April 21, 2017

Stop Feedin' da Boids!

Written by James Sage
Illustrated by Pierre Pratt
Kids Can Press
978-1-77138-613-5
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2017

I wish I could review more books illustrated by Pierre Pratt. Unfortunately for me, his illustrations often accompany French-language texts and I am reluctant to reveal my lack of skill reviewing French books.  So, although author James Sage is British, I am delighted to be able to review an English-language text that is fortunate to be illustrated by Montreal's Pierre Pratt, a man whose bio includes copious nominations and awards, including the Governor General Literary Award for Children's Book Illustration, Le Prix TD, Bratislava's Golden Apple Award, and the UNICEF-Bologna Book Fair Illustrator of the Year Award.
From Stop Feedin' da Boids!
by James Sage
illus. by Pierre Pratt
In Stop Feedin' da Boids!, Swanda and her dog Waldo and her family move from the country to Brooklyn.  Though she misses the wildlife, she soon finds herself enamoured with the birds that flock outside their apartment onto the iron fire-escape.
From Stop Feedin' da Boids!
by James Sage
illus. by Pierre Pratt
Providing the birds with a bird feeder, more and more pigeons come to visit, much to the dismay of her neighbours who are displeased with the mess.  Swanda seeks help from so-called experts–a pest control officer, a zookeeper and an exotic bird fancier– but it's not until Lexi from the deli tells Angelo who tells another neighbour who shares with another neighbour and so on and so on the titular advice that Swanda rids the building and neighbourhood of her countless feathered friends. But Swanda's story doesn't end there. A chance sighting and a lot of heart finds Swanda discovering some new wildlife to welcome into her home.
From Stop Feedin' da Boids!
by James Sage
illus. by Pierre Pratt
James Sage weaves a light-hearted story about a little girl who likes animals perhaps a little too much but whose intentions are always charitable.  But it's Pierre Pratt's artwork that provides the context for Swanda's love of animals and the neighbourhood that envelops her.  She is part of her community, whether it be the countryside or a diverse neighbourhood of people, animals and urban life. They are both detailed landscapes of colours and textures, solitude and activity.  Look for the dogs or cats looking out windows, or Mr. Kaminski's two-toned shoes, or the mega-armed bodybuilder.  There's a 1920s feel to the Brooklyn of Stop Feedin' da Boids!, and Pierre Pratt uses strong strokes and bold colours to create a cityscape of tall angled buildings and community of diverse people, all different in size, colour, shape, expression and dress.  It's wild and it's homey.  It's the same style that charmed readers in Gustave (by Rémy Simard, Groundwood, 2014) and No-Matter-What Friend (by Kari-Lynn Winters, Tradewind Books, 2014) by bringing an intensity to the storytelling and readers into the story's setting.

Go ahead and read this one aloud–get that Brooklyn accent right!–but be sure to share the illustrations to get the whole story behind why Swanda should "Stop Feedin' da Boids!"

April 20, 2017

Phoebe Sounds It Out

Written by Julie Zwillich
Illustrated by Denise Holmes
Owlkids Books
978-1-77147-164-0
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2017

Too many children like Phoebe avoid that which seems difficult or problematic especially in school.  So it’s not surprising that the young girl would prefer to play with her rain boots and a pencil rather than practise writing her name as instructed by the teacher.  Even though she has her name written on her backpack to use as a guide, she knows the letters don’t match the sounds that she is able to distinguish in her name. (Her Mama must have made a mistake.)
From Phoebe Sounds It Out
by Julie Zwillich 
illus. by Denise Holmes
So, Phoebe carefully chooses the sounds and letters that would make sense in her name and, for a child in kindergarten, she is absolutely en pointe!  She’s not copying her name out; she’s sounding it out and spelling it as the sounds dictate.  Moreover, she’s led by her heart to use letters that fit but still she chooses those that might have special meaning or add a little something extra like companionship for lonely letters.
Maybe she could borrow the letter that was at the end of Nicky’s name.  It sounded right.  Nicky wouldn’t mind.”
And though her teacher could chastize Phoebe for incorrectly spelling her name, she instead celebrates all the children’s attempts with glitter glue and a clothespin display for all to enjoy.

