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This article was published 11/4/2016 (2106 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Linda Szyszkowski and Daniel Clement are grateful for everything they’ve got.
The husband-and-wife team from Windsor Park recently released its first book called The Secret Adventures of Tiny Toba: Gold Star Gratitude — First Journey. The book was published by their own Real Now publishing company and printed at Friesens in Altona, Man. The first print run was 3,000.
Designed by Clement, and written and illustrated by Szyszkowski, the hardcover book features the couple — who are both teachers — their dog June and protagonist Tiny Toba — a teeny-tiny teddy bear modelled on the one that has accompanied Szyszkowski as she has taught around the world in places such as Australia, China and Egypt.
The book’s design is an eye-popping, eclectic fusion of photographs, drawings and graphic design elements. It’s aimed at readers of all ages, but is targeted primarily at youth and includes a lesson plan and printable worksheets and follows the outline of general learning outcomes.
The story is based on a trip the couple took last September when they took off on a soul-searching road trip to Canada’s East Coast on Clement’s 1982 Yamaha Virago xv750 motorcycle, which he has lovingly restored and reinvented.
"We decided to follow our dreams and just ride," Szyszkowski, 30, said.
This spontaneous decision was driven by the fact that days before the start of the school year, the couple was told they were no longer about to start the teaching jobs they were promised, she said.
"We were both guaranteed jobs at a school just outside of the city and four days before, everything fell through. We had everything packed into boxes and a house picked out and then everything fell through," Szyszkowski said.
"So we decided to turn lemons into lemonade. We decided we’d drop off June at my mom and dad’s the next day and take action. You decide what path you’re on in life."
That path, as it turned out, took the couple halfway across Canada on a 30-day round trip that would prove to be the inspiration for the book.
"The people we met along the way made us so grateful. For example, when we were at a gas station in Nova Scotia, a lady asked if we’d ever stayed in a teepee before and we spent the night with her tribe. Everywhere we went, we were treated like family and felt such a strong connection with people. It made us realize so many things surround us in life. We have an amazing country," Szyszkowski said.
Clement hopes this is the first of many adventures of Tiny Toba, who thrives on "helping people take on an attitude of gratitude."
After striving to make their mark in Manitoba, Szyszkowski and Clement hope to develop the brand nationally and internationally.
"To be able to do this as a team together is a dream come true," Clement, 30, said. "It’s been the ultimate test of our skills."
The couple recently held book launch events in McNally Robinson in Grant Park and Chapters in St. Vital — complete with motorcycle — and are excited about the response to the book so far.
They are donating $1 from every book sold to various charities.
Go online at www.tinytoba.com for more information.
Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at email@example.com or call him at 204-697-7111.