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Airdrie illustrator collaborates on upcoming children's book

Rocky Mountain Rangers
(From left) Bradley Bishoff, Scott Ward and Ray Schmidt of The Wardens with the cover art of "Rocky Mountain Ranger," an upcoming children's book inspired by one of their songs. Photo Submitted/For Rocky View Publishing

The life of a Rocky Mountain ranger is unveiled in a forthcoming children’s book with a local connection. An Airdrie illustrator and a Carstairs publisher have teamed up with musical act The Wardens to produce Rocky Mountain Rangers about life in Canada’s national parks.

“The book is absolutely charming and so well illustrated,” said Bradley Bishoff, a member of The Wardens. “It’s a real opportunity for young people across the province to get familiar with park wardens – what they do, the lifestyle they lead and the important work they do in conservation.”

The project originated when Ayesha Clough, an editor and publisher from Carstairs, approached the musical group with the idea of turning one of their songs into a book for kids.

Clough sought the collaboration after a trip to the library. While searching for books for her horse-and-cowboy-obsessed four-year-old son, she noticed a limited selection of contemporary Canadian books on the topic and decided to publish her own.

She drew upon her son’s love of the music and stories of The Wardens, and asked the band if they’d be interested in adapting their songs into books.

“They’re all beautiful stories about Alberta and about the Rocky Mountain parks,” Clough said.

The Wardens is a trio comprised of singer/songwriters Bishoff, Scott Ward and Ray Schmidt, who have all spent significant time working as wardens in Banff National Park. Those experiences have inspired their songs and stories. According to Bishoff, the band leapt at the chance to be involved in the project and have one of their songs translated for a younger audience.

“The song is called Government Cowboys,” he said. “It talks about adventures in the back country as park wardens, with our horses. When we started our career, we’d go into the back country for 17 days at a time and come off for four. It was adventure daily, as you can imagine, between the horses and the trail and the wildlife and the different people we met out there.”

Clough then involved friend and frequent collaborator Lia Golemba, an Airdrie-based illustrator, who designed colourful wood-cut type illustrations to accompany the story, based on photos provided to her by the band.

“It was great to have reference from The Wardens,” she said. “A lot of the photos I used as references, but also created spaces, layering different elements, some of the different mountain ranges they had worked around. They provided a lot of direction as to what kind of animals would be seen where.”

Like Clough, Golemba was fired up about the project because she felt the book would fill a gap she’s noticed while trying to find reading material for her children.

“I’m a mom, as well,” she said. “My boys love stories with great pictures, and I like stories that are regional and tell Canadian stories, and they’re not always easy to find.”

The book, according to Clough, should instill a sense of adventure and an appreciation for Alberta’s natural beauty in young readers.

“We’re so disconnected from nature and the outdoors,” she said. “We just want to inspire a new generation of Canadians to know about the great outdoors that we have right in our own backyard, and help them develop a sense of pride and instill a seed that you can work in these wild places.”

The books are now available for presale on for a minimum pledge of $20, with a goal to raise $20,000 to cover the cost of printing and distribution. Clough said the more pledges received, the more copies they’ll be able to print. The presale began May 7, and by May 17, the campaign had already raised more than $5,000.

She noted the success of the book could lead to more titles in the future, a prospect all of the collaborators said they are excited about.

“Hopefully, with the success of Rocky Mountain Rangers, we’ve got a few other songs lined up as potential book themes,” Bishoff said.

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