February 22, 2018

Here So Far Away: Book launch (Toronto, ON)


Hadley Dyer

author of middle-grade and young adult novels and non-fiction
including the best-selling

Johnny Kellock Died Today


 is set to launch her newest YA

Here So Far Away
Written by Hadley Dyer
HarperTeen
9780062473172
368 pp.
Ages 14+
March 2018


on

  Wednesday, March 21, 2018

7:30 p.m.

at

TYPE Books
883 Queen St. W.
Toronto, ON

From HarperCollins Website:
Award-winning author Hadley Dyer’s YA debut is smart, snarky, and emotionally gripping, about a rebellious cop’s daughter who falls in love with an older man, loses her best friend, and battles depression, all while trying to survive her last year of high school. 

Feisty and fearless George Warren (given name: Frances, but no one calls her that) has never let life get too serious. Now that she’s about to be a senior, her plans include partying with her tight-knit group of friends and then getting the heck out of town after graduation.

But instead of owning her last year of high school, a fight with her best friend puts her on the outs of their social circle.  If that weren’t bad enough, George’s family has been facing hard times since her father, a police sergeant, got injured and might not be able to return to work, which puts George’s college plans in jeopardy.

So when George meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name and her affinity for sarcastic banter, she’s thrown. If she lets herself, she’ll fall recklessly, hopelessly in love. But because of Francis’s age, she tells no one—and ends up losing almost everything, including herself.

This is a gorgeous, atmospheric, and gut-wrenching novel that readers won’t soon forget.

Retrieved from https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062473172/here-so-far-away on February 22, 2018.


February 21, 2018

Tess of the Road: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

Rachel Hartman

who brought the world her award-winning book

Seraphina 
Written by Rachel Hartman
Doubleday Canada
9780385668392
480 pp.
Ages 14+
2012


and its sequel


Shadow Scale
Written by Rachel Hartman
Doubleday Canada
9780385668606
608 pp.
Ages 14+
2015

is back with a third book in her fantasy series!


Her new young adult fantasy novel

Tess of the Road
Written by Rachel Hartman
Penguin Teen
9780385685887
544 pp.
Ages 14+
February 27, 2018


launches

March 31, 2018

3-5 p.m.

at

Bakka-Phoenix
84 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON

From Penguin Random House Canada website:
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can't make a scene at your sister's wedding and break a relative's nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it's a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl--a subspecies of dragon--who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she's tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

February 20, 2018

Ophelia

Written by Charlotte Gingras
Illustrated by Daniel Sylvestre
Translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou
Groundwood Books
264 pp.
Ages 14+
March 2018

Ophelia is what she calls herself, though her peers at high school have affixed the label of "rag girl" on her.  But Ophelia, like Shakespeare's tragic character, is much more than she appears.  She is a complex teen, overridden with fears and anger and anxiety and isolation that goes far beyond the teen angst label many use to underplay overwhelming personal issues.  

Ophelia's story, past and present, is told in letters to an author, Jeanne D'Amour, who visited Ophelia's school and gifted the teen with an ink-blue notebook. The unsent letters reveal Ophelia's crushing worries of abandoned children; of being seen as ugly; of her struggles at school; of being alone or of finding love; of a mother who had been undeclared unfit once, forcing Ophelia into foster care, and could be again; of never knowing her father; and of her sexuality, especially as she harbours trauma from an incident of childhood sexual abuse.  
I don't love anyone for real, Jeanne.  If I dive down, down to my very depths, all I find is dark and hard.  Nothing alive. (pg. 122)
But when Ophelia, a girl who goes out at night and tags walls with oil-pastel broken hearts, discovers an abandoned building with walls on which she might express herself artistically, everything changes.  She soon learns that her workshop had previously been discovered by another marginalized teen, a new student and fat young man who decides to call himself Ulysses.  The two work out a schedule so that they do not have to interact, and Ophelia can continue to work on her art–first an "upside-down girl" as a depiction of her namesake, then an empowered "right-side-up girl" and more–while Ulysses endeavours to dismantle an old van he has named Caboose, hopeful of setting it to rights so he could take it on a long journey. 

