July 29, 2017

Telling Tales Tuesdays: Paul Covello (Hamilton, ON)



Paul Covello


 illustrator, designer, and motion graphics artist from Toronto
will present from his books

Canada ABC and Toronto ABC


and take you on a tour across the country using numbers and letters
 to explore all of the incredible things about Canada



for the final

Telling Tales Tuesdays

on 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

at

Cotton Factory
at the Quilt of Belong Exhibit
270 Sherman Avenue North, Hamilton, Ontario L8L 6N4



There will also be interactive literacy activities 
with staff from the Hamilton Public Library.

Admission is free

Free parking is available


Telling Tales Tuesdays has been going on all summer (July 11-August 15) as a collaborative celebration of Canada’s 150th with Telling Tales Festival, and is funded by the Community Fund for Canada's 150th which includes the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Government of Canada.

Details at https://www.facebook.com/events/114471629176575/

July 28, 2017

Bent Not Broken: Madeline and Justin

Written by Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Clockwise Press
978-1-4998-347-03-5
224 pp.
Ages 13+
March 2017

Lorna Schultz Nicholson's first two One-2-One books, Fragile Bones: Harrison & Anna (2015) and Born With: Erika & Gianni (2016), introduced high school students in the Best Buddies program.  In those books, students with autism and Down syndrome partnered with other teens who volunteered to provide physical and/or emotional support.  But, better than the support, they share friendships that grow and establish a community that reaches beyond the school.  Bent Not Broken is the newest book in the series, providing an uplifting tale that demonstrates the inarguable successes of the Best Buddies program.

Fourteen-year-old Madeline used to be faster, smarter, more accomplished than her twin Becky.  Then, at age eight, Madeline had an accident when the two were out on their bikes. Now Madeline feels defined by her brain damage that causes her to speak very slowly, to have regular meltdowns and experience wildly crazy emotions and to struggle in school.  Though Becky has been obliging her for years, still being one of the few who knows how to help Madeline when her emotions take over and she begins to hit herself about the head, Becky has found a new set of friends whom she begins to emulate though they are rude and engaged in inappropriate behaviours.  

Fortunately, Madeline has some positives in her life that ease much of her anxiety about her sister and her own vulnerabilities.  She gets to spend time with her Best Buddy, a senior named Justin ("I liked him because he didn't feel sorry for me; he just liked me"; pg. 16) who in turn finds being with Madeline helpful in coping with the death of his autistic sister who succumbed to an eating disorder.  Moreover, Madeline volunteers at a horse therapy barn where she once received therapy by spending time with the miniature horses.

The barn is Madeline's salvation and even becomes a haven for Justin and his mother, both finding some healing amongst the horses.  But Becky is less enthused now about fulfilling her own volunteering commitment there.  In fact, she begins to use the barn as an opportunity to sneak away with her friends and starts to take advantage of Madeline's affliction to benefit herself.  Though Madeline sees herself now as the weaker of the twins, she begins to achieve some wonderful successes socially and creatively while Becky begins a descent into dangerous circumstances.  Luckily, Madeline discovers she has the courage to step up and be there for her sister as Becky had been for her. 

Lorna Schultz Nicholson's books in the One-2-One series attest to the strengths we all have even when dealing with physical or mental trials, and that's why Bent Not Broken is the very best of titles and the very best of stories.  The imagery of something being bent not broken, like a willow bough, is a powerful one.  Being bent does not mean weak.  Think of bentwood furniture.  It's still strong, just in a different configuration than wood is typically used.  So too is Madeline after her accident and resulting brain injury but also Justin after his sister's death, his mother with her depression, Becky with her guilt, and Madeline's parents with their marriage.  None of them are the same.  All have been reshaped by circumstances.  Still there is resilience, the need to persevere and accept new postures.

There's a reason Bent Not Broken was selected by young readers as one of the ten titles recommended for Red Maple readers on the first  Summer Reading List of the Forest Kid Committee.  These young people could appreciate a book that spoke to them about being strong and compassionate regardless of the struggle.  Bent Not Broken, like the earlier books, speaks to the best of us and makes us want to be better, which we can be.

