February 26, 2015

Fight for Power: The Rule of Three, Book 2

by Eric Walters
Razorbill
978- 0-670-06706-0
352 pp.
Ages 12-18
January, 2015

When Eric Walters left readers at the end of The Rule of Three (Razorbill, 2014), the community of Eden Mills was managing rather well in the aftermath of a major power outage which affected all electrically-powered and digital devices. Under the leadership of Adam Daley's police captain mom and their elderly neighbour Herb Campbell who was possibly a former spy, and with the support of a multitude of residents with an assortment of skills, the community has organized into a relatively efficient entity with the mandate of survival.  They have food, water, communications, medical care, engineering, transportation, weapons, and a burgeoning societal structure that is learning to tame the chaos.  But, The Rule of Three left readers and community on the brink of an attack by the residents of a militarized compound, heading to the bridge that would lead to Eden Mills.

The attack is thwarted but, even though almost 500 persons from the compound are killed, leaving only about 100 left behind, the neighbourhood knows it is still vulnerable.  The decision to counter-attack, using intel from a captured compound soldier, Quinn, leads them to 47 imprisoned women and children whom Brett, cop and team leader, almost murdered in his zealousness to launch an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade).  Two dilemmas are revealed by that incident: the wisdom (or not) of bringing others into the community already taxed with limited resources, and Brett's bravado and insistence on offensive measures.  In fact, with reports of well-armed roving gangs becoming more violent, Brett and a group of nine other young men begin patrolling outside the walls of the neighbourhood on a nightly basis.

The realization that,
We need to do more than just survive.  We have to keep being human. (pg. 266)
becomes an important focus for Adam and others and a theme for Fight for Power.  Is living worth it if you know your actions have caused the death of others or are devoid of charity? How does power manifest itself:  in strength, in winning, in happiness, in surviving?  Eric Walters does a masterful job of depicting the chaos of this new world and those who fight for power. As the catch line on the book cover suggests, The enemy is everywhere, including within, so Herb is right when he declares over and over again, "Pray for the best, prepare for the worst." (pg. 127)

Fight for Power will take the reader from horrific chaos, to moments of calm, to occasional jubilation, and even to devastating loss.  I can only advise you to hold fast because the ride is a bumpy one but the journey that Eric Walters takes us on is worth it.

February 25, 2015

International Day of the Polar Bear: February 27


Whether you're interested in learning more about these magnificent mammals and their natural history or read about fictionalized accounts of their relationships with humans, this book list of youngCanLit titles should provide enough variety of fiction and non-fiction, picture books and novels, and even film to appease any reader interested in honouring the polar bear on February 27.


Picture Books

The Bear That Had No Bump of Locality
by Galt Denham
Illustrated by Bettie Kerkham
Vantage Press
30 pp.
Ages 6-9
1983

Ben and Nuki Discover Polar Bears
by Michelle Valberg
MV Photo Productions
38 pp.
Ages 7-9
2012

Bubbly Troubly Polar Bear
by Lisa Dalrymple
Illustrated by Elizabeth Pratt
Tuckamore Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
2013

Mikissuk's Secret
by Isabelle Lafonta
Illustrated by Barroux
Scholastic
40 pp.
Ages 6-8
2008

My Arctic 1, 2, 3
by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak
Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka
Annick Press
24 pp.
Ages 3-7
1996
The Orphan and the Polar Bear (Unikkaakuluit series)
by Sakiasi Qaunaq
Illustrated by Eva Widermann 
Inhabit Media
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
2011

Out on the Ice in the Middle of the Bay
by Peter Cumming
Illustrated by Alice Priestley
Annick Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2004

Penguin and the Cupcake
by Ashley Spires
Simply Read
48 pp.
Ages 3-7
2014

The Polar Bear's Gift
by Jeanne Bushey
Illustrated by Vladyana Langer Krykorka
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-7
2000

The polar bear in the rock: two windows on the world = Nanuk ujagammi: unikkausikkut kaujimajunullu kaujisautinga
by Derek H. C. Wilton
Illus. by Cynthia Colosimo
Labrador Institute of Memorial Univ.
24 pp. 
2010

A Polar Bear Night of Stars and Light
by Jennifer LaBella
Windermere House Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
2008

Snow Bear
by Liliana Stafford
Illustrated by Lambert Davis
Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre
32 pp.
Ages 6-9
2001

When Wishes Come True
by Per-Henrik Gürth 
Lobster Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-7
2009








Fiction
Frost
by Nicole Luiken
Great Plains Teen Fiction
158 pp.
Ages 14+
2007 

Frozen
by Lori Jamison
Illustrated by Charlie Hnatiuk
H.I.P. Books
75 pp.
Ages 11-17
2012

