Pages from the Grade 1 version of Captain Otter on the right - written in 1977 - inspired the art for Wilson’s 2018 version published by Owl Kids books in stores and libraries now. Travis Paterson/News Staff

VIDEO: 41 years later, author publishes story he wrote at 6 years old

Troy Wilson originally created Captain Otter while in Grade 1

It’s not the first book of Troy Wilson’s to be rejected.

The Gordon Head author’s latest title to hit shelves in stores, libraries and classrooms is The Sinking of Captain Otter, released this month by Owl Kids Books.

It’s Wilson’s third book published in three years, and the first he first sketched as a six year old in Grade 1 in Port Alberni.

In it Captain Otter and Butterbeard (a butterfly) bond over leaving their natural roles in wildlife to be pirates.

“It amounts to being the first picture book of mine that was ever read by a teacher aloud in the school, period, and my classmates loved it,” Wilson said.

That meant a lot to Wilson and encouraged his passion for storytelling and drawing.

“Your parents and teachers were good at giving you praise, but this was the whole class, laughing, and I didn’t realize at the time how big an impact that really had,” Wilson said. “It was a sneak preview… it gave me the idea that ‘hey, this is something that can be done.’ Maybe in Grade 1 I didn’t know I wanted to be an author when I grew up, but I did know shortly thereafter.”

(Inset photo: Wilson with the 1977 version and 2018 version of Captain Otter. Travis Paterson/News Staff)

In 2004, Wilson achieved his dream of being published, and to great accolades, with Perfect Man. Based on a boy’s preoccupation with retiring superhero Perfect Man, the story is a heartwarming tale that weaves big dreams with humour and even satire. Despite positive reviews, Wilson couldn’t get his sequel to Perfect Man published.

While touring schools in 2005 to read Perfect Man to classrooms, he had the idea to also bring his Grade 1 version of Captain Otter to show kids that achievements like his are possible. That led Wilson to pitch an updated version of Captain Otter, which was first rejected in 2005.

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Wilson then endured a decade-long gap until Scholastic Canada picked up his pitch for The Duck Says in 2015. Last year Wilson was published with a short story in Chirp Magazine and then the hardcover Liam Takes a Stand. He has two more titles coming in spring and then summer of 2019.

Admittedly, his initial 2005 pitch for Captain Otter wasn’t “very good.” Luckily, his latest pitch was interesting enough, and illustrator Maira Chiodi was “massively important.”

“While her hand-done art does fit well with my Grade 1 art, it’s far more important to me, and readers, that her art fits well with the homemade/handbuilt ships in the current Owlkids book,” Wilson said. “Her gentle, adorable, whimsical style helped soften the ‘cannonballs-a-blazing’ portions in a way that more realistic art wouldn’t have done.”

“To know that the book came from a boy’s imagination, and that after so many years it ‘came to life’ again through my work is a great great honour and also a big responsibility,” Chiodi said. “Troy’s story is still very current and very appealing to children because, well, it was written by one. But also, the reason why is so actual is because it talks about love, friendship and empathy, things that we are all in much need of these days.”

Wilson will visit his old school, John Howitt Elementary in Port Alberni, to officially ‘launch’ The Sinking of Captain Otter on Oct. 25. It’s the same school where Mrs. Eivindson, his Grade 1 teacher, spelled out the title cover for his book. (They were once reunited on CBC Radio’s GO following the publishing of Perfect Man.)

The Sinking of Captain Otter is available at Bolen Books, Amazon online, at Chapters/Indigo and other book stores.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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