Q & A with local illustrator Mathias Ball

Q & A with local illustrator Mathias Ball

Born and raised in Goderich, Mathias Ball (he/they) is a trans-identified illustrator who draws inspiration from animals, emotions, and warm bright colors. He is a graduate of the Illustration program at Sheridan College and his dream is to illustrate a world depicting cute characters and lots of dogs.

Still my Tessa written by Sylv Chiang and illustrated by Mathias was championed by Gary the Unicorn and won the second edition of ‘Canada Reads for kids’ in 2024. Gary the Unicorn said they picked this title because, “it feels like a warm hug for the heart!” 

Other picture books they’ve illustrated include Every Body Is a Rainbow by Caroline Carter, What If Bedtime Didn’t Exist? by Francine Cunningham and These Cookies Are Not for Puppies by local author, Larissa O’Donnell. You can also find his work on their small business website, Sulkypup, where they sell prints, original plush (coming soon), gender neutral clothing and other items.

The Clinton Branch was proud to have Mathias come visit and share their journey to getting published and starting their own business based off their gorgeous digital artwork. The following is a conversation between Branch Assistant, Shannon O’Connor and the local illustrator/artist, Mathias Ball:

Q. How did you get your start in picture book illustration and what draws you to that medium?

Illustrating for picture books is something that I was always interested in! My style of work has always leaned more toward the cute, colourful, and bubbly, so creating illustrations for picture books felt like a natural fit. As for getting started, I went to school at Sheridan College for their Bachelor of Illustration program. After graduating in the lovely year of 2020, I started posting my work online which got the attention of some Art Directors and Literary Agents. In 2022, I teamed up with my agent, Natascha Morris, who has since helped with connecting me to book projects such as Still My Tessa and What If Bedtime Didn’t Exist? along with some more books yet to be released.

Q. Are there any particular subjects/authors/topics that attract you most? If so what and why?

As a queer individual, I’m always drawn to topics having to do with LGBTQ+ themes. A handful of the books I’ve illustrated so far are ones that I would have loved to have as a kid–not only for LGBTQ+ folks, but being able to see stories where you feel represented and shown in a positive light can mean so much to a kid, and really pull out their confidence.

In addition, I love books that feature animal characters or take place in nature. Growing up in Goderich, I spent a lot of time outside in the surrounding forests and trails, trying to befriend critters here and there. It’s always a pleasure when I can pull inspiration from that and bring it into a project.

Q. Do you have any favourite illustrators or artists that inspire(d) your own work?

Always a fan of any artist with blocky shapes and lots of colours. To name a few, some artists are Anoosha Syed, Jon Klassen, and Paige Bowman.

Q. What has been your favourite project to date and what are you most excited about working on next (if you can share anything about that)?

It’s tough to answer, but I think my favourite may be an upcoming book, Little Wolf’s Howl published by Marble Press. Going back to one of my favourite subject matters, this book follows the story of a Little Wolf who gets lost and needs to find her way back to her mother. She encounters some new animal friends who help her along the way. Illustrating this book felt the most natural to me, and it was very easy to picture the illustrations as I did my first read of the manuscript.

For what I’m excited to work on next, it’s a bit up in the air at the moment! I don’t have any book projects on the go at this time, but I have my online business, Sulkypup, where I’ve been designing and releasing gender-neutral clothing on a triannual basis, along with designing some accessories and stationery goods. I have a Summer Update that will be happening in mid-July and I have been prepping some new items for my Fall Update later in October. I’m hoping to release a plush for the Fall Update of one of my original characters as well, which I’ve been very excited about, as designing a plush is something I’ve always wanted to do.

Q. What are you currently reading or what are some of your favorite books?

Some favourite series of mine are the Scott Pilgrim series and anything done by Tatsuki Fujimoto. I tend to read more comics and manga over just text-based books, as I always enjoy seeing what other illustrators are up to and how they share their stories.

Q. What advice would you give to any young aspiring artist/illustrators?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; embrace the things you love. To develop your skills, you need to allow yourself the opportunity to draw things that may look quirky so you can know what to do differently next time. The more you draw, the more you will learn. Also, you may eventually look back at your old art and think it’s embarrassing and cringy, but please don’t throw it out. You were just as much an artist as you were then as you are at this moment. Don’t be ashamed to celebrate the growth that you have had between then and now.

As for embracing the things you love, as an artist, you may gradually become more concerned about finding your artistic voice. What I’ve advised mentees in the past is that style is something that grows out of the things that you love about creating. For me, I really like playing with colour and traditional textures, and I like drawing animals and creatures. Meanwhile, others may embrace black & white art with a much more graphic appearance. In the end, what we love can help define who we are as artists.

