HUSER, Glen




Author Tags: Fiction, Kidlit & Young Adult

Winning a Governor General's award for children's literature is high acclaim. Having a member of Monty Python read your books set to children's operettas is a whole other honour. In Glen Huser's latest picture books "The Golden Touch" and "Flowers, Time for Snow", Glen Huser's words are read by the renowned British comedy group's Terry Jones and recorded on CDs. The CDs are included in the books.

Both titles retell Greek myths: The Golden Touch tackles the story of a foolish king whose lust for gold almost cost him his family and his life; Flowers, Time for Snow recreates the legend of Demeter and Persephone and why we have different seasons each year.

Libraries have inspired almost every author in the world. Alberta-raised Glen Huser is just one of millions whose lives were shaped by libraries. He was a teacher and librarian for most of his life, in Edmonton, until he moved to Vancouver in 2008 to teach writing at UBC. He recalls:

"My hometown of Ashmont was very small. As a teenager, I was always looking for chances to get away to the “big city” – Edmonton – where I could catch the latest Elvis Presley movie, and browse through its gigantic library (even if I wasn’t allowed, as a non-resident, to check any of the books out). Libraries intrigued me, and when I found out there were a number of boxes of books stowed away in the attic of the Ashmont Municipal Building, I convinced the town officials to let me set them out again in what had once been a makeshift library with rough wooden shelving and a barrel-shaped, wood-burning stove. One general merchant even donated some paint for the shelves. Convincing a couple of friends to help me, we painted the shelves – two coats in fact, which never quite seemed to dry – and the book covers were always encrusted with bits of apple green paint. My friends and I “played librarian” – but mainly the old, donated book-of-the-month club selections and ancient encyclopedia sets provided me with reading material for my mid-teen years."

In 2011, he wrote:

"A few weeks back, an Ontario school made the news with its innovative initiative of taking all of the books in its library and replacing them with computers. The books were portioned out to classrooms. I couldn’t help shaking my head as I recalled working in schools in Alberta in the 1960s and early 70s when classroom collections of books were being consolidated in school libraries (learning resource centers). It seems that the old saw about everything going around coming around is as much in place today as it ever was.

"A library landscape devoid of books is, to my mind, a pretty sad prospect. I realize that research tools are abundantly available on computers now and works of fiction and nonfiction can be accessed on various e-readers. But a room filled with computers and plastic tablets strikes me as about alluring as a garden full of artificial flowers. I love the feel of a book to my hands – its size and shape and heft, the texture of the paper – even the smell of most books. Illustrations in books involve a fusion of ink and paint and paper that is pleasing in a way that a photographed screen representation can never capture. Shelves filled with books have always struck me as displays of treasure – treasure filled with the mystery and promise of life and the universe.

"I think the Ontario school that went totally cyber was a secondary school. We can hope a little more thought was given to their elementary sites. As a teacher-librarian committed to reading to children, I find it difficult to imagine sharing a plastic e-reader with a group of kindergarten kids in a story corner. For years, I had a collection of pop-up books that I shared with students on special occasions. They loved the paper sculptures that sprang to life as pages were turned.
But even in secondary schools, I believe real books have a place alongside virtual books. Kids of all ages should have the option of taking a break from omnipresent screens to curl up in a comfortable spot with a book that offers small satisfying sounds as pages are turned – sounds like a whispering of the winds of thought. They should be able to enjoy the feel of their fingers resting on paper, the companionable comfort of a volume resting open, inverted over a thigh as the reader rests his eyes for a few minutes or chats with a friend. Even unopened, books are a kind of pleasing embellishment to any room. I dread the day when all ornamentation in the spaces in which we live will be turned on with the flick of a switch – and we’ll see plastic walls with electronic visuals of the décor du jour."

Glen Huser has won many important awards for his young adult novels. The Runaway, set in 1923, describes the adventures of Leroy "Doodlebug" Barnstable, on the run from two abusive cousins, as he spends time with an itinerant Chautauqua outfit.

BOOKS:

The Golden Touch (Tradewind 2015) 978-1-896580-73-9 $20

Flowers, Time for Snow (Tradewind 2014) 978-1-896580-26-5 $18.95

The Runaway (Tradewind 2011) 978-896580-21-0 $12.95

Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen (Groundwood, 2008) $9.95 978-0-88899-733-3

Stitches (Groundwood, 2003) 0-88899-578-4

Touch of the Clown (Groundwood, 1999) $8.95 0-88899-357-9

AWARDS:

Stitches
- Governor General's Literary Award 2003: *Winner*
-CCBC Our Choice 2004: *Selected*
-Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice 2004: *Selected*
-SSLI Book Awards 2004: *Honor Book*
-OLA Red Maple Award 2005: *Nominated*

Touch of the Clown
-R. Ross Annett Award for Children's Literature 1999: *Nominee*
-OLA Silver Birch Award 1999: *Nominee*
-Golden Eagle Award 2003: *Nominee*
-OLA Red Maple Award 2000: *Nominee*

Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen
-Governor General's Literary Awards (text) 2006: *Finalist*
-Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize 2007: *Nominee*
-Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award 2007: *Shortlisted*
-Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award 2008: *Shortlisted*
-Maine State Library Cream of the Crop List 2007: *Selected*
-OLA Best Bets - Top 10 Fiction for Young Adults 2007: *Selected*
-CCBC Our Choice 2007: *Starred Selection*
-OLA Red Maple Award 2008: *Nominee*
-SSLI Honor Book Award 2007: *Selected*

