As the page turns

Our annual review of new books by local authors.

November 18, 2008 | | Back Issues | Winter 2008

It was another busy year for local authors. Although there is an unusual dearth of kids’ book on this year’s list, there is also an unusually high number of novels and poetry, suggesting there has been no lack of creative musings here in the hills. The size of the fiction offering is thanks in part to Mono author Derek Armstrong, who weighs in with three titles, including sequels to his fiction doubleheader of last year, as well as a compelling true-crime story that has landed him on the American talk-show circuit. And the list has plenty more for the non-fiction reader, too. So whatever your reading pleasure, you’re bound to find something in these literarily local pages to help you through the long winter nights ahead.

Verse, Rhyme & Occasional Reason

by A. George Fells


Dip into this book and you’ll find poems begging to be read aloud and appreciated for their clever rhythm and bounce. Nature and family are favourite subjects, as well as current issues (if only George Bush took our poet’s advice and bombed them with butter tarts), celebratory events and even victory over developers who tried to destroy his beloved home in Mono with a subdivision (surely the only ode the Ontario Municipal Board will ever receive). Our dabbler also entertains with limericks, aphorisms and general philosophies of living life to the fullest. (Cybercom Publishing, $19.95)



Growing Trees from Seed

by Henry Kock with Paul Aird, John Ambrose & Gerald Waldron


The late Henry Kock worked tirelessly to reforest the Great Lakes region with native trees and woody plants – a goal he believed was (and is) of “immense biological and moral worth.” Trees from garden centres are often “clones,” germinated from grafting or cuttings, which hinders the genetic diversity of the species. This book explains everything you will need to know – from finding seeds to germination – to help bring our region back into balance. (Firefly Books, $45)

Belfountain’s Paul Aird, a conservation writer and forestry professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, assisted in the creation of Growing Trees from Seed. His previous book, Loon Laughter: Ecological Fables and Nature Tales – in which Lorraine the deer fights the development of a giant disco in her beloved forest on the Moraine – has recently been adapted for the stage. Beware the Falling Trees! – Lorraine & The Great Moraine Adventure was performed at Newmarket’s 2008 Shakespeare Festival and is currently touring elementary schools across the GTA.




Killarney Memoir: Summers over a Century

by Margaret E. Derry


This delightful memoir combines illustration and anecdotal remembrances of summers spent on the rocky shores of Georgian Bay. Letters and stories from past and present generations (her grandchildren are the sixth generation to make the trip north) give a sense of history and a hopeful sense of the future that only a well-loved tradition can inspire. Derry’s watercolour paintings perfectly complement the narrative, evoking lazy, sun-drenched summer days that seem to go on forever.

Caledon’s Margaret Derry is a historian and artist affiliated with the universities of Guelph and Toronto. Her previous book, Georgian Bay Jewel (to which Killarney Memoir is a natural addition), takes an in-depth look at the geological and human history of the Killarney area. (Poplar Lane Press, $24.95)




The Power of the Press

The Story of Early Canadian Printers and Publishers

by Chris Raible


The Power of the Press takes a fascinating look at the history of printing presses and the social and political impact they had on the lives of early Canadians. Editors and publishers in the late 1800s must have been a hardy lot. Not only was setting type an arduous and exacting task, but if they strayed outside the Crown’s strict guidelines on content, they could be charged with anything from blasphemy to treason.

But government threats didn’t stop the likes of William Lyon Mackenzie, Louis Riel or George Brown (to name a few), who understood the real power of the press and used their publications to inspire political change – and the occasional revolution.

Creemore’s Chris Raible has written two books about William Lyon Mackenzie and is historical advisor to The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in Kingston. (James Lorimer & Company, $19.95)



The Yellow Briar

A Story of the Irish on the Canadian Countryside

by Patrick Slater


Wonderful news for fans of local and Canadian history alike: The Yellow Briar is finally being re-published. This pseudo-memoir follows the adventures of a young man’s journey from the Great Famine in Ireland to start life anew in the Mono hills of “Canada West.” The Yellow Briar was first published in 1933 as an autobiography, but “Patrick Slater” was soon discovered to be the fictional creation of John Mitchell, a Toronto lawyer who had grown up on Yellow Briar Farm on Mono’s 5th Line. The resulting literary kafuffle only added to the book’s ongoing popularity, helping it become a Canadian classic. (Dundurn Press, $18.99)




The Last Quest

Drew Peterson Exposed

by Derek Armstrong


A banner year for Mono’s Derek Armstrong with three new books: MADicine, an Alban Bane mystery, The Last Quest, the second of a trilogy begun with The Last Troubadour, and Drew Peterson Exposed, the true story of an American ex-police sergeant accused of killing both his first and second wives.


