Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Heather Smith’s Guide to St. John’s, Newfoundland

A pandemic is no time to travel but we’re always dreaming about the next place we’d love to visit when things are safe again. Thanks to Heather Smith, St. John’s, Newfoundland is now high up on our list – it’s the setting for her latest YA novel, Barry Squires, Full Tilt.

Keep scrolling for Heather’s top five reasons to visit St. John’s!

Heather and her husband outside of Fred’s

1. The People

Get off the plane at the St. John’s International Airport and you might bump into a stranger who’ll treat you like a long-lost friend. “How was your flight, my duck? Bit bumpy at the end there, wasn’t it? We got some wicked wind here, I tells ya. Where are ya staying to anyway? The Newfoundland Hotel? Jeez b’y, that’ll cost you a pretty penny. Why don’t you stay with me? Uncle Dwight’s not in the basement anymore, God rest his soul. Don’t worry, I’ve changed the sheets. Purex was only $4.99 at Pipers this week. I got Aunt Bev a bottle too. She doesn’t get out as much as she used to. Not since the accident.”

Newfoundlanders are a hospitable bunch. Chatty too. Over the course of your stay, you’ll be called duck, love, darlin’, hon, trout, and the ubiquitous ‘buddy’ or ‘missus’. Ask a question and you’ll get a life story. Accept a cup of tea and you’ll get a turkey dinner, a tall tale, and a pair of Nan’s handknitted socks. Don’t worry, your confusion over whether you’re a houseguest or a hostage is completely normal. Some would argue it’s part of the experience.

Of course, Newfoundlanders aren’t perfect. You’re sure to meet a hard ticket who’ll call you something unsavoury, but look on the bright side – at least you can return home with a funny story about the dude in Dildo who said you had a face on ya like a boiled boot.

2. The Food

There are a lot of traditional foods in Newfoundland and Labrador and there are many fine restaurants in and around the St. John’s area that present them in new and interesting ways. You wouldn’t believe what some of these places can do with a slice of bologna! Chinched on Bate’s Hill even make their own! They also do a mean charcuterie board that features house made meats, local cheeses, and homemade mustards and pickles. Delicious! Other notable restaurants include Mallard Cottage and Hungry Heart Café. There’s also Chafe’s Landing which just happens to be located in Petty Harbour, the birthplace of Alan Doyle! (If you’re lucky you might get held hostage by some of his kin!)

3. The Landscape

As soon as the plane emerges from the fog you will see the most rugged beauty you’ve ever seen in your whole entire life. (No exaggeration, Newfoundlanders never stretch the truth.) By the way, did I mention that you might meet Gordon Pinsent? He hands out handknitted socks to newcomers at the airport. Nice guy. I shared a Chinched bologna sandwich with him on Signal Hill once. What’s Signal Hill you ask? Read on, my duck!

Newfoundland in the summer

4. The Touristy Stuff

Downtown St. John’s:

The Duke of Duckworth (Get some beer!)
The Ship Inn (Get some more beer!)
Fred’s Records (Get some music!)
Caine’s Deli (Get a cold plate!)
The Golden Tulip (Get some jewellery!)
Nonia (Get some handknitted socks!)

Other places of note:

Signal Hill National Historic Site (Home of Cabot Tower)
The Narrows (the passage from St. John’s Harbour to the Atlantic – stunning views!)
Cape Spear (North America’s most easterly point)
The Rooms (Fabulous museum and art gallery)
Any hike along the East Coast Trail (more spectacular views!)

5. The Weather (Bahahahahahhahaha!)

Don’t worry, it won’t all be RDF*. If you go in the summer, you’ll be sure to get some fine days – enjoy them while you can!

*Rain, drizzle, and fog.


Now that you know what to expect in Newfoundland, make sure you pick up Barry Squires, Full Tilt when it comes out on September 22!

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too — it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good.

Other books by Heather:

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O’Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she’s learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun’s mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother’s house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care.

Chicken Girl
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
Poppy used to be an optimist. But after a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter is mocked online, she’s having trouble seeing the good in the world. As a result, Poppy trades her beloved vintage clothes for a feathered chicken costume and accepts a job as an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant. There, Poppy meets six-year-old girl Miracle, who helps Poppy see beyond her own pain, opening her eyes to the people around her: Cam, her twin brother, who is adjusting to life as an openly gay teen; Buck, a charming photographer with a cute British accent and a not-so-cute mean-streak; and Lewis a teen caring for an ailing parent, while struggling to reach the final stages of his gender transition. As the summer unfolds, Poppy stops glorifying the past and starts focusing on the present. But just as she comes to terms with the fact that there is good and bad in everyone, she is tested by a deep betrayal.

Heather Smith: website | twitter | instagram

One Reply to “Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Heather Smith’s Guide to St. John’s, Newfoundland”

Leave a Reply