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Farm girl’s writing aspirations bound to kindle memories

Francis, the young heroine in Carol L. MacKay’s new children’s book, Lily in the Loft, is captivatingly charming.

Charming also best describes Francis’s journey to be published in the pages of The Western Producer.

The colourful book opens with the aspiring writer observing the pastoral scene of her family’s farm from her perch in the loft of the barn.

Overlooking a field of grazing cattle and acres of ever-evolving crops, Francis fills notebooks with her observations. She writes of calico cats, duck ponds and prairie skies.

The charming children’s book features school-aged suspense as Francis submits her first poem to the newspaper.

Nostalgia seeps into the pages as the picture book brings to life the Young Co-operators’ Club.

The YC club, which consisted of two pages in The Western Producer dedicated to young writers, was designed to foster literacy and inspire youth by printing their poems and stories.

Created in 1927 by women’s editor Violet McNaughton, the club became a breeding ground for creative writing, producing professionals like MacKay and others who went on to be poets, novelists, editors, publishers, screenwriters, bloggers and sports writers.

The YC was discontinued in 1994, but left a lasting impact on the literary scene across the Prairies, as evidenced by Lily in the Loft itself and former YC Club member MacKay, a Ryley, Alta., native whose YC pen name was Peppermint Patty.

Francis chooses Lily in the Loft as her penname and eagerly awaits word from the section editor, Sister Ann, about the fate of her poem.

The drawings in the book, created by Saskatchewan artist Val Moker, set the scene of disappointment as Francis runs home from school week after week, hoping to find her poem published in the newspaper.

Moker brings the weekly heartbreak lovingly to life on Francis’s face as her mother cradles her when the poem fails to appear in print. Two farm cats, a golden dog and a curious chicken keep Francis company throughout the pages of the book.

The farmhouse scene is set to perfection as Francis opens the newspaper and flips to page 48 to find her poem in print.

This book is a wonderful walk down memory lane for anyone who read the pages of The Western Producer from 1927 to 1994, and particularly for those who were part of the YC Club. This delightful romp through both childhood and farm life will also appeal to a wider audience.

It’s for anyone who lived on a farm, visited one or was ever inspired by the landscapes of the Prairies.

MacKay and Moker have created a charming stroll through a young girl’s rural life, and in the process, have taken their readers back to an idyllic time filled with haylofts and hope.

If you’ve ever wanted to buy a children’s book that educates, captivates and inspires your little ones about farm life and writing, this is the book.

For more information, visit www.ynwp.ca.

Christalee Froese is a freelance journalist from Montmartre, Sask. Contact: chapters@producer.com.

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