Christmas is barely over, but New Year’s Resolutions are around the corner. Some of us may make the resolution to get rid of the STUFF that has been piled, hoarded, packed, and multiplying like dust bunnies in our various junk drawers, garages, closet shelves, basements and cupboards. But this is not just a de-cluttering guide, this is a decorating, repairing and downsizing guide all rolled into one bright little book. Lauri Ward, author of Use What You Have Decorating, explains how to make the transition to living large in smaller spaces – no matter the reason for the change. There are entire chapters on creative storage (you can never have enough), creating cohesiveness when there is not enough wall space, repurposing (or ‘MacGyvering’) older pieces, finding multiple functions for small spaces and how to decide what to keep or ditch – plus an entire chapter on where to ditch the things you decide not to keep, often a stumbling block for those of us who are pack rats at heart. Ward’s explanations are greatly helped by the use of lots of colour photographs of real homes – not the upscale ones you see in designer magazines, but the homes of real families that she has helped. Although some of the hints she suggests are not realistic for everyone (keeping the size of a television in proportion with your space would get pretty expensive after a few moves), most tips and suggestions are quite adaptable (choosing the right fabric for a small space, for instance). There is a handy source guide in the back with many Canadian retailers (although IKEA is notably absent), and the index makes it a snap to locate specific solutions. So whether you need to downsize or you are trying to lead a simpler life, or even if you are just tired of your STUFF, this is one book you need. Happy New Year!

Find this book in SPL's on-line catalogue here.
In the Stratford Gazette on December 26, 2008

Although today we associate Muslims with the middle east, the artistic stamp of the Islamic empire has been left on countries from as far west as Spain to as far east as Indonesia (the largest Muslim country by population), dating back to the seventh century. Encompassing Ottoman and Mamluk art, and influenced by both classical and Byzantine styles that came before, the ceramics, manuscripts, mosaics and towers of the Islamic world reveal much about its history and cultural development. The displays in this gorgeous ‘coffee-table’ type book, The Treasures of Islam, are not simply exotic eye-candy – although the rich patterns and jewel-like colours can provide hours of happy gazing. The author, a professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the American University in Cairo, presents these treasures in rough geographic and chronological order with historic background, religious context, and close-up photos of intricate architectural detail, illuminated manuscripts and even some basic floor plans to some of the bigger structures, like the complex of Sultan Hasan, with its qibla iwan (hall of two hundred lamps). Some of the more impressive masterpieces are showcased in golden ‘special feature’ pages, like the Dome of the Rock in the centre of al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary (aka the Temple Mount). Like any university professor would, O’Kane provides a bibliography for further reading, plus a basic glossary and a complete index for quick reference – although this is one book which should be savoured, not quickly read.
Click here to find it in the on-line catalogue at SPL.
In the Stratford Gazette on December 19, 2008

Think of James Herriot but set in rural Ireland instead of Yorkshire, and where the patients are human instead of the four-legged kind, and you’ll have a good understanding for the atmosphere of Patrick Taylor’s books. An author who grew up in Ulster and spent many years in Canada, Taylor draws upon his own experiences as a doctor in Northern Ireland in the 1960’s as his inspiration, although the Ireland he depicts is admittedly a rosier one than actually existed in those violent times. This third novel revolves around the Yuletide season so it is rosier still, but it is not overly sentimental. Sprinkled liberally with references to current events of the time (including the adoption of a certain maple-leaf flag), we follow the young Doctor Barry Laverty as he is about to spend his first Christmas in Ballybucklebo with his mentor, Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly. As Dr. Laverty hopes that his girlfriend Patricia will make it home for Christmas, Dr. O’Reilly finds himself finally letting go of the torch he has carried for his young bride, killed in the WWII blitz of Belfast. Together they take keep an eye on the competition - a new doctor in town who went to school with O’Reilly – take care of the villagers’ usual and unique ailments, and even work a few old fashioned Christmas miracles. Cozy up to the bar at Black Swan pub in Ballybucklebo, and get to know these charming townspeople and their respected physicians in this entirely enjoyable story.
Click here to reserve a copy in the on-line catalogue.
In the Stratford Gazette on December 5, 2008

Dec. 12, 2008

Ontario has been hit hard by job losses of late and times are getting tough. People who suddenly find themselves without a job may want to consult this book, Get Wired, You’re Hired – it is written specifically for Canada’s job market, and can be found in the the Career Centre at the Library. What makes this book better than your average job search guide (besides the fact that it’s Canadian), is that it shows how to expand your range of work options – beginning with an evaluation of your own skills and leading into sections about exploring different options and upgrading skills (it may be easier than you think). It also tells how to find and apply for - in the correct format – most of those jobs on-line. Part two of the book is a directory of job and career sites in Canada, complete with current (as of printing) pictures of the headers you should see when you go to each site – very handy in case you have misspelled something in a lengthy web-address. It might be tempting to go straight to this half of the book, especially since it has a section specific to industries, but the first part gives great hints at things like getting your resume or cover letter noticed by those impersonal screening programs that many employers now use – and yes, this is a resume writing guide as well. Each web-tool the book mentions has been developed by universities or employment consultants, and there is plenty of practical advice in its “unplugged” section, where the author, president of TheCareerExperts.com, answers questions from readers of his Toronto Star column. From new workers to Canada, to those recently unemployed or even those wanting to shift careers but haven’t a clue where to begin, Get Wired, You’re Hired is a good place to start. Click here to find it in the SPL catalogue.

