Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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Five Things Literary: Millbrook, Ontario, with Esperanca Melo

Merci Mister Dash, by Monica Kulling and Esperanca Melo

As part of our mapping of literary Ontario, we're highlighting five things about literary life in communities throughout the province. What do our cities, towns and villages have to offer writers, readers and the curious? Follow Five Things Literary to find out.

Today's feature on literary life in Millbrook was contributed by Esperança Melo, illustrator of the recently published Merci Mister Dash! (Tundra Books).

Merci Mister Dash! was written by Monica Kulling. Visit Open Book: Toronto for Monica's Five Things Literary: Queen West & Beyond.


  1. Even in a little village like Millbrook, as in so many small towns, if you scratch the surface it’s not too much of a stretch to find “Five things Literary.” The arts have always loomed large in this community, and at the forefront is the 4th Line Theatre, a local theatre that has earned a national reputation for its plays and is currently celebrating its 20th season of productions.

    The theatre has always focused on local stories, often written by playwrights from the area. To facilitate this, the 4th Line implements a five-phase New Play Development Program that supports the research, creation and workshopping of projects destined for production. Often works are in development for three years before they are presented on the Winslow Farm stage.

    4th Line’s seeded writers further develop their work through a workshop with a director and actors for Breaking Ground, where the public is invited to hear the work. Workshopped scripts are given a public reading as part of 4th Line’s summer season.


  3. Award-winning local playwright and author Shane Peacock has written numerous plays and books, including his very popular Boy Sherlock Holmes series. Now living in Cobourg, Ontario, Shane has roots in the Millbrook area and has written three plays for the 4th Line Theatre: The Great Farini, The Art of Silent Killing and The Devil and Joseph Scriven.

  5. Speaking of Joseph Scriven, this strange country preacher lived out his later life only a few kilometres from Millbrook. Born in Banbridge, Co. Down, Ireland, he moved to Canada after the drowning death of his fiancée. Here he fell in love again, only to lose his second love to pneumonia. His claim to fame was the writing of the poem “Pray Without Ceasing.” This poem was set to music by Charles Crozat Converse to become the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” a hymn he never took credit for but which became one of the best-known and best-loved in the Christian hymnbook.

  7. On a lighter note, one of the highlights of Millbrook’s cultural calendar is the Millbrook Zucchini Festival. Ostensibly held to celebrate a much-maligned vegetable, the zucchini festival celebrates all things zucchini, with the highlight being the racing of zucchini boats decorated by children (and a few child-like adults) down the local Baxter Creek. The festival, brainchild of award-winning children’s illustrator and author Bill Slavin, also celebrates the zucchini in song and verse. Contestants in the Zucchini Poet Laureate Contest share their literary creations and the winner, crowned with the coveted Laureate Wreath, is given the honour of composing poems celebrating the zucchini throughout the following calendar year.

  9. Millbrook has spawned its own writers over the years, most recently Julie Kirkpatrick, author of The Camino Letters. The book chronicles her walking of Spain’s Camino Trail, a walk shaped around the daily tasks given her by friends prior to her departure. The journey turned into something much more than simply the sum total of those tasks, becoming a deeply life-altering experience, one that she chronicles in this very moving and candid account of her journey.

    Before coming to Millbrook, Julie and her husband George Kirkpatrick, a freelance book designer, published the Peterborough Review, a publication that celebrated the literary achievements of that community.



Esperança Melo was born in the Azores, but she currently lives in Millbrook, Ontario. She is a graduate of Sheridan College’s Animation Program and the Graphic Design Program at George Brown College. She also studied oil painting, life drawing and sculpture at the Ontario College of Art. She has been a graphic and book designer for several years and has illustrated various children’s books. Her picture book Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, which she co-illustrated with Bill Slavin, was the recipient of the Ontario Library Association’s Blue Spruce Award and the Chocolate Lily Award.

For more information about. Merci Mister Dash! please visit the Tundra Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Would you like to contribute five things about literary life in your community? Send an email with your ideas to [email protected]


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