Simcoe Reads

7 Libraries. 7 Books. 1 Winner.

Simcoe Reads logoSeven Simcoe County libraries are squaring off again for a cover-to-cover competition: Barrie, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Essa, Innisfil, Midland, New Tecumseth, and Ramara. Based on Canada Reads, each library will select a Canadian book and a local celebrity champion. Read all seven books over the summer, pick your favourite and then enjoy a live debate in September to see which book is crowned the winner. 

Discover Simcoe Reads

Vote for the Simcoe Reads 2021 Winner: 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SimcoeReads2021

Watch the 2021 Cover-to-Cover Competition

Simcoe Reads 2021

Simcoe Reads 2021 Champions and Books

Barrie Public Library: 

Champion: Carolina Belmares

Carolina Belmare's passions include helping women with hectic lifestyles match their body to who they are, and what they're capable of. She loves her blended family and her floofy cat named Churro. Carolina is an avid reader, an author, a speaker, an educator, and an entrepreneur.  

Book: A Mind Spread Out On the Ground by Alicia Elliott


In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism. She engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, writing and representation, and in the process makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political—from overcoming a years-long battle with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft Dinner to how systemic oppression is directly linked to health problems in Native communities. 

With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott provides a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.

Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library: 

Champion: Emily Dahlgren

Emily Dahlgren is a 15 year old Bradford West Gwillimbury resident who likes to stay busy! She runs her own business, The Munchies' Concession Stand, and co-runs 'A Bradford Christmas,' the foundation she started with her sister. When she is not serving the community, Emily expresses her creativity by video editing, writing, and relaxing with a great book.

Book: Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn't want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can't get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.

Essa Public Library: 

Champion: Grace Baker

Grace Baker is a grade 10 student at Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School. She has always loved reading but her passion has grown immensely during quarantine. Grace loves musical theatre, being outdoors and is excited to be a part of Simcoe Reads. She is eager to represent her community, discover new authors and challenge herself in this new experience.

Book: Gutter Child by Jael Richardson

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government. But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina's life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.

Innisfil ideaLab and Library: 

Champion: Anne Smith

Anne moved to Innisfil eight years ago, following her retirement as a Senior Executive with an International Financial Services Company. Having been an active volunteer within the Toronto community, Anne immediately began looking for new volunteer opportunities and is currently the Chair of the Innisfil ideaLAB & Library Board, the President of the Innisfil Rotary Club, Treasurer of the Innisfil Community Foundation and a member of 100 Women Who Care, South Simcoe. Since early childhood, Anne has been an avid reader and Enid Blyton was her favourite author as a child. Anne believes that if you love reading, you will never be bored or lonely, and she is delighted to have passed on her love of reading to her two daughters and five grandchildren.

Book: The Company We Keep by Frances Itani

On Tuesday nights in the backroom of Cassie’s café, six strangers seek solace and find themselves part of a “Company of Good Cheer”

Hazzley is at loose ends, even three years after the death of her husband. When her longtime friend Cassandra, café owner and occasional dance-class partner, suggests that she start up a conversation group, Hazzley posts a notice on the community board at the local grocery store. Four people turn up for the first meeting: Gwen, a recently widowed retiree in her early sixties, who finds herself pet-sitting a cantankerous parrot; Chiyo, a forty-year-old fitness instructor who cared for her unyielding but gossip-loving mother through the final days of her life; Addie, a woman pre-emptively grieving a close friend who is seriously ill; and Tom, an antiques dealer and amateur poet who, deprived of home baking since becoming a widower, comes to the first meeting hoping cake will be served. Before long, they are joined by Allam, a Syrian refugee with his own story to tell.

These six strangers are learning that beginnings can be possible at any stage of life. But as they tell their stories, they must navigate what is shared and what is withheld. Which version of the truth will be revealed? Who is prepared to step up when help is needed? This moving, funny and deeply empathic new novel from acclaimed author Frances Itani reminds us that life, with all its twists and turns, never loses its capacity to surprise.

Midland Public Library: 

Champion: Cady McLaughlin

Cady McLaughlin is a farmer, designer, and mother from Lafontaine, Ontario. She grows flowers and works on the family farm looking after horses, hens, and hay. Cady is passionate about community building and environmental sustainability. With degrees in museum studies and history, Cady gravitates towards stories that envelop the reader in a different world, while empowering them to make discoveries about their own.

