When UKC April Fools Go Wrong...

We generally take April Fools' Day quite seriously here at UKC. Each year, we try our best to conjure up a mix of credible and not-so-credible (but hopefully amusing) stories. With the increase in 'fake news', you might think that readers have become more discerning. Unfortunately, one relatively convincing April Fools' story from 2016 was believed to be true by a Canadian reader, resulting in a fairly drastic change of course regarding an innovative enterprise...

Dave MacLeod doing some research for his upcoming children's book, 102 kb
Dave MacLeod doing some research for his upcoming children's book
© Chris Prescott

Olivier Roberge lives in Montreal and is the father of a young boy. A couple of years ago, he was keen to encourage his son to take an interest in climbing. Olivier is a screenwriter and realised the potential of a climbing story for children as a tool for inspiration. He also noticed a lack of kids' climbing stories and with that, a gap in the market that he could surely fill. Shortly after this lightbulb moment, however, Olivier read our April Fool 'Product News' titled Dave MacLeod Announces Children's Climbing Book.

Believing the press release to be true and sensing that Dave's knowledge and reputation would help to produce a more successful book, Olivier stalled in his plans. Later on, Olivier wanted to check up on Dave's progress with the book, having not read anything further since the press release. Upon realising it was all a - very bad - joke, Olivier contacted Dave and told us what had happened. He is now launching a Kickstarter for his own (authentic, legitimate) climbing-themed story book for children.

To apologise for the inconvenience caused, we want to share Olivier's Kickstarter and the nonetheless amusing story of the misunderstanding. Thank you, Olivier, for taking it all in such good humour!

A mock-up of Tom and Katie's Climbing Adventures.
© Olivier Roberge

When and how did the idea for a children's climbing book come about?

I think it was three or four years ago. I had already taken my son climbing twice; he was moving very well on the wall but would lose interest fast and never talk about going back. While strolling in a public library, in the never-ending search for interesting children's books, I thought that a book about climbing could help spark his interest. I started to look everywhere but couldn't find any. So I decided to create one!

Tell us what your initial thoughts were when you read our April Fools' story. Did you read it that day or later (we didn't add a note like we have done on some April Fools after the 1st!)?

I might have seen it on the day but I'm always oblivious as to what day it is (I forget about my birthday almost every year). Of course, I thought that if Dave has a book like that on the way, there's no point in me writing one as well. Since I hadn't really started the work at the time, I wasn't too disappointed to let it go. But I started looking forward to Dave's book instead! I realised it was a joke when I tried to learn about his progress a few months later. That shows you how much I wanted that book to exist!

'Katie is a very driven girl who's always up for a new challenge.', 235 kb
'Katie is a very driven girl who's always up for a new challenge.'
© Olivier Roberge

Why did you decide to go for it this year?

I had a window of free time between two directing gigs and decided to dive in once and for all. I've waited long enough already: I don't want my son to outgrow these stories!

How long did the stories take to write and illustrate? You're a screenwriter, but was it tricky trying to write for kids in a climbing context?

Surprisingly, I found the trickiest bit to be the climbing context. The reasons that make us climb in general, or choose one particular line over another, are pretty abstract and elusive for young kids (even more so for adults who don't climb!). So I worked hard to give the characters goals and motivations that younger readers could identify with, but that would still sound genuine for their climbing parents.

Tell us a bit about your project - who are the characters in the stories and what do they get up to?

Tom and Katie are two young friends who have just discovered the world of rock climbing. Katie is a very driven girl who's always up for a new challenge, while Tom is more contemplative and laid-back. This first collection of stories is more about beginnings, so we'll see them take their first steps in many disciplines, from the climbing gym all the way to an easy multi-pitch trad climb.

Cover photo featuring Katie., 207 kb
Cover photo featuring Katie.
© Olivier Roberge

What do you hope parents and kids get out of reading the book together?

I would love to see the stories become opportunities for parents to share their own adventures and climbing anecdotes. The ones that are safe to tell, of course: better save the true epics for when the little ones grow a bit older!

Have you tested the stories on your kid(s)? What do they think?

I haven't yet! I think I want the effect to be optimal so I'll wait until everything is almost done and looks perfect!

Any plans for future books?

If people are interested, I would love for Tom and Katie to go through more climbing adventures in different settings. And maybe a graphic novel with their older cousins going in the big mountains? My friend and alpinist Louis Rousseau already came to me with a few good stories, so we'll see what could happen with that.

Any ideas for next year's UKC April Fool?

Haha! I have many. But we wouldn't want to spoil the surprise!

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