Where does a Pogo Oga monster live? Does a Mongolian Death Worm eat camels? Do Mug Monsters grow in every coffee cup that is left out over the weekend?
You will have to read The Monsters of McKyus to find out!
This month, Elizabeth Arrigo, one of two Publishing Projects Editors at ILF, attended the book launch of The Monsters of McKyus on Thursday Island.
The author and illustrator of this incredible book is McKyus Levi, a 14 year old boy who loves to draw monsters. He lives in the St Paul’s Community on Moa Island in the Torres Straits. It's a small Community of around 500 people.
McKyus has been diagnosed with autism and has difficulty with communication and reading and writing. But he is amazing at drawing and when it comes to monsters, his imagination is limitless. This was identified by his Special Education Teacher, Deb Calder, who on a whim responded to a Facebook post from an accomplished artist and illustrator Cath Leach, offering to mentor an aspiring artist. One thing led to another and during COVID, Cath and McKyus developed a unique relationship over Skype. Cath taught McKyus how to use an ipad to draw - something he picked up with ease and enthusiasm.
“To see McKyus blossom at the launch of Monsters of McKyus was one of the highlights of my teaching career. Although initially anxious about the launch, McKyus rose to the occasion and took it all in his stride, particularly the book signing. I felt immensely proud that we were able to launch Monsters of McKyus in Community, surrounded by McKyus’s Torres Strait family.” - Deb Calder, Disability Specialist Teacher.
Teacher Deb Calder (left) with McKyus and art mentor Cath Leach (right)
This inspiring story shows how a small Community and a few mentors have nurtured MyKus’s talent and skills to produce a book about monsters. And the Indigenous Literacy Foundation was honoured to publish the book and gift it back to McKyus and his Community. It is also a commercial title, which means the ILF is also promoting the book for sale to the public…and just quietly, it is selling like hot cakes!
The book launch took place on Thursday Island with an intimate gathering of around 35 friends and family including Elders, the local pastor and ILF Board member Leitha Assan, who among many other roles, is the Manager of Exhibitions & Public Programmes at The Torres Strait Regional Authority.
ILF Board member Leitha Assan proudly celebrates the launch of McKyus’s debut book.
“Reading Opens Doors! Brilliant authorship by the amazing McKyus. I was both humbled and emotional to celebrate the launch of his book with his close family and friends. This launch was a day filled with proud hearts, love and laughter. Keep reaching for the stars McKyus, for you are the brightest star in our Tagai constellation!” - Leitha Assan, ILF Board Member.
Among the short speeches at the event, McKyus’s mother Ursula took the microphone and looking at her son, with visible joy and pride, thanked everyone for helping her son to bring his book to life.
A launch is not complete without a celebratory monster cake!
Designer, illustrator and McKyus' mentor, Cath Leach, was excited to meet McKyus for the first time in person and have an opportunity to draw with him before she had to leave.
"It was the most rewarding project in my career and I just adore McKyus. What a pleasure it was to meet him in person at last. From the tinkling of the Ukulele as we walked in, to the rousing applause at the end, it was all smiles - and a few tears, especially when McKyus' mum, Ursula, shared a few words. Big thanks to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation for the unique and extremely supportive way they nurture creativity, leverage new young authors and their books and share meaningful stories." - Cath Leach.
After the launch formalities and everyone had moved away for morning tea, McKyus remained on the stage and picked up the microphone and as if no one was watching, waxed lyrical about family happenings. His teacher, Deb Calder laughed that she has never heard him speak so much. Perhaps it was McKyus' way of sharing his joy, a new confidence or perhaps an indirect way to express his gratitude. We will never know. But, we did hear whispers of a second book!
McKyus signing books in exchange for a joke.
If you are looking for an extra special book for a monster loving child this Festive Season, you can’t go past The Monsters of McKyus.