[BCBW 2011]

Build it and they will write
Article (2012)


from Glen Huser
You might have heard about a controversial plan to revolutionize the facilities of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. The NY Central Library Board wants to send two million books to a warehouse in New Jersey.
The idea is to make the iconic building more friendly to tourists and comfy—with a café, of course. Writers have launched an offensive to defend the soul of the library, its books.
Some 1,000 authors and scholars, including Salman Rushdie and Mario Vargas Llosa, have signed a broadside petition in hopes of thwarting the relegation of books to mere warehouse objects. Of course it won’t happen here… Almost every author on the planet has been inspired by libraries. Here Glen Huser—shortlisted for the 2012 Sheila A. Egoff Prize for Children’s Literature for his young adult novel, The Runaway (Tradewind $12.95)—looks at the importance of the library in schools and society—and in his career.

My hometown of Ashmont in Alberta was very small, so as a teenager, I was always looking for chances to get away to the big city, to Edmonton, where I could catch the latest Elvis Presley movie, and browse through its gigantic library, even if I wasn’t allowed, as a non-resident, to check any of the books out.

Libraries intrigued me. When I found there were boxes of books stowed away in the attic of the Ashmont Municipal Building, I convinced the town officials to let me set them out again, in what had once been a makeshift library, with rough wooden shelving and a barrel-shaped, wood-burning stove.
One merchant donated some paint for the shelves. Convincing a couple of friends to help me, we painted the shelves—two coats in fact, which never quite seemed to dry—and the book covers were always encrusted with bits of apple green paint. My friends and I “played librarian.” Old, donated book-of-the-month club selections and ancient encyclopedia sets provided me with reading material for my mid-teen years.
Now I see an Ontario school has made the news with an initiative to take away all the books in its library and replace them with computers. A library landscape devoid of books is, to my mind, a pretty sad prospect.

I realize that research tools are abundantly available on computers now and works of fiction and non-fiction can be accessed on various e-readers. But a room filled with computers and plastic tablets strikes me as about as alluring as a garden full of artificial flowers.

I love the feel of a book to my hands—its size and shape and heft, the texture of the paper—even the smell of most books. Illustrations in books involve a fusion of ink and paint and paper that is pleasing in a way that a photographed screen representation can never capture. Shelves filled with books have always struck me as displays of treasure—treasure filled with the mystery and promise of life and the universe.

I think the Ontario school that went cyber was a secondary school. We can hope a little more thought was given to their elementary sites. As a former teacher-librarian committed to reading to children, I find it difficult to imagine sharing a plastic e-reader with a group of kindergarten kids in a story corner.

For years, I had a collection of pop-up books that I shared with students on special occasions. They loved the paper sculptures that sprang to life as pages were turned.

But even in secondary schools, I believe real books have a place alongside virtual books. Kids of all ages should have the option of taking a break from omnipresent screens to curl up in a comfortable spot with a book that offers small satisfying sounds as pages are turned—sounds like a whispering of the winds of thought. They should be able to enjoy the feel of their fingers resting on paper, the companionable comfort of a volume resting open, inverted over a thigh as the reader rests his eyes for a few minutes or chats with a friend.
Even unopened, books are a kind of pleasing embellishment to any room. I dread the day when all ornamentation in the spaces in which we live will be turned on with the flick of a switch—and we’ll see plastic walls with electronic visuals of the décor du jour.

Meanwhile, in 2010, more books than ever before in history were published. An unprecedented number of new books were released in print format in the U.S. alone, according to Bowker, the company that manages Books in Print—excluding so-called e-books.

That’s where libraries are needed. Libraries do an amazing job of winnowing, separating wheat from chaff, somehow deciding what books are needed more for society than others beyond the dizzying maze of the internet.

Glen Huser’s the runaway, set in 1923, describes the adventures of Leroy “Doodlebug” Barnstable on the run from two abusive cousins, as he spends time with a Chautauqua [traveling carnival].

978-896580-21-0

DID YOU KNOW?:

The Canadian Library Association is seriously concerned about the negative impact of government budget cuts on libraries in federal departments and at Library and Archives Canada. While not all details are known at this time, indications are that libraries are being hit hard by budget reductions.
At Library and Archives Canada, 430 people have been given notices, with more than 200 jobs to be cut over the next three years, representing a reduction of 20% of their workforce. They have also had to cut their acquisitions budget, end their role in national inter-library loan activities, and cut the National Archival Development Program, which has provided funding to Canadian archival organizations to increase their capacity to preserve archival materials and make them available to Canadians.
According to the CLA, these cuts will negatively impact Library and Archives Canada’s ability to provide front-line services, resulting in reduced access to information for Canadians.

According to a recent Mustel poll,
here are the percentages for Vancouver residents who reported visiting
(at least once) a building offering the following events, activities, art or books:

Ballet: 4.01%
Opera: 6.15%
Ice skating: 14.05%
Health/Fitness club/centre: 17.5%
Art gallery: 19.14%
Zoo/Aquarium: 19.93%
Museums: 21.61%
Swimming: 24.32%
Vancouver Public Library: 74%

[BCBW 2012]