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Tiny Windows to the World – Marie-Louise Gay

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When I was young, I had pen pals from around the world. I was curious about the lives that other kids led – their hobbies, their studies and their countries. I received letters from Egypt, France and the Netherlands, addressed in flowing cursive handwriting or scrawled in pencil. Most envelopes bore many multicolored stamps on which exotic plants bloomed, wild animals ran and tropical birds flew. Others portrayed great palaces, pyramids and remote deserts. I was fascinated by these tiny windows that opened onto strange new worlds. I would dream about visiting these faraway places that had chosen an elephant, a camel, a mosque or a pagoda, a glorious piece of art or a regal monarch to represent their country.

All these evocative images came back to me when Canada Post proposed to create two stamps featuring art from my series of Stella and Sam books. I was thrilled, having never envisioned that the characters I had created 15 years ago would one day have the honor of being on a stamp. I was especially proud and happy that these stamps would underline the importance of children’s literature in Canada as well as promoting literacy.

The stamps were beautifully and meticulously designed by Peter Scott of q30 Design. The two images were cropped to place the focus on Stella hanging upside down from a tree, and on Stella, Sam and Fred sharing a book together.

Notice how Stella’s curly hair flows outside of the image, a tiny exquisite detail that creates movement and a sense of space. The same could be said about the boat in the background sailing off the stamp or the branch of the tree reaching out beyond the border of the drawing, shaking its leaves in the wind. I was amazed that the images would be so clear and so true to the originals even after being so greatly reduced in size.

I was very happy about the choice of images, because, to me, they perfectly reflect Stella and Sam’s personalities, as well as some of the intense joys of childhood – the exuberance and playfulness of Stella hanging upside down from a branch and the sweet, gentle sibling relationship between Stella and Sam as they read a book together.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these stamps encouraged children to write letters, share books with their friends and siblings or hang upside down and pretend they are bats?

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