honour.

Those donors would also have their names beautifully inscribed on the inside cover of Archie's royal edition by calligrapher BerylAnne Hodgins.

The 'honour roll of donors,' handwritten by Hodgins, includes the names of all the families whose donations have resulted in copies of the book being sent to hospitals from Victoria to Halifax and even Inuvik. (Supplied by Ayesha Clough)

"She's put lovely gold highlights, she's hand-painted maple leaves on the pages. She's really turned this thing into something fit for a royal," Clough said.

The royal edition of the book will be couriered to the U.K. later this month.

Calligrapher BerylAnne Hodgins uses gold highlights in the calligraphy addressed especially to royal baby Archie, who was born on May 6, 2019.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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