Friday, November 1, 2013

Postmark Paris: A Story in Stamps by Leslie Jonath

It's funny how similar themes seem to arise from books that one is reading. 
Recently I read Hit Man (here) by Lawrence Block in which the main character, a killer for hire, takes up his childhood passion for stamp collecting. 

Right now I am engrossed in Bloodhounds, the fourth Peter Diamond mystery by Peter Lovesey. It concerns the brazen theft of a valuable Penny Black postage stamp from a Bath museum. The Penny Black, featuring the profile of the reigning Queen Victoria, was the world's first adhesive postage stamp. It was issued in Great Britain in 1840.

And then, just Sunday past, I plucked off a shelf in the travel section of Robie Books, a pristine copy of a little book Postmark Paris: A Story in Stamps (2005) by Leslie Jonath. It is the author's tale of her experiences living in Paris for a year when she was nine years old.

The book is really written for children and is quite a delight. One page features text in which Ms. Jonath recalls a particular memory of the City of Light - attending school, riding the Metro, visiting the Tuilleries, attending a ballet at the Paris Opera House, viewing exhibits at the Louvre, and even rescuing her brother when he is grabbed by a monkey at the zoo!

On the opposite page is an image of a French postage stamp that in some way relates to that adventure. So when Leslie learns that the French for cock-a-doodle-do is cocorico, three stamps featuring colorful roosters accompany the text. 

It is in Paris that the young Leslie becomes enamored with the world of postage stamps and soon she befriends the owner of  the dimly lit shop in her neighborhood that sells les timbres, as well as old maps and dusty gray books. 

The stamps she buys are lovely and colorful and many depict the art and artists that we have come to know so well: Monet, Picasso, Renoir. 

I can imagine that the young Leslie had a wonderful time collecting these little masterpieces and hope that she is still finding her way in the world through les timbres.

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