Candy, candy, and more candy: The Ten-Year Anniversary of The Chocolatier’s Apprentice

Candy, candy, and more candy: The Ten-Year Anniversary of The Chocolatier’s Apprentice

It’s that time of year when goblins, ghosts, and ghouls are preparing to creep out and harangue us for candy, so it seems appropriate that October is the anniversary of one of the most popular books I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with.

In fact, this is the ten year anniversary of the birth of The Chocolatier’s Apprentice, written by Victoria Miles and illustrated by me.


It seems like yesterday . . .

In 2007, I was hired by Echo Storytelling Agency (then Echo Memoirs) to illustrate a children’s book to help commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Purdy’s Chocolateir. The company wanted to do something different, something special, and so decided to produce a cute picture book that would celebrate their company and also raise funds for the Raise-a-Reader literacy project.

It was something that I was eager to do. I remember meeting with the team: the folks at Echo, the marketing person for Purdy’s, and the writer, Victoria Miles, sometime in late spring/early summer. The book was yet to be written, but at that point there was a lot of brainstorming.

One of the fun aspects of this project was getting to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Purdy’s chocolate factory in Vancouver. The factory is open for public tours at different times of the year, but Victoria and I were given the chance to get an extra-secret look.

This tour was really important for Victoria and I to understand the process (and science) of making chocolate. From an illustrator’s point of view, it was essential for me to gather as many photographs as possible. Even though Victoria and I didn’t know exactly what the story would be about, we knew it would involve a chocolate factory, and that I would have to illustrate many different types of equipment.

Here’s some of my original photos from my tour . . .

hedgehog conveyor








Of course, as soon as you say the words “children’s book” and “chocolate factory,” people think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Victoria’s challenge was to craft a book that was charming and compelling, while at the same time NOT deriavative.

She eventually came up with the lovely story of a character who dreamed of being a chocolatier. The story follows his progress from todler all the way to master chocolatier. My challenge was that I had to draw this character at all these different ages!

There was also the challenge of working many different stakeholders. Not only did I need to work with Victoria and the team at Echo, I also needed to make sure we had corporate approval from Purdy’s. They were great to work with—honestly—but, of course, it was one more voice to chime in on my early concept sketches.

I really had a lot of input when it came to our main character, Eli. Some of the team wanted him to be intellectual, others a sort of muscular super-hero kind of fellow, and others thought he should be more bookish. We eventually narrowed down the final design of Eli and the other characters, and I was off illustrating.

Final challenge? I had only SEVEN weeks to complete the many different spreads. Given the time factor, I’m pretty happy how everything turned out. The book became a national bestseller, selling out its print run of 20,000.

Here are some my favorite spreads from the book . . .

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Purdys Book_2.indd

Unfortunately, the book served it’s purpose—which means there was no reprint, and it is no longer available. I wish it still was; I still run into teenagers who remember that book from their childhood!

Oh! Fun fact; I currently live in a two-minute walk from the site of Purdy’s original factory. You can still find “Choklit Park” on West 7th Avenue in Vancouver.




Legends & Lore from the Land of Een

Legends & Lore - Kindle CoverThroughout the month of October, I was celebrating the ten-year-anniversary of my Kendra Kandlestar series. But what’s an anniversary without gifts? So what makes a good gift for such a momentous occasion?

How about a brand-new never-before-released Kendra Kandlestar book?


Yep! You can download “Legends & Lore from the Land of Een” for FREE from your favorite digital provider. Or, you can even download a PDF, directly from the Kendra Kandlestar website.

This book is a companion book to the series. It includes some favorite stories, myths, and tales from the Land of Een. A few fan-favorite characters pop up here and there, too. Most of the material comes from existing stories and notes, things that I had written to help build the world of Kendra Kandlestar, but couldn’t be included in the actual books. I’m glad there is finally a place for at least some of these stories.

This is especially for all those young readers who have kept sending in their letters asking for more Kendra Kandlestar, even after five books. Well, this gift is for you.

The creation of Kendra Kandlestar: Kids respond

This month of October, I’ve been celebrating the ten-year-anniversary of Kendra Kandlestar (the first book in the series, The Box of Whispers, was published in October, 2005).  The celebration culminates on October 31st when I release a new companion book to the series. Kendra Kandlestar: Legends and Lore from the Land of Een will be available as a free download on all digital platforms. Stay tuned for the links!