From Phoebe Sounds It Out
by Julie Zwillich
illus. by Denise Holmes
Julie Zwillich’s picture book is based on a very familiar premise though not all teachers and parents would recognize it as so or be as accommodating as the children’s teacher Ms. Martha.  As daunting a task as writing your name for the first time, so is reading. Imagine needing to decipher letters before you can even put the sounds together to form words.  Still the story is very straightforward and told in an uncomplicated text so that young children just learning to read will want to attempt to decipher the words, especially since they’ll see themselves within Phoebe’s story.  Everyone is in this book, courtesy of illustrator Denise Holmes who creates a diverse class with students of different races, ethnicities, abilities and challenges, whether they be eyesight or mobility or spelling.  Judging by the names of students displayed (looks like there’s a Lakshmi, Maria, Finch, Ali, Aaron, Miguel, Hazel, Sam, Nicky, June and, of course, Phoebe), Ms. Martha’s classroom is wonderfully rich in diversity, inviting readers to empathize with her students and  respond to Phoebe’s circumstances with understanding.

There’s a wonderful Teachers’ Guide for download that encourages  activities with reading comprehension, writing, and the alphabet, but just reading Phoebe Sounds It Out will suffice to foster discussions about trying and making mistakes as a part of learning.

April 19, 2017

Water's Children: Celebrating the resource that unites us all

Written by Angèle Delaunois
Illustrated by Gérard Frischeteau
Translated by Erin Woods
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-015-4
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2017

Of course water is important.  Everyone knows it is the basis for life.  But water is so, so much more than just the liquid that sustains life. It enriches, energizes, moves, alters and drenches and Water’s Children is truly a celebration of that life force in a global context.

From Water's Children
by Angèle Delaunois
illus. by Gérard Frischeteau
trans. by Erin Woods
Quebec author, visual artist and publisher Angèle Delaunois takes the reader across the world to witness the importance of water to the children of different countries.  Each child describes their experiences with getting water, using water, and what water represents, with a final summation statement.  Canada is represented by two spreads, one from Quebec and one from Nunavut, both which speak in terms of what is most familiar to young  Canadian readers.

For me, water is everywhere:
the tap that I turn on without thinking,
the bathtub full of bubbles,
the sprinkler that greens the grass,
the lake that summons us for vacation fun.
For me, water is a burst of laughter. (pg. 7)

For me, water is winter:
the ocean and the river trapped beneath the ice,
the snowflakes that blur the horizon where earth becomes sky,
the frost that whitens my lashes,
the solitude and silence of the long polar night.
For me, water is a perfect crystal of snow. (pg. 8)

While other texts and illustrations will be familiar or at least obvious such as the Russian child of a fishing village and the rain experienced by an urban child in Germany, many spreads will rouse thoughtful discussions of unfamiliar depictions of water.  There’s the flooded lands after a dam is built, the Brazilian rainforest, the orange groves on lands that were once desert, and water trucks in Mauritania.  Imagine worlds in which water is  “an outstretched hand” or “a cup of mint tea.”  The ultimate word goes to an unborn child for whom “water is the song of my mother” and who speaks for the world declaring that “For me, for all of us, water is a matter of life.

From Water's Children
by Angèle Delaunois
illus. by Gérard Frischeteau
trans. by Erin Woods
The artwork of Montreal animator, graphic artist and illustrator Gérard Frischeteau rings with authenticity, depicting each global child in both personal and expansive landscapes, often providing details about daily life and family.  From the scarlet macaw of the rainforest to the bowler hat of the South American girl with her alpaca, each spread provides a glimpse into another world in which water is life.
From Water's Children
by Angèle Delaunois
illus. by Gérard Frischeteau
trans. by Erin Woods
In fact, “Water is Life” is a special touch in Water’s Children. On watermarks adorning each spread, the term “water is life” is translated into a corresponding language, including French, Inuktitut, Catalan, German, Portuguese, Tamil, Arabic and Wolof with a final listing of all regions and languages represented in the book.

I know I’ve listed the reading audience as 4 to 8 years of age but don’t follow that.  Water’s Children’s audience should read “All ages” or “Everyone” because it is an extraordinarily inspirational examination of the importance of water throughout the world.  You can save it for World Water Day (March 22) but I recommend it for this weekend’s Earth Day (April 22) and anytime meaningful attention be paid to a global resource i.e., always.

April 18, 2017

NemeSIS

Written by Susan Marshall
Blue Moon Publishers
978-1-988279-32-3
204 pp.
Ages 13+
April 2017

I know that sisters can be as close as best friends (I have a wonderful younger sister who is just this for me).  Sisters can be there to support you through familial strife and guide you through the uncertainties of growing up.  As the middle of three sisters, I know what can be but I also know what is.  Susan Marshall’s debut YA novel, as the name suggests, is about that tenuous relationship between sisters, a mixed bag of bullying and bond.

