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Amphibian's young Phineas William Walsh reflects on the complex and troubled relationship between humans, animals and the environment and -- frustrated by the apathy he encounters -- is spurred to action.
EXCERPT, REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS Named A Top Book of 2009 by The National Post; A Top Five First Fiction Pick of 2009 by Globe and Mail‘s Jim Bartley; Short-listed for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book (Canada and the Caribbean); Called one of the year’s most original literary creations by Quill and Quire; A 2011 Evergreen Award finalist.
Forthcoming in German (btb verlag , Der Froschflüsterer, translated as The Frog Whisperer), as well as French and Italian translations.
Now available as an audiobook (narrated by Anita Roys Dobbs) from Iambik!
Author Website: www.carlagunn.ca, and also on Facebook
When my nine year old son jumped off his bike to pick up a plastic bag and yelled, “Don’t people know sea tortoises choke on this?!” I began thinking of what it must be like to grow up in a world where so many species are on the brink of extinction and ecosystems are continually destroyed. Later when I read that nearly one third of preteens thinks life on earth will not be habitable when they’re adults, I knew I had to write the story of Phineas William Walsh.
Phineas William Walsh has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural world. He knows that if you wet a dog’s food with your saliva and he refuses to eat it, then he’s top dog, and he knows that dolphins can sleep half a brain at a time. Far from being just idle information, though, Phin draws parallels between the humans in his life and other animals and uses his vast knowledge to try to adjust to and make sense of the confusion in his world – like his parents’ divorce and being bullied at school. But when an event unfolds in his fourth grade classroom that offends both his logic and sensibilities, Phin has had enough and he and his best friend, Bird, are spurred to action.
In a voice that has been compared to Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Phin reflects on the complex and troubled relationship between humans, animals and the environment all the while struggling to maintain his innocence. Is there really any evidence that the human animal is more good than bad, more compassionate than cruel? Is there any reason to hope for a kinder world?
I have created material to accompany the book, such as a list of real websites that the protagonist visits and a Readers' Guide. These can be found on the Facebook page (you do not need to be a member of Facebook to access this material).
Presentations: . Along with taking part in 15-20 min Q&A sessions led by students, I would be happy to participate in longer sessions, addressing, for instance, how this novel links to high school curriculum:
Language ArtsThe novel was a three year process from start to finish. I could talk about the writing process and include a discussion of characters, plot, setting and themes as well as various literary devices, such as: point of view, foreshadowing, irony, hyperbole, pathos, symbolism, thematic patterning, side story and unreliable narrator. I also love to talk to children about the importance of writing and how to keep a writer's journal.
Psychology and/or Family Studies: There are numerous introductory psychology topics at work in the novel: social relationships (e.g., bullying, aggression), family dynamics (e.g., divorce, death, relationships with grandparent), Freud’s defense mechanisms, psychological disorders, social influence, compliance/conformity/obedience etc.
Biology/Environmental Studies: The novel is full of information about animals and the environment. Along with a discussion of environmental issues, animal behaviour and various other information Phin presents, children could be introduced to some of the sites he visits in the book -- such as Pete’s Pond webcam in South Africa. (I have compiled a list of these sites for book club discussions and it is available through my website or could be a handout for children.)
Health: Phin is experiencing a lot of anxiety in the book. He had various ways of coping with his frustrations – some healthy and some not. As I teach psychology, I can lead children through a discussion about how to best respond to stress and how Phin’s responses at the end of the novel are much more adaptive than those earlier on.
World Issues: Environmental problems are global issues. There is much in Amphibian that emphasizes this – from varying attitudes toward animals to climate change to deforestation. A discussion of the four main worldviews (which I teach as part of my consulting work) and how Phin’s own worldview is strongly reflected in the novel could ensue.
Audiences: Adult/YA: schools, writing groups, book clubs, environmental/social justice organizations -- basically anyone over the age of 12. Suitable for high school students. See www.carlagunn.ca for reviews, including one from Edge of Seventeen that explores how this novel is relevant and appropriate for teens.
Available Times: flexible -- as long as it's not my 'middle-of-the-night'. I'm in New Brunswick, Canada and in the Atlantic time zone.
No Cost Meet the Author Visit: 15-20 minutes
In-Depth Visit Length: 45-60 minutes
In-Depth Visit Cost: To be discussed/commensurate with your school's writers-in-schools program allowance.
Prerequisites: It would be best if participants were at least somewhat familiar with the novel.
Contact Information: Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writers' Federation of New Brunswick, Canada
Writers' Union of Canada
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
Canadian Parks and Wilderness New Brunswick
St. Thomas University, Fredericton, N.B., Canada
University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B., Canada
B.A. and M.A. psychology
In addition to having participated in many public reading events (such as literary events), I have lots of teaching experience as a psychology instructor at a university. My approach is largely participatory, with much discussion and interaction .
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, Oct 28 2011, 4:20 PM EDT
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Keyword tags: amphibians anxiety bullying divorce endangered species environment grandparents mother-child relationship
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Amphibian can be ordered by your independent bookstore seller or online through, for instance, Amazon.com. Alternately, copies can be purchased directly from the publishing house at www.chbooks.com.
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