Queen of Paradise's Garden, The

The Queen of Paradise's Garden: A traditional Newfoundland tale
by Andy Jones (Author), Darka Erdelji (Illustrator) Running the Goat Press 2009. Paperback
978-0-9737578-3-5 (trade paperback) 9 x 9; 44 pages; $18.95
978-0-9737578-4-2 (limited edition paperback with map) 9 x 9; 44 pages; $29.95
Contact: Marnie Parsons Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides (ph) 709-722-1683; (fx) 709-722-8335 (email)

Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, not in your time, indeed not in my time, but in olden times, when quart bottles held half a gallon and houses were papered with pancakes and pigs run about with forks stuck in their backs seein’ who wanted a slice o’ ham, there were two old people and they never had no children, and they figured they were too old to ever have any.

So begins Andy Jones’s wonderful new adaptation of the traditional Newfoundland tale The Queen of Paradise’s Garden. Of course, it’s clear from the story’s beginning that there are children on the way, and one of those children is Jack, the delightful, mischievous, big-hearted hero of so many Newfoundland tales. Told with the humour, warmth and sly wit that have made Andy Jones one of the Island’s finest and best-loved storytellers, The Queen of Paradise’s Garden follows Jack on his way to the land of the Queen of Paradise, where he searches for a magic fruit to make his parents young again, and finds quite a few other handy things as well.

The story is a free adaptation of a tale told by Albert Heber Keeping of Grand Bank, which he got from Billy Quann of Sagona Island; Keeping’s version was published in Harold Halpert and John Widdowson’s seminal collection, Folktales of Newfoundland.

Darka Erdelji, a Slovenian-born puppeteer and artist now resident in St. John’s, has created stunning illustrations for the story. Erdelji’s artwork is at once otherworldly, wistful and playful. She depicts Jack’s adventures as journeys to the Queen of Paradise’s garden, and home again; Jack’s adventures are mirrored by those of a family of birds, as well, adding a wonderful dimension to an already engaging story. The book was designed by Veselina Tomova of Vis-à-Vis Graphics, St. John’s.

Andy Jones has been a professional writer and actor for over thirty years. He has written five critically acclaimed one-man comedy shows:“Out of the Bin”,“Still Alive”, “King O’ Fun”, “To The Wall”, and “An Evening with Uncle Val”. He has extensively toured, to critical acclaim, across Canada, the UK, and Ireland; in 2007 he performed in Tasmania and Australia. With Darka Erdelji, he has developed a puppet version of The Queen of Paradise’s Garden, something they consider “kitchen theatre”; it premiered at the St. John’s International Storytelling Festival in 2008. Andy was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he co-founded the Resource Centre for the Arts at the L.S.P.U. Hall, co-writing, acting in, and directing many original productions.

He is well known in Canada as one of the groundbreaking Newfoundland comedy troupe CODCO, in both its theatrical and television incarnations. With the CODCO collective he wrote 5 full-length theatre pieces: “Cod On A Stick”, “Sickness Death and Beyond The Grave”, “Das Capital”, “Pocketcrumbs”, and “The Tale Ends”. Other notable works include “Albert”, a one-act play for one man and a budgie bird, and the children’s plays“Jack Meets the Cat” and“Jack-Five-Oh”. He has performed across Europe with The Madhouse Company of London, in England with The Ken Campbell Roadshow, and across Canada in theatre productions including “The Time and Place” (Theatre Smith-Gilmour, Toronto), “Pilk’s Madhouse” (Second Stage, Halifax), “Love and Anger” (Alberta Theatre Projects, Calgary), “Pope Joan” (Nightwood Theatre, Toronto), “The Postal Show” (Theatre P.E.I., Charlottetown), and “Bloomsday” (Anna Livia Productions, Toronto). In television he has co-written and performed in “Kids in the Hall”, “Dooley Gardens”, “The Cathy Jones Special”, and “Nasty Habits”. In film he played principal roles in “Rare Birds”, “Brain Candy”, “Extraordinary Visitor”, “A Secret Nation”,“Paint Cans”,“Life With Billy”,“Coleslaw Warehouse”,“Young Triffie”and “The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood” (which he also co-wrote and directed). Andy’s numerous awards include two Gemini awards, five Gemini nominations, two Emmy nominations, two Genie nominations, election to the Newfoundland Arts Council Hall of Honour, The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s Award of Excellence, and the ACTRA Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement.

Andy is a contributing author to The Plays of CODCO, edited by Helen Peters, and (with Michael Crummey and Mary-Lynn Bernard) to Three Servings, a letterpress publication celebrating the Newfoundland culinary mainstay Boiled Dinner. His folk tale Peg Bearskin, adapted with Philip Dinn, was shortlisted for the 2004/05 Hackmatack Award and was named to the International Youth Library’s illustrious White Raven List for 2004. He is also the author and narrator of the audio book Letters from Uncle Val.

Darka Erdelji comes from the former Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia, where she designed stamps and illustrated a book. She graduated with a Masters of Arts in Puppet Scenography from the Akadmie Muzickych Umeni in Prague in 1999. She is a co-founder of Soup Theatre, a collective that has presented a variety of puppet plays, including such folktale adaptions as “Big Klaus, Little Klaus” and “The Crane Wife”. With Andy Jones, she has developed a puppet play version of The Queen of Paradise’s Garden, which premiered at the St. John’s International Storytelling Festival in the fall of 2008. Darka works with a variety of styles of puppetry; she is also a painter and ceramicist, and is currently working on an animated short film. This is the second book she has illustrated since moving to St. John’s.

Dale Jarvis,
Review appeared originally in Le Raconteur Vol 13:03 p. 37 Spring-Summer 2009

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