Ophelia is still overpowered by her anger and worries but the innocuous Ulysses subtly begins to share his own fears and pains and finds a way to connect with Ophelia.
He'd defused my suicide-bomber belt with his chocolate bars and calming voice. (pg. 86)
Similarly Ophelia's artwork begins to have a positive impact on the two teens, enabling them to become the warriors she creates on the walls.  But can those shifts in Ophelia and Ulysses be sustained and carry them through a violent invasion into their safe space as well as their emerging sexualities?

Ophelia is a powerful book of a teen's struggles, a deep and insightful introspection of her shattering anger and apprehension.  Though Ophelia writes with the chaotic musings of a young person in trauma, alternating recollections of the past, with current struggles and anticipation of the future, there is a lifeline of progression from out-of-control angst to increasing self-reflection and empathy to self-acceptance and empowerment that is so real that it is visceral.
From Ophelia 
by Charlotte Gingras 
illus. by Daniel Sylvestre
I am so pleased that Groundwood Books has brought Ophélie (Courte Echelle, 2008), the original French-language novel from Governor General-award winning author Charlotte Gingras, to English readers through this translation by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou.  Emboldened with the artwork of Montréaler Daniel Sylvestre, readers will catch glimpses of the fury and anxiety of Ophelia in her sketches and tags as they bear witness to her progress.  But it is the voice of Ophelia, heartfelt and agonized, as she verges on implosion and explosion, as well as that of Ulysses struggling with his own issues, that need to be heard and heeded by young readers and those who care for them.  There may not be a happy ending but there is hope for better.

February 14, 2018

Elijah of Buxton

Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Press
9780439936477 
288 pp.
Ages 9-12
2007

Eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman is the first free child born in Buxton, Ontario, a town of slaves who have escaped from the United States.  His days are filled with fishing by throwing stones, going to school, staying away from snakes (of which he is deathly afraid) and continuing to run into the Preacher, a sweet-talking but manipulative man, who gets Elijah involved in more than one of his schemes. But when the Preacher steals all the hard-earned money that Mr. Leroy was saving to buy his wife and two children out of slavery, Elijah, a boy of innocence and a strong sense of fairness, finds himself heading across the border and into the world of slavers and those seeking freedom in Canada. His ma might call him "fra-gile" but Elijah proves that he is anything but.

Though Elijah of Buxton is a book of a harrowing journey into America by a black youth looking to right a wrong, it only becomes a perilous adventure in the last third of the book.  Christopher Paul Curtis takes time to set the stage for that venture, establishing his characters and cultural landscape through the complexity of voice and atmosphere.  Elijah's interactions with others in his community, both peers and those "growned-up," speak to the changing times, when racism could be overt or concealed and the divide between the United States and Canada was both conspicuous and subtle.

Elijah of Buxton begs to be read aloud to get the full nuance of language and tone that Christopher Paul Curtis instills in the narration and dialogue, just as he has in The Madman of Piney Woods and The Journey of Little Charlie.  The dialect can seem confusing at times but read aloud the text becomes rich and flavourful.

There are many difficult moments in Elijah of Buxton, times when my heart broke and I struggled to read on.  Not because the book wasn't an outstanding piece of literature but because of the injustices and horrors endured.   Mind you, even Christopher Paul Curtis's ending left me sobbing and still hopeful for a baby, for Elijah and for all. Christopher Paul Curtis had just set up the “most beautifullest, most perfectest” story he could.

••••••••••••••••••

Though I rarely review books not published in the past year, my recent review of The Journey of Little Charlie compelled me to review Christopher Paul Curtis's earlier books that reference the town of Buxton, The Madman of Piney Woods and now Elijah of Buxton.  These books are not a series, though Buxton is mentioned in each.  Please read them all.

February 13, 2018

The Madman of Piney Woods

Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada
978-1-44313-912-9
363 pp.
Ages 8-12
2014

Though I don't often review books older than a year, I referred to this title several times in my review of The Journey of Little Charlie yesterday so that I thought it was incumbent upon me to share the importance of this volume now.  Fortunately, I must also address Christopher Paul Curtis' book  Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic, 2007) which first speaks to the historically important town of Buxton, originally a settlement of runaway slaves.