July 27, 2017

Telling Tales Tuesday: Itah Sadu (Hamilton, ON)



 Itah Sadu

author of numerous well-loved books


and her most recent book

Greetings Leroy
Written by Itah Sadu
Illustrated by Alix Delinois
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-760-3
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 2017

for

Telling Tales Tuesdays

on 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

at

Cotton Factory
at the Quilt of Belong Exhibit
270 Sherman Avenue North, Hamilton, Ontario L8L 6N4



There will be interactive literacy activities 
with staff from the Hamilton Public Library 
and
storytelling by author Itah Sadu
who will share traditional African stories and those of the Caribbean


Admission is free

Free parking is available


Telling Tales Tuesdays has been going on all summer (July 11-August 15) as a collaborative celebration of Canada’s 150th with Telling Tales Festival, and is funded by the Community Fund for Canada's 150th which includes the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Government of Canada.

July 26, 2017

Caterpillars Can't Swim


Written by Liane Shaw
Second Story Press
978-1-77260-053-7
256 pp.
Ages 13-18
September 2017

Though sixteen-year-old Ryan Malloy is often treated differently in his small town due to his use of a wheelchair, everything is right with the world when he is swimming.  Because he’s up early even on days when he hasn’t got swim team practice, Ryan witnesses someone disappearing beneath the surface of their local river.  Throwing himself off the bridge, ultimately injuring his shoulder, Ryan saves a school mate, Jack Pedersen, from drowning.  But did Ryan really help Jack out?  When small-town gossip and rumours about Jack’s sexuality and the bullying he endures because of it brings Ryan to Jack’s defense and side repeatedly, the two develop a tenuous friendship.
Not that I'm saying everyone here is like that.  They aren't.  It's just that it seems like this town is frozen in time and a lot of attitudes around here are stuck in the ice.  My mother says she spends a lot of her time at school working on thawing out the attitudes of the kids so that someday things will be different.
   I don't think it's working yet.
 (pg. 10)
Although Ryan’s best friend Cody is somewhat awkward about Jack and about Ryan’s new relationship with him, the three boys’ embark on a summer trip to a local ComicCon.  During those two days, much is revealed about the teens’ fears, attitudes and confusion about each other but also exposed are the hurts, judgments and burdens they all carry, regardless of the limitations or strengths others perceive them to have.  Whether their relationships, new and old, are enough to make a positive difference in their lives is only evident after a stunning climax of rejection, desperation, and intervention.

Liane Shaw, a former educator including special education resource teacher, has never shied away from tough topics like foster care (Fostergirls, Second Story, 2011), physical or emotional limitations (The Color of Silence, Second Story, 2013) and ASD (Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Second Story, 2016). As in her earlier young adult books, she tackles the prejudices people assert on those who are different, whether perceived or real, and turns them into understanding and acceptance for those differences.  Whether caterpillars can or can’t swim is irrelevant.  What’s important is knowing that metamorphosis is foreseeable and all butterflies and moths are to be appreciated.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(A version of this review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2017, September). [Review of the book Caterpillars Can't Swim, by Liane Shaw]. Quill & Quire, 83 (7): 39.

July 24, 2017

Putuguq and Kublu

Written by Danny Christopher
Illustrated by Astrid Arijanto
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-143-0
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 2017

The children of the title, Putuguq and Kublu, are a high-spirited brother and sister who love playing pranks on one another but in this early reader-graphic novel, they are no match for the wisdom of their grandfather who supervises and enlightens them.