It’s (supposed to be) getting colder, a time for hibernation, and you may be wondering how, in the days of lengthening darkness, to peel your kids off that cozy couch. How can all of their senses and their imaginations be engaged without an LED screen? Jennifer Ward’s answer – take them outdoors. She provides 52 simple, free (or at least very inexpensive), appealing activities, divided by season, that will stimulate quiet skills. Skills like observation, concentration, curiosity, wonder, discovery, and even problem solving. Autumn is a great time to be an ‘animal sleuth’, and early winter nights are great for finding ‘the hunter’, ‘big bear’ and even the ‘lion’ in the dark sky. Each activity challenges both parent and child to think about their surroundings with interesting questions, for which there are rarely wrong answers, and provides “Help me understand” mini-boxes with answers to questions like, “Do ants have noses?” and “How are snowflakes made?” (but unfortunately not “why is the sky blue?”). For those super-inquisitive minds, the author has included recommended reading lists for adults and children, and a handy list of websites that can be visited together – if you can pry them away from the great outdoors.
Find this book in the PCIN Library Catalogue here.
In the Stratford Gazette on November 21, 2008

By Charles Wilkins

It is more appropriate for a Halloween column perhaps, but this quirky and very unusual memoir only came across my desk in early November, after it was discussed on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” program. The author spent five months in the turbulent year of 1969 as a gravedigger in a re-named cemetery in an unnamed Ontario town, where he met a legion of re-named, morally suspect undertakers, grounds crewmen, plot salesmen and even mourners. It is the type of summer job one might think would have inspired Stephen King, but the tales revealed by Wilkins – a National Magazine Award-winner – reveal not so much the gory and horrific, but rather the often sad, awful truths about the business of after-death (for instance, what would happen if grave-diggers went on strike?), and the ways that its employees create their own rules to cope. Told with brutal honesty and a lot of coarse language, this book is not for the faint of heart, and absolutely not for anyone needing closure, comfort and solace about a dearly departed loved one. Readers with a macabre sense of humour and those who like shock value however, will be amazed at the odd professional facts and grim philosophies Wilkins uncovered that summer he spent burying the deceased.
Reviewed in November 7, 2008.

Just in time for Remembrance Day comes a history of Canadian military regiments and their achievements. In four parts, historian David Bercuson starts with early Canadian military history, including aboriginal military practices and the first regiment, the Régiment Carignan-Salières. He then devotes sections to WWI, and WWII, with the fourth part devoted to 20th century contingents active during the Korean War, Cold War and in Afghanistan. An Honourary Lieutenant Colonel with the 33 Field Engineer Squadron, Bercuson even includes the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (often left out of other “Canadian” histories about the Great War since they were still a colony of Britain during WWI) whose designation of Royal came after their virtual decimation during the opening battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel. The Fighting Canadians isn’t just a military history, it is a history of how our military companies have influenced our national development and our international reputation through the actions of the Princess Patricias, Hasty P’s, Van Doos and other famous companies. While it is not as exciting to read as an action-adventure novel, it is not mired in exhaustive details, so the sectioned chapters are easy to navigate and quite clear. The book could use more than its sixteen pages of photos, but those included tell a thousand more tales. Lest we forget.

Reserve your copy here.
Reviewed November 7, 2008

October was breast cancer awareness month - an estimated 22,570 women and men (yes, men) will be diagnosed with it in 2008 - so it is fitting that at its close we find a new book about this terrifyingly common disease. Dede Bonner, the "Question Doctor" actually provides 200 questions that those diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to have, and these are divided into three sections: talking to your medical team, choosing a treatment, and living and coping with the disease and its effects. Each of these three parts are broken down into further specific areas. For example in the 'choosing a treatment' part, she provides 10 questions to ask about choosing a hospital, about radiation, clinical trials, and so on, while part three includes advice for breaking the news to a spouse, to children, to employers and others. Her answers are comfortingly succinct and extremely practical: she includes a section for financial health, and one for the “10 worst questions to ask a breast cancer patient” for those of us who are unsure how to respond in the face of this disease. At the end of every chapter there is a list of resources concerning the previous topic, and Bonner also includes an easily accessible index, a chapter-by-chapter bibliography for further reading and research, and a list of the more than 50 experts she consulted. This book should prove valuable to anyone touched by breast cancer, especially those who are newly diagnosed or in the early stages of treatment.

Click here to find it in the on-line catalogue.

Fans of Joanne Harris and Alice Hoffman delight, here is a new author who combines Hoffman’s gift for atmosphere with Harris’ talent for characters and storytelling. The Lace Reader is set in modern day New England and centres on an estranged group of women. Sophya “Towner” Whitney has a troubled past and family from which she has tried to escape by moving to California. When she receives word that her beloved aunt Eva is missing, she returns home to Salem, Massachusetts, and to the strange family circle that has long been the source of unfathomable secrets. There Towner’s severed ties are re-threaded and old webs of lies are untangled, including the mysterious disappearance of her twin sister so many years ago. Reader beware: in this mystery-that-isn’t-a-mystery, not everything is as it seems – even Towner will tell you that. This is a haunting, evocative novel that will perfectly suit a windswept dark night.

Reserve a copy here.
Reviewed November 28, 2008

Oct. 24th

Happyslapped by a Jellyfish
By Karl Pilkington

Most travel memoirs are written through rose-coloured glasses, relating anecdotes for readers of sunshine, language gaffs, delicious local cuisine, helpful people and happy coincidences. Not so with Karl Pilkington’s travelogue, Happyslapped by a Jellyfish. As a former producer and star for XFM Radio’s the Ricky Gervais show, Karl is not a good traveler. He falls into the category of reluctant tourist, one who is mistrustful of foreign places and customs, someone whose touring glasses are more cloudy-grey than silver-lined. For all that he seems to dislike traveling, he does get around. From holidaying in Wales - with chicken-pox - as a youngster, to the stormy and jellyfish laden seas of the Caribbean; from boring Brussels to miserable Malaga, Karl relates his many misadventures and traveling disappointments, with comic illustrations, lots of non-sequiturs and even some bad limericks. This book is ideal two groups of people – those who love to travel but are putting it off due to the economy and want to make themselves feel better about it, and those who realize – like Karl – that their own backyard is the ideal travel destination. To whichever group you belong, this book is a hilarious, fast read. Reserve it in our on-line catalogue here.

Literacy expert Carolyn Munson-Benson offers a wealth of ideas for parents, grandparents, caregivers and other adults to promote early literacy with young children in her recent book, Playful Reading: Positive, Fun Ways to Build the Bond between Preschoolers and Books and You. Stressing that sharing picture books is fun for both children and adults, she offers lists of titles to read together, with an emphasis on familiar, funny, award-winning, concept and beautifully-illustrated books. She provides related activities such as games, crafts, recipes and reflections, and devotes a chapter each to the important issues of positive values, positive identity and social competencies.Recognizing that children will identify with characters whose dilemmas mirror their own, the author has made wise choices of the titles featured in her book – titles that can aid in the healthy emotional development of young children. Carolyn Munson-Benson’s book is full of easy-to-use ideas which will be appreciated by parents, grandparents and other adults working with young children.The author is the founder/director of the Early Bird Project, a Minnesota-based program which brings together children and the best of children’s books.

