Author and artist a perfect fit for puzzle mystery

The Lost Puzzle Piece really came to life with the vibrant work of a young Oak Bay artist

Oak Bay artist Genevieve Chandler

Oak Bay artist Genevieve Chandler

A tale of a lost puzzle piece that makes its return sprouts from real-life events in author Jennifer Ferris’ family.

“We had a jigsaw puzzle one year that had a piece missing and then the next year we did the puzzle again and the piece wasn’t missing. We couldn’t figure out what happened,” the author explained.

So as a longtime storyteller, she developed her own version, where a handmade Christmas angel off the tree sets off on an adventure in search of the missing piece.

The children’s book The Lost Puzzle Piece really came to life with the vibrant work of a young Oak Bay artist. Ferris met her illustrator while working as an education assistant at Oak Bay High where Genevieve Chandler was a student. Chandler happens to be diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder and the pair wound up working together a lot. When it came time to pen her tale, Ferris sought Chandler to add the colour.

“She’s a very talented artist. Her illustrations are fabulous,” Ferris said. “Her vision of the book may be a little different than mine.”

Rather than causing strife between them, Chandler’s vision inspired Ferries.

“The way she visualized the story really made it come alive,” Ferris said.

Chandler works in markers and the occasional pencil crayon to “help the ink of the markers blend, like watercolours in painting.”

The Oak Bay High grad was featured in a solo show Syndromation in the MacLaurin Building at UVic’s School of Education. She’s also appeared in the community at events such as the Bowker Creek Brush Up. Her characters are bright and vivacious, not unlike the artist herself.

“I have my own way of drawing everybody, I make us look cute and welcoming and a bit alien-like,” Chandler says of her wide-eyed characters. “For backgrounds I get some help from the computer.”

Knowing her illustrator may have helped longtime storyteller Ferris clear some hurdles in her first foray into print.

“For a long time I really felt I should stay true to the oral tradition and keep the stories in my head,” she said. “My husband said if something happened to you we wouldn’t have your stories anymore.”

Writing a book is a different beast than telling a tale where a storyteller can feature gesture, pause and tone.

“It’s not just the words, it’s the tone of voice, the way the teller uses gesture,” Ferris said. “Storytelling is a magical experience because the audience becomes part of the story.”

It wasn’t an insurmountable challenge and the pair are already working on a second family story set on Malta.

“She’s already done a couple of illustrations that are amazing,” Ferris said.

She expects the second book to come out late next summer.

Get the book at Ivy’s Bookshop or online at or email amused