This past Christmas season, Yukoners were introduced to a new children’s book created by local illustrator Tedd Tucker. Yukon Count features 10 of the territory’s most-iconic wildlife species that are rambling, flying, swimming and cavorting in colourful, stylized landscapes. This is Tucker’s second published offering for kids; his first, The Yukon Alphabet Book, was released in 2019.
Tucker is drawn to kids’ books largely because of the beauty, simplicity and variety of illustrations found in the genre. Tucker is also fascinated with why some kids’ books are read over and over again, while others languish on the shelf.
“I don’t have kids and I have so many kids’ books,” he said. “I just love the illustrations. And every [book] is so different.”
As an illustrator with a background in advertising, Tucker finds children’s books an interesting way to apply principles of art and design, such as the “hierarchy of where the eyes are going to travel” on the page. For example, he tells me, most counting books are large shapes on a white background. The first thing the eye sees is the number, then the word, then the picture.
For Yukon Count, Tucker uses the same formula and then adds a landscape as background. This provides another visual element for kids to engage with. His approach is similar to design in advertising, but more playful.
“A lot of those landscapes are just me doodling and drawing and making up plants,” Tucker explained. “It’s just a lot more fun [than advertising]. Not everything has to be so scrutinized.”
For Tucker, the doodled backgrounds “add a lot of information without being distracting.” The simple, stylized patterns, combined with the animals occupying the landscapes, are reminiscent of fabric design. Take the artwork for number “9”, for example, which features nine caribou loping through a repeated backdrop of spindly trees, shrubs and grasses.
“That looks like it could be on pajamas,” Tucker said.
Like the landscapes, the animals are simply rendered. However, Tucker has also given each of them a unique movement or expression: one of the salmon, for example, looks annoyed. It’s these small details that kids will enjoy finding as they study the pages more closely.
As for how he decided which 10 animals to include, Tucker said it was “surprisingly complicated.”
“There’s a lot of great animals. But I wanted to pick animals that kids could recognize.”
He also avoided using animals that were too similar; for example, he chose muskoxen over bison. He also didn’t want to use too many species that were the same colour—“not too many brown animals,” for instance. Some of the animals that didn’t make the cut on the number pages—such as bison, elk and a lone wolf—make an appearance on the last page of the book.
To achieve the engaging simplicity of Yukon Count, Tucker used analog media such as pencil and ink and combined them with digital programs. He started with a number of pencil sketches, then scanned them into his computer and drew overtop of them.
“The goal is to create something that’s simple, with bold shapes, but also something that has a hands-on, touchable feel,” Tucker explained.
Yukon Count (with its colourful, animated, simple illustrations) is receiving positive reviews from Yukon kids.
“Some parents have shared photos with me of their kids playing with the book after Christmas, and it’s really funny to watch the different age groups work their way through it and count and make animal noises,” Tucker said.
Judging from the response, Tucker has created a book that kids will have fun interacting with again and again.
“What I like about my books is that they’re simple enough that the reader or the parent can take it and kind of steer the journey through the book any way they want.”
For Tucker, the journey of creating and publishing kids’ books continues. He’s working on a story-based children’s book that families can look forward to in the future.Yukon Count is available in Whitehorse at Angelina’s Toy Boutique, Well-Read Books, Mac’s Fireweed Books, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, and FawkesTrot Adventures. It can also be ordered from Tucker’s website, berwin.ca.