Big city life in a condo spawns new book for children

One Toronto family's experience of condo living has led to a new children's book, The Condo Kids: Adventures with Bob the Barbary Sheep.

Nathaniel Durkacz, now 9, was the inspiration for the book and says it's 'kind of cool'

Nathaniel Durkacz, 9, was the inspiration behind a new children's book written by his mother, Jackie Burns. The book is called The Condo Kids: Adventures with Bob the Barbary Sheep. (CBC)

Big city life when you're a child doesn't necessarily mean living in a house with a white picket fence on a tree-lined street.

It can mean living in a high-rise building, with lots of people nearby, on different floors. There are children to play with and parks a short walk away. And there are adventures to be had.

This vertical reality has led to a new children's book, The Condo Kids: Adventures with Bob the Barbary Sheep

At 70 pages long, the book features children who live in condos and who want to adopt a pet. They sneak one in from a nearby zoo and go to great lengths to hide it from the adults.

"Adventure is just an elevator ride away..." reads the promotional material for the book. 
The young protagonists of the book live in a condo and want to adopt a pet, sneaking one in from a nearby zoo. (Ana Patankar)

Jackie Burns, a Toronto writer, told Metro Morning on Monday that early years with her first son prompted her to write the book.

Burns, her husband Anthony Durkacz and their boys, Nathaniel, 9, and Benjamin, 6, still live in a condo. She said the idea came from the first condo in which her family lived. 

"We were raising Nathaniel in a downtown condo at Church and Wellington. He was a toddler in our solarium. And he would stand by the window at the front of our condo and wave to the toddlers and babies who would appear in the windows of condo across the street," Burns said.

"I kind of thought, that would make a cool children's book to write about these kids because I hadn't seen anything like that done before."

Burns said her family then moved to a second condo in the city's west end, where Nathaniel and Benjamin made friends quickly. 
Toronto writer Jackie Burns says of the book: 'I hadn't seen anything like that done before.' (CBC)

"They became best friends with all the kids in the building and they had all of these great adventures. And I thought, you know what, I really need to get on that children's book because I think it's an idea that's just waiting to be explored. And I think there's a lot of kids out there who would like to see their lives reflected in a kids' book," she said.

Burns said there is a real sense of community in some Toronto condos and the book captures that reality.

"Maybe in Canada, there's this idea that once you have kids, you raise them in a house, or at least that's the dream, I guess, to have a back yard and to raise your kids in a family-friendly neighbourhood or in the suburbs," she said.

"That's sort of what I always thought I would do because that was the sort of the pressure I felt."

Condo living doesn't mean children are inactive, she said, but it does mean frequent trips to the park.

One of the illustrations from the book, which describes how protagonist Noah sneaks a Barbary sheep home from the zoo and takes it on adventures around the condo building where he lives. (Ana Patankar)

Her son, Nathaniel Durkacz, told Metro Morning that he thinks the book strikes a chord.

"I think it's kind of cool because I've never seen a book about kids in a condo and I think it's kind of cool to have one," he said.

Nathaniel said he likes living in a condo and he doesn't feel as though he's missing anything from not living in a house. 

"I really like it. It's kind of nice because if you're bored, you can just walk down and knock on your friend's door and it's convenient," he said. 

With files from Metro Morning