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Kingfisher Days
Cover of Kingfisher Days
Kingfisher Days
Borrow Borrow
A magical tale of friendship and wonder — the perfect gift for the imaginative child in all of us.
One summer, in a hedge near her family's cottage in Kenora, five-year-old Susan Coyne discovered an overgrown stone fireplace. Her father said it was the home of Uncle Joe Spondoolak, an elf who'd moved in after the cottage had burned down long ago. Susan, a fanciful child, decided to become keeper of the hearth, tidying it up and leaving little gifts for the elves: handfuls of wild strawberries, daisy chains, a tiny birchbark canoe. Overnight the gifts would disappear. One morning, there was a tiny piece of carefully folded pink paper wedged in between the mossy stones.
To Helen Susan Cameron Coyne: Greetings
Her Majesty, Queen Mab, has instructed me to thank you for making a home for all her people.

Thus began Susan's correspondence with a precocious young fairy princess, Nootsie Tah, and her indoctrination into the world of the great and little people.
Susan took the letter next door to Mr. Moir, because he knew all sorts of interesting things. Sure enough, he had an entire library filled with books about characters such as Puck, Ariel and Oberon. The letters from Nootsie Tah continued, and that summer Susan developed two unique relationships: one with a proud princess from a mystical land, and the other with a gentle gardener with infinite wisdom and patience. These would sustain her throughout her life.
A magical tale of friendship and wonder — the perfect gift for the imaginative child in all of us.
One summer, in a hedge near her family's cottage in Kenora, five-year-old Susan Coyne discovered an overgrown stone fireplace. Her father said it was the home of Uncle Joe Spondoolak, an elf who'd moved in after the cottage had burned down long ago. Susan, a fanciful child, decided to become keeper of the hearth, tidying it up and leaving little gifts for the elves: handfuls of wild strawberries, daisy chains, a tiny birchbark canoe. Overnight the gifts would disappear. One morning, there was a tiny piece of carefully folded pink paper wedged in between the mossy stones.
To Helen Susan Cameron Coyne: Greetings
Her Majesty, Queen Mab, has instructed me to thank you for making a home for all her people.

Thus began Susan's correspondence with a precocious young fairy princess, Nootsie Tah, and her indoctrination into the world of the great and little people.
Susan took the letter next door to Mr. Moir, because he knew all sorts of interesting things. Sure enough, he had an entire library filled with books about characters such as Puck, Ariel and Oberon. The letters from Nootsie Tah continued, and that summer Susan developed two unique relationships: one with a proud princess from a mystical land, and the other with a gentle gardener with infinite wisdom and patience. These would sustain her throughout her life.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    To see a World in a Grain of SandAnd a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour.


    When I first read those lines, they struck me with the force of something I had always known, but somehow forgotten. They are by William Blake, from an unfinished poem called "Auguries of Innocence," about the interconnectedness of all things, and especially the profound connection between faith and truth. To me, they perfectly describe the way a small child sees the world, before she learns to hurry up, settle down, and pay attention to what the grown-ups think is important.



  • This is the story of a remarkable friendship, which began when I was five years old, and has nourished me all my life.

    I have a photograph taken that summer on the platform in Toronto's Union Station. My mother, dressed in a tailored suit of robin's egg blue, is holding my little brother Andrew by the hand. My nine-year-old sister Nancy is in braids and a skirt and blouse. I am wearing a smocked cotton dress and ankle socks, holding my doll, Lazy Mary, by one arm. On the back of the photograph my mother has scrawled the date: June 1963.

    We are on our way once again from Toronto to Kenora, on Lake of the Woods. Our train is called the Trans-Canada Limited, or "The Fastest Train Across the Continent."

    Once inside the car, we pressed our faces to the window to watch as the train pulled out of the station and began to pick up speed. The little houses became a blur, and then there were green fields all around.

