District Highlights

Pitt Meadows student and teacher team up to publish children’s book

A student and teacher in the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District have teamed up to write a new children’s book.

Magpie Mischief is set in the forested area behind Edith McDermott Elementary, where author Helen Donnelly once taught, and illustrator Lena Meszaros was once a student. The pair have stayed connected over the years as they both moved on to Pitt Meadows Secondary, where they began talking two years ago about collaborating on the story.

“Helen and I met in Grade 5, and I’ve been friends with her ever since,” said Meszaros, who is now in Grade 11. 

“It’s been perfect,” Donnelly added. “It has been great growth for the both of us.”

Donnelly first got the idea for the book more than four years ago. After reading it to some students, they encouraged her to find a way to get the story published.

“There was a student who said to me ‘Miss Donnelly, you have to get this published,’” she said. “Those words have travelled around and around in my head for years.”

Author Helen Donnelly, left, illustrator Lena Meszaros, centre, and paginator Justin Cardas, right.

To layout the book, the pair turned to Justin Cardas, another School District 42 student, who put together the text and art into the final package. Today, Donnelly and Meszaros visit libraries and classrooms around the district, reading the story to students and talking about the process of coming up with the book. 

Magpie Mischief tells a story of friendship and how our connections with other people are more important than material things, Donnelly said. So, when it came time to find an artist to illustrate the book, it was only natural for her friendship and connections to lead her to Meszaros, who was happy to share her talent.

“We are friends,” Meszaros said. “It’s not like student to teacher. It’s person to person.”

In coming up with the illustrations, she spent a lot of time in the forest around Edith McDermott, getting a sense of the birds and the natural environment. She also close studied Donnelly’s text, building a deep familiarity with the story and its elements before putting her pencil to paper.

“I mostly just read it over and over until I got a base for how I was going to draw it,” Meszaros said. “I am really happy with how the book came out. I’m proud of how my illustrations came out. I’m very proud of them.”

• For a lesson plan to accompany Magpie Mischief, email Helen at donnelly.h@gmail.com




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