Tap, tip, tip, tap, tap…tap.*sigh* It’s been raining again. This is not a very auspicious beginning to a Sunday morning. As I lie awake in my bed, I begin to ponder what to do. Do I get up and prepare for this afternoon’s picnic in the hopes that the weather will clear, or do I stay curled up in bed and finish that novel I started last night. Tap, tap, tap, whoosh. I turn my head and notice the rain falling harder as the wind picks up. My bed and book win out. I rise slowly and soon make myself comfortable with a small fort of pillows. As I find that lovely equilibrium between fantasy and reality, my mind begins to wander. Within my hands, I am holding a miraculous journey of creativity. A person of unknown, and dare I say, even mysterious circumstances, has given birth to an idea, an idea that, through painstaking love and determination has been brought into being. Ideas are fluid, unfixed and in some cases, unstable. Yet a writer takes this idea and transforms it into a form that becomes more accessible, more available, dare I even say more real than the original idea itself. From birth, this idea has grown through the passage of many hands and many thoughts to arrive in a new form, a new means of expression that touches those who come in contact with it. This is why I find the writer to be both unknown and mysterious, for they are a person I will most likely never encounter, yet I experience the journey the idea has taken and become a part of it.
My mind stops here and I realize how much time I have spent woolgathering. It looks like the rain has finally died down. I put down my book reluctantly and get up to start packing for the picnic. As I stand in the kitchen, I notice the large pile of books awaiting my perusal on the dining room table. April 30th marked the 53rd annual Children’s Hospital Foundation Book Mart at St. Vital and as usual, I made sure I could make an appearance this year. I have very fond memories of the book mart going back as far as I can remember. Each year on opening day, we would line up at the genre of our choice (children’s when I was little and sci-fi now that I’m older) and wait for the doors to open. Do you remember when there used to be large white booths that were crammed with books and boxes or more books on the floor and the crowds were so thick, it was like being in a sauna? Those were always very happy memories, because I always knew that I would walk away with some new book that would lead me into a new experience I never thought to expect. Plus I always felt that I earned my books because I took the time to see what was out there and appreciate the novel ideas. Some of my finds for this year include:
Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language by Robert McCrum. As the title suggests, it is a history of the English language, but with a twist. It also discusses how different cultures, ideologies, and even to some degree, politics, led to the English language becoming the dominant language of our world.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Clay has left his previous job as a web-designer and now finds himself working at a bookstore. Only things are a little strange. Customers are coming in at all hours, and finding obscure titles, yet never actually buying anything. What is going on?
By far my best find of the day was two copies of The Teddy Bears’ Picnic; one by Jimmy Kennedy and the other is by Renate Kozikowski. When I was little, my mother used to sing me the song about teddy bears going to a picnic, which at the time, didn’t seem so strange. One of my favorite shows growing up was Rupert, both a book and tv series about this bear, dressed in a red sweater and yellow pants with a yellow scarf ,went on all these adventures with his friends. This was long before such children’s shows as Little Bear, Octonauts and Max & Ruby, though Peter Rabbit, the Care Bears and Babar were around at that point. In any case, the idea that animals could talk and do anything is quite appealing to a child. It reinforces the notion presented in A Little Princess, by Frances Hogson Burnett, and later by Toy Story, that toys live their own lives when we are not present. But if we could witness what adventures they have, what marvels we would see. It is this question of being a witness, of engaging, or of being a part of tale, even if only by reading it that never ceases to amaze me. Even when separated by time and space, a book, an idea still has as much presence as when it was first created.
I better run. It’s getting late. The 28th annual Children’s Hospital Foundation Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Assiniboine Park is starting. While it has not been running as long as the book mart, the effect is the same: to raise money for charity, to reveal new worlds and new ideas to children and to have a lot of fun in the process. Huh, would you look at that. The sun is finally making its debut. So farewell for now and remember:
If you go down in the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today you’d better go in disguise;
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic*
*Song by John Walter Bratton, Lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy. Available on CD.