The true story of a lost narwhal who befriends a pod of belugas has been turned into a children’s book by a Maple Ridge author.
Tiffany Stone launched Little Narwhal, Not Alone at cusquenela elementary on Tuesday, Oct. 12, giving each student in Grades 2 and 3 a free, signed copy of her new book.
Stone tells the tale of the little narwhal that discovers the belugas after setting off from the Arctic to find a new adventure. Although the narwhal does not speak the same language of the belugas, nor does it eat the same foods, they all play the same way and so become fast friends.
When publisher Rob Sanders with publishing company Greystone Kids saw a video clip on the news about the narwhal that strayed 1,000 km south of his normal habitat to hang out with a pod of young male belugas in the St. Lawrence River, he knew it would make a great children’s book.
So when editor Kallie George reached out to her to see if she would be interested in writing a picture book inspired by the true-life event, Stone took on the challenge.
Stone had always been intrigued by the North, because her father was a helicopter engineer and worked in the Arctic a lot when Stone was young. She also felt her experience as a volunteer with Immigrant Services Society of B.C. in Maple Ridge, mentoring new immigrants to Canada, helped her better understand the little narwhal.
“What the little narwhal goes through when he meets others who are both like and unlike him, that he can embrace their differences while also being “sure there’s something that they share” and eventually finding this connection,” she said.
“Narwhals and belugas are distantly related, but they don’t usually interact,” explained the Whonnock resident.
Stone submitted the proposal for her book in December of 2018 and the text was finalized in early 2020.
At that time, schools across the province were moving to online learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stone happened to connect with Janet Smith, a teacher librarian at cusquenela elementary. Smith arranged for Stone to do several virtual author visits.
Smith explained how Stone made a special connection with the students.
“During lockdown she was so lovely. She did three Zoom sessions with us and she read three of her different books,” noted Smith.
“We always said we would like to do something in person as soon as we were allowed to. We just didn’t know what that was going to be or what that was going to look like,” Smith continued.
When Stone said she was having a book launch in October, the wheels started to turn.
The school worked with Stone and her publisher Greystone Books, who gave them a deal on a bulk order. They also worked with Black Bond Books in Haney Place Mall, which was able to provide one book to every primary classroom at the school – including Strong Start and the preschool.
Then they approached Ridge Meadows Rotary who gave them $1,500 to purchase the books from the publisher.
Stone signed every book that – in total – will benefit about 100 students.
And “icing on the cake” for Stone was that the book’s American illustrator Ashlyn Anstee, and UBC marine biologist Marie Noel, who advised Stone about the story, were able to Zoom in for the event.
Black Bond Books was also able to support the event through gift cards, bookmarks, and prizes.
The children, said Smith, had a chance to ask each of the women questions about the book. Everybody wanted to know if it was possible for narwhals to have two tusks.
Another interesting fact the students were fascinated by is that the narwhal, not having access to its own food source, learned to eat what belugas eat.
Stone was impressed by the students’ knowledge of narwhals.
“Everyone knew that a narwhal’s tusk is actually a long protruding tooth, and two young experts knew that, in rare cases, narwhals can have two tusks, that both their teeth protrude,” she said.
Stone learned that both narwhals and belugas have nicknames.
“Narwhals are called “unicorns of the sea” because of their tusks, and belugas are called “canaries of the sea” because of all the sounds they make,” noted the author.
Little Narwhal, Not Alone is Stone’s 10th children’s book. She has published poetry and picture books for children.
Black Bond Books in Maple Ridge, she said, is a huge supporter of her work and carries most, if not all, of her titles. Stone’s books are also available to borrow at the library, including some as e-books.
For more information about her go to tiffanystone.ca or @tiffanystonewriter on Instagram.
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