________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 12. . . .November 23, 2012.


The Stamp Collector.

Jennifer Lanthier. Illustrated by François Thisdale.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-218-4.

Subject Heading:
Friendship-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



Although The Stamp Collector is in the form of a picture book, it is not a work for preschoolers. The powerful subject is one of the importance of political and intellectual freedom. The metaphor for the heavy message is a simple postage stamp.

     The first stamp is found on a discarded envelope, and it is saved for its beauty. The finder, a city boy, dreams of the significance of the stamp’s story.

     At the same time a country boy is reading, dreaming and writing down his stories.

He writes of a land that is choking and dying, until the children bring it back to life. His story brings joy and hope to the villagers. But it brings fear to others. The factory owners complain to the grey men who run the village. Make him stop.

     The writer, now a man, is imprisoned and finds himself being guarded by the stamp-finder who is a prison employee. A letter from a supporter of the writer comes. The letter cannot be delivered to the writer and is filed, but the guard saves the stamp. There is an outpouring of letters, of messages hidden away and stamps carefully examined.

The stamps are so beautiful – bright and colorful, large and small. They are like seeds blown by powerful winds from all corners of the world. Like wishes.

     As the prisoner becomes weaker due to neglect, the guard becomes more mindful of the wrongness of the situation. He reads the letters, and although at first he does not give the writer the texts, he gives him the stamps, one by one, every stamp “telling a story without words”. Finally the guard passes on the letters, aware that he is putting his own position in danger but exchanging the letters for the writer’s stories. When the prisoner dies, the guard feels he must take up the cause of freedom of expression. He leaves his post and

Then he hugs his mother and father goodbye; he does not tell them his plans. Too dangerous.

The road is long and lonely, and the guard is hungry and tired by journey’s end. But the library is warm and safe and full of people who love words and stories.

     The Stamp Collector was inspired by the experiences of two real Chinese writers, one of whom is still in jail; and by the efforts of PEN International to help writers who are prisoners of conscience.

     Jennifer Lanthier, an Ontarian, has been writing for children since 2007. François Thisdale is a prolific graphic artist and book illustrator who “blends digital imagery with traditional mediums”. His pictures here are a rivetting combination of realism and imagination.

     The Stamp Collector is a must-buy for school and public libraries, and particularly for intermediate grade classroom teachers who are looking for a discussion starter.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Heaney is Head, Children’s Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.