** Recommended for parents, grandparents, caregivers and other adults.


While parents of young children are generally aware that instilling a love of reading is one of the most significant gifts that they can give to their children, many are unsure just how this is to be accomplished. To address this question, two early literacy/educational experts from the University of Michigan have co-authored a concise guide to what and how to read to young children. The guide is organized in a practical way for time-deprived parents, with a chapter addressing each preschool age division: infants, young toddlers, older toddlers, etc. Annotated suggestions for specific titles for each age group are given, along with fun and easy ideas for building pre-reading skills.This practical resource will inspire parents to read often to their preschoolers, providing the important first steps on the path to later academic success in school.

** Recommended for parents, grandparents, caregivers and other adults.


Published October 2, 2008.

Pool owners may not have had as many chances to use their private swimming facilities very often this past summer given the cooler temperatures and rain, so it may be hard to think of closing it up now that autumn has arrived. This year it may be less of a chore with the help of this book by the “pool-doctor”, Dan Hardy. There are maintenance tips for every kind of swimming pool (except the inflatable kind) and related equipment, and there are sections on heating, sanitizing and on keeping a pool chemically balanced – with the advantages and disadvantages of the different pool chemicals spelled out. There is a chapter on hot tubs and spas, and even a chapter for troubleshooting algae (all four kinds) and other problems, like metal corrosion and phosphate pollution. The chapter on safety includes a checklist for the owner (like knowing CPR) and professional (like not leaving chemicals where children and pets can access them) plus a list of safety equipment to have and chemical treatment charts.
Of special interest at this time of year, there is a chapter with step-by-step directions for winterizing your pool or spa, and the inserted colour photographs show some examples of well-landscaped pools, their construction, equipment and design, for those who are thinking of adding a pool in the future. For quick reference there is a great index and glossary in the back. Until next summer…

Reviewed October 2, 2008
Click here to find it in our on-line catalogue.

Sept. 19, 2008

Who says that home décor has to belong to a woman’s realm? From Creative Homeowner publishers comes this glossy, fully illustrated book on creating the perfect guy space, from wicked workshops to killer outdoor kitchens – complete with monster grills, of course. Not all of these rooms are decorated with the stereotypical mounted antlers, pin-ups, chrome and dark wood either – although the mahogany and leather-paneled media room (page 74) looks pretty darned cozy. There are chapters for the regular rooms – bed, bath and storage – but also for game rooms, home gyms and outdoor courts (even a putting green or two), as well as garages and workshops. Although this book is heavier on the pictures and ideas than actual building plans, each of these chapters has many immensely practical tips, especially for preparation: like making sure you have zoning permission before converting the garage into a wine cellar, wiring a future music or media room, or ventilating a home gym (and its adjoining steam shower or swim spa). There are lots of tips for future considerations as well, like the four rules of shelving, how to choose a wide-screen television, how to boost the strength of a shed roof in regions that receive a lot of snow in the winter, and the proper safety and etiquette for the home sauna. The rooms in this book are sure to appeal men of all hobbies and interests.
Click here to find it in our on-line catalogue.

August 22, 2008

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century Barbary corsair raids were a common occurrence on the south coasts of England. It is estimated that at one time more than 3000 British citizens were held in the prisons of Salé in Morocco; these raiders were motivated to capture Christian slaves and goods in the name of Islam, just as the Knights Templar captured Muslim slaves and treasure in the name of Christianity. Author Jane Johnson uses this bit history as the basis for her novel, Crossed Bones. In modern day England, Cornish craftswoman Julia Lovat is given a seventeenth-century book of embroidery patterns as a consolation prize when her lover dumps her. Although broken-hearted, Julia is spellbound when she discovers a journal in tiny handwriting between the patterns; the diary of a young woman of Penzance in Cornwall named Catherine Anne Tregana, who became a captive slave to the “Sallee Rovers”, the corsairs of Sale. As Julia follows Catherine’s journey to Morocco and self-discovery, she follows her own journey – she is pursued by her ex-lover who realizes the book’s material worth, and reconnects with her oldest friends as she races to find out if Catherine’s story is true. What she finds are connections to her own past – and to her future. Part historical fiction, part mystery, part ghost story, Crossed Bones is a fascinating story about a little-known era in British and Moroccan history.
Click here to find it in the SPL catalogue.

At 6’5”, the statuesque Lisa Leslie could easily be mistaken for a top model, and she is not an unfamiliar face between the covers of Vogue. But her strongest talent lies on a basketball court – she is the centre for the Los Angeles Sparks, and has led that team to two straight WNBA championships, is tied with Sheryl Swoops for the most MVP awards of the WNBA, and has earned thee Olympic Gold medals as part of the last three US Olympic Women’s basketball teams.. But if that were not enough to earn admiration, Lisa Leslie has had to overcome quite a few challenges to get where she is: The “normal” teasing that comes from being six-feet-tall in the sixth grade, a father she never knew who lead a double-life, and a sister so jealous that she tried to steal Lisa’s identity and ruin her. Although her mother drove a truck for a living and was often absent, Lisa credits her strength of character as a source for her own inner strength when such battles had to be faced – on and off the court. After being told over and over that pretty girls – even tall ones – could not play well enough, Lisa went on to score 101 points in the first half of a high school basketball game, and she never looked back. She has earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, started a family and will be helping her team-mates defend their Olympic title in Beijing starting this Saturday. Lisa Leslie’s memoir is great reading for sports fans and inspiration for anyone facing obstacles in their own paths to greatness.
Click here to find it in the SPL catalogue.

