- Sara O'Leary
Percy’s Museum: The Understory
Percy’s Museum is the story of a small boy who is at heart a collector. We moved our two young collectors from Vancouver to a very small village in New Brunswick when they were still quite young and it was a huge learning curve for them. For one thing they went from collecting golf balls (escapees from the nearby University golf course) to sea glass, ballast stones, and lobster rings. That memory of taking these fairly urban children and transplanting them into a rural, maritime setting is the understory to Percy’s Museum.
For my older son, the move meant we were able to give him a sort of 1970s childhood where you could roam free. I remember that first year getting a call from someone I’d never met to say that they’d just seen my son down by the bay and he was soaking wet. And for my younger son there were all sorts of discoveries to be made right in our own yard. One day he decided that he was going to go fishing in our brook but couldn’t find (or maybe couldn’t reach) a fishing rod and so endeavoured to make his own by searching for a suitable stick. He then got a piece of string from the house and scotch-taped a worm onto the string and the string onto the stick.
Moving from the city to the country meant so many things that were new to my kids: bats, frogs, foxes, moose, a beached baby seal, and even miniature horses at a farm up the road. Also, once we saw a dead fawn on the side of the road and my son wrote a book about it called The Dumb Dead Deer. My kids picked wild strawberries and ate apples fresh off the tree. They got to go out in the woods and choose an evergreen to cut at Christmas. They got to see what the sky looks like when it actually gets proper dark.
The desire to get something of that sense of discovery down on the page was the original impetus for writing Percy’s Museum. The character soon took on a life of his own and it was fun to write about a boy who is both an observer and a collector, and to have the story end with him sharing that collection with others.