Ghosts of the Pacific
by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
251 pp.
Ages 11-14
2011

The Middle of Everywhere
by Monique Polak
Orca Book Publishers
208 pp.
Ages 12+
2009

Northern Exposures
by Eric Walters
HarperCollins
Ages 10+  
256 pp
2012

Payuk and the Polar Bears
by Vita Rordam
Borealis Press
44 pp.
Ages 8+
1981

The Pole
by Eric Walters
Penguin
256 pp.
Ages 10-14
2008

Sharla
by Budge Wilson
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
168 pp.
Ages 12-15
1997


Trapped in Ice
by Eric Walters
Viking/Penguin
205 pp.
Ages 9-13
1997

Trouble at the Top of the World (Screech Owls, #22)
by Roy MacGregor
McClelland & Stewart
127 pp.
Ages 9-13
2008

www.walkwithapolarbear.com
by Mercedes Montgomery 
Your Nickel’s Worth
125 pp.
Ages 9-13
2008










Non-Fiction
Arctic Adventures: Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists
by Raquel Rivera
Illustrated by Jirina Marton
Groundwood/House of Anansi Press
48 pp.
Ages 8-12
2007

Arctic Icons: How the Town of Churchill Learned to Love Its Polar Bears
by Ed Struzik
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
212 pp.
Ages 15+
2014

Ava and the Little Folk
by Neil Christopher & Alan Neal
Illustrated by Jonathan Wright
Inhabit Media 
41 pp.
Ages 5-11
2012



Baby Polar Bear 
(Nature Babies series)
by Aubrey Lang 
Photography by Wayne Lynch
Fitzhenry & Whiteside 
35 pp.
Ages 5-7
2008


Bärle’s Story: One bear's amazing recovery from life as a circus act
by Else Poulsen
Greystone Books
227 pp.
Ages 14+
2014

Bears: Polar Bears, Black Bears and Grizzly Bears
by Deborah Hodge
Illustrated by Pat Stephens
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-11
1996

Canada’s Arctic Animals 
(Canada Close Up series)
by Chelsea Donaldson 
Scholastic 
44 pp.
Ages 6-8
2005

The Curse of Akkad: Climate Upheavals That Rocked Human History
by Peter Christie
Annick Press
144 pp.
Ages 11-14
2008

The Life Cycle of a Polar Bear 
by Rebecca Sjonger and Bobbie Kalman
Photographs by Marc Crabtree
Crabtree
32 pp.
Ages 8-11
2006

Nanook and Naoya: The Polar Bear Cubs
by Angele Delaunois
Translated by Mary Shelton
Photographs by Fred Bruemmer
Orca Book Publishers
48 pp.
Ages 8-11
1995

Polar Animals 
(Who Lives Here? series)
by Deborah Hodge 
Illustrated by Pat Stephens
Kids Can Press
24 pp.
Ages 4-7
2008

Polar Worlds: Life at the Ends of the Earth
by Robert Bateman with Nancy Kovacs
Scholastic Canada
48 pp.
Ages 8-12
2008

Vanishing Habitats 
by Robert Bateman 
Scholastic 
48 pp.
Ages 7-12
2009



Film
Arctic Circle = Cercle Arctique
Directed by Takashi Shibasaki, Atsushi Nishida and Wally Longui
Produced by Wally Longui, Cindy Witten and Toshiro Matsumoto
National Film Board of Canada
80 min.
Ages 12+
2009

Land of the Ice Bear
Directed by Andrew Manske and Albert Karvonen 
Produced by Albert Karvonen and Jerry Krepakevich 
National Film Board of Canada
46 min., 10 sec.
Order Number: C9199 224
Ages 15+
1999


February 23, 2015

Princess Pistachio and the Pest

by Marie-Louise Gay
Translated by Jacob Homel
Pajama Press
978-1-927485-73-6
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
For release March, 2015

Pistachio Shoelace may have been disappointed when she learned the true nature of her royal status, or lack thereof, in Princess Pistachio (Pajama Press, 2014) but the little red-haired wonder of Marie-Louise Gay's newest series has unforeseen challenges to address in her second adventure, Princess Pistachio and the Pest.  And we're so delighted to share in it with her.

Waking up from a horrible school dream in which she is humiliated when she can't answer a simple addition problem, Pistachio is thrilled to realize it's the first day of summer vacation.  She's ready for adventures with her friends Madeline and Chichi exploring a local cavern. But "Pistachio's heart falls to her belly button" (pg. 12) when her mother instructs her to take her baby sister Penny to the park.