Sept. 12, 2008

Here we are, two weeks into the new school year with the media covering not only scary processed meats but also the scare of childhood obesity and all the other health threats included therein. What are concerned and busy parents to do about filling their children’s lunchboxes? To the rescue comes this nifty little book about eating right in a world of convenience food. It starts out by defining 8 rules of thumb for childhood nutrition, and then hits you with the 20 worst kids’ foods in the industry (with their healthier counterparts). This is followed by the nitty –gritty – what to eat (and not eat) at favourite fast-food places (including KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks) and other types of restaurants (Italian, seafood, etc.). In the next section it shows how to decode nutrition labels (Kellogg’s Smart Start cereal isn’t so smart a choice) and then has pages and pages of what to buy (and not buy) and why in the supermarket (just skip the pages on deli meats for now…) This book doesn’t just list the types of food, but also the actual brands, with pictures (some of the brands are American, but most are readily available in Canada). It doesn’t skip the condiments, beverages or dessert aisles, either. This useful book ends with chapters aimed at the school cafeteria and vending machines, and with a weekly menu suggestion for home-cooked meals with ten ‘kid-friendly’ revised recipes at the back. Grocery shopping for healthier choices will be a breeze, especially as Eat This, Not that! contains a very excellent index for quick reference. Find it here in the SPL catalogue.

A Royal Pain

By Rhys Bowen

The author of the Molly Murphy and Constable Evan Evans mystery series presents her newest Royal Spyness novel. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie of Glen Garry and Rannoch (Georgie for short) may be thirty-fourth in line for the British throne, but England is still in a depression following the Great War and she’s still stone broke. Learning to fend for herself is a new experience, but as Georgie learns to do without, she also learns to do for others – she hires herself out as a maid. Her cousin, Queen Mary, has no idea that Georgie must now work for a living (she would not be amused) and gives her a different kind of task – playing chaperone for a visiting princess of Bavaria in hopes that the young royal will lure her son, the Prince of Wales, away from that dreadful American woman, Mrs. Simpson. However, the lively young princess is a Royal Handful, and her unbridled enthusiasm soon lands both ladies in a pot of hot water when they are accidentally linked to a murder, then to the Communist Party and then to more murders - not to mention getting in between Georgie and the dashing Darcy O’Mara. With her dear ex-copper grandfather acting as her butler (so the princess doesn’t think she is the pauper that she is), Georgie tries to untangle the murderous mess before she and the princess inadvertently cause another world war. Written with an almost chick-lit tone but set in Interwar-period England, A Royal Pain is a fun-to-read mystery of the “cozy” genre.

Find it here in the SPL catalogue.

Reviewed September 8, 2008

August 29, 2008

The home-decor industry raked in over 20-billion dollars in Canada in 2002 (thank-you, Trading Spaces). For those of us who prefer a personalized touch without spending a fortune, House Proud is a great source. Danielle Proud, the British queen of cheap-chic is the ultimate recycler, reclaiming forgotten treasures with tried and true crafting skills. With great detail and lots of pictures she demonstrates each step in a multitude of projects: turning a threadbare 1960's dress into oven mitts, past issues of Vogue magazine covers into placemats, vintage plates into an attractive roller blind (yep, roller blind), a boring IKEA-like dresser into a one-of-a-kind objet d'art, and a shark into a door-stop (yep, shark). The projects are divided by room, including ideas for 'in-between' spaces and the garden, and she provides tips and tricks for finding fine flea-market furniture too. Since this is a UK publication, the list of sources in the back are not especially helpful for quick visits unless you like shopping on-line, but armed with this book, her website (houseproudcraft.com) and possibly the IKEA-hacker site (ikeahacker.blogspot.com), anyone can transform their homes, apartments and dorm-rooms into something spectacular.
Find it here in the SPL catalogue.

Last Chance for Paris, by Sylvia McNicoll

As much as 14-year-old Zanna loves her twin brother, Martin, and her dad, she is absolutely certain that a vacation with them in the remote Alberta icefields – sans e-mail or television - will be boring and dreary, at best. She would much rather be in Paris with her mom, checking out the French culture and cuisine scene. When Martin saves a wild puppy near their isolated Alberta cabin, Zanna names it “Paris ” and falls in love with it, but a know-it-all forest ranger insists that it’s a wolf. Zanna reluctantly agrees to leave it at the nearest wolf haven … and wonders if her summer will get any worse. Unfortunately, it does – Martin goes missing in the wilderness.
Frantic with worry, Zanna and her father enlist the help of Paris, hoping that the wolf puppy’s sensitive nose will lead them to Martin in time.
Last Chance for Paris offers teen readers an enjoyable combination of wilderness / survival novel and romance story, one that can be easily enjoyed by readers who may usually be uninterested in adventure or animal tales. Strong, realistic characterization, a suspenseful plot, wry humour, and a poignant message about family ties are all evident in this excellent teen novel.
Author Sylvia McNicoll has a number of young adult books to her credit, and she is also the Features Editor of Today’s Parent Toronto.
** Recommended for ages 12 to 15 years of age.

The Sandcastle, by M.P. Robertson

What boy or girl hasn’t built a sandcastle at the beach and wished that it would last for a few days instead of being destroyed in a few minutes by the waves or the wind? Jack loved building sandcastles with high walls and towers, but the sea always took them away. One day, he found a beautiful shell, placed it on the highest turret of his latest sandcastle and made a wish. “I wish my sandcastle was as big as a real castle and I wish that I was king.”
Later that night, he awoke, looked out his bedroom window and saw that his wish had come true. He could see a large, stately castle on the beach. Jack entered and sat upon a seashell throne. “Hail, King Jack!” cheered the crowd. But in the merriment that followed, no one heard the large waves washing against the walls until they gave way and the sea rushed in. The courtiers became sea creatures, while Jack escaped to the highest tower and from there, to safety.
British author and illustrator M.P. Robertson has created a hauntingly exquisite story which isn’t easily forgotten. Can any human power – or magical power - ever be greater than the strength of the sea and of nature?
M.P. Robertson is also the creator of The Egg, The Great Dragon Rescue, The Dragon Snatcher and various other picture books for children.
** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years of age.
Find this item in the PCIN Library Catalogue.

