The Year in Books: 2016

Our annual review of new books by local authors and illustrators.

November 22, 2016 | | Back Issues

What a year for authors in the hills! Local writers produced over 40 titles for your reading pleasure, and what an interesting and eclectic collection it is. Included are insights into local history, the biography of a war hero, letters of a literary icon and multiple memoirs of ordinary people courageously enduring extraordinary circumstances. Not to be outdone, poets, artists and fiction writers tempt readers to lose themselves in fanciful storytelling. And, as always, there are novels to engage the younger set and picture books to delight the wee ones.

This season, why not reward all the good girls and boys on your gift list with the perfect book?

A Celtic Temperament
Robertson Davies as Diarist edited by Jennifer Surridge and Ramsay Derry

Robertson Davies’ daughter Jennifer Surridge spent 15 years typing a literal transcription of her father’s diaries. And no wonder it took so long. The author, playwright, newspaper publisher and first master of the University of Toronto’s Massey College was a lifelong diarist, producing more than three million words. Surridge, collaborating with Ramsay Derry, her father’s friend and former editor at the Macmillan Company of Canada, selected the years 1959 to 1963 for publication. A Celtic Temperament is Davies at midlife and mid-career, a time of grand successes and wrenching failure. It is a fascinating look at the brilliant, moody and often insecure man known today as one of Canada’s greatest writers.

Davies lived out his later years near Caledon East. Derry owns a country home in Caledon. (McClelland & Stewart, $35)

A Celtic Temperament

The True Story of a Young Love That Tore a Family Apart
by Cindy Graves

The year is 1978. The setting is a hobby farm near Orangeville. A group of teens have repeatedly terrorized the Carey family by racing a car around their yard in the dead of night and vandalizing their property. Finally, Harry Carey has had enough. He fires a shotgun and inadvertently injures two of the boys. It turns out that one of the injured teens is the vengeful boyfriend of Harry’s youngest daughter, whom he’d forbidden her to see.

Cindy Graves is Harry’s eldest daughter. Her memoir of her father’s arrest and the devastation it wreaked on her family is a gripping story of love, loss and forgiveness. (Friesen Press, $35.80)


Jockey Girl
by Shelley Peterson

No Justice is a horse only 16-year-old Evie is brave enough to ride. The animal is aptly named. He can’t catch a break, no matter how fast he is. And “no justice” pretty much sums up Evie’s life as well. Her father is a mean-tempered control freak, her stepmother is falling into booze, and the boy Evie likes allowed her ex-friends to humiliate her all over Facebook. Winning the Caledon Horse Race is the first step in her plan to reclaim her life and find the mother she thought long dead.

Shelley Peterson is the author of the bestselling Saddle Creek book series. She owns and operates a stable in Caledon. (Dundurn, $12.99)

Jockey Girl

Country Fair
by Carolyn j Morris
illustrated by Richard McNaughton

Beeton’s Carolyn j Morris, author of the Spruce Valley novels for young readers, sends Chick and Duckling, characters from her children’s picture book Good Morning Railfence Bunch, on a new adventure. Hitching a ride in the back of a truck, the two curious fowls take in the 4-H displays, the horse show, the Ferris wheel and much more excitement at the country fair. Grey County’s Richard McNaughton illustrates the gentle tale with lovely watercolour scenes. (Railfence Books, $12.95) Country Fair

A Love Story
An Intensely Personal Memoir
by Lance Secretan

Lance Secretan understands leadership. The speaker, executive coach and best-selling author is world-renowned for instilling humanity into corporate life. His latest book is no less inspirational. Interspersed with poetry, A Love Story reflects on the deep, abiding love he shared with his wife Tricia. From their first meeting at Caledon Ski Club to Tricia’s final battle with cancer 30 years later, their relationship is an example for us all.