Bayfield Pizza Pages: Summer Reading Challenge

Bayfield Pizza Pages: Summer Reading Challenge

Kids, get ready to dive into the wonderful world of books and embark on a reading journey like no other! Join us this summer for an exciting adventure as Olio partners with the Huron County Library’s Bayfield Branch to present the ultimate summer reading challenge! From July through August, kids ages 4-12 are being challenged to read as many books as possible.

At the end of the challenge, top readers will earn an exclusive invitation to a pizza party provided by Olio! Imagine enjoying delicious slices of pizza or some fabulous spaghetti with fellow bookworms, celebrating everyone’s reading accomplishments in style.

Gather your favourite books, unleash your imagination, and let’s make this summer a memorable one filled with stories, excitement, and of course, plenty of pizza! Get ready to turn the pages and devour those books – the Pizza Party awaits the champions of reading!

Full program details:

  • Ages: 4-12
  • How to Participate: This program is intended for patrons of the Bayfield Branch. Please visit the branch to register and to receive your reading log. Track your reading, and once it’s full bring it back to the branch to be entered into the Pizza Pages Reading Challenge. The top readers will be invited to attend a special pizza party hosted by Olio. Each log will earn readers a small prize.
  • Dates: July 2-Aug 23
  • Deadline: All reading logs must be returned to the branch by Aug. 23.
  • Questions? Email bayfieldlibrary@huroncounty.ca or call 519-565-2886


Celebrating Pride Month

Celebrating Pride Month

The Huron County Library is celebrating Pride Month by sharing valuable resources, participating in community events, and hosting activities in our branches.

Here is a round-up of what’s happening throughout June:

Huron County Pride Outreach: The Huron County Library is popping up at this year’s Huron County Pride Festival! Find us on the Square in downtown Goderich on Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and take in the amazing activities happening throughout the day!

Pride Hikes: Celebrate diverse voices, get active on Huron County’s trails, win Pride-themed prizes and more! Participate in the Celebrating Diverse Voices Scavenger Hunt on the Bayfield Heritage Trail from June 9-30. Or, explore any one of Huron’s beautiful hiking trails through June. Hikers participating in either option can earn an entry to win a Pride-themed prize pack! Learn how to participate here.

LGBTQ2S+ Resources for young people and their families: Library staff have put together a valuable resource guide to support young people and their families. The guide features links to online resources, books from our collection, local supports, and more.

Book Raffle: The Library is raffling off 10 LGBTQ2S+ books for a variety of ages (picture books, junior fiction, young adult, adult fiction, and adult non-fiction). Find ballots throughout the month of June at all 12 branches or visit us at the Huron Pride Festival.

Pride Panel Discussion: Join us on Thursday, June 20 from 6:30-8 p.m., for a virtual discussion to learn about what Drag is and why it has been targeted as a perceived threat. Our panelists are Curtis Campbell, author of Dragging Mason County, a Young Adult novel about a drag show at a small town high school; and Miss Lita, who is a drag performer who has performed at several drag story time library programs that have attracted protestors. Goderich Branch is also hosting a watch party if you would like to bring your friends together to join the conversation! Registration required

LGBTQ2S+ Youth Social Connections Craft Night: To celebrate pride, the LGBTQ2S+ youth social connections crew are inviting everyone to their craft night on Monday, June 24, 5-8 p.m. at the Goderich Branch. LGBTQ2S+ Youth Social Connections is a community-led program for youth ages 16-25 held the last Monday of each month at the Goderich Branch. This is a great opportunity to have fun with peers, to meet new friends and to engage in discussions around topics that could include sexuality, identity, homophobia, and personal experiences. Registration required.

Drop-in Button Making @ Exeter Branch: Celebrate Pride Month by joining us at the Exeter Branch every Friday in June for button making! This is a drop-in program and available during regular branch hours, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. No registration is necessary.

Rainbow Storytime @ Exeter Branch: Drop into the Exeter Branch Friday, June 7, 2-3 p.m., for Rainbow Storytime featuring LGBTQ2S+ themed stories and songs! No registration required.

Friendship Bracelets @ Exeter Branch: Join us Saturday, June 29, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Exeter Branch  to make a rainbow, pronoun, or flag-themed friendship bracelet! No registration required.

Mental Health Awareness Month Reading Recommendations

Mental Health Awareness Month Reading Recommendations

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and staff have compiled a great list of recent reads that highlight ways to check in on your mental health or to read about other people who are also struggling. Above all remember it’s okay to not be okay and there’s no shame in asking for help!

A staff-created list with even more of our favorites can be found on our online catalogue. And for those interested, there is also an excellent curated Family Guide to Mental Health resources that can be accessed also be accessed through our online catalogue.

