The Year in Books: 2009
Our annual year-end review of new books. A special thanks to BookLore for its support — and a very happy birthday for its 20th anniversary in 2010.
It’s been more than a decade now since this magazine first included a year-end review of new books by local authors and illustrators. There were eight books in the line-up that first year. In recent years, there have been as many as three times that number.
We couldn’t have done it without the assistance of Nancy Frater, the owner of BookLore, and her long-time staffer and freelance writer Tracey Fockler.
When Nancy and her partner Ellen Clare first opened the store, they were going against the trend. Independent book retailers were disappearing, pushed out by the big box book stores. That’s still the case today – even the venerable Pages on Toronto’s Queen Street shuttered its doors this year – but BookLore has continued to thrive. And its loyal support of local authors, whether established or neophyte, is just one of the many reasons this remarkable little store has secured its place so firmly at the cultural heart of our community.
BookLore will celebrate its 20th anniversary in the new year. May we be among the first to wish it a very happy birthday – and very best wishes for many more to come!
You Can’t Say That In Canada!
By Margaret Wente
Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente certainly knows how to cause a stir. And it’s a good thing, she insists, despite the regular avalanche of hate mail and calls (from the entire province of Newfoundland, no less) for her to be slapped with a cod and boiled in a vat of seal oil.
In this, her second book, American-born Wente combines memoir with past articles – some humourous, some explosive – to tackle taboo topics, or blind spots she sees in her adopted country’s psyche. Canada is a society of tribes, she says, most of whom are far too thin-skinned for her liking. But for all our foibles and baff ling cultural morality, she can’t imagine living anywhere else. Margaret Wente also wrote An Accidental Canadian. She has a country home in Mulmur. (HarperCollins Canada, $29.99)
By Marilyn Helmer and Illustrated by Kasia Charko
More than anything in the world, Ali wishes her brother didn’t have allergies so she could have a cat. One day, in her secret clubhouse at the end of the garden, a stray cat appears, and Ali is overjoyed. Caring for Snowy and keeping her a secret is harder than she thought. The decision she has to make when she finds out Snowy already has a home is even harder.
Fergus author Marilyn Helmer gently teaches responsibility in this chapter book for young readers, while Alton’s Kasia Charko’s pencil and watercolour illustrations playfully express the emotional journey of Sharing Snowy’s feline-obsessed little girl. (Orca Book Publishers, $6.95)
After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties
By Catherine Gildiner
In the long-awaited sequel to Catherine Gildiner’s bestselling memoir, Too Close to the Falls, we find young Cathy recently expelled from Catholic school and on the move with her eccentric parents to the suburbs of Buffalo. For a high-spirited young woman the 1960s were, perhaps, the perfect decade to come of age. The same energy that earned her a doctor-prescribed job in her father’s pharmacy at the tender age of four leads her deep into the civil rights movement. But for all the rush of revolution, harsh reality – in the form of first love betrayed and her father’s fatal illness – inevitably breaks the spell.
Catherine Gildiner is a clinical psychologist and author of the novel, Seduction. She has a country home near Creemore. (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, $32.95)
Middle-Aged Spread: Moving to the Country at 50
By Sonia Day
Sonia Day knew her life would change with the impulsive purchase of forty-eight acres and a run-down century home in rural Belwood – what she and her husband didn’t expect was a biblical plague of squirrels, guerrilla pot growers, the devolution of her gardening style from English country to critterus-interruptus and the steady draining of their bank account into their money-pit of a dream home.
In spite of it all – or perhaps because of it all – country life took hold and something fundamental within them shifted.
For all its humour, Middle-Aged Spread is a heartfelt love letter to Canada and the joy of living in closer harmony with its land.
Sonia Day is a gardening columnist for The Toronto Star and author of The Plant Doctor. (Key Porter Books, $24.95)
How Robin Saved Spring
By Debbie Ouellet
Lady Winter loves the white and blue world of snow and ice, and even though it’s time for her long nap, she doesn’t want to let it go. Her solution? Cover Sister Spring with a snowy blanket and let her sleep forever.
Not everyone is happy with her decision though. One by one, the forest animals try and fail to wake Spring. Finally it occurs to the dun-coloured robin to enlist the help of Mother Sun. Robin pledges his voice to her in song and, in return, receives a blaze of red-orange morning light on his breast to take back to Sister Spring.
Gorgeous illustrations by Italy’s award-winning Nicoletta Ceccoli accompany Loretto’s Debbie Ouellet’s enchanting story of the changing seasons. (Henry Holt And Company, $18.95)
Tuk and the Whale
Illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber
Tuk and his clan aren’t surprised when a ship carrying European whalers is spotted on the horizon. Grandfather dreamt of strangers in big boats needing their help, and Grandfather’s visions are rarely wrong.
