You’d expect a posthumous book launch to be overwhelmingly sad, but the mood was celebratory last Saturday, joyous and filled with love as “The Piper of Shadonia” was officially introduced.

Written by the late Linda Smith, a long-time and much-loved children’s librarian turned author, the YA fantasy is her tenth children’s book, and the second one to be published posthumously.

The launch of “The Piper of Shadonia” was as much a display of the diverse artistic talent in Grande Prairie as it was a tribute to Linda.  We could all well imagine her delight at everything from the refreshments, to the music, to the puppet play as she would have supported, encouraged, and celebrated the talents of others, above her own.

The walls of the story room named for Linda are painted a soft, quiet blue, punctuated dramatically by a tender and evocative three-panel mural that brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw it.  It felt not only as if Linda were in the room, but that somehow, I had been transported into the world of her imagination.

Painted by local artist Tim Heimdal, it’s a composite painting that illustrates scenes from Linda’s first trilogy, the Freyan series.  It contains an image of Linda as a child standing alone in the background of a group of children, and another of her, as an adult, surrounded by children to whom she is reading.

Rather than simply depict scenes from her books, Tim explained how he tried to capture Linda’s desire for diplomacy, versus conflict, to settle disputes.

When I told him how his painting moved me, he asked me why.  “I don’t know,” I said.  “It just feels so right.  It feels as if she is here in this room.”

“Do you think it’s the colours?” he asked of the almost glowing shades of purples and oranges and blues.  The lighting in the paintings suggests a sunset, he said, known often as the “Magic Hour.”

Linda loved magic.  She’d have loved the painting for its colours and images, and she’d have loved her launch.

I could picture her eyes alight and hands clapping for the introduction by her sister Barb, the reading by her sister Diane, and the quiet presence of her sister, Helen. She would have been happy, not for what they were saying, but because they were there, supporting her, and sharing the celebration.

Likewise, she’d have shied from the tribute of friend and library board member Maura Good when she spoke of Linda and how she influenced us, but she would have applauded Maura’s friendship and enthusiasm.

She’d have adored the lively enactment of one of her puppet plays, “The Three Little Pigs,” with library puppeteers Serena Boyte-Hawryluk and Lori Nowoczin, and the setting to music of one of her poems, by friend and songstress Susan Picard of the Dandylionesses.

And the cupcakes!  Everyone raved about the exquisite homemade cupcakes decorated with miniature fondant “The Piper of Shadonia” books made by friend and former co-worker Judy Garlinksi.

But most of all, I think Linda would have enjoyed the party — the conversation, the friendship and the coming together of people who love children’s books and who loved her.

Linda left us with much more than the legacy of her stories, poems, puppet plays and work for social justice.  She influenced all of us with encouragement, love, friendship, and faith in our abilities.

The cloak of invisibility she’s wearing on the horse in Tim’s painting is most appropriate:  We may not be able to see her, but she’s still with us.

© 2012 Sue Farrell Holler