Dear Me and You and the Red Canoe,
I’ve always believed that the right books appear at the right time, and you certainly fit the bill. When you arrived in your mysterious envelope from the publisher, it was at the start of this rainy summer. I knew you wouldn’t be officially released until August 1st, but I couldn’t wait to share you. Since then, I’ve read you many times to children at a story time, to my neighbour’s kids, to a friend’s child in a cafe and even to some of my nieces (who left single digit ages behind almost a decade ago). Here’s the thing I’m noticing: your story transcends age, and as such, is building connections I hadn’t considered.
Of course, the story appeals to children because it contains all the very best elements that they enjoy. It talks about taking one-on-one time with someone, and experiencing something that is truly unique. It describes that moment in time where it seems as if time stands still, and for one moment, it’s just the two of you while the whole world sleeps. The sense memory evoked by the writing is incredible, and each detail – the “nest/high atop a leafless birch” and the “squirrel scolding,/chit chit chattering” invites the listener to close their eyes to see and hear it in their minds as well as from the page. I have had so many discussions with tiny readers about what a beaver’s home looks like, or the fish they caught with their uncle, or even about that time they were camping as a family and I am slightly in awe of how this book has created memory connections with them.
However, as I read the story aloud in various places, I’m finding that adults are drifting over to listen. There have been dads in their thirties and granddads in their sixties who lean in and share a grin as they remember fishing with their families. I’ve had my niece smile as she remembers heading out in the quiet of the early morning in the canoe with her grandfather. I’ve witnessed my brother flex his hands as he remembers the feel of the paddle and how it would resist the water as it stroked through the still water. The beautiful pictures by Phil illustrate that unique perspective from the bow as you head out past the rocky outcrop and into the river – an image unforgettable to anyone who has spent time in a canoe. That they were done on panels, and remind readers of birch bark artwork and summertime crafts only adds an extra dimension to each reading.
Thank you for bringing back such wonderful memories – of quiet mornings, of the sound of paddles dipping into the water, of that quiet pride you feel at it just being the two of you because you are finally “big enough” to handle the canoe. These represent the very best parts of summer: family, support, affection, adventure and love. I can’t wait to share you with more young readers and their families.
Me and You and the Red Canoe was written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Phil. It is published by Groundwood Books, and will be available August 1, 2017. ISBN:978-1-554-988471, 32 pages.
In the stillness of a summer dawn, two siblings leave their campsite with fishing rods, tackle and bait, and push a red canoe into the lake. A perfect morning on the water unfolds, with thrilling glimpses of wildlife along the way.
The narrator describes the experience vividly. Trailing a lure through the blue-green depths, the siblings paddle around a point, spotting a moose in the shallows, a beaver swimming towards its home and an eagle returning to its nest. Suddenly there is a sharp tug and the rod bends to meet the water. A few heart-stopping moments later, the pair pull a silvery trout from the water, then paddle back to the campsite to fry up a delicious breakfast.
The poetic text is accompanied by stunningly beautiful paintings rendered on wood panels that give a nostalgic feeling to the story.
Wondering why I’m writing letters to books? I’ve been inspired by Annie Spence’s lovely book, Dear Fahrenheit 451. Check out my introductory post for more information.