New Brunswick

Fredericton writer makes Canada Reads 2020 longlist

Author Carla Gunn said having her book Amphibian selected for the Canada Reads 2020 longlist is flattering.

'This was certainly a surprise and it's fun to have it back in the conversation'

Amphibian is a novel by Carla Gunn. It has been selected for the Canada Reads 2020 longlist. (twitter.com/carladgunn, Coach House Books)

Author Carla Gunn says having her book Amphibian selected for the Canada Reads 2020 longlist is flattering.

"This was certainly a surprise and it's fun to have it back in the conversation," Gunn said.

There are 15 books on the list. It will be cut to five on Jan. 22.

She said she has no idea how the book, first published in 2009, has made its way onto the list. But she believes the topic of the book is still relevant.

"We're looking at Canada's 2020 vision," the longlist announcement reads. "How do we move forward together? These books inspire readers to think twice about the lens through which they see themselves and Canada."

"For some reason somebody involved in that selection process decided that Amphibian would be a good candidate to get us thinking about things," Gunn said.

Amphibian is a novel about Phineas Walsh, a nine-year-old boy with a love of animals and an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world.

As he grapples with the damage that humanity is doing to the planet, a White's tree frog ends up in his Grade 4 class aquarium. Phineas and his best friend, Bird, decide something must be done. 

"He's really baffled as to why adults are not addressing these issues effectively, no one's really talking about it," Gunn said of the character's anxiety over climate change, endangered animals and more.

Carla Gunn's 2009 novel Amphibian tells the story of an anxious 9-year old named Phineas. He worries about the future of the planet - more specifically, about an Australian tree frog he'd like to send back home. 8:01

"That's still what's happening. I think if Phin were to re-emerge 10 years later he would look around and feel that nothing much has really significantly changed, other than we are talking about them more."

Gunn hopes the renewed interest in the book will encourage people to become more engaged in environmental issues.

"I'm hoping it will get some discussion going." 

She has been working on two more books, both on environmental issues. She said it is the most pressing subject facing people today.

"Our very survival depends on us effectively responding to the environmental crisis that's in front of us." 

Amphibian was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book.