News and Interviews

The Dirty Dozen, with Tyler Clark Burke


She writes, she draws, she starts record labels -- is there anything Tyler Clark Burke can't do? The multi-hyphenate artist has now added another line to her impressive c.v. with the charming, wacky, colourful picture book Bill Bowerbird and the Unbearable Beak-Ache (OwlKids).

In the book, the titular Bill finds himself having a rough day with his very bad beak-ache, but with the help of some friends (including a zebra and yak) he learns about staying positive in tough times. Fun and vibrant, the book is creative and full of energy. It's also a neat way to talk about animals with the little ones in your life (bowerbirds are a fascinating species known for their colourful nests). 

We're excited to have Tyler on Open Book today to take our Dirty Dozen challenge, which asks authors to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves. She tells us about one very hardcore way to get over a fear of public speaking, her family connection to The Maltese Falcon, and "the Winnipeg Raft Race". 

  1. When I was 17, I was standing beside our electrical panel when it exploded, causing a fire which destroyed three levels of our house.
  2. I have a blue dot on my cheek. Lead from the tip of a pencil embedded in my face when I jumped in my dad’s lap as a baby (he was marking papers). It turned blue over time.
  3. I had an appendectomy while 5-months pregnant with my son Hugo.
  4. I’ve recently watched 47 episodes of Forensic Files. I watch it for the science? What is wrong with me?
  5. When I was 8-years-old, my friend Meredith and I gathered found objects from our back alleys and sold them from a lemonade stand we wheeled to a bus stop in Osborne Village. We also made popcorn and sold bags up and down the aisles of the city buses. I am amazed by our wild freedom now.
  6. When I was 9-years-old I drew 32 pictures of clowns for Fellini.
  7. When I was 10-years-old I told the other kids at the bus stop I was psychic and could predict when the buses would arrive. I just knew the schedule. 
  8. I used to have a debilitating fear of public speaking. I would dream up horrible accidents which could excuse me from a presentation, but they’d fortunately/unfortunately never transpire. In my late 20s, I decided it was time to get over this fear. I accepted an invitation to speak about my grandfather at Trampoline Hall. On my way, I got hit by the door of a car and broke three ribs. The perfect excuse! But instead of going home, I got back on my bike and gave my talk. I am now largely over my fear of public speaking, but my ribs hurt constantly.
  9. My great-uncle James Burke was a character actor. He was in over 100 films, including The Maltese Falcon. When he was a traveling Vaudeville performer, he printed a business card which listed only how he liked his breakfast.
  10. When I was a kid, my parents formed a neighbourhood group and brought the local church to court. The congregants would take over our street, curbs, and grass and use these areas as their parking lot. I still have one of the t-shirts my dad created. I wore it to school almost daily. The slogan read: “God is not dead. He’s just stuck in traffic.”
  11. My estranged parents had an unexpected reconciliation after 25 years of not speaking. This was one of the best and brightest surprises of my life. 
  12. In the mid 80s, my mother Val created an event called the Winnipeg Raft Race. I forget the exact rules, but the gist was that entrants had to create the fastest buoyant craft using non-traditional materials, and these "rafts" couldn't harness any wind. I think one year we went down the river on thatched styrofoam (which also doubled handily as a beer cooler). Does anyone remember this race? Anyone want to do this again?


Tyler Clark Burke is a writer, illustrator, designer, and freelance brainstormer. She co-founded the internationally acclaimed record label Three Gut Records (with The Constantines, Jim Guthrie, and Oneida), then sold her part to make art. Tyler has worked as a creative director and art director, has won numerous awards for her cover designs, and her art has been shown and collected internationally. Bill Bowerbird and the Unbearable Beak-Ache is Tyler’s first picture book. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two children.

Buy the Book

Bill Bowerbird and the Unbearable Beak-Ache

Bill has a terrible, unbearable, lousy beak-ache. He also happens to be a bowerbird: a type of bird that collects scraps to create elaborate color-sorted nests. So Bill turns to his friends the zebra, frog, yak, and others for objects that might help alleviate his ache. Nothing works. But as it turns out, the pain is from a new tooth! The ache goes away on its own.
This fun, wacky story is told in playful cadence with rhyme and refrain. Artwork is deliberately childlike, stylized in bold, energetic colors just like a bowerbird’s eccentric nest design. A riot to read, this story also offers some wisdom on getting through tough times: patience, and a little help from your friends.