A‘ New­found­land Christ­mas’ and other sto­ries

The Compass - - OPINION - BY BUR­TON K. JANES Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Sib­lings Sarah and Michael are less than happy when they are told they will be go­ing “down home” – i.e., from main­land Canada to New­found­land – for Christ­mas. “This is so un­fair!” Sarah laments to her best friend.

With those words, Dawn Baker, a visual artist and chil­dren’s writer liv­ing in Gan­der, launches her read­ers into “A New­found­land Christ­mas.”

In an email in­ter­view with this colum­nist, Baker says, “Writ­ing and il­lus­trat­ing books has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager.” In­deed, her ca­reer mush­roomed from a hobby that she felt pas­sion­ately about.

She has also writ­ten and il­lus­trated “A New­found­land Year” and “A New­found­land Al­pha­bet.”

She has even il­lus­trated a chil­dren’s book, “Salt­wa­ter Joys,” writ­ten by Wayne Chaulk, one-third of the com­edy troupe Buddy Wa­sis­name and the Other Fellers. Per­haps one of this prov­ince’s best-known and most popular songs, it cel­e­brates the sim­ple plea­sures of out­port life.

Baker’s lat­est ef­fort is “A New­found­land Ad­ven­ture,” in which the reader in­ter­acts with a beau­ti­ful Ir­ish princess, an in­fa­mous sea cap­tain and pi­rates.

Baker says her aim is to “try to rep­re­sent our beau­ti­ful prov­ince ... My top­ics,” she adds, “are al­ways cho­sen with that in mind.”

Else­where, she writes: “The his­tory of this won­der­ful place is amaz­ing.” Per­haps her books “will spark some in­ter­est ... to read more about our unique prov­ince.”

I in­quired about her writ­ing and il­lus­trat­ing process.

“The sto­ries I tell,” she ex­plains, “are de­vel­oped with words and pic­tures at the same time.” She jots down the words be­fore she paints the il­lus­tra­tions, but “both are imag­ined simultaneously.”

She hopes her books are, and fore­most, en­ter­tain­ing.

“Hope­fully they will also help en­cour­age pos­i­tive feel­ings about our home and her­itage.”

Chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, not un­like other gen­res, makes its own de­mand of the au­thor.

“A good chil­dren’s story should be fun, en­ter­tain­ing and short.” How short? “Some­thing that may be read aloud by a care­giver in less than 10 min­utes.”

She ad­mits that it was both chal­leng­ing and en­joy­able work­ing with Wayne Chaulk on “Salt­wa­ter Joys.”

“It was and is his story and his song, and I did my best to bring it to life in pic­tures.”

Chaulk him­self writes that the book based on his song “came about be­cause Dawn bor­rowed a mul­ti­tude of my pho­tos and pro­ceeded to paint for three straight months. The re­sult­ing 17 paint­ings ... de­pict many of the sites that in­spired the lyrics of the song.”

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Typ­i­cally, though, Baker works much more from her own imag­i­na­tion.

Now, earn­ing her liveli­hood as a visual artist and chil­dren’s writer is, she says, “a dream come true.”

Since 2006, she has served on the board of direc­tors of The Rooms Cor­po­ra­tion of New­found­land and Labrador, which she has found to be a very re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. She has “got­ten to know so many oth­ers who care deeply about New­found­land and Labrador cul­ture and his­tory.”

While she has un­doubt­edly made a use­ful con­tri­bu­tion, she be­lieves she has “re­ceived much more.”

Mean­while, how are Sarah and Michael far­ing down home in New­found­land? Quite well, ac­tu­ally, once they see what a New­found­land Christ­mas has to of­fer.

Back home, Sarah tells her friend, “All I can say is that I sure hope we can go down home for Christ­mas again next year!”

Baker be­lieves the fu­ture of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture is as­sured, “even in this age of tech­nol­ogy. I hope I never see the day when a four-year-old no longer curls up on an adult’s lap to share an ac­tual book.”

Baker her­self has “pre­cious mem­o­ries of read­ing to my daugh­ter when she was lit­tle. She loved to turn the pages at the ap­pro­pri­ate time. The feel and smell of a good book is al­ways a de­light.”

What else can read­ers an­tic­i­pate from Baker?

She’s rather coy in her re­sponse: “Psy­chol­o­gists claim that the best pre­dic­tor of fu­ture be­hav­iour is past be­hav­iour. In my case, they are right, and my read­ers can ex­pect more books that con­tinue to high­light New­found­land and Labrador.”

Mean­while, she’s grate­ful to those who con­tinue to support her work. “I strive to do my best for them,” she says.

“Once a man twice a child.” So goes a popular tru­ism. As a child, I read my fair share of books. Of late, I find my­self more and more read­ing chil­dren’s books. I won­der if I am, at 57, hav­ing a sec­ond, de­layed child­hood?

All of Dawn Baker’s books are pub­lished by Pen­ny­well Books, an im­print of Flanker Press, St. John’s.

Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

SANTA IN A DORY — Santa Claus traded in his tra­di­tional sleigh for a dory dur­ing Bay Roberts’ an­nual night time Santa Claus pa­rade on Dec. 3. The pa­rade, which trav­elled from the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing to the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, brought out hun­dreds of res­i­dents to see the some-dozen floats. It was a pre­cur­sor to the main Bay Roberts pa­rade, held Dec. 6.

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