Hello friends! I am overjoyed to announce my latest book – Stymie and Toffel – a whimsical Toronto tale of dystopian uplift for older kids and especially imaginative adults, with 19 superb illustrations by Andrew (Rewfoe) Foerster, has finally arrived, is utterly fantastic and is now for sale! Print or Ebook.
The story is a kid’s eye view adventure set in a very different Toronto, but my version of dystopia is all about finding fun, true friends and a place where we belong, despite the chaos – just like so many youngsters long before us, who grew up in especially crazy times!
My wife and I first met Stymie and Toffel – a couple of (imaginary) hilariously independent and eccentric twelve year old orphans, when they came to live with us many years ago. We really enjoy their odd perspective and funny zero budget life hacks. We also learn a lot, thinking about how this world looks to a clever kid, trying their very best.
For a long time kids got a diet rich in hope and inspiration – to help them reach and try hard. But kids now get adult information very early. There are great things to say about the modern world, but we don’t say them much. There are also lots of lousy things, and frightening possibilities for our future – we discuss that stuff endlessly. The earth has limits, and we’ve known for decades that we had to change our ways, or else we would harm its ability to host and nourish us. But for kids today that change isn’t remote – it’s heading for them directly in a way that feels almost personal.
What nobody ever says to kids is that just because things are bound to change, that doesn’t mean the future has to totally suck. We will still be here, and together we made: skill, art, kindness, honour, friendship, trust, welcome, compassion, respect and family (both natural and chosen) – long before we had factories, jet planes and cellphones.
Many adults can’t bear to think clearly about a different world. Our kids and grandkids can’t ignore it, and are made lonely by our denial. They deserve a vision of the future where fun, hope and cleverness will still be worthwhile on the far side of our crisis. And friendship, at least a hundred times more.
Stymie and Toffel. Barricades and cookie plates, and everyone together after all.
And now a bit about about the origins of the book.
Stymie and Toffel have been cracking my wife and I up for years with their antics, and I have been thinking about telling a story about them for almost as long. When that idea combined with writing something sweet about life after collapse, the project suddenly bloomed and felt ready. I wrote it with great exhilaration, surprised and charmed as I was introduced to each of the quirky supporting characters, and the strange world which they were trying to make the best of. When it was finished I read it aloud to Catherine, who pronounced it worthy of our wacky kids. Then I put on my publishers hat and thought about the shape of the final book, and realized that I already knew the perfect artist to realize my vision – and it wasn’t me!
I first met Andrew (Rewfoe) Foerster when I sat as a model for a drawing class in which he was an art student. On the break, we got to chatting about our love of making spaceship drawings, and we’ve been friends ever since. Not only do Catherine and I adore his drawings and animations, we have also bought a lovely set of his prints and we’ve been bowled over by his work in several superb exhibitions. It was these exhibitions which told my publisher head his vision was ideal.
Andrew followed his brilliant short film “Tin Canyon” (must watch) with an impressive variety of top notch work. I especially love his Ted Education videos, and the bittersweet animations he created for Alain Botton, for his “School of Life” series. Very busy guy, so I was nervous to ask.
But the universe really does loves a try-er. I had just finished my first draught of Stymie and Toffel a couple of days before, when I ran into Andrew in a busy foodcourt. I, still a model – he now teaching at the same institution where years before he had studied!
I think I was so excited I just ran up to him and blurted out, “You’re perfect for this!” then spent the next ten flustered minutes trying to explain my sweet and wonky vision to him – even though he was (as always) game and open, right from the get-go. I already knew he had the right line for the job – but he proved he also understood the tone I was after when, from just the roughest outlines of the story he smiled and said, “So these kids, they’re like two sides of you as a kid, right?”
And this will be important for some. I had a strange childhood, so the loneliness, defiant self reliance, eccentricity and also the precious feeling of a warm welcome at last – are all written emotionally honestly (by no means full-strength, just enough to resonate truthfully).
The extra fun personality, life, zaniness and coolness which Andrew’s drawings gave to the characters on my pages just about made me dance for joy! Exactly as I hoped, the final book contains one vision made far richer by two clever hands contributing their best.
Stymie and Toffel. Post collapse Toronto, music, friendship, loyalty, and finding your family at last.
Extra note for Pre Christmas shoppers in the Midtown Toronto Area.
I understand that shipping charges can be inhibiting, especially within city limits. If you would like to buy any of my Large Ess Small Press books but save the freight charge please drop me a note at – Paul@LargeEssSmallPress.com – we can probably meet on Yonge between St Clair and Eglinton, then I can hand you the book(s) in person. Save the shipping cost and the packaging waste also!