________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 10 . . . . November 11, 2016


The Ferryland Visitor: A Mysterious Visitor.

Charis Cotter. Artwork by Gerald L. Squires.
Tors Cove, NL: Running the Goat Books & Broadsides, 2016.
36 pp., pbk., $21.95.
ISBN 978-1-927917-05-3.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4


Acclaimed storyteller and writer Charis Cotter has made a strong showing with this book about a time gone by in rural Newfoundland. The story is based on a true incident in the life of highly-regarded artist Gerald Squires and his family when they lived in a lighthouse near Ferryland on the Atlantic Coast south of St. John's.

      Squires and his wife, who was a potter, took over the lighthouse at Ferryland, which had been automated and lost its keeper, as a place where they could find inspiration for their art. It also provided a wonderful backdrop for the activities and imaginations of his two young daughters. The Ferryland Visitor is told from the point of view of six-year-old Esther who was enchanted by the unpredictable weather and wide-open spaces of her new surroundings. There were even horses who lived on the mainland but were allowed to roam freely over the causeway, and whose arrival near the lighthouse was said to be a harbinger of heavy fogs.

      One day something especially remarkable happened:

Esther looked out the window, A greyish white cloud was drifting up from the south, obscuring parts of the shore and the road… Behind her she could hear her mother and sister hammering and talking. Then her father came in. Their voices faded away and she got that strange, fainty felling she'd been having a lot lately…

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Esther jumped.

"What on earth?" said her mother. Esther followed her father into the hallway. A tall man was standing just inside the front door. Houndie sat at his feet, thumping her tail and looking up at the visitor with a big dog smile on her face. That was strange. Houndie took her role as a watchdog very seriously and always barked her head off any time anyone came near their old house. But this time she hadn't made a peep.

"Good day, sir." The stranger had a creaky voice. "Your dog asked me to come in."

      The visitor identified himself as former area policeman. After making himself comfortable, he proceeded to regale the family about the old days in the area when few had electricity and a young boy had died of pneumonia in their very house. After enjoying a drink and giving Esther a coin, he left as mysteriously as he had arrived.

      Later, when Squires asked a neighbour about the man, he was told that it had been Dick Costello – but that Costello had died twenty years previously.

The story came full circle when another visitor happened by the pottery studio. As she made her purchase, Squires recognized a family resemblance and confirmed that she was Costello's daughter. She had left the area years before. When she was told about the strange encounter, she responded:

"I've never heard anything like this… It certainly sounds like my dad. He told me many of those same stories when I was growing up. He loved the lighthouse. It was like his second home." Her eyes glistened with tears.

"The most amazing thing is what he said when you first saw him. That's what convinces me it really was my dad."

"What's that?" said Esther's dad.

"Well, Dad was known around here to always say the same thing when he walked into someone's house. He visited a lot of people; that was part of his job. He'd knock at the door and walk right in and say exactly the same thing every time."

The woman started to laugh, tears still trickling down her face. "What did he say?" asked Esther.

The woman looked down at her. "He'd say, 'Your dog asked me to come in.'"

      The book has a somewhat scrapbook-like feel with its combination of period photographs and Squires' paintings and drawings. The illustrations show a variety of Newfoundland scenes which add atmosphere but are not always particularly specific to the story. (Squires, who did participate in the preparation of the book, died in late 2015 at the age of 78.) Cotter's narrative is lengthy, so this is not a standard picture book, but it flows well, and she had a lyrical yet precise sense of language. Regional press Running the Goat Books and Broadsides has published a handsome tribute to a local artist and time.

      The Ferryland Visitor would probably work best as read-aloud for an individual child or a primary class. For larger library collections except where needed for its local interest.


Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - November 11, 2016.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive