Look what’s here: Until the Day Arrives!

Until the Day Arrives is a fast-moving middle-grade novel set in the seventeenth century about two Portuguese orphans who are sent to Brazil where they encounter slaves from Africa. Together with their new friend, an aboriginal boy, they work towards reuniting the slaves with their families and helping them escape to freedom.

The novel opens when Bento is wrongly thrown into Lisbon’s prison by the king’s guards, leaving his younger sibling, Manu, to fend for himself. Fortunately, a nobleman’s family helps to reunite the siblings — although they will have to lead a life of exile in Brazil. They keep secret the fact that Manu is a girl in disguise so that she will be able to accompany her brother aboard ship.

The story shifts to the African savannah, where a young boy, Odjigi, is hunting gazelle with his father and other men. But the hunters soon become the hunted — they are kidnapped by slave traders, as are the women and children of the village, marched to the sea, shut up in dark, airless huts to prepare for the voyage across the Atlantic, and then undergo the horrifying trip itself.

In Brazil, the siblings quickly adapt to their new lives, but they are shocked by the existence and treatment of African slaves. Manu befriends an aboriginal boy, Caiubi, and a slave, Didi, who has been separated from his father. Meanwhile Bento falls in love with Rosa, a beautiful young slave who is also searching for her family. When Manu learns from Caiubi that escaped slaves have formed quilombos — villages hidden deep in the forest where they live in freedom — she is determined that they must help Didi and Rosa escape.

 

A Kensington Market Tour with Cary Fagan

In the year 2000, Cary Fagan published his second book for kids, The Market Wedding. The book won the Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature and the World Storytelling Award, and was singled out as a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Fast forward fourteen years, and Cary has twenty-two kids’ books to his name (we publish many of them at Groundwood!) and seven books for adults. His books have earned many distinctions, including two Silver Birch Awards, the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, and a long-listing for the prestigious Giller Prize.

The setting of The Market Wedding is Toronto’s Kensington Market, one of the most vibrant and storied neighbourhoods in the city. The market also happens to be a short walk from Groundwood HQ, so when we decided to re-release Cary’s book, we knew we had a perfect opportunity to get a tour of this special place from the author himself — and to see what some of the locations depicted in Regolo Ricci’s illustrations look like today.

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The first thing we did was to fuel up for the tour at Jimmy’s Coffee on Baldwin Street. Over delicious cappuccinos, Cary showed us the original inspiration for The Market Wedding. His picture book is based on a short story for adults by Abraham Cahan called “Ghetto Wedding.” That story was set in Manhattan’s Lower-East side and written in pseudo-Yiddish slang. When Cary read the story, he knew it would be perfect for kids, so he re-wrote it and set it in the neighbourhood he visited often as a child and where his mother grew up.

Which brings us to our first stop. Like our heroes in The Market Wedding, Cary’s mom grew up on Nassau Street. Can you see any similarities between Morris and Minnie’s second-story flat and Cary’s mom’s yellow-painted brick home?

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In Cary’s book, Morris and Minnie are married in a synagogue modelled after the Kiever Synagogue on Bellevue Avenue, right in the heart of the market.
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While we gazed at the synagogue, Cary talked about Regolo Ricci’s rich illustrations. Regolo came to Canada from Italy, so like many of the characters in The Market Wedding, he knows what it is like to be an immigrant. His empathy with the characters really comes through in the small details in his pictures. In early sketches, Morris and Minnie looked too glamorous, and Cary asked Regolo to make the couple look more working class. For inspiration, all the illustrator needed was a mirror: Morris’s look is based on the artist himself!

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Kensington Market has changed since Cary’s childhood, when he remembers Jewish butchers and live chickens crowding the sidewalks — and it’s changed even more since Morris and Minnie’s time, almost a hundred years ago! These days, Kensington’s narrow streets host vintage clothing stores, student bars, public art, and incense shops next to the corner groceries and fish mongers. But in all its iterations, the colorful neighborhood has always captured Cary Fagan’s imagination.

Pick up a copy of The Market Wedding, and it will be sure to capture yours too.

 


 

W978-1-55498-695-8_lhen Morris the fishmonger and Minnie the hat seller fall in love, Morris comes up with a wedding plan designed to deliver the very best for his beloved bride-to-be… with unexpected consequences.

 

Thinking about Home is Beyond the Mountains [Guest Post from Celia Barker Lottridge]

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When I was growing up, my parents often told stories about their young years. My mother lived in a mission to the Assyrian people in Persia until she was nine years old. In my childhood, when she was cooking she would tell us how bread was baked in Persia or how delicious the fruit was.

