Monday, August 25, 2008

Reminding The World Of Richler's Work

The Globe and Mail reports that a new Jacob Two-Two is in the works. Though original author Mordecai Richler was under contract to write a fourth Jacob Two-Two when he died in 2001, this new book will be written by Canadian author Cary Fagan. Richler's first three Jacob Two-Two books will be re-released with new artwork by Dusan Petricic.

This new book and the rerelease of the original ones should make a big splash in 2009. I hope it will remind readers of Richler's great adult work, too.

Thanks to Big A, little a for the link.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Vacations And Books

Several times over the years I've had these bizarre experiences in which my reading intersected with my traveling.

For instance, not long before I took off for Ottawa last weekend, I finished reading A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies by Ellen Cooney, which I heartily recommend if you are a long-married lady, gentle or otherwise. In this book, a character mentions the Rideau River. Wouldn't you know it, last Monday I went biking on the Rideau Canal.

Then, I finished reading Beige by Cecil Castellucci before I even got out of the country. The main character lives in Montreal and twice mentioned poutine. Yup, I ate poutine three times last week. My goal was to eat it once each day, so I failed miserably.

I didn't knock off as many books this vacation as I have on others. For one reason, I was reading Mr. Emerson's Wife by Amy Belding Brown. Though I do love them Transcendentalists, it's not a book for whipping through in the car. Get this, though--yesterday we were in Saratoga Springs and who did I read was there before me? Say, a hundred fifty or sixty years before me? Mr. Emerson himself.

I also didn't do as much book reading because while I was still in Canada I was spending time reading The National Post's series on Mordecai Richler. I was talking about his children's book series here just last...okay, it was back in March. But I am very fond of Richler. The National Post did the series on him because Canadian TV was running a new production of St. Urbain's Horseman, which I read a hundred years ago.

Okay, then I went to The Canadian Museum of Civilization. It had this new exhibit, Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall, and who do you suppose was there? Yes, Samuel de Champlain, but also, Mordecai Richler!

Come on!

You know, but in all the reading I did about him last week, I'm still not sure how to pronounce his name.

Anyway, I just love when my reading and traveling come together like that.

Though I've just told you that I didn't do as much reading as usual, above you will see me rudely ignoring everyone around me so I can read while waiting for a train.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Book For Your Younger Boys

A few weeks ago a conversation was going at one of my listservs on books for rowdy boys. (I'm up to six listservs now. I haven't even looked at three of them in over a week.) Someone suggested the Jacob Two-Two books by Mordecai Richler.

Well, wouldn't you know it, Richler is another meaningful figure for Gail. I took two semesters of Canadian lit when I was in college, trying to get in touch with my ancestors. It didn't work because the course didn't cover any French Canadian literature for the obvious reason that it was taught in English. (Or maybe there was something political going on. I mean there should have been some English translations of French Canadian work, right?) So I left the academic world with no greater understanding of my forebears but with the feeling that people like Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, and Mordecai Richler were friends of my youth.

So after being reminded that Richler had written for children, I went right out and found (at A Reading Fool's library) a copy of Jacob Two-Two's First Spy Case. Though the book was published in the 1990s (not so very long ago) it has a retro feel that is charming rather than dated. It's probably due to the fact that Richler began the three-book Jacob series twenty years earlier, in the mid-70s. (Evidently adult authors have been dipping into the kidlit pool for a while.)

Though it might be retro even for that period. Jacob is the youngest of five children, at least a couple of whom have some unusual interests. Dad is loving but a little on the curmudgeony side. The book seems a little bit of a throwback to stories about slightly eccentric English families.

That's not a complaint, by the way. I like those books.

There's lots of wordplay, which I'm not terribly fond of, myself, though I understand kids like it. The book also has a lot of material built around very traditional kid interests--spies, card tricks (a very good one), superheroes, and over-the-top adult nasties at school. Who are, of course, defeated by Jacob.

And these books are truly set somewhere--Montreal. A lot of short chapter books don't have a strong sense of being about any particular place.

Jacob Two-Two is a very real character. His books would be great for the kind of traditional boys boy who thinks books aren't for kids like him.

And in Canada you can watch Jacob Two-Two on TV. It looks as if he's been on Cartoon Network, too. And there's a Canadian band named Jacob Two-Two. They definitely have a Richler connection. If you click on the line "Mordecai Richler's Letter," you'll see copies of the letter a band member wrote him and his response. His response--priceless.

Forget about the freaking Newbery Medal! I want a band named after one of my characters!!!

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