Jamie and the Monster Bookroom

16 December 2014

Jamie and the Monster Bookroom
by Kerry Simpson (with Jamie Simpson)
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$13.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-15-9

Saskatchewan boasts a wealth of writers and artists, and, increasingly, companies that help new writers get their books into print. Deana and Al Driver are the experienced team behind DriverWorks Ink, a Regina-based company established in 2008 to publish “true stories of fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes, books for children, fiction and humour.” Deana Driver is a journalist, writer, and editor, while Al comes from a long history as an editor in the Canadian newspaper industry. Their evolution into publishing seems a natural one.

I opened my first DriverWorks Ink book, Jamie and the Monster Bookroom, ready to embrace a fresh Saskatchewan voice. The story features a little girl, Jamie, who loves books, her local library, and, as the back cover copy states, “all the smells and textures that come with the books she’s read on her weekly visits there.”

Kerry Simpson, a teacher by profession, wrote the book with the help of her own young daughter, Jamie, and from the bio notes I assume this is a story that reflects the “real” Jamie’s life. The story is filled with specific details, ie: “Jamie and her mom warmed up their car and travelled the fifteen minutes it took to get to their town’s library.” A few lines later we read: “With her recycled library book bag in hand, Jamie and her mom battled their way up the steep steps”. The inclusion of specific details like “fifteen minutes” and “recycled” suggest that this tale is likely based on fact.

The book highlights childhood curiosity, imagination, bravery, and-of course-book loving. There is one room in the library the main character, Jamie, is afraid to enter. She calls the dark and dusty room the “Monster Bookroom,” and fears what’s inside might be a monster or “a ghost who scared children so much that they hopped into the book, never to return.” On her birthday Jamie gathers the courage to enter the strange room to find books that “looked lonely” and “sleepy”. Within this unusual environment the child finds the “perfect,” book, and is led on an amazing journey within its pages.

The darling watercolour illustrations are provided by Regina artist and educator Erika Folnović, and from snowflakes to spiders to happy looking spooks, there is much for the young reader (or listener) to delight in. A purple character named “Aooga” plays a big part in this story, as well, and, I’m guessing, we’ll be hearing more about Aooga-and Jamie-from this mother-daughter writing team in books to come. Congratulations to all involved in this pleasant debut.


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