By now, all Vancouver teacher-librarians will have received the good news! We are going to celebrate the BC Sesqui-Centennial (150th Anniversary) this year with books, thanks to a successful collaboration of community experts, district personnel, MLST, and the School Library Resource Centre Consultative Committee. The annual district purchase will provide $500 to each school to buy books that build collections that are rich and dynamic places for young British Columbians to learn about and celebrate our BC culture, history, writing, landscape -- in short, TLs are ordering recently published books about BC or by BC authors, illustrators, or publishers.
We thank Margaret Reynolds of BC Book Publishers who worked with Phyllis Simon of Vancouver Kidsbooks and Elizabeth Graves of ULS to prepare extensive discounted lists of "BC books" from which TLs may choose. The Kidsbooks list includes Fiction, Poetry, and Legend; ULS lists are non-fiction only (not including poetry and legends). NOTE: Orders are to be received by May 2. Should we challenge other districts to take on such a project?
Literacy Meredyth and I became Literary Meredyth and Moira last night as we headed off to the evening of Extraordinary Canadians at the Planetarium. "Speech Path" Jean was there as well, so the district was well represented in the local launch of Penguin's new series of 18 books about 20 outstanding Canadians. We were treated to Hal Wake's artful queries and an evening of some of Canada's best raconteurs: the clever historian and biographer Charlotte Gray, the rumpled and witty Maritimes writer David Adams Richards, and the urbane and engaging Lewis DeSoto.
What a clever series this promises to be! No typical biography, each closes the distance between author and subject, carefully matching one to the other. The book that results is described as personal and idiosyncratic; each suggests a "dark thread" in the life of the subject.
Richards grew up in the same town of Newcastle, NB, as Max Aitken, the larger-than-life and much maligned Lord Beaverbrook who often found himself a colonial at odds and out of sorts with the British aristocratic class into which he had climbed. Richards describes him as outspoken, ruthless, and lacking a moral compass. Perhaps for missing out on the love of a father, his being a stern Presbyterian, Aitken found his place at the side of R B Bennett, David Lloyd George, Boner Law, Churchill, and Stalin.
DeSoto was, in his youth, an art student who had had no time for the dark art of Emily Carr. Yet he knew instantly that he was the best to write the account of the woman he describes as "uncoventional, forthright, and spiritual." Carr didn't suffer fools; eccentric, exploring, full of the creative principle, she found her way to the portraits of Western Canada that hadn't existed through reflecting upon the work of the Group of Seven and by travelling and studying in England, France, and San Francisco. The "dark thread" is the stuff of the myths about Carr and her family, about the mysterious and missing love in her life.
Gray began by stating unequivocally that she would like to have "throttled" Nellie McClung's daughter, the one who burned all her diaries and papers when she died. Nellie had a strong sense of her own Crusade and of the collective; she was determined to have an impact. Gray describes her as witty, outspoken and strategis, a woman who grew up the youngest on the family's centre-stage. She was funny; of the five women who advanced the case for persons, Nellie was the best for quotes, the funniest. The dark thread is exposed: Nellie worked hard to preserve the image of the perfect home life, papering over the depressed husband and the four alcoholic sons, one of whom committed suicide, with writing and humour.
The Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series is a must-have for secondary schools. These are the first three titles. Order from Kidsbooks: Emily Carr by Lewis DeSoto; Nellie McClung by Charlotte Gray; and Lord Beaverbrook by David Adams Richards.