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The Joys of a Wild Collaboration

Karen Reczuch and I count ourselves as lucky! Most authors and illustrators do not get to work directly together on a book. An editor is usually the conduit between the two (mainly to protect the illustrator from the possibility of an overbearing author directing the art).

In our case, while we still rely on our wonderful editor, Karen and I also regularly talk about our books-in-progress, share research materials and—best of all—take fun trips to the west coast of Vancouver Island together!

Selfie of Deborah Hodge and Karen Reczuch

Here’s our selfie taken at the start of our most recent trip. We are excited! (Karen on the left, Deborah on the right)]

It all began a few years ago with our first book, West Coast Wild, when Karen and I travelled to the spectacular west coast of Vancouver Island to do photo research. (She and I hadn’t met before—so it was a leap of faith to plan an excursion together!)

 

We spent most of a week sharing an ocean-side cabin, wandering the beaches and hiking the rainforest, with Karen snapping photos the entire time. These gems became the basis for her gorgeous art. And, in the process of our work, we became fast friends and creative partners. Our next book, West Coast Wild Babies, soon followed.

Book Cover West Coast Wild Babies

 

For our most recent book, West Coast Wild at Low Tide, we once again packed our bags and set off to explore the wild shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and poke around in tidepools. Our aim was to see the remarkable creatures that make their home in the intertidal zone—the space between the high and low tide lines.

Photograph of Crab on Sand

Sea Star on Seaweed

Photograph of Sand Dollar on Sand

Walking beach after beach, we traversed the ocean’s edge with our feet in the water or climbing over slippery rocks to find a host of intriguing marine animals hiding among the seaweed and in every nook and crevice. Karen took photos of them all!

Photo of Karen kneeling down to take a photo

What did we find? So much wonderful sea life! We saw bright orange and purple sea stars, vibrant green anemones, hermit crabs scurrying through shallow pools, tiny sculpins darting in the shadows, fragile sand dollars, beautiful snail shells and the tiny feet of barnacles waving in the surf. It was a beachcomber’s paradise!

Selfie of Deborah in blue jacket with ocean behind.jpg

 

Tidepool photo with orange and purple sea stars and anemones.jpg

One afternoon, we made a trip to the Ucluelet Aquarium and spent time with a couple of biologists who generously shared their knowledge of intertidal animals and showed us creatures we had not yet found on the beach. We saw giant red sea cucumbers, purple sea urchins, bright yellow sea lemons, bat stars in rainbow hues and many more fascinating species. This aquarium is a special one—a “collect and release” facility—where local marine animals are collected in the spring and released back into the ocean in the fall.

Bright orange sea star on rock

Hermit crab

Book Cover Purple Sea Urchin

We were enthralled by what we saw on our trip. The rugged beauty of the coastline and the abundance of seashore life is a wonder to behold! Hearing the rhythm of the waves and immersing ourselves in the vast open spaces, we knew we were in a majestic place.

Rocks, sea and blue sky

We feel so fortunate that we can capture some of this awe-inspiring wilderness in our work. Turning the pages of West Coast Wild at Low Tide, you can see what we saw and possibly feel what we felt, as we transformed our experiences into this book.

Pacific Blue Mussels book page

Ochre Sea Star book page

Sunset photo of sea and sky

Did I mention that in addition to being an amazing illustrator, Karen is also a fabulous cook? We feasted on many delicious meals during our week—and in the evenings,  after long days on the beach, we relaxed in our cabin and caught up on each other’s lives, chatting about our families and friends, and possible future books. It was a most congenial and productive time.

Will we go back to the wild west coast again? We’ve got our trip booked for next fall, as we begin working on our fourth book together. Stay tuned!

—Deborah and Karen

*****

Learn more about West Coast Wild at Low Tide:

Explore the wild shoreline of the majestic Pacific west coast and discover the spectacular array of colorful creatures living in rhythm with the tides.

At the edge of the Pacific Ocean, where land and sea meet, lies a narrow strip of beach called the intertidal zone. Endless tides move back and forth across the zone twice a day. A remarkable community of hardy shoreline creatures flourishes in this environment of ever-changing conditions. 

In this third book in the West Coast Wild series, readers will meet brightly colored sea stars, a giant Pacific octopus, busy hermit crabs, delicate sand dollars, fish that camouflage and other intriguing marine animals that a child might see on a beach walk at low tide. Author Deborah Hodge relates fascinating facts about each of the fourteen creatures, while Karen Reczuch’s vibrant watercolor illustrations bring the magnificent shoreline and its unique inhabitants to life.

Includes a note about the west coast intertidal zone and safety tips for beachcombers, as well as a further reading list.

February 24, 2022
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