Her stories and my father’s gave me much that I have used in my writing and in my other main activity, storytelling. But it wasn’t until my mother was quite old that she told us about what happened to her family and friends during the First World War, which, of course, was fought not only in Europe but throughout the Middle East.

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I think that by then the sharpness of the memories of 1915 — the desperate refugees, the death of her mother and others as disease spread, the necessity of leaving home to go to strange relatives in America — had faded, so that she could think about that time. She found herself in possession of hundreds of family letters and other papers that she read in order to learn more than she could remember. She pieced together many interesting stories.

One of the most interesting was about her oldest sister, Susan, who went back to Persia four years after the war to be the director of an orphanage for Assyrian children whose parents had died during the war. These children were both orphans and refugees, still far from the places they were born and from extended families who would welcome them.

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When I started to write Home is Beyond the Mountains, I was focusing on Susan and the remarkable journey she took with three hundred children, walking three hundred miles across barren land so that they could get home.

But as I thought about Susan and the orphanage, I became more and more interested in the children themselves. Where had they been during the four years between the end of the war and the opening of the orphanage? How had they escaped when their villages were attacked? Those were only the first questions than led me on a long research journey that answered many, but not all, of my questions.

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We are now very aware of the plight of refugees and the effect of conflict on all the people who are there when a conflict takes place. But our stories of the First World War tend to focus on people directly involved in military action; the stories of ordinary people whose lives were ended or changed may be forgotten. Perhaps this is especially true of the stories of the million or so people displaced from their homes in the countries we now call Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

One of the stories my mother told was about looking down from the flat roof of her family’s house and seeing hundreds of people crowded into the mission courtyard, unwrapping small bundles of food and spreading a cloth on the ground so their children would have a place to sleep. She knew there was danger in their villages and they couldn’t return. Where would they go? she wondered.

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Family stories give us pictures and may make us ask questions. In my case, writing a novel helped me find some answers.

Celia Barker Lottridge


 Layout 1Celia Barker Lottridge is a writer and storyteller who has written several highly acclaimed children’s books, including Ticket to Curlew (winner of the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award and the Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction Award), Wings To Fly, and Home is Beyond the Mountains.

 

 

Martine Leavitt knows the power of a good animal story

You are a little girl. You are reading a story that has a plot like this:

Starving, deprived of food by the enemy, he steals to feed his mate, his children. The enemy puts a price on his head. Over and over, they try to kill him, but he eludes them. They devise a plan to pursue his mate, and finally they capture her. They break her neck with ropes tied to horse, while he watches helplessly from afar. He follows the body of his mate into the heart of the enemy camp, where they capture him. But they cannot hold him, for that night he dies of a broken heart.

You peek up from your book, and you nod. You had suspected as much.

The book is called Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton, and the story you are reading is “Lobo the King of Currumpaw,” the story of a wolf and his sad end. You look about you. None of your adults seem to mind that you are reading this book. They have, in fact, encouraged you. Usually adults don’t tell you secrets, don’t want you to know about the heartbreaks and horrors that are possible. You have guessed a great deal. You hear things they say to one another when they don’t realize you’re playing under the kitchen table or skulking in the next room. You have to find out almost everything there is to know about the adult world surreptitiously.

But now they have handed you a book that talks about survival, injustice, murder, brutality, heroism, despair, and unspeakable devotion and love. Your adults are not alarmed because it is a book about animals, after all. Books about animals don’t count. But somehow you feel that you have discovered something true, something profound and terrible and wonderful.

I hope that might be the experience of a child when she reads Blue Mountain, as Seton’s stories were for me. Ursula K. LeGuin has said, “The use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny.” I hope my child reader sees that my story is asking real questions about loyalty, courage, betrayal, dreams, death and the demands of a community. I hope, as she journeys with Tuk toward Blue Mountain, the world opens up to her a little.

I hope she peeks up from her book and nods.

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Welcome Sam!

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Marie-Louise Gay’s beloved books about Stella’s little brother, Sam, are all here in this vibrant and humorous collection.

Children all around the world have read about Stella and Sam, and their gently funny, nurturing relationship. Stella has a creative and whimsical answer for all of Sam’s many questions, and their explorations of the world are sweet, silly and often poignant.

This book brings together all three books about Stella’s little brother — Good Morning, Sam; Good Night, Sam and What Are You Doing, Sam? — for the first time. It also features new endpaper art, and a letter to the reader from Stella herself!

 

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