Alban Bane may be a cop who breaks the rules, but he also gets the job done. The wise-cracking Bane has his work cut out for him when a super-virus spreads out of control, threatening the global population. International locales and (horrors!) yet another reality show make MADicine a grand romp of chuckles and thrills. (Künati, $24.95)


The Last Quest catches up with our thirteenth-century heroes as they continue their mission for truth and honour. This multi-layered history, with characters based on the tarot, uses fantasy and humour to address larger issues of religion and culture. (Künati, $24.95)


Drew Peterson Exposed is certainly garnering our author a ton of press. Derek Armstrong has appeared on Fox News, Inside Edition and Good Morning America to tell the troubling story of a man condemned by the tabloids before his case ever went to trial. Armstrong’s book presents alternative theories, new evidence, uncovers shoddy police work, and reveals the results of an independent polygraph test undergone by the accused. (Künati, $26.95)



The Last Stand

by Peter E. Kelly & Douglas W. Larson


When you next hike in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, take a moment to study the gnarled trees growing improbably out of the sheer rock face. You may well be looking at some of the oldest trees in Canada. The white spruce, native to the spiny backbone of The Niagara Escarpment, are true ancients, many of them over a thousand years old. Peter Kelly and Douglas Larson (both affiliated with The University of Guelph) tell the story of their first heart-pounding discovery of the age of these often overlooked trees and the value the white spruce has held to First Nations people. Included is a listing of the location, age and particulars of a few of the oldest trees. Take a trek up to Lion’s Head and prepare to feel inconsequential next to the 1,320-year-old tree they call “The Ancient One,” a tree that began life in A.D. 688, before the Incas, before the Crusades, before the Vikings lost their way and washed up on the shores of North America. Wow. (Natural Heritage Books, $39.95)



Blood of the Donnellys

by David McRae


Jason Stevens has a bad habit of falling in with the wrong crowd. After he was sentenced to probation for damage to private property, his parents decide to move the family to Lucan, a small town outside of London, Ontario, for a fresh start. But Lucan – famous for the 1880 massacre of the Donnelly family – is having its own crime problems and, once again, Jason is lured in. Desperate to free himself from his downward spiral, Jason, with the help of his twin sister, his crazy old grandfather and a ghost from the Donnelly past, finds the courage to change.

Caledon’s David McRae weaves fact and fiction into this intriguing story for young teens. (A Sandcastle Book, $11.99)




Every Family’s Business

A Blueprint for Protecting Family Business Wealth

by Thomas William Deans


“Family businesses are a concept born out of love,” Thomas Deans says in his essential guide for anyone in, or thinking about starting, a family business. Unfortunately, a majority of these businesses fail to make it to the second generation (and even less to the third) due to miscommunication and family dysfunction. With sensitivity and a dash of humour Deans outlines the twelve questions he advises family members to talk through each year. The result? Protect your wealth and your family’s sanity.

Thomas Deans is the former president of a multinational family business based in Orangeville. He is now an in-demand speaker on family business and succession planning. (DFC, $19.95)




Tell Everything

By Sally Cooper


Where does consent end and abuse begin – and who decides where the line should be drawn? The victim? The abuser? The courts? Tell Everything is the story of Pauline (Peck) Brown, who was “befriended” by a couple accused of sexually abusing teenage girls. It’s a past she’s worked hard to bury, but no matter how deep she pushes it, up it bubbles, contaminating everything she does. An impending trial means Peck’s full involvement with the couple will not only be revealed to the public (who are greedily devouring every lurid detail) but, also, the man she loves.

