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‘Go-getter’ students inspire Vancouver Island author’s latest children’s book

April Hilland holds Kickstarter for Billi the Maker
April Hilland poses with a copy of her new children’s book, Billi the Maker, inspired by past students. (Submitted photo)

A Nanaimo author let life inspire art when she wrote her new children’s book.

April Hilland, a Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools teacher-librarian, wrote Billi the Maker after noticing a lack of ethnically diverse characters in books on science, technology, engineering and math education. The story follows Billi Rose as she creates a robot to help a librarian, Ms. Hild, who is absent due to illness, leading the library and educational workshop to fall into disarray.

Hilland describes Billi, an Indigenous girl, as “bright, inquisitive” and a “go-getter” who is based on a composite of students whom she affectionately referred to as her “geek squad.”

“I was off sick one day and my comic book club … came in and ran their own club,” said Hilland with a laugh. “The principal walked by [and said], ‘Um, Ms. Hilland isn’t here today. She’s home sick.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, we know, but it’s our club day, so we’re in here.’ And that’s the spirit we want to invest in, the ownership. This is their space. If there’s a problem, they’ll fix it. If there’s something missing, they’re going to fill in that gap. So my students were really closely related to Billi in the book.”

Being that Hilland is of European ancestry and Billi is Indigenous, the teacher-librarian sought assistance to make sure the main character was authentic.

“It’s always best to look for own voices in books that represent the culture that you’re representing,” said Hilland. “In this case, I couldn’t find that, so I did sort of the second best thing is that you write the story, you create the character and then you go to cultural sensitivity readers to read it and vet it and bring up any points so that it can be an open dialogue while you’re creating the story.”

Hilland anticipates the book launch in mid-May and pre-orders are being accepted on

“I’ve found it’s really difficult for indie authors to make any money on books, you’re usually losing money, because the print runs are so small,” said Hilland. “With Kickstarter, I use it as platform to do pre-orders. So if I can pre-order 500 books, it makes the book price lower, so that I can get the book into more hands because it’s cheaper to make and cheaper to sell.”

Billi the Maker is Hilland’s sixth children’s book.

Maia Batumashvili illustrated the book and Robin Katz served as editor.

For more information on Hilland, go to To pre-order, go to

RELATED: Nanaimo librarian launches new Island poetry journal

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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