My first graphic novel, Fire Mountain, has a kind of a neat story that goes along with it. While homeschooling our son, Will, we found that he had developed a pretty strong fascination with ancient Rome, and more specifically, the destruction of Pompeii by Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.
Well, lo and behold, the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa/Hull just happened to be having an exhibition of the plaster casts made by Giuseppe Fiorelli who, in 1863, discovered that air pockets left in the layer of ash covering Pompeii were left by decomposed bodies. This encouraged him to inject plaster into the voids and recreate the death throes of those who perished when Vesuvius erupted.
There was no question about whether or not we were going to see the casts. When a child is being homeschooled and the very thing he loves to read about is going to be on display in a museum, you really have to get to that museum even if it hadn't originally been in the holiday forecast.
At the museum, our son was in his element, not only in going from room to room examining the artifacts, but in finding this little gem of a DVD, Pompeii: The Last Day, that he absolutely couldn't get enough of:
When we got back from our trip, he couldn't stop drawing temples and ruins and gladiators and just about everything else "Ancient Roman" he could draw. The whole time he was telling me that I should write a book about Pompeii and that he'd draw the pictures.
As luck would have it, I was asked shortly after our return to write for a new series of graphic novels called Timeline produced by Rubicon Publishing in Oakville for Scholastic Canada. I already knew the title of the first book I would write and I also knew a certain eight-year old that would be drawing up a storm when he knew what I'd be doing.
The book became Fire Mountain, and was illustrated by Liam Thurston for Rubicon/Scholastic. It shows, I think, how a young child can be genuinely inspired when homeschooling allows for genuine, self-directed learning, and how the child's excitement about his own learning experiences can subsequently inspire others around him.
Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.
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