The smaller and younger Putuguq tries to prank his sister Kublu with a snowball but she is older and onto his tricks and gets him with an even bigger snowball.  As he chases her across the tundra, Kublu trips on a rock and almost falls head first into an inukshuk.  Their grandfather takes this opportunity to tell them about the purpose of inuksuit (plural of inukshuk) and of the ancient Tuniit people who used them as hunting markers.  Putuguq, always wanting to show himself as the better-bigger-stronger sibling, tries to lift a heavy rock and just ends up looking silly.  But, he finds his own way to use an inukshuk and to get back at his snowball-dropping sister.
From Putuguq and Kublu 
by Danny Christopher 
illus. by Astrid Arijanto
These kids have spirit and lots of it and a good dose of sibling rivalry–of the friendly nature–that fuels their antics in their home town of Arviq Bay north of the Arctic Circle. (A double-spread graphic maps out key places in their community.)
From Putuguq and Kublu 
by Danny Christopher 
illus. by Astrid Arijanto
But the story is more than a sister and brother trying to "get" the other with snowballs or showing off.  It's a story of family and history and environment.  Danny Christopher has penned a simple story but it is perfect for a child who is an early reader.  The story teaches in a fun way and will help in developing visual literacy skills with the bright and bold graphics of Astrid Arijanto.  From the map to the explanations about inuksuit and the Tuniit, Putuguq and Kublu is a fun romp across the tundra that will spark discussions about the Arctic, the Inuit and getting along with your siblings.
From Putuguq and Kublu 
by Danny Christopher 
illus. by Astrid Arijanto

n.b. The word "putuguq" and "kublu" are Inuktitut words that mean toe and thumb respectively.  

July 20, 2017

A Trio of Tolerable Tales

Written by Margaret Atwood
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-933-1
68 pp.
Ages 7-10
March 2017

I suspect Margaret Atwood doesn’t abide rules for writing, especially ones that insist that alliteration is verboten. Still, writing as she chooses, Margaret Atwood’s style is acclaimed as unique and refreshing and unconventional.  It doesn’t matter whether she writes for adults or for children, dystopia or realistic fiction, graphic novel or picture book.  Her stories poke our psyches into response, whether into delightful laughter or revulsion for worlds gone wrong.  I’m pleased to share A Trio of Tolerable Tales and commend its objective to yield mirth.

The three stories in this tome were originally published as three separate picture books: Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (Key Porter, 2003); Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (Key Porter, 2004); and Wandering Wenda (McArthur & Co., 2011).  Together the three have become a short story collection for early readers who wish to read beyond picture books and a challenging read-aloud for anyone wishing to trip over their tongues and twist themselves into tenuous ties.

Rude Ramsay resides with his relatives Ron, Rollo and Ruby and is tormented by the horrific food regularly presented.  He finally revolts.  On the advice of his friend, Ralph a red-nosed rat, Ramsay sneaks across (or rather through) the rampart to enter a realm of fresh and inviting food. But when he helps himself to a radish, they attack, calling him a robber.  It is only when a girl named Rillah steps in that Ramsay is made to see that each lives in a world with attributes the other appreciates.
From A Trio of Tolerable Tales 
by Margaret Atwood 
illus. by Dušan Petričić
Bob of Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda is abandoned by his mother and raised by a bounty of dogs.
But Bob was bashful.  He did not believe he was a boy, and barked when bothered.  He was bewildered by blithering barbers, blathering butchers, bun-bearing bakers and belligerent bus drivers, and would bound behind bushes or burrow under benches when they blundered by.  He would bite busy businessmen in their briefcases.  (pg. 31)
Dorinda, the Cinderella slave of her distant relatives, runs away and discovers Bob and his doggie family.  She takes it upon herself to teach Bob to speak.  When a buffalo, labelled a begonia, ventures into their neighbourhood, it is Bob who becomes brave and Dorinda who becomes daring and together they save the day.
From A Trio of Tolerable Tales 
by Margaret Atwood 
illus. by Dušan Petričić

Wandering Wenda and the Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery is the story of Wenda whose “parents were whisked away by a weird whirlwind” (pg. 45).  She befriends a woodchuck whom she names Wesley. Wenda, with Wesley secreted away in her sweater, is whisked away rather unceremoniously by the Widow Wallop who takes them to her underground washery where three other children–Wilkinson, Wu and Wanapitai–were “washing, rinsing and wringing out the whiter than white washing” (pg. 55).  It is Wesley in doing what woodchucks do who helps the children escape the abuse of the Widow and the horrors of their slavery in the Wunderground, and ultimately, with the help of some wolves, they bring a criminal to justice and ensure the return of their parents.
From A Trio of Tolerable Tales 
by Margaret Atwood 
illus. by Dušan Petričić
If you feel there’s a Roald Dahl flavour to Margaret Atwood’s stories, you’d be right.  There are children who must find the means, often humourous though sometimes tragic, to survive selfish or evil adults.  They make comrades of unlikely animals and children, and restore their lives to some semblance of contentment.  As Wesley often says, “Could be worse.”

