'Like an adult sitcom': Student author brings raccoons of Odell Park to life

Peer into the future for Killarney and Odell parks

The antics of the raccoons of Fredericton's Odell Park come to life in a new book crafted by a Fredericton student. 

Kirsten Stackhouse independently designed and published Raccoons of Odell Park earlier this week.

But don't be fooled by the bright colours and furry faces.

Raccoons of Odell Park is styled as a children's book but written for adults who understand the mischief these critters can make — a cheeky narrative the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design student compares to "an adult sitcom."

"You have those kinds of characters where you have this one sad guy and his girlfriend just broke up with him, but maybe she's with another guy," Stackhouse said Friday.

"And we've got the trash-eating one, and there's another one who just plays jokes. Like an adult sitcom but in the format of raccoons."

- Elementary students become New Brunswick's newest authors 

The book began as a project for a design course. The story itself, however, was inspired by Stackhouse's time spent crouching in the Odell Park bushes as a team member of the Bard in the Barracks theatre company.

"During that job, there's a lot of downtime, when the audience hasn't got to you yet, so you're just sort of crouching in bushes," Stackhouse said. "And that's where we met a lot of the raccoons of Odell Park."

She said the animals' stories started out as a joke among friends who liked to make up fictitious lives and assorted tales about the raccoons.

But when the opportunity came, Stackhouse decided to use her background in comedy and graphic design to bring the stories to life.

More stories in the works

The 24-year-old grew up in Salisbury, west of Moncton, and her computer programmer parents introduced her to digital illustration at a young age.

After beginning her bachelor of applied arts at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton a few years ago, Stackhouse transferred to the design school to finish her degree in graphic design.

Her love of comedy and storytelling led her to publish Racoons of Odell Park all on her own.

Stackhouse used Lulu, an online self-publishing book and ebook website, to sell the book.

She said people "went crazy" with excitement in response to it, and what began as an inside joke is now reaching a wider audience.

"We're very fortunate here in Fredericton where there's a huge arts community, and people hear about it from someone else, they've seen the images I posted online, or they've seen how that's organically grown," she said.

"People always want to support the arts here, and they'll see that it's a good product and they'll buy it."

With a possible sequel in the works involving a group of crows on Queen Street, Stackhouse said she hopes to wear her author hat for a little while longer.

"I think we're at a stage right now where it's only going to grow from here."