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 Carol, Canadian 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.