After spending enough time in the bush, a forestry buff has turned her knack for story telling into an educational picture book series.
Rossland resident Darcee O’Hearn is promoting her first book “Leonard the Larch” in her “Legends of the Forest” series this weekend during Golden City Days.
“I spend a lot time in the forest, especially when I worked in the industry, I’m very visual and I have one of those photographic memories,” said O’Hearn. “I could picture what each individual tree looks like and how I think they’d interact if we weren’t there.”
The 40-year-old has been dreaming about writing a book for some time, but it wasn’t until about six years ago when O’Hearn had her “aha” moment.
With a degree in forestry, O’Hearn was funded by the West Kootenay Education Fund to teach kids about the woods and during one of her presentations in Fort St. John, one woman recommended that she compile her stories on tree specimens into a children’s book series.
“I started writing these books because it was astonishing how many kids and teachers did not know the difference between a deciduous and coniferous tree, and that was my first alarm bell,” she said. “I have 100 different forestry books and not one of them is geared toward children.”
Hence her desire to tell a legend – both educational and entertaining – brought to life through 17-year-old Ximena Abresch’s illustrations.
Her self-published book tells the tale of a “joker” who’s always up to no good. The “wicked old tree” spends his time creeping up and spooking his friends in the forest.
With Halloween around the corner, Leonard asks Mother Nature for a costume that is sure to scare and she rids him of his needles to achieve a skeleton look.
“You know when the needles turn orange and fall that Leonard is getting ready to spook us all because that’s exactly what happens in nature,” she said, pointing out that the larch is the only coniferous tree that drops all its needles every year.
“All of my stories are based on the truth but are giving a unique way of thinking about why it could actually happen that way.”
The book gives a complete profile of a larch so that children can go out in the woods and match the description of the needles and bark to the appropriate specimen.
O’Hearn’s hope is that kids will learn enough about trees that they’ll gain a level of respect for nature.
To further entice children, she has included a recipe on making plasticine amber out of tree sap. Children are encouraged to follow the steps – finding the tree resin, boiling it and shaping it – which is presented by her children through a series of photos.
“Because these books are incredibly my heart and soul – I get choked up thinking about it – I want my readers to meet my family and get a sense of who I am,” she said. “It’s driven right from my heart and I’m just passing it on to my friends and family and I’m trying to connect our youth to our forest in a very clever way.”
Ensuring she’s targeting the entire province, one tree at a time, O’Hearn’s next book – “Cedric the Cedar” – will be based on a coastal species.
She’s going forward like it’s “going to be the No. 1 seller,” and has printed off 1,000 copies of “Leonard the Larch: Legends of the Forest.”
O’Hearn will be selling her $15 book outside of the Nelson and District Credit Union in Rossland Sunday from noon until 2 p.m. She will later be reading her book at the Miner’s Hall at 2:30 p.m., where kids are asked to bring a musical instrument and join her in a sing along with help from local musician Terry Marshall.
“Leonard the Larch” will soon be for sale at Artisan and Crockett Book in Trail, as well as Jelly Bean Junction and most likely Café Books West in Rossland.