Farmers at the recent Alberta Canola Producers Commission meeting were welcomed by an entourage of cartoon characters on the stage.
These characters are from the Chase Duffy book series, which was launched in 2010 and is aimed at elementary students aged eight to 11. The main character in the books is Chase ‘Superman’ Duffy, a Grade 6 student who lives in central Alberta, loves to write stories and run track, and often practises while running around his grandfather’s canola fields.
“The idea came from a totally different way of getting the canola message across along with some of the issues,” said Simone Demers Collins, education, marketing and promotion co-ordinator with Alberta Canola Producers Commission.
“The very first book we did as a way of explaining the difference between canola and rapeseed, and where canola comes from. That would be a real Canadian story and (a way to) start dispelling some of the myths that we only changed the name of rapeseed.”
The books use a graphic-novel format, which is preferred by today’s students, and the series was expanded thanks to funding from the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF).
“As a commission we could possibly do one book a year, but we wanted to do more,” said Demers Collins. “I wrote a grand proposal to the ACIDF board and said this is really what I would like to do. It came back and gave us money for another nine books.”
Currently there are nine Chase Duffy books, with No. 10 — entitled Cloud 9 — due out next month. Created by a pair of Albertans, author Dawn Ius and illustrator James Grasdal, each book has three to four key messages. One book has Chase learning about growing canola seeds in space, another features a jet car powered by canola biodiesel, and there’s even one that is “part mystery adventure, part cookbook.”