Emma-Jean Lazarus did, indeed, fall out of a tree… both physically and metaphorically. Her sore ribs recovered quickly from the tumble. However, her “fall” from a well-ordered, logical world into a less certain world of changes, growing up and relationships, was not so quickly resolved.
Emma-Jean was the smartest girl at William Gladstone Middle School. She was also known as one of the strangest girls there. Emma-Jean didn’t care about that, knowing that “strange” can mean “unique” and “remarkable”. She was quite satisfied with her life, until she found Colleen Pomerantz crying in the girls’ room and decided to help her, thereby setting in motion a complicated, unforeseen chain of events. Suddenly, Emma-Jean’s life – both at school and at home - became just plain …. messy!
Lauren Tarshis’ first novel is a very enjoyable read which contains a world of wisdom. It has much to say to girls of middle school age about self-acceptance, empathy, honesty, courage and dealing with bullies. The characters are very realistic, and the author uses a “spare” style of text that appears quite polished.
What’s the best thing about this book? The answer: a sequel is planned!
An interview with the author is included at the back of the book.
** Recommended for ages 9 to 12 years of age.

What better project for a summer day than building a backyard treehouse? Follow Jack and Jill as they fetch some boards of wood, haul them up to a sturdy branch, and fashion them into a roof and a floor. Watch them drape a large, colourful blanket over the roof and down the sides, and, as a final touch, hang a flashlight from the roof. Now Jack and Jill have a wonderful, cozy treehouse … much more fun than fetching a pail of water and falling down the hill with it!
Pamela Edwards’ charming picture book, illustrated by Henry Cole, is a cumulative read-aloud, or “pattern book”. (“This is the branch that held the treehouse that Jack and Jill built. This is the wood that was hauled up to the branch that held the treehouse that Jack and Jill built….”) A pattern book invites young listeners to join in with the repeating phrases and even to “read” the book later on their own, using the accompanying illustrations – a beginning step in learning how to read.
Pamela Edwards, from Virginia, is the author of many children’s picture books, many of them illustrated with Henry Cole’s delightful pictures.

Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years of age.

Find this item in the Library Catalogue

By Michael Tucker

Michael Tucker and his wife Jill Eikenberry are probably best known from their time on LA Law, but about five years ago they gave up their Californian lifestyle to buy a 300-year-old cottage in Spoleto, Umbria, complete with its own olive grove and 400-year-old forno, or outdoor oven. This memoir is a little about their life in Umbria, a little about their relationship and attempts to learn Italian, a little about the ex-pats and local Italian people that they meet along the way and a lot about the food.
Barely a page goes by without a detailed description of some fantastically simple Italian dish, how it is prepared, its ingredients, how it tastes – the Margherita pizza, the strengozzi al tartufo, the fresh cheese drizzled with chestnut honey – you could gain 20 pounds just from reading this book, and it is sure to have its readers either making reservations for Italian food or for a flight to Italy.
What comes through the most is the author’s near reverence for the freshness of their food and for the gently-passing, conversation-filled meal-times shared with his beloved wife and dear friends, as opposed to the grab-and-gulp frozen meals eaten in North America. Those who have been to Italy will love this book, and for those who just dream of going this book brings it all the way to your door – you can almost smell the mortadella on every page.

Find this book in the Library catalogue

Sun Going Down by Jack Todd

Are you a fan of authentic-feeling Western adventure or family sagas? Are you a fan of Larry McMurtry’s or Cormac McCarthy’s? This one won’t disappoint. Jack Todd’s latest effort is a beautifully written and painstakingly researched good ol’ fashioned yarn, so real you can feel the grit in your teeth.
At nearly 500 pages, this big book is well-stocked with danger, romance, drama and history: a bit of everything to captivate you during those long summer evenings.
Set in the American West just after the Civil War, the traveling Paint family and their various greenhorn kin evolve into courageous pioneers and cow folk, who both embrace and brace against the captivating, relentless prairie sky. The plot often pivots around real historical events – Wounded Knee, the dust-bowl depression, early century flu and tuberculosis epidemics. In another author’s hands, this might end up a dire and sad tale, but instead, Todd (inspired by his own family’s diaries and letters) creates a riveting, entertaining book.
You just can’t ask for a better summer read than this one. Saddle up!.

All the experts agree that having a workout buddy is one of the best ways to stick to any fitness program. What better buddy can you ask for than the one who always wants to be with you, is raring to go whenever you yell “walkies!” and who will eat his organic veggies without any complaints (well ok, if they are in biscuit form)? Right off the bat this book states that getting fit is not about having a tiny waistline or big biceps, it’s about being able to ‘function at our full potential when we engage in physical activity’. This goes for your dog, too. Throughout, human and canines are compared in terms of obesity risks, fitness benefits, and it gives even gives point-by-point information on human and doggie nutrition, pacing for any age (of dog or human) and types of exercise you can do together – including some human activities that can be adapted for dogs, and vice versa – even in the pool. With lots of pictures and helpful side-hints, this fitness book describes how exercising with your dog can increase physical, mental and emotional health for the both of you. Don’t try this with the cat.
Click here to find this book in the Stratford Public Library's catalogue.

What’s summer without a large dish of, well, dish? And who can dish it out better than the self-professed “gayest man he knows”, Leslie Jordan? Leslie Jordan is probably best known as the campy “Beverly Leslie” from television’s Will & Grace, and claims to have fallen ‘right out of the womb to land smack dab in his mama’s high heels’. In his memoir Mr. Jordan reveals how he always knew he was ‘different’, but that his grandparents and mother never questioned him during his southern Baptist youth. He also paints a tender – yet brutal - picture of his time as a hospice volunteer with Linn House in West Hollywood at the height of the AIDS crisis and hysteria in the early 1990’s, and his commitment to the Trevor Project, a national GLTB helpline. There is plenty of upbeat celebrity chat about his times on-stage (like the time he was a Ferengi with a Tennessee accent on Star Trek) - and off-stage (like the time he shared a prison cell he with Robert Downey Jr. - which turned out to be a lot more poignant than it seems). Throughout the autobiography the elfin maven speaks frankly (and often graphically) about getting started in “the biz”, and his many uphill battles with drugs, sex-addiction and self-loathing. But although some of his stories are harrowing, Mr. Jordan never sounds self-deprecating; rather his anecdotes are full of self-awareness and even better, self-acceptance. The result is a very readable memoir with an atmosphere of gratitude and grace that is quite inspiring.
Click here to find this book in the Library catalogue.

