Empty chair inspires children’s tale

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This article was published 14/10/2014 (2973 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Manitoba roadside attraction has inspired a new children’s book.

Adrian Hawaleshka’s The Chair by the Side of the Road was inspired by the big chair that sits in a farmer’s field by Highway 8, just north of Highway 67.

“My nephew was terrified of it,” said Hawaleshka, 45, a Garden City resident.

Supplied photo Adrian Hawaleshka, author of The Chair by the Side of the Road, and his son Luka.

“He’s now in Grade 10, but back when he was two, I helped take care of my sister’s kids. Back then we shared a family cabin with my parents, so I’d often drive my nephew back and forth and every time we drove past that chair he’d be terrified. He’d put his hands over his eyes. I asked him ‘What are you afraid of?’ He said ‘Who sits in the chair and why is he watching me?

What does he want?’ After that, every time I drive up that way I would think to myself ‘Who does sit in the chair and why is he there?’”

There will be a book launch event for The Chair by the Side of the Road on Sun., Oct. 19 at McNally Robinson (1120 Grant Ave.) at 2 p.m.

The book, which Hawaleshka self-published, tells the story of Luka, a giant boy whose great size causes his fellow townspeople to worry that he might destroy their village. The villagers build a house and a big chair for Luka, where he can sit by the road and do no damage. Life becomes very lonely for Luka, until an unexpected friend shows up.

“I’ve always been concerned with how kids and people who are a little bit different are treated,” Hawaleshka said. “While the villagers have nothing against Luka, they are afraid of him. It’s a parallel for people treating people badly because of fear, not simply because of hatred.They’re just afraid of the things they don’t know or understand.”

Hawaleshka, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Manitoba, said the idea for the book had been rolling around in his head for some time, but it was the birth of his now three and a half year old son, also named Luka, that pushed Hawaleshka to put pen to paper.

“The main goal for me was to write a book that my son can read to his son someday and say ‘Grandpa wrote this,’” Hawaleshka said.

Hawaleshka said The Chair by the Side of the Road, which features illustrations by Winnipeg-based artist Natasha Boone, is also a response to other children’s books that underestimate their audience.

Supplied photo The Chair by the Side of the Road cover

“When you read these children stories to kids your eyes start to roll into the back of your head. ‘The wall is green.’ That’s fantastic,” Hawaleshka said. “The books my son likes are the ones that make him laugh obviously, but also the ones that have a beginning, middle and end. He’s going out this Halloween as the gruffalo. The Gruffalo has a beginning, middle and an end. He also likes Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever. He likes these things, even at a young age.”

Hawaleshka said young children are capable of grasping some pretty complicated concepts, even taboo subjects like death, like in Love You Forever.

“I read up on the history of Love You Forever and it was highly controversial because of the sad quality to the ending. But kids love it,” Hawaleshka said. “Not everything needs to be picture-perfect and happy, happy, happy. Kids need to learn. There are sad elements in my story as well.”

The Chair by the Side of the Road is available through McNally Robinson, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Amazon and FriesenPress. For more information, visit
www.adrianhawaleshka.com

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