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that scatterbrain booky.jpg

I Did It All for the Booky

By Kelly | PaEHba Day | February 18, 2010 |

By Kelly | PaEHba Day | February 18, 2010 |

As a child I had a voracious appetite for reading. I was that fat little kid at the birthday party. You know the kind. The one who snuck into the birthday kid’s room, snagged a book and found a quiet little corner to hide in while the rest of the hooligans at the party ran around enjoying all manner of shenanigans. There are three specific reasons that lead to my childhood love for reading. First — a wonderful, creative, snarky and sarcastic part time school librarian, full time French teacher named Mr. Schaefer. Mr. Schaefer was rude and scathingly bitchy (Pajibans would have loved him) but he taught me both the value of reading and how to conjugate properly in French. Second — while I blew vomity goat chunks at math, I excelled at reading and writing. Left alone, I could easily read three or four books in a single weekend and I drove my mother crazy with my ability to completely tune everything out around me while I read. Third — we were dirt poor. With no money for after-school activities the library card was a pot of gold to the poor kid. I spent hours at our local library reading anything and everything I could get my hands on (including some books that probably were not appropriate for children — the local librarian was quite liberal bless her little heart). But even better than the library? Every year our school hosted a book fair. And at one of those book fairs, I was introduced to That Scatterbrain Booky.

Set in Depression-era Toronto, the book tells the story of 10-year-old Beatrice (nicknamed Booky — pronounced “Boo-key”) and her family’s struggles to survive. Written by Canadian author Bernice Thurman Hunter, this semi-autographical tale, despite its serious subject matter, is humorous and touching and brutally honest in its description of life during the Depression. From the fight Booky witnesses between her parents over the fate of her unborn sibling to the extreme joy she feels with an unexpected treat of Coca-cola, the highs and lows of trying to survive are lovingly and meticulously detailed. Although the book is set during a time that children now will barely understand they will still relate easily to Booky’s feelings of fear and jealousy and happiness. After writing That Scatterbrain Booky, Hunter wrote two more - With Love from Booky and As Ever, Booky. While I still have all three of my original “Booky” books, tattered and dog eared, I later purchased the new trilogy version. I recommend buying this trilogy version; children who love That Scatterbrain Booky will enjoy the last two just as thoroughly.

I purposely have not gone into much detail about this book; I’m afraid I will share too much and ruin your enjoyment of it (and I’ll admit it — I’m a reader who hates spoilers in reviews). Because while That Scatterbrain Booky is aimed at children aged 10+, as an adult I found it just as delightful and gained a better appreciation for the details of life during the Depression and a feel for how Toronto would have been in the ’30s.

I would caution you, however, to read the book before giving it to your children. While it truly is lighthearted and joyful, it does deal with some fairly heavy themes such as spousal abuse, threat of eviction, and, in the later books, death. I don’t remember being affected at all by this as a child, however I suppose more sensitive children could find it disturbing.

I can’t urge you enough to read these books; they are truly wonderful. And if you enjoy the Booky Trilogy, try reading The Margaret Trilogy by Hunter. You’ll find them just as engrossing.


Kelly lives in the sunny Okanagan and spends most of her time drinking beer with her Chihuahua, Dexter. You can read her occasional ramblings at The Fat Chick Diaries

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.