But back to today’s particular celebration! In previous posts, I’ve discussed the ideas and inspiration for the different elements of the series; today I wanted to celebrate the things that authors have no control over . . . reader response.

I’m very grateful for all of the love that has been thrown Kendra’s way over the past decade. In addition to numerous hand-written letters, Een-mails (very similar to emails; you can send one through, and notes, I’ve had the joy of receiving all sorts of photos showing fan engagement.

Here’s some of my favorites from over the years, from kids small and big alike!

Dolls and figures
I think one of the things I enjoy the most is when readers reinterpret my characters and turn them into other incarnations!

More Kendra Peg Figures kendrakandlestar_pegfigures

This is a Kendra doll in progress. Check out them ears!



Dioramas and models
There are many magical environments and items in Kendra’s world. Here’s some of them brought to three-dimensional life . . .



Kids in costume
Of course, Kendra’s hair makes her a great candidate for a Halloween costume. When she was younger, my own goddaughter, Charlotte, dressed as Kendra and came to my book launches. Here’s a picture of her these many years ago . . .


But many kids over the years have chosen to take on the task without bribery from me . . .



Kendra Kandlestar costume.


Fun stuff
Now for the really fun stuff!

This cake was made by my friend Carrie for the recent launch of the final book in the series, The Search for Arazeen:


Someone used Oki as the basis for a jack o’lantern:


And a very big fan (I mean both in the size of her fandom and in her physical age) got an Oki tattoo!

Oki Tattoo

Of course, kids have given me all sort of Kendra Kandlestar artwork over the years. I love to see their versions of these characters.





Sonya's drawing of Kendra Kandlestar.

Charlotte's drawing of Kendra








Kendra Kandlestar

Charlotte's drawing of Kendra

There are so many other drawings, cards, notes, and items I could show. Rest assured, I cherish them all, and have kept every single one ever given to me. Thank you so much for loving Kendra and sticking with her long ten-year journey!

The creation of Kendra Kandlestar: Reading ’Tween the Lines

In my ongoing blog series to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, I’ve talked about the heroes, the antagonists, and the inspiration for the overall idea. Today’s topic is the setting.

Just like many of the characters in the book, the setting of the story went through a significant transformation. Originally, I had called this place where the tiny folk lived the Land of Tween. This was because they lived “Between Here and There.”

However, this was over ten years ago, and the term “Tween” was quickly being taken over by the media as a reference to those kids who weren’t quite kids anymore—but weren’t teenagers either.

I decided I need to change Tween to something else. This was one of those cases where the simplest decision became the easiest! I chopped off the first two letters and called it the land of “Een.”

Originally the inhabitants of the magic land in the story were going to be all manner of fairy-tale characters such as pixies, gnomes, and elves. This is demonstrated in the early drawing of Winter Woodsong shown below.


As you can see, she was originally a fairy, complete with star-dusted wings. Because of this starry appearance, she was first known as Summer Starlight, but eventually it seemed more appropriate to change the name of the “Eldest of the Elders” to Winter Woodsong.

Certain locations within the Land of Een also went through some changes as I developed the story.

Below, you can see a concept sketch of the Elder Stone.

Elder Stone concept.

As shown by that drawing, there is a time when I thought the home of the Council of Elders should look more like a towering castle, with flags and ornamentation.

Eventually, I decided I wanted it to look more like a natural rock, as is shown in the final illustration:

The Elder Stone

The idea is that you might walk right past it and—unless you were really looking closely—you might not even notice it. Interestingly, I revisited the idea of the Elder Stone as an opulent castle in Books 4 and 5 of the series.

The Box of Whispers also established the Magic Curtain, which is the border that surrounds the Land of Een. In the original publication of the book, there was no overall map of Een, though you could see part of its border in this map from Professor Bumblebean’s notes:

Professor Bumblebean's map of Een

The idea of the Magic Curtain, this boundary that guards and hides Een from the outside world, came to play a major role in future Kendra Kandlestar books.

In the next post, I’ll discuss some of the inspirations for the visual design of the overall book.