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Teacher draws on her illustrating and writing talents for children’s book

Leonard joins forces with dad for The Life of a Shadow
Brittany Leonard enjoyed not only writing, but also illustrating her children’s book The Life of a Shadow. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Chemainus Secondary School teacher Brittany Leonard loves learning and her first book, written in collaboration with dad Mel Leonard, also brought out some hidden talents as an illustrator.

Leonard’s partner Ryan MacDowell got her back into drawing at age 25. Now 29, she put her artistry to work as a key component with the text in The Life of a Shadow.

“It’s the story my dad told me about why we have shadows,” said Leonard, a Saltair resident.

“Your shadow’s always with you because you’re never alone. I think it’s so timely, too, because of the pandemic.”

The 50-page book is a great read for young children, with a topic that’s surely of interest to adults as well, and includes a special feature.

“At the back, there’s instructions to make shadow puppets,” noted Leonard.

The 10 pictures show how to make shadow puppets for a rabbit, snail, dinosaur, duck, spider, bull, goat, deer, turtle doves and a sad chicken as an added bonus for fun.

The accompanying art work to the story is very well done, particularly the darker silhouette scenes that still clearly show shadows.

“I didn’t take art in high school or university,” said Leonard. “I’m self-taught. I think it paid off. A fair number of people said they like the illustrations.”

Leonard was born and grew up in Georgetown, Ont. and graduated from Georgetown District High School. Her family still resides there.

She went to York University and then transferred to Vancouver Island University after moving here and completed her Bachelor of Education degree in 2015.

“I have an aunt who lives in Parksville,” Leonard explained. “I was at the point I needed a change in my life. I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like.”

She then taught in England for six months and in Belize while doing her practicum for school. Leonard got into the Cowichan Valley School District system at Maple Bay Elementary and then Crofton Elementary in 2017-18 before joining the staff at Chemainus Secondary and teaching English, although under unusual circumstances due to the pandemic.

“This year I’m going to be doing an Indigenous focused program and yoga that counts for P.E.,” she explained.

Leonard dislocated her knee and tore her ACL that gave her three months off work during the last school year to spend on drawing and writing the book during the pandemic.

“It’s been a nice excuse to chat with my dad,” she noted. “It was nice to have something to talk about and share.”

Leonard is also working on a graphic novel series for ages 12 and older that she hopes to have finished next year.

She utilized a large network of people that included editor Rachel Hunt in Australia and collaborated with others from around the world to figure out the publishing process for The Life of a Shadow, with many conversations on social media.

The Life of a Shadow is available online through Amazon or

There will be a chance to meet the author when Leonard appears at the Great Canadian Dollar Store at Chemainus Village Square for book signings on Friday, Aug. 27 from 3-6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 28 9 a.m.-noon and Sunday, Aug. 29 also from 9 a.m.-noon.

Inside pages show how Brittany Leonard has illustrations on the left and text on the right of her children’s book. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Ever wondered how to do shadow puppets? Brittany Leonard’s book The Life of a Shadow shows you how. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Brittany Leonard wrote the children’s book The Life of a Shadow in collaboration with her dad Mel. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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