Local seniors team up to produce educational children’s books

CENTRE WELLINGTON – About two years ago, three friends at a seniors centre got together to write, illustrate and publish educational books for children. 

They now have 52 digital copies and 13 physical copies of different stories published through their own platform, entitled Critter A Week.

“I started by doing some of the pencil drawings in my own books. And then when I joined the other two authors, we really just decided to do these  Critter A Week books,” said illustrator and CEO Paul Hock.

Hock lives in Fergus and his partner Don Smith lived in Elora, but recently moved to Guelph. They met when they were both members of a writing group called “The Wellies.” 

According to critteraweek.com, they would meet once a week at their local seniors centre. 

Smith is now 90, Hock is the “kid” at 73 and their newest partner is Marilyn Helmer, originally from the Belwood area, who is an award-winning author and is “very good at editing.”

Hock says Smith is the one who put the whole thing together. He is retired from three careers: senior business manager, a university business teacher and a business consultant.

The Critter A Week author took up creative writing to fill “the empty hours” after losing his wife of 63 years, Jean Isobel, to leukemia.

The publication began during the COVID-19 pandemic, with flipbooks that were released weekly – hence the name  Critter A Week.

After publishing 52 digital copies its first year, the business has now moved into the “printed realm.”

Releasing its 13th book in November to end its 2023 collection,  Critter A Week aims to tell fictional stories from the animals’ perspective based on facts.

“[The books are] very well accepted, especially in the teaching realm,” said Hock.

He added many teachers reach for their books because it’s like the animal itself is teaching the reader.

“By doing that, we hope to make it more interesting for kids rather than just have a fact sheet in front of them about an animal. And it seems to be working well, as far as response with it,” Hock added.

Hock is also an author, songwriter and musician. 

While doing “the music thing” all his life, Hock learned to do artwork.

“On the road, I had my days free and I taught myself to paint, pencil drawings, that kind of thing,” he explained.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Hock lost a lot of his bookings due to health regulations and mandates. With time on his hands, Critter A Week took flight and he began focussing more on illustrating.

He now uses “a combination of photography and what I call digital art,” he said.

For one illustration, he will use four or five photos, organize them together and blend them with digital art programs. Critter A Week kids picture books have been awarded “Animal Series Book of the Year” gold by Creative Child Magazine.

A new book, Ookpik the Snowy Owl, is set to be released in January. It tells the story of this “critter” that has a wing span of up to 5’5”.

For more information visit critteraweek.com.Books are also available on Amazon.