Lance Secretan is the author of ONE: The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership and Inspire! What Great Leaders Do. He divides his time between Colorado and Caledon. (Secretan Center, $24.95)

A Love Story

A Good Place to Start
by Blake Heathcote

Don’t let the title of Blake Heathcote’s biography of John “Scruffy” Weir fool you. This “unremarkable” Canadian led a most remarkable life. Raised among Toronto’s elite by his World War I-hero father, John began his training in the art of wilderness survival and espionage in childhood. These skills helped him not only ferret out spies on his air force base during World War II, but also survive incarceration in Stalag Luft III, where he played a key role in the famous “Great Escape.” Later in life Weir settled in Mulmur, where he continued his intelligence work, tracking down German war criminals.

Blake Heathcote founded Testaments of Honour Press, which is dedicated to telling the stories of Canadian veterans. (Testaments of Honour, $28.99)


Echoes of the Past
The Rural One Room Schools of Peel County
by Friends of the Schoolhouse

The Old Britannia Schoolhouse on Hurontario Street in Mississauga is visited every day of the school year by students eager to travel back in time to the mid-1800s and experience a piece of living history. Spearheaded by the late Joan Reid and Friends of the Schoolhouse (supporters of Old Britannia and its programs), Echoes of the Past is a research-rich exploration of Peel’s many other one room schoolhouses, including all 40 or so that once served students in what is now the Town of Caledon.

Archival photos, firsthand anecdotes, gems of quirky trivia, and historical timelines of the buildings and its pupils make for a captivating read. (Friends of the Schoolhouse, $30)

Echoes of the Past

The Petun
People of the Hills
by Pat Raible

In 1616, Samuel de Champlain arrived in a locale he described as a “country full of hill slopes and little level stretches which make it a pleasant land.” There he met an Indigenous people he called the Petum or Petun, meaning tobacco. Today a plaque stands in the village of Creemore to commemorate Champlain’s visit. Much is known about the explorer. But what of the people who once called our beautiful hills home?

Pat Raible, founder of Curiosity House Books & Gallery in Creemore, delves into the history, societal structure, spirituality and eventual dispersal of the Petun. (Curiosity House Books, $18.95)

The Petun

Broken Balloons
by Gail Prussky

After a decade of work as an addiction therapist for cocaine and crack users at the Donwood Institute in Toronto, Gail Prussky moved to Mono, gathered her art supplies around her and let her burnt-out brain wander. “Wander”? No. I think the correct word is explode. The fantastical creatures she created – a bizarre hybrid of human, insect and machine – stand on their own or illustrate short prose pieces. Subjects range from fond memories of the monster living under a child’s bed to the ancient sport of weasel tossing.

Filmmaker David Cronenberg supplies the foreword – an interview with Prussky at the imagined Wm Burroughs Black Meat Juice Bar, where they sipped meat-juice Spatials through mantis-legged straws. Best introduction ever to a thoroughly engaging book. (Exile Editions, $19.95)

Broken Balloons

Canada A to Z
In Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s Confederation
by Virginia May, Norah Newton and Shiloh Newton

Caledon artist Virginia May teamed up with her granddaughters, 12-year-old Norah and 10-year-old Shiloh Newton, to produce this beautifully crafted and fact-filled alphabet book. Photos, poetry, old maps and prints highlight the person, place or thing chosen to illustrate each letter.

Norah and Shiloh wrote poems for many of the letters and helped their grandmother with the design and photo choices. The former Orangeville residents now live in Priceville, Ontario. The project received permission from the Canada 150 Committee to use the official logo. (Virginia May, $20)

Canada A to Z

Spectacular Plant Combinations for the Perennial Garden
by Lorraine Roberts

“What should I plant with this perennial?” is the question heard most often by Lorraine Roberts, owner of Caledon’s Plant Paradise Country Gardens. Spectacular Plant Combinations explains how understanding flower form, foliage shape, texture and the fundamentals of the colour palette can help gardeners develop an artist’s perspective. The result? Stunning displays throughout the growing season.

