From Wednesday to Friday, Bouquinerie Gravel Bookstore will be showcasing its extensive selection of French titles in the school gymnasium at École Valois.
The sale, which is open to the public, runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the first two days and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
“This is our 20th anniversary of going into the community,” the store’s co-owner Maria Lepage said.
“At one point in P.A. there was a small bookstore here (L’Épinette) and they used to do it. But we started (at) the same time doing it -- we did it in the south (of the province), they did in the north -- and then we ended up buying out the bookstore and coming up north as well.”
Located in the southern Saskatchewan town of Gravelbourg, Bouquinerie Gravel Bookstore is run jointly by Lepage and her partner Pauline Vezina.
Every year in March, Bouquinerie Gravel does a round of book fairs throughout the province as part of the Month of La Francophonie, which celebrates the French language and contributions of French-speaking communities around the world.
Along with the cultural component, there is a certain economic incentive for the store’s annual tour.
“We’re the only French bookstore in the province,” Lepage noted. “So we have to come and see our clients because we’re five hours away.”
While Bouquinerie Gravel has a small selection of English books, the titles on offer largely cater to the store’s overwhelmingly francophone clientele.
Describing the books being sold this week, Lepage rattled off a lengthy list of genres.
We have a lot of anglophone parents who have kids in French immersion schools that come to shop with their kids. - Maria Lepage
“The majority of our resources are youth novels (and) subject matter that pertains to school,” she said. “But we also have got a great selection of adult novels and we have science and the humanities, and we have what we call bandes dessinées (or) graphic novels … We have a big long table of that.
“And we have a lot of young children’s books, because we really believe that we have to start reading for a child when they’re small to give them the love of reading and give them the love of the language and the sounds.”
Acknowledging the importance of education, Bouquinerie Gravel provides a few French books to the school that receives them in each city as compensation for the use of their gym.
Notably, French-language education is also one of the main drivers of the book sale’s anglophone clientele.
“We have a lot of anglophone parents who have kids in French immersion schools that come to shop with their kids,” Lepage said.
Having spent a week in Saskatoon prior to her Prince Albert trip, Lepage will next move on to Moose Jaw following this week’s sale.
Due to her husband’s family connections in the city, P.A. has long been a highlight of Lepage’s annual province-wide tour.
“It’s always a pleasure to come to Prince Albert,” she said, adding, “We just love the community and the people … We’ve been coming for 15 years, so there’s a reason.”