With her parents going through a marital separation, fifteen-year-old Nadine could certainly use the support of her older sister, Rachel.  But seventeen-year-old Rachel is too egocentric to see anything, including her parents’ separation, in any terms other than those related to her. Between her parents' separation, and Mom establishing a new life as a realtor, and Rachel vacillating (can you say moody?) between kind and cruel, Nadine needs someone in her corner.
Like Voldemort, Rachel was a monster of the dark arts.” (pg. 41)
While trying to avoid Rachel’s wrath, like the dumping of ice water on Nadine while she sleeps and plugging her nose with a clothespin (painful!), Nadine begins to adopt a plan of steps, similar to the AA twelve-step program, to help “dig herself out of the hole she was in.” (pg.  18) Undertaking to become part of the school and make a friend, she meets Anne Lavery,  new to Elgin High School, and younger sister of wildly popular senior Matt Lavery and his twin Cameron.  With that one step, Nadine’s life expands to include a lunch buddy, a love interest,
Cameron was the sun, and I was this speck of intergalactic dust being pulled toward him, close enough to bask in the warmth of his rays but not so close as to get burned” (pg. 35)
and a place on the field hockey team where she meets a new friend Mei.  But while Nadine’s relationship with Anne brings many positives into her life, it also draws Rachel’s attention.  Not surprising that the manipulative Rachel uses her sister’s friendship with Anne to get close to Matt but Rachel can’t decide whether to cultivate her relationship with Nadine to her own end or threaten the girl about keeping mum about her bullying of Nadine.  And what Nadine learns is that bullying is bullying, whether it is by a sister, a team mate or an opponent, and avoidance is not an effective option.

As a reader, I often wonder whether all writers have first hand knowledge of that which they write.  I’m pretty sure Susan Marshall knows something about sibling bullying, though she tempers the viciousness that can be had at the hands of an older sister.  Still, the psychological torment of bullying and trauma inflicted by Rachel, and other bullies in the story, are very real and impactful, and Susan Marshall makes it clear that dealing with bullies does not have one solution.  The confusion of dealing with a bully who could turn kind or cruel in a split second may be rationalized by mental health issues but the care with which they select when, where and how to inflict that cruelty suggests a psychopathy beyond moodiness.  I think Nadine is far more generous with her sister than other bullies and more than Rachel deserves but it’s amazing what you can forgive family.  Susan Marshall conveys all that mixed up turmoil of shame, anger, resolve,  and expectancy convincingly and still provides a guarantee that things can and do get better.  It may not be fast enough or easily enough for many victims of  bullying, sibling or otherwise, but when you have a NemeSIS, it’s a long-standing relationship that can come to an end with a shocking bang like it does for Mei and her bully, or a soft closing of a door, perhaps as it will be with Nadine and Rachel.  Go with the door.  It hurts less.

April 17, 2017

Forest Kid Committee: Applications due April 30, 2017


Do you 💖 reading?
Are you in Grades 4-8?
Do you live in Ontario?
Do you want to help choose books 
that other kids will want to read?

Then this is the group for you!


 Join the first ever Forest Kid Committee!


Who?:       The Forest of Reading is looking for enthusiastic readers in Grades 4 to 8 
What?:      To help develop a summer recommended reading list for Canadian children 
When?:     Meeting June, 2017
Where?:    Ontario Library Association offices in Toronto


Applications are due April 30, 2017
and can be completed online here


The Forest of Reading Kid Committee is a 2017 pilot project. If successful, more opportunities for readers to get involved will be tested in future years. Stay tuned!

Hannah and the Magic Eye

Written byTyler Enfield
Great Plains Teen Fiction
978-1-927855-68-3
165 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 2017
…taking her on a tour through the last three-thousand years of Israel’s major religions–from Judaism, to Islam, and lastly to Christianity–all of them locked together by a shared history in this solitary, enchanted city and a magical ring once worn by its wisest king.” (pg. 135)
Think The Da Vinci Code for middle-graders and you have Edmonton author Tyler Enfield’s Hannah and the Magic Eye.  Entombed in archaeology, a secret society and secret codes, it's a thriller which takes place in Jerusalem, one of the oldest and historically richest cities of the world.

