Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sunday May 21st, 2017 Sheila Burnford Collection

The large attendance at the recent showing of Homeward Bound, the Walt Disney movie based on The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, indicates that there are still many people in Thunder Bay who remember Sheila and her work. And some of this work was on display at Trinity Church hall, including foreign editions of The Incredible Journey in many different languages. The good news is that the Sheila Burnford Collection – including her personal papers, typewriter and other artifacts - is going to be held by Thunder Bay Public Library. This will make a unique resource available to the local, provincial, national and international community. It will also enable programming and activities around the collection.

While The Incredible Journey – the story of two dogs and  a cat who travel home through 200 miles of the NW Ontario landscape – is a Canadian Classic, some of Sheila Burnford’s other works are not so well known. There are plans to make a series of documentaries about Sheila – each based on one of her books – to raise their profile.

In The Fields of Noon Sheila Burnford turns to old and new animal friends in a sheaf of reminiscences. Her interests are far-ranging, although always grounded in nature.  Among the creatures who sit for portraits are Tom, a cat that came with the snows and left with the spring and would never submit to human bondage; Claud, the canary whose catered summers are delightfully recorded; and William, the aged dog who had brought up the children and who was then patiently attended by them.

Without Reserve is the true account of two not-exactly-ordinary housewives – Sheila Burnford and her artist friend Susan Ross – and their lives with the Cree and Ojibwa people on their remote northern reserves. Sheila and Susan recorded the wild rice harvesters, Lake Nipigon, the people of the Big Trout Band, spring days at Sandy Lake, Fort Severn, Casabonika and Yelling Falls, and Ohnemoos: the Indian Dog. This connection with First Nations will be explored as an important aspect of the Sheila Burnford Collection at TBPL.

In her next book, One Woman’s Arctic, Sheila Burnford travelled even further afield, and spent two idyllic summers close to the North Pole in the Inuit community of Pond Inlet. She not only appreciated the people and scenery but archaeology; at a nearby dig she participated in the first planned recovery from the permafrost of wooden masks and other artifacts. She explored two strange graves, old traders’ buildings, and blubber cauldrons from whaling days. Everything was recorded in a narrative prose style that enables you to imagine what it was like to experience these adventurers first hand.

Sheila Burnford turned prophet in Mr Noah and the Second Flood when she predicted the outcomes of global warming and climate change. This modern fable tells the story of the original Noah’s great-great-many-times-great grandson’s building another ark when pollution causes a second Deluge.

In her final work, Bel Ria, Sheila Burnford offers the spellbinding tale of a small dog caught up in the Second World War, and of the extraordinary life-transforming attachments he forms with the people he meets in the course of a perilous passage from occupied France to besieged England.

If you have any memories of Sheila Burnford and her family, or any artifacts (such as photos of the world premier of The Incredible Journey in Port Arthur) which you would like to share, please bring them into any branch of Thunder Bay Public Library. We want the Sheila Burnford Collection to become a community-led and driven project which engages with as many local people as possible. By working in partnership with Lakehead University the collection will be available to both academic researchers and those who love the work of Sheila Burnford, Thunder Bay’s very own world class author.

John Pateman

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Sunday May 14th, 2017 Moms at the Library

Whether you call her Mom, Mommy, Mother, Momma or any other of the variations of the title, today is devoted to saying thanks to our mothers and grandmothers, as well as the other women who have helped raise us. Along with traditional families, we live in the new world of single and blended or re-blended families, so the concept of Moms and motherhood has changed drastically. Along with regular moms, there are biological moms, adoptive moms, stepmoms, foster moms, and even moms who are Dads. Despite the television commercials full of fresh-faced toddlers bringing their Mom breakfast in bed, the coming of Mother’s Day can be a mixed bag of emotions. For those who have lost their Mother through death, as well as distance or estrangement, the day can be tinged with sadness, or pain. Scouring the shelves of the library for books about mothers and motherhood, it was easy to see that the image of the perfect mother is being replaced with a more realistic picture of someone who is doing their best to raise another human being. A number of humourists have taken a look at the subject with side splitting results, so this Mother’s Day, take your Mom to dinner, buy her flowers and give her a book that will bring tears to her eyes in a good way.

Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting by Ilana Wiles Wiles, the creator of the wildly successful Mommy Shorts blog, has written a book detailing the highlights and lowlights that she has encountered as she parents her daughters. In a series of essays full of occasional cringe-worthy honesty, Wiles shares stories of her mishaps, (accidently swearing, forgetting about a bake sale, wreaking a favourite outfit in the laundry) and the moments of wonder that come with having children.

Sippy cups are not for chardonnay: and other things I learned as a new Mom by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor From the moment the test turned blue, Wilder-Taylor found herself in a world of parenting “experts”, who happily doled out frequently conflicting advice and opinions on all aspects of her pregnancy and childrearing. The essays and anecdotes deal with everything from breastfeeding to playdates, in a delightful manner that mixes facts with farce.

If You Give a Mom a Martini…100 Ways to Find 10 Blissful Minutes for Yourself by Lyss Stern In a combination of hilarious tales and practical tips, Stern suggests ways that Mothers, whether new or experienced can actually find time for themselves during an average hectic day. The suggestions were culled from friends, neighbours and celebrities and range from the practical to the outlandish but each is guaranteed to raise a smile.

Mother, can you not? : And you thought your Mom was Nuts by Kate Siegel This book is aimed at the child in all of us who cringes when their Mom does or says something embarrassing in public, especially in front of our friends. Told with loving frankness, Siegel details a series of adventures with her own mother for whom the concept of borders and privacy are irrelevant. These are the kind of stories that full sitcoms and lead to either laughter or years of therapy.

Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice by James Lileks For those of us born before the days of bike helmets, baby monitors and infant car seats, it is amazing that we lived to adulthood. Lileks has found a treasure trove of whimsical and frequently frightening advertisements, magazine articles and government issued pamphlets full of obsolete and dangerous ideas from everything from potty training to party ideas.

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Sunday May 7th, 2017 Spring Cleaning


The snow and ice are (almost) all gone after the recent storm that hit Thunder Bay. Now it might finally be time to look ahead in anticipation of warmer days and do some planning. This might include a spring time deep clean of the entire house or maybe just getting things organized and de-cluttered. You might also be looking outside to your yard or garden and thinking of what you want to do with it all this year. Whatever pattern your spring cleaning follows, the Thunder Bay Public Library has services and resources to help get it all done.

The Good Housekeeping Simple Household Wisdom offers smart and stylish ways to find storage space, make the most of your yard, tidy up around the house, enjoy carefree entertaining and more. This book is a great read for anyone who is just moving out on their own for the first time. It is packed with 425 tips and methods for maintain a clean and clutter free home. It also gets into ideas on decorating, entertaining, DIY fixes around your home, and how to save money.

While The Cleaning Ninja may not take off as the next superhero character, it definitely grabs attention with its promise to turn your cleaning routine into an efficient process that can take as little as eight minutes. Given how long it sometimes takes to wrestle the vacuum cleaner out of the closet I maintain some reservations about the eight minute claim but there are definitely some great tips and reminders to help everyone prioritize the work and get through it with as little difficulty as possible.

5 Days To A Clutter-Free House argues that while most of us aren't hoarders we can all benefit from assessing and reducing the clutter in our homes--and then organizing what's left. Many things stop us from succeeding: the sheer scope of the project, the tendency to lose momentum if the job takes too long, and the fact that we're always acquiring new clutter. This book shows how with the right game plan and a healthy dose of adrenaline, anyone can de-clutter their home in just five days. The authors' enthusiasm and energy keep readers pushing forward to the goal, and their time-tested tips and habits help readers maintain their hard-won gains. The authors even show how to deal with common obstacles to achieving and keeping a clutter-free house, like filing, storage needs, health issues, space restrictions, the car, and even family sabotage!

