I stayed with Helen and Megan’s family in Fort McMurray in March of 1996. Fort McMurray is in Northern Alberta, about four and a half hours drive from Edmonton. It is in the middle of the black spruce forest that covers almost all of Northern Canada up to where the tundra starts, and has LOTS of bugs in spring. So I had to write a story about that.
I hope you enjoyed Blackflies. I really do, I’m not just saying that. This book means a whole lot to me. And what it represents does as well.
Blackflies is set in a First Nations community and has an all-Indigenous cast. That may not seem like a big deal to some – but for myself, as a kid, I can tell you that it would have absolutely blown my mind to see a kids’ book with kids who talked like me and looked like me. Drawn by someone like me. It would have made a huge difference just to see myself represented this way. It’s still incredible to see a book with indigenous kids in every bookstore in the country.
I could talk here about how much fun it was to draw this book – and it was a ton of fun. Especially the scenes where Helen and her dad are reacting to the stinky bug spray! I could talk about how cook it is and what an honour it is to work with Robert Munsch: a true legend in this field and better yet, a truly great person. Really, I’d just like to say Kichi Migwech to you for reading because in so doing, you’re helping to create a day where it is not rare to see books with indigenous kids on every shelf. And that’s pretty awesome!