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Author Spotlight: Kyo Maclear
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Author Spotlight: Kyo Maclear

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Kyo Maclear is an essayist, novelist and children’s author whose work we can't get enough of (thank goodness she's prolific!). Her memoir, Birds Art Life—which explores the intangible connections between nature, creativity and well-being—has just been nominated for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
Birds Art Life

Birds Art Life

A Field Guide to the Small and Significant
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

A writer's search for inspiration, beauty and solace leads her to birds in this intimate and exuberant meditation on creativity and life—a field guide to things small and significant.

For Vladimir Nabokov, it was butterflies. For John Cage, it was mushrooms. For Sylvia Plath, it was bees. Each of these artists took time away from their work to become observers of natural phenomena. In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a local Toronto musician with an equally captivating side passion—he had recently lost …

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Excerpt

One winter, not so long ago, I met a musician who loved birds. This musician, who was then in his mid-thirties, had found he could not always cope with the pressures and disappoint­ments of being an artist in a big city. He liked banging away on his piano like Fats Waller but performing and promoting himself made him feel anxious and de­pressed. Very occasionally his depression served him well and allowed him to write lonesome songs of love but most of the time it just ate at him. When he fell in love with birds and began to photograph them, his anxieties dissipated. The sound of birdsong reminded him to look outwards at the world.
 
That was the winter that started early. It snowed end­lessly. I remember a radio host saying: “Global warming? Ha!” It was also the winter I found myself with a broken part. I didn’t know what it was that was broken, only that whatever widget had previously kept me on plan, running fluidly along, no longer worked as it should. I watched those around me who were still successfully carrying on, organizing meals and careers and children. I wanted to be reminded. I had lost the beat.
 
My father had recently suffered two strokes. Twice—when the leaves were still on the trees—he had fallen and been unable to get up. The second fall had been particularly frightening, accompanied by a dangerously high fever brought on by sepsis, and I wasn’t sure he would live. The MRI showed microbleeds, stemming from tiny ruptured blood vessels in my father’s brain.
The same MRI also revealed an unruptured cerebral aneurysm. An “incidental finding,” according to the neurologist, who explained, to our concerned faces, his decision to withhold surgery because of my father’s age.
 
During those autumn months, when my father’s situation was most uncertain, I felt at a loss for words. I did not speak about the beeping of monitors in generic hospital rooms and the rhythmic rattle of orderlies pushing soiled linen basins through the corridors. I did not deliver my thoughts on the cruelty of bed shortages (two days on a gurney in a corridor, a thin blanket to cover his hairless calves and pale feet), the smell of hospital food courts and the strange appeal of waiting room couches—slick vinyl, celery green, and deceptively soft. I did not speak of the relief of coming home late at night to a silent house and filling a tub with water, slipping under the bubbles and closing my eyes, the quiet soapy comfort of being cleaned instead of cleaning, of being a woman condi­tioned to soothe others, now soothed. I did not speak about the sense of incipient loss. I did not know how to think about illness that moved slowly and erratically but that could fell a person in an instant.

I experienced this wordlessness in my life but also on the page. In the moments I found to write, I often fell asleep. The act of wrangling words into sentences into paragraphs into stories made me weary. It seemed an overly complicated, dubious effort. My work now came with a recognition that my father, the person who had instilled in me a love of language, who had led me to the writing life, was losing words rapidly.
 
Even though the worst of the crisis passed quickly, I was afraid to go off duty. I feared that if I looked away, I would not be prepared for the loss to come and it would flatten me. I had inherited from my father (a former war reporter/professional pessimist) the belief that an expectancy of the worst could provide in its own way a ring of protection. We followed the creed of preventive anxiety.
 
It is possible too that I was experiencing something known as anticipatory grief, the mourning that occurs before a certain loss. Anticipatory. Expectatory. Trepi­datory. This grief had a dampness. It did not drench or drown me but it hung in the air like a pallid cloud, thinning but never entirely vanishing. It followed me wherever I went and gradually I grew used to looking at the world through it.
 
