The day Mammy was about — in the parlance of the times — to be “sick” when sister’s birth was imminent, Pappy took me down to the government wharf to watch a schooner being loaded with lumber.
Six years ago, when our third granddaughter was scheduled to arrive on this planet at the Health Sciences Centre, me and Missus took the slated-to-arrive infant’s Big Sister to The Rooms.
Now b’ys, how’s that for a segue?
“Double Trouble at The Rooms”(Tuckamore Books) has absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of brand new bouncing Earthlings of either sex.
It has to do with something that in a previous life I would have considered a nightmare — taking a busload of school youngsters on a field trip.
Here’s the story’s opening couplet: “Nat is excited. Her class is delighted. / Everyone, even her bear, is invited.”
I immediately wondered about the mental stability of the teacher who invited not only and entire class on a field trip but also — as it turns out — a friggin’ polar bear.
Oh, I’ve failed to mention that “Double Trouble”is a children’s book. Only in a kiddy book — or possibly a John Irving novel — would anyone have a pet polar bear.
Anyway, after a bus ride past jellybean houses and several other St. John’s landmarks all hands arrive at The Rooms. I s’pose all hands arrive – yet once inside the entire class vanishes.
Except for Nat and her polar bear. And poor ol’ Mr. Scott, the teacher assigned to supervise the class expedition.
Imagine the state of Mr. Scott’s nerves as he follows Nat and Bear among the displays housed in The Rooms. Imagine how his already frayed nerves become completely ravelled into unmanageable tatters when “a black bear named Peter” comes to life.
Peter is a hard ticket, a disobedient little pelt.
“Don’t listen to Bill, b’y,” Peter says the instant he becomes animated.
Bill, by the way, is the guard who only a moment before assured Mr. Scott that Peter was “just a display” — a stuffed and mounted bruin designed to resemble Ursus americanus at home in the wilderness.
Not a bit exhausted by the thousand-tiered stairs, the furry pair run rampant in The Rooms.
If you want to buy a copy of “Double Trouble” for your offspring or grandchildren, or even yourself if illustrated children’s books fascinate you, you better scravel and do so because …
… well, because the recent, unconscionable Liberal budget has added sales tax to books and the cost of purchasing will increase.
Truly — I s’pose — I shouldn’t allow personal vitriol to slip into remarks about an enjoyable rhyming children’s book. By rights, I ought to point out the cultural benefits of this book, eh b’ys?
I ought to mention that “Double Trouble” teaches young readers about “Mi’kmaq and Inuit, Irish and French, / hunters and fishermen, ladies and gents,” and their roles in Newfoundland’s history.
I ought to mention that the book shows that children who visit The Rooms will have opportunity view various types of traditional dress, to see and handle — if no teacher or guard is watching — such things as birch bark canoes.
I ought to mention … oh … well, I s’pose I have done so in my imperfect fashion.
Yet, it’s a bloody good thing Nat and her class and even her bear have the chance to visit The Rooms when they do. Otherwise the doors might not be open to them because …
… because the aforementioned shameful budget has reduced the number of hours when The Rooms will be open to the public at no cost.
Am I right?
Okay, enough vitriol.
It’s time to speak of love.
Look at the back of the bus seat on page 4.
Someone has used a marker – a Sharpie p’raps – to scribble a set of initials on the vinyl: LP hearts (the symbol, not the word) SW.
I’m betting the illustrator — God love ‘er — defaced the bus seat.
While painting the Big Pictures, illustrators like to amuse themselves by playing around with tiny details.
“Double Trouble”is illustrated by Elizabeth Pratt-Wheeler.
Elizabeth [Liz] Pratt-Wheeler … LP hearts SW — Liz Pratt hearts Wheeler.
How sweet is that?!
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters is a retired teacher living in Dunville, Placentia Bay. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.