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Author-Illustrator Entertains Spell-Bound School Children

By Francie Thompson [The Mirror]

PORTLAND – You could hear the laughter clear down the hall. Somehow, on an ordinary Monday morning at Rideau Centennial School in Portland, a lone floppy-haired man was creating magic.

You could see it in the children's faces when author-illustrator Ian Wallace of Toronto entertained with stories and pictures. Eyes wide, they didn't lose interest for a second of the hour-long meeting. More than a meeting: it was a linking of spirits between storyteller and children, a special moment where few others belonged.

Ian Wallace's illustrations to The Very First Last Time, by Jan Andrews, are a natural and recognizable part of a child's world, the one adults usually forget.

To the teachers gathered at the back of the crowd of kids on Monday, it was a treat of magnificent and haunting art.

The story, featuring a 12-year-old Inuit girl, celebrates the challenge of survival and the power of love.

"This is your story," Mr. Wallace told 12-year-olds in the group. "You're getting bigger, stronger, taller, smellier. You are growing up."

Described by Rideau Centennial teacher Mona Long as a "laid-back guy", Mr. Wallace was animated, dramatic, funny and inspiring.

At 43, he seemed to have more energy than a whole playground of kids. As soon as he left Rideau Centennial, he was to go on to South Crosby Public School in Elgin to cast his remarkable spell on the children there.

First, however, he spent time chatting and autographing books. Mr. Wallace is the author of The Sandwich, illustrated by Angela Wood; author and illustrator of Sparrow Song and Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance. He won the Mr. Christie Award for illustration in The Name of the Tree, a Bantu African tale

Children, says Mona Long, seem to like these pictures best. They were done with pencil crayon on sandpaper to give the feeling of a haze of heat.

Mrs. Long met Mr. Wallace in December and coordinated the visit to both schools.

Copyright © Ian Wallace