Northwest Passage is the Book All Canadians Need to Read

northwest

 

Every Canadian history teacher should share a copy of Matt James’ Northwest Passage with their class. An interpretation of the Canadian ballad of the same name, Northwest Passage is a history picture book, written for kids, but meant for everyone.

A polyphonic scrapbook, James combines Stan Rogers’ exceptional lyrics with a myriad of visuals to accentuate the ferocity of Canada’s northern landscape, and to juxtapose the profound knowledge of the Inuit with the eager and underprepared ideals of the European settlers who would seek to conquer it.

From the first splash page, a swirling vortex of history behind James, the author and interpretive protagonist of the tale, the reader is submitting to a voyage back in time where they can bare witness to the beauty and horrors of the Canadian North.

Most striking is James’ perception of the power of nature. Each time the chorus of the song is repeated, a painting of the barren landscape captivates the reader, whose eye is drawn to theNorthwestPassage_sspread_img4 single animal in the frame, larger than any human or human technology sharing the page. This is a testament to the power of nature, but it is also a critique of the overzealous and egoist nature of man who were subdued by the very land they sought to conquer.

Another point of profound artistry is the present day paintings where James is the central figure. Each is presented from an almost childlike point of view, eager and blossoming, yet underdeveloped. However, closer inspection reminds the reader that everyone, in their search for meaning, has a land to cross and adventure to endure. As Stan Rogers contemplated the voyage of past explorers, James contemplates the passage we all cross. The constant presence of mirrors on these pages remind us, also, that the past is never far behind.

NorthwestPassage_sspread_img6The inclusion of song lyrics, historical timelines, explorer biographies, scientific achievements, maps, and photographs, which counter the more artistic representations, are what make this book so engaging. Northwest Passage is less of a song book and more of an anthology of Canada’s North set to Stan Rogers’ rhythm and meter.

Every Canadian history teacher should include this book in their lesson plans, but every teacher in Canada should have this book on their shelves.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

The Art in Teaching the Literature Instead of the Literature’s Art

Teachers need to give their students credit. This is the first lesson in teaching I learned on the job, but for whatever reason, one that escapes many fellow teachers and college professors.

I am reminded of an essay I wrote my first year of university in my Introduction to English 1000 class. It was about the patriarchal society in The Vicar of Wakefield (the bane of my literary existence), and how I struggled to identify with its themes as a contemporary feminist.

It was also my professor’s favorite novel. Of all time.

I got an F.

The essay wasn’t that bad. Sure, there were some grammatical errors, some formatting issues, but on a fundamental, novice post-secondary, level the paper was OK, maybe a low B or high C. At least that is what the other three professors said when I asked them for another opinion.

On that fateful marking day I was faced with the most important lesson I would learn as a Red pencil marking an F on paper close up. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.university student (and one I would avoid as a teacher): contrary to popular belief, a student’s opinion is not always welcome in a classroom, and how a teacher teaches is the difference between a pass and a fail.

Northwestern Fellow, Gary Saul Morson, thinks that the teaching of literature is the very reason why so many current university students are avoiding it. I am inclined to agree. In his article, “Why College Kids are Avoiding the Study of Literature,” Morson makes a number of compelling arguments for his theory.

First, teachers need to approach their lessons from the perspective of a student who knows nothing about the very subject that the teacher knows absolutely everything about. I can attest that once you allow your own mind to be engaged, and dare I say, changed, if only for a millisecond, you will garner the respect of your students and, in turn, they will allow themselves to be engaged by you.

Next, if you want your students to appreciate a sense of time and place, don’t make the book only about the setting. Let the setting be accentuated by the reader’s experience, first with the characters, then by the awe of the times. As Morson points out, if you really want to hit home about the hard times workers endured in Victorian England, a short factory inspectors report would be a lot more revealing than a lengthy novel by Dickens.

This brings me to my last point: let the students connect to the stories in their own way.

If you are teaching a book only to teach its syntactical elements and figurative language then forget about it. Crickets are already chirping. Stories need to matter to the reader; even the novice student who doesn’t understand the term “protagonist” has to identify with the bare bones of the story. One way to do this is to emphasize the empathy and the human factor of a narrative, then the elements of fiction will follow. I actually gasped out loud at the passage about the professor who admitted that he tells his students never to read the characters as real people. Why on earth would you expect anyone to spend any amount of time with any character if the suspension of disbelief could not allow the reader to see through the characters eyes, to feel their pain, to love as passionately, and to live implicitly? Why teach literature at all?!

A reader must be allowed a personal experience with a story, even one that does not conform to the teacher’s own agenda or point of view. Sadly, many students will learn that there is often only one way of approaching a paper, only one possible analysis of a poem, and a right and a wrong thesis statement.

In my own class I preface each course by assuring students that I am open to any and all narrative interpretations, so long as they can prove their arguments thoroughly. As a result, I read wonderfully creative and insightful takes on the literature I love,  the literature I believe I am an expert on. How wonderful it is to realize that, maybe in the end, I am not an expert at all. The beauty of literature is that there is just so much to learn!

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

What I mean by simplifying.

So last summer I read this book. The title looked as if it were written to me ( I mean who doesn’t want less clutter, kids or no kids!), and I am not usually a self help book type gal, but I really couldn’t pass it up. I had recently started following some slow living and minimalist writers, and was fascinated by there ideas and lives.

I have always been a super picky person, trying to minimize what comes into my home, especially since having children. There really is no better place to notice how much stuff you have then children. It accumulates very quickly. (because holy shit, the amount of toys and clothes, and bouncy balls!) But in all seriousness, it was a major stress in my life. The endless piles of papers and books and toys. It was really overwhelming. So I started living more ecologically and environmentally friendly. Started preaching quality over quantity, and experiences over things.  Life started to get a little easier, but I was still feeling overwhelmed. I had a particularly hard year after that,  giving birth to a child with a congenital heart defect and the aftermath of that on my mental health made the need for control and order in my house hold much more important. Not to mention that it made my priorities seem skewed, material things were not something I was particularly attached to regardless, but they seemed of even less importance. I wanted to spend less time organizing crap we didn’t need or use, and spend more time with my kids.

Then I found this book. Clutter free with Kids- By Joshua Becker, and I found a name for the lifestyle I was attracted to, and what my aim had been. To own less stuff, schedule less, minimize the things that were not priority in my life. It was the first time I had read a book like this and just nodded the whole way through.

If this is a lifestyle you like the sounds of, I highly recommend this book, kids or not! It really helped me shape my goals, and deal with parts of my over cluttered mind and home.

I started a purging process that continues to this day, moving on from items that I knew someone else could use, getting rid of trash and broken things that I really had no intention of ever repairing, minimizing our possessions. It was honestly a very eye opening experience for me,  and amazingly, the farther I got into it, the more I wanted to simplify. This effect bled into every aspect of my life, realizing I could simplify my schedule,  my routines, my foods! This all being said, I would say I am maybe half way to where I would like to be, but I like to keep the process slow and simple, so the new habits emerge and stick.

Learning to slow down, prioritize, and minimize my life has been a curve for me. The farther away I get from consumer driven culture, the happier I am. The happier my children are. I really hold out hope that they will live by my example, buy what we need, what brings us joy, and spend the rest of our time and resources inward. Work on our important relationships, spend time on becoming people who we want to be. Invest in ourselves instead of trying to find that temporary high in something we bought, just to wake up the next morning and do it all over. Same highs, same lows.

I’m most definitely not here to sell anyone on any sort of lifestyle, if what you are doing is working for you, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I say keep on keeping on!  The important part of this for me has been recognizing that what I was doing wasn’t working for us and who we want to be. Changing our perspective and living more practically has been such a good experience so far. I just had to share it.

Written by Candace Hoskin

 

To read or not to read (because of censorship). That is the question.

This is a strange time to be literary.

I have an intrinsic desire to share all the amazing books I have read with absolutely everyone I know. Like Whitman, I want to “sound my barbaric yawp from the rooftops of the world” when I truly love a book.

But sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t.

I am not allowed.

We live in an over protective society that has built glass walls around our children. Of the many issues I have with this fact, the censorship of books is at the top of my list.

It is a struggle, as a teacher, to know how a student, a parent, or a colleague is going to react to my choice of reading material. I have been approached because The Call of the Wild is too difficult for a vegetarian to read, Peter Pan has the word “orgy” in it, and the concern that Harry Potter is not, in fact, appropriate literature for private school students. Everything is a touchy subject with someone. Luckily, I have not had to stop teaching a book. I am fortunate.

