Victoria author Robert (Lucky) Budd is gearing up for a reading at Sir James Douglas elementary school this week. It’s all part of the launch of his third collaboration with artist and fellow storyteller Roy Henry Vickers.
“That’s important to us, the kids love it when we read to them,” said Budd. He also recently read Cloudwalker to students at Willows elementary. Before that, a visit at Juan de Fuca library sparks the memory of an ideal response for the author.
“One kid put up his hand and said, ‘Why is that story so awesome?’ That pretty much made my day,” Budd said.
Vickers, an Oak Bay High grad and inductee to the school’s Distinguished Fine Arts Alumni program, tells the tale of Orca Chief as told to him through traditional oral history. That tale, crafted into the final tale in partnership with Budd, features 19 original artworks.
“[Vickers] always says these books are for kids 1 to 100. When you read it as a five-year-old it will be very different from what you get when you’re 10 or 30. There are so many layers of stories … there’s so much depth.”
Orca Chief shares an ancient fable about respect. Thousands of years ago in the village of Kitkatla, four hunters leave home in the spring to harvest seaweed and sockeye salmon. When Orca Chief discovers the hunters have damaged the sea floor with their anchor, he sends his brave orca warriors to fetch the men. Miles beneath the waves the hunters ask the ancient leader for forgiveness, apologizing for their lack of respect for Orca’s shining kingdom of sea stars, silvery schools of fish and vibrant coral reefs.
“I’m so proud of that book. When the idea first hit me we were going to do these books, that’s the one I was most excited about. I knew it was going to be underwater and I knew the imagery would be so powerful,” Budd said. “My expectations for this particular With the first in the series, Raven Brings the Light released in 2013, they sold the entire first edition in three weeks.
Last year they added Cloudwaker. Orca Chief is the third in the series and Storyteller, the art of Roy Henry Vickers 2004 to 2014, rounds out their partnership of four books over the past three years.
“Forty years ago there’s no way we would be able to put out these stories. Now there’s an acceptance to the knowledge of First Nations people – the popularity of these books really speaks to that,” Budd said.
Vickers and Budd offer an evening of storytelling and art, to celebrate the third instalment in the bestselling Northwest Coast Legends series on Thursday, May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Legacy Art Gallery, 630 Yates St. in Victoria.
“We’ve had a couple innovations in this book,” Budd said, noting a hidden baby orca in each image of the tale and online content outlined in the back of the book, including the oral histories as told by storyteller Vickers at his Eagle Aerie Gallery in Tofino. “They’re oral histories, they’re meant to be heard.”
Orca Chief is available at Ivy’s Books in Oak Bay, where there happen to be a few signed copies on hand.