For this month’s edition of Shelf-Love, we decided to do something a little different. As individuals who work in publishing, our love of words and reading, feels, to us, completely natural - something that’s existed for as long as we can remember. While it’s nearly impossible for us to imagine a life prior to devouring books for breakfast, our seemingly natural inclination towards the bookish didn’t just crop up out of nowhere. Like most things, we were shaped and influenced by the people and environments around us. Looking back, it’s clear that we largely have our mothers (and fathers too - your day is coming!) to thank - for inspiring our love of reading, for pushing us to be where we are today… and for agreeing to come hang out with us for a couple hours.
In celebration of Mother’s Day, we invited our moms to the Penguin Random House Canada office so they could see for themselves where we ended up, all thanks to them (but also dad)! For this Shelf-Love edition, we compiled photos taken throughout the day’s event which had us brunching with our moms, playing a mommy-child version of The Newlywed Game, and swapping some darn cute childhood stories. We also interviewed a handful of the moms-in-attendance to hear about our reading habits as children, what they’re recommending these days, and what it is they think we do.
Question 1: Can you explain what you child’s job at Penguin Random House Canada is?
Kim Tutty (Child: Sarah Tutty - Director, Sales & Insights): Something verry important… and analytical.
Lynne Reeder (Child: Lindsey Reeder - Advertising Manager): Determining where, when, and at what cost, books should be advertised.
Jennifer Devotta (Child: Samantha Devotta - Associate Publicist, PRHC Young Readers): She’s a publicist for children’s books.
Martha Kribs (Child: Elizabeth Kribs - Sr. Managing Editor, Children’s Pub): Editing children’s books and manages schedules for the group.
Dawn Napier (Child: Claire Pokorchak - Associate Publicist): Planning and implementing strategies to publicize new works by the authors for whom she’s responsible.
Aruna Papp (Child: Christina Papp - Sales Administrative Coordinator): Christina works in Operations.
Sandra Fleming (Child: Andrea Colquhoun - District Sales Manager, Schools & Libraries): Selling books to libraries, traveling across the country, and sitting and reading for work!
Mary Ellen Poos (Child: Shannon Poos - Manager, Consumer Acquisition & Engagement): Social media… posting photos about stories and authors on Instagram, promoting new releases, I think revisiting some older ones, taking photos, maybe running contests?
Joanne Byers (Child: Maggie Finlayson - Customer Experience Specialist, Penguin Shop): Maggie is the ultimate shop girl!
**It’s worth noting that this question was planted in an attempt to trip the mothers up, but clearly there is no fooling these moms!
Question 2: What did your child want to be when they grew up?
Lynne: At 7 years old, I started working at Random House and Lindsey announced she wanted to work for Random House when she was older. She has never changed her mind.
Jennifer: A writer!
Martha: An author - or perhaps that’s what I wanted her to be!
Dawn: When Claire was little, she wanted to be a teacher. She even made up a classroom with all her dolls, including little hand-written textbooks for each one.
Aruna: She always wanted to be an editor. She never liked how the Disney cartoons ended and was determined to take over Disney so that she could rewrite all the stories. Chris was three years old when she made up her mind that she would be working in the publishing industry… I tried to talk her out of it. I even tried to bribe her because I thought she should be a doctor!
Sandra: An aesthetician!
Mary Ellen: An actress/comedian.
Joanne: She had many interests but never really spoke about doing one particular thing when she grew up - perhaps ballet dancer or veterinarian.
Question 3: Are you surprised that your child ended up working for a book publisher? Tell us about their reading habits as a kid.
Lynne: Not at all…..Lindsey had a spot in the living room where we would find her reading anything she could get her hands on.
Jennifer: Not at all. She read all day, everyday as a kid - I couldn’t get her to do any housework!
Martha: Not really! She loved reading books and would stay up late into the night. She would pretend to be sleeping when I walked past her bedroom, then I would hear her lamp click on later.
Dawn: Not at all! Reading has always been one of her favourite pastimes. Not only did she make the textbooks for her dolls, she also played library - taking all her books and glueing sign-out slips into them. She helped out in her primary school library and later majored in English in university. So, one way or another, it was pretty clear that books would feature prominently in her future!
Aruna: Not at all. She was very good in math and science. I pushed her into getting a Science degree to be a doctor, but she followed her heart and got a 2nd degree in English Lit. She attended Humber for the Publishing Certificate, was offered internship at Random House, and was hired. She loves what she is doing. There is always a book in her purse. I’m glad she followed her heart - she would have been an unhappy doctor.