Recently, a third grade teacher in North Carolina resigned after receiving little support from his school board for his read aloud of King and King, a picture book addressing the presence of o-KINGANDKING-570 same-sex marriages in our contemporary society. In the same week, a college student and her parents asked for the “eradication” of seminal graphic novels: Fun Home, Persepolis and Sandman (in a graphic novel English course, by the way), because she found the content too sexually explicit and violent.

She said she was expecting Batman and Robin, she obviously hasn’t read The Killing Joke, but I digress…. She, and her parents, called the books garbage.

They are among three of my favourite books, and since I consider myself to be quite literary, I refuse to accept the undignified slander she and her parents impose upon them. A word of wisdom, one needn’t like everything, but one should not insult nor eradicate books that bring pleasure to others.

If only more people were so obliging.

There was a time when teaching was content oriented and teacher centric. This is no longer the case. I teach the kids I have in front of me, I decide the content once I know them. Since the 1960’s teachers have been introducing kids to books that speak to them, about their lives, feelings and pressing social concerns. We treat the students as people who should be heard, who have an opinion. Trust me, teaching them this way is much more enjoyable for them and for us as teachers. The discussion is rich and engaging, and if we can successfully address some metaphor and alliteration along the way, bonus! Teachers are yearning to give their students choices for reading and a platform to sound their voices in the hallways of their schools, but those academic institutions who are slow on this transition are letting books be banned, and worse, are letting good teachers go as a result.

We are no longer teaching our students to anticipate the adult lives of the middle-class European white man or woman. We are teaching them to be global citizens who are aware of the ever-shrinking world we live in; aware of the connectivity between countries, classes, regions, religions, and culture. Our North American countries are increasingly becoming multicultural. They are becoming more accepting of sexuality and gender equality. Why should our youth not be allowed to read books that address these contemporary issues?

Even in libraries, some school library technicians I know are putting books behind their counters and in the office off the floor because parents do not want their kids exposed to the gruesome realities of mummification or the busting bosoms of caricatures in comic books.

I look at the list of most banned books, scanning titles like, Of Mice and Men, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies, and I am disheartened, knowing that the opportunity for some youth to enjoy these books has vanished.

This year, Sherman Alexi’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, was the most banned book in North America. I love this book. I would teach this book. I recommend it to The_Absolutely_True_Diary_of_a_Part-Time_Indiananyone who will listen to me talk about it. But many feel it is inappropriate because it deals with bullying, drugs and alcohol, and sexuality. It also addresses some racial tension between American aboriginal people and European descendants, an issue I suspect has more to do with it’s banning than the few passages about sex. The sad truth is that in the curriculum students do not get a real glimpse into the hardships suffered by the aboriginal people in North America. God forbid we should try to rectify that problem by reading a book about them by a member of their own community.

I feel bad for the kids growing up today. When I was a preteen I was fully immersed in overtly sexual films like Grease and Dirty Dancing. My parents bought me the movie, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, for Christmas when I was twelve. I understood Romeo and Juliet before the end of elementary school and loafed with Walt Whitman before I was old enough to legally drive. I read contentious material, and I grew up fine. Much better than my students who live in glass houses.

It is a strange time to be literary; the adults of our world are attacking so much of the quality literature available to us, to kids, for being too something-or-other. The adults are put off by the words in these books. The kids aren’t. The kids are excited by them, they long for them.

What are the adults so afraid of?

I hope I am always the teacher who shares these books with the students who need them.

I hope I can guide their understanding of the world around them when the other adults in their lives refuse to, and in the process, I hope these kids learn to love to read.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

Why Should We Let Kids Choose Their Own Summer Reading?

Why would we not let kids choose their own summer reading material?

The idea that we, as adults, would presume to know what kids want to read while they are out enjoying the freedom from the confines of their schools is absurd to me.

Maybe it is because of my generation.

I never had a summer reading list growing up. Teachers did not preemptively assign work to be done over the summer to ready us for the following year (I am sure some of my peers would have benefited from such an exercise; I know far too many people who have not picked up a novel since high school), but I wonder if it would have made much of a difference. I mean kids who want to read are going to read, right? I always did. In fact, you had to encourage me to do anything else in the summer months. But maybe kids like me are not the ones who need the summer homework.

