Buried treasure brought me together with Nimbus Publishing, the largest Canadian book publisher on the Atlantic coast. A few years ago Nimbus contacted me seeking permission to reprint my illustration of the Oak Island treasure. While Nimbus typically only works with Canadian authors and illustrators, they were intrigued to hear about my own Canadian roots (over 25% pure-bred Toronto!) So this remarkable story about Lanier Phillips, written by award-winning author Alice Walsh, was a perfect fit. Especially since I’ve spent the last decade of my own life living in the South, including the very county in Georgia where Lanier spent his childhood. It’s a difficult story of racism and resilience, but an important one to share with young (and old) listeners.
A CHANGE OF HEART, published by Nimbus Publishing (2016)
written by Alice Walsh and illustrated by Erin Bennett Banks
A true story about Lanier Phillips, who fled a segregated Georgia in 1941 to join the Navy, only to be shipwrecked while on board the USS Truxton. Lanier’s encounter with the compassionate people of Newfoundland, Canada, profoundly influenced his life, inspiring him to become a civil rights activist, as well as the first African-American to graduate from the US Navy’s sonar school.
2018 Hackmatack Award Nominee (non-fiction category)
“The illustrations are stunning. Bennett Banks uses oils that not only accompany the story but make readers feel what Lanier is feeling. In the first half of the story, the illustrator only uses dark and dull colours. This colour choice helps to convey Lanier’s internal turmoil. After Lanier visits Newfoundland, his tone changes and so do the illustrations. Bennett Banks creates images with bright hues of yellow and blue that mirror his new outlook on life.” — University of Manitoba
“…By far the best thing about this book is the illustrations. Beautiful! I think this is a great story to introduce the themes of racism in the twentieth century to kids today. Would recommend this as a read aloud for an older elementary class.” — Review on Goodreads.com
“A Change of Heart is a profound story of racism, resilience, and redemption and will be an important book to add to all booklists for social justice, Black History month and character education… The story is a gripping one and well illustrated by the distinctive angularity of Erin Bennett Banks’ evocative art…” — Review on CanLit for Little Canadians
“With vibrant illustrations by celebrated artist Erin Banks, A Change of Heart vividly depicts Lanier’s life-changing experiences in Newfoundland that fateful February. — 49th Shelf
“A Change of Heart is a heartwarming, inspiring picture book for older readers that palpably depicts the racism and fear of Lanier’s early life in contrast to the way he was treated in Newfoundland, and shows how one experience can really help a person to see things differently. Adding to this uplifting story are the oil painted illustrations done in Erin Bennett Banks’ signature angular style.” — The Children’s War: A Guide to Books for Young Readers about World War II