On Thursday, September 29th at 10:30 a.m., the classic children’s book The Cat and the Wizard, written by Dennis Lee and illustrated by Gillian Johnson, will be marked on the front lawn of Casa Loma, the building in which the story takes place. The installation is the first children’s Bookmark and the 17th location on Canada’s literary trail.
“This first children’s Bookmark is a celebration of literature and literacy, and an inspiration to a younger generation to find magic in books,” says Miranda Hill, founder of Project Bookmark Canada. Hill believes the installation will have resonance for readers and visitors of all ages. “I was read this story as a child, and as a parent, I read it to my children. I have no doubt that they will share The Cat and the Wizard with their own children, when the time comes,” says Hill.
The Cat and the Wizard first appeared as a poem in the collection Nicholas Knock and Other People, published in 1974 by Macmillan of Canada. Today, The Cat and the Wizard is published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Dennis Lee has written collections of poetry for adults and children, including the Canadian children’s classic Alligator Pie. His work has won numerous awards including the Governor General’s Award and the Mr. Christie Book Award. Lee says that setting a story at Casa Loma was particularly satisfying. “When I was young, Casa Loma was one of the great mythical places in Toronto. And when I started writing children’s poetry, it was a treat to furnish it with a fairy tale of its own – especially when Gillian Johnson brought it to life with such inspired panache. Now, with this Bookmark, the place and the poem come together in a way that enchants me,” Lee says.
Gillian Johnson’s spellbinding work can be found in over thirty children’s books, published worldwide and translated into 10 languages, but she says that this collaboration was particularly wonderful. “Illustrating this love poem was pure joy. Thank you Dennis for asking me to try capture some of the magic of your unlikely soul mates in this most extraordinary setting of Casa Loma,” says Johnson. “It’s a poem that lingers in the heart. Project Bookmark now anchors it joyfully in the physical world.”
The Bookmark’s gracious host at Casa Loma is Liberty Entertainment Group, which took on the management of the iconic Toronto landmark in 2014. “Casa Loma is extremely proud to have provided inspiration for The Cat and the Wizard,” says Holly Steward, Chief Operating Officer, Casa Loma. “We are delighted to be the site of this Bookmark and excited to support Project Bookmark in bringing new readers to the story and enhancing literacy across the country.”
Bookmark’s Hill says that she couldn’t think of a more perfect location to kick off a children’s component to Canada’s literary trail. “Under the management of Liberty Entertainment Group, the castle has become an even more successful entertainment destination for tourists and Toronto residents. It’s wonderful that this special place can help to promote and showcase reading as one of the greatest entertainments of all.”
As of September 29th, you can also discover the Bookmark and the story behind it online with a special exhibit featuring readings and interviews with Dennis Lee, and illustrations inspired by the poem. The exhibit is produced by Angela Shackel of Accounts and Records and was made possible with the generous contribution of the Good Foundation Inc.
Project Bookmark Canada is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and individual donors. Find out more at http://www.projectbookmarkcanada.ca/#your-canlit-trail