According to Erin Kelly, a fourth year paediatrics resident at the University of Rochester Medicinal Unit, kids who are not reading during their summer months lose a whole month worth of reading achievement. Children in low-income families, in particular, are at risk. The lack of available resources for these students often leads to what is referred to as The Summer Slide, a dropping off point in academics and a catalyst for poor achievement across academic disciplines in the future.

One way to curb these dismal results is to assign summer reading. Sounds easy enough, maybe to some it even sounds enjoyable. But wait, there is a catch- schools and teachers have been assigning books that they want kids to read, and in return, expect their students to write an essay about them before the fall semester begins.

I am a teacher. I am a student. I am a voracious reader. I think this idea stinks.

Assigning homework, particularly of the expositional variety, is a sure fire way to discourage reading. Summer is a time to get outside, play, get creative and blow off academic steam. Adding books that kids are not excited about does not help.

I think summer reading is a great idea. I wish all kids read, regardless of the season, with as much gusto as I always have. My own son, who is in grade one, could do with some of his mother’s scholarship. He is not a book-nerd like me; and nine times out of ten he would rather play soccer, karate chop his sister, or defeat King Bowser on his 3DS. But even in the summer he does read, and the way I encourage him to pick up a book is by letting him pick it out himself.

Do I wish he were already reading Beverly Cleary novels like I was when I was his age? Sure. Am I going to discourage him from getting to that novella stage by rejecting Star Wars stories and Scooby Doo mystery comics? Absolutely not! The reason he meets his summer reading goal every year is because he gets to choose the books he is destined to spend time with over his precious summer months.

His school also offers a terrific reading program. I guess it is, in its own way, assigned summer reading. But there is an awesome catch: before the summer books are shipped out, the students have to fill out a survey detailing exactly what they like to read. Lo and behold, when the books come in the mail, the kids are excited to see them. The books are unlikely to be filled with tremendous literary merit and there are not any classics. But there are some terrific Garfield cartoons, secret agent super spies, and books about dragons or hockey. That is why my son likes to read in the summer. It’s his time, so the books better have him written all over them.

All kids should have this luxury. The sad truth, however, is that this is not the case. It is the exception, not the rule, and I firmly believe that with this sort of opportunity more children would be eager to read.

What shocks me is that our society is relying on case studies to prove that reading retention improves when children select their own material. Shouldn’t we know this intrinsically?! This is not an academic issue. This is a personal issue. Adults rarely spend their time reading the things they don’t want to. Why should kids?

Let’s let children choose their own books, then when teachers want them to write an essay, that essay will be filled with an analysis worthy of an erudite, literary child; not the ramblings of a kid who would rather be outside as far away from books and academia as possible.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke download (25)

Enter Shakey Graves.

It’s funny how people will tell you being obsessed with music is a phase, you won’t care as much when you are older, etc. It seems to be a ‘phase’ that has lasted an extremely long time, or maybe, just maybe, these people were wrong and music just happens to be one of the many things I am passionate about to this day. Okay, I admit, that is my experience as a teen, maybe I am alone in that experience? Or maybe there are many other people like me who continue to adore music well past their over dramatic teen years, regardless of people telling them the importance of music in one’s life would fade.

My love for music and finding new music is something that is like eating breakfast for me, or having my coffee. That may be a better comparison. I need to find something to overplay for that day; eat it up like the chocolate bars I devour in hiding so my kids don’t see. (Yes, I do that; and no, I’m not sharing)  I really do still get a song stuck on repeat, and have to listen it to death. Then I move on to the next, always to come back to that song with a feeling of nostalgia, and the sweetness that made me obsess in the first place.

There is always some band or artist that I am currently listening to far too much, a nice bonus to that is how much my kids enjoy the music, so I can’t complain!

Enter Shakey Graves. One of my good friends introduced me to his music on youtube a while ago, and he was great! but for whatever reason I completely forgot about him. Fast forward to this year, and I have bought everything I can get my hands on, listen to his work regularly and highly recommend him anyone with a taste for folk mixed with an alternative sound that caters to love for 90’s music; as well as a light influence of blues, and emotion filled singsong with country- esque duets.  Or as I also like to put it, it’s just really (insert your preferred happy curse here) good. Seriously though, check him out; and I shall keep updating which music is my current obsession.

