Escape the Toronto Cold- Warm Up with ‘Summer Island’ for Kids!

By Stephen Weir

On Saturday, although A Different Booklist Bookstore in downtown Toronto wasn’t filled, a warm group of adults and children gathered to hear a reading by American author Deborah C. Mortimer and Canadian artist Ken Daley. The duo shared their delightful children’s book, “Summer Island.” In describing her 2023 illustrated book, the former lawyer encourages parents to “Pack their bags and grab their passports! School’s out, and we’re headed to a beautiful Caribbean island to meet a new family, listen to Granny’s stories, play with cousins, and make amazing memories.”

Deborah C. Mortimer

The short book tells the story of a young American girl visiting the Caribbean for the first time in the 80s to meet her grandmother and young cousins. Although it doesn’t specify that Granny lives in rural Trinidad, the Waterloo illustrator, Ken Daley, has included a colourful drawing of a map of Trinidad. At Saturday’s gathering, Mortimer mentioned that while the story could be set in any number of Caribbean islands, it is inspired by her first visit to T&T as a child. She currently resides in Pennsylvania, and although born in the US, her parents were from Jamaica and Venezuela, with family connections in Trinidad.

During the event, the author read the entire book to the audience, and it was well-received. How do we know? Not a single child’s voice was heard as she narrated this innocent and fun story about traveling from the North American diaspora back to the homeland. One of the questions posed to the author was how she connected with Daley. “I found him on Instagram,” she said. They had never met before, but after he read her draft and sent her some sketches, “the partnership was sealed.”

Summer Island

Daley created some sketches at the reading, and the children were given black and white drawings to colour. As for the parents, they had the opportunity to sample Trinidadian food supplied by Bake ‘n Friends. The Summer Island reading marked the conclusion of Black History Month at the Bathurst Street bookstore and community gathering space.