Twelve-year-old Hannah travels from her home in Brussels, Belgium to visit her famed archaeologist grandfather, Henri Dubuisson, in Jerusalem.  When she arrives and Henri is not there to meet her, she only has a cryptic note he’d sent her to guide her.  She discovers a secret online message from her Grandpa Henri about a treasure beyond her wildest dreams and a secret society called the Cancellarii in search of the same treasure. Convinced Henri has been kidnapped and attempting to avoid several nefarious characters who attempt to follow her and grab her, Hannah, with the help of a Palestinian boy who likens himself to George Clooney, uncovers an ancient journal by ancestor Julien Dubuisson.  Hannah and Clooney must decipher the seven illustrations within, using a camera and a lot of ingenuity about historic sites in Jerusalem and environs, if they are to decipher the mysterious treasure map and discover a treasure that once belonged to King Solomon and save her grandfather.

No stops for deep breaths on this adventure.  Tyler Enfield has plotted a story so intricate and action-packed that young readers won’t have time to take breaks to learn about the historic details woven into the story (though they will surely be googling King Solomon, the different quarters of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock after finishing the book).  Clever Hannah is like a young Indiana Jones with her loyal sidekick Clooney who gets her both into and out of trouble.  With Hannah’s code-breaking skills and historic knowledge along with Clooney’s familiarity with their exotic location, Hannah and the Magic Eye is a thrilling course of intrigue that captivates and captures, inviting young readers to travel with Hannah and Clooney on their adventure, even on camel back. And judging by the conclusion of Hannah and the Magic Eye, they have a subsequent treasure hunt in Cambodia with Hannah and Clooney assisting Henri, all courtesy of Tyler Enfield's elaborate plotting and savvy for telling an exciting middle-grade story.

April 13, 2017

The Banana-Leaf Ball

Written by Katie Smith Milway
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Kids Can Press
978-1-77138-331-8
32 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 2017

Most picture books are thirty-two pages in length but packing a story that includes escape from war, near starvation, separation from family, life in a refugee camp, and troubles with gangs into those few pages is an accomplishment.  The Banana-Leaf Ball’s story has all of that and even reconciliation and hope for the future.
From The Banana-Leaf Ball 
by Katie Smith Milway 
illus. by Shane W. Evans
When Deo Rukundo and his family are driven from their farm by war in Burundi, the child becomes separated from them.  Rescued by a fisherman, Deo is taken to Lukole, a refugee camp in Tanzania.  The camp which is not dissimilar from a village with a marketplace and school also has limited resources like water and food and the presence of gangs.  Deo tries to avoid Remy, a gang leader, who steals and bullies but especially after Remy  steals some of Deo’s carefully worked banana twine for the banana-leaf ball he makes and hides away.  When a man arrives with a coveted leather soccer ball and puts the teams into Shirts and Skins to encourage a game,  Deo is made a captain and Remy is on his team.  With a little teamwork and a lot of encouragement, all the boys, Deo and Remy included, are able to put away their differences and learn a bit about playing soccer, making banana-leaf balls, and becoming friends.
From The Banana-Leaf Ball 
by Katie Smith Milway 
illus. by Shane W. Evans
The Banana-Leaf Ball is Kid Can Press’ newest addition to its CitizenKid series of books and Katie Smith Milway’s fourth book in the series. Like its predecessors, it’s a story of empowerment that comes from dire circumstances but told in terms of the children who rise above.  Though most young readers will have no first-hand knowledge of being driven out of their homes by war and separated from family, as well as living in a refugee camp, many will understand the conflict with a peer that pervades daily existence.  The message that play and sport can override that conflict and provide the basis for inclusiveness is a positive one that children the world over need to know.  To further that message, The Banana-Leaf Ball includes notes about the real Deo and an amazing section called “How Kids are Learning to Trust and Include Others” which includes links to relevant organizations and descriptions of games to foster working together.
From The Banana-Leaf Ball 
by Katie Smith Milway
 illus. by Shane W. Evans
Award-winning American illustrator Shane W. Evans (Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, We March, and The Way a Door Closes) who primarily works in pen and ink and oils with computer lends a simple power to the story.  The illustrations are weighty but energetic with the strife of escape and bustle of life in a refugee camp.  Colour and shape and even size help convey Deo’s situation, dark and shadowy when escaping and isolated, while bright and larger, coming to life when playing soccer.

Through words and art, The Banana-Leaf Ball continues to fulfil CitizenKid’s mandate of inspiring global citizenship but, by basing it on a true story, it also demonstrates the potential for good to come from bad and the importance of empathy, teamwork and resilience to further that good.


••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Check out Kids Can Press' book trailer for this new book:

The Banana-Leaf Ball - A New CitizenKid Book
Uploaded to YouTube by KidsCanPressMovies on March 28, 2017.

