Groundwood Recommends: Summer Reading

Surely summer is the best time to read for pleasure, so today our is blog dedicated to reading just for fun! We asked some Groundwood staff members for their top picks for summer reads.

Almost every public library has a summer reading program designed to encourage children to read books that interest them — make sure to check out the program in your area for more recommendations!

Rosario’s Fig Tree is a perfect summer story, as it reminds us of the beauty and joy that can be found getting to know your neighbours, gardening and spending time in your backyard. Rosario reminds me of my own neighbour, who gifts me tomatoes and cucumbers throughout the summer! C’est magnifique! (Just ask the New York Times.)”

— Jolise Beaton, Rights Assistant



“What’s the best part of summer? The mosquitoes, obviously. Griffin Ondaatje investigates the rich inner life of these omnipresent summer critters — and whether or not a leather jacket can make you cool — in his sweet new chapter book, The Mosquito Brothers.”

— Suzanne Sutherland, Assistant Editor



“Summertime for me, an indoor kid, meant unlimited time to read books and get delightfully lost in their adventures. Reading would ignite my imagination to come up with stories of my own, just like in Marie-Louise Gay’s Any Questions? and its exploration of how to be creative, featuring a very ferocious beast.”

— Cindy Ma, Publicist



“What I love most about Norman, Speak! is that it reminds me of the struggles some of my friends went through when they adopted their respective pets. Maybe things would have been easier for my friends if they learned Mandarin or Cantonese?”

— Neil Wadhwa, Technology Intern



“This enchanting picture book [Song for a Summer Night] makes me nostalgic for my childhood: those long summer nights when time and freedom were in abundance; when school was no longer part of the equation; and when friends and play were the only things that mattered!”

— Gillian Fizet, Rights Manager


Enter to win a copy of Rosario’s Fig Tree!

On April 10th we are celebrating the arrival of spring by giving away a copy of Rosario’s Fig Tree, written by Charis Wahl and illustrated by Luc Melanson.

This contest is open to residents of North America (excluding Quebec). We will accept entries until midnight on Thursday, April 9th, and will contact the winner by email on Friday, April 10th.

Good luck!

Sorry! Contest closed!

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Charis Wahl and the Bottle Gourd

Charis Wahl’s new book, Rosario’s Fig Tree, is about a little girl whose neighbor has a very green thumb. Rosario grows “tomatoes and peppers and beans and zucchinis and cucumbers and eggplants and lots of things I don’t know.” The book is inspired by the people on Charis’s street, and in honor of its publication she’s shared a story of her own about mysterious things growing in the garden next door.


We have a lattice fence between our backyard and that of our neighbors. While our yard is pretty much a mess, theirs has neat lines of poles joined by strings, on which vines climb. Some of the vines climb the fence. They are a very pretty lime color and have large, bright flowers, a definite improvement on mere fence.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 3.33.35 PMOne day we realized that there was a two-foot-long, light-green object hanging over the fence — sort of like a giant caterpillar, but not hairy. We gently sent it back over the fence to its rightful home and thought no more about it.

Some time later, our neighbor came to the door and handed us the green object. There followed much mutual bowing and miming of “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” as we have no language in common, but no answer to the question of what to do with the unidentified crop.

Enter the internet: it turned out to be a bottle gourd, a cousin of a squash — no mystery there — but what kind was a revelation. Sure, you can eat it — we curried ours — and it’s frighteningly healthy, but that’s just the beginning. They are also used in cosmetics, as medicine containers, made into musical instruments and, yes, turned into water bottles. Dry them properly, give them a couple of hits of bleach, wax the inside surface and, eureka, Thermos is out of business.

And to think that I saw only a backyard filled with pretty vines. Silly me.

Charis Wahl is an author and editor of books for children and adults. She co-authored Doris McCarthy: My Life and co-edited Love, Hope, Optimism: An Informal Portrait of Jack Layton by Those Who Knew Him. Her next-door neighbor of thirty-five years inspired her to write Rosario’s Fig Tree. She lives in downtown Toronto.

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