The Slippers’ Keeper: The Story of the Purdon Conservation Area


The Slippers’ Keeper by Ian Wallace tells the story of Joe Purdon, a boy who didn’t much like to work on his family farm. As soon as his chores were done, Joe would take his dog, Laddie, and explore his family’s 300 acres in Eastern Ontario.

It was on one of those walks that Joe stumbled upon a cluster of eight very rare wild orchids called the Showy Lady’s Slipper. Joe knew from studying them in school how delicate these plants were. They needed the perfect balance of sun and shade, just the right amount of water in the soil, and lots of bees to pollinate the plants in order to survive. And even if all their needs were met, it could take up to fifteen years for the plants to bloom. Joe had stumbled on a rare bit of land that was uniquely suited to growing these precious plants — and it was on his own farm.


Joe dedicated himself to caring for that patch of orchids, cutting away scrub and brush, chasing away hungry deer, and gently nudging seeds from the pods into the earth to take root. He grew up and grew old on that farm, and by the end of his life, that patch of eight orchids had grown to thousands. After his death, his family honored his wish and entrusted sixteen thousand Showy Lady’s Slippers to the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority. You can visit the Purdon Conservation Area to this day.


Ian Wallace has had a distinguished career as an author and illustrator of picture books, publishing such classics as Chin Chiang and the Dragon’s Dance, Boy of the Deeps, The Huron CarolCanadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot and Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. He has won the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award, the Mr. Christie’s Book Award, the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award and the IODE Violet Downey Book Award. He has also been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Ian lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife, Deb.


Kipling’s house, Naulakha

Kipling’s house, Naulakha

In October 2012, while creating the illustrations for Just So Stories, Volumes I and II, my wife, Deb, and I rented Rudyard Kipling’s home in Dummerston, Vermont, for a long weekend and invited six of our friends to join in the experience.

I had gone there primarily in the hope of finding some detail or ornamentation that I could use as a motif, or motifs, to open and close each of the twelve stories throughout the two volumes. I must admit though, that the idea of hanging out in Kipling’s house, sitting at his writing desk, eating at his kitchen and dining tables, being warmed by his fireplace with glasses of red wine, sleeping in his bed and even taking a bath in his bathtub had a strangely delicious appeal. Who knew that the bathtub was Kipling’s favorite feature in the house? In 1892-1893 when the house was built, indoor plumbing wasn’t common in rural America and was only installed in homes of the wealthy.

Kipling’s bathtub.

Kipling’s bathtub.

The house had been designed by Kipling in conjunction with a respected New York architect, Henry Rutgers Marshall, and had been inspired by Kipling’s wish that it resemble a ship. The house was brilliantly laid out, of solid wood construction, was comfortable and inviting, and had been sensitively restored by the Landmark Trust of the UK.

Upon our arrival we toured the four floors of the house from attic to basement.

In the attic, we discovered an armadillo’s shell inside a glass case tucked in a room where one of the servant’s would have once slept. Was this the beginnings of the armadillo’s tale?

The armadillo found in the attic.

The armadillo found in the attic.


In the games room, there was a magnificent pool table circa 1895. Each night of our stay several games took place and we discovered which one of us was the “shark”. Her name was Sandy.

Kipling’s bathtub adjoining the master suite was on the second floor, the polished wood rim of the deep tub bore a small, brass plate with his name inscribed on it. Now that was a definite first. Who in the world has a monogrammed tub? Rudyard Kipling!

In the dining room, an exotic treasure awaited us on the first floor and when I saw it, I recognized in it what I had been hoping to find in the house. The hand-tooled leather trunk was patterned with flowers, birds and geometric designs. Had Kipling purchased it on one of his trips to the Far East? I have adapted five of the designs and you will find them throughout both volumes of Just So Stories.


On the same floor at the end of the house, or the “prow of the boat”, was Kipling’s den. It overlooked the gardens and terrace where he and his family and friends performed plays in summer, and the pastoral Connecticut River Valley beyond. His writing desk was still there opposite the fireplace. Editions of his books lined the shelves, and to the left of the desk hung a print of the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls seen from the Canadian side of the Niagara River, from a painting by the American artist, Fredrick E. Church — a stunning work of art.

Kipling’s den with writing desk and the print of Niagara Falls.

Kipling’s den with writing desk and the print of Niagara Falls.

Kiplings Trip 125

Now, no one but me would have reacted to that image hanging next to Kipling’s desk. But that moment gave me shivers from the bizarre coincidence and serendipity of it. Niagara Falls is my hometown. This moment of recognition was further enhanced by a print hanging in Kipling’s bedroom. It was titled, “The Bible of Amiens”. Again, no one but me would have reacted to the title. My father’s middle name was Amiens. His father had been wounded in the Battle of Amiens during World War I and that injury brought my grandfather home to his family and a short time later my father’s birth. In a strange way, I began to feel that perhaps I was destined to illustrate Just So Stories. Spooky. Very spooky.

