Parry Sound Books

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2013 Reading Series begins with Brian Francis

2013 Reading Series begins with Brian Francis

There are some books that affect me more than others – it is the same for all of us. We bring to our reading our own personal history, our own prejudices, our own everything. There are best sellers that seem to appeal to “everyone” but even then they are not necessarily books that appeal to me – or to you.

When I read a book that particularly affects me I have, in the past few years, very occasionally contacted the author to let them know that their book meant something to me. And if it is possible I have invited that author to be part of our annual reading series so that we can meet, and I can introduce them to readers in Parry Sound.

After reading Natural Order by Brian Francis last year I knew he was a writer I wanted to bring to Parry Sound. Readers knew his name after his first novel, Fruit, about a teenage boy living in a small town, attempting to navigate his way through Grade 8 and all that is involved in being that age, and more, was a finalist in the 2009 Canada Reads competition.

Fruit was considered a humourous novel, and Brian Francis admits to struggling a bit when he realized that his second novel, Natural Order, might not be the same. Natural Order is a more serious, a much more mature, novel and one that I have recommended to readers for over a year now with only very positive response.

Natural Order is the story of an elderly woman, Joyce Sparks, 86 years of age, now living in an old age home. Joyce is thinking about her life and her present situation. We meet a younger Joyce, and through her memories we share the life she lived as a teenager, a young mother, older mother, and then an independent 72 year old.

As a teenager Joyce’s first love is a boy she works with at a soda fountain – Freddy. They go to movies together and Joyce feels a growing attraction – not noticing that Freddy is simply enjoying her company. In the 1950’s who knew about gay – most girls certainly didn’t and as one gay male friend of mine said, he hardly knew either. This reader, more enlightened now than I was as a teenager myself, knew immediately that Freddy was not the kind of guy to be attracted to girls.

When we meet Joyce as a young mother we witness her concern about the femininity of her son, John – even as a little boy he resisted the rough and ready activities of the other boys. Joyce attempts to hide her dawning knowledge from her husband, believing he would find her son’s homosexuality unacceptable. She will regret this for the rest of her life.

I thought about my own family’s experiences – a cousin who married disastrously when he was young, and then found love and companionship with another man after leaving his marriage. When both men died within a few years of each other, almost 20 years ago, our family was shocked and saddened. They had openly, together, been part of our lives, and yet at the memorial service for our cousin, his mother would not allow there to be any mention of the man he had made a home with – the most important person in his life. Forgivable, but a sad disservice to herself and her son. This is almost exactly the struggle that Joyce Sparks lives with - heartbreaking for all involved – and such an unnecessary barrier to an open and happy relationship between parents and children.

There is a whole lot more to this story than the issue of Freddy and John’s sexuality. There is Joyce’s relationship with her sister, her friends and neighbours, and a young man who insists on being her friend. Joyce is a delightfully cranky old lady, with a wonderfully droll sense of humour. It is her humourous observances – or more accurately Brian Francis’ deadpan humour - that gives us some comic relief just when it is most needed. I found myself often laughing out loud. And, then there were times I found myself in tears. “I’m not convinced that things happen for a reason”, muses Joyce, in her old age. In her final hours, she thinks, “you can only deal with something with whatever means you have at a particular moment.” How true, and how wise an observance from a young writer.

You will have the opportunity to meet Brian Francis and hear him read from Natural Order on Wednesday 17 April at 7:30pm at the Charles W. Stockey Centre.

And if, like me, you have no idea what at Caker Cooker is, I suspect you’ll find out!

Merry Christmas from Parry Sound Books

Merry Christmas from Parry Sound Books

On Saturday the 3rd of December 1988, just in time for the Christmas season, we opened the doors to Parry Sound Books for the first time. This community welcomed us and strongly supported our business that first day and has continued to do so over the past 23 years.

We opened Parry Sound Books as a small shop in our home and a few years later moved into the newly renovated William Beatty Building where we have remained.

When I realized that Saturday 3 December was again approaching, along with the Christmas season, I thought about that day in 1988 and the years since.

There have been huge changes in the world – and in the world of publishing and bookselling. We opened without a computer – we had invested in Books in Print, a set of immense volumes, published annually, listing all current publications. I laughed the other day at a bookstore in Toronto to see some ancient editions of these books holding up a sagging self – as outdated as the horse and carriage. Now, of course, we have a computerized inventory and point-of-sale system, and an internet-based program to look up information about all books.

Parry Sound Books has not itself changed that much. The stock of course has changed as new books are published, and others are no longer popular enough to stock. Although bookseller friends laugh at me for some of the titles I do still keep on the shelves, I could not, in good conscience, have a shop that did not stock at least a few books by Virginia Woolf, Sinclair Ross, Margaret Laurence – you get the drift – even if I only sell one copy every year or so. I believe that is what makes the difference between a bookshop and a shop that sells books – and between a bookseller and someone who just sells books.

When we opened we were the only bookshop in Parry Sound. We are still the only bookshop selling new books but the bookselling world has changed around us. Books are now sold by drug stores and discount stores in our own community – and of course by on-line booksellers everywhere. These changes have had a dramatic effect on all booksellers, over the past year especially, and many wonder what we must do to survive as a viable business in the new reality of bookselling.

