This is the story of not long ago and not far away.
It is the story of a boy who loves stamps and a boy who loves words.
This is the story of a life that is lost.
The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier and illustrated by Francois Thisdale (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) is the story of two boys in China. One loves stamps; the other loves words. As an adult the boy who loved stamps works as a prison guard and in one of the cells is the boy who loves words. He has been imprisoned for writing a story. The guard and the prisoner form a forbidden bond of friendship, connecting over letters and stamps which the prisoner has received from readers who love his story.
The Stamp Collector is a small book with a powerful message. It is one of those rare books that you have to step back from and let the beauty of the story really sink in. This is not just a story about two boys from different walks of life; it is a story about freedom of speech, or lack there-of, and the power of words. It is a moving and mesmerizing narrative about the bonds forged through stories and their ability to connect us all, across barriers of class, race, geography and language.
I love that this book is a circle story, with the book being the tale the writer tells to guard, who then takes the story and shares it with the world. The cyclical ending is a beautiful representation of the breadth of stories, of how they spread throughout the world and grow and inspire. I was incredibly touched by this story.
And that is just the words on the page.
Combine the story with the amazing illustrations by Francois Thisdale and this book is a force to be reckoned with. Thisdale’s paintings are at once dark and luminous, conveying both hope and sadness. The ghostly postmarks, jewel-bright stamps and Chinese characters layered into each illustration are absolutely lovely.
The Stamp Collector is an important book that will no doubt spark conversation. I am happy to have read this beautiful, thought-provoking book about a boy who loves stamps and a boy who loves words. It is a story to be shared.
A portion of all proceeds from the sale of The Stamp Collector will go to PEN Canada, to help writers who have been imprisoned for their words.