What’s the matter?
How come you’re so sad?
I lost my cat
In the laundromat,
And a dragon ran off with my dad,
My dad —
A dragon ran off with my dad!
What’s the matter?
How come you’re so glum?
I ripped my jeans
On the coke machine,
And a monster ran off with my mum,
My mum —
A monster ran off with my mum!
Shanna Bernier started with books when she was a child at her mother’s knee. Now she reads to her own child, a three-year-old. And by a happy coincidence, her reading out loud is very likely also heard by the soon-to-be second child she and husband Gordon Lambie are expecting any day.
“One of the first books I remember reading with my mother was a nursery rhyme book. I loved it and I made her read it over and over,” says Bernier.
Robert Munsch’s Purple Green And Yellow was another early favourite. “My parents both read to me and my sister a lot as young children. I think that the time we spent reading together really cemented the pleasure of reading into my life, because story time seamlessly grew into reading to myself before bed.”
The story might also have stopped her from drawing on herself with super-permanent ink. Or maybe not.
Covered in crayon colours or no, Bernier only visited the Lennoxville Library later in her life, sometime around 2008, while a Bishop’s University student. She was just curious.
“I didn’t really begin to use the library and visit more frequently until my daughter was born. I now appreciate libraries so much, and use both the Lennoxville and Sherbrooke’s Eva Senécal Library frequently, to take out books and activities and videos for our family.”
The Eva Senécal branch is on Marquette Street in Sherbrooke’s downtown area, and is physically closer to Bernier’s home. But Lennoxville is still worth the trip: “The Lennoxville Library feels very homey, and it has an amazing children’s lit section. It is very impressive given the size of the library as a whole.
“One of our favourite family activities is taking books out and reading together. [Baby] Beatrice owns a lot of books, many from our own childhood collections. We recently introduced her to the Canadian poet, Dennis Lee, and his books Alligator Pie and Jelly Belly. Beatrice likes a lot of books. She loves the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, and I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.”
(Lee is filed at C-88, C-132 and C-136 in the Lennoxville Library. You’ll find lots of Munsch in English at C-70, C-90 and 92, and translated into French at C-50 and C-118), and you can get even more of the beloved author’s books via interlibrary loan. Rosenthal writes for all reading levels, and her works pepper our shelves, at C-16, C-31, C-70, C-104 and C-138, and in French at C-52. And if you’re looking for Mother Goose nursery rhymes, try C-70 and C-136, just to start.)
As Bea grows up, so will the books that her parents read to her. Eventually, Bea will start to read on her own (or listen to Audio Books). And perhaps Bernier will have a little more time for her own, adult reading!
In between working and parenting, Bernier still managed to present at the Lennoxville Reads book debate last month. She argued for The Hero’s Walk, by Anita Rau Badami (the assembled readers that evening chose Birdie by Tracey Lindberg as the book all Lennoxvillians should read this year; the national Canada Reads debates chose The Illegal, by Laurence Hill… all these books are on our Adult Fiction shelves).
“I like novels, from a variety of genres. I enjoy a good thriller or mystery, but I also like stories of people’s lives and a good romance from time to time. I really enjoy reading Young Adult/Youth novels, by a variety of authors. I also really enjoy reading non-fiction books, about food, parenting, ecology, education, religion and feminism. Recently I have felt like time was very short and I really enjoy the swift and easy reading of a good magazine. Especially ones with beautiful photos of food.”
Cookbooks (and mouth-watering photographs) can be found filed on the library’s Non Fiction shelves at 641, plus or minus a Dewey decimal point or two.
“One of the greatest and most intense books I have read and loved” was The Stand (first published in 1978 and then substantially revised in 1990) by Stephen King, a post-apocalyptic horror and fantasy novel. Bernier’s fave Young Adult novel is The Fault In Our Stars (by John Green, 2012), narrated by a 16-year-old with cancer forced to attend a Christian support group for dying teens. (It’s filed in Adult Fiction, and the Hollywood film is at N-88; ask at the front desk and we’ll get it for you.) Bernier’s most recent read is The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill (2014, in Adult Fiction), “and I enjoyed it, especially the setting of 1990s Montreal.” It’s a coming of age novel about twins, children of a famous Quebec folksinger, and their rather messy, complicated lives. It was nominated for multiple awards.
Mind you, Bernier won’t keep reading if something doesn’t grab her. “I am not a person who has to finish a book if I don’t like it in the first 10 pages.
“I cannot name a book I hated. I loved but was traumatized by the dystopian novel The Road.” Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (available via interlibrary loan) features a father and son travelling across a nearly lifeless, ash-covered Earth. Those who have survived have little humanity left. Bernier admits: “I had a lot of difficulty finishing it, I wanted to put it in the freezer and pretend I never read the words. It still haunts me. Books can be very powerful.”
There’s always another book that will soothe, however. Like something written by poet Dennis Lee.
Bernier, and little Beatrice, will be reading and rereading Alligator Pie for quite a while yet:
Now you’re better —
Happy as a tack!
The dragon’s gone
The monster fell in a wishing-well,
The cat showed up
with a new-born pup;
I fixed the rips
with potato chips,
And my dad and my mum came back,
Came back —
My dad and my mum came back.
— Eleanor Brown, April 8, 2016