Books by Cary Fagan

MR. TEMPKIN CLIMBS A TREE by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2019

"A gentle story with minimal intrigue and plenty of compassion highlights the beauty of intergenerational relationships. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A young boy and his elderly neighbor bond during the summer months. Read full book review >
KING MOUSE by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 24, 2019

"Graceful and perceptive in both illustration and text, the timeless theme is particularly pertinent today. (Picture book. 3-8)"
A mouse in the forest finds a crown and becomes king (for a bit) in this picture book. Read full book review >
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF GRETCHEN OYSTER by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 17, 2019

"A charmingly eccentric tale of briefly intersecting lives making meaning from art. (Fiction. 11-13)"
Hartley, floundering at home and school from a family trauma, finds a strange artistic postcard—and then another, and another. Read full book review >
WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BENNY? by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 2, 2019

"A lovely, gentle exercise in getting along. (Picture book. 3-7)"
A young fox cub just wants to play with big brother Benny. Read full book review >
THE HOLLOW UNDER THE TREE by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2018

"Equally suitable as a read-aloud or as a choice for independent reading, this short chapter book will please animal enthusiasts and readers of tales about brave girls alike. (Historical fiction. 6-9)"
An adventurous girl finds an escaped circus lion in 1925 Toronto. Read full book review >
THE OLD WORLD AND OTHER STORIES by Cary Fagan
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

"Fagan's clever and wide-ranging stories put the act of imagining front and center."
A collection of microfiction takes anonymous photographs as its inspiration. Read full book review >
MORT ZIFF IS NOT DEAD by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2017

"A wonderful read told with elegant simplicity. (Historical fiction. 10-14)"
A nostalgic blend of 1960s culture and enduring family dynamics combine in Fagan's humorous yarn. Read full book review >
A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 16, 2017

"An original and thought-provoking exploration of the rhythms of friendship. (Picture book. 4-7)"
It is common to associate cages with imprisonment, but what of the cage's point of view? Read full book review >
I WISH I COULD DRAW by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 13, 2014

"This friendly volume, told in the first person and directly addressing readers, is sure to encourage the perfectionist artist and wannabe cartoonist alike. Draw on! (Informational picture book. 4-10)"
This encouraging and amusing faux notebook will have many nervous artists picking up their own pens and pencils. Read full book review >
DANNY, WHO FELL IN A HOLE by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 9, 2013

"A quirky existential adventure for thoughtful readers. (Fantasy. 9-11)"
Faced with sudden life changes, a boy blindly rushes into a deserted construction site and falls into a hole. Read full book review >
OY FEH SO? by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2013

"While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today's kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)"
Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation. Read full book review >
THE BOY IN THE BOX by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 9, 2012

"Food for thought here about varieties of motivation, though with too many unanswered questions and a sudden, resolution-free ending that is more annoying than tantalizing. (Adventure. 11-13)"
In this loosely woven series setup, a relentlessly ordinary lad who has taught himself to juggle is kidnapped by the owners of a traveling medicine show. Read full book review >
MR. ZINGER'S HAT by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 14, 2012

"A thoroughly engaging addition to the shelf of stories about storymaking. (Picture book. 6-9)"
Here's one answer, at least, to the archetypal question about where stories come from: Their authors pull them out of hats! Read full book review >
ELLA MAY AND THE WISHING STONE by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 9, 2011

"Thoughtful and touching. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Friendship is hard. Read full book review >
BANJO OF DESTINY by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2011