The terrible-smelling men with bear-like faces covered in whiskers trade valuable goods for food and furs, and although Tuk is elated with the gifts and joins the men in their hunt for a bowhead whale, he also has a lesson to learn. The white men can teach him many things, his Grandfather warns, but not all of it will be good.
Orangeville’s Mary Jane Gerber’s pen and ink illustrations capture the stark beauty of the eastern Arctic in this chapter book for young readers by Montreal author Raquel Rivera. Mary Jane Gerber’s previous books include A Pioneer Alphabet and Thanks for Thanksgiving. (Groundwood Books, $8.95)
Explore the Solar System!
By Anita Yasuda
Building your own space shuttle (complete with Canadarm) and making a delicious, Stonehenge-style solar observatory from Rice Krispie squares are just a few of the activities in this fact-packed, fun-filled children’s book.
Projects, games and experiments as well as terminology, mini-biographies of early astronomers, descriptions of major constellations and important space “firsts” are sure to delight budding sky-watchers aged six to ten.
Anita Yasuda’s previous book, Japanese Children’s Fabrics, was a cultural look at Japan through the art of textiles. She lives in Mono. (Nomad Press, $13.95)
The Orphan Boy
Illustrated by Paul Morin
An old man looks up into the sky and is puzzled to find a star missing. The next morning, an orphan boy appears at his hut and offers to fetch water and tend his cattle in return for a home. When his cattle thrive while others weaken in the drought, the old man breaks his promise to the boy and plots to uncover his secret.
The Orphan Boy was originally published in 1990 and garnered Paul Morin multiple awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Illustration. His richly textured, sun-drenched paintings show the grit, sand and twigs from the African landscape. Morin designed this new edition and added ten original paintings to Tolowlwa Mollel’s retelling of the Maasai legend.
Paul Morin lives in Rockwood and can be found at The Paul Morin Gallery in Erin. (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $21.95)
Dieppe: Canada’s Darkest Day of World War II
By Hugh Brewster
“On the beaches of Dieppe, our Canadian cousins marked with their blood the road to our final liberation.” This inscription on the monument in Place du Canada, Dieppe, in no way understates the sacrifice made by our soldiers. The raid was poorly planned, and the Canadians were sent into a battle they could not win. A thousand men died on the beaches, over five hundred were wounded and almost two thousand were taken prisoner.
In 2007, Mulmur’s Hugh Brewster travelled to Dieppe and attended the 65th anniversary of the raid. The stories of the veterans he spoke to, interspersed with photographs, maps and illustrations, bring the events of that terrible night vividly alive.
Hugh Brewster’s previous books in this children’s series (which adults will also find absorbing) are On Juno Beach and At Vimy Ridge. (Scholastic Canada, $19.99)
I Love My Hockey Mom and Thanks to My Hockey Dad
By The Orangeville Flyers Novice AE Team
When asked by coach Jason Howel and teacher/hockey mom Jennifer Sutoski to express in words and pictures the amazing things their parents do for them, Jason’s team of seven and eight-year-old hockey players produced a wonderful collection of answers. From putting up with stinky equipment and skipping off work for important games to sneaking good-luck kisses in the dressing room and crying every time their child scores a goal, their parents have done it all.
“The players remind us,” Jason says, “that each moment is a memory to be filed away forever. The kids know what their moms and dads have done for them – the efforts have not gone unnoticed.”
These two stocking-stuffer-sized books are the perfect gift for any parent who has ever driven their child to a six a.m. practice, shivered for hours in the cold arena and then screamed their head off every time their kid hit the ice. (Key Porter Kids, $9.99 each)
We’re All In This Together: Red Green: The Man Behind the Character and Vice Versa
By Mag Ruffman
Actor and home-reno expert Mag Ruffman spent over a year in conversation with Steve Smith to produce this indepth look at Canada’s favourite scratchy-voiced, ducttape- loving handyman. Smith tells of a childhood building flour bombs, meeting his life-long love Morag, the early years of making music, and the jump to television with the shows Smith & Smith and The Comedy Mill.
The Red Green Show had its rocky patches – after cancellation by chch, Smith went deep into debt to buy the rights – until he took creative control and turned the Possum Lodge crew into Canadian icons. As Red says, “It doesn’t take long for men to make a decision. It’s making the decision look smart that takes the time.”
Mag Ruffman lives in Mulmur.