Included in the guide are more than a hundred perennial combinations for both sun and shade, all photographed on-site in Roberts’ award-winning botanical garden.
Lorraine Roberts is also the author of A Recipe for Continuous Bloom. (Plant Paradise Country Gardens, $29.95)

Spectacular Plant Combinations for the Perennial Garden

Settling the Hills
Historical Reflections – Caledon East and District
by Caledon East and District Historical Society

Settling the Hills is back in print. This lovely book of photographs and stories is a testament to Caledon East’s first settlers. Chapters contributed by a variety of local authors reveal how a crossroads first known as Tarbox Corners grew into the bustling village it is today.

(Caledon East and District Historical Society, $25)

Settling the Hills

When the Rapture Comes and In the Garden of I Am
by Max Layton

When the rapture comes
The good-looking girls
In Tim Hortons will talk to me
Sit down at my table
Ask polite, intelligent questions
About the book I am reading
Sensing the exquisite loneliness
Of my soul

A single elegant prompt structures each of these collections of poetry. What else happens when the rapture comes? The ugly suburbs of Brampton and Mississauga disappear. A father lost to Alzheimer’s regains his memory. Everyone will be forced to sing “Ode to Joy” for 10,000 years. And In the Garden of I Am, the poet finds he encompasses so many things: the thoughtful provider who bought a plot for two at the cemetery; the collector in possession of Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses; the dean who had to can CanLit for lack of student interest. He is also a fish, a window, a barking puppy and the son of Irving Layton, now forced to explain who his father was to the Google generation.

Max Layton is a singer-songwriter, novelist and the former manager of a subsidiary of McClelland & Stewart. He lives in Cheltenham. (Guernica Editions, $20 each)

When the Rapture Comes

In the Garden of I Am

Autism The Gift That Needs to Be Opened
by the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

This collection of personal stories by parents, world experts and people on the autism spectrum includes chapters by Orangeville’s Krista Preuss-Goudreault and Hockley Valley’s Doug McCreary and his son Michael McCreary.

Krista Preuss-Goudreault’s contribution describes the eye-opening and often cathartic experience of writing a children’s book with her daughter Olivia, who has Asperger’s syndrome. May I Be Excused, My Brain Is Full launched a national book-signing tour and requests for Olivia to speak to groups and conferences.

Doug McCreary describes living with his nonverbal son Matthew as a never-ending game of “Survivor: Autism Edition, complete with food challenges, endurance events and mental exercises.” Humour, as you may have guessed, plays a large role in the family’s ability to cope. Little wonder Matthew’s older brother Michael, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is now a successful stand-up comic. Like his dad’s, Michael’s chapter is full of the same dry wit as he describes the obstacles he has tackled and the thrill of finding his passion in comedy. (Flanker Press, $19.95)

Autism The Gift That Needs to Be Opened

Fantastic Structures
A Coloring Book of Amazing Buildings Real and Imagined
by Steve McDonald

Have you finished every page of Steve McDonald’s first colouring book Fantastic Cities? Is your stressed brain craving the Zen-like peace of applying crazy shades to yet more architecture? With its incredible buildings, both real and imagined, Fantastic Structures will more than satisfy your restless hands. Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Prague’s astronomical clock, and Quebec City’s celebrated Château Frontenac all await your imagination.

Dunedin artist Steve McDonald travels the world to draw sketches on-site. The rough drawings – and photos for detail – are brought back to his studio, where he creates his pen-and-ink masterpieces. (Chronicle Books, $20.95)

Fantastic Structures

Halton Hikes
Loops & Lattes
by Nicola Ross

Following in the bootprints of Caledon Hikes: Loops & Lattes, Nicola Ross’s newest guidebook explores the woods and escarpments of the Halton area. Each of the 37 hikes is rated according to degree of difficulty, hiking time, number of steps and even the number of calories she burned. What’s missing? The number of potential calories to be gained during the “latte” portion of the outing. Only the most steely willed will be able to resist over-indulging at the inviting bakeries, coffee houses and various other eateries along the way.