How much time would you save if you didn’t have to spend it looking for mislaid car keys or that school permission slip you should have signed? How much simpler and less stressful could life be, if only you were a little more organized? In I Want To Be Organised, Harriet Griffey shows how a few simple steps can help turn the most chaotic amongst us into the serenely organized. The book is full of practical solutions, tips, and inspiration to help eliminate clutter, chaos, and stress and save both time and money in the process.

For all of your outdoor cleaning, planting, and growing this year don’t be discouraged by the list of necessary tools for every job. In partnership with Roots to Harvest we have recently opened Canada’s very first Garden Tool Lending Libraries at the Brodie and Waverley Resource Libraries. From helpful how-to books, to agriculture focused documentaries, you’ll not only find the tools you need but also some inspiration at your public library.

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sunday April 30th, 2017 The Incredible Journey

The best characters from books live on through the decades and new audiences continue to discover them and to love them. Sherlock Holmes, Anne of Green Gables, Jay Gatsby and Harry Potter each evoke a certain personality, an era and a setting which is enigmatic and unique and which invite the reader to imagine themselves actually there. Devoted readers often do travel to the physical settings where their favourite stories were set in an effort to deepen their experience or as an homage to the author. Who hasn’t imagined being able to peek in on Dr. Frankenstein in his experimental lab or to trace the footsteps of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Sheila Burnford, who was born in Scotland but spent most of her life living in Thunder Bay (Port Arthur) and was the creator of several books, including The Incredible Journey. The book was published in 1961 and told the story of three house pets who undertook a 300 miles trek through the Canadian wilderness to return to their family home. The story became famous world-wide when Disney made the book into the film The Incredible Journey in 1963.

Part of the popularity of the book and subsequent film is following the young Labrador Retriever Luath, the capable Siamese cat Tao and the aging and partially blind bulldog Bodger as they face the varied challenges of their journey over streams, past dangerous animals, pushing through physical ordeals and lack of food as they pursue their single-minded goal of returning to their home. Readers who grew up in Thunder Bay should have no trouble imagining these perils as the story was based on the true-life pets of Sheila Burnford and the setting is none other than the natural environment of the Thunder Bay region.

There is a project underway to celebrate “our” Sheila Burnford and to gather together all of the historical information about her, her own life and many adventures, her writings, drawings and collaborations with artist Susan Ross and memorabilia about The Incredible Journey, both the book and the film which actually held its world premiere in Port Arthur. LU professor Ron Harpelle and local filmmaker Kelley Saxburg have been working on a documentary about the author’s forays into Canada’s far north and it has led them on their own “incredible journey” of documenting her life. All of their research and contact with the Burnford family itself has led to a wealth of documentation, including photographs, manuscripts, artwork, memorabilia and the like which is all being scanned, preserved and digitized. The Thunder Bay Public Library has partnered with them on the next stage of this project which is to preserve and  bring Sheila Burnford’s local connections and great achievements to a larger audience – the citizens of Thunder Bay, the researchers, the book lovers and the wider world. Eventually, this will lead to a Sheila Burnford Research Room at the Library but right now the partners would like to invite you to learn more about all of this and to that end we are hosting a special film screening of the original Incredible Journey. We will also have many fascinating objects and documents for you to view on site so that you can see and in some cases, remember Ms. Burnford and her time in Thunder Bay and her many travels.

If you knew her or Susan Ross, or have good memories of the premiere or of reading her books, or if you would like to know more we invite you to this free screening. We would love to meet you. We also invite you to bring any objects or photos or letters you might have to contribute to this ongoing project. Rather like the Antique Roadshow model, we will have people on site to accept your contributions and get their story or to scan the objects prior to the screening. You can be a part of this important and relevant local story as it is evolving! Help us to preserve and celebrate this legendary author who is part of our local history.

Screening: At Trinity United Church Hall
Saturday May 13th
Doors open at 1:00
Screening and opening remarks by Jonquil Burnford and dignitaries at 2p.m.

Angela Meady