It’s a zootopian life for this little boy

Aunt immortalizes nephews in trilogy of children’s books


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2010 (4603 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Three young Winnipeg brothers served as the inspiration for a trilogy of children’s adventure books.

The brothers in question are the Walbergs — Jonathan, 8, Isaac, 7, and David, who just turned 3.

The author is their aunt Amanda Sage — an Ottawa-based writer, filmmaker and photographer. Her sister, and the boy’s mother, is Rebecca Walberg — a Winnipeg writer and policy analyst.

Simon Fuller From left to right: Jonathan, David and Issac show off the books they each inspired.

The family lives in River Heights, close to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, which happens to be the setting of Zootopia,the third and latest installment of Sage’s self-published series.

“It tells the story of a young boy’s trip to Assiniboine Park Zoo and so much more,” said Sage, 32. “His journey takes him around the world and to the limits of his imagination.”

The book was recently released to coincide with Boo at the Zoo, which runs until Oct. 30 at the zoo. The event is a fundraiser that includes a walk-through with more than 20 different Halloween-themed areas.

Zootopia was written for David, her youngest nephew. She previously wrote Dinostory for Jonathan and Astrorocket for Isaac. Both were published in 2009.

While flicking through a copy of the book, David listed his favourite animals.

“I like monkeys today… and giraffes… and birds… and kangaroos… and deer,” David said.

Issac said that Astrorocket  was “good, because I like building things and I saw this shiny bracelet on the ground once.” This event inspired the story.

Not to be outdone, Jonathan said when Dinostory came out, it “felt great, it was really fun for me.”

Sage said her publishing brand, Wonderpress, was originally inspired by her nephew’s “limitless capacity for wonder.”

“You don’t have to look far for ideas and inspiration when you have kids around,” Sage said. “They offer a unique, fresh perspective on everything they see and often bring startling insights that adults are too jaded, busy or afraid to have. I think there’s a magic in that kind of openness to the world and whatever lies beyond.”

Sage said Dinostory first came about because Jonathan has “an insatiable mind and always wants to learn everything.”

“He had just learned about the Ice Age and we were chatting on the phone and he told me he didn’t like the explanation of where the dinosaurs had gone. His sixth birthday was coming up, so I promised him I’d write something about what really happened to them,” Sage said.

Despite living in Ottawa, Sage — whose mother hails from Winnipeg and has spent “many summers” visiting the city since childhood — hopes Zootopia will have a big impact on Winnipeg readers.

“I hope that Winnipeggers will appreciate the references and enjoy reading about their city. I always like finding references to places I’ve been. I also included the zoo’s logo and website on the book’s inside cover and I hope it will bring attention and support to the zoo,” Sage said.

To complete the family affair, Sage’s younger sister, Louisa, illustrated the Zootopia and Dinostory books. The role went to Karem Laguna for Astrorocket.

Zootopia is now in stock at the Assiniboine Park Zoo Gift Shop and will remain there after Boo at the Zoo concludes. All three books are also available, in both English and French, on Sage’s website at

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at or call him at 204-697-7111.

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