In 1859, eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman is the first free-born child in Buxton, Canada, a haven for slaves fleeing the American south.  In his story, Elijah of Buxton, Elijah uses his wits to find justice when money earmarked to buy a family's freedom is stolen.

In 1901, forty years after the story of Elijah of Buxton, the storylines of two unlikely friends, Benji and Red, converge in an unexpected manner to tell a new story for Buxton.  Benji Alston is a black boy living in Buxton whose shenanigans with his friends Spencer and  others become imagined newspaper stories.  Benji spends much of his time in the pine woods between Chatham and Buxton, and makes the acquaintance of a hermit-like man in the woods who, similar to Benji, is more comfortable in the woods than anywhere else.  Red is an Irish boy who lives with his father, a judge, and his highly prejudiced Grandmother O’Toole in Chatham.  Meanwhile Red and his friends talk of the Lion Man of the South Woods of whom they've learned they should avoid.

The two boys become friends after meeting at a speech competition.  When Red suspects that the Madman, whom he knows to be a friend of Benji’s, has been shot, the two become forever entwined with the mysterious man of the woods whose story began in Elijah of Buxton.

Told in alternating chapters in the voices of the two boys, The Madman of Piney Woods becomes an adventure story with a haunting mystery based in the past.  The horrors that a Black Canadian soldier endured because of the American Civil War or that an Irish immigrant escaping the devastation of the Potato Famine suffered before a tortuous journey on a coffin ship are as real as the memories of enslavement of many Buxton inhabitants.  Benji and Red may never have endured these horrors but these very different and yet surprisingly ordinary boys are defined by their friends and family. Still Christopher Paul Curtis contrives an authentic story by which the two come together to work together and make things right that have been wrong for too long. As I wrote yesterday in my review of The Journey of Little Charlie, from the ordinary comes the extraordinary.

History may take place in the past but The Madman of Piney Woods reminds us that the past engraves the present and the future for the survivors of war, slavery and all manner of disaster as well as for those who love them.

February 12, 2018

The Journey of Little Charlie

Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada
978-1-4431-4263-2
234 pp.
Ages 8-13
February 2018

Little Charlie Bobo, the son of a white sharecropper on the South Carolina plantation of Mr. Tanner, can hardly be called little for his size. At twelve, he is 6'4".  So, when Little Charlie's father is killed and cap'n Duke, the abusive overseer on the plantation, claims that he'd paid him fifty dollars upfront to help him retrieve money stolen from Mr. Tanner, Little Charlie has no recourse but to accompany the man.

Heading to Detroit, Little Charlie knows enough to listen and not say much to the brutal and racist cap'n Duke.
You can learn from anybody.  Even dimwits can teach you if you listen careful and pick at the kernels of corn from the horse crap they's dishing out. (pg. 71)
He quickly learns that the "thieves" they are searching out are slaves Lou and Cleytus and their young son Sylvester who'd escaped from the Tanner plantation ten years earlier.  With some assistance from the equally reprehensible Sheriff Turner and his associate Keegan, cap'n Duke captures the parents who have made a good life for themselves and their family and  now go by Eloise and Chester Desmarest.  But cap'n Duke is determined to get all the family, including the two-year-old twin daughters and son Sylvanus, a student at a school in Saint Catharines, Canada.  Though warned about going into Canada to retrieve escaped slaves, cap'n Duke with Little Charlie in tow get themselves cleaned up and travel by ferry and train to deceive Sylvanus into returning to the United States with them.