Dušan Petričić illustrated the original picture books but the black and white drawings in this volume lend a dark air that emphasizes the darker aspects of Margaret Atwood’s stories.  There’s a bleakness that seems more appropriate for readers who are too old for picture books–perhaps only in their own minds–but too young for really disturbing stories.  So, courtesy of Margaret Atwood and Dušan Petričić, A Trio of Tolerant Tales, brought to you by the letters R, B and D and W, fits that bill in all its alliterative glory.

July 18, 2017

What's My Superpower?

Written by Aviaq Johnston
Illustrated by Tim Mack
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-140-9
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
July 2017

Every child wants to fit in but also wants to excel at something.  Nalvana is no different. But while she enjoys playing outdoors and riding her bike in her "small town where winter is always longer than summer" (pg. 2), she thinks about having superpowers and wears a yellow blanket and snowmobiling goggles as her costume.
From What's My Superpower? 
by Aviaq Johnston 
illus. by Tim Mack
But, when she sees her friends doing extraordinary things, which she always commends them on, like running fast or flying through the air, sculpting with snow and stone or holding their breath underwater, Nalvana is perplexed by her own lack of superpower.  Over and over again, she tells her mother about her friends' amazing strengths and asks what hers might be.  Her mother, unruffled, encourages Nalvana to be patient, sure that her superpower will be revealed in time.
From What's My Superpower? 
by Aviaq Johnston 
illus. by Tim Mack
Just as might be expected, Nalvana's superpower was always evident.  It is as natural as breathing for her so she just needed to have it pointed out.  Fortunately, her mother can see the truly gifted child Nalvana is.
From What's My Superpower? 
by Aviaq Johnston 
illus. by Tim Mack
Ensuring that Nalvana's superpower is not one of the athletic or other overt skills that are normally so admired in our current society that revere celebrity and personality, Aviaq Johnston has made her story one of inclusivity, not exclusivity.  Everyone has a superpower if we look beyond winning awards and competitions.  Everyone has a strength or two that sets them above the rest.  And Nalvana's superpower truly makes her a superhero to others.

Aviaq Johnston's story about Nalvana is also about her milieu which is the basis for her experiences.  The little girl compares Davidee's speed to a Ski-Doo or to the wind on a blizzardy day, and expounds on Joanasie's snow sculpting and inuksuk building similar to his dad's skill as a carver.  Her Arctic home is as unique as the young girl in its offerings.  Tim Mack embeds Nalvana's story in that community, right down to her husky puppy.  And though the palette of turquoise blue-green, golds and salmon may appear more southwestern than northern, it's plays up the natural world in which Nalvana's journey of discovery takes place.

I may not tell you the answer to Nalvana's question of What's My Superpower? but suffice it to say it is something remarkable and terrific, and her mother, her friends and now readers will all know what it is.

July 17, 2017

Polly MacCauley's Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All

Written by Sheree Fitch
Illustrated by Darka Erdelji
Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides
978-1-927917-10-7
68 pp.
Ages 5-8
June 2017

Before Sheree Fitch even begins to tell her story, she invites "Listeners Young and Old" to enjoy her yarn.

Tales are for telling and the truth may be tall,
My yarn is for spinning as the earth spins for all. 


This is a yarn for
   a windy night
      or a rainy day
         or any old time
            or a circle of souls
               or a broken lonely heart– 

so hunker down by a crackling fire and read aloud just to yourself
or share my yarn with those you love.
(pg. 5)

Her yarn begins with the joyful first "Baa" bleated by a very special lamb born in the village of River John. It's a sound that

"...wrapped round that village 
like a ribbon of joy 
     a warm woolly scarf 
          or a magical spell from a long ago fairy tale" (pg. 8)

Meanwhile in the small countship of Woodland, the greedy Count Woolliam and his sister Woolamina, the Countess of Fleece and Fluff, are ruminating over the status of their flock and whether there will be sufficient wool for all their woolly needs: robes, sweaters, hats, socks, blankets, rugs, tissues and more.  They too hear that first "Baa" and head out in search of that special lamb, determined to take it for their own.