Music, for some people, myself included, is a very important part of their daily lives. I look at it just the same as any other passion, it deserves my time and energy, and it can change the atmosphere in moments. While this may not be everyone’s passion, or it may be to varying degrees of importance; it really can make this life an easier place to reside. So much more enjoyable are the days when we can just sing and dance through them.

These are my recommendations of his work:

 

By Candace Hoskin

I (kind of) Object! The Partial Truth of Kit Pearson’s Novel, “The Whole Truth”

When I was twelve I happened upon a dusty novel that had been sitting un-read for months on my best friend’s book shelf. On the cover was a girl, about my age, holding a timepiece. (She looked so much like my best friend that I half wondered if that was the reason she was given the book in the first place.) So I asked my dear friend if I could borrow the book, and she gladly gave it to me. I took it home, devoured it, and (twenty years later) I have still not given it back. Today it sits on my own bookshelf, a little warn from many re-readings, but placed as canon on my shelves along with other personal favourites (I have since apologized for my thievery). The novel, A Handful of Time, was handful-of-timewritten by Kit Pearson.

Kit Pearson quickly became a national favourite for me, and over the years I bought and read many of her other books such as,  Awake and Dreaming, The Guests of War Trilogy, and The Daring Game. So when a novel of hers appeared on a course syllabus as a required reading I was elated. Finally, I could catch up and read the book I had not yet read!

But was this book fulfilling to me as a reader?

The jury, on that, is still out.

Before we begin I should qualify that children’s literature is my favourite genre. Even in my thirties I am moved by the stories and trials of the genre’s protagonists. I think there is, inherently, a part of me that identifies with characters on a journey of self-discovery who are in the midst of their own coming of age. As an adult I am not sure when that moment comes, the one that tells us we are grown! we are mature! we have made it through!. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to youth fiction.

thewholetruthThe Whole Truth is children’s literature. It is a coming of age story: a bildungsroman.  The setting is Canada in the 1930’s amidst the Great Depression.The story follows the life of Polly, a young girl who has, in her short ten years, lost her mother, her dear grandmother, and recently her father (or so we are led to believe). She, along with her older sister, Maud, are sent from their familiar life in Manitoba to live with a grandmother they have never met on the small Kingfisher Island in British Columbia. Maud is also about to leave Polly so that she can attend a prestigious boarding school on the mainland. Polly is forced to lead a new life among strangers. She does not want to talk to anyone, finds solace only in painting, and longs to talk with her father. Change abounds, and change is terrifying for the young Polly.

Fortunately, a bevy of charming, positive, and endearing secondary characters await the young sisters upon their arrival. 🙂

Polly’s transition from timid newcomer to islander is almost seamless, thanks to the well developed secondary characters Pearson has created. She is liked by everyone, excels at school, makes a pair of best friends in the quiet Biddy and antagonistic Vivian. She confronts Alice, a bully who is only cruel to deflect the pain and suffering she endures at the abusive hands of her mother at home. She connects with Uncle Rand, who shares wisdom from both the pulpit and the dinner table. And she bonds with cousin Gregor, who always looks out for the young “Pollywog”.

I believe that Kit Pearson writes lovely secondary characters, and I have always surmised that she seems to favour strong, independent, aged women best. In The Whole Truth, Noni is the matriarch of the family who is riddled with secrets. She bears a grudge against Polly and Maud’s father, she quarrelled with her daughter before her death, and though she is a pillar of the community, she is “quietly” racist. Noni is an interesting character, but somewhat underdeveloped. Her positive traits (that she is giving, patient, wise) are clear on every page, but it is the secrets that she harbours that intrigue me, and these secrets are, unfortunately, not addressed in this novel. When I realized that I would not get the “Noni” closure I needed  by the end of the book I was deeply disappointed and felt that the “whole truth” of the story had not been properly addressed. I learned, soon after finishing the novel, that it is the first of two. The second, And Nothing But the Truth, no doubt sews up the loose ends of the first, but I was not prepared for a series at the onset and I am wondering if  I relate enough to either the story or its characters to read a second instalment.