The Journey of Little Charlie may begin as a debt the young man is trapped into repaying but it becomes a journey of learning beyond any his poor existence at home had provided him.  Though his parents imparted some wisdom to him about survival and living a life of subservience, Little Charlie has had few opportunities–he cannot read–and never expected much from his life. Accompanying the vile cap'n Duke, Little Charlie is able to see for himself how the world outside of Possum Moan, South Carolina works, including entering Canada, a country which had abolished slavery decades earlier. For the first time, he could see, not just learn second-hand, what life was like for others, including the poor, the rich, "colored folk" and everyone.  The Journey of Little Charlie is a coming-of-age story of historically immense proportions; it is Little Charlie's journey outside of what he has always known and been taught. And he heeds the words of the old railway man, Ol'Jerry, they meet outside of "Dee-troit."
"I 'membered thinking at the time 'tis too bad this can't be a reg'lar part of living, where we all gets a chance to walk away from whatever train wreck we's made of our lives and run off to start up building something new." (pg. 79)
Just as he did in The Madman of Piney Woods (Scholastic, 2014), Christopher Paul Curtis brings together very different voices on a similar journey, though their intentions and perspectives vary greatly.  In The Madman of Piney Woods, he gives voice to a boy living in the shadow of his grandmother's harrowing immigration from Ireland and a distinct one to another whose family and friends live with the legacy of slavery.  They, like Little Charlie and cap'n Duke, live ordinary lives for the times.  But from the ordinary comes the extraordinary.  It is the righting of wrongs and redemption that carries the story forward, delivering history from the every day and teaching compassion from cruelty.
They never once looked back.                                                    If I was them, I wouldn't-a neither. (pg. 232)

February 09, 2018

Black History Month: Additional titles


In 2014, I posted my first listing of youngCanLit which could be read to commemorate Black History Month.  There were 54 titles in that initial listing which is posted here.






In 2016, I updated that listing, adding more titles of those recently published and those I'd missed, reaching a total of 76 titles.  That post is available here.




But the list keeps growing.  Rather than updating the list i.e., posting the previous list with new additions, I am going to just prepare a list of new titles that could be added to those previous lists.  Some were only published since my last book list was posted and others were just titles I missed. Hopefully this collection of titles, which includes both stories of history and those of contemporary experiences, will help to make my book lists for Black History Month more complete.  At least for now.


PICTURE BOOKS
Abigail's Wish
Written by Gloria Ann Wesley
Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Nimbus Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 4-9
2016
Reviewed here

A Change of Heart
Written by Alice Walsh
Illustrated by Erin Bennett Banks
Nimbus Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 4-10
2016
Reviewed here

Community Soup
Written and illustrated by Alma Fullerton
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
2013
Reviewed here
Freedom Child of the Sea
Written by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Illustrated by Julia Gukova
Annick Press
24 pp.
Ages 9-12
1995

Gift Days
Written by Kari-Lynn Winters
Illustrated by Stephen Taylor
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 7+
2012
Reviewed here
A Good Trade
by Alma Fullerton
Illustrated by Karen Patkau
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 5+
2012
Reviewed here

Grandpa's Visit
Written by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Illustrated by Frances Clancy
Annick Press
24 pp.
Ages 4-7
1996




Greetings, Leroy
Written by Itah Sadu
Illustrated by Alix Delinois
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
2017
Reviewed here

In a Cloud of Dust
Written by Alma Fullerton
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2015
Reviewed here 

Malaika's Winter Carnival
Written by Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books
36 pp.
Ages 3-7
2017

Name Calling
Written by Itah Sadu
Illustrated by Rasheeda Haneef
Canadian Scholars' Press
34 pp.
Ages 4-8
1992

The Nutmeg Princess
Written by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Illustrated by Annouchka Galouchko
Annick Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
1992


Oscar Lives Next Door
Written by Bonnie Farmer
Illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Owlkids Books
Ages 4-8

The Stone Thrower
Written by Jael Ealey Richardson
Illustrated by Matt James
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
2016
Reviewed here

A Touch of the Zebras
Written by Itah Sadu
Illustrated by Stephen Taylor
Canadian Scholars' Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
2003







NOVELS
Aluta
Written by Adwoa Badoe
Groundwood Books
216 pp.
Ages 14+
2016

Blue Mountain Trouble
Written by Martin Mordecai
Scholastic
341 pp.
Ages 9-13
2009

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War
by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine
Illustrated by Claudia Dávila
Kids Can Press
48 pp.
Ages 10-14
2015
Reviewed here

The Journey of Little Charlie
Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada
256 pp.
Ages 9-13
2018







NON-FICTION
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13
Written by Helaine Becker
Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan
40 pp.
Ages 7-12
June 2018

From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom
Collected by Eric Walters
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 6-10
2018

Runner: The Life of Harry Jerome, World's Fastest Man
Written by Norma Charles
Red Deer Press
208 pp.
Ages 12+
2017