This book is only available at Home Hardware. (Toolgirl Press, $24.99)
The Eat-Clean Diet for Men
By Robert Kennedy and Tosca Reno
Written in easy-to-read language, fitness guru Tosca Reno and her publisher husband Robert Kennedy tackle these differences and explain how a diet free of over-processed, sugar-laden foods will increase men’s fertility, sexual health and prevent heart disease and diabetes. Included are sixty “man-friendly” recipes as well as tips on how to shop and stock your refrigerator. ($21.95)
Also new on bookshelves: The Eat-Clean Cookbook ($34.95) and The Eat-Clean Diet Companion ($17.95). The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged is due out in January. ($21.95).
Tosca Reno and Robert Kennedy live in Caledon. (Robert Kennedy Publishing)
Hearts at Stake
By Alyxandra Harvey
Being a teenager is tough. Being a teenager who is prophesized to be the rightful vampire queen when she goes through the “bloodchange” on her sixteenth birthday simply, well, sucks. Solange Drake would rather be hanging out with her best friend, Lucy, than (ick) drinking blood and becoming some stupid fang-faced leader of the “undead.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like she’s going to have a choice. A bounty on her head spurs her family into battle mode, and Solange finds herself on the run with the annoyingly cute vampire-hunter sent to take her out.
Hearts at Stake is the first in “The Drake Chronicles” series for teens. Book two will be published early 2010. Mono’s Alyxandra Harvey, author of Broken and Waking, is undergoing big changes of her own as her writing career takes off. Hearts at Stake is boosted by impressvie print and internet marketing campaigns, and Alyxandra is preparing for a book tour of major U.S. cities come the new year. (Walker & Company, $12.50)
The Hurleyville Taxi: Two Thousand Pounds of Bacon and Bone
By Clare McCarthy
In this laughout- loud family history, McCarthy focuses on his uncle, Howard Hurley, who became famous when he trained a pair of Tamworth boars to pull a cart.
Howard, Red and Rusty traveled to agricultural fairs across Canada and Hurley’s home in Algoma became a well-known tourist destination. More than 100,000 people (including Prime Minister Lester Pearson and his wife) paid a dollar for a ride on the legendary Hurleyville Taxi.
Orangeville’s Clare McCarthy is a writer, storyteller, and an editorialist and cartoonist for The Orangeville Banner. (Moose Hide Books, $9.33)
Sebastian and the Spider King
By Anouska Fry
Housebound, he stumbles across an old journal and discovers that great danger lurks in the Venezuelan rainforest.
With the help of his cousin Polly and his oddball Uncle Troy, Sebastian must find a way to defeat the Amazonian Spider King and save his father.
Anouska Fry lives in Shelburne. (Author-House, $13.95)
Growing Up is Not Hard To Do…If You Can Take the Bumps
By Gerald Ward
Putting bullets in a tin can and throwing it on the fire was great fun – so was starting brush fires, eating apples in a tree with a black bear, and accidentally painting the neighbour’s outhouse with glue instead of paint (resulting in the neighbour’s wife getting stuck to the seat!).
The life lessons come hard – and sometimes with permanent scarring – in Gerald Ward’s hilarious collection of anecdotes. (Gerald Ward, $12)
Interrogation in Mexico
By Elaine Lister
This time around it’s a beloved Mexican politician, who is hungry for power and secretly involved in the drug trade, threatening peace and order in the Americas.
The breakneck action takes place in Cuba, Mexico, Columbia and Canada.
Elaine Lister is also the author of A Cover Too Deep. (Publish America, $24.95)
If Winter Comes
By Les Cartwright
Nothing we Canadians haven’t seen before… except it’s June and military forces are guarding fuel sources with orders to shoot looters on sight.
As society quickly devolves, a family nestled in a tiny escarpment town stumbles upon an unimagined conspiracy in their struggle to survive.
Les Cartwright has written short stories and radio dramas for both the BBC and the CBC. He lives in Orangeville. (XLIBRIS, $19.95)
The Family History
By Jean Jardine Miller
Asked by her bereaved sister-in-law to trace her family roots, Holly finds the complicated lives of her mid-Victorian ancestors surprisingly similar to her own. Parallel stories, one in the present, the other beginning in 1856, tell the universal tale of familial love and loss.
Jean Jardine Miller lives in Shelburne. (Jardine Miller Publishing, $15.99)
Prehistoric Journey: The First Expedition
By Dianne Narrol
Bolton’s Dianne Narrol mixes history and romance in her first, century-spanning adventure novel.
(This title is available at http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-686-6 as an ebook for $5.99 USD or a print version for $19.99 USD.)