For the avid Southwestern Ontario Gardener there is no better-known personality than Ed Lawrence, the gardening guru heard every week on CBC radio. Each week his noon-time call-in segment is flooded with calls about houseplants, fruit trees, garden and animal pests, organic veggie-growing, lawn woes and various other horticultural questions and dilemmas; his radio portion became so popular that CBC just recently expanded his time slot, but for those of us unluckily unable to get through on the phone or who can never find a pen quickly enough to jot down his advice, he has gathered 25 years of calls and questions into this handy answer book. The chapters correlate to months of the year, which is not particularly helpful for quick reference, so the detailed index at the back is excellent for pinpointing problems with pear propagation or for finding fixes for that failing ficus. Although it could use a few photos of the mites, moulds and blights that affect plants, this is a fantastic manual for gardens of any scale and gardeners with any shade of green thumb.

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The lazy days of summer are upon us, and as you are heading off on vacation loaded with cottage country reading material, you might want to include this uplifting little novel full of humour and natural inspiration that could be taken straight out of the pages of Thoreau. Cassie Shaw has always felt dumb. Her teachers told her so, so she gave up on school. Her cheating-swindling husband told her so, and she believes him (but he gets what he deserves.) Cassie finds that the employment force has no room for a broke, uneducated widow; desperate, she lies on her resume and promptly lands a job as an assistant to a professor of animal behaviour. Always drawn to animals and nature, for the first time in her life Cassie finds that she wants to learn more. She begins to audit classes, discovers the true reason for her previous ‘dumbness’, and develops close relationships. But the secret of her false resume weighs heavily on her, and the more lies Cassie creates to conceal the truth, the closer the truth gets to the surface, threatening to destroy all that she has learned to love. Although it might sound it, A Version of the Truth is not your typical chick-lit novel, but should appeal to any fan of the genre.
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Meet Josey Cirrini, only daughter of Marco Cirrini, who rebuilt and brought prosperity to the North Carolinian town of Bald Slope. Being a quasi-royal has never fit Josey though – she quietly looks after her dominating, widowed mother and escapes by hiding in a secret closet, eating sweets and reveling in travel magazines or romance novels. To her dismay however, her private paradise is invaded by the brash Della Lee Baker, a woman as far removed from the society of the Cirrini’s as chocolate is from cheese. Hiding from a secret of her own, Della takes up residence in Josey’s closet, forcing her out into the world she dreams of but in which she never lives. In the real world Josey discovers Chloe Finley who makes the world’s best sandwiches, and is in dire need of a good friend. Through Chloe she also meets her not-so-secret crush Adam, the mailman and ex-extreme sporting participant. While Della pushes her to get closer to Adam, Josey tries to push Della away – or at least out of her closet. But Della’s presence harbingers a far greater mystery than any of them can at first intuit. From the author of Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen is a magical gem of a novel for a balmy summer evening.
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It is hard to fathom a more insidious disease than Alzheimer’s. A disease that slowly erodes memory and personality, it can be challenging, frightening, frustrating and heartbreaking for both victims and caregivers. Many people who develop Alzheimer’s prefer the familiar surroundings of their homes, and with ever-growing waiting lists to get into long-term care facilities, many patients rely on their loved-ones for care – which can be emotionally grueling for everyone concerned. The Comfort of Home for Alzheimer’s is well-named – it is a reassuring source that describes the development and effects of the disease. In addition, it helps one to prepare the home, to plan financial, medical and legal aspects for the patient, and to know when the time is right for choosing a home care worker. Part two provides plans for daily activities and special occasions, shows how to help move the patient and prevent falls, and of utmost importance, it gives detailed information about how to communicate with the patient at every stage of the disease. With helpful tips, notes and illustrations throughout, and a glossary and index in the back, this American series of caregiver’s guides gets extra points for listing contacts for Canadian support organizations. Written in a thoroughly compassionate manner, this book should be of use to anyone who knows someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. "

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The sign above the doughnuts in the bakery read, “Buy a Dozen Get a Dinosaur”. A dinosaur? A toy, perhaps? But no – the little boy (and his unhappy mother) were presented with a real triceratops after buying a dozen doughnuts! Next, at the doctor’s office, they were given a stegosaurus. And at the barbershop, the little boy received a flying pterosaur. “Yessss!” said the boy. “Noooo!” groaned his mother, as the newly acquired dinos followed them down the street. Suddenly, there seemed to be dinosaurs everywhere on the sidewalk, accompanying happy children and glaring moms, while signs on every business advertised even more Jurassic giveaways. What was going on?
When Dinosaurs Came With Everything is a clever story that is certain to delight young children. Elise Broach is a Connecticut author.
The art in this picture book is a perfect fit for the story. Illustrator David Small, from Michigan, has received both a Caldecott Medal and a Caldecott Honor for his artwork in previous children’s books. (He says that he would like to receive an Apatosaurus with his next coffee purchase….)
** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years of age.
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Humphrey the Hamster is a popular pet in Mrs. Brisbane’s classroom, Room 26. However, Humphrey has a secret! Unknown to the students and their teacher, he can escape from his cage whenever he pleases. One night, his escape is noticed, setting off a series of unfortunate consequences. How can one little hamster cause so much trouble? Humphrey, who actually loves helping the students of Room 26, is appalled, and has no idea of how to fix the problems he’s unintentionally brought about. What can he do to make things better? Will Room 26 ever return to “normal”?
Trouble According to Humphrey is a lively, entertaining chapter book and Humphrey fans will be happy to know that the library owns two more titles about this intrepid hamster: The World According to Humphrey and Friendship According to Humphrey. Betty Birney is the author of many more children’s books.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 10 years.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
Griffin Maxwell is a quiet student who hates, above all else at school, class speeches. This year he is determined not to give a speech at all. With his best friend, Bryan, he comes up with a plan to fool his teacher – one that seems fail-proof, at first. It’s a plan that will indeed make Griffin, “speechless”!
However, events don’t play out as anticipated, and Griffin’s “fail-proof” plan results in a bizarre set of hilarious events. Long before the end of this book, young readers will also be speechless - with laughter!
Readers will easily identify with the likeable, realistic characters of Griffin and Bryan in this enjoyable, light-hearted story. Author Valerie Sherrard, from New Brunswick, has also written Kate, Sam’s Light and the Shelby Belgarden Mysteries.
** Recommended for ages 9 to 12 years.