Dragging a wagon loaded with Penny, a tower of toys and the hidden dog, Pistachio continues to daydream about exploring the cavern and what she might find.  Meanwhile, Penny dressed in her rabbit-ear hat and Superman cape, proclaims herself to be Super-Rabbit and repeatedly demonstrates that her super-powers are of the unorthodox kind: pilfering fruit from Mr. Pomodoro's grocery stand; climbing up on a wall and falling into Mrs. Oldtooth's garden; and scavenging treasure from the park's fountain.  Unfortunately, Pistachio is taken as responsible for Penny's misdeeds.

Courtesy of her baby sister, Pistachio is never bored and, upon returning home, realizes that there are worse ways to spend a day than babysitting Penny.  But, it's Pistachio herself, with her imaginative daydreams to compensate for missed adventures and with her reactive diatribes to unexpected turns of events, who makes the day eventful.  Her fiery temper may share each disappointment but it's her exuberance for life that mitigates any annoyances the readers may have about her exasperation.  After all, it was the first day of summer holidays and Pistachio's mother knew to use her "maple syrup tone" (pg. 12) to attempt to sway her daughter.  I suspect the girls' mother, with her own fiery red
hair and foxy twinkle, knows well enough what Pistachio feels.  And luckily, Pistachio may feel many things–embarrassment, disappointment, irritation, fear, inspiration–but never boredom.  

Again, Marie-Louise Gay takes our Pippi-Longstocking-esque young character and places her in classic childhood scenarios to which Pistachio must adapt.  Babysitting younger brothers and sisters during summer vacation is not uncommon for children.  But by taking Pistachio into a neighbourhood of colourful people, diverse friends, and lively interactions, young readers may find the means to endure, even enjoy, surprises that arise during the crazy, lazy days of summer when anything can happen, as it does in Princess Pistachio and the Pest.

February 22, 2015

Switch

by Douglas Davey
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-524-0
252 pp.
Ages 15+
2014

Back in 1988, when Sheldon Bates was seventeen, a confusing encounter during swimming practice sets him asking big questions about his sexuality. Now, through his personal notes from the time, footnoted with his current thoughts, Sheldon records that tumultuous year of discovery, fear, discomfiture, bullying, and understanding in Switch.

Though dating Jenny, to whom he is wildly attracted, Sheldon conducts a little experiment and some research, hoping to clarify for himself what he is feeling. His wish, "Please, please, please let me not be gay..." (pg. 22), suggests his ensuing stress and incomprehension, not surprising in a time when discussions of sexual orientation were verboten and information limited to a dictionary and a thesaurus. And, if he can't understand it, how will Jenny, best friend Dan or older brother Bill react? Sadly, not as he expects, and his personal issue becomes fodder for school gossip and verbal and physical abuse.
I ate. I slept. I went to class. I watched TV. I looked like I was awake but in fact I was sleepwalking through life with no clue how to wake up or get out. After a while, the terrible flow of days became a gray smear. (pg. 79)
Two things change everything. First, Sheldon is invited to join several other students at lunch in Room 115. There in Mr. Aiden's classroom, Sheldon feels safe. He can access a cupboard of relevant informational books and pamphlets. He can also choose to interact with a handful of students grappling with their own sexuality. Secondly, his English teacher, Mrs. Piedmont, assigns her students speeches, and Sheldon thinks about focusing on what he's going through as a possible topic. That decision will bring Sheldon both tragedy and deliverance.

I, for one, would never want to return to my high school years. Even without the aggravation of questioning your sexual orientation, teens have so much with which they must deal: puberty, body image, independence, career choices, responsibility. And not every teen has resources available to help them navigate those complicated treks. In the late 1980s, with no internet, with the AIDS crisis, and the secrecy virtually mandated by societal discrimination, the topic of bisexuality was still taboo, and kids like Sheldon would inevitably be left floundering for support. How he was able to survive, emotionally and physically, is both remarkable and gratifying. Douglas Davey, who was able to evoke that same trepidation and confusion in M in the Abstract (Red Deer Press, 2013), keeps readers repeatedly wondering how Sheldon will address his latest dilemma, or whether he will expose himself to more abuse by speaking publicly of his bisexuality, or when he will ask for the support of the school's administration or his parents. It is hard to believe the youthful Douglas Davey could present the 1980s of Sheldon's story so completely but that grey haze of being exposed to public scrutiny and discrimination is subtly exposed as a sign of the times and hopefully one that efforts have been made to rewrite.

