It was the neat concept – a book with photos supposedly taken by the main character – the encouraged me to read Young Man With Camera. It was T-, the main character himself, that kept me reading. I am sure the story is not unique, which also makes it a sad book and a frightening one.
1. Young Man with a Camera was such a neat idea – photos mixed in with the text, bolded words, words left unsaid. I know you said the book was 10 years in the making. What came first, the story of T or the way to present the story?
In a sense, the story and the way to present it went hand in hand. In telling the story of a young photographer, I would have a wonderful opportunity to weave photographs into the text in ways where both words and images become a part of the story’s fabric.
2. Why did you decide to present the story in this way?
As in the stage plays I write, I look for moments when something can be said without words, where a story can be told visually. And in the same way that a play isn’t only about dialogue, a novel can be more than just words on a page. I don’t know if every photograph in Young Man with Camera is worth a thousand words, but I do believe images can enrich and, ideally, expand a narrative in ways where a reader sees the story in a different light.
3. When did you discover Diane Arbus’ photos? What do you like about them? Why did you want your main character, T, to emulate Arbus’ work.
I had long been drawn to the compelling photographs of Diane Arbus, who I describe in the novel’s afterword as a photographer who “migrated toward such off-beat settings as cheap hotels and circus sideshows.” In other words, she captured those who lived on the margins, and I began to wonder what kind of adolescent would feel a kinship with Arbus. And so T began to take shape, and from the very start I imagined him living on the periphery because of his facial burns, using his camera to reflect his world and comment on the larger truths that often lie beyond the frame of a photograph. Like many teenagers, T looks toward a role model, and he emulates Arbus’s work because she’s someone who didn’t compromise her vision, a vision that reminds us that it’s our our differences make us human.
3. How did you find photographer David Wyman? What drew him to you as the person who would capture the moments in your story?
David is a friend who would have been called a shutterbug in a different era. A graphic designer by day, he has a very keen eye for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, by which I mean his photographs cast people and objects we might overlook in a new light. He is like T, in that he never steps out of his house without his camera close at hand. It’s a small camera, but his work leaves a lasting impression. Some photographs, like the memorable photographs of Lucy, a homeless woman portrayed by actor Maria Vacratsis, were shot specifically for the book. In other instances I found photographs amongst David’s online albums that were so powerful I created backstories for them to weave into the novel.
4. How many photographs did you shoot? How did you choose the ones to include?
More than 1,200 photographs were shot, of which some 50 made the final cut, so to speak. To a large extent, the decision-making process was a collective one. Once the photographs were posted for all to share a discussion ensued, and a shortlist would be drawn up. The strongest photographs tend to rise, cream like, to the surface.
5. You are an award-winning playwright and have written board and picture books; is this your first book for young people? Is the process different? Do you enjoy one over the other? Do you plan to write more for this age group?
I describe myself as a writer who creates works for the young and once-were-young, which is another way of saying I put great stock in the formative years of childhood that shape us for a lifetime. Although I have written plays for young audiences, Young Man with Camera is my first novel for young readers. There’s a thread that connects all my work, in that I strive to create a world — on stage, on the page — that engages and, when it works, lingers in all the right ways. On the one hand, writing stage plays and writing picture books is similar, in that both demand an economy of language, and that’s a challenge I find gratifying. Equally, it’s gratifying to have the wide canvas of a novel, where there’s room for the kind of detours that add to the journey. I don’t prefer one form of storytelling over another, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell stories in different ways. Ideas are already swirling about a new young adult novel.
Young Man With Camera
T-, a teen who is used to getting grief. Grief from his mother, who worries about him constantly; grief from Mr. Lam, who runs the corner store and suspects every kid of stealing; grief from the trio of bullies he calls Joined at the Hip, whose cruelty has left T— so battered he fears even his whole name could be used against him.
