Cary Fagan on aunts and uncles [guest post]

Aunts and Uncles Day? Who knew such a day even existed? I certainly didn’t, until the good people at Anansi and Groundwood asked me if I might write something about it. And given that my picture book, Oy, Feh, So? (with illustrations by Gary Clement) is no less than an homage to my own aunts and uncles, how could I resist?

Cary Fagan's family visiting him at Camp Walden. Left to right: Uncle Nat; his mother Belle; his father Maurice; Aunt Fanny; Aunt Toby; Bubby Sylvia; brother Mark; Cary, age 16; and his brother Lawrence.

My family visiting me at Camp Walden. Left to right: Uncle Nat; my mother Belle; my father Maurice; Aunt Fanny; Aunt Toby; Bubby Sylvia; brother Mark; me, age 16; and my brother Lawrence.

I grew up on Betty Anne Drive, a street near Bathurst and Sheppard in North Toronto. My parents were the first in my family to buy a house in the neighbourhood (behind it there were still farmers’ fields) but it soon became a landing strip for both the Fagenbaums and Menkeses. Before long, my mother’s oldest sister Anne (the only one of four born in the old country) and her husband, Jack, were also living on Betty Anne, just a few blocks west. Further down the street, another sister, Aunt Toby, settled down, along with Uncle Nat (Nutsy, as his own family called him). My paternal grandparents, Max and Adele, landed somewhere in the middle, along with my Uncle Henry, who looked enough like my father that people often mistook the two.

Just on the other side of Bathurst Street was my maternal grandmother, Bubby Sylvia. It was a little farther to reach Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Bernie, Aunt Adeline and Uncle Sam, and also my great Aunt Fanny and my great Uncles Lepa and Itcha.

Left to right: Cary Fagan's cousin Ellen, Cary, and his brother Mark.

Left to right: my cousin Ellen, me, and my brother Mark.

My mother’s parents arrived in the 1920s, but all the others came later, fleeing or somehow surviving the Nazis. All of my family embraced this new, happy life in Canada, where a living could be made and children offered a better life, but still there was a dark shadow that sometimes fell over them, the terrible memory of relatives who did not survive. We of the younger generation only heard much later about those who were lost, usually during some family event, such as a wedding or a funeral where the high emotions and perhaps a schnapps or two would loosen somebody’s tongue. And, thinking back, I wonder if it was this shadow that kept our family so close, that meant my only real friends growing up were my cousins, and that on weekends and holidays our house would fill up with my boisterous aunts and uncles. Those times were among the best of my early years — when I felt safe and loved, surrounded by voices and laughter as familiar to me as my own.

Oy, Feh, So?

Every Sunday Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah and Uncle Sam drive up in the old Lincoln for the afternoon. They plop themselves down in the living room, and no matter what anyone says their response is always the same — “Oy,” “Feh,” “So?”
Cary Fagan’s characteristically dry humor and Gary Clement’s wonderfully witty illustrations perfectly depict a family with loveable quirks in this story that is sure to become a favorite.

Tiny Windows to the World – Marie-Louise Gay

Reposted from marielouisegay.com
View Stella & Sam stamps on Canada Post’s website
Enter to win a prize pack featuring Stella & Sam stamps & books (via Facebook)

When I was young, I had pen pals from around the world. I was curious about the lives that other kids led – their hobbies, their studies and their countries. I received letters from Egypt, France and the Netherlands, addressed in flowing cursive handwriting or scrawled in pencil. Most envelopes bore many multicolored stamps on which exotic plants bloomed, wild animals ran and tropical birds flew. Others portrayed great palaces, pyramids and remote deserts. I was fascinated by these tiny windows that opened onto strange new worlds. I would dream about visiting these faraway places that had chosen an elephant, a camel, a mosque or a pagoda, a glorious piece of art or a regal monarch to represent their country.

All these evocative images came back to me when Canada Post proposed to create two stamps featuring art from my series of Stella and Sam books. I was thrilled, having never envisioned that the characters I had created 15 years ago would one day have the honor of being on a stamp. I was especially proud and happy that these stamps would underline the importance of children’s literature in Canada as well as promoting literacy.

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Looking at Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011, an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book, and finalist for the Governor General's Award: Children's Illustration and Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards: Picture Book  <i>Migrant</i> by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011 ∙ Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book ∙ Finalist for the Governor General’s Award (Illustration) ∙ Finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

In a good world, I will be on vacation when you read this post. We rent a cottage near Point Pelee National Park, which is a gorgeous part of Canada. We are able to buy the most incredible produce there because of all the farms nearby, but not until I saw Migrant, written by Maxine Trottier and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, did I really think about the Mexican temporary workers who make this bounty possible. It’s something we should all think about.

— Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

Migrant_int2 Migrant_int3

Northwest Passage and that new-book smell

Hot off the press: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, illustrated with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

Hot off the press: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

When publishing people get together, we always talk about the same thing. Sure, we might start off with an analysis of world events or a friendly argument about what we’re going to order for dinner. But sooner or later, we always get around to that one really important question: what’s your favourite stage in the process of making a book?

Editors might tell people that the very best part comes early. It could be the “made your day” moment of telling an author that her book is going to be published, or the first glimpse of rough sketches that makes a picture book seem finally real. But, honestly, everyone who works in publishing agrees that nothing, simply nothing, can compare to the first time you hold a finished book in your hands. To help you experience that feeling for yourselves, here is a sneak peek of a fall 2013 title that had people in our office jumping up and down (for real!) last Friday. I’m only sorry that I can’t figure out how to share that new-book smell with you via cyberspace.

— Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

(Psst: for more behind-the-scenes photos, check out Groundwood on Instagram. Anansi is on Instagram too.)

Hot off the press: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

Some spreads from Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

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