Just months after the biggest thing ever happened to Maxwell Newhouse, something else equally grand has landed in his lap.
Two weeks ago, the Cultus Lake artist got a letter in the mail stating that one of his children’s books had been chosen to be part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL), a program that mails books free-of-charge to less-privileged children.
At first he thought the package was a cheque since it came from Random House, his publishing company. But it wasn’t. He opened it up and saw the DPIL logo at the top.
“Dolly Parton? Well, I like her music, I think she’s an incredible person, but why would she write to me?” he wondered.
The letter, in part, read: Your book, Counting on Snow, has been chosen for the lineup of my Imagination Library program in Canada. Your book will help us to continue inspiring children to dream more, learn more, care more and be more. Love, Dolly.
His wife Lillian pointed out that it was actually signed by Parton.
“Really? I got a signed letter from Dolly Parton? Wow, this is something to frame,” he said.
The DPIL is offered to children under the age of five in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. The annual costs for the books are funded by local businesses.
“Her goal is to make sure every child who’s underprivileged or disadvantaged has an opportunity to have a book every month right at their mailbox,” says Newhouse.
More than 20,000 children in Canada are registered with the program which started in Tennessee in 1996. Since then, nearly 93 million books have been mailed out to children, and currently an average of one million are mailed out monthly worldwide.
In 2016, 57 new or revised titles were added to the worldwide DPIL. Newhouse doesn’t know just how many Counting on Snow books DPIL will be purchasing, but he’s “honoured” to be one of the few dozen chosen for 2017.
“The oddest things happen,” he says about being an artist. “I can never predict the future. I can wake up and I think something’s going to happen, and it almost never happens. This is beyond anything I could have ever thought. I know it’s big, but I don’t know how big.”
This came on the heels of a symphony that was written called Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag. The inspiration for the symphony, written by Canadian composer John Burge, came from Newhouse’s artwork of the same name.
Newhouse says both the symphony and being part of DPIL are the “biggest things” that have ever happened to him.
Counting on Snow has actually been out since 2010. It wasn’t until last year that he got the go-ahead to publish a revised version of it in board book form, which he thinks is a nicer format. It will be coming out in the fall of this year.
“Of all my seven books, this has been my biggest seller by far,” says Newhouse.
Counting on Snow is probably closest to what he calls his “true art.”
“It is my favourite book because it’s the closest to being my real art and what I like to do. Minimalism is important to me. I love it.”
Counting on Snow, which counts backwards from 10 to one, features paintings of wildlife in a Canadian winter like “six seals slipping” and “three polar bears prowling” — as you turn each page, more and more snow falls on the animals.
Newhouse is really looking forward to sharing his artwork and his book with children across Canada.
“Can you imagine being a little four-year-old, going to the mailbox and getting a book every month? It smells good, it’s your own book. Especially when your family is really deprived, and you can’t even afford shoes.” says Newhouse. “And that’s not just Christmas, that’s every month.”
“What a big heart Dolly has to think that way. It is beautiful,” he says.