What do a feisty young girl, a time-travelling moose and Edmonton have in common? They’re all part of a new children’s book launched this week to help tell out city’s story, from the Ice Age to the present day.
Rutherford the Time-Travelling Moose is an initiative spearheaded by the Friends of Rutherford House Society, with the help of local author Thomas Wharton and illustrator Amanda Schutz. Together, they created the 32-page children’s book that tells the story of a young girl named Robin adventures through time with the titular time traveller while waiting for her grandmother to finish baking cookies.
Together, Rutherford and Robin see what an Edmonton of First Nations before European settlers first arrived, and how the city grew to include landmarks like Fort Edmonton, the Alberta Legislature, the High Level Bridge and the Garneau Theatre.
“We wanted to do something where parents and kids would actually recognize the sites and that would encourage them to go out and visit those sites, and think about them in a different sense,” said Ashley Bhatia, vice-president of the Friends of Rutherford House Society board.
Schutz was thrilled to have the chance to showcase the history of the city she calls home, but she had to do plenty of digging into historical archives to make sure her drawings looked like Edmonton did in specific time periods.
” [For example,] how Whyte Avenue looked just after the streetcar age,” she said. “Buildings like the Princess Theatre are still there, but they had different colours and some different signage. I was able to find some photos from the early ’70s that reflected that timing.”
Meanwhile, Wharton has plenty of adult and young adult fiction books under his belt, but making the adjustment to writing a children’s book was a challenge.
“It was a real challenge to just bring it down to the size of a story like that and try to trim things down,” he said. “But since my kids were little, I’ve been telling them stories for years and years, so I felt like I had some experience in this.”
Still, he felt a connection with the project given that he teaches English in the University of Alberta’s humanities building, located right next door to Rutherford House. “I’ve been here many times and I live this building, so I thought, if I could write a book about it, that would be fantastic.”
The book will be on sale starting Friday at Rutherford House (11153 Saskatchewan Dr.), the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market (10310 83 Ave.), Audreys Books (10702 Jasper Ave.) and Tix on the Square (9930 102 Ave.). Proceeds will go toward future projects undertaken by the Friends of Rutherford House Society to allow the public to take in the history of Rutherford House and other aspects of Edmonton’s history.
Bhatia hopes that readers take away from the book a greater understanding of the rich history in and around Edmonton.
“Recognizing that history is around them in the city – and it doesn’t have to be in a textbook,” she said. “It can be something they can live with and touch.”