Greater Victoria family writes kids' book while in lockdown

A family discovered a streak of creativity and created a lasting memory by producing a children’s novel while living in social isolation from friends and family during COVID-19.

Jean Paetkau and her two children collectively wrote and illustrated Rumpa and the Snufflewort, an adventure story for readers aged 6 to 12.

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Paetkau is no stranger to writing as an associate producer for CBC Victoria, where she writes content for digital, TV, radio and print platforms.

“The book was born from the magic of extra time because of COVID-19,” said Paetkau.

“I am at my most creative early in the morning and the hour I would have spent commuting to work, I was able to spend writing instead. I would spend the hour I would have spent commuting home editing what I wrote that morning.”

She enjoyed the extra time at home in James Bay with daughter Haley, 12 and Jacob, nine. But the two soon grew tired of the novels that were available for young readers.

Paetkau wanted to entertain her children with a story that was rich with both humour and adventure, and came up with the exploits of pint-sized garden adventurers and the siblings Yacob and Baley.

The story is written from the perspective of an intrepid, if slightly earnest, eight-year-old.

The 72-page book took only six weeks to finish.

“The reason it happened so fast was that every time I would read a just-completed chapter to the children, they would demand the next chapter,” said Paetkau, who wrote poems and plays in her younger days. “I was able to write a chapter every five days.”

The children contributed by being in the test lab for every point and character in the book.

“They would let me know if what I wrote was funny — or not,” she said. “But mostly I just enjoyed sharing the time the three of us had together.”

The illustrations in the book are by both of the children. Haley already dabbles in fashion designs while Jacob has created more than 400 clay characters.

The family are already thinking up followup titles.

The book is available on Amazon. A share of the proceeds from the book will go to a charity that provides meals to vulnerable children on Vancouver Island.

Haley and Jacob’s father is a residential school survivor and the three are members of the Penelakut Tribe.

Paetkau and her children have organized Orange Shirt campaigns resulting in more than $10,000 being donated to island Indigenous schools.

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