I had always assumed grief was experienced purely as a sadness. My received images of grief came from art school and included portraits of keening women, mourners with heads bowed, hands to faces, weeping by candlelight. But anticipatory grief, I was surprised to learn, demanded a different image, a more alert posture. My job was to remain standing or sitting, monitoring all directions continually. Like the women who, according to legend, once paced the railed rooftop platforms of nineteenth-century North American coastal houses, watching the sea for incom­ing ships, hence earning those lookouts the name widow’s walk. I was on the lookout, scouring the horizon from every angle, for doom.

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Julia, Child

Julia, Child

by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Julie Morstad
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter -- and that it is best to be a child forever. Sharing a love of cooking and having no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and dawdle too little, they decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up and mastering the art of having a good time, Julia, Child is a fictional tale loosely …

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Flo

Flo

A Picture Book
edition:Hardcover
tagged : bears

A witty picture book, starring an adorable panda, that celebrates relaxing, stopping to smell the roses, and being yourself!

Meet Flo! Flo is the littlest panda. She likes to explore, relax, and enjoy everything around her. She is never in a hurry. But . . . sometimes she takestoo muchtime, and the other pandas get impatient. One day they find themselves in trouble. Can Flo’s floppy ways save the day? With Kyo Maclear’s sweet, spare text and Jay Fleck’s bold, bright illustrations,Flois sure …

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Mr. Flux

Mr. Flux

by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Matte Stephens
edition:Hardcover

Martin and his neighbors eschew change until eccentric Mr. Flux moves in and shows them that change can be big or little or even fit inside a box, and not at all scary. A tongue-in-cheek tale loosely inspired by the 1960s art movement known as Fluxus.

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Specific Ocean, The

Specific Ocean, The

by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Katty Maurey
edition:Hardcover
tagged : adolescence

In this gently told picture book, a young girl is unhappy about having to leave the city for a family vacation on the Pacific Ocean (which she used to call the Specific Ocean). As the days pass, however, she is drawn to spend more time in and near the water, feeling moved by its beauty and rhythms. “The ocean does its own thing, rolling backward and forward. Wash, swash, splush, hush. There is no late or hurry or racing in ocean time.” By the end of the vacation, the girl has grown to love t …

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Spork

Spork

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover
tagged :

His mum is a spoon. His dad is a fork. And he's a bit of both. He's Spork! Spork sticks out in the regimented world of the cutlery drawer. The spoons think he's too pointy, while the forks find him too round. He never gets chosen to be at the table at mealtimes until one day a very messy — thing arrives in the kitchen who has never heard of cutlery customs. Will Spork finally find his place at the table? This "multi-cutlery" tale is a humorous and lively commentary on individuality and toleran …

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The Liszts

The Liszts

by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Julia Sarda
edition:Hardcover

The Liszts make lists. They make lists most usual and lists most unusual. They make lists in winter, spring, summer and fall. They make lists every day except Sundays, which are listless. Mama Liszt, Papa Liszt, Winifred, Edward, Frederick and Grandpa make lists all day long. So does their cat. Then one day a visitor arrives. He's not on anyone's list. Will the Liszts be able to make room on their lists for this new visitor? How will they handle something unexpected arising? Kyo Maclear's quirky …

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Virginia Wolf

Virginia Wolf

edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
tagged : siblings

Vanessa's sister, Virginia, is in a "wolfish" mood -- growling, howling and acting very strange. It's a funk so fierce, the whole household feels topsy-turvy. Vanessa tries everything she can think of to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work. Then Virginia tells Vanessa about an imaginary, perfect place called Bloomsberry. Armed with an idea, Vanessa begins to paint Bloomsberry on the bedroom walls, transforming them into a beautiful garden complete with a ladder and swing "so that what was do …

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