Switch should belong in the 2015 version of Mr. Aiden's cupboard or, better yet, in high school libraries where everyone and anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, could share in the emotional turmoil of Sheldon Bates. Douglas Davey is providing us with the insight that, with greater awareness, could help us become more empathetic to those struggling with issues of sexual orientation. Let's hope we all accept Switch as that tool for learning.

February 19, 2015

Hexed

by Michelle Krys
Doubleday Canada
978-0385680509
384 pp.
Ages 14+
2014

Other than her best friend, Bianca, acting like a tyrannical cheer captain, and her Wicca-practising mom always droning on about protecting the Witch Hunter's Bible, and geeky neighbour Paige Abernathy constantly trying to re-establish their former friendship, Indigo Blackwood could be any sixteen-year-old teen.  That is, until a guy in leather–unusual in the heat of L.A.–starts showing up around her, laughing at her, making odd comments, and starting to cause her some concern.

When the Witch Hunter's Bible is stolen, Indie seeks out this handsome young man, who calls himself Bishop, sure that he is responsible for its disappearance.  With a twist of fate that has her reconnecting with trustworthy Paige, Indie learns that she may be a witch, that a group of sorcerers called the Priory are after the Bible in order to wield power over witches, and that Bishop has been sent by the Family–the governing body of witches–to help Indigo.

That hardly covers the breadth of supernatural goings-on: Bishop's warlock nature and ability to fly; the cruelty of the sorcerers; the twistedness of their mind-erasing; and Indie's own dabblings with her new powers.  Of course, there are also the normal teen issues of striving for popularity; balancing new friends, old friends, non-friends and exes; following school rules and parent rules; and worrying about making good decisions or not worrying about poor decisions.

Hexed is high school drama with witches and magic.  The high school scenes are generally banal, focusing on cheer-leading, football and lunchroom antics, all immersed in malicious gossip and spiteful stunts.  And Indie is shallow and oblivious to her own rudeness, undeserving of those whom she attracts.  But when the horrific Priory gets involved and start having an impact on her life and those around her, and Bishop and his ex Jezebel throw themselves into the fray, Hexed takes on a new dimension or two.  Michelle Krys is able to rescue a typical mean girls storyline and boy-meets-girl romance with the addition of surprisingly imaginative scenarios and magical powers, and the Bishop-Indie relationship becomes more than just predictable.  There are still some unknowns to be revealed, particularly about Bishop, about a frightening new character presented at the conclusion of Hexed, and about the elusive Witch Hunter's Bible, and these will serve to draw young adult readers to the next book in The Witch Hunter series.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Charmed, The Witch Hunter Book 2 (978-0-385743396), is due out in May, 2015.

February 17, 2015

Gypsy's Fortune

by Caroline Stellings
Peanut Butter Press
978-1-927735-07-7
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
November, 2014

On February 19, 2015, millions around the world will be celebrating Chinese New Year and I can't think of a sweeter new book to herald it in than Caroline Stellings' first picture book, Gypsy's Fortune.  As unimposing as the author-artist herself–her previous books include The Contest (Second Story Press,  2009) and The Manager (Cape Breton University Press, 2013)–Gypsy's Fortune shares clever messages about resilience and friendship, while offering a creative history regarding the origins of the fortune cookie.

Though she lives as a vagabond and sleeps beneath the stars, the ever-cheerful Gypsy, a "palm-reading, crystal-gazing, fortune-telling cat" (pg. 6), has managed to eke out a living in 1920s San Francisco. But the election of a new mayor who denies Gypsy and other fortune-tellers the right to charge for their services has our feline scurrying for alternate employment, but unsuccessfully.  It is only when Gypsy offers to wash dishes at Wu's Restaurant and instead shares a meal with Mr. Wu that her luck changes.

Discretely reading his tea-leaves, Gypsy realizes Mr. Wu should not be selling his restaurant as he intends and finds a way to share this "fortune" with him.  With a new marketing strategy, the two establish a friendly partnership to woo new customers and provide Gypsy with employment.

Caroline Stellings' watercolour illustrations lend an ethereal quality to Gypsy's Fortune, wholly appropriate for Gypsy's spiritual endeavours and light-heartedness.  Wide bands of subtle shading crisscross the illustrations and enhance the jaunty nature of the time and Gypsy herself.  Though the colour reproduction of the book cover does not do justice to the artwork within, Gypsy's Fortune is filled with paintings in colourful but pale hues depicting Gypsy's endeavours and fortune cookies with messages.

Just as one fortune cookie's message reads, "The long road is often the shortest path to the correct destination" (pg. 6), I believe Caroline Stellings is heading in the right direction and, with Gypsy's Fortune, I hope her destination is better secured.