September 19th marked the first ever I’m buying an NB book! day, and we are thrilled so many participated. Janet North from Westminster Books, our local bookstore here in Fredericton, said she had a very busy day and saw numerous NB books leaving the shelves last Saturday. Ellen Pickle from Tidewater Books in Sackville also had an awesome day with nearly double their regular sales, over half of which were NB books. I’m buying an NB book! day was a success, and we can’t wait to celebrate it again next year! Till then, we wanted to share one of our NB Book Day experiences. We hope you’ve all had great experiences, too.
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I am a veracious reader, so I laugh to think of the hoops I jumped through as a kid to avoid a pastime my career currently revolves around. My mum found it far from funny though, purchasing dozens of books throughout my childhood, desperate to find something I’d like. I did like them though — loved them — as long as I was not the one reading.
Part of my mother’s campaign to get her only anti-reading child on the book bandwagon was to read to me. I’d fill my bed with books in anticipation of bedtime. The Wump World by Bill Peet, The Long, Long Letter by Elizabeth Spurr, and (not surprisingly) The Girl Who Hated Books by Manjusha Pawagi were among my favourites, but there was one book that always found its way into my bedtime story pile: Mabel Murple by Sheree Fitch.
Mabel Murple was my absolute favourite book, and yet I spent the majority of my life oblivious to the fact that it was written by a Canadian East Coast author. As a kid, I associated authors with this intangible essence. It’s hard to describe, but to me, authors lingered on the edge of reality. When I learned that the author of my most treasured book grew up in cities I’d also visited and lived in, it made me feel capable too.
When I’m buying an NB book! day was announced, I knew I was going to participate and set about collecting suggestions from around the Goose Lane office. Angela, Goose Lane’s publishing assistant, suggested Riel Nason’s The Town That Drowned. “It’s set so close to Fredericton. It’s a coming-of-age story mixed with a bit of magic with real-life events thrown in for good measure.” I was sold.
When the 19th hit, I headed to Westminster Books, our lovely local independent bookstore. Perhaps it was having her name in mind that made my eyes snag on a picture book displayed in Westminster’s window: The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt by Riel Nason. I haven’t read Mabel Murple in a long time, but I guess I was just feeling the spirit of NB Book day because all the memories and joys I’ve associated with that purple girl came rushing back to me as I looked at that little quilted ghost.
I bought The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt and The Town That Drowned, since I still wanted an NB Book and the little quilted ghost wouldn’t be staying with me long. At the height of COVID-19, my older sister had her first baby. I met Clark for the first time while wearing a mask. It will be quite the story to tell him when he’s older, but I want to tell him this one first.
Mabel Murple ends with Mabel dreaming about a green girl in a green world. I wanted a sequel so badly, one that explored the briefly mentioned Gertrude Green. When I learned that the author was not some intangible, creative force, but a person who grew up just a few cities over from me, I started writing the sequel for her. Though my attempts have (luckily) been lost in a serious of moves, I am still writing — through my degree and into my career. A children’s book by a local author completely shaped my life.
I don’t know what the future holds for Clark but knowing that something I loved was created by someone just a stone’s throw away, well it gave me the confidence to pursue writing. Standing in Westminster, faced with this delightful children’s book by a local author, I thought maybe The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt will be Clark’s Mabel Murple. I hope it inspires him to pursue his passions, too.