We at Groundwood were sad to learn of the loss of beloved children’s author Jan Andrews on September 2nd. Jan was a consummate storyteller and a recipient of the Order of Canada.
On learning of her death, I remembered the sweetly melancholy themes of her 1990 picture book The Auction, illustrated by Karen Reczuch.
The Auction tells the story of Todd’s final visit to his grandfather’s farm. The contents of the farm — from the combine to the kitchen utensils — are soon to be sold, and the property will move into the hands of new owners. Already the farm is eerily quiet with the cows, pigs and chickens gone.
Together Todd and his grandfather walk the fields, and Todd’s grandfather reminisces about the life he built there with Gran — their children and grandchildren and the changing seasons. Together they eat the last of Gran’s preserves from her garden. Gran is gone too.
It’s a rare thing, such a poignant and nuanced book about loss written for children. All things pass away, and in this quiet moment we witness the last view of Todd’s grandparents’ life together before the pieces scatter and join other stories.
We are sorry to say goodbye to Jan, but we will find solace in the books she left behind. It’s not all sadness, after all. Even The Auction ends in a burst of silliness. Todd and his grandfather construct scarecrows and place them in joyful tableaux all over the farm. Todd is still young, and he will have a life and a story all of his own.Jan Andrews Obituary, CBC