The magic of Bowring Park and the famed Peter Pan statue are brought to life in Christine Gordon Manley’s children’s book, The Secret of Bowring Park
There’s magic in Bowring Park, and also quite a few secrets.
So goes the enchanting children’s story by Mount Pearl native and Cornwall, PEI resident, Christine Gordon Manley, which takes the idea of otherworldly happenings in the picturesque park to a whole new level, using the iconic Peter Pan statue as a focal point.
“I grew up in Mount Pearl and I was always at Bowring Park,” shares Gordon Manley. “I have so many memories of climbing over that statue. I was convinced that those animals were not in the same place that they were the previous time. I was convinced that the snail was over there, the frog moved. My childhood was in Newfoundland and I have all of those memories.”
The Peter Pan statue holds something of a ying and yang when it comes to positive and negative energies. The statue was commissioned by Sir Edgar Bowring as a memorial for his granddaughter Betty Munn, who was one of 94 fatalities when the SS Florizel sank between her voyage from St. John’s to New York City.
Never Grow up
Sculpted by George Frampton, the haunting yet poignantly beautiful tribute was inspired by a statue of Peter Pan Bowrting had observed in England, and one that celebrates, joy, magic and honours the little girl that would never grow up.
Surely something so profound must hold some magic?
“I had no idea where this statue came from,” Gordon Manley admits. “Growing up in a place you don’t tend to take the time to learn about things. It’s right in front of you. I’m sure there are tourists in my hometown who know more than I do from a historic perspective. When I started digging into it I was fascinated. Everything just kind of clicked for that.
“It wasn’t until I was here in 2012 and my then four-year-old daughter was climbing over that statue and I was watching her. It just hit me, this would make an incredible story,” Gordon Manley said.
“Nobody has actually ever written about the Peter Pan statue at Bowring Park. Bowring Park itself isn’t in any children’s stories, as far as I know. It’s this magical place that I can’t even describe. When I’m reading in PEI and I’m trying to lay the scene, we don’t have anything like it so it’s very difficult to actually explain what Bowring Park is, because it’s such a unique place.”
The Secret of Bowing Park centers on young sisters Natalie and Elizabeth, who are swept into the enchantment of the park. It’s lovely and whimsical and full of the best kind of magic, with pop off the page illustrations by Laurel Keating. For Gordon Manley, a dedicated mother of two and longtime writer, her children are as big of an inspiration for creativity as any waterside epiphany or serendipitous revelations.
“I run a lot of my children’s book ideas through my own kids and they challenge me because their imaginations are like five times as big as mine,” she says. “They’ll inspire me and give me some ideas and their concept of what I can do is just beyond what I can do. I also love the joy. I go into classrooms in PEI and just seeing their faces light up … you don’t see that joy in adults.”
Gordon Manley is next working on a children’s book centered on the Newfoundland fairy, which she describes as being “so very different than Tinker Bell.” As to what about children’s literature appeals above the rest, it all comes back to magic.
“I want kids to just have more imagination, magic and just beliefs in their day to day,” she says. “If a story can help translate that into their everyday life and make things more magical, just for that much longer, then that makes me happy.”
The Secret of Bowring Park is available through Breakwater Books wherever local books are sold. For more information on the author visit christinegordonmanley.com