April 12, 2017

By the Time You Read This

Written by Jennifer Lanthier
Illustrated by Patricia Storms
Clockwise Press
 978-1-988347-05-9
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2017

By the Time You Read This, this book will probably be out and I’ll have missed its launch, but, hey, what can you do? At least it’s not the devastating news like that which the arm cast-addled Oscar pens to his former friend Sam, beginning with “To my mortal enemy, By the time you read this….” He then proceeds to itemize all the play things he is dismantling or putting the kibosh on in light of their conflict: the Scientific Experiment of Glorious Doom; their Indestructible Fortress of Fiendishness; their Epic Battle of Giant Robots versus Alien Insects; the Magical Zoo of Mystical Creatures; the Neverending Novel of Awesome Adventures; the Precarious Portal for Intrepid Explorers; and the Time Travel Tower of Ultimate Power.  It seems Sam laughed when Oscar fell when skateboarding.

But all that anger dissipates when Sam finds Oscar and apologizes for laughing, not realizing he’d hurt himself.  Recalling all the fun things they had done together, Oscar relents, asking Sam if she’d like to sign his cast.  With that, the two surrender to their friendship and get back to the business of serious play.
From By the Time You Read This 
by Jennifer Lanthier 
illus. by Patricia Storms
Though Oscar is initially vehement in his new enemy-ship with Sam, as denoted by his powerful words and the decisiveness of his actions, he is not immune to a little empathy and an apology.  It’s amazing what a small step of humility and voiced regret can do to turn things around, especially in a childhood friendship.  Children are forever making friends and dissolving friendships on a whim, justifiably so or not.  It’s evident that, in By the Time You Read This, even anger and disappointment can be fleeting and resolved amicably with just a few words.  Jennifer Lanthier’s text demonstrates the depths of friendship in Oscar and Sam’s imaginative play, especially in their super-duper partnership in taking on the world.  How could Oscar and Sam not stay friends?
From By the Time You Read This 
by Jennifer Lanthier 
illus. by Patricia Storms
Patricia Storms, who can illustrate both tender books like Never Let You Go and playful picture books like The Ghosts Go Spooking, lends an energetic atmosphere to By the Time You Read This, portraying the spirit of children in her boldly-coloured cartoons and in the little details in signage (e.g., "Oscar + Sam ONLY, No Parents Allowed, No Brothers Either") and toys.   Kids will laugh themselves silly over the creatures in the Magical Zoo of Mystical Creatures, like the Farting Fur-Tail and Lionisaurus Rex, and probably recognize a few of their own toys within the pages of By the Time You Read This. They’ll definitely see themselves in the book.  This is a important as young readers need to know that friendships sometimes fall apart but can be reconstructed, sometimes with just a little bandage of kind words.  And even though By the Time You Read This ends with Oscar and Sam reconciled, back at play in their Planetary Pirate Ship, they might still have another falling out.  Such are the nature of friendships when you’re close to someone and care about what they feel and do. But, with a smile and a little play (perhaps the board game on the inside of By the Time You Read This' s cover), all might be forgiven.

April 11, 2017

Me (and) Me Blog Tour: Guest post by author Alice Kuipers



Today is the official release date for Alice Kuipers'
new young adult novel, Me (and) Me.  
Happy book birthday! 

Me (and) Me
Written by Alice Kuipers
HarperCollins Canada
9781443448826
288 pp.
Ages 14+
April 11, 2017

ORDER NOW:



As part of the blog tour for Me (and) Me, Alice Kuipers is sharing with us a little bit about her experiences with writing YA novels and I am delighted to post that here. 



Why I Write YA Novels? 
By Alice Kuipers


When I was eighteen, I wrote a novel about a girl who split into two people. She didn’t know which life was the best for her to live. Me (and) Me, my fifth YA novel is about the same theme: the main character, Lark, has to make a decision between two lives. And she can’t. The book I wrote when I was eighteen was never published. In fact, it was never read by anyone else. But I loved writing it. I loved the way writing made me feel: calm and focused. So I started work on another book. This book, like the first, was planned for adult readers. Again the character was young and lost—her baby boy had drowned. Again the book didn’t work on the page. But, again, I loved writing it.