But T— has his own strength too: his camera, which he uses to capture the unique way he sees the world. His photos connect him to Ms. Karamath, the kind librarian at school; his friend Sean, whose passion for mysteries is matched only by his love for his dog, Watson; and most of all to Lucy, a homeless woman who shares his admiration for the photographer Diane Arbus. When Lucy is attacked by Joined at the Hip, T— captures the assault on film. But those images lead him into even deeper trouble with the bullies, who threaten to hurt Sean if T— tells.
What’s the right thing to do? Do pictures ever tell the whole truth? And what if the truth isn’t always the right answer?
Editor’s Note: Young Man With Camera was an interesting read, but it made me sad. I am sure T-’s story is not unique, which is also why it makes a bit nervous. How does these sort of things happen? I liked the format – words with photographs. It was a neat way to present the story.
New release roundup
Love Letters to the Dead
Farrar Straus Giroux, us.macmillan.com/fsg
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more — though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was — lovely and amazing and deeply flawed — can she begin to discover her own path.
Editor’s Note: It was a slow start to this book, but I wanted to know what happened to May so I kept reading. I am always frustrated by people’s choices, particularly when drug and alcohol use is involved, but I read past it and I am so glad I did. I went from thinking I would give this one away to putting it in a place of honour in my library. What a fantastic read. Author Ava Dellaira knows people. I will be re-reading this one. Amazing.
Archer B. Helmsley wants an adventure. No, he needs an adventure. His grandparents were famous explorers . . . until they got stuck on an iceberg. Now Archer’s mother barely lets him out of the house. As if that would stop a true Helmsley. Archer enlists Adelaide—the girl who, according to rumor, lost her leg to a crocodile—and Oliver—the boy next door—to help him rescue his grandparents. The Doldrums whisks us off on an adventure full of sly humor, incredible detail, and enormous heart.
Editor’s Note: I just couldn’t get into this book. I tried several times, but put it back and read something else. As a note, I didn’t give it a good try; I stopped reading after 25 pages.
Scholastic Canada, .scholastic.ca/books/view/sight-unseen
What would it feel like to know you are going blind?
Thirteen-year-old Finn loves bike riding — the more dangerous the trail, the better. But he had a spectacular crash a few months ago, and he’s just received a diagnosis that will change his life. He is slowly going blind. In a few years his vision will be gone.
Desperate to salvage something of his “last” summer, Finn invites a friend to the cottage and is drawn to a strange island that seems to glimmer, but no one else can see it. When he gets close, he’s sucked into something he could never have anticipated. Can Finn’s friend Cheese help him come to terms with “lights out” . . . or will it take something much more extraordinary?
Editor’s Note: It was a bizarre book. I can see why Tad, a character in the book, had a hard time believing Finn, who seemed much older than 13. I liked the characters, particularly Cheese who was true to himself. I also liked that the book is set in Canada. Author David Carroll thanks Andrea Casault for the cover. I am a huge fan of covers (it’s true, I judge a book by its cover) and this one is headache inducing. I can’t stand to look at it; it’s very effective.
Today is the Day
Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.com
Mutanu is excited. As she goes about her chores, she thinks about the day to come and what surprises it might bring. For today is no ordinary day at the orphanage she lives in. Every year, the orphanage honors its newest arrivals by creating a birthday day especially for them. From that moment forward, the orphans have a day that they know is theirs – a day to celebrate, a day to enjoy, a day to remember. And today is the day! Based on real children in an orphanage in Kenya, this lovely story shows how something as simple as a birthday, something most of us take for granted, can mean so much in another part of the world.
Editor’s Note: It is a lovely story of a wonderful idea to offer children something as simple as a birthday party. My son listened to the story, but it was the pictures of the real Mutanu and her friends at the orphanage that brought the story to life. We could see the people and realize it was real. Another great Eric Walters book.
A Sea Glass Journey Ebb and Flow
Sea glass, beach glass, sand glass, mermaids’ tears, emeralds from the deep…known by many names and coveted by beachcombers, these ocean treasures are much more than they seem. In A Sea Glass Journey, sea glass jeweller and collector Teri Hall, of PEI’s Fire and Water Creations, tells the incredible story of these jewels of the sea.