Book: The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc

Heather is sleeping peacefully after the birth of her twin daughters when the sound of the world ending jolts her awake. Stumbling outside with her babies and her new husband, Brendan, she finds that their city has been destroyed by falling meteors and that her little family are among only a few who survived. But the mountain that looms over the city is still green--somehow it has been spared the destruction that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Heather is one of the few who know the mountain, a place city-dwellers have always been forbidden to go. Her dad took her up the mountain when she was a child on a misguided quest to heal her legs, damaged at birth. The tragedy that resulted has shaped her life, bringing her both great sorrow and an undying connection to the deep magic of the mountain, made real by the beings she and her dad encountered that day: Estajfan, a centaur born of sorrow and of an ancient, impossible love, and his two siblings, marooned between the magical and the human world. Even as those in the city around her--led by Tasha, a charismatic doctor who fled to the city from the coast with her wife and other refugees--struggle to keep everyone alive, Heather constantly looks to the mountain, drawn by love, by fear, by the desire for rescue. She is torn in two by her awareness of what unleashed the meteor shower and what is coming for the few survivors, once the green and living earth makes a final reckoning of the usefulness of human life and finds it wanting.

New Tecumseth Public Library: 

Champion: Judy Penz Sheluk

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the bestselling Marketville Mystery and Glass Dolphin Mystery series. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans, Heartbreaks & Half-truths and Moonlight & Misadventure, which she also edited. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Chair on the Board of Directors. She splits her time between Alliston and Goulais River, Ontario.

Book: Greenwood by Michael Christie

They come for the trees. It is 2038. As the rest of humanity struggles through the environmental collapse known as the Great Withering, scientist Jake Greenwood is working as an overqualified tour guide on Greenwood Island, a remote oasis of thousand-year-old trees. Jake had thought the island's connection to her family name just a coincidence, until someone from her past reappears with a book that might give her the family history she's long craved. From here, we gradually move backwards in time to the years before the First World War, encountering along the way the men and women who came before Jake: an injured carpenter facing the possibility of his own death, an eco-warrior trying to atone for the sins of her father's rapacious timber empire, a blind tycoon with a secret he will pay a terrible price to protect, and a Depression-era drifter who saves an abandoned infant from certain death, only to find himself the subject of a country-wide manhunt. At the very centre of the book is a tragedy that will bind the fates of two boys together, setting in motion events whose reverberations we see unfold over generations, as the novel moves forward into the future once more.

Ramara Public Library: 

Champion: Linda Lyons

After forty years of various occupations including office management, real estate brokerage, and community volunteer, Linda Lyons returned to formal education at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona. While pursuing degrees in English and Creative Writing, she participated in multiple volunteer opportunities including the establishment of a library and learning centre at a Mexican orphanage.  Now fully retired and settled on the shores of Lake Simcoe, she putters about her “work-in-progress” home and garden and indulges her life-long passion of reading and writing. Decades from being a young girl who haunted the bookmobile, hid under the covers with a flashlight, and read cereal boxes and toothpaste tubes, she chooses to view these challenging times as an opportunity to appreciate the fellowship of family and friends and the wonder of books and the natural world.

Book: Indians on Vacation by Thomas King

Inspired by a handful of postcards sent nearly a hundred years ago, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace long-lost uncle Leroy and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe.

“I’m sweaty and sticky. My ears are still popping from the descent into Vaclav Havel. My sinuses ache. My stomach is upset. My mouth is a sewer. I roll over and bury my face in a pillow. Mimi snuggles down beside me with no regard for my distress.

‘My god,’ she whispers, ‘can it get any better?’”

By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple’s holiday in Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.

Featured Author Visits

Visit our Event Calendar throughout the summer to access links to these author visits. 

*Registered program: visit the links below or call 705-728-1010 to register.

Wednesday, August 4 @ 7:00 pm Alicia Elliot: A Mind Spread Out On The Ground* 
Tuesday, August 10 @ 7:00 pm Michael Christie: Greenwood* 
Thursday, August 19 @ 7:00 pm Uzma Jalaluddin: Ayesha at Last*
Thursday, August 26 @ 7:00 pm Jael Richardson: Gutter Child* 
Tuesday, August 31 @ 7:00 pm Frances Itani: The Company We Keep*
Thursday, September 9 @ 7:00 pm  Amanda Leduc: Centaur’s Wife*

 

Featured Events

Visit our Event Calendar throughout the summer to access links to these Simcoe Reads programs

*Registered program: visit the links below or call 705-728-1010 to register.

