Tag Archives: François Thisdale

Nini by François Thisdale

NiniCreated by the illustrator of the mesmerizing, award-winning The Stamp CollectorNini may be François Thisdale‘s most personal story – it’s directly inspired by his experience about the adoption of his own daughter. “It was a wonderful challenge, having to say intimate things with words and images,” he reveals in an interview for IQ Magazine, available on his website.

‘Intimate’ is exactly the word that describes this exquisite, profound journey of how a family comes together across oceans and cultures. On one side of the globe, a baby hears an unseen voice tell her of “many mysterious things,” of rice patties and lotus flowers, of a little house with a pointed roof, of golden fields and jagged mountains. “Warm and safe, she listened carefully to all [the voice] said.” When she enters the world, “The first face she saw was the sweet face that belonged to the voice. The first hands she felt were the soft hands of love.” But all too soon, the baby finds herself not in the little pointed-roof house, but in a very large building filled with many rooms. In spite of “friendly hands” that feed her, keep her clean, “they were not the soft hands that had first held her.”

Thousands of miles away, a woman “rubbed her womb” and waits for a baby that will never be. But soon she’s sent a “precious gift” – a picture filled with promise: “From the moment the man and woman saw that photo, the baby became part of them. They carried her in their hearts.” As the family comes together, they will carry her in their arms, as she will forever carry the “distant echoes” that join past and present, “like a bridge that connects one place to another.”

Evocative and stirring, almost every spread is filled with sumptuous wonder. [I add that 'almost' because of one somewhat eerie close-up baby image that gave me pause.] Thisdale’s multilayered images that combine watercolors, photos, stamps, Chinese characters, and more, create a resplendent backdrop to a story so filled with longing and love. More than just another adoption tale, Nini is stunning testimony to the power of family.

Readers: Children

Published: 2009, 2011 (Canada, United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Translation, Canadian, Chinese

The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier, illustrated by François Thisdale

Stamp CollectorHere’s how this mesmerizing book begins … and ends:

“This is a story of not long ago and not far away.
It is the story of a boy who loves stamps and a boy who loves words.
This is the story of a life that is lost.
And found.”

The boy who loves stamps lives in the city, “in the shadow of a grey prison.” His philatelism originates with “a scrap of paper on the street,” which his grandfather deems ”not rare or precious’” upon inspecting the emerald-green stamp, “‘[b]ut it is beautiful.’” In a nearby village lives the boy who loves words, who “devours every poem and fable” and yet “hungers [f]or stories.” Lost in his own world, he “finds stories all around him. He learns to capture them. He writes.”

Both boys grow up. One puts his dreams of far-away away, and becomes a prison guard. The other buries his stories within and finds a factory job. When his soul is near bursting, the village boy writes a story that brings “joy and hope to the villagers. But it brings fear to others.” His “dangerous” words land him in the guard’s prison.

Years pass, and the guard and the writer tentatively attempt a silent friendship. It begins with a single stamp passed through the bars: “[e]very stamp tells a story without words. The writer knows he is not alone now. Not forgotten.” When stamps are not enough, the guard secretly delivers letters from all over the word that the writer was never supposed to see, each asking for “one more story.” The writer weakly whispers, the guard bravely listens … and just how much both are willing to risk for that final tale is a bittersweet triumph to behold.

Captured in remarkable, atmospheric art by François Thisdale, who fills the pages with such exquisite, breathtaking details that will make you pause with every turn, The Stamp Collector is both illuminating storytelling as well as an act of sheer defiance. Author Jennifer Lanthier reveals in her closing essay, “Freedom to Write, Freedom to Read”: “This story was inspired by two writers: Nurmuhemmet Yasin and Jiang Weiping.” The latter, a journalist, lives free in Canada after surviving six years in a Chinese prison for exposing government corruption. The former, a writer, has already lost 10 years in jail for writing “The Wild Pigeon,” a short, allegorical fable that represents the indigenous Uyghur experience under Chinese rule. In 2009, the International PEN Uyghur Center‘s website tragically “… reports from credible sources that Nurmuhemmet Yasin may have been tortured to death in prison.”

“Countless writers” remain trapped throughout the world, Lanthier reminds, “because of something they wrote.” Organizations like PEN International are advocating on behalf of these writers, and also corresponding directly with the prisoners and their families “… to reassure them that they are not forgotten.” In solidarity and support, partial proceeds from Stamp are being directed to PEN Canada, which helped orchestrate Jiang Weiping’s release and immigration. That’s irrefutable testimony to the power of words: while words can tragically bind you, words are also the very tools that can – and will – set you free.

Readers: All

Published: 2012

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