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P.E.I. author, artist team up to write children's book demystifying trip to eye doctor

Leanne Bowlan shows some of the illustrations she’s making for "Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses." It’s the first time her artwork has appeared in a book. Bowlan, who is a licensed optician, also did extensive research for the book she’s co-creating with Marlene Bryenton.
Leanne Bowlan shows some of the illustrations she’s making for Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses. It’s the first time her artwork has appeared in a book. Bowlan, who is a licensed optician, also did extensive research for the book she’s co-creating with Marlene Bryenton. - Sally Cole
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Marlene Bryenton is passionate about writing.

After her story, Secret Garden Angel, was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels All Around, she started looking for another prose project.

“Getting published gave me the courage to follow another dream — to write a children’s story book. It’s on my bucket list,” says the Charlottetown resident who is launching her book, Anna's Pink and Purple Glasses, during a book signing on Feb. 20.

The story is about how Anna overcomes her anxiety of visiting an optometrist and an optician where she is fitted with glasses.

“The book helps allay those fears,” says Bryenton.

Other themes included in the book are awareness, empathy and inclusion. That’s because young children can worry about teased when wearing glasses for the first time.

“In the book, I’ve created a positive experience where her pink and purple glasses are actually a fashion statement,” says Bryenton.

The story was inspired by her grandchildren, Anna and James Bryenton, who visit Bryenton and her husband, Lloyd, each week.

“I love the chatter that goes on between them.”

Marlene Bryenton shares a special moment with Anna Bryenton (left) and James Bryenton. Her grandchildren are stars in her new book, Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses. — Sally Cole
Marlene Bryenton shares a special moment with Anna Bryenton (left) and James Bryenton. Her grandchildren are stars in her new book, Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses. — Sally Cole

But the storybook project would not have been possible without the creativity and support of her long-time friend, Leanne Bowlan. The Stratford artist came to her attention after Bryenton saw a series of sketches she had posted on Facebook.

“One day I noticed that several of her friends were suggesting she illustrate a children’s story book. So, I thought, ‘I wonder whether Leanne would ever consider writing a storybook with me?’” says Bryenton, who sent her friend a quick email.

Bowlan quickly agreed.

“I was just so excited. It was something I dreamed about. So when the opportunity came from someone I knew and respected, I said yes. It’s great to be in a project that explores my art and finding out what I’m capable of,” says Bowlan, who is a licensed optician.

The project came at a perfect time in the author’s life.

Bryenton, who is waiting for a hip replacement, has limited mobility. Being able to direct her energies into writing her first children’s book was rewarding. 

Bryenton first sat down to write the story in October and, many revisions later, asked Judy Parsons, a retired primary school teacher, to edit it.

“It was to-and-fro until we finally got the story to the stage where we thought we had perfection,” says Bryenton.

Three months later, their efforts are being praised by the Opticians Association of Canada.

“Kudos on a well written, much needed, publication addressing the exciting adventure of this very important experience to ensure children see their very best,” writes Dalie Schellen, provincial program co-ordinator.

With one children’s book off to the printers, Bryenton is planning the next. She’s written her second story, Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair.

It’s about her two grandchildren in British Columbia, Jaya and Brynn. Jaya is 10 years old and in a wheelchair.

“There are few storybooks written about children in wheelchairs. Mine will detail all the things Jaya is able to do with the assistance of her special magic wheelchair.”

Bowlan will be the illustrator once again.

“I’m looking forward to working with Marlene on our next project.”

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