Sports fans are in heaven – the NBA and NHL are in playoffs, the World Cup of hockey is ongoing in Halifax, the boys of summer are hitting the field (go Jays!), the US Open is coming up for golf, the French Open starts soon in tennis, not to mention this summer’s Olympics in Beijing. But while watching or playing, have you ever wondered about the aerodynamics of a soccer ball bent by Beckham? Or what is the physiology behind a gold-medal dive? What makes one goalie quicker on the stick than another, or why Gretzky is the Greatest? And why exactly does a curve ball curve – or is it just an optical illusion? (No it isn’t, and the answer is closely linked to golf, volleyball, soccer and tennis.)
The editors from Popular Mechanics Magazine have compiled expert analysis from over 20 sports specialists on 15 sports, from football and soccer to running and bowling. With one chapter per sport, the authorities explain the science that supports the best athletes and their skills (yes, they include Tiger’s swing), ponder the question of doping in sports, and even look at some of today’s high-tech equipment, like the Speedo Fastskin swimsuit we will likely see on swimmers during the Beijing Olympics. This book is for any sports fan from the couch-surfers to professional athletes looking to improve their skills.
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Remember that book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? First it was a book, then a poster that hung on every university student’s wall and in every teacher’s classroom. Well, the author of that “simply living” guide was Robert Fulghum (that’s Ful-jum) and he is back with his latest book of ‘stories, observations and affirmations’. He traveled looking for other people like him, people who are willing to embrace their childlike enthusiasm, people who can turn mundane things into extraordinary experiences, and people who can find wonder in the world each day by looking around them with from different perspectives. Thus he learned the difference between kalimera (good morning) and calamari (squid) in Crete, came to be wearing a giant rabbit suit in Seattle, and found artesian water from Fiji in the middle of the Moab desert in Utah. For anyone who delights in finding the profound in everyday living, or who needs an uplifting laugh, What On Earth Have I Done? is a quick, quirky, conversational read sure to raise the spirits of even the gloomiest Gus.


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A secret is at the heart of Canadian author Rick Jacobson’s newest story, The Master’s Apprentice. Young Marco leaves his family to serve as a junior apprentice in Florence, Italy, to the famous but temperamental painter, Michelangelo Buonarroti. It is a tremendous opportunity for Marco. Before leaving, his father, a chemist, cautions him to “keep our secrets secret”. Marco promises. In Florence, he tries his best to please Michelangelo, knowing that he could easily be sent home in disgrace by the artist, whose temper tends to explode at any time for any small reason. Eventually, the inevitable happens and it appears that Marco will lose his position as apprentice … unless he divulges one of his father’s most valued secrets: the recipe to prepare the glorious alizarin crimson paint. What is he to do?
The Master’s Apprentice is a well-written children’s story about art and loyalty. The illustrations by Rick Jacobson and Laura Fernandez are exceptional: the facial expressions capture Marco’s uncertainty, Michelangelo’s anger and the emotions of the other characters perfectly. Jacobson has also written and illustrated The Mona Lisa Caper and Picasso: Soul on Fire for children.
** Recommended for ages 7 to 10 years of age.

Secrets can be happy, inspiring, humorous, scary, or painful – even shocking. They can be important or insignificant. Some are short-lived; some hide an unrevealed truth for many years - perhaps forever. Yet there is one thing that just about all secrets have in common: because of their very nature, each is intriguing, whether to one person or to many.
For this book, Marthe Jocelyn has collected a dozen short stories and portions of chapter books written by a number of authors, many of them Canadian, each involving a secret. From Can You Keep a Secret by Anne Laurel Carter, to Loris Lesynski’s I Don’t Have to Tell You Everything, readers are treated to a variety of fascinating secrets. Equally fascinating are the ways in which these secrets are revealed. As Marthe Jocelyn says, in the foreword, “Often, the best part of keeping a secret is finally being able to tell someone else.” How very true!
Readers – especially girls - will be captivated by Secrets.
Marthe Jocelyn is an award-winning children’s author who spends her summers in Stratford.
** Recommended for ages 9 to 13 years of age.

The first step is to understand the concepts and causes of climate change and pollution; the next step is to take steps toward reducing these threats to our world. You Can Save the Planet provides fifty practical suggestions to children and families – small steps which, if taken by many, become large steps. Did you know that many household appliances such as DVD players, if switched off by a remote control, go on standby and continue to use a considerable amount of electricity? Did you know that only about 5% of discarded cell phones are recycled, and that the rest go into the garbage, leaching toxic materials such as cadmium and mercury into the ground? How can every household reuse paper, avoid using plastic bags and other packaging, and reduce household water usage?
Some of the suggestions made in this book will be old news to adults but perhaps not to children … besides, with the current state of our planet, some of the ideas need to be repeated again and again … and again. You Can Save the Planet is an essential and upbeat resource for children and their families.
** Recommended for ages 7 to 11 years.
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Canadian children’s author Jan Thornhill’s skills in explaining issues in an easy-to-understand way that will interest children, are very much in evidence in her 2007 publication, This is My Planet. What exactly is meant by the term “global warming” (especially after this winter’s cold temperatures)? What causes global warming, and why is it so detrimental to people, plants, birds, animals and sea life? What results of climate change can we expect to see in the future? And what are some up-to-date web sites with further information for children? Jan Thornhill’s thoughtful and colorfully-illustrated book offers answers to all of these questions – from a Canadian perspective.
** Recommended for ages 7 to 10 years.

Are you ready for Stratford’s first ever DocFest? If you’re inspired by what you see on the DocFest screens, the second edition of this book, Making Documentary Films and Videos will put you in great shape to film you own documentary that just might be in DocFest’s line-up for next year. Considered the handbook for documentary film making, author Barry Hampe takes you through every step – no step too small – in the process. Starting off there is are chapters about what a documentary is, and what it should not be (hint: most YouTube clips are not documentaries, and neither is Survivor.) After the theory, Hampe shows how to plan a documentary before even picking up a camera, from what to show, how to do interviews, how to document past history, and the all important image and information ethics of responsible documentaries (for example, using sound bytes from the nightly news out of context to support a subject isn’t documenting, it’s docuganda. Fahrenheit 9/11 is used as an example of this.) Hampe deconstructs the research and writing process (yes, there should be a script to follow, if not word for word), and then gets into the fun part – the filming, recording sound, directing, locations. After the fun part comes the hard part, post-production and selling the film, but Hampe walks through these steps as well. There are useful appendices on equipment, budgeting and crews, a filmography of documentaries mentioned in the text (so you can see his examples of techniques), advice on what to study if documentary-making is your dream future, an all-important index for quick reference, and the author even includes contact information in case filmmakers have further questions. Ready, set, action!