Sally Cooper’s first novel, Love Object, received critical praise. She grew up in Inglewood and now lives in Hamilton. (Dundurn Group, $21.99)




Wellington County

by Fred Dahms


In the same winning format as the Caledon and Dufferin County books, Wellington County receives its due in this picture and information-packed coffee-table book. Writer and photographer Fred Dahms takes us on a historical, geological, architectural and agricultural tour of the many communities within the county – from the pretty, tourist destinations of Erin, Fergus and Elora (with their strong Scottish roots and array of local artists) to the bigger city of Guelph. Urban and rural concerns are thoughtfully discussed with sound recommendations to guarantee a sustainable future. (The Boston Mills Press, $39.95)



Elmer Iseler: Choral Visionary

by Walter Pitman


In choral circles around the world Canada is known as “a singing nation” thanks to the vision and dedication of the late Elmer Iseler. This fine biography details the humble roots of his boyhood when he conducted the choir in his father’s Lutheran church to the creation of the Festival Singers of Canada (who, at their peak, were ranked with the top choral groups in the world), the Elmer Iseler Singers, and his work with The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, as well as their many travels and performances abroad. Equally interesting are the details of Iseler’s personal life: his love for his wife, Jessie, his children, friends and Quail Hill Farm, his home in Caledon. (Dundurn Press, $40)



And the Angels Sang

by Lorina Stephens


The historical and fantastical seamlessly rub shoulders in this anthology of short, speculative fiction. The title story, “And the Angels Sang,” posits the tortured last thoughts of Father Jean de Brébeuf as angry Iroquois burn him at the stake, while “Dragonslayer” imagines the life of a former larger-than-life hero reduced to employment as a lowly life-insurance salesman.

Lorina Stephens’s previous books include Touring the Giant’s Rib: A Guide to the Niagara Escarpment, Recipes of a Dumb Housewife and Shadow Song. She is a former Orangeville resident and now lives in Neustadt, Ontario. (Five Rivers Chapmanry, $18.50)




The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids

by Tosca Reno


Nutrition guru, Tosca Reno, knows how difficult it is to feed your kids nutritious meals they will eat and enjoy. The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids is an exceptionally well thought-out battle plan to win the minds and stomachs of the pickiest of eaters. With tips on how to stock your pantry, meal plans and over sixty recipes, Tosca shows you how to eliminate over-processed, sugar-laden foods and involve your kids in their own nutrition. With recent food scares and the alarming rate of childhood obesity and diabetes, this book is as timely as it is important to your child’s health.

Caledon’s Tosca Reno has written a number of “Eat-Clean” books and is a regular columnist for Oxygen magazine. (Robert Kennedy Publishing, $21.95)





by Alyxandra Harvey-Fitzhenry


Broken mines the rich material of fairy tales to create an enchanting story of modern teen life. Fifteen-year-old Ash Perrault can’t help but feel she’s trapped in Cinderella’s life – and not the Disney version with dancing cutlery and singing mice. No, her world more closely resembles the Grimms’ tales with “dark woods and blood falling from fingertips and toes hacked off for glass slippers that don’t fit.” Her father’s impending marriage means a new stepmother and two stepsisters, who, no matter how wicked or (even worse) nice, cannot replace the mother she lost and is still grieving for. And, if that isn’t enough, glass objects are spontaneously shattering around her – a phenomenon she can neither explain nor control.

Broken is Mono resident Alyxandra Harvey-Fitzhenry’s second novel. Her first, Waking, is also highly recommended for young adult readers. (Tradewind Books, $12.95)




The Khan’s Book of Verse

Remembering the Works of Robert Kirkland Kernighan

selected by Jake Robinson


Although the Khan’s poetry has always held a place of honour in the Robinson household, the poet and his work have, unfortunately, been largely forgotten by the Canadian public. Jake Robinson is the grandson of Orangeville native, Black Jack Robinson, editor of the Toronto Evening Telegram who regularly published The Khan’s poems in the early 1900s. With the help of his son-in-law, Orangeville writer Jeff Rollings, Robinson hopes to help restore Kernighan to Canada’s literary pantheon.

The Khan’s poetry is both funny and tender, many times addressing his great love for Canada and respect for nature. There’s a lyricism to the rhymes, a melodic quality that would naturally translate into song – in fact, Sir John A. Macdonald said The Khan’s “Men of the Northern Zone” should be sung by Canadian soldiers should they ever have to go to war.

Jake Robinson farmed in Grand Valley before retiring to Grafton. (Ampersand Printing, $19.95)



A Caledon Sketchbook

by Richard B. Nevitt


Early in his career, Caledon artist Richard Nevitt was able to view the sketchbooks of The Group of Seven. In them he saw the raw beginnings of later masterpieces and was motivated to keep a journal of his own. A Caledon Sketchbook is a glimpse into Nevitt’s journal of field sketches inspired by the Caledon countryside. Meaningful commentary accompanies the furious strokes of pen on paper as emotions of awe and solitude are captured in the forms of fallen trees, snow-covered streams and the rage of a winter storm.

