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Author and cartoonist Kevin Sylvester reads on the front porch of his Toronto home. (Fred Lum/ The Globe and Mail)
Author and cartoonist Kevin Sylvester reads on the front porch of his Toronto home. (Fred Lum/ The Globe and Mail)

My Books, My Place

The al fresco Kevin Sylvester Add to ...

Outside is better than inside.

On cool mornings, it’s the backyard. My wife and I sit in two fading Muskoka chairs. The ink of a thousand papers has worked its way into the cedar. We sit in a little nook among the ferns, lilies, blackberry bushes and tomato plants.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kate Beaton and Arthur Slade have “joined” us recently in sunshine, fresh air and cool breeze. (Craig Thompson’s epic graphic novel Habibi is with us right now.)

Previous instalments of My Books, My Place

More than a few pages have been stained purple by fingers sticky with blackberry juice – a souvenir of a warm midmorning snack.

And I say “pages” because there is always a book.

Outside is not for tablet reading. The shiny technology is at odds with the leaves, flowers and the humming of the bumblebees. This is a place for paper. I know that if I were to die and let the book drop into the dirt, it would eventually rot down and become just as fertile a source of nutrients for plants as it had been for my mind.

Once the sun gets too high, we escape to the north side of the house and nestle into the old wicker chairs that sit on our porch, shaded and protected by a 30-year-old red maple. The chairs come from another, special place: the front porch of my parents’ old 1850 farmhouse in Youngstown, N.Y.

I first read Hemingway and Aristotle on these chairs, and debated their ideas well into the night with my parents and friends. Wine, beer and Bison chip dip would inevitably come out like the feast at Bilbo Baggins’s Hobbit hole.

Kevin Sylvester is an illustrator, writer and broadcaster. The latest in his Neil Flambé series of children’s books, Neil Flambé and the Crusader’s Curse, is just out.

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