• Posted on November 29, 2011

The Foreign Bookshelf

Along with the giddy anticipation of visiting great Scandinavian art museums and the fulfillment of a life-long dream of being in the same country that whelped ABBA, the prospect of foreign bookstores and the treasures therein was giving me the vapours weeks before my departure. Different cultural sensibilities, the promise of exciting new European illustrators…sometimes I feel like I’ve picked the shelves of my local bookstores clean, and trolling online can be hit or miss, especially when distraction arrives in the guise of a headline announcing the demise of Demi and Ashton’s marriage.

Sowa at Christmas

As expected, the WH Smith in Heathrow did not have any tasty items, but the small bookstore in the Frankfurt airport netted my first score-a Michael Sowa Christmas book, Der Karpfenstreit (The Carp Dispute.) The text was in German, but the illustrations were deliciously odd, more than enough reason to part with my Euros. Sitting in a cafe, drinking a cappuccino and waiting for my connection, I wanted to reach out to the older couple sitting at the same long table with me. “Look what I found!” Instead, I pulled out The Snowman by Jo Nesbø, and proceeded to read about bonhommicide in Oslo. Must remember, not everyone has a passion for picture books.

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  • Posted on November 12, 2011

The Secret of MiM

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Man in the Moon. What do they all have in common? Well, other than varying degrees of commercial value, nothing, other than they are the mythological beings of our childhood, along with (if you’re Canadian) the Friendly Giant and Mr Dressup. As such, they loom large in the imaginations of many children, and a certain, brilliant author and illustrator-William Joyce. The Man in the Moon is the first in a series of books to be called The Guardians of Childhood, a concept born out of Joyce’s disappointment at the ‘weak and undefined’ mythology surrounding these fantastical beings. “There are defined mythologies for Batman and Superman, so why not a defined mythology for something we actually believed in as children?” Why not indeed, although I personally don’t recall being too concerned about where the purveyor of my Mr Fruit n’ Nut originated, other than his name was Easter Bunny. But, I may have been wrong about that…

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  • Posted on November 01, 2011

Remembrance Day

Of all the days in the year in Canada that we celebrate or commemorate, Remembrance Day is the one that means the most to me. Other seasonal occasions, like Christmas, hold fond places in my heart, filled as they are with memories of friends and family, and my unnatural love of winter, twinkle lights, and all the Who’s down in Whoville.

Remembrance Day, on the other hand, engages me emotionally and spiritually like no other day of the calendar. No cards or presents are exchanged, no fireworks, no hollowed-out pumpkins. It is the one day set aside for quiet reflection, not on our lives but the lives of others who participated in the wars of the 20th century and beyond, who even now are buried in fields where poppies blow. I have no direct experience with war, other than through my brother-in-law whose mother was taken from her Polish village and brought to Germany as a labourer, and his father, who fought with the exiled Polish army all over Europe and the Middle East. I am not a war nut; the specificities of battles and campaigns do not interest me, but I do wonder why people do the things they do. How decisions, large and small, play out through time.

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