Caledon’s Nicola Ross is the award-winning author of five books. She is also an environmental activist and a regular contributor to this magazine. (Woodrising Consulting, $24.95)

Halton Hikes

The Lost
Tales of the Ablockalypse #2
by David H. Scott

Steve, the unlikely hero of The Chosen, Tales of the Ablockalypse #1, fought off zombies and skeletons to retrieve the diamond chestplate. Now in pursuit of the final piece of enchanted armor, he and his gang of oddball friends must find the last known Dragon Master and enlist his help. No easy task considering the man reeks of garbage and is madder than a sack of wet cats.

Orangeville’s David H. Scott was only 12 when he wrote The Chosen. This second Minecraft-inspired novel for preteens, with its nonstop action and wacky humour, is, if possible, even more fun than the first. (Mystic Awesome Press, $10.99)

The Lost Tales of the Ablockalypse #2

Choose to Be Your Vision
by Sheena Blake
illustrated by Andrea Farrow

Dim the lights! Raise the curtain! The school play is ready to begin. After giving himself a pep talk, Sun – a costumed boy suspending from the ceiling by wires – feels pretty darn good about himself. But when a bossy thundercloud appears and tells him the animals and people below need her more than him, self-doubt creeps in and he disappears into the far reaches of the galaxy. Can he choose to be the vision of the strong, confident Sun he knows he can be?
Illustrator Andrea Farrow adds amusing layers to the story by heaping personality on every cast member.

Orangeville’s Sheena Blake founded Discovering Diversity Publishing. The company’s mandate is to promote self-love through education. (Discovering Diversity, $14.99)

Choose to Be Your Vision

A Handbook on Climate Action for Baby Boomers
How History’s Most Privileged Generation Can – With Guts and Gumption – Still Leave Our Kids a Livable Planet
by Liz Armstrong

The title of Liz Armstrong’s newly updated book is purposely worded. Yes, it’s about climate change, but more specifically, it’s a call for climate action. In it she targets her own cohort, baby boomers, who she says must now use their numbers-strong voices if they want to leave their children and grandchildren a viable future. How? Glad you asked. Armstrong proposes joining or creating your own action group, letter writing campaigns, practical tips to reduce your carbon footprint, and many other realistic options that together can create “an avalanche of action.” So come on all you raging grannies and grampies, it’s time to get loud!

Liz Armstrong is also the author of Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic. She lives in Erin. (ClimateAction, free pdf at or hard copy $20 online order)

Cadence of Consequences

Ramblings of a Curious Man and
Tales from Porcupine Junction
A Moose Pasture Paradise
by Clare McCarthy

Clare McCarthy’s memoir Ramblings of a Curious Man follows the hirsute hero from his humble beginnings in the Northern Ontario hamlet of Gold Centre, through school, career, world travels and a life-changing accident. (Mac Press, $14.95)

In the fictional hamlet of Porcupine Junction, ideas both brilliant and downright crazy are discussed by the “brain trust” in Bert’s Fix-It Shop. Each chapter tells a story, and each story is a gem. (Mac Press, $19.99)

Orangeville’s Clare McCarthy writes “Meanderings,” a column for the Orangeville Banner.

Ramblings of a Curious Man
Tales from Porcupine Junction

Jim Shaw’s Grand Valley
by Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw’s Grand Valley is a collection of the author’s favourite columns written for the Orangeville Banner. For the last 15 years, he has documented the interesting people and events of his beloved hometown. (Jim Shaw, $20) Jim Shaw’s Grand Valley

A Silent Bugle
Journals of an Alzheimer’s Daughter
by Sharon Cecelia Smith

Sharon Cecelia Smith believed her years as a professional caregiver in nursing homes would enable her to slide naturally into the role of sole caregiver to her father. But Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It twisted her father’s personality and spouted hurtful words that cut her to the core. And how could it not? She was still his daughter, and he was her beloved Papa.

This powerful memoir, which includes journal entries and poetry, is an unflinching look at the toll exacted on caregivers. A must-read for adult children now parenting their parents.

