A Lament for so much more than spilt porter

Book Review by David Kitz

Some books pass through your mind without provoking much thought or reflection. Others do just the opposite. They are meant to be savoured. I place Lament for Spilt Porter, by Larry J. McCloskey, in this latter category.

At its heart this is a book about nostalgia. The subtitle is Longing for Family and Home. Larry McCloskey explores that longing by reflecting on his own family as he grew up in the 1950s and 60s in Ottawa.

Maybe the book appealed to me because I grew up during the same timeframe. Maybe it appealed to me because for the last 30 years Ottawa has been my home. But I suspect that this book has a more universal appeal because it addresses the deep longing for home that is in all our hearts, regardless of age or geography.

A Meaningful Read

McCloskey not only laments the loss of his parents, he also laments the loss of their values – values that are rooted in family, church and an unflinching faith in God. Above all else, McCloskey wrestles with the very idea of God – the God that modern society has turned its back on. His is a restless faith, racked with doubt, but seeking God nonetheless. That pursuit is an underlying theme throughout.

If all this seems rather heavy and dour, breathe easy. There’s plenty of humour in these pages and some unforgettable characters too. But be forewarned: McCloskey packs more meaning into a single sentence than many authors capture in an entire chapter. There’s very little fluff and plenty of mental nutrition that a reader can draw from every chapter.

If you are still longing for home, this is a most meaningful read.

David Kitz is a retired teacher and the award-winning author of The Soldier Who Killed a King.

Lament for Spilt Porter: Longing for Family and Home

by Larry J. McCloskey
Castle Quay Books, Burlington, ON (2018).
Available at Octopus Books

Money smarts at Sunnyside!

By Robin Gallagher

It’s tax time!

Aside from making us all heave a collective moan, tax time is also a reminder to think about your child’s financial literacy. If you want your 9 to 12 year-old to learn some money skills in an accessible and entertaining way, then join us at Sunnyside on Saturday, April 13 for a Money Smarts program that will teach your child about the value of money, savings, budgeting and much more in a fun way! This program will introduce financial terms and concepts, including savings, credit cards and debit cards, budgeting, debt and insurance.

Space is limited, so register online at

In addition, the Ottawa Public Library has a number of titles to help you and your child with financial literacy – some for parents to read, some geared more towards children.

Books for Kids and Teens

The Secret Life of Money: a Kid’s Guide to Cash by Kira Vermono. Written in 2009, this is a slightly older title, but has a Canadian focus and is good at breaking down complex financial concepts. It is an excellent all-around guidebook to understanding finances.

The Complete Guide to Personal Finance for Teenagers and College Students by Tamsen Butler. This 2016 book is aimed directly at teens and provides guidance on how and when to get and manage credit, how to create a budget, how to make good purchasing decisions and how to avoid financial mistakes.

I’m Broke: the Money Handbook by Liam Croke. This book is a very useful general introduction to concepts such as taxes, the economy, banking, credit, investment and loans. It has lots of graphics and the text is accessible and accompanied by concrete, real-life examples of concepts.

Do I Need It? Or Do I Want It? Making Budget Choices by Jennifer S Larson. Intended for the elementary school crowd, this book is focused on broad and general questions about budgeting and saving and the difference between wants and needs.

 Books for Parents

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber. Isn’t this what we all want? Lieber gives detailed and specific advice about how to raise financially adept children. He also covers charitable giving and resisting advertising, consumer and peer pressures.

The Money Conversations to Have With Your Kids at Every Age and Stage by Scott Palmer. This book breaks down money “personalities” in a helpful way. Is your child a saver, a spender, a risk-taker? Is your child anxious about money or not anxious enough? No matter the profile or age of your child, Palmer identifies common pitfalls and outlines how you can help. It can even be enlightening in determining your own money personality!

Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not) by Beth Kobliner. Instead of breaking down money conversations by personality type, this book looks at individual topics and breaks them down by age. It advises starting money conversations with children as young as three and gives you specific age-appropriate guidance about topics and the different approaches you should take with those topics when your child is in preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, university and young adulthood. Although the book is American, the advice is sensible, specific and age-appropriate and is easily applicable to Canadians.

Hope to see you and your child on April 13 at Sunnyside branch!

Robin Gallagher is a librarian at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library where she works primarily with children and teens. When Robin is not at the library, you can find her reading (to herself or to her kids), dog walking, sewing or making music.

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