Can you 'Find TorontoRaccoons' in this colourful new book?

As holiday shopping intensifies, the demand for raccoon-themed products grows, Toronto shop owners say, and a new picture book devoted to the city's most iconic animal is the latest example.

Raccoon-themed products are always a big hit in the city, shop owners say

The soulful gaze of a trash panda graces the cover of the 2019 Raccoon Calendar by Ken Gruber and Berta Mascarenhas. (torontoraccoons.ca)

They've halted our subways. They've outwitted our defence strategies. They've even targeted our banks.

It's 2018 and raccoons have taken over the city of Toronto.

Some naysayers deny this, but Ken Gruber and Berta Mascarenhas are not among them. 

In fact, they've placed themselves at the forefront of a raccoon renaissance in this city with a new book titled Find TorontoRaccoons.

"There is something about them that captures the imagination of the city," Gruber told CBC Toronto.

The colourful picture book challenges readers to locate the trash panda in a variety of quintessential Toronto scenes.

A page from Find The Toronto Raccoon shows a colourful illustration of Nathan Phillips Square peppered with hidden raccoons. (Submitted)

This is the second raccoon-themed publication for Gruber and Mascaenhas. 

Last year, they printed a calendar featuring snapshots of the "city's unofficial mascot," as Gruber describes them.  

"Just like everyone else, raccoons have found Toronto a welcoming place to live," Gruber reasoned. 

He and Mascarenhas sourced raccoon images from social media for their 2018 calendar. This year, they've received so much feedback, they're building their calendar with user-generated images only. 

A portion of their sales goes to the Toronto Wildlife Centre — a fact that makes their product more attractive to local buyer Rebecca O'Rourke.

O'Rourke manages a gift and card shop on Queen Street West near Bathurst Street called Outer Layer. She stocks Gruber's and Mascarenhas's products.
A fan combing through the 'Where's Waldo-type' raccoon-themed book by the team at torontoraccoons.ca
"People love it. They come in asking specifically for raccoon items," she said. 

O'Rourke says they've sold raccoon-themed products to people from the United States and across Canada.

"I think people want a little piece of Toronto wherever they are," she explained.

It's a theme that Matthew Blackett has also seen in his shop, The Spacing Store.

"In our store, we're often really interested in the icons that represent our city," he said. "Often it's igloos or Mounties and they just slap the word Toronto on it, so we've tried to drill down." 
In coffee shops accross the city, Ken Gruber and Berta Mascarenhas find quiet spots to work on their Toronto Raccoons venture. (Submitted)

Blackett stocks raccoon-themed notebooks, salt-and-pepper shakers, t-shirts and more.

"We're just happy to provide customers with an option that represents this city," he said. 

As for Gruber, he is just happy to pay homage to the city's most iconic animal. 

"I think they're already our overlords. That time has come," he said.