Sharon Cecelia Smith was a long-time resident of Orangeville. She now lives in Guelph. (Sharon Cecelia Smith, $20)

A Silent Bugle

The Wayfaring Swan
by Rose Schmidt

Liana Taylor, travel agent extraordinaire and chronic singleton, is bamboozled into signing up for a tall ship voyage in the Florida Keys by her interfering but well-meaning mother. Discovering that Taron Royce – a man both irritating and attractive – is the ship’s captain is only the first hitch in a voyage that threatens to turn into the vacation from hell. True love and family ties provide the strong moral centre for this delightful romantic comedy.

Rose Schmidt lives in Orangeville. (Rose Schmidt, $19.95)

The Wayfaring Swan

Welcome to the Madhouse
by S.E. Sasaki

S.E. Sasaki incorporates her work as a surgical assistant at Guelph General Hospital into her sci-fi thriller about a doctor posted to a medical space station. Dr. Grace Lord is prepared to adapt quickly to life aboard the Nelson Mandela as she patches up animal-human hybrid soldiers injured in battle, but nothing can prepare her for strange encounters with a too-human android and a killer lurking in the crew.

S.E. Sasaki lives in Erin. (FriesenPress, $18.99)

Welcome to the Madhouse

The Casebook of Padlock Holmes
by John Denison

Padlock Holmes, the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the famous Sherlock Holmes, lives in a pod-house at 221B Baker Street. A girl with wild orange hair and a sharp mind moves in next door. Her name? Wendy Watson, of course. Together with Padlock’s trusty computer Wiggins and an ever increasing cast of kooky characters, the team sets about solving cases both large and small.

Erin’s John Denison, author of Booger and Emily the Irritating, serves up another winning read. Teens will enjoy the futuristic setting and sly humour of the delightfully flawed hero. (Why Knot Books, $20)

The Casebook of Padlock Holmes

A Story of Love, Life, and Loss
by Barbara Heagy

Journal entries, remembered moments and emails to and from family members shape Barbara Heagy’s poignant memoir of love unexpectedly found at midlife followed by the profound loss of her husband to cancer. Heartbreaking and life affirming.

A longtime resident of Orangeville, Barbara Heagy recently moved to the Guelph area. (Balboa Press, $16.95)


Theory of Mind
by David Courtney

In a world of infinite choices and even more distractions, we, as a society, are doing frighteningly little to engage our brains. Our days are a monotonous haze of commuting, work, spending free time staring at a screen, and sleeping, with no time allotted for original experiences or creativity. The result? Our brains are stagnating, putting us at greater risk of dementia.

David Courtney tackles a variety of issues, from hyper-capitalism, religious fanaticism and misogyny to our need for music and arts and the inordinate importance we place on math and sciences. He lives in Belwood. (David Courtney, $18.95)

Theory of Mind

The Amethyst
by Aldonna Kaulius-Barry

Secrets and lies weave through this sprawling tale of a young woman’s quest for love. Her journey takes her from the ballrooms of Victorian England to faraway India at the time of the British Raj.

Aldonna Kaulius-Barry is a corporate magazine editor and executive coach who lives in Caledon. (Lioness and Castle Press, $24.95)

The Amethyst

So You Want to Be a Landlord
by H. Clark Adams, QC

If anyone should know the pitfalls of leasing out business and residential units, it’s Clark Adams. Not only is he a landlord, but he also spent 15 years as a judge in Orangeville’s small claims court, where he heard more than his fair share of landlord-tenant disputes. From ravenous, drywall-eating dogs to a tenant who ran a hostel out of a two-bedroom condo, Adams covers the gamut of horror stories.

Clark Adams is also the author of Your Turn to Judge: Forty Interesting Cases for You to Decide. He lives in Orangeville. (Friesen Press, $13.95)

So You Want to Be a Landlord

Celtic Odyssey, Age of Chivalry and When Beowulf Meets Kyla
by D.L. Narrol

Celtic Odyssey and Age of Chivalry are books two and three of The First Expeditions, a steampunk adventure series that began with the novel Prehistoric Journey.