From Polly MacCauley's Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All 
by Sheree Fitch 
illus. by Darka Erdelji
Polly MacCauley, a woman rarely seen and about whom the grownups often whisper and the children wonder, who did "extra-ordinary, wild and wondrous things with W-O-O-L" (pg. 18), hears that same "Baa" and is thrilled to realized that she would soon be able to knit her "finest, most divinest, woolliest gift of all." (pg. 23)

But, after the lamb's mother dies and her mournful cries are heard around the world, Star–as she is named by Farmer John's family–feels disconnected and good for nothing.  That is until Polly, venturing out for the first time in ages, visits Farmer John's farm.  Though there is a potential conflict when the Count and Countess demand the lamb, they are moved by the love that the village of River John feels for Star (it's a woolly Grinch moment: "Something, some hole in his greedy brittle heart, stitched together."; pg. 53) and Star goes home with her new mama, Polly.

The magic is just beginning, though, because Star grows a very thick coat of fleece daily which Polly shears and uses to work on her masterpiece, as well as the plethora of wool projects Polly and her new knitting group undertake for the newborns, children and fishermen of River John and the people of the world. "Like love, there is always enough wool to go around." (pg. 57)

From Polly MacCauley's Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All 
by Sheree Fitch 
illus. by Darka Erdelji
And, though there is finally great purpose and much happiness with some sorrow still to come in Star's life, it is Polly MacCauley's gift to Mother Earth that will become the true star of the story, there "wherever and whenever someone needs a bit of wool or a bit of warmth or maybe the piecing together of a sad and lonely heart" (pg. 65).

Polly MacCauley's Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All is an atypical picture book.  Though the illustrations by Slovenian artist and former St. John's resident Darka Erdelji add the whimsy and ethereal fiber to Sheree Fitch's story, this tale is lengthy and text extensive and not a quick read before bedtime.  It is, however, a read-aloud story of story-telling breadth, deep and involved and rich with the essence of life.  It has love, sadness, grief, death, conflict, compassion and hope, so much hope.  There will be cheers and tears and bleats of appreciation for a story of history and connectedness, generosity and inspiration.  Sheree Fitch, whose poetry I have long admired, can turn a phrase with such adeptness that readers will feel the tugs on their own heart yarns and the weaving of a blanket of comfort and contentment.  And though Polly MacCauley's Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All is firmly rooted in the Maritimes of her home, Sheree Fitch has woven a story for the world in both context and spirit.
From Polly MacCauley's Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All 
by Sheree Fitch 
illus. by Darka Erdelji

🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎


If you're fortunate enough to live near or be visiting the Maritimes, consider stopping it at Mabel Murple's Book Shoppe and Dreamery in River John, Nova Scotia, a specialty bookstore just opened this month by Sheree Fitch and featuring Atlantic Canadian books in all genres as well as Canadian children's books.

July 12, 2017

#Tundra50 Tote Bag Auction


Tundra Books
an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada

is celebrating its 50th anniversary 

with a wonderful online auction in support of

a non-profit organization committed to bringing books and children together. 

Tundra Books asked the following 34 youngCanLit illustrators 

Cale Atkinson
Raphaëlle Barbanègre
Ben Clanton
Genviève Côté
The Fan Brothers
Eugenie Fernandes
Rebecca Green
Janet Hill
Matt James
Marthe Jocelyn
Madeline Kloepper
Julie Kraulis
Ron Lightburn
Julie Morstad
Olivia Chin Mueller
Vicki Nerino
Maxwell Newhouse
Kenard Pak
Gina Perry
Dušan Petričič
Kass Reich
Esmé Shapiro
Zoe Si
Lori Joy Smith
Sydney Smith
Bill Slavin
Mika Song
Ashley Spires
Carey Sookocheff
Chihiro Takeuchi
Frank Viva
Phoebe Wahl
Mélanie Watt
Cybèle Young

to decorate one side of the limited edition Tundra50 canvas tote bags

 

and these bags are being auctioned off 
between June 23 and July 28, 2017.

That gives you just over two weeks to place your bid
at

Minimum bid is $10 and all bids must be made in $5 increments. 