When I’d written four books like this, books that I loved but that didn’t seem to work on the page, I had a conversation with someone who’d read one of them. She said, have you ever thought about writing for younger readers. It was as if a light went on in my head (total cliché, but I swear that’s what happened).
I didn’t know much about writing for young readers, but I had read a lot of books for teens and kids. And all my characters were young—they were at that place in their lives where they were becoming adults. They were making decisions that would forever mark them in their future lives. Writing about teenagers made me connect with the confused and frustrated teenager I’d been.

Everything lined up in my head after this reader made her comment. I quickly wrote a book for middle grade readers. It wasn’t good enough to be published, but it was the first book I’d written that I felt fully proud of: something about it worked. The book after that was called Life on the Refrigerator Door. It was about a teenager and her mother going through a terrible situation. This ended up being my first published novel—and weirdly, although I’d written it for teens, in many countries it was published as an adult novel. But I’ve always seen it as my first true YA book.


I’ve discovered that novels for young adult readers can be read by any age. But YA novels need to explore that moment of dramatic choice—when a teen takes the path that makes them the adult they are going to be. It took me many, many years and many books to figure out what sort of writer I was, and it took me four published YA novels to work out how to tell the story I began when I first attempted a novel. It seems to me that Me (and) Me is the original book I started trying to write when I was eighteen. The final version of this novel came alive when seventeen-year old Lark walked into my mind.

Lark, in the novel, eventually has to make a choice in her life. Just as making the choice to write YA led me to tell the stories that swirl around my head all the time.

For those of you who are writers yourselves, you can find the first of my online workshops free here or sign up to my free online writing course on my website. Hopefully these writing ideas help you find the writer you’re meant to be a whole lot more quickly than I did.


Many thanks to Alice Kuipers
for sharing her writing with us,
 in Me (and) Me and in this guest blog post,
 and for allowing us a glimpse into her world.



If you would like to connect with author Alice Kuipers or partake in her worthwhile writing course online, check out her various links here:

April 10, 2017

Me (and) Me

Written by Alice Kuipers
HarperCollins Canada
9781443448826
288 pp.
Ages 14+
April 2017

Lark Hardy’s seventeenth birthday should’ve been a fun day, and it had begun that way, a first date with Alec Sandcross canoeing at Pike Lake.  But one moment changes everything.  As the teens are about to embark on some swimming, a cry from Suzanne Fields, the mother of five-year-old Annabelle whom Lark had babysat, draws their attention to the child face down in the water. Alec dives in but hits his head and starts going down.  And as Suzanne yells at Lark to do something, the teen hesitates, not knowing whom to save.  So begins a novel split in two voices, both Larks and both Lark’s.

The first Lark begins to describe the days after the near drowning in which Alec has been saved and Annabelle lays in a hospital bed in a coma. Alec and Lark’s new relationship is blossoming, and he begins to teach her how to do parkour, climbing, running and jumping across obstacles such as buildings and bridges. Becoming so entwined with the attentive and charismatic Alec, Lark starts blowing off best friend Lucy and bandmates Nifty, Reid and Iona to spend time with Alec.  When she starts getting weird messages on her phone about Alec not being saved, Lark is disconcerted but has no answers. But when she visits Annabelle in the hospital, and hallucinates that she’s drowning in water and then glimpses a girl who is but isn’t her, Lark starts to think she’s going crazy.

In an alternate voice and chapters, a second Lark, one who cuts her hair short and dyes it red, recounts those same days, but ones in which music exec Martin Fields and wife Suzanne are ever grateful to her for saving their young daughter while Alec’s family sits by his hospital bedside, contemplating turning off the machines that are keeping him alive.  Lark still harbours much anger about her mother’s passing and translates that anger into petty shoplifting of items she doesn’t even want.  But though this Lark is starting to connect with bandmate Reid, she too is baffled by freaky messages including those of a not-hospital bound Alec and an intimate relationship with him.

Lark, whether the long- and dark-haired one or she of the red hair, have similar circumstances: a musical mother who has passed; a dad with heart issues; best friend Lucy; a passion for writing songs; and playing with bandmates Reid, Iona and Nifty.  She is also starting to suspect she’s losing it, seeing things like imaginary water near drowning her and disappearing messages.

