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April 2012

An Evening with Wayson Choy at Riverdale Library

April 10, 2012 | Claire | Comments (0)

ChoyJoin prize winning author, educator, speaker, and Riverdale neighbour Wayson Choy for a discussion of his life and work.

Choy's first novel, The Jade Peony, was cited by the Literary Review of Canada as "one of the 100 most important books in Canadian history".  Choy has received the Order of Canada for his contribution to Canadian literature.

Thursday April 12, 7:00 PM.

Riverdale Branch is located at 370 Broadview Avenue, at the corner of Gerrard and Broadview.

Registration is not required. 


The Mysterious Harris Burdick Has His Stories Told At Last

April 5, 2012 | Claire | Comments (0)

MysteryI first encountered Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in library school, where our professor was introducing us to significant and innovative picture books.  I found it impossible to resist.   The concept is simple and brilliant:  fourteen  beautifully rendered black and white drawings depicting, for the most part, impossible things (a nun in a chair floating in a cathedral, a wide-eyed woman about to cut into a glowing pumpkin). Each illustration is paired with a title and caption but is without an accompanying story.  The idea of the book is that the reader can write, or at least imagine, their own stories.  Each page is a spark of inspiration meant to light up infinite possibilities. 

Harris Burdick was published in 1984 and soon became a classroom staple among teachers introducing children to the pleasures of creative writing. Stephen King was the first professional writer to pay homage to this unusual masterpiece. His short story, "The House on Maple Street", published in 1993, was based on my personal favourite Harris Burdick illustration, captioned "It was a perfect lift-off".  LiftoffKing managed to capture the right mood;  a little playful, a little creepy, and definitely startling.  In 2011, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children commissioned thirteen other authors to write a story each and collected them, along with King's previously published story, into a new volume entitled The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. 

Being such a fan of the first Harris Burdick book, I read the second with some trepidation.  I was worried about feeling closed in, about having someone else's ideas become the "officially right" ones in my head, taking away from the imagination-sparking experience of the original volume.  Fortunately, I didn't really find that happening--the pictures still strike me as infinitely evocative.  Some of the stories are certainly stronger than others--I thought that Tabitha King's "Archie Smith, Boy Wonder" fell flat, but maybe that's because I don't play baseball.  Kate DiCamillo's "The Third-Floor Bedroom" was movingly bittersweet, and M.T. Anderson's "Just Desert" was fascinatingly creepy.  I got a chuckle out of the dark satire of Sherman Alexie's "A Strange Day in July", and Jon Sczieska's "Under the Rug" was...well, it was typical wacky Sczieska.  The roster of authors in this book is very impressive (Lemony Snicket himself wrote the appropriately paranoid introduction)  and I think it's a credit to Van Allsberg's original book. 

Here's Lemony Snicket hiding himself in the official book trailer:


And here's Chris Van Allsburg and some of the project's other writers talking about the book:




 I'd recommend this book especially for kids 8 to 12, but it might be fun to try to write your own stories first!