A children’s book by Gander author Dawn Baker is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a new edition that captures the essence of Newfoundland and Labrador’s culture and traditions.
A Newfoundland Alphabet seemed a mistake to its author Dawn Baker in 1998. But it went on to sell more than 35,000 copies across Canada.
“I didn’t think I would sell any more than five or 10 copies, let alone make a career out of it,” said Baker.
A Newfoundland Alphabet is intended for young children, but it can take any reader on a journey through the province, using each letter of the alphabet to showcase different aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador’s heritage.
“From “A” for “Antlers” to “T” for “Tea & Touton,” Baker said, “I tried to put a smile on every Newfoundlander’s face when they teach alphabets to their little ones.”
For many children in Newfoundland and Labrador, A Newfoundland Alphabet was their first introduction to the province’s unique culture and history.
It has colourful and playful illustrations of the province such as a komatik or dogsled from Labrador, or mummers and icebergs.
Books as such as this one can also become a teaching tool in schools and households, helping to preserve cultural traditions and heritage for future generations.
Baker says teaching children about their culture is essential in preserving a community’s identity and history.
However, as an artist based in central Newfoundland, Baker says she faced challenges she might not have had if she lived in the capital city.
“I do get a lot of love from families here in Gander, but I know most of my audience are in St. John’s,” said Baker. “And I wish I was closer to my audience.”
After self-publishing the first copies of A Newfoundland Alphabet 25 years ago, this time, once again, Baker has partnered with local book publisher Flanker Press Ltd. for its anniversary edition.
Jerry Cranford, the owner and publisher at Flanker Press, has published more than 13 books by Dawn Baker over the past two decades.
“We’re very excited about this new edition and proud of its longevity,” said Cranford.
Some of their collaborations include The Puffin Patrol, Commander, Gander goes to Come from Away, A Newfoundland Christmas and more.
Cranford says local authors who draw inspiration from their childhood memories make a fun and engaging way for children to learn about their province.
But many children have limitations when it comes to reading. For example, children with neurodivergences such as dyslexia, autism or ADHD may find it more difficult than others to read the alphabet.
Therefore, including illustrations and drawings not only capture their attention but can provide a comfortable learning experience for children with varying conditions.
This new edition of A Newfoundland Alphabet features updated illustrations and includes a section at the end of the book that provides background about the province’s history related to each alphabet.
“With yet another book on the shelf, it doesn’t feel like a mistake after all.”Dawn Baker
For Baker, A Newfoundland Alphabet has been a source of pride and joy.
“I’m thrilled that the book has resonated with so many people and so many children from all backgrounds over the years,” she said.
“It was a labour of love and I’m proud to see it continue to be a beloved part of Newfoundland and Labrador and its wonderful people.”
Flanker Press publisher Cranford says with more local authors capturing Newfoundland and Labrador’s essence through their artwork, the barrier between cultures will grow slimmer.
“With yet another book on the shelf,” Baker said, “it doesn’t feel like a mistake after all.”