Richard Nevitt was an instructor at The Ontario College of Art for many years. He now gives workshops at The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg. (The Porcupine’s Quill, $18.95)





by Harry Posner


The myriad of birdlife flitting about Harry Posner’s Caledon property inspired this charming volume of poetry and paintings. Children (ages six and up) will delight in the lyrical rhymes that bounce and play – just like their bird counterparts – and capture the unique habits of blue jays, juncos, cardinals and even the duplicitous cowbird. The poem, “if you stand firm,” describes the magic of tempting a chickadee to eat seed from your hand:


if you wait like an ancient tree

waits standing firm and still

the tiny wild wind dancer

may land to feed –

steady, not to frighten

the flame away

Harry Posner is an author, editor, play/screenwriter, song lyricist, children’s book author and co-owner of Zencha Tea Bar in Collingwood. (Shaw’s Creek, $15)



Narrow Gauge Through the Bush

Ontario’s Toronto Grey & Bruce and Toronto & Nipissing Railways

by Rod Clarke


Railway and history enthusiasts alike are sure to be thrilled with this detailed history of the rise and fall of narrow gauge railways in late nineteenth-century Ontario. The building of the railway was a massive undertaking filled with municipal politics, power struggles, macho posturing and the nightmare logistics of laying the actual line. Of particular interest to readers in Headwaters is the construction of the Toronto Grey & Bruce line, which travelled north through Caledon, Orangeville, Mono, Amaranth and Mount Forest on its way to Owen Sound. Included are archival photos, maps and even cross-sections of the various engines used, as well as much, much more. (Rod Clarke, $65)




by Pat Mattaini Mestern


When Lish MacPherson takes a break from her life and travels to the Mulmur Hills, she feels as though she’s arrived home. Little does she know she shares a history with the beautiful landscape and the people she meets. Soon, she’s entangled in an event lived long ago by her ancestors and will need all her wits to unravel a mystery of greed, murder and a native legend.

Granite is Pat Mestern’s eighth novel. She is a freelance writer based in Fergus. (Dundurn Press, $21.99)




I’d Rather be a Mermaid

by Mary R. Lazier


Mary Lazier’s memoir tells of life lived to the absolute fullest, from her ancestors’ arrival to America on “The Brindled Cow,” her difficult childhood with a genius/alcoholic/runaway father, to her own passionately embraced and failed relationships. Medical school and life in Toronto’s high society were put aside to realize her dreams of travel and her love of working with clay.

Mary Lazier is a well-known potter who lives in Mulmur. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and can be found in shops in Headwaters and Toronto. (Red Hen, $29.50)




Most years, our reviews include at least one or more picture books by local illustrators. Although this year is an exception, the kids haven’t been left out entirely. A new board game offers a perfect way for youngsters to spend some entertaining and educational time with the family.


Blunders: Make Learning Manners Fun!

A game, illustrated by David Aspenleider


Seven-year old Brenda Blunder accidentally spills purple grape juice on the Mannerlys’ white carpeting. What should Brenda say?

a)         “Boy, your family is really silly for having white carpeting with kids in the house.”

b)         “I’m so sorry! Let me clean it up.”

c)         “Hey, that spot looks like a clown doing a somersault.”


Brenda better apologize fast or she and her siblings will never get invited back to the Mannerlys’ for the big pool party. Kids (ages five and up) will delight in this unique board game where minding your manners means winning new friends and having a whole lot of fun. Players must answer questions, act out scenarios and understand behavioural consequences at home, at the dinner table, at school and at play to move their pieces around the board.

Graphic designer, illustrator and songwriter, David Aspenleider lives near Mansfield and created the quirky, likeable images of the Blunder kids and the busy game board, where opportunity for fun (or folly) lies around every corner. Available locally at Rosemont General Store. (Successful Kids Inc., $31)

About the Author More by Tracey Fockler

Tracey Fockler is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment you agree that IN THE HILLS magazine has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments for use both online or in print. You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold IN THE HILLS harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Any comments posted on this site are NOT the opinion of IN THE HILLS magazine. Personal attacks, offensive language and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. Please report inappropriate comments to