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Children's Fiction Books & Libraries

Clarence's Big Secret

by (author) Roy MacGregor & Christine MacGregor Cation

illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2020
Books & Libraries, School & Education, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, New Experience
Recommended Age
4 to 8
Recommended Grade
k to 5
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2020
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Clarence Brazier kept a big secret for nearly one hundred years: he didn’t know how to read. This picture book tells the true story of his journey to learn—and then love—to read.

As a young boy, Clarence cut class and took over the farm work when his father was blinded in an accident. Clarence worked as a logger, maintained his own successful farm, and became a father and a grandfather. All the while, he never learned to read. His wife was the only one who knew his secret. When she passed away, Clarence taught himself to read using junk mail. He was almost one hundred years old! Eventually, Clarence confessed to his daughter, a teacher, who helped him learn more. He went on to love reading and became a passionate literacy advocate until he died at age 105.

This inspirational and empowering story highlights Clarence’s resourcefulness and the power of literacy. It illustrates the use of growth mindset to achieve difficult goals, and shows it’s never too late to learn a new skill.

About the authors

In the fall of 2006, Roy MacGregor, veteran newspaperman, magazine writer, and author of books, came to campus. Since 2002, MacGregor had been writing columns for the Globe and Mail, but he had a long and distinguished career in hand before he came to the national newspaper. He has won National Newspaper Awards and in 2005 was named an officer in the Order of Canada. He is the author of more than 40 books — 28 of them in the internationally successful Screech Owls mystery series for young readers — on subjects ranging from Canada, to the James Bay Cree, to hockey. That fall, he spoke to a packed room in the St. Thomas chapel. After the lecture, Herménégilde Chiasson, the Acadian poet, artist, and New Brunswick's Lieutenant Governor of the day, hosted a reception at the majestic Old Government House on the banks of the St. John River. MacGregor spent the evening surrounded by young journalists and the conversation continued late into the night. After all, there were more than three decades of stories to tell.

Roy MacGregor's profile page

CHRISTINE MACGREGOR CATION is a high school teacher in the field of visual arts. Clarence’s Big Secret, co-written with her father, is her first picture book. Like Clarence, Christine was reluctant to read and write as a child. Today she loves to read, especially with her children. Christine lives in Kanata, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

Christine MacGregor Cation's profile page

Born in Quebec, Mathilde Cinq-Mars is a graduate of the Université de Strasbourg in visual arts. Recent illustration projects include Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me and the Acadian song collection Grande Tintamarre! Her illustrations have also been exposed at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of the Youth Solidarity Project, at the Seigneurie d'Anhaive in Belgium, and at the Cabinet Amateur in France. She lives and works in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, with her daughter and a lot dried flowers.

Mathilde Cinq-Mars' profile page


  • Commended, TD Summer Reading Club Top Recommended Read
  • Commended, Light Reads, Great Stories
  • Commended, Best Books for Kids and Teens, starred selection

Editorial Reviews

"Tell[s] an interesting story and conveys important lessons about the value of reading and the fact that it is never too late to learn something new."

Canadian Review of Materials

"The engaging text tells an unusual story with just enough detail to give it a period feel, bolstered by the well-composed drawings with washes of gentle color and plenty of understated charm. A memorable picture book."


"This is a well-written ode to motivation, perseverance, and the idea that it’s never too late."

Kirkus Reviews

"Listeners will enjoy every moment of this inspirational and joyful book."

Sal's Fiction Addiction

Other titles by Roy MacGregor

Other titles by Mathilde Cinq-Mars