Seasonal Kagawong resident, author pens children’s book

Mark Denomme reads the new children’s book he has written, ‘Priscilla Searches for a Friend (And Saves the Village of Kagawong!)’ to his grandson Darcy.

KAGAWONG – A Kagawong seasonal resident and writer has penned a new book about Priscilla, a lonely heron that other herons would not play with because she was purple. The book has been described as a whimsical tale of individuality, fitting in and friendship. 

As Caleb, a four-year-old said in the foreword of the book, “I really liked how ‘Priscilla saved the village of Kagawong and that she found a friend. I liked all of the other animals too. The herons are my favourites.”

‘Priscilla Searches For a Friend (And Saves the Village of Kagawong)’  is the work of Mark Denomme. “Yes, it is my first published book,” he told The Expositor.  

“The main reason I thought of writing a book is that I have time in retirement and I’ve always enjoyed creative writing,” Mr. Denomme told The Expositor. “Part of an assignment I did when I was attending university was to write an episode of ‘The Fugitive’ (no, he didn’t submit it to the show’s executive).”

Mr. Denomme was an elementary school teacher for over 30 years in Kitchener and Cambridge. “I taught Grades 3-8 for 27 years and the last three years of my career I taught French as a second language. “My wife and I go back and forth between  our home in southern Ontario and our seasonal home in Kagawong.”

“I was inspired four years ago to write this book when I was installing a weathervane on my roof and how it seemed to be lonely by itself,” said Mr. Denomme. “Yes, this weathervane is a copper blue heron.” 

“The need for friendship is important to all people, especially for children,” stated Mr. Denomme. “As we get older, friendship is still important, but for kids it is essential.”

“After retiring from classroom teaching, I spent a couple of years as a volunteer in schools helping primary grade children who were struggling with literacy skills,” continued Mr. Denomme. “Studies have shown that if you introduce reading to children at an early age, they fall in love with reading and books and it is good for bonding with family, etc. Many of today’s kids could certainly benefit literacy-wise from less screen time and more book time.”

“One of the people who inspired me to write this book was my older brother Philip (the book is dedicated to his memory) who was a French English major in school, the oldest child of 10 in our family. Every year at Christmas, Philip would give classic children’s books to all the nieces and nephews.  This is part of the reason for my interest in writing, especially for children.”

Priscilla was a lonely heron, the book begins. The other herons would not play with her because she was purple. “We’re great blue herons and you’re not!” one of them shouted at her. “So, I’m a great purple heron! And you guys aren’t really blue-you’re greyish-blueish,” said Priscilla as she flew away.”

Priscilla Searches for a Friend (and saves the Village of Kagawong!)

Priscilla began looking for a purple friend, landing in a nearby field because she noticed several tall birds hunting for food as well as several other animals, but to no avail.

Having no luck finding a friend, Priscilla notices something shiny on top of a rooftop. “Why it’s a lonely looking heron. Maybe it needs a friend,” she decides as she flies up to greet Chinoodin the weathervane. The new friends spent the rest of the morning preening and munching on yummy fish.

However, later that afternoon, the sky turns a dark, greenish colour and Chinoodin indicates that, based on the sky and the wind, a tornado is heading right towards the pretty little village of Kagawong.

The two devise a plan to let the villagers know of the oncoming storm and try to save them, as the villagers are all down at the market by Mudge Bay. 

“I made a point to keep this book local,” said Mr. Denomme. “We love the Kagawong area and the Island.” For instance, in the book Gary Miller (the former roads superintendent for Billings Township), who has always been there when help is needed, is in the book, as is Jamie Ward, Richard Edwards, Patti Gordon, as well as the late Austin Hunt.

“The book would be enjoyable to children of all ages, although it might be very challenging for students in Grade 3 or younger,” said Mr. Denomme. “It is meant to be a book that parents and grandparents read to their children until they get a little older and become more independent readers.”

“O.J. Graphix did a great job in printing the book,” said Mr. Denomme. 250 copies of the book were printed he said the book is in the Words Worth store in Kitchener, the Wigwam in South Baymouth, the Chart Shop in Tobermory and Edwards Studios in Kagawong. By mid-November he is hoping to get in stores in several other Manitoulin communities. The book sells for $15 plus tax.