Storybook by local writer and Airdrie artist wins two awards

Story by Stacie Gaetz


Photos by Courtesy of Ayesha Clough

A children’s book written by local author Ayesha Clough and illustrated by Airdrie artist Hugh Rookwood has won two awards in one week.

Howdy, I’m John Ware is about Canada’s legendary Black cowboy John Ware. The book took home the Heritage Calgary Storytelling Award on Sept. 15.

It was named ‘Children’s Book of the Year’ at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards two days later.

“It’s been such an honour to bring the story of this pioneer Alberta rancher to a new generation of kids,” says Rookwood, who has lived in Airdrie for four years.

“As the father of two boys, I love that my sons will grow up knowing this strong local role model.”

Howdy, I’m John Ware, ideal for ages six to 10, recounts the real-life story of a gifted horseman who blazed a trail of kindness despite experiencing enslavement, war and discrimination. It features Rookwood’s dynamic comic-style illustrations that captivate and delight children.

The animated version of the story is by far the top-viewed video on Bibliovideo, a Canada Council-funded YouTube channel that showcases Canadian children’s books.

“This is so much more than a regional story,” says Clough, a former news reporter who started Red Barn Books to publish western-themed stories from Alberta.

“Our success on Bibliovideo shows there’s a huge appetite all over the country for diverse Canadian stories.”

Clough and Rookwood shared Howdy, I’m John Ware with 5,000 Calgary-area students through Virtual School Visits during Black History Month in Feb. 2020. They are hoping to do more ‘big Zooms’ for children across Canada in February 2022.

For more information on Howdy, I’m John Ware, read our feature on page 25 of our Summer 2020 edition by clicking here.

The second book in the Howdy series about Alberta pioneers is coming out in Spring 2022.

Howdy, I’m Flores LaDue is the story of the three-time world champion trick roper and ‘First Lady of the Calgary Stampede.’ The third book, Howdy, I’m Harnam Singh Hari is planned for 2023.