There was another nagging feeling as I read the novel, that I had heard this story before. Not this one, exactly, but one just like it. Another Canadian classic, actually: Kevin Sullivan’s television series, Road to Avonlea. images (3)Road to Avonlea was a series based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s short story, The Story Girl, and follows the life of Sarah, who goes to live with her Aunt Hetty in the small town of Avonlea. Supported by a colourful cast of secondary characters, the show follows Sarah’s coming of age as the newcomer in a small community. As in The Whole Truth, there is a wise uncle (Jasper), a best friend and bully (Felicity), and a protective cousin (Felix). The two stories reminded me so much of one another that I was almost picturing Avonlea instead of Kingfisher Island as I read. Pearson drew inspiration for her novel by the true accounts of a friend who was sent (with her sister) to live with her grandmother when she was very young; however, those who are familiar with Avonlea will find a kindred tale in The Whole Truth. 

Perhaps one of the most intriguing plot points of the novel is the uncertainty of Polly and Maud’s father’s whereabouts. From the beginning, the reader suspects he is not dead as the girls, and their grandmother, say. There is a mystery that needs solving, and bit by bit it is revealed, particularly through the letters Polly writes to him.

Pearson’s dynamic shift from third person point of view writing to epistolary chapters shakes up the reading experience, briefly, but becomes a welcoming change of pace for the story. The letters are representative of Polly’s maturing voice, at first crying out for her father and later reconciling that she no longer needs him or the act of letter writing, to make sense of her world. She struggles, constantly, to believe in something; whether it be in her inability to commit to vegetarianism or in her father’s innocence. In the end, Polly learns to believe in herself and the love of the people around her, and that is enough.

Unlike Polly’s maturity, which is intrinsic and reflective, Maud undergoes a development  from eager school girl to devout christian; however, as a christian dependant not on self-reflection, but misguided anger. I found myself turned off from her character as her piousness grew, and I wondered what its purpose was in relation to Polly’s own growth. I suspect it is Maud’s attempt to make sense of the uncertainty surrounding her father’s disappearance, and her own unwillingness to bestow forgiveness upon him. When he makes an appearance toward the end of the novel, Polly, who has been, in my mind, made the bigger fool for her constant devotion to him and his innocence, is quicker to forgive than her angry sister. In this moment it strikes me that the progression of her maturity is natural, whereas Maud, who had maturity thrust upon her, retreats in an almost childish anger, and the younger sister suddenly becomes the voice of reason.

Pearson has always been able to capture the heart and the growth of a child’s soul, but she also displays a mastery in describing the country she calls home. Though I have never been to B.C., I could see, vividly, the sun dancing on the ocean and the foam caressing the rolling waves. I could hear the Orcas’ songs. Taste the pollen of spring on my lips. Pearson beautifully captures the Canadian landscape, and even though I have yet to venture to that side of the country, I am at home in her stories.

images (2)

Much is to be further uncovered for the cast of characters in The Whole Truth. The dichotomy between Polly and Maud is the very fabric of the book. They are growing up in difficult times, surrounded by personal mystery, family secrets, and insecurities. As their story progresses, I find myself eager to finalize my relationship with them both by learning everything I can, but Pearson leaves me hanging. The Whole Truth is simply a half truth, and I will have to read And Nothing But the Truth if I want to learn more about Polly’s penchant for art, Maud’s pious descent, Noni’s racial schisms, and whether the family is able to reunite for a happily ever after, after all.

The Whole Truth is widely enjoyed, its praises sung. A thoughtful thirteen year old girl wrote, in the National Post Book Review, that this novel made her laugh and want to cry. She felt, deeply, its value in showcasing the trials and tribulations of youth, of pain, of loss. I agree with her, but I also felt a tremendous disappointment that I had travelled so far with Polly, only to have just as many questions at the end as I did at the beginning. I suppose I will have to read on in And Nothing But the Truth to receive the closure I crave. nothingbutthetruth

Maybe if I had found this book when I was young, like the young reviewer, it would have sat well with me that the end was uncertain; so is life after all. But I suppose, at this stage, at this much older age, I will have to concede that I had hoped for finality.

Now I find myself looking toward another chapter instead.

And who am I kidding, the verdict is in: it is a chapter I want to read!

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke    @ldchiasson17

Loneliness, Poignancy, and Brilliance in This One Summer

This is a brilliant novel and a worthy example of how powerfully sequential art can convey a narrative.