The linchpin for Lark becomes the lyrics her mother started penning before her death.
Perhaps you see it differently
You and me
It’s just a case of who tells the story
Perhaps you see it differently.
(pg. 86)
Showering her intense text with astounding lyrics, Alice Kuipers  brings both Larks together to juxtapose the parallel lives they lead after the near drowning at the lake.  Confused by grief, fears and even guilt, both girls (or are they really two?) attempt to make sense of a world in which their own choices for actions have consequences that they wish they could undo.  They are two halves of the same whole, different but similar. They are Me (and) Me.  (There’s even a crazy moment when the two face off and shout, “Who even are you?” “Who the hell are you?”; pg. 240) It’s hard to say whether the two will come together equally, though Lark recognizes that,
I have to stitch myself back together.  I have to make myself whole. (pg. 270)
or whether Lark will become more of one than the other.  However, it’s clear that Alice Kuipers in her daring storytelling and almost maternal concern for her characters wants to help keep Lark together. Life is hard enough without questioning your decisions, especially those made under pressure, and when literally being torn apart by them.  I can’t tell you how it ends (you’ll see when you read Me (and) Me) but I can tell you that the story comes full circle, secured in its own way, though not tied up as you might expect.


Check back tomorrow for my Me (and) Me blog tour stop with a guest post by author Alice Kuipers.  Ever enlightening, Alice Kuipers speaks about why she writes YA.

April 09, 2017

Young Adult Stratford Writers Festival: May 6, 2017 (Stratford, ON)


On Saturday, May 6, 2017




presents

the Young Adult Stratford Writers Festival

an amazing gathering of Authors of YA and middle grade books



who will present writing workshops 
and participate in various discussion panels


Schedule
10 -11 a.m.: Young Adult Writing Workshop with author Marthe Jocelyn

11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.: Relationship Drama Panel Discussion with Danielle Younge-Ullman, Deb Loughead, and Susan Marshall

1- 2 p.m.: Magnificent Middle Grade Panel Discussion with Sylvia McNicoll, R. J. Anderson, and Marthe Jocelyn

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Sword, Sorcery, and Star Wars Panel Discussion with Lesley Livingston, E. K. Johnston, and R. J. Anderson

4 - 5 p.m.: Self Publishing Workshop

5:30 - 6:30 p.m.: First Nations Panel with James Bartleman and Rick Revelle

7 - 9 p.m.: Canadian Change Conversation Showcase


Locations
Events are held at the Stratford Public Library, Knox Presbyterian Church and the Stratford Perth Museum.  



Tickets
While some events are free, others require tickets.
Full day passes (adult and students rates) are definitely the better deal but tickets can be purchased for single events as well.
Details and ticket information are available at DigiWriting at http://digiwriting.com/stratford-writers-festival-young-adult-2017/



April 07, 2017

Me (and) Me: Upcoming Blog tour



Alice Kuipers


who brought us award-winning young adult books
including
The Worst Thing She Ever Did
Life on the Refrigerator Door


is launching her newest YA novel

Me (and) Me
HarperCollins Canada
9781443448826
288 pp.
Ages 14+
April 2017

with a blog tour


Starting next week, sites across the blogsphere will be
reviewing this book and hosting guest posts, interviews
and more with author Alice Kuipers.


I'll be posting my review on April 10 and a guest post by Alice Kuipers on April 11 but here is the whole blog tour schedule:

April 10: Girl Plus Book
April 11: CanLit for LittleCanadians
April 12: Library of Pacific Tranquility
April 13: A Cupcake and a Latte
April 14: Stuck in YA Books
April 17: Jaime D's World 
April 19: Our Collective Muse
April 20: Book Store Finds
April 21: Mostly YA Lit
April 25: Rosie & the Riveters
April 28: BookCatPin

As a teaser for the book and blog tour, check out the following book trailer about Me (and) Me:

Book Trailer

Uploaded to YouTube  by Alice Kuipers on March 16, 2017.


See you back here on April 10 and April 11
for my contributions 
to Alice Kuipers' Me (and) Me Blog Tour

April 06, 2017

How Nivi Got Her Names

Written by Laura Deal
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-137-9
32 pp.
Ages 5-7
April 2017

Naming children after their parents or grandparents in not unusual but the Inuit show great depth of respect and appreciation for their ancestry in the naming of their children, particularly those involved in the Inuit custom adoption, a profoundly generous sharing of children with those who do not have their own.

Adorable Nivi whose full name is Niviaq Kauki Baabi Irmela Jamesie is playing with her toys when she realizes that they each only have one name whereas she has lots.  How Nivi Got Her Names is the story of Mom explaining to her daughter, who came to them through the Inuit custom adoption, the origins of all her names.
From How Nivi Got Her Names 
by Laura Deal 
illus. by Charlene Chua
Niviaq means “little girl” and is the name her adopted parents gave her. Kauki was the grandmother of Nivi’s birth mother, and giving her that name allowed them to honour her and connect Nivi to her biological family.  Baabi was a special family friend who appeared in a dream and naming Nivi after him allowed his spirit and character to live on through her, as well as connecting the child to his family.  Mom explains that Nivi is named Irmela after her own grandmother Irma who was strong, resourceful and creative. Finally, the name Jamesie was to honour Nivi’s mother’s grandfather, a man with a generous heart and a loving spirit.

