June 29, 2017 Groundwood Books

In memory of Janet Lunn

We were deeply saddened to learn that Janet Lunn passed away this week at the age of 88. Her sixty-year writing career was marked by numerous awards, and 18 very special books for young readers. In her memory, our art director, Michael Solomon, shared his thoughts.

When I was new to Toronto and passionate about absorbing its abundant mystique, the Romanesque Revival red-brick mansions of the Annex and elsewhere were, and remain to this day, a favourite. Double Spell (known also as Twin Spell) was the perfect accompaniment to these explorations. The allure of an older Toronto, all too present and real if you only had the imagination to feel it all around you, was perfectly captured in Janet Lunn’s first novel. Masterful storytelling, a wise and reassuring voice, with just the right amount of creepiness — and twins to boot!

And what a privilege to soon find myself working with Janet to bring to the world some equally masterful picture books! Silly and joyous in all the right measures, the books wore their skill and expertness lightly. Janet, the dyed-in-the-wool critic and editor, was never absent from the process of making them: guiding all the light and joy was her unmistakable, uncompromising voice.

I have kept by my desk for many years a framed reproduction of a certain angry, shorn sheep, balefully regarding the bright and gaudy handicraft wrought from his own fleece — Kim LaFave’s immortal portrayal, of course. The book, Amos’s Sweater, has become a Canadian classic. And there was The Umbrella Party, a gem of a book in its narrow twenty-four-page compass, and with its splashing, brilliant pictures by Kady MacDonald Denton — pure summertime in convenient picture-book form.

But I always come back to that sheep — self-possessed, insisting on his rights, fierce, redoubtable, uncompromising, one of the great personages of Canadian literature … um, we’re talking about Amos, right?

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