Sandra: No! Most often, she had her nose in a book. She was a terrible travel companion since you never heard from her in the back seat.
Mary Ellen: It’s so perfect that Shannon works for The Mothership - I mean Penguin Random House! In elementary school, a teacher held an ongoing contest where she would present a prize at the end of each month to the student who read the most books. The winners were always Shannon and Monica. It was crazy - it got so competitive that the other mother and I had to go to the school and ask the teacher to stop the contest because they weren’t doing anything else.
Joanne: I never once thought she would go into the book business, but now that it’s happened, it makes complete sense. She loved to read and be read to. It was a big deal in our house to read before bed. We had a huge collection of children’s books, in fact I have kept most and keep dragging them around during moves hoping to pass down to a grandchild or two!
Question 4: What was their favourite book as a kid?
Lynne: Lindsey, being a Maritimer, loved anything Anne of Green Gables.
Jennifer:My favourite book to read her wasLove You Foreverby Robert Munsch.
Martha: Anne of Green Gables and Black Beauty.
Dawn: Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman. Some family friends gave it to her because the grandfather in the book reminded them of Claire’s grandfather, who was very handy and loved making useful objects from things that other people might consider trash. She also loved The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allen Ahlberg.
Aruna: Chris loved Dr. Seuss books and read them over and over again. Her favourites were Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat.
Sandra: Anything that had words between the covers!
Mary Ellen: Each Peach Pear Plum - I remember reading that often. But really, she would read anything - Judy Blume, the Babysitters Club. I once caught her reading The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. She must have been in Grade Two. I asked her if she knew what the book was about and she said, “Someone is drinking alcohol and someone is getting divorced” and I said, “Someone is picking a new book.”
Joanne: Oh wow, we had so many - Santa Cows, Up All Night, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Arthur series, The Velveteen Rabbit (though I would cry each time I read it), Waiting for the Whales, Yertle the Turtle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, Clifford, Charlotte’s Web, Spot, Franklin, the Jolly Postman… again, I still have boxes and boxes in our closet at home. I loved reading each and every one to all three of my children.
Question 5: What are you reading right now? Do you have any recommendations?
Lynne: I’ve read almost every Linwood Barclay book, and he stumps me (almost) every time. His Promise Falls books are fabulous. I’m lucky enough to have read an advance copy of A Noise Downstairs which comes out in July, and is one of his best so far. I mean, what would happen if you came upon a friend on a dark road with two bodies in their car?!
Jennifer: Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It feels so real and makes me sad, especially as a mother. It’s hard to imagine what it would feel like to watch my child grow up in a situation like that. Everyone should read it so they can understand how to treat differently-abled children.
Martha: I love classic whodunnit mysteries. I most recently finished PD James’ Adam Dalgliesh series.
Dawn: I am just finishing Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Nesbo is one of my favourite Scandinavian crime authors. He’s a master of noir fiction so he was the perfect author to take on the re-telling of Macbeth, which he sets in 1970s Glasgow – a world of drugs, violence and corruption. Nesbo has fleshed out the characters of the original play, giving readers a good insight into their motivations and weaknesses. In particular, he has been able to provide a convincing backstory to better explain how Macbeth became such a monster – something I’ve always felt was lacking in the play.
Aruna: One of my all-time favourite books is Red Tent by Anita Diament. I am an immigrant and learned to read English as an adult. I love the language. I have two Masters degrees. Chris was in Grade 8 when she started to edit my research papers. Her love of language has been a great help to me. She is an excellent editor.
Mary Ellen: I’m almost finished reading Hum, If You Don’t Know the Words. I have already been recommending it to others. I like the historical context. It’s heartwarming and sad, but you admire the main characters who, while they carry a number of wounds and are facing great difficulties in South Africa at the time, still manage to be good, charitable, strong individuals.
Joanne: I love music bios and I LOVE The Beatles. Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson is the story of George Harrison, also known as the quiet Beatle. He was very much a fascinating study of a man torn between a spiritual path and the excesses of the material world he lived in. Something that I think many of us can relate to! I love the story of this band, their maturation seemed to mirror the massive changes happening in society at the end of the 1960s. Harrison was truly ahead of his time with his interest in Eastern spirituality and his quest for self-enlightenment. I was so taken by his life journey that I’m hoping to embark on my own with a trip to India in spring 2019!
On behalf of Penguin Random House Canada, we wish you all a very Happy Mother’s Day!