Kipling’s ghost did not appear in the dead of night.  And no furniture was moved while we slept. Instead, the house just wrapped us in its warm embrace and we were besotted by it and the chance to hang out there if only for a long weekend.

Just So Stories Volume II



Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories is one of the best-loved story collections ever written for children. Now Ian Wallace, one of Canada’s most accomplished children’s book illustrators, reinterprets the famous tales with his vibrant art, bringing Kipling to a whole new generation of young readers.

In this companion to Volume I, which received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Library Media Connection, acclaimed children’s book illustrator Ian Wallace once again reinterprets the famous tales with luminous art, bringing Kipling to a new generation of young readers.

Many of the tales are origin stories, explaining, for example, how an animal came to be, or the how the alphabet and writing began. They all display Kipling’s vivid imagination, inventive vocabulary and engaging word play. And once again Ian Wallace makes intriguing connections between the stories in his richly imagined illustrations. The second volume, as visually breathtaking as the first, includes “The Beginning of the Armadilloes,” “How the First Letter Was Written,” “How the Alphabet Was Made,” The Crab That Played with the Sea,” “The Cat That Walked by Himself” and “The Butterfly That Stamped.”

The first edition of Just So Stories was published in Great Britain in 1902, along with black-and-white illustrations by Kipling himself. The stories have remained in print ever since, delighting young readers in many countries. This new edition, published more than 110 years after the original, has been edited to remove a few references now understood to be offensive.

Inspired by these remarkable stories and the fact that they are set all over the world, Ian Wallace has chosen to make an annual donation to the International Board on Books for Young People’s Fund for Children in Crisis (

Author picks for the holidays: Ian Wallace recommends A SALMON FOR SIMON

The book:

A Salmon for Simon, by Betty Waterton and illustrated by Ann Blades
ISBN: 978-0-88899-276-5 * $6.95

The recommender:

Ian Wallace, illustrator of Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Ian says:

Published in 1978, A Salmon for Simon is a timeless classic, simply and respectively told by Betty Waterton with thoughtful illustrations by Ann Blades that capture the tenderness inherent within.

IAN WALLACE is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books — one of Canada’s best known and loved. Over a long and distinguished career he has published many picture-book classics, including Chin Chiang and the Dragon’s Dance, Boy of the Deeps, The Name of the Tree by Celia Barker Lottridge, The Huron Carol and The Sleeping Porch. He has won the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award, the Mr. Christie’s Book Award, the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award and the IODE Violet Downey Book Award. He has also been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. Ian currently lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife, Deb.


Anansi and Groundwood news update

The latest from Anansi:

  • Alison Pick’s Far to Go has been presented with the 2010 Words Worthy Award! This award is chosen by the staff of Words Worth Books to honour a book that has been overlooked by Canada’s major literary prizes. From the press release: “We are pleased to announce that in our estimation, Alison Pick’s second novel Far to Go is the finest work of Canadian fiction published in 2010.”
  • The 2011 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist has been announced — and we are proud to have two Anansi books among the 15 excellent Canadian books longlisted for the award. Congratulations to Lisa Moore (February) and Marie-Claire Blais (Rebecca, Born in the Maelstrom)!

On the Groundwood side:

  • Kirkus Reviews has released its 2010 Best Children’s Books list, and we are thrilled to be strongly represented with two Groundwood titles: Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth! (Marie-Louise Gay) and Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding (written by Jorge Argueta and illustrated by Fernando Vilela)! Congratulations to the authors and illustrators.
  • Playhouse Disney and Astral made a special announcement today: the Stella and Sam TV show, based on Marie-Lousie Gay‘s beloved books, will premiere on Sunday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m. EST! Read the full press release for more.
  • Last, but most certainly not least: today is Gordon Lightfoot’s 72nd birthday! We’re celebrating by reading Gordon’s new book, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, a picture book/gift book that is lavishly illustrated by the brilliant and award-winning illustrator Ian Wallace. Happy Birthday, Gord!


Gordon Lightfoot admires the art in CANADIAN RAILROAD TRILOGY

Ian Wallace’s amazing original artwork from Canadian Railroad Trilogy is on display now through to October 6, 2010, at the CBC Toronto Atrium (250 Front Street West). Check out these incredible photos of Gordon Lightfoot visiting the exhibit yesterday for the first time:


Please join us for the opening reception at the Atrium on September 30th at 5:00 pm, hosted by CBC Radio 2′s Bob Mackowycz and featuring a special performance by Jory Nash.

Photo credit: RYAN COULDREY


Get a sneak peek of the CANADIAN RAILROAD TRILOGY exhibit!

Don’t miss the display of Ian Wallace’s original artwork from Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot!

The exhibit runs from September 22 to October 6, 2010, in the CBC Toronto Atrium (250 Front St W, Toronto). Please join us for the opening reception at the Atrium on September 30th at 5:00 pm, hosted by CBC Radio 2’s Bob Mackowycz and featuring a special performance by Jory Nash.

See you there!



Contact us

Get in touch with us!