A Gibsons author has been honoured by the BC and Yukon Book Prizes for a children’s book with a fleet-footed connection to the Sunshine Coast. Kallie George’s 2021 release The Secret Fawn was shortlisted for the 2022 Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize, according to an announcement released in mid-April.
The book was illustrated by Ontario designer Elly Mackay using cut-paper art. It is George’s second nomination for the BC and Yukon Book Prizes; she was previously shortlisted for her book Heartwood Hotel: A True Home in 2018.
The Secret Fawn tells the story of a girl whose family members see a deer grazing in their yard. But because she is struggling to get dressed, the girl arrives too late to sight the four-legged visitor. Bereft at missing out, she begins a search that results in solitary communion with a tiny fawn.
“It’s a little bit about growing up and being the youngest one [in the family],” said George. “And seeing the magic and something special that you can keep for yourself.”
The story was inspired by George’s childhood on the Sunshine Coast, although she admits that the ongoing increase of deer in urban areas diminishes the real-life serendipity of real-life encounters.
“In fact when I was younger I don’t think I saw quite so many, but now we have so many that come through our yard,” George said. “They eat everything. So they’re maybe less secret and less magical than in my book.”
George is the author of 30 books for children, and is also the editorial director for picture books at Greystone Books, a Vancouver publishing house. She grew up in Gibsons attending Langdale Elementary and Elphinstone Secondary, where she seized every free moment to indulge her appetite for creative writing. In Grade 7, she drafted a play for performance in front of the entire student body. Later, sitting in her school library, she authored a full novel.
“I was just so lucky that my friend circle growing up was really supportive of my writing,” George said. “Growing up, one of my really good friends would always be doing illustrations for my books. They always had ideas for me that could help. They would listen to my stories. And now, my husband and my friends still listen to my stories.”
After completing her master’s degree in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia, George settled in the Vancouver area. Just before the COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020, she returned to the Coast with her husband and young son.
Despite her own childhood spent in the shadow of Soames Hill, George resonates with Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Avonlea novels, and has published a series of picture books inspired by Anne of Green Gables.
Her 2021 book I Hear You, Forest explores the importance of listening—to kindred spirits and sylvan groves alike.
“People really want to be heard. That’s what we all want: somebody to listen to us,” she said. “You might not always understand. But listening is the first step to understanding.”
Winners of the 2022 BC and Yukon Book Prizes will be announced in September, with recipients selected through a jury system.