Owlkids Books
Hardcover, 32 pp
April 15, 2016


The electricity in Maya’s house has gone out again. She is afraid of the dark — and her fear has been even worse since her father died. Now it feels as if the darkness will never go away.

Maya’s mother distracts her with a legend about the banyan tree, which saved the world from the first monsoon by drinking up the floodwaters, and growing tall and strong. Later that night, unsettled by the noises around her, Maya revisits the story in her imagination. She ventures deep into the banyan tree, where she discovers not darkness but life: snakes move gently, monkeys laugh, and elephants dance. Maya pushes her imagination even further to call up memories of her father, helping to soothe her fear and assuage her grief.

The Making of Maya: Book Trailer

The team at Owlkids and I visited Elly at her studio in Owen Sound to film the book's trailer. It was such a special experience because I was able to see the hand-crafted paper art that Elly created for Maya in person and she showed us how she plays with light to create her magical theater scapes. Watch "The Making of Maya" to learn how Elly created her art and how I developed the story.

Picture Book Party

The book launch for Maya took place on June 4, 2016, at the Toronto Public Library's Lillian H. Smith branch! The branch is named after the first trained children's librarian in the British Empire, a big deal in 1912, so it was the perfect place to celebrate the release of a children's book. (Photos by Vic Nguyen.)

About the Illustrator: Elly Mackay

Elly Mackay mixes miniature-paper-theater art with spellbinding shadow puppetry to play with darkness and light, giving Maya’s real, fantasy, and story-within-a-story worlds unique treatment—and making Maya’s world come alive on the page.

Elly lives in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, with her husband, Simon, and little ones, Lily and Koen. She received her bachelor of fine art from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She creates her illustrations by inking yupo paper and cutting it into layers that she sets up in a miniature theater, somewhat like a Victorian Paper Theater. She plays with the lights and filters to create atmosphere and then photographs the scenes. In addition to illustrating her own picture books and those of other authors, Elly recently illustrated new covers for the Anne of Green Gables series (Tundra).

Visit Elly's website to learn more about her process and other books.

Working with Elly

Elly and I didn't meet until more than a year after she started illustrating Maya. How did we make a book together? We used Pinterest to set up an inspiration board and communicated through e-mail. Elly and I met for the first time in January 2016, three months before the book's release, at a book signing for the OLA Super Conference Expo.