"This is the story of not long ago and not far away.
It is the story of a boy who loves stamps
and a boy who loves words.
This is the story of a life that is lost.
These are the opening words of a beautiful picture book called "The Stamp Collector", a story inspired by writers imprisoned around the world. It is a book about the power of words and the importance of freedom of expression.
The Canadian author, Jennifer Lanthier, spent an hour with a group of students at our local library during her book tour across the country. With her warm smile and gentle voice, she did a reading of "The Stamp Collector", answered questions, and shared with us her passion to advocate for imprisoned writers as a member of PEN Canada.
During her tour, Ms. Lanthier has asked students at every stop to draw her pictures of stamps as souvenirs. She also encourages us to write to prisoners, as in the story of her book, to reassure them that they are not forgotten.
Liu Xiaobo, a renowned writer, literary scholar, political activist, and 2010 Nobel Peace prizewinner, is currently serving a 11-year prison sentence in China for undermining the state authorities. His wife is under house arrest.
It's unlikely that Serena's postcard will ever reach Mr. Liu's hands, but perhaps, just like "The Stamp Collector", the prison guard would look at the Canadian stamp and wonder...
"The stamps are so beautiful - bright and colorful, large and small. They are like seeds blown by powerful winds from all corners of the world. Like wishes."