I wept with emotion for the words Nivi’s mother tells the child:
"We all love you, dear Nivi, for all that you are.  For the names that you have, for the character and traits we see in you, and the people we are reminded of when we are with you.” (pg. 22) 
From How Nivi Got Her Names 
by Laura Deal 
illus. by Charlene Chua
How Nivi Got Her Names may appear on the surface to be a parent explaining something to a child but it is more about providing context for the bonds and connections with those who are living and those who have passed. Giving a child a name for registration and for ease of communication is the norm but the Inuit tradition of naming is a means of “welcoming back a family member, a loved one, or a respected community member” (pg. 29)  and provide community for a child.  Nivi is Laura Deal’s own daughter, adopted through Inuit custom adoption and, though the author provides a glossary and extensive notes on Inuit kinship and naming customs, as well as bios on the individuals honoured in Nivi’s names, the gratitude and love with which the author infuses her story is very personal.  Even Charlene Chua’s art which is cheerful and playful, like Nivi and her daily routines, still pays respect to the practices described within, undoubtedly illustrating the individuals honoured in Nivi’s names with accuracy and dignity.

How Nivi Got Her Names may be an informative picture book about the Inuit tradition of naming and custom adoption but it is an intimate depiction of an admirable practice, one that provides an inheritance more valuable than anything normally pursued in western worlds.  How fortunate for young Niviaq Kauki Baabi Irmela Jamesie.
From How Nivi Got Her Names 
by Laura Deal 
illus. by Charlene Chua

April 05, 2017

Uncle Holland

Written by JonArno Lawson
Illustration by Natalie Nelson
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-929-4
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
April 2017

Oh, Uncle Holland, he is a scamp! From the time he was a child (and not yet an uncle), Holland was always getting into trouble.  Seems Holland, one of three boys born to Palmer and Ella Lawson (note the last name connection to the author), liked helping himself to pretty things.  After being caught by the police for the thirty-seventh time (!), Holland is given the choice of jail or the army. Though his mother and brothers are devastated, his father "decided to spend the rest of this life watching his fish swim around in his fish tank" because "Fish can't disappoint me." (pg. 11) His mother takes some solace that her son, though a thief, was never a liar.  Holland chooses the army.

From Uncle Holland 
by JonArno Lawson 
illus. by Natalie Nelson
At the southern location to which Holland is sent, there are many splendid and tempting things like palm trees, parrots, flowers and exquisite fish but none he can slip into his pockets.  So Holland chooses to capture the beauty of the fish in paintings, even making some money selling this art. But when he sends money home, his parents are concerned about the origin of that money.  Fortunately, he is able to tell them truthfully that the money was not stolen but instead that he had learned that he could sell pictures of pretty things since "Not everything that's pretty can be stuffed in your pockets."(pg. 30)

You know there's probably more to this story than told here by JonArno Lawson, the author behind the wildly successful Sidewalk Flowers (illustrated by Sydney Smith; Groundwood, 2015), especially since his Author's Note explains that Holland was his Uncle Holland.  But Uncle Holland, the book, is still able to tell a story, caution children about stealing and telling lies, and provide reassurance that one can turn things around.  Okay, we know that you can't turn everything around (some illnesses, death, legal issues, etc.) but I think children would be comforted to know that sometimes you'll get a second chance (even thirty-seven of them) to make things right, though family might appear to turn their backs on you.

American illustrator Natalie Nelson's art, collages of mixed media, are both mischievous and sobering, not unlike Holland's situation.  There is gravitas associated with his infamous acts, often illustrated in neutral shades of black and greys, with only smidgens of colour in tears and fish in water.  Not until Holland is in the southern climes, witnessing beauty that must remain because he cannot squirrel it away, that the colours become vibrant and the art more playful.
From Uncle Holland 
by JonArno Lawson 
illus. by Natalie Nelson
Every family has a relative or two (or many) with incredible stories, some nefarious, some ridiculous, but we don't always like to share those embarrassing anecdotes.  That's unfortunate because they can be, like Uncle Holland, amusing learning and character-building opportunities. Thank you, JonArno Lawson, for choosing to share yours with young readers.