When Beowulf Meets Kyla imagines the legendary, and terribly handsome, Beowulf, transported forward through time to the astonishment of Kyla, a student studying English literature at university.

D. L. Narrol lives in Caledon. (Double Dragon, $20 each)

Celtic Odyssey, Age of Chivalry and When Beowulf Meets Kyla

Beyond Shaking Hands
Discover Your Warrior Spirit When Battling Disease
by Nelson Sleno

Since the publication of his first book Shaking Hands, Nelson Sleno’s life has changed. Not only has he achieved local celebrity, but he has also become a sought-after speaker on the subject of dealing with Parkinson’s disease and other debilitating conditions. In fighting the war against disease, Nelson encourages warriors to use all available weapons, such as education, self-advocacy, prescription drugs and alternative therapies. The battle is not always pretty and the pitfalls are many, but the reward – to actively live the life you have – is worth the struggle.

Orangeville’s Nelson Sleno is a former teacher and champion in powerlifting and weightlifting. He currently plays a mean blues harmonica. (Titan Press, $15)

Beyond Shaking Hands

Think Nothing of Me
by Shawnda Chambers

Betrayal is at the heart of this brave memoir. Her husband’s infidelity and the breakdown of their marriage unearths deeper pain from the author’s past – a childhood stolen by sexual abuse. Beautiful, dreamy prose draws the reader into the labyrinth of her psyche as she searches for a path to healing.

Shawnda Chambers is a holistic nutritionist who runs workshops from her home in Mono. (Shawnda Chambers, $19.95)

Think Nothing of Me

Parents Make a Difference
A Journey of a Mom Wanting an Above-Average Life for Her Five Children
by Josie Pittiglio-Vivona

Betrayal is at the heart of this brave memoir. Her husband’s infidelity and the breakdown of their marriage unearths deeper pain from the author’s past – a childhood stolen by sexual abuse. Beautiful, dreamy prose draws the reader into the labyrinth of her psyche as she searches for a path to healing.

Shawnda Chambers is a holistic nutritionist who runs workshops from her home in Mono. (Shawnda Chambers, $19.95)

Parents Make a Difference

All For You
by Tina D’Alonzo

Nothing can stop Laura from cooking up a feast for a surprise party. Not her father yelling about the grocery bill or her mother fainting face first into freshly rolled pasta. Tina D’Alonzo’s bouncy rhymes and Stefanie St. Denis’s fun illustrations come together to create a tasty treat.

Tina D’Alonzo lives in Bolton. (Tellwell Talent, $20.95)

All For You

by the Hackmatack Writers

Voices is a collection of short stories, poetry, memoirs and plays by the Hackmatack Writers, a group formed after a writers’ workshop hosted by Dufferin Arts Council Art School in 1998.

Contributors include Jane Cooper, Teressa Gold, Margaret Hogben, David McRae, Rosemary Molesworth, Iain Richmond, Edith Van Beek and Bridget Lawson. (Hackmatack Writers, $15)


Construction Zone for Women 40+
How to Embrace Change by Shifting Beliefs
by Tracey McLeod

Many women reach 40 and discover they’ve spent so much time helping others achieve happiness they’ve forgotten about their own desires. Construction Zone for Women 40+ challenges women to rebuild their lives from the foundation right up to the rafters.

Tracey McLeod, a longtime resident of Orangeville, recently moved to Etobicoke. (10-10-10 Publishing, $14.99)

Construction Zone for Women 40+

About the Author More by Tracey Fockler

Tracey Fockler is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.



  1. Great job Tracey and In the Hills! Thank you. The diversity of talent in the headwaters region is immense and we are very fortunate to have the support of local businesses and the community in the pursuit of our dreams.

    Lorraine Roberts from Caledon on Nov 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Reply

  2. Wow. What an incredible list of books. We are a talented lot up here in these hills of headwaters. Great work in pulling this together Tracey and ITH.

    Nicola Ross from Belfountain on Nov 23, 2016 at 7:35 am | Reply

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