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Children's Fiction Friendship

Timmerman Was Here

by (author) Colleen Sydor

illustrated by Nicolas Debon

Initial publish date
Sep 2009
Friendship, Multigenerational, Values & Virtues
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2009
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 6
  • Grade: p to 1


Timmerman is mysterious. Moreover, he is bitterly resented by the young girl who lives in the same boardinghouse. After all, he occupies her beloved granddad’s now-vacant room. How dare he think he can take that space?

But try as she might, the girl cannot dislike him forever. Timmerman is kind, gentle, and soft-spoken to everyone, even the dog, who lets him untangle her matted coat. Despite herself, the girl becomes fond of him.

When rumors begin to fly, she tries not to listen. But it’s hard, especially when Timmerman is often seen late at night, wandering the streets with a shovel and sack over his shoulder. Is he stashing stolen goods? Burying dead cats? The girl takes a black eye for defending him at school. Even so, curiosity compels her to ask the question she knows she shouldn’t ask. Though Timmerman promises an explanation in time, he avoids a direct answer and disappears shortly after, leaving the girl to worry and wonder.

Not until spring is the answer to Timmerman’s nighttime walks beautifully presented, leaving the entire street with a living memory of Timmerman’s presence.

Timmerman Was Here is a charming tale of mystery, perception, and the gift of friendship.

About the authors

Colleen Sydor was born and raised in Winnipeg, where she lives with her husband and three children, and works as a writer and floral designer. She brings quick wit and a lively sense of language to her books for young readers. Four of her books have won the McNally Robinson Book For Young People award. Sydor's children have always been grist for her writer's mill. She finds that as they grow in feet and inches, so her stories are lengthening as well.

Colleen Sydor's profile page

NICOLAS DEBON won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for his book The Strongest Man in the World. His illustrations in Dawn Watch by Jean E. Pendziwol were nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award. He has also written and illustrated A Brave Soldier and Four Pictures by Emily Carr. A Canadian, he now lives in France.

Nicolas Debon's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Thing-Thing:
Thing-Thing is about a homely toy that just wants to be loved . . . told and illustrated in [a] contemporary style that brings new vitality to a genre best typified by The Velveteen Rabbit. . . . [Fagan’s] . . . witty, expressive style is well served by the inventive illustrations of Debon . . . to give a wonderfully funny account of Thing-Thing’s adventure.”
— Starred Review, Quill & Quire

Librarian Reviews

Timmerman Was Here

“I had not intended to like Timmerman. In fact, I was stubbornly determined not to.” So believes a young girl when a boarder moves into the room once occupied by her grandfather, who has gone to live in a senior citizens’ home.

In exchange for room and board, Timmerman does odd jobs around the house. He is quiet, polite and helpful and the young girl comes to the conclusion that she likes him, particularly when she notices his kindness to her dog. However, soon a stream of gossip erupts. People have seen him walking in the neighbourhood late at night, carrying an old burlap bag and a spade. Is he a notorious bank robber, hiding his loot? Is he killing and burying cats? The girl continues to believe in Timmerman’s goodness, although she is shaken when she spots the spade and burlap bag underneath his bed. It is only after her friend moves away that the neighbourhood discovers Timmerman’s departing and lasting gift.

Colleen Sydor has written a beautiful story about a special friendship. Her prose subtly explores a range of emotions. The observances told from a young girl’s point of view ring true. Here are but a few gems: “I know he [Timmerman] wouldn’t hurt a fly, and I took a black eye at school for saying so. I wore that black eye like a badge. Timmerman was a good man, and it felt right to defend him.” After Timmerman leaves, the girl sits in her grandfather’s bedroom: “I often sat in that room thinking of Timmerman, wondering about his old burlap sack. In the end, I came to realize that what was in the sack couldn’t possibly be more important than the friendship we had shared.” Sydor’s powerful and poignant words unearth much feeling from this young girl’s soul.

Nicolas Debon’s gouache, coloured pencil and wax pencil artwork displays Sydor’s text well. The illustrations are shadowy and full of mystery, leaving readers to imagine details for themselves. The muted facial expressions seem to communicate an underlying loneliness and sadness from the potential joys of life.

Readers will remember, reflect and rejoice in the lasting gift that Timmerman Was Here offers its readers.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2009. Vol.32 No.4.

Timmerman Was Here

The girl initially dislikes Timmerman. It’s difficult to ignore the rumours, especially when he is often seen late at night, wandering the streets with a shovel and sack over his shoulder. Not until spring is the answer to his nighttime walks beautifully presented, leaving the entire street with a living memory of Timmerman’s presence.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2010.

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