The small hardcover book on Angela Louie's kitchen counter is far more than just a children's storybook.
It's a tale that grew out of her desire to share an important message with the world about inclusion and acceptance - and it's one small step towards a mission to change that world.
"If everybody took the message from this book, the world would be a better place," she says.
She laughs a little, realizing that "changing the world" may be a lofty goal for a book.
But it's a genuine intent of The Possibility Tree - the original story by Louie that takes the form of a Chinese folk tale. It's been published with illustrations by Louie's daughter, India Eliot Oates.
The book, which Louie describes as a "storybook for adults," tells the story of Lan, a young girl who learns about her unique gifts and place in the world after being chosen to study with Master Ming.
The story grew out of Louie's professional work as a speaker - with a background in mental health work, she gives many presentations about various aspects of recovery, hopes and dreams. She found herself wanting to have some story that could tie all the aspects of her speeches together.
She started to write, and gradually, a folk-tale-like story emerged. Which is when she had the idea that the story should have some illustrations.
She turned to her daughter, India, a Cariboo Hill Secondary student who's always been an artist.
"I really liked the idea," India recalls. "I thought that was so cool."
India notes that, at the time, she was around 13 and didn't have any experience doing illustrations for a book. So the whole process was a large learning curve for her.
"It turned out to be so much more difficult than I thought," admits the young artist, who's now turning 17.
The two collaborated on the look, feel and tone of the illustrations. The first one India did - which remains her favourite - was an acrylic painting of a young girl next to a large tree, all in burnished autumnal tones, that is now the cover of the book.
The illustrations within are done in watercolour, reflecting a feel of Chinese brush painting. None of the illustrated characters have faces - a deliberate artistic decision.
"Because it's a parable, it gave it a certain universal kind of feel," Louie explains.
"You can relate it to your own life," India adds.
It was thanks to Louie's husband, Allan de la Plante, that the story became a published book.
"When he read the story, he said, 'This is great, this needs to be a book,'" Louie recalls.
She hadn't considered publishing the work before, she notes. But her husband - a photographer and author - has experience with publishing and was able to navigate her through the world of self-publishing. They chose to work with Friesen Press in Victoria, and Louie is now learning about the business end of art.
"That's quite foreign to me," she admits.
She's working hard to get the book into as many hands as possible. It's currently being translated in to French, and she's also looking at the possibility of publishing it in China.
"I'd love it to get picked up in China," she says. "I think that's where it belongs."
Louie has also create a facilitator and teacher's guide, so she's hoping to approach educators about using it to help discuss the themes of the book: appreciation of your own gifts, appreciation of the gifts of others, and finding your own place in the world.
Though she wrote it as an adult story, she notes it's accessible and short enough for young readers and would be particularly appropriate for the eight- to 11-year-old set.
"I'd love to see it being used with kids. I'd love to see it in parents' hands, grandparents' hands," she says. "I'd love to have it being a seed just to change the way people view people in their own neighbourhood.
Louie notes that, in her background working with people with mental health and substance abuse issues, she has seen what happens when people aren't included.
"In our society we've got so many people who are marginalized, and we are very limited and narrow in terms of who we think is worthy," Louie says.
This story is a counter to all of that, she says, and she hopes it makes people ask the key question: "How do we include and appreciate the gifts everybody brings?"
After this, there's a chance mother and daughter may work together again - Louie notes that India has a huge amount of art work of various styles that lends itself to storytelling.
India herself is already at work illustrating another book and has applied to Emily Carr University of Art and Design for next year, after high school graduation.
The teen, like her mother, wants to try to get The Possibility Tree into as many people's hands as possible.
"It's important to do this, to introduce this message to everybody," she says.
The Possibility Tree is available online at www.friesenpress.com/bookstore, as well as through Amazon and Chapters online. It is also available for order from most book retailers.
For more about the book, see www.angelalouie.com.
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