Tuesday, July 27 @ 6:00 pm Simcoe Reads Book Club: A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliot* 
Tuesday, August 3 @ 6:00 pm Simcoe Reads Book Club: Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc*
Tuesday, August 10 @ 6:00 pm Simcoe Reads Book Club: Gutter Child by Jael Richardson* 
Tuesday, August 17 @ @ 6:00 pm Simcoe Reads Book Club: The Company We Keep by Frances Itani*
Tuesday, August 24 @ @ 6:00 pm Simcoe Reads Book Club: Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin*
Tuesday, August 31 @ @ 6:00 pm SimcoeSimcoe Reads Book Club: Greenwood by Michael Christie* 
Tuesday, September 7 @ 6:00 pm Simcoe Reads Book Club: Indians on Vacation by Thomas King*
Sunday, October 3 @ 8:00 pm Simcoe Reads Cover-to-Cover Competition on Rogers TV
Sunday, October 10 @ 8:00 pm  Simcoe Reads Cover-to-Cover Competition on Rogers TV re-run

 

Play Along At Home

It's easy to join Simcoe Reads:

  • Visit the App Store or Google Play and download the FREE Beanstack Tracker app to get started earning virtual prizes
  • Join our Celebrity Champion, Carolina Belmares, in the challenge and read all seven Canadian titles (or as many as you want)
  • Play along at home on the Beanstack Tracker app and complete badges - every badge you collect earns a ballot for our grand prizes
  • Watch to see who wins when our champions defend their book in a live debate in September

Simcoe Reads 2020 Winners

Watch the Simcoe Reads Finale on Rogers TV online: https://www.rogerstv.com/media?lid=237&rid=23&gid=590837

Judges' Choice:

BPL is proud to say our Champion, Lisa Morgan, won the Judges' Choice! 

Champion Lisa Morgan and Host Andrea Murray with trophies

The Simcoe Reads plaque is officially on display at BPL! 

CEO Lauren Jessop holding the Simcoe Reads plaque

Community Choice:

Essa Public Library's Champion, Emily Woods, won the Community Choice, defending The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson. 

Simcoe Reads 2020 Champions

Barrie Public Library: 

Champion: Lisa Morgan

Lisa Morgan has been the Midday Host at 107.5 KOOLFM in Barrie for 13 years. She holds a BA from The University of Ottawa but got into radio at age 17 and it sort of stuck! 

Some of her earliest memories are of being read to, at home and at school.  She spent her summers as a child biking to the little blue library in Beeton and checking out stacks of mystery novels like the Bobsey Twins and Nancy Drew. Her tastes have expanded since then and she has a long list of favourites that she will gladly share if you want a book recommendation.

Lisa lives with her husband and two children.  Her 7 year-old daughter is a bookworm. She says "Books are precious! To me, books are like jewels!" 

Book: An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

Shortlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and a Best Book of the Year according to Real Simplethe Globe and Mail, and the CBC, this follows the love story of two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.

In this novel America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him—even if it means risking everything. When she finds out there’s a company that has invented time travel, she agrees to a radical contract: if she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a transformed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to determine if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story that paints an intimate portrait of endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.

Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library: 

Champion: Noora Akhavan

Born in Iran and living in India and England before moving to Canada, Noora fell in love with reading at boarding school – reading Enid Blyton, National Geographic magazines and comic book retellings of Indian and Hindu mythology. A graduate of the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario, Noora is a lawyer currently practicing criminal and family law. She is a longtime activist for women's and human rights and has volunteered/served on numerous advocacy committees and organizations. She is currently on the executive of the BWG Diversity Action Group, a member of the BWG Library Board and vice-chair of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bradford Baha’I Community. Books have always been a comfort to Noora, who reads every day and enjoys British murder mysteries or spiritual books, often with a cup of tea. A resident for 25 years, Noora loves Bradford West Gwillimbury and is thrilled to represent the BWG community in Simcoe Reads.

Book: Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Encompassing themes of colonialism, love and family, resource development and community, this novel, inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou – a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities – is an inventive, engrossing and thrilling read.

Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year--ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One hung-over morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, she is drawn to a revival tent where the local Métis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher. By the time she staggers into the tent the service is over, but as she is about to leave, she hears an unmistakable voice.

She turns, and there is Victor. Only he insists he is not Victor, but the Reverend Eugene Wolff, on a mission to bring his people to Jesus. And he doesn't seem to be faking: there isn't even a flicker of recognition in his eyes.