Battling parental expectations and low self-esteem, a lad finds his bliss in building and learning to play a banjo. Born to unspeakable wealth thanks to his once-poor parents' invention of a high-tech dental-floss dispenser, Jeremiah leads a thoroughly regimented life—shuttling between his palatial mansion and an exclusive private school, plus a full extracurricular schedule of etiquette instruction, ballroom dancing, painting, golf and, most hated of all, piano lessons. Being mediocre or worse at everything he tries, his life is a misery. But then a chance encounter with a banjo player lights up a fascination with both the instrument and its music. After his pretentious parents strenuously forbid the purchase of such an item, he sets out to make one in secret from a cookie tin and other found ingredients, and then to buckle down and teach himself to play. Tucking basic information about banjo construction and history into his easygoing narrative, Fagan makes his budding musician work realistically hard on his project, eventually achieve some musical chops with support from both adult allies and a smart, free-spirited classmate and finally bring his astonished parents around with an impromptu set of classic folksongs. Occasional spot-art still-lifes done in pen and ink add formal notes to a low-key charmer. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
BOOK OF BIG BROTHERS by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

Growing up with two older brothers is never boring. The youngest of three looks back over his childhood, beginning with Mom bringing him home from the hospital (a story that he doesn't remember but has often been told). His brothers are so anxious to hold him that he's accidentally dropped...and smiles. This sets the tone for his whole life. Whether it's entertaining him with a pirate play when he's sick in bed with the measles, burying a dead pet together or camping out in the backyard, his big brothers are there for him. And now that he's older, the three don't live in the same house but still manage to get together occasionally—and to dream. It's a lovely story of brotherhood, told with heart and simplicity and plenty of specific details to give them weight. Melanson's digital illustrations are stylishly childlike, although they are sometimes too young and/or too literal for the substantial text. This flaw is a small one, however, given the unusual and touching nature of the whole. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
THE BIG SWIM by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2010

This is Ethan's first year at summer camp, and he'd rather go unnoticed. He's a closet writer who hates sports and loves nature. Despite his anxiety, Ethan finds that camp isn't so bad. He's not the worst at the activities, and there's a girl, Amber, he likes. Then the new kid, Zach, arrives, preceded by tall-tale rumors of bad behavior. Ethan can't help finding Zach fascinating. He's aloof, and he listens to Buddy Holly on a cassette recorder the size of a shoebox. It's when the other campers ostracize Zach that a tentative friendship begins to develop. Ethan's straightforward narration is honest in its confrontation of both his shortcomings and Zach's. Zach, who occasionally goes missing, seems uninterested in the camp's activities, even ignoring the highly anticipated endurance test, The Big Swim. The summer reaches its zenith when Zach draws Amber and Ethan into his perilous, personal vision of triumph. Set in an indefinite past when life wasn't abuzz with technology, this story is a forest-scented breath of fresh air with crisp storytelling, mild tension and quiet revelations. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
JACOB TWO-TWO ON THE HIGH SEAS by Cary Fagan
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 8, 2009

Fagan resurrects the late Mordecai Richler's most famous character for a new adventure released to accompany freshly illustrated editions of the three original episodes. Still "two plus two plus two years old," the chronic worrier sets out with his family from England to Canada aboard the SS Spring-a-Leak but soon finds himself kidnapped by a crew of not-exactly-fearsome singing pirates. Well supplied with comical sketches from Petricic, plus a supporting cast that includes a parrot given to screeching "Kiss my feathered butt!" and like disrespectful sentiments, a hulking but kindly ex-wrestler who once defeated the Hooded Fang himself and a narcissistic Captain who turns out to be the Canadian Prime Minister's long-lost brother, the episode fits into the series nicely in both breathless pacing and Roald Dahl-style zaniness. Closing with a big birthday party and Jacob's expressed wish for a pet, it also fits nicely between the events of Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang (1975) and Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur (1987). Not too-too bad. (Fiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
THING-THING by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 12, 2008