    We played beneath the dome of the Observation Car, as the train plunged through corridors of pink granite, over cataracts and sunlit rivers, deeper and deeper into the boreal forest. Sometimes we stood at the back of the train, watching the tracks spool away from us into the far distance, hypnotized by the rhythm of the present becoming the past -- Now . . . Now . . . Now . . .

    We ate supper in the Dining Car. The table was covered with heavy white linen and there were little silver dishes of olives and celery and cold butter curled into barrel shapes. On the way out, if no one was looking, Nancy would pick up the big silver bowl of multicoloured mints and empty it into her skirt. Then we would make our way back to our room, my sister clutching her skirt to her waist as she lurched down the narrow aisle.

    Next morning, in our bunks, we woke to see Lake Superior speeding by.

    And then, after another day and another sleep, we arrived at the little station in Kenora. With shaky legs we climbed down the stairs onto the platform. And there was my father, beside the family station wagon with my two older brothers, Sandy and Patrick, and our poodle, Celeste.

    Kenora, née Rat Portage, was at that time a rugged little pulp and paper town, with a Mill that blew a whistle every day at noon, a little brick Courthouse and a Post Office with a clock tower where we got our mail.

    We left the station wagon in the parking lot at Cameron's Point. Dragging our suitcases, we lumbered down the old cracked steps, beneath a canopy of leaves. And then, with a shock of pure joy, we saw it: The Lake -- unbearably bright, slapping against the dock in ecstatic welcome.

    The boat ride seemed to take forever. When we arrived, we had to stay seated while my father cut the engines and manoeuvred the boat into the echoing boathouse. And then the bags and the dog and the cat in his cage had to be lifted onto the dock. Only then were the children allowed to scramble out and run screaming up the hill to the house.

    The terraced steps that wound up the hill were covered with pine cones...
About the Author-
  • Susan Coyne is an actor who has played leading roles at theatres across Canada and overseas. She is a founding member of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre, for whom she co-adapted Anton Chekhov's Platonov (with László Marton). Kingfisher Days is soon to become a play, produced by the Tarragon Theatre, where she is a playwright-in-residence. She is also developing and writing a new TV series about life in the theatre. She and her husband, actor and director Albert Schultz, live in Toronto with their two children.

Reviews-
  • The Toronto Sun

    "Kingfisher Days is ... not so much a collection of pages bound together with a spine, but a magical little world that beckons the reader to step inside and drift along in a dream. Susan Coyne's touching recollection of a single summer in her childhood is pure enchantment."

  • National Post "A beautiful book, destined to provide joy to anyone who has ever wondered, closing a beloved summer cottage, what spirits may linger on the stones all year round."
  • Winnipeg Free Press "[A] beautiful childhood memoir by Toronto actress Susan Coyne . . . . It is whimsical and lyrical, but also has a straight-forward, matter-of-fact quality. This is the story of the fairy world, of a child's innocence, of a special friendship and the interconnectedness of life."
  • The Globe and Mail "The best stories of childhood are written by those grown-ups who remember well that the rules are different for children: The wall between fancy and folly is more porous before you've had to unlearn everything you knew at birth. Kingfisher Days is one of the best. This slim, charming memoir... is certain to find a home on myriad night tables and bookshelves, right next to others counted among the best, such as Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales and Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie.... What a transcendent treat."
  • The Toronto Star "Coyne's recreation of a young child's abruptly shifting world view is spot-on; a perch from which small events loom large and faith is very much a live, vital force. We'll be reading Kingfisher Days aloud with our own little people.... Thank you, Susan Coyne. And thank you, Mr. Moir."
  • The Quill & Quire "Moir's spirited entries reveal him to be a maestro of the imagination. Skillfully composing the imaginary Nootsie Tah's world from the poetry of Shakespeare, Shelley and Keats, along with his own playful contributions, Moir gradually introduces Coyne to the great riches of literature and mythology.... Coyne has come close to immortalizing a friendship that profoundly shaped her life, offering readers a fascinating glimpse of the man who planted the seeds that blossomed into an enduring passion for the arts."
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    Random House of Canada
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