By Mathew Roland
While on the road performing, Birch Bay local Gary Giles was looking for a way to teach his daughter life lessons. One story in particular, about a cassette tape and a young boy whose fish friends are left without water after a powerful tornado, eventually transformed into a book.
Giles will give a presentation for the release of his new children’s book, “Wondabubba and the Big Splash’” at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 7 at the United Church of Christ, 885 4th Street.
The story about how to be a good friend is Giles’ first children’s book, which he made in collaboration with Philadelphia illustrator James Whitley.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a grown adult with so much enthusiasm and love for what he does,” Whitley said in an email. “Perhaps it was the joy and excitement of seeing his book come to life. If you’ve ever heard him tell one of his stories and the amount of energy he puts into it, that is not a front, he really is that enthusiastic about life and the opportunities it affords us.”
Giles grew up in Philadelphia and has starred in a number of performances in the area.
In 2008, Giles came to Bellingham to perform in two plays at the Mount Baker Theatre; ‘Barefoot in the Park’ and ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ In 2015, he came back to perform in the musical ‘Marina,’ by Semiahmoo playwright Sandy Wolf. The play revolved around Blaine, circa 1909. It was after this role as a character named Ivory Jack that Giles decided to settle in Birch Bay.
Giles began performing at 3-years-old. When his mother heard him sing a gospel song titled ‘Father Open Our Eyes,’ she knew he had a natural talent. Throughout elementary, middle school, high school and college, Giles expressed his passion for singing and performing and drawing inspiration from people such as Harry Belafonte, Doctor Martin Luther King, Denzel Washington, Jimmy Carter and David Jeremiah.
Giles is most proud of his one man show titled ‘We Shall Not Sleep: The Voices of Our Ancestors.’ The multimedia piece chronicles the history of African Americans from slavery through the civil rights movement. Giles plays three historical figures, Frederick Douglass, William Still and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s been very powerful in the hearts and the actions of the people,” Giles said. “Each of us, irrespective of what our race is, has an ancestor, or more, who has made a significant difference in the world for good.”
Future goals for Giles include writing a history of his family, writing a second children’s book and traveling throughout Washington state.