Stella is on a stamp! The little red-headed girl, brought to life in words and watercolours by Marie-Louise Gay, is now on two Canada Post stamps, ready to be mailed to delighted children around the country.
“I was absolutely thrilled when Canada Post approached (publisher) Groundwood and I,” Gay told the Montreal Gazette last month. “They looked at all the Stella images and I’m very happy with the little scenes they chose for the stamps, both of them reflecting the personalities (of the characters). One of the stamps shows Stella hanging upside down from a tree branch, expressing her exuberance and her tendency to look at the world in a different way. The other stamp shows the wonderful sibling relationship between Stella and [younger brother] Sam.”
The Stella series is immensely popular, written by Gay in both French and English, and drawn in all languages. In the 1999 debut Stella, Star of the Sea, “Stella deals patiently with a cautious and timid little brother who routinely plies her with a never-ending stream of questions. She is never at a loss for answers, although she often resorts to flights of fancy, and always strives to make Sam feel safe while, at the same time, encouraging him to spread his wings a little.”
Stella may be marketed to children, but hers is a delightful series to be enjoyed by adults, as well. Find Gay’s books in the children’s section at the Lennoxville Library.
And by the way, the Stella stamps are the second in a Canada Post series celebrating children’s lit. Franklin the Turtle, by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark, was the first tiny toon character to be honoured. The Lennoxville Library has a collection of Franklin books on the shelves, as well as the translated aventures de Benjamin la tortue!
George Orwell’s famous dystopia, 1984 (published in 1949), portrays a totalitarian world of 24/7 state surveillance, in which any hint of individuality is punished as thoughtcrime.
“The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by 25 years in a forced-labor camp.
“Winston fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink pencil. Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything… He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:
“April 4th, 1984.
“He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.”
Love is banned, but procreation is periodically required.
Critics the world over have named 1984 one of the best books of the 20th century.
It has inspired one of the quintessential 21st century writers. The postmodern Japanese maestro, Haruki Murakami, riffed off Orwell in his three-volume 1Q84 (published in 2009, and translated into English by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel).
This work initially wanders through the mundane. But the narrative is punctuated by sudden violence and horror.
“You’re about to do something out of the ordinary,” warns a cab driver. “After you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before…. But don’t let appearances fool you. There’s always only one reality.”
Take the newspapers. The headlines seem to read differently on different days.
This is a nightmare bookended by banality – a portrait of Tokyo in 1984, plus, murder, cults, literary fraud, a dose of surrealism.
In Japanese, Q and 9 are homophones – words that sound alike. All three volumes of 1Q84 are in the library, in adult fiction, in both French and English. That may sound like a long read, but the story will pull you in. You can find Orwell’s classic online, free, at the Canadian Project Gutenberg book service, at gutenberg.ca.
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS
Perhaps something more breathy? Visit Jacqueline Susann’s iconic Valley Of The Dolls (1966), an older but still delightful book.
“Dolls” are downers – sleeping pills.
Susann’s classic roman a clef, her first novel, presents the story of three women who become fast friends in New York. Anne is escaping a stifling small-town life; Neely is 17 and desperately wants a Broadway career, though she’ll settle for a hubby; and Jennifer is a showgirl who gets her gigs because of her looks, not her talent.
Those who love the Hollywood of the 1940s will enjoy connecting the fictional characters to the big-name stars they’re based on (some of them said to have been Susann’s lovers).
Valley Of The Dolls is a soap, a rollercoaster of romance, tragedy, success and despair. Perfect for the porch on a hot day with a glass of lemonade. Those on the page, though, are likely to be drinking champagne.
– Eleanor Brown, Aug. 2, 2013