by Brianna Tosswill
Special thanks to Charles Tosswill
First things first, I did not know that publishing was my passion until very recently. I've said before that I didn't know I wanted to publish books until we we're 90% through the first one! I knew I was an artist, and I knew I liked books. Making them... I didn't feel knowledgeable enough, I didn't read in enough genres! I had never studied publication! And yet, Natalie and I have arguably started a successful small business by filling in the blanks in each other's knowledge and guessing when we couldn't figure something out. So it is always with some surprise that I remember that my very first book was published when I was three, the second at age four.
My dad is a maker. He wouldn't self-identify as an artist, exactly, but instead as a carpenter, electrician, metalworker, house-builder (and re-builder), fix-it man, plumber. Between him and my mom who sewed and painted and designed, it's no wonder I grew up with the phrase "I could make that" always on my tongue. My dad is also a storyteller. He would read aloud or speak from memory, stories upon my request. My favourites were: a big Disney fairy tale book, "My Very First Bible" (old testament stories, they're juicy), and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I don't know how recently you've spent time with a child in the 3-5 age range but the most common word out of their mouths is "why?". And 4-yo Brianna really liked to challenge The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Eventually, when I asked for the story, my Dad would ask "short version? or long version?" by which he meant: original, or alternative ending?
Always ask for the long version.
I don't know whose idea it was to put these oral tales in print, (let's be real, probably the adult's) but I still have them. "Teddy's Swimming Lesson" was printed in 1996 when I was three, and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" was printed in 1997 when I was four. You can see that digital fonts made great strides in the year-long gap between books. Also! Some of you may enjoy knowing that these pages had to be cleared of the hole-punched edging that was used at the time to pull them through the dot-matrix-printer.
Without further ado, here is "Teddy's Swimming Lesson"
As you will soon see I seem to have been preoccupied with swimming pools. I guess I was taking regular lessons at the time! Also the "big bad monster on top of the computer" is one of these plastic finger puppets from the 90's. Very tiny. The images here were all drawn by my dad with the text dictated by myself, apparently. A few turns of phrase really give me away including "He goes to sleep all by himself", high praise, at the time.
Our second literary work pays homage to storytelling in the oral tradition and the nature of tales to change slightly with each telling. The date is a bit ambiguous, I've penciled it in as '97 on the back, but it's in my adult handwriting so I think that we counted back when I was a teenager and placed it as best we could. Our main period clues were the font evolution from 150 to Century Gothic... and the fact that I apparently couldn't spell my own name. I hope you enjoy "The Boy Who Cried Wolf". Read aloud and completely earnestly for best results.
A couple of notes to finish off: I still don't take well to unhappy endings, and I was only responsible for colouring in this one. (Good drawings dad, seriously) I can still remember being reprimanded for colouring red on top of the text. Oh! And the fact that babies can't run up hills was very important for me to include.
I want to stress that these are some of my most cherished childhood keepsakes. They are not beautiful in the way the books I make now are, but it hardly matters. If you have a child in your home of in your life I strongly encourage you to see what stories they have to tell you, and ask what stories they want to be told. And if you read either of these stories to them, we'd love to hear about it!