The story begins with the cover. In tones of blue, accented by a purple hue, it is evident that this is a tale about change. Two young girls, jumping feet first into rolling waves, are leaping into the downloadunknown. One has her arms outstretched, body open in welcome; the other is rigid, her body closed, face omitted conveying reluctance. This One Summer, the title, occupying the vast space between the girls and their rolling future; this is the summer when everything changes.

Rose, the protagonist, is struggling through the transition from child to teenager. Her summer friend, Windy, is still clinging to that innocence. Together they contemplate boys, puberty, horror films, and adult life; conventions of a bildungsroman that we have all seen before. What sets this book apart, however, is the delicate illustrations that accentuate the movement of the tale. The story as it is written, colloquially, and the elaborative illustrations that accentuate it, are a perfect marriage.

Jillian Tamaki’s illustrations are exceptional. The reader watches a freighting movie scene from under the comfort of a thin blanket with the young girls.  As Rose begins a one-sided love affair images (5)with Dunc, the older store clerk, Tamaki encapsulates his romantic dalliance with Jenny in the frame of a chewy foot candy; sweet, youthful, and hazily understood by Rose. Later, an aerial view of the beach is gently sexualized as it is drawn like the contour if a man’s body. Tamaki envisions nature as a character as much as Rose or Windy.

Character development is rich and poignant. Rose struggles to understand the adults around her: her mother dealing with a secret, personal loss; her over-compensating father; Dunc and Jenny’s badly dealt with pregnancy; even Windy’s subtle, yet profound, contemplation of adoption.  The illustrations further convey the dichotomy of youth and maturity when Rose and Windy frolic through the waves of the lake  on a splash page, as Dunc sits in an state of nervous agony in the following panel. But perhaps the most lovely figurative element of the book is the duality between the mother’s story of having miscarried in the lake, only to be redeemed by having saved Jenny from drowning in the same spot, and in so doing, saved her baby’s life.

This is a book that appeals to the senses.The feel of the rough paper asks for a degree of respect that a glossy page would not garner. Sounds, more than figurative onomatopoeia, drive the story. The ground crumbles beneath the feet of a man carrying a sleeping child; embarrassment is accentuated when Rose’s uncalled for name calling follows her walk home, “slut”, “slut”, “slut” crunching beneath her feet; and the soft ticking of the clock and the woods fills the empty home as Rose leaves her cabin and youth behind her at the end. IMG_1758

This One Summer is a story about growing up, and how adulthood and age, regardless of the physical company one keeps, is a lonesome road.  This novel is a prodigious example of the beauty, intricacy and the splendour of sequential art. It is a beautiful union of words and pictures, worthy of every award for which it was nominated and has won.

This book is a quintessential example of how reading can shape our perceptions of the world, and how comics can shape and enlighten our perceptions of reading.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

 

 

 

 

 

Time is a jerk.

https://i1.wp.com/i60.tinypic.com/2m3fiva.jpg

As of late I am struggling with what is defined as the quarter life crisis.

I am turning 32 in a few short weeks, and have felt like my brain is in overdrive for months. Wondering which direction is next for my family and I; and whether or not I am making the right choices. Living in a small house with my family of five, wanting to live small and happy with what we have; and also overwhelmed with the want for change, living in new places, and having my children experience things bigger than the place in which we live. Wanting to pack up and travel across our country, while learning more about it. To travel to countries across the world, move somewhere else and learn new ways of life.

I feel a need to act now; knowing we are not getting any younger. More than anything I feel this insatiable desire to try new things and learn more about the world we live in through experiences. I have done a small amount of travel in the past and it sparked major changes in my outlook on life and what my priorities are. I cannot help but wonder if more travel and new experiences would not only benefit me, but also my children and partner.

Our current place in mainstream society is one that is deemed quite acceptable, we are both working, both rising in our positions, and are slowly moving towards more financial stability. We have a beautiful home and a vehicle that can take us places, we have money being saved for our retirement and a nice little RESP account for our boys, but there continues to be this little voice that says to me that this isn’t really what life is about for my family.

Do we continue to be grateful for what we have and live graciously for our routines or do we follow our dreams and make them reality while yelling ‘carpe diem’ into the mountains?

