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JOAN SULLIVAN: A selection of children's books from a trio of publishers

"Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown" is published by Running the Goat Books & Broadsides Inc. CONTRIBUTED
"Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown" is published by Running the Goat Books & Broadsides Inc. CONTRIBUTED

"Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown"
By Lori Doody
Running the Goat Books & Broadsides Inc.
$11.95 48 pages

“Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbittown” is another of Lori Doody’s delightful books, a loosely-knit series featuring animals in iconic downtown St. John’s.

The book is set in a signature neighbourhood: “Rabbittown was a pleasant place to live. Every bunny knew every bunny, and every bunny was friends.”

It’s tempting to call Doody’s publications whimsical and let that be the end of it, but there’s more narrative and illustrative heft to them for that.

This, for example, is a story of difference, and inclusion (and even the challenges of being a single parent).

Mr. Beagle opens a convenience store, but the community isn’t sure what to make of the newcomer, and business is slow.

Mr. Beagle spends a lot of time alone behind his counter.


Lori Doody is the author of "Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbitown." CONTRIBUTED
Lori Doody is the author of "Mr. Beagle Goes to Rabbitown." CONTRIBUTED

“Then, something mysterious began to happen – mittens were going missing.”

The pilfering soon affects “every bunny.”

And who better to suss out these purloined muffs than a beagle?

Sure enough, he’s soon on the scent.

The story plays out against interiors of grocery shelves stocked with Purity-hued packages, bags reminiscent of Robin Hood flour, and cellophane patterned à la Hawkins Cheezies, and exteriors of row houses drawn right up to the sidewalk, paced with takeouts, laundromats and dance studios, The Hare Salon, and posters for hip hop class or Sadie Hopkins dance (no partner required).

The palette is both spot-on and playful, with red and purple clapboard, a pink purse, an orange-and-pink-striped dress tumble drying.

There’s a real nice balance of words and pictures — some pages have no text at all, just bright depictions full of eye-pleasing and eye-catching details (such as the stop and go symbols on crosswalk lights).

They complement each other in building this sweet-natured tale.


"M is For Murals: An Alphabet Storybook" is published by Pennywell Books. CONTRIBUTED
"M is For Murals: An Alphabet Storybook" is published by Pennywell Books. CONTRIBUTED

"M is For Murals: An Alphabet Storybook"
Written by Trudy Stuckless, calligraphy by Boyd Chubbs, design by Craig Goudie
Pennywell Books
$14.95 36 pages

Murals are a genre of site-specific, public art. If you consider cave paintings murals, and many do, then they are the oldest form of visual art in the world.

Botwood, during the Second World War, the site of one of the Allies’ biggest airports, is now the “mural capital of Newfoundland and Labrador.”


Trudy Stuckless
Trudy Stuckless

While “written with children in mind,”‘M is For Murals” also works as a visual time capsule and will appeal to adults interested in knowing the details of the murals.”

It’s also worth noting that the Botwood Mural Arts Society, “a long-standing member of the Global Mural Association … believes is a creative economy,” both a great initiative and a rewarding possible destination in this strangest of recent summers.


Boyd Chubbs
Boyd Chubbs

“Murals” also gets a nod for its unusual remark in its byline for calligraphy, an editorial enhancement that underscores the commitment to presentation within.

The pages show a packed but not overcrowded layout of photographs of murals both in progress (framed by lots of scaffolding) and proud completion, the painted murals (archival community scenes, Demasduit; Second World War veterans) offset by Chubb’s letters.


Craig Goudie
Craig Goudie

Entries include: “E is for effort. / It takes quite a lot / to paint all these murals / in one little spot.”; and “N is for never. / We’ll never give up. / Mike says, ‘Small towns / can still do big stuff!’”

There’s a map showing the locations of the murals, some information about the Botwood Mural Arts Society, and even a shout-out to the art of cursive writing.


"‘Twas the Night" is a children's book by author Marin. CONTRIBUTED
"‘Twas the Night" is a children's book by author Marin. CONTRIBUTED
"The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel"  is a work by Marin. CONTRIBUTED

"The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel"
"‘Twas the Night"
Both by Marin
For information on pricing and purchasing, visit Fontreal.com

“‘Twas the Night” is entirely pictorial, the visuals arresting and unusual.

The protagonist is a little boy in a wheelchair.

The imagery mixes photography and painting, some backdrops, as indicated by the title, aglow with Christmas decorations, with other pages composed of beautifully harmonized elements, such as a gerbera daisy and a bowl of oranges and bananas.

Altogether they relate how our hero finds and nurses a white dove.


An illustration from "'Twas the Night." CONTRIBUTED
An illustration from "'Twas the Night." CONTRIBUTED

“Gabriel and Jibreel” is more a of young adult graphic novel, with complex words like “fuselage,” and, more significantly, mature themes of discrimination and anti-immigrant violence.

Here the two boys, Gabriel, who “lived with his father in a big house surrounded by other big houses,” and Jibreel, who lives “in an upside-down boat” that had carried him and his father across the sea – his mother, also, has died – meet by accident and play in secret.


An illustration from "The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel."CONTRIBUTED
An illustration from "The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel."CONTRIBUTED

They too dream of flight, in this case in a craft they design and build themselves.

Again it’s visually striking and thematically quite singular, if dark.

Joan Sullivan is editor of Newfoundland Quarterly magazine. She reviews both fiction and non-fiction for The Telegram.

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