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Ian Stretch releases a book for children

by Heather Denning

Marty the Mailbox - Ian Stretch

In the pool and snooker playing community there is a type of player known as a “natural.” This is someone who has the ability to play without the aid of all the tricks and techniques that other players use to learn how to succeed. If there was such a thing as a “natural” writer, Ian Stretch would be it, with a style and turn of phrase is so completely unspoilt by education and literature. When asked, he happily confesses that he has only read the newspaper and the Holstein Journal. His writing is simplistic and narrative, the words never get in the way of the story. And that is by far the hardest technique to achieve if you just don’t have it.

In every culture of the world there is the oral historian, the “storyteller.” While television and the internet keep us all separated while keeping us all in immediate contact, the storyteller can delight children and adults alike. Ian’s new book, Marty the Mailbox is such a tale. The story of an anthropomorphic, friendly little mailbox is guaranteed to bring a smile to every child (or adult), but it also teaches a valuable lesson so often forgot in out instant gratification culture—that new is not always improved, and that some things should be kept the way they once were, simply because it is part of our history.

Ian Stretch is a historian in the truest sense of the word—he tells the grass-roots history that the history books forget to care about. He wrote his first story in 2002 after being forced to take 3 months off work for hurting his back, at the urging of his wife. His stories, not always for children, contain a moral, whether it be the past separation between Catholic and Protestant on PEI in Grace’s Gift or the environmental Mother Earth, the story of a trial to determine who is to blame for the destruction threatening our planet.

Children need to develop a social conscience—something that is sadly overlooked in many children’s books. Marty the Mailbox teaches us about love, loyalty and respect. About family togetherness and how simple loyalty can be rewarded, yes, even in a letterbox.

Born and raised in PEI, Ian grew up in the original family farm settled by his great grandfather in Long Creek. His stories have earned him two awards from the PEI Council of the Arts—Marty the Mailbox was one of the winners in 2004 of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Literature for Children Award. The following year, the PEI Council of the Arts awarded him lst prize for his story “The Boy Upstairs”. Marty the Mailbox is Ian’s first published book. The book is illustrated by Island artist Dale McNevin.

Join Ian and Dale on April 4 to celebrate the launch of Marty the Mailbox at the bestofpei store, on University Avenue, in Charlottetown from 12 to 2 pm. Ian will read and sign books. Book are available at bestofpei, Bookmark, Booktales, from Ian Stretch at 675-2985 and from Trafford Publishing at www.trafford.com.

Local artisan Jan Meulencamp will build two mailbox replicas of “Marty”—one will be used as a display case to hold the books being sold at the bestofpei store and the other will be used by Ian.

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