With only two allies--her odd, Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, and Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with deep knowledge of the old ways--Joan sets out to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. If he really is Victor, his life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon her success.

Essa Public Library: 

Champion: Emily Wood

For Emily Wood, words are inherently an inextricably a part of her life. An avid reader from a young age, her love of books quickly developed into a love of writing stories, a passion she continues to pursue in hopes of becoming an author herself. She studied Communications at the University of Ottawa and later earned a diploma in Print & Broadcast Journalism at Durham College, and currently works as a Marketing & Communications professional for a charitable foundation. Though she’ll read just about anything you put in front of her, her favourite books include edge-of-your-seat thrillers, dystopian novels, a good whodunnit and, of course, anything set in a creepy old house.

Book: The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

Growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls--a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place--Jake Baker spends most of his time with his uncle Calvin, a kind but eccentric enthusiast of occult artifacts and conspiracy theories. The summer Jake turns twelve, he befriends a pair of siblings new to town, and so Calvin decides to initiate them all into the "Saturday Night Ghost Club." But as the summer goes on, what begins as a seemingly lighthearted project may ultimately uncover more than any of its members had imagined. With the alternating warmth and sadness of the best coming-of-age stories, The Saturday Night Ghost Club examines the haunting mutability of memory and storytelling, as well as the experiences that form the people we become.

Innisfil ideaLab and Library: 

Champion: Lynn Dollin

Lynn was elected Mayor for the Town of Innisfil in 2018 and has represented the Town since 1994. First as Councillor for twenty years, and as Deputy Mayor from 2014 to 2018. She has been the Town of Innisfil’s representative on many boards including the Lake Simcoe and Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authorities, the Royal Victoria Hospital Board and the South Simcoe Economic Alliance.

Lynn was elected to the Board of the Association of Municipalities on Ontario in 2011, spent two years as Chair of Ontario’s Small Urban Municipalities (OSUM) and in 2016 was elected President of AMO.  She also spent two years as a board member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and representing Ontario at the Provincial and Territorial Associations.

Lynn has a diverse background in representing municipal interests, including being one of only 19 people throughout Ontario to receive an appointment by the Ontario Minister of the Environment to serve as chairperson of the South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Committee. In that role she chairs a 22-member, multi stakeholder committee that is working on a plan to protect municipal drinking water from overuse and contamination.

Book: Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow.

The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision.

Blending action and allegory, Moon of the Crusted Snow upends our expectations. Out of catastrophe comes resilience. And as one society collapses, another is reborn.
 

Midland Public Library: 

Champion: Kristi Presse

A University of Toronto and Trent University grad, Kristi has been teaching English at the local high school for the past 13 years. She fell in love with reading at a young age through Archie Comics and hasn’t stopped expanding her preferred novel styles and choices since. Kristi loves finding new books to read, especially ones she can incorporate into her classes, striving to promote and expose her students to Canadian and minority voices as much as possible. Kristi fills her free time with friends and family, playing music, creating, being active and getting outdoors with her dog Zoé, and spending as much time as possible on Georgian Bay. Born and raised in Midland Kristi is so excited to be representing her hometown in this county book showdown.

Book: From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

Jesse Thistle’s heartwrenching memoir of homelessness and coming to a more full understanding of his Metis identity is a disquieting but essential read. Following his footsteps through loving and traumatic childhood homes, and then a spiral of addiction, incarceration, and homelessness, we finally see that Jesse’s story is one of utter truthfulness, courage, and resilience.v

Simcoe Reads 2020 Authors

Meet Our Authors:

Author Talk with Craig Davidson 

View the author talk with Craig Davidson and the Essa Public Library

Author Talk with Thea Lim and Lisa Morgan 

September 3 at 6:30 pm 

Tune in to learn Thea Lim's thoughts on An Ocean Of Minutes, Simcoe Reads, and more. Find out what Lisa Morgan's thoughts were as she read the book. Most importantly, tune in to ask Thea all of your own questions for An Ocean of Minutes. 

Author Talk with Waubgeshig Rice 

September 10, 2020 at 7:00 pm 

Tune in with Innisfil Public Library to learn more about Moon of the Crusted Snow and about Rice's experiences as an author. Originally from Wasauksing First Nation in Ontario, Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist who has written short story collections and novels. 

Author Talk with Cherie Dimaline

September 16, 2020 at 7:00 pm 

Tune in with Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library to learn more about Empire of Wild. Cherie Dimaline is a Metis writer and activist from the Georgian Bay Metis community. 

  

Simcoe Reads 2020