You might not find a choir of frogs, a tattle-telling insect, or a lynx in winter clothes in nature, but that doesn’t make them out of place in Dave and Diane Reid Stevens’ newest children’s book: Eccentric Earthlings.
Eccentric Earthlings is the third alphabet book published by the North Delta couple. The first, Weirdly Wonderful was Dave’s idea: a whimsical alphabet book featuring pun-filled cartoons and biological information on 26 underwater creatures. The second book, Amazing Airborne, saw Diane come on board as writer to help develop the book on flying creatures.
Eccentric Earthlings completes the three-part series, and features 26 different land animals described through words and whimsical drawings.
“We kept everything pretty much the same, but we concentrated on creatures that have some connection to the land,” Dave explained.
The process was similar too: first Diane thought of the title, then the research began.
“Sometimes we had an abundance of animals; other times there would be a scarcity,” Dave said about looking for animals to fit with each letter.
“We were looking for animals that also had a visual pun to them … so we didn’t always land on the first one that came. We’d keep researching and keep editing and work it down that way.”
One animal that lent itself naturally to Dave’s love of cartoon puns was the hobo spider, pictured in the book as leaning up against a haystack holding an empty can. Another one was B.C.’s rubber boa — the only boa constrictor in Western Canada.
“This is quite something, because I didn’t realize we had a boa constrictor in B.C.,” Diane said. “And he looks a bit scary, but he’s a chicken. He’s very passive.”
“His head and tail look the same,” Dave added. “So he shows his tail as the head and hopes that will distract people enough [for him] to hide underneath logs.”
Once each letter had an animal buddy, Dave would start cartooning. Diane, the writer of the two, would critique.
“Before, I would have all my ideas in my head, so I would just quickly paint them,” Dave said. “And she’d go ‘Well, that doesn’t really work.’”
They both laughed. In the past, Dave would have to repaint his designs. But this time, he showed Diane the drawings before they were painted.
“So this book he didn’t have to repaint things,” Diane said. “Which is good. We’re working together a little better.”
Working as creative partners has been a learning experience for the couple throughout their alphabet series, although they seem to have settled into the groove in this last book.
“It’s very satisfying and fun,” Diane said. “It just feels good to have something we’ve done together, as well as supporting each other in our different modes of art.
“And our relationship is surviving and thriving,” she added, laughing. “Happy to say.”
Eccentric Earthlings will be launched at the George Mackie Library on Nov. 4 between 1 and 2:30 p.m. Books sell for $21 and are available from the Stevens or through Amazon. Additional launches will be held at the Ladner Pioneer Library and the Tsawwassen Library on Nov. 17 and Dec. 1.
Although Eccentric Earthlings marks the end of the Stevens’ alphabet series, it’s not the end of their literary aspirations.
The couple is already working on a children’s book about their daughter’s dog, Lucy. Lucy joined the family when their daughter was living in Mexico City, and later moved with her to Vancouver. Once there, she had to learn to welcome a new member to her pack: the Stevens’ grandson Luka.
“I think it would be a good book for children, with themes of family, belonging, friendship,” Diane said.
The goal is to launch the book next fall — although they might not be in North Delta to share it. The couple is planning to move to Nanaimo in the spring to be closer to their youngest granddaughter.
“We might have to be cold-calling libraries in Nanaimo,” Diane said, thinking about the launch of their next book. “We might launch it here too though.
“It’s not like we’re never going to come back here; this library is very close to our heart,” she continued. “So I would be very happy to launch our book here too.”