I believe that there is nothing that replaces the bookstore experience, and that we must continue to focus on what made us successful in the beginning. A great selection of good books for children and adults, books that have been carefully selected by an experienced bookseller, books that can be confidently recommended to our customers, and books that we are certain you will want to read. If there are books our customers are looking for that we don’t have, we are more than happy to order that book and provide it to them - quick and easy! I believe that customer service is understanding what a customer wants and doing our very best to provide it, with a please and thank you. We have banned the expression “no problem” at Parry Sound Books - of course it is no problem, it is our job! Our staff members are not just sales clerks, they are booksellers, people who read, read, read and know their stuff. We’ve had a lot of staff over the years, some were teenagers who didn’t know, before they worked here while still in high school and university, that they would go on to make careers in publishing. There are others who re-entered the work force part time after having children and stayed on for years and years. More recently we’ve had school teachers working part time during the school holidays bringing with them their knowledge and customer service skills developed during years of working with both students and parents.

What strikes me most about the passage of time, apart from my own undeniable aging, is the aging of my customers. Children who went to kindergarten with my own children, now return as confident young people. Many of them with children of their own who seem to grow at a rapid rate; some of these children now as old as their parents were when I first met them. That is the life affirming passage of time, but there is also the sadder passage of time as older people die, and I read an obituary, or notice that I no longer see some of the familiar faces coming into the store or attending an author reading. This is what being part of a community is all about. I grew up moving to a new town every few years, and I have now lived in Parry Sound for more years than in any place else, it has become home, it is my community.

It has been a privilege to be your community bookstore for the past 23 years, and we look forward to many more. As our world becomes more and more electronic and digital we hope that you will continue to appreciate the value of a bound book.

Please visit us on Saturday 3 December and let us thank you for your support over all these years. The store is decorated for Christmas, and fully stocked with the best books of the season, we’ll help you choose just the right book for everyone on your list. We will have some sweet treats, free gift wrapping as always, and a special gift for you to thank you for continuing to shop at Parry Sound Books.

Meet Curious George Saturday 12 February 2011

ref=sr_1_14.jpg Meet Curious George at Parry Sound Books

On Saturday  February 12th there will be a special visitor at Parry Sound Books. Curious George will be with us between 10:00 and 11:30 in the morning and 1:00-2:30 in the afternoon to greet the children who come to play that day. We will have balloons and colouring sheets and other treats, and we will read some stories about Curious George – we will have some fun.

Curious George is a curious little monkey, created in 1941 by H. A. Rey, he has continued to be a favourite of parents and children ever since. I believe that the Curious George stories are essential for the home bookshelves of every child. These books are wonderful to read aloud to children at an early age, and they will become the books those children will begin to read on their own when they are ready. They are as perfect now as they were so many years ago.

The beauty of Curious George is that he is just as curious as a young child. He is discovering the world with a natural uninhibited curiosity. Of course, this means that sometimes, often in the case of George, things have a tendency to get out of hand! There are accidents - and sometimes (usually) things get worse before they get better. But - they always do get better and George always does try to do his very best to make it better, because he truly didn't mean to cause a problem!

Children who grow up with Curious George will know, never, to take hold of a whole bunch of balloons, or you may lift up into the sky. When you read Curious George Rides a Bike you will learn how to make boats out of newspaper. In Curious George Goes to the Hospital you will learn not to eat puzzle pieces. This is a book I recommend for children facing hospitalization for minor surgery - because just as in all of the other Curious George books, things turn out alright in the end, and there are very clear and simple descriptions and illustrations of the procedures usual before surgery.

The story of the creation of Curious George is a fascinating one, told to us in The Journey That Saved Curious George. His creators, Hans and Margret Rey, were both Jews born in Germany, and they lived an adventurous life. They lived for some time in Rio de Janeiro where they married before returning to Europe for a long honeymoon trip. While living in France they began doing sketches of a giraffe for a French newspaper. The publishers liked the original drawings so much they asked them to work on a children's book. The result was Cecily G and the 9 Monkeys, and it was here that we meet Curious George for the first time.

The Reys decided that Curious George should have a book of his own, so they began work on a manuscript that featured this lovable and exceedingly curious little monkey. The rise of the Nazi party, however, forced the Reys to make the decision to leave France. Hans and Margret left on bicycles in June 1940, taking very few possessions - only warm coats, a bit of food, and five manuscripts, one of which was Curious George. The Nazis entered Paris just hours later, but the Reys were already gone. They rode their bicycles to the French-Spanish border, where they sold them for train fare to Lisbon. From there they made their way to Brazil and on to New York City, where they began a whole new life as children’s book authors.

For seventy years Curious George has been capturing the hearts and minds of readers throughout the world. Don't let the children you know grow up without Curious George!

Treat yourself to the charm of this curious little monkey, and join him for some fun at Parry Sound Books.

Copyright © 1988 - 2013  Parry Sound Books, an independent bookstore in Parry Sound (Georgian Bay)