Staying on the sixth floor of the Excelsior Hotel, Archibald Crump is unhappy with all the hundreds of presents he's gotten for his birthday. His father runs down to the toy store to find something his spoiled son doesn't have already, settling on the toy labeled "Thing-Thing," which is not quite any specific animal. But awful Archibald is so dissatisfied that he throws the creature out the window. Thing-Thing isn't distressed by the rejection—it wanted to find a loving child—but the fall is a bit worrying. As it descends floor by floor, Thing-Thing glimpses and is glimpsed by a person within, each with their own story, and works a sweetly transformative magic on those inside the hotel…until it lands with a thump in the carriage of a fussy infant, who then stops crying. Fagan's story, and its serendipitous end, will please those on laps or large groups; Debon's vertiginous cityscapes, with wildly varying perspectives and orientations supported by a leaping, swirling typeface, are just as good a match to the text as Thing-Thing and its new owner. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
MY NEW SHIRT by Cary Fagan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 11, 2007

David loves to visit his Bubbie, except on his birthday. The reason for this strange attitude toward a wonderful Grandma? Every year she gives him the same present, a scratchy, stiff, white dress shirt. At the moment of gifting this year, a horrific vision of years of shirts attacking him in a dark closet distracts David, and the new shirt gets away from him, wafting right out the window. Pupik, David's dog, wrestles with it through the town and brings it back ruined with stains. However, Bubbie is a miracle worker with the cleansers; soon it's good as new. When it somehow escapes through the window again, David's Bubbie gets the message. Petricic's watercolors made to look like photographs taped in a scrapbook are the main draw, particularly for Pupik's mad shirt run. This Canadian import with a Yiddish accent might appeal more to the Bubbies than their bubbellah, but it will have appeal especially when shared. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
TEN OLD MEN AND A MOUSE by Cary Fagan
ANIMALS
Released: March 13, 2007

The discovery of a mouse in the synagogue signals a break from the routine for the ten old men who gather there every night. Grumbling and getting in each other's way, they manage to set a trap. Next day, when the mouse is still alive—and visibly irritated in Clement's fine-lined, delicately colored, gently comical illustrations—they instead create a cozily furnished corner in the cupboard, offer a supply of strawberries and apple slices, and, predictably, soon discover that "he" is a "she." The synagogue being a far less lively place after the energetic new arrivals are carried off to a home in the country, the mouse is welcomed back when she reappears at the door, alone: "Don't tell me. Your children grew up and moved away. An old story." But: "Don't worry. You'll hear from your kids again. You know when? When they need something." Like James Stevenson's more recent outings, this good-natured episode may have less appeal for young children (though that mouse is pretty cute, and so are the old guys) than for the parents and grandparents who will insist on reading it to them. So share it, already. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
THE ANIMALS' WALTZ by Cary Fagan
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 15, 1996

A sincere and pleasing first novel, winner of the 1994 Jewish Book Award for fiction, ventures into the life of a young woman coming to terms with her mother's death. Sheila Hersh is not happy. By day she's stuck in her father's Toronto store, Hersh's House of Mattresses, writing ad copy and inventing such winning slogans as ``I GUARANTEE IT!!!'' By night she mingles with the downtown art crowd, having the dubious distinction of starring in the underground film Blue Sheila, a movie she's desperately trying to keep from release. Life seems to have veered off track and brought her to this lonesome place when her mother died six years ago. She left the university, stayed home, and went to work for her father, Abe—ostensibly to look after him, although it becomes apparent that she's the one longing to be looked after. One thing, however, has held her interest over the years—a slim volume of German poetry found buried behind her family's National Geographic collection. The book's origin is a mystery, as is its author, a young Viennese woman who died in 1938 at the age of 23. Sheila has spent years translating the poems, divining their meaning and the meaning of her own obsession. Finally, she and her father make a pilgrimage to Vienna—she to solve the Charlotte Reissmann mystery, Abe to end his long, quiet mourning. The plot and secret of the poems, though, are hardly central to the appeal of Fagan's novel, which needs only rely on the easy charm of the characters. From Abe and Sheila, and the tender relationship between them, to boisterous Aunt Ettie, debonair Uncle Lou, and the eccentric new women in Abe's life, the story is peopled with comic gems who lend a lighthearted touch to the whole piece. A debut both heartfelt and funny, especially well-tuned to the description of this quirky Jewish family. Read full book review >