Jamie and Megan embark on three imaginary journeys through space and time with their parents. In the first, they travel the world from inside their home to discover the natural origins of various foods and objects. In their second trip, they travel through the air to learn how our atmosphere is really composed and of its importance to people and animals everywhere. The children’s third trip is taken through time to discover when and how many of today’s rocks originated. At the end of the book, the family sends a message, in the form of a time capsule, to the future.
Environmental author David Suzuki’s story is a gentle reminder that nature is full of discoveries and wonders, and that it needs to be cherished and protected. Illustrator Eugenie Fernandes’ charming paintings make nature come alive in this book, and offer children lots of detail to discover on every page … a perfect book to enjoy together as Earth Day (on April 22) approaches.
** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years.

Punk Farm on Tour, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Featuring Cow on the drums, Chicken on the keyboard, Pig and Goat on guitars and Sheep belting out the vocals, the Punk Farm Animal Band is on tour again! With enthusiastic, sell-out crowds showing up at every gig, and more gigs booked in cities across the country, a hugely successful tour is on the horizon. Even complications such as the Punk Farm van’s breakdown en route to Colorado can’t stop this intrepid band – their mechanical skills prove equal to the task and soon the van’s on the road again to yet another Punk Farm concert!
Best of all, the Punk Farm animals are able to finish their tour and return home just minutes before Farmer Joe returns from his National Tractor Society Conference in Nevada, believing that his animals had been resting safely at home on the farm the whole time!
The hilarious antics of these animals will delight young readers and listeners and perhaps their parents too. This is Jarrett Krosoczka’s second book featuring the Punk Farm gang; his first, Punk Farm, can also be found at the library.
** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.
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Even though it’s only been in the 20th century that women have been admitted to the military forces of western nations, they have been fighting and assisting in campaigns since ancient times. BBC Broadcaster Rosalind Miles and Gulf War reporter Robin Cross have compiled biographical essays of women in war which fills a gap in military history by describing the women who led, rebelled, comforted, healed, supported, spied and even disguised themselves as men in the name of a warring cause. From the well-known Boudicca and Joan of Arc to the lesser known samurai Tomoe Gozen and Colonel Martha McSally, the first woman to command a USAF combat squadron, the essays describe wartime efforts by women as heroic as men’s, but less renowned. The authors provide balance to these heroines by also including a chapter of essays on women of darker metal, like German war criminal Irma Grese and the US Army Private Lynndie England. The essays are short, to the point and mostly very objective, and should be a good source for any military history buff or students researching the role of women in combat.

Newest in her ‘Napoleonic Spy’ series, Lauren Willig turns her attention to the arch-villain of her previous novels, the roguish Lord Vaughn. Lord Vaughn has, until now, been something of an enigma. He is one of the aristocratic set, but not particularly caught up in the national fervour that has everyone wondering the secret identities of the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip. However, this may be because he actually knows the identities behind these shadowy figures – all except for the nefarious Black Tulip. The Pink Carnation seeks Lord Vaughn’s help in drawing out the Black Tulip, and he in turn ropes in a young acquaintance to help him. Mary Alsworthy (she whose sister accidentally made off with her fiancée in Willig’s last novel The Deception of the Emerald Ring), is more than happy to do a little spying, for the right price. Could it be that Lord Vaughn has met his match in the black-haired beauty? For those interested in the high romantic adventure of the Georgian period, this series is a delight.
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Jacqueline Winspear returns with a fifth novel starring the introspective heroine, Maisie Dobbs. Set in England in the years following the Great War, Maisie is a rarity. A former servant whose thirst and capacity for knowledge garnered the respect of her employers, Maisie rose above her station, studied with one of the finest minds in England, served as a nurse on the front lines in France, and survived the war, but not without scars both internal and external. Putting her studies to good use, Maisie opened her own investigative service, and uses her skills of perception and detection to solve some unusually complex problems. With each passing novel a little more of Maisie’s character is tantalizingly revealed, and in An Incomplete Revenge, we learn that Maisie’s powers of observation may have much deeper roots than were developed in her studies. As she investigates some petty crimes and arson in picturesque Kent, she discovers that a profound shadow of the Great War hangs over one village in particular, and Maisie acquires some unusual allies - with similar powers of observation – while attempting to solve their malaise. The Maisie Dobbs series will be enjoyed by those who like a great deal of atmosphere and reflection in their mysteries.

When it comes to animals, there are many, many things that one should not do … such as going to a movie with a tall giraffe, sitting next to a prickly porcupine, holding hands with a lobster, buying shoes for a centipede or “sharing” a lunch with a pig. It would be silly to attempt to knit a hat for a moose with antlers, and it wouldn’t be at all kind to take a hungry goat to the library. Most of all, however, one should never, never take a shark to the dentist!
Children will have lots of fun with this story whether they are sharing it with an adult or reading it aloud to a younger sibling.
Judi Barrett is the author of many well-loved children’s picture books, such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing.
** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years of age.

In the latest title of Roy MacGregor’s best-selling Screech Owls series, the hockey team from the small town of Tamarack is visiting Ottawa to participate in the world’s largest minor league hockey tournament, involving more than 500 teams from around the world. The Screech Owls will be playing in the very arena where Wayne Gretzky played his last game in Canada, and the Canadian Prime Minister and a number of other world leaders plan to attend.
However, the Screech Owls encounter much more than hockey in Ottawa. They become involved in some serious mystery and even some terrorism when a diabolical mastermind, calling himself “1 / 1”, has a goal of his own in mind for the Bell Capital Cup Tournament!
The 21 titles of the Screech Owls Series, which combine lots of fast-paced hockey action with mystery, danger and suspense, continue to be popular with boys. Canadian author Roy MacGregor is the author of many hockey books and is also a columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail.
** Recommended for ages 9 to 13 years of age.
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Read our weekly book reviews by Stratford Public Library Librarians. These reviews also appear in the weekly newspaper, the Stratford Gazette.

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