Tuesday, June 17, 2008


A seriously good time was had by moi as I prowled through a few of my favourite second-hand book shops in the last few days. Today I was thrilled to come across an copy (hard cover with a dust jacket) of an Ann Blade book I'd never heard of: The Cottage at Crescent Beach published in 1977 by Magook Publishers Ltd., a publisher I'd never heard of. Then, I troll further through the stack and came across a little soft cover with the title in big red caps.: MAGOOK, also published in 1977. And, inside is also the same story by Ann Blades followed by a four-page bio with pictures, a "new poem" by Dennis Lee (I Eat Kids Yum, Yum!), a craft (how to make paper), another story, The Halloween Switch by G. Joan Morris, and a fold out (the back cover) comic, Magook, by M. and W. Brown. Serious second-hand scores!

So, first MAGOOK. I'm a bit slow on the up-take, but it's a cross between magazine and book. The editors' note says: "MAGOOK! Sound funny? Well, we are a kind of cross between a magazine and a book because each and every issue will feature a complete book. We are something new, and we are pretty excited about it.") Apparently it was a venture of McClelland and Stewart although I can't find too much on-line about it. The one I picked up was the first issue and the publication notes say it will be published 16 times a year. (Working on a magazine that comes out six times a year I can't fathom 16!) More searching only came up with reference to 4 (possibly 5), so, sadly, it never lasted. No visuals available for either Crescent Beach or MAGOOK -- I must get that scanner hooked up so I can show you.

Another nice surprise in the hard copy was a newspaper clipping about Ann. No date, but I suspect it's from the same era (late 1970s) as the book. Ann's art is so recognizable -- I know most of her work: Mary of Mile 18 (which won the Children's Book of the Year in 1972 as voted by the Canadian Library Association); A Dog Came, Too; A Salmon for Simon and so on. I have to say that the art in The Cottage at Crescent Beach is the loveliest of the bunch IMHO. The soft watercolours are perfect for the nostalgic remembrance of a childhood at Crescent Beach before it was consumed by White Rock (my mom remembers going there as a child, too -- it was out in the "country" then of course) and the illustration of the children underwater is particularly beautiful and evocative.

The article I found in the book is a really interesting read, too, recounting Blade's career and early attempts and successes when there were very few children's books being published in Canada. In the article, Ricky Englander (who went on to start Kids Can Press) is interviewed in her capacity as librarian at the Children's Book Centre in Toronto. The article also talks about Blades' nervousness at being asked to illustrate books by Margaret Atwood (Anna's Pet) and Margaret Laurence (Six Darn Cows):

"Six Darn Cows came out in November 1979. Blades laughs as she recalls a meeting with Margaret Laurence. 'She liked my illustrations, but I said I thought the cows looked a bit like dogs. Then she hugged me and said, 'They're lovely cows.'" Imagine having the honour of illustrating the work of those two Margarets!

So, I wonder, have any of you ever heard of (or perhaps you remember?) MAGOOK? What were the other copies like?


Jane said...

Thanks! for this!! My husband grew up in White Rock and for the past 20 years, we have brought our children to the family summer home on Mayne Island. We now live in northwest GA, USA. This week, we just came back from visiting family in White Rock and Mayne and I spent my first time ever on Crescent Beach! We had read a library copy of Ann Blade's story "The Cottage at Crescent Beach" to our children when they were small and we lived in Ontario. Visiting Crescent Beach this time made me want to find that book. All I can find on the Internet is two copies selling for $185 each!! So I'm GLAD to know that the whole story is contained is this other volume that you describe!! Thanks so much!!! (Lucky you, making those finds in a bookstore!!!)

Meshon said...

I have six of these MAGOOKs! I got them when I was little and I just had a nostalgic look at them. They are really cool, the kind of thing I just wish had kept going. They are very... Canadian. There are lots of bilingual stories and great illustrations, along with poems and writing from folks like Dennis Lee, Farley Mowat and Sylvia Tyson. I'm definitely going to save these for when my little guy gets a bit older.