Tuesday, February 11, 2014

gifts from the universe

I know this is slightly crazy, but finding treasures at thrift stores often feels like getting gifts from the universe. One of my favourite things to find at thrift stores right now is vintage children's picture books. I don't know what it is but I swear they don't illustrate children's books like they used to. Once home, some books have such appeal to the kids that we read them immediately; others can sit for a long time before we actually get to reading them.

One in the latter category was A Prairie Boy's Summer by William Kuralek. I picked it up at least a year ago when we were reading the Little House series, a decision based solely on the cover. It just looked like something Eldest would eat up. But it languished on the shelf until just last week. What a revelation when we finally read it!

Vintage Canadian children's book

Each spread contains one full-page painting and one page of text. Each page of text talks about a different aspect of William's youth growing up on a prairie farm. At first I found William a bit negative, as most of the things in the stories are about things he didn't particularly like. But midway through the second reading, he's starting to grow on me, with his balanced memories.

Vintage Canadian children's book

So we read through the book once and I thought the vignettes were cute (and also informative about the way people farmed in that time and place) and the paintings were quite beautiful, and then we read the back cover (I don't know how I didn't so much as glance at it before) and discovered that Kuralek was a renowned Canadian painter who died at age 50 in 1977.

 Vintage Canadian children's book

He also wrote A Prairie Boy's Winter, Lumberjack and A Northern Nativity, all of which I'm keen to get my hands on.

 Vintage Canadian children's book

Tonight, after Eldest asked to start the second reading, I googled him to see how I might find his other books (although I'm really hoping the thrift stores will bestow them on me), and I discovered that he suffered deep depressions for which he was hospitalized for years in London. Of course, he still produced great work while he was in hospital, but still. And apparently his father abused him. So I guess that explains that rather negative tone in the store.

I love how these little gifts from thrift stores cause me to discover artists I'd have had no knowledge of otherwise. If you come across this book, I definitely recommend it. I also found out that a lot of his work is at the Niagara Falls Gallery so I'm thinking a trip there may be in order this spring or summer.

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