Saanich resident and orca activist Mark Leiren-Young holds up his recently published children’s book, Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich orca activist publishes children’s book

Mark Leiren-Young’s new book is an ‘introduction to the orca-verse’

When Saanich resident and orca activist Mark Leiren-Young was growing up, he didn’t enjoy science class and had no plans to be an author. Yet, he has been writing about orcas for over 20 years and recently published his second book about them.

Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales, published by Orca Books, is aimed at middle school students and is the first in the Orca Wild series that will feature various authors. Leiren-Young refers to his book as an “introduction to the orca-verse.”

The book is a reference guide to orcas around the world. Leiren-Young hopes the book will appear everywhere from classrooms to BC Ferries to bed and breakfasts for folks of all ages to enjoy.

READ ALSO: Incredible Central Saanich orca encounter captured on video

Leiren-Young wears many hats – he’s an actor, comic, documentary filmmaker, science journalist and now a children’s author. However, he feels the title “orca activist” has replaced all others. He spends so much time writing about, filming, and advocating for orcas, he feels he’s almost a member of J pod – the name given to the southern resident orca pod near Vancouver Island.

In 2016, Leiren-Young’s first book, The Killer Whale Who Changed the World, was released. It outlined the history of Moby Doll, an orca who lived at the Vancouver Aquarium after being accidentally captured. Moby was the first orca in the world to be captured and displayed. Before her, people thought orcas were monsters, Leiren-Young explained.

He became interested in orcas about 20 years ago – he felt the concept of humans meeting what they thought was a monster sounded like “real-life science fiction.” After having no luck pitching a documentary film about Moby, Leiren-Young wrote feature articles and produced a radio documentary on the subject. When he won a Jack Webster Award for the radio documentary, Moby Doll: The Killer Whale that Changed the World, Greystone Books approached him with a book deal.

After Moby Doll’s story hit the stands, Orca Book Publishers asked Leiren-Young to translate the story into something for kids and Orcas Everywhere came to life.

READ ALSO: Remains of local mother orca and calf reunited in upcoming exhibit at Royal BC Museum

He said his lack of a background in science helped him ask “kid questions” when interviewing the world’s top oceanographers and Indigenous folks. His lack of confidence in his own knowledge also encouraged him to fact-check rigorously.

What’s next for Leiren-Young? He’s still in orca-mode.

“The number of things I’m doing on whales is loopy,” he said.

He’s currently writing the Royal B.C. Museum resident whale exhibit and has begun working on a picture book as well as a baby book about orcas.


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s top 10 worst intersections for crashes in 2019

Last year saw 2,560 crashes in Victoria

Excitement building around Esquimalt Town Square

Residential, commercial and library project will add vibrancy, amenities to area, mayor says

VIDEO: Annual artist studio tour goes virtual on Saanich Peninsula

ArtSea converts popular event to online format with personalized artist videos

Langford boy wakes up from surgery to find stuffed puppy wearing the same cast

Hospital staff outfitted ‘Eddy’ the puppy to match the young patient

Local Flavour: Youth take the lead in Victoria’s Pollinator Leadership Team

Guest writer Thompson Hygge, summer intern with Pollinator Partnership Canada

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

Most Read