Who, what, where, when and why am I?
These are lofty and universal questions for a children’s book to try to answer, but one written by a young man who died under tragic circumstances does just that.
The finished book was brought to life by a team of artists and the Eastland family who were living in Sicamous when Shawn Eastland, the book’s author, died.
“i am I” tackles life’s big questions in a way children can understand, but seems relevant for anyone.
“Everyone who has read it has said this isn’t a kid’s book, it’s for everyone. This is the universal question,” said Karen Eastland, Shawn’s mother.
Eastland said Shawn had completed the book, including sketches representing how he intended the illustrated pages to look, in the fall of 2009. In early 2010, before the book could be illustrated and published, Shawn was killed in a car accident. He was 26 years old.
According to Eastland, Shawn had a deep love for children, which led him to want to simplify the important and universal questions asked in i am I into a form they could understand. She added that her son was a deep thinker as a child and was probably pondering many of these questions at a young age himself.
“He was always very intuitive and very self-aware. He had great compassion for other people.”
Eastland said her son had always been a writer and artist. The book’s after-word, which serves as a tribute to the author, mentions his love of weaving words and pictures into hilarious or profound notes he often left for people to find.
When finished with illustrations from the friend and collaborator who he began working on it with, i am I was to be Shawn’s first published work. The illustrator told Eastland that with Shawn gone, the book became more than a project, it became Shawn’s legacy. Eastland said the illustrator felt it was important that the finished product feature artwork as close to Shawn’s original sketches as possible.
She said it has been a long process bringing her son’s vision to reality. One of the most important steps in that process was meeting artist Erin Parchoma, who Eastland said studied and understood Shawn’s creative process – bringing the sketches to full-colour life and embodying Shawn’s inquisitive and joyous energy. Lay-out of the book was handled by a friend of Eastland’s.
The first print run of 500 copies of the book will be ready for Eastland to pick up this week. She said approximately 300 copies are already spoken for, many of them destined for the bookshelves of people in Sicamous, who Eastland said showed them enormous kindness in the hours and days following Shawn’s death.
“Within moments the house filled up with people and for days it was just a constant embrace. We wanted for nothing,” she said.
When Shawn’s friends from out-of-town arrived, Eastland said a local hotel gave them a special rate. She describes the kindness she received from the community in Sicamous and Salmon Arm where his service was held as ‘unbelievable.’
Eastland and her husband Clay will be visiting Sicamous from Dec. 7 to 10 with books in tow for those who have reserved them.
A reading of the book and an opportunity to pick up copies will be held at the Sicamous branch of the Okanagan Regional Library from noon to 2 p.m. on Dec. 8. Those interested in more information or to reserve a copy, can reach Eastland by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.