Book cover image of Everyone But Myself

Memoir: Everyone But Myself by Julie Chavez

Like so many mothers, Julie Chavez ran herself ragged trying to meet the needs of everyone else, until an unexpected panic attack forced her to find a new way. Funny, deeply honest, and inspiring for readers feeling overwhelmed in their own lives, this memoir reads like a best friend sharing how she pulled herself back to solid ground while embracing chaos along the way.

Place a hold online…


Book cover image of Your Pocket Therapist

Non-Fiction: Your Pocket Therapist: Break Free from Old Patterns and Transform Your Life by Annie Zimmerman

From psychotherapist and TikTok personality Dr. Annie Zimmerman comes a toolkit to transform yourself and your relationships, with advice on how to heal past trauma, build sustainable connections, and take ownership of your mental health.

Place a hold online…


Book cover image of The Anxious Generation

Non-Fiction: The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness by Jonathan Haidt

In this book social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time in the 2010s. He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults and presents a plan for a freer, healthier childhood.

Place a hold online…


Book cover image of At First Spite

Fiction: At First Spite by Olivia Dade

On the surface this is just another enemies to lovers small town romance from best-selling author Olivia Dade but in actuality there is a very relatable and exceptional mental health representation woven into the story. Our main character, Athena gets dumped at the alter and finds herself jobless at the same time, falling into a deep depression that only the man next door notices. With his help, she is able to embrace therapy and medication to manage her depression, finding an unexpected love along the way.

Place a hold online…


Book cover image of Where to Start

YA Non-fiction: Where to Start: A Survivial Guide to Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mental Health Challenges compiled by Mental Health America

A resource specifically written for teens struggling emotionally and looking for help, from the nation’s leading community-based non-profit that addresses the needs of those living with mental illness.

Place a hold online…


Book cover image of Absolutely Normal

YA Short Stories: Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories that Smash Mental Health Stereotypes

This collection of 16 short stories, while fictional, were all carefully chosen based on the contributing authors’ own experiences related to mental health challenges either as a lived experience or similar experience that is noted in the introduction by the editors. The stories cover a range of mental health conditions from OCD and PTSD to anxiety and the rarely discussed premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Each author also wrote a note that appears after their story to share their personal connection – a personal touch that gives each story extra weight and strengthens the collection as a whole.

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Book cover image of Stay with my heart

YA Fiction: Stay With My Heart by Tashie Bhuiyan

A South Asian American teen girl grapples with anxiety and depression following her high school graduation and mother’s recent death. Struggling in the face of her father’s absenteeism and neglect, Liana tries to please him by focusing on her new internship at his Music Recording company only to find herself getting tangled up with an aspiring band and its friendly, yet complex members.

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Book cover image of Buzzing

Middle Grade Graphic Novel: Buzzing by Samuel Sattin; Illustrated by Rye Hickman

An excellent #ownvoices middle grade graphic novel about Isaac, a young neurodivergent boy struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and negative self thoughts. When the strict therapy his mother insists on doesn’t seem to be working, Isaac finds solace in a group of friends who invite him to join their after-school role-playing game Not long after the thoughts in his head start to feel a little less loud and the world feels a little brighter. This is a must-read with multi-dimensional therapy representation and beautiful illustrations.

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Book cover image of Louder Than Hunger

Middle Grade Novel-In-Verse: Louder than Hunger by John Schu

Revered teacher, librarian, and story ambassador, John Schu explores anorexia—and self-expression as an act of survival—in a wrenching and transformative novel-in-verse story. This fictionalized account of the author’s experiences and emotions living in residential treatment facilities as a young teen with an eating disorder, Louder than Hunger is a triumph of raw honesty. With a deeply personal afterword for context, this book is a powerful model for muffling the destructive voices inside, managing and articulating pain, and embracing self-acceptance, support, and love.

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Book cover image Deep Water

Middle Grade Novel-In-Verse: Deep Water by Jamie Sumner

Previously highlighted in our Middle Grade Fiction recommendation guide, this latest novel-in-verse story from author Jamie Sumner is a great look at a young girl struggling to cope with an absentee parent trying to deal with their own depression.

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Book cover image of Marley's Pride

Picture Book: Marley’s Pride by Joëlle Retener; illustrated by DeAnn Wiley

Marley is a little nonbinary kid with big anxieties. Crowds? Pass. Loud noises? No, thanks. When their Zaza is up for an award at Pride, they want to go to the parade for the first time with their beloved grandparent. But can Marley overcome their fears? Highlighting the joyful experiences of a queer Black family finding community at Pride, this story features back matter about the history of Pride, a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms, and a list of resources. 

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