by Amber Antymniuk
Published by Blow Creative Arts
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$22.00 ISBN 9781999546212
I’ve noticed that an increasing number of children’s authors—and particularly new writers—are opting to self-publish. Alternately, they could wait for months to hear back from a trade publisher regarding whether a book will be accepted for publication, then wait for up to several years (I’m speaking from experience: I had a book accepted in 2010 and released in 2020) for that book to hit the shelves. When one possesses artistic talent as well as literary talent, it makes especially good sense to self-publish, and that’s precisely what Saskatchewan creator and Arts Education teacher Amber Antymniuk did with Grandpa’s Garage.
Antymniuk’s second book for young readers (or listeners) explores the wonderfully diverse items that appear in “Grandpa’s Garage,” and each page features rhyming text in a large font, an appealing watercolour illustration, and enough white space to make the words and images pop. Antymniuk mostly makes it personal, describing things that I expect actually do reside in a relative’s garage, like “farm cats,” “An old radio tuned to the local station” and “a stack of manuals and a bent fishing fly,” but near the end she writes “Whether Grandpa’s Garage is a shop or a shed. Or a room beneath the stairs nearly bumping your head.” This transition away from the personal makes the story inclusive: anyone who has a grandfather (or grandfather-figure) in their life with a specific place where items are stored and repaired can imagine the interior of their own special person’s shop, shed or garage, and experience the warmth and love within that relationship.
In describing the precise items in “Grandpa’s Garage,” readers are able to glean not only a fine sense of the place, but also something of Grandpa’s character and hobbies. We learn that his “big red toolbox sits organized and neat,” so we can guess that he, too, is organized. The slightly tatty-looking stools beside the toolbox are there to welcome guests: Grandpa likes company. Bent nails and “some rusty old pails” demonstrate a frugal handyman. The colourful image of a fishing fly shows us that Grandpa’s an angler, and an old, handmade slingshot—one of the “small treasures that grandpa holds dear”—indicates that he’s nostalgic about his youth. The all-important cover image—a muddy pair of small, red rubber boots sitting next to a pair of equally muddy men’s work boots—suggests a warm, generational bond.
I appreciate how Antymniuk used the often gentle and tender medium of watercolour to portray items some might not consider paint-worthy, ie: the business end of a hammer, the rusty pail, a “hanging trouble light” and a power drill. Lovely contrast.
Antymniuk grew up near Tisdale, SK, and now lives and parents in Saskatoon. Her publishing moniker, Blow Creative Arts, is an homage to her grandparents and their children, all of whom “have had a lasting impact on the community.” As the author publishes under her married name, she’s chosen to honour her first family in this unique and lovely way. See www.blowcreativearts.ca .
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM THE SASKATCHEWAN PUBLISHERS GROUP WWW.SKBOOKS.COM