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Three-year-old Emma Lorimer looks out the window from Tall Tales Books in Victoria, BC. Parents Kate and Drew who own the bookstore found a new way to improve their sales by asking customers to become subscribers. (Chad Hipolito For The Globe and Mail/Chad Hipolito For The Globe and Mail)
Three-year-old Emma Lorimer looks out the window from Tall Tales Books in Victoria, BC. Parents Kate and Drew who own the bookstore found a new way to improve their sales by asking customers to become subscribers. (Chad Hipolito For The Globe and Mail/Chad Hipolito For The Globe and Mail)

Eyes on the Island

Hundreds of $10 heroes keep the Tall Tales coming Add to ...

A look back at the year that was:

In June, the Big Bad Wolf knocked at the door of Tall Tale Books, a children’s store.

The owners, Kate and Drew Lorimer, were prepared to shutter the store, giving up on a dream of creating a bright, kid-friendly bookstore of their own in downtown Victoria.

They decided to take one last shot, hitting on the idea of what they called the Hero Society. They asked patrons to subscribe for as little as $10 a month in exchange for merchandise at the store. That way, the couple could have a predictable guaranteed income and keep the store afloat.

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In a month-long campaign, they sought 400 subscribers by Canada Day.

How’d they do?

“Six months later, we’re still here,” Mr. Lorimer said.

“We got a little over 300, so we didn’t quite make our goal, but we’ve got an amazing group of people supporting us. Things are definitely better. It’s still week-to-week, month-to-month. We’re never out of the woods.”

The store’s third Christmas season has been its busiest yet. Particularly popular have been Patrick McDonnell’s Me ... Jane (“a picture book about Jane Goodall as a kid – adorable, simple sweet story but inspirational”) and Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (“a humorous bedtime lullaby book about construction vehicles on a worksite going to bed with teddy bears and blankies”).

In the end, another year passed with the Lorimers having kept the wolf at bay. Can’t yet call it a happy ending, as the story of Tall Tale Books is still being written.

Of the more than 50 “Eyes on the Island” columns published this year, none got as much attention as a report on Daniel Loxton’s efforts to get an illustrated children’s book on evolution published. The Victoria writer and illustrator shopped his book to American publishers, none of which would agree to bring the book to market.

Instead, the evolution book was released by Canadian-owned Kids Can Press of Toronto.

The news that American publishers wouldn’t touch a children’s book about evolution generated about 600 tweets, including one by the film and culture critic Roger Ebert, as well as more than 4,000 Facebook recommendations. It was mentioned on CNN.

Mr. Loxton’s book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be, went on to win the prestigious Lane Anderson Award for young readers. The judges described the book as a “tour de force of science writing.”

Soon after, Mr. Loxton launched his second book, Ankylosaur Attack, at Tall Tale Books. A herd of dinosaur-loving children, many of them exhibiting their fierce claws and fangs, listened to the author Grr! Arr! and Rawr! his way through a reading.

Social media also played a prominent role in the municipal campaign of Lisa Helps, who was one of three rookies elected to Victoria City Council in November. Ms. Helps’s savvy operation included regular Facebook and Twitter updates. She called on other candidates to join her in a hootenanny at Logan’s Pub and she held weekly work crews to repair fences and tidy community gardens.

The candidate whose name doubles as a campaign slogan finished in third place in the at-large election, within striking distance of topping the polls.

After her victory, she converted her campaign website into one in which she asks the public for input on issues facing council. Her slogan: “A city where citizens lead.” It will be interesting in the new year to see if the citizens feel any more empowered with this council than its predecessors.

Last January, we looked at the closing of the Blethering Place, a restaurant on Oak Bay’s High Street decorated in the fashion of one’s eccentric English auntie. For three decades, the restaurant served as Victoria’s “favourite faux Tudor tearoom,” as it was called, offering bangers and mash to a clientele that included Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet. Today, the Oak Bay Bistro offers bison, chicken liver parfait and local artisan goat cheese from Saltspring Island.

Fish and chips? Not on the menu. But there is slow-roasted Arctic char with roasted sunchoke and sweet potato hash.

Oak Bay has lost some of its Olde England flavour. All for the better.

Follow on Twitter: @tomhawthorn

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