I hold out hope that there is a way to do both.

To experience the many different flavors that this life has to offer is something I will strive for; and hopefully rid myself of the sinking feeling I have about getting older by living a full life and making long term goals happen. I just have yet to figure out the logistics, which always seems to be the hardest part for me.

Maybe I should just start a commune…

Is anyone else feeling the weight of the quarter life crisis?

By Candace Hoskin

Parents and Kids! Experience Instead of Censorship

* A response to the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae *

I let my seven-year-old son watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also let him watch all the previous  Marvel films that came before it. Needless to say, the parents of many of his friends think I am crazy for introducing him to  such mature content at such a young age. He would do well to wait and be exposed to them when he is older; he is just a little guy, after all.

So when I read the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae, I was momentarily paralyzed with the fear that I was a poor influence on my child. I was, *shudder*, a bad parent! Lucky for me, Rae helped me get over that feeling pretty quickly.

The article begins with a flashback to when  Rae allowed her seven and five year old sons watch Indiana Jones. She had genuine concerns that the maturity level and adult content would upset them. And she was partly right. Her eldest son expressed fear for a characters safety. She found herself wondering if he was able to comprehend the justification of plot choices and resolution of the story.

I had a similar situation occur when my son was five.

Five was, my husband and I agreed, the right age to watch the original Star Wars films. After all, we watched them as five year olds and we turned out all right. But lo and behold, when Darth Vader sliced off Luke’s hand, my son panicked. He was upset. He didn’t understand the brutality of the situation, the purpose of the scene.

One of the strongest points in Rae’s article is that parents should be active participants in their children’s learning. Instead of deterring children from (all) mature content, they should explore that content with their children, offering explanations and encouragement when necessary. My son was fine once he realized that Luke would get a bionic hand out of the confrontation. He was even more excited when he learned that other Star Wars films, and even the Marvel ones, have a hand-chopping scene. Not because we turned him into a sadist, but because we introduced him to science fiction tropes. Through our discussion he comprehends how that scene drives the plot of the series and how directors and writers of other franchises (Marvel, in particular) tip their hats to its importance. I would argue the experience honed his visual literacy skills as he actively seeks out the similar scenes in other films.

Rae rightly suggests that we live in a time where everything has the potential to be censured: superheroes for fighting, Harry Potter for magic, Darwin for evolution. But can we shield our children from everything? More importantly, is it right to?

Libraries and Schools across North America receive challenges for materials frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be an established line between what is a valid concern and an invalid one. Rae reminds us that discrepancies exist when questions of appropriateness are concerned.CCAseal-469x600 What is inappropriate for one person may not be for another. Should we allow materials to be censured so that no one may enjoy them? Should I keep my son from watching an Avengers film because the mothers of his friends deem it unacceptable? No, that’s just not a good enough reason for me.

In my opinion, everything has the potential to be a teachable moment. Our society has shifted from one that creates and instills values in our youth (as Rae mentions, family, church, community were once the harbingers of values) to one that muddles those values. The burden of teaching everything to our children has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of our schoolteachers. They impart lessons in life as much as they demonstrate mathematical equations; and through all of this, while carrying the weight of this new responsibility, parents are challenging the teacher’s choices of content and resources.

As Rae implies, the task of exploring media (books, film, television and the ever increasing popularity of the Internet) should be a partnership between child and parent so that when questions of content appropriateness arise, parents can discuss issues and themes as they relate to their personal values. As she notes, parents need to help children dissect and explore the concepts they don’t understand or like. A teacher alone cannot interpret the values of each individual family, each individual student. But a supportive family environment, along with a teacher’s guidance, can be a life changing lesson for a child.

In the end, kids are going to be exposed to the world around them. Whether it is through a complicated novel, a difficult current issues debate, a questionable film, the brutality within the frames of the nightly news, the lewd entertainment available to anyone with cable television, or the far reaches of the Internet, kids are going to be exposed. Wouldn’t it be great if they had a parent, an adult, to help them navigate this uncharted, perplexing territory?

My son watches superhero movies. He is seven. When he doesn’t understand, my husband and I guide him to insight. He will not be censured because others choose to avoid rather than enlighten. And he is pretty enlightened, for a little guy.

We are a family of superhero enthusiasts. We just superhero responsibly.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke