Lacombe author-illustrator’s book based on childhood experiences

The bouffant hairdos and cat’s-eye glasses give it away — Georgia Graham’s latest story is set in the fashion-forward 1960s.

Georgia Graham’s latest story

The bouffant hairdos and cat’s-eye glasses give it away — Georgia Graham’s latest story is set in the fashion-forward 1960s.

Her colourfully illustrated children’s book The Lime Green Secret is chock full of such ’60s trappings as white go-go boots, pink spongy hair-curlers, and houses stuccoed with crushed glass from beer bottles.

Why? Because the story is based on real people from that era, which was a “fun” period for hair and fashions, said Graham, with a chuckle.

The plot centres on a precocious elementary school student named Gloria.

Little Gloria was chosen to be the flower girl at a wedding, and can hardly wait to wear the beautiful satin gown with the beaded bodice, long white gloves, shiny shoes and sparkling tiara. Trouble starts when her dress-up desires get the better of her and Gloria secretly wears the fancy gown before the big day.

Graham remembers all too well the lure of such finery on little girls.

“I was that flower girl,” she says with a laugh.

“I know all about little girls who get their dresses filthy, and then wear them to bed and get up the next morning and play in them again.”

The Lacombe-area author-illustrator was seven years old in 1967 when she was asked to be in a wedding party along with her best friend Billy, the ring bearer.

While The Lime Green Secret is based on the actual event, Graham has changed one aspect — in real life, Billy’s sister was the bride. In the book, it’s Gloria’s older sister, which allows for a cute twist at the end of the story.

Graham’s quirky, cartoonish illustrations of people with lollypop heads contain plenty of comic references that will be lost on kids — but not on their parents or grandparents.

For example, there’s the chalk pastel image of Mom wearing foam curlers while at the sewing machine. “Everybody used to sew and knit, but not anymore,” said Graham.

There’s also a picture of hands-off Dad, with his head sticking up above an open newspaper.

“I remember we’d all be creating chaos and there’s dad, behind his newspaper. He was probably waiting for the woman to come in and take care of it,” said a giggling Graham, who balances her career as a book illustrator with that of a fine artist.

The author recently told her childhood friend Billy, now a middle-aged library archivist in Ottawa, that she’d written a book about that long-ago wedding “and he’s just thrilled.”

The story, published by Tundra Books, is the third Graham has written, and the 14th she’s illustrated since creating pictures for The Most Beautiful Kite in the World (written by Andrea Spalding) in 1988.

The Lime Green Secret is available for $21.99 from Chapters, or online from georgiagraham.com

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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