Editor’s Note: I once saw a movie where the main character collects sea glass and uses it as decorations throughout her beach-front home. I think collecting beach glass would be one of the most relaxing and fantastic parts about the ocean, and I am anxious to have my son experience the ocean at some time. In the meantime, I will be looking through A Sea Glass Journey, which is a beautiful book that tells you how sea glass is made, the various types and what they mean, how to find it and what do to do with it once you have discovered it. I want to find blue, cornflower or colbalt blue glass, and much like that character in the movie, I would like to put it in glass jars and display it in my house. This books makes me want to go to the ocean and spend a hot summer’s day finding my own treasures.
Other travel books
Canada, Images of the Land
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/
In this exquisitely photographed record of the Canadian landscape, renowned photographer J.A. Kraulis captures the majesty and grandeur of a vast and staggeringly diverse country. Expansive prairies and forests, impressive coastlines, majestic inland lakes and rivers are captured in these images of the land. This magnificent collection of more than 200 photographs and captions presents Canada at its most visceral: a flash of lightning exploding across a summer sky; a sudden winter storm descending on an otherwise tranquil bay; the surface of a lake caught in a moment of stillness, mirroring the world around it – scenes of unbridled beauty as captured by one of the country’s most prolific photographers.
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/index.php/catalogue/adult-books/house-home/architecture/product/11258-doors
For anyone interested in architecture, history, travel or world cultures, doors have a special fascination. In addition to welcoming guests and keeping out intruders, a door creates the first impression of a building and provides a sense of welcome, security and peace. This fascinating book contains more than 500 photographs of doors from around the world. There are doors made of wood, metal and glass, doors old and new, and doors polished and weathered. Some were made to impress and to show off the majesty and importance of the building they serve, and some were hastily constructed with whatever materials were at hand. These doors come from and evoke many cultures and traditions.
Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan
Pajama Press, http://pajamapress.ca/book/evie_brooks_is_marooned_in_manhattan/
New York City. Evie Brooks has seen it on the TV, but she never imagined herself living there. But when her mother dies, Evie finds herself leaving her home in Dublin and moving to Manhattan to visit with her American uncle for the summer. Never having owned a pet more substantial than a goldfish, twelve-year-old Evie is intrigued by Uncle Scott’s veterinary practice, and before long is working as an assistant in the clinic. Soon she finds herself immersed in dogs galore, parrots, reptiles, and an assortment of other creatures and their eccentric owners. And she loves it. Manhattan would be just about perfect if it weren’t for Uncle Scott’s lawyer girlfriend, who has plans for him that do not involve Evie. Before the summer is over, Evie has an important decision to make: stay in New York and confront the problem of Scott’s girlfriend or return to Ireland to live with her godmother.
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016
A look at the Top 10 must-see countries for 2016.
The Kids Travel Book, Mind-Blowing Stuff on Every Country in the World
Lonely Planet, http://www.lonelyplanet.com
This new edition of the bestselling kid’s Travel Book covers every country omn the world, with thousands of amazing facts on wildlife, how people live, sports, food, festivals and a range of other quirky insights on every page. Every single country gets its own dedicated page, and a mix of wow photography.
The Canadian Landscape calendar
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/index.php/catalogue/calendars
The World Awaits A Travel Organizer
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
Featuring colourful illustrations throughout, this organizer is great for keeping track of trip ideas, from destinations near and far to adventures big and small. Guided prompts and fill-in wish lists at the beginning will inspire brainstorming. With five storage pockets that can be used to stash clippings and to create different sections within (from weekend getaways to international attractions), The World Awaits becomes a personalized bucket list of places to visit and a handy reference tool for travelers of all ages.
Penguin Random House
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living? Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .
St. Martin’s Press, http://www.stmartins.com/
Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here–it’s their last
Beautiful Creatures, A Boundless Coloring Book Adventure
Huelish Colouring Books, http://www.huelish.com/
Nicole Stocker encourages the entire family to abandon their screens and colour together. Step 1: Using the gray as your guide, colour over it to build depth and bring your image to life; Step 2, colour over the dark gray areas using your darkest colours and over the light gray areas using your lightest colours; Step 3: Colour over the remaining areas using your
medium colours to blend light and dark and watch your beautiful creature emerge from the grayscale!
Keepers of the Vault, Fire and Glass
Clockwise Press, http://www.clockwisepress.com
A fourth floor that is only pretending to be a storage space, stairs that lead to an abyss, and a Goth djinn stalker with an attitude who likes to play with fire… As if life wasn’t hard enough for Kristina Mah being the new kid in school. The adventures of the Keepers of the Vault are just beginning. Keepers of the Vault is a hi-lo fantasy series for reluctant readers ages 12-plus and uses a dyslexia-friendly font.
Library of Souls
Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children
Quirk Books, quirkbooks.com
The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.
They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
Faber & Faber, faber.co.uk
In the midst of the fighting, two Russian soldiers seek refuge in the crypt of a German church. There, clutched in the hands of a skeleton priest, they find The Shepherd; a priceless icon thought to have been destroyed long ago. When news of its discovery reaches Moscow, Stalin calls upon his most trusted investigator, Inspector Pekkala, once a favorite of Tsar and known to all of Russia as The Emerald Eye. To unravel the secret of the icon’s past, Pekkala traces its last known whereabouts to a band of self-mutilating radicals known as The Skoptsy, who were hunted to extinction years by the Bolshevik Secret Police. Or so it was believed. As Pekkala soon learns, the last survivors of this brutal sect have clung to life in the shadowy forests of Siberia. With the reappearance of the icon, they have returned to claim the treasure they say belongs to them alone, bringing with them a new and terrible weapon to unleash upon the Russian people. Unless the Emerald Eye can stop them.
The Book of Speculation
St. Martin’s Press
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off six years ago and now reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival.
One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned–always on July 24, which is only weeks away.
As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he get to the heart of the mystery in time to save Enola?
The Imagination Box
Faber & Faber faber.co.uk/
There is a box. Anything you imagine will appear inside. You have one go, one chance to create anything you want. What would you pick?” That’s exactly the question ten-year-old Timothy Hart gets to answer after discovering The Imagination Box. The greatest toy on earth. The top-secret contraption transforms his life but when the box’s inventor, Professor Eisenstone, goes missing, Tim knows he has to investigate. With the help of a talking finger monkey called Phil, he sets out to find the professor. In order to rescue his friend, he must face his darkest fears and discover the true potential of his own mind. This stunning debut is first in an exciting new trilogy for readers aged 9 plus.
The Masked Truth
Doubleday Canada, Penguin Random House Canada
Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.
Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.
The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.
The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.
Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to find out that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.
What She Left
‘If you liked The Girl on the Train then I think you’ll like this just as much, if not more’ Scott Pack ****** Who is Alice Salmon? Student. Journalist. Daughter. Lover of late nights, hater of deadlines. That girl who drowned last year. Gone doesn’t mean forgotten. Everyone’s life leaves a trace behind. But it’s never the whole story. “I will stand up and ask myself who I am. I do that a lot. I’ll look in the mirror. Reassure myself, scare myself, like myself, hate myself. My name is Alice Salmon.” When Alice Salmon died last year, the ripples from her tragic drowning could be felt in the news, on the internet, and in the hearts of those closest to her. However, the man who knows her best isn’t family or a friend. His name is Professor Jeremy Cooke, an academic fixated on piecing together Alice’s existence. Cooke knows that faithfully recreating Alice, through her diaries, text messages, and online presence, has become all-consuming. But he does not know how deep his search will take him into this shocking stTory of love, loss and obsession where everyone – including himself – has something to hide.
This column was first published at insidetoronto.com