Details about the Tundra50 Tote Bag Auction can be read here The actual auction and images of the tote bags (both front and back) as well as current bids are listed here.

July 11, 2017

Stealth of the Ninja

Written by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-490-0
225 pp.
Ages 10+
March 2017

When Alfred Pynsent set out in his twenty-foot, diesel-electric submarine three years ago, he was an explorer. He's navigated the Maritimes near his home in Newfoundland, the St. Lawrence River, the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, South Africa, India and saw more in a few short years, both travel-wise and experientially, than most people do in their whole lives.  And he's just on the cusp of turning seventeen.  But, Al has turned from explorer to eco-warrior having seen the desecration of the oceans first hand.
I know that the sea is dying.  I mean, the water will always be there, of course, but the life in it won't.  And even though there are still days when whales breach in front of my sub, and dolphins race playfully past, and flying fish soar over my head with the funny whispering of their fins, there are much longer stretches  when I see nothing on the water but garbage and torn nets with rotting sea animals, as if the sea were nothing but one humongous human garbage patch. (pg. 2)
Heading to Japan, Al is apprehensive, as months earlier (Eco Warrior, 2015) he had helped the Sea Shepherd Society prevent a tanker from refuelling Japanese whaling ships and he was accused of sabotaging a Japanese tanker in Australia (he didn't).  But, when he discovers an old barnacle-laden freighter, seemingly abandoned, six hundred miles southeast of Japan, it's the beginning of a new adventure for Al that has him learning the ways of ninjutsu, being tossed around in his sub by a tsunami, robbing a new acquaintance's home, and saving a life.

Aboard the rusty freighter, Alfred meets Sensei, a 100-year-old Japanese man, a ninja, who has made the ship his home, growing a garden and collecting the plastic detritus of the oceans within the holds.
His face was gentle, kind and wise.  It was cut with laugh wrinkles, which meant he had probably spent most of his life laughing.  And yet there was something about him that was sad, as if he carried happiness on the outside, but sadness on the inside. (pg. 11)
Sensei teaches Alfred the ways of the ninja– jumping, stealth, stick fighting–and instills in him the disciplines of meditation and exercise, though the perseverance and determination Alfred demonstrates are all his.  When they witness a tsunami encroaching, Alfred and his canine first-mate, Hollie, seek the shelter of the sub but cannot convince Sensei to join them.  Except for a few cuts and bumps on the sub explorers, the submarine survives but the old freighter has flipped and is sitting between 130 and 140 feet below the surface.  Alfred is convinced the plastics have buoyed the ship and that Sensei is still alive.  Heading to the port of Choshi for help, Alfred finds the streets almost deserted because, he soon learns, of the tsunami's impact, most notably on the Fukushima nuclear reactor.  How will he get the help he needs to save Sensei without putting his own life in jeopardy, without getting caught by the authorities looking for him, and without breaking an agreement he made with Ziegfried, his friend and engineer of the submarine?

Stealth of the Ninja is the eighth book (!) in the Submarine Outlaw series and it is as riveting and fresh as any book in the series.  Still amazing is that, although I encourage you to read the whole series because it is so engrossing, Stealth of the Ninja and all its predecessors can stand alone as adventure novels, rife with action and extraordinary characters.  And those characters are truly extraordinary.  From Alfred and his first-mates Hollie and Seaweed to Sensei (whose name we never learn or even need to know) and the Japanese men Yoshi and Hitoshi whom he meets, the characters are so real that I could imagine finding photos of them online and recognizing them instantly.  Moreover, Philip Roy always bathes his stories in such distinctive settings that they are virtual characters.  From the submarine and Sensei's ship to the ocean and the streets of Choshi and Okinawa, Philip Roy creates worlds to which readers can travel in their minds to experience Alfred's  ventures and vicariously face dangers beyond the norm.  Still, though they are wonderful adventure stories, Philip Roy has much to tell us about the oceans and the world and the impact we have on them.  Alfred may seem disheartened at times–though he finds some hope at the conclusion of Stealth of the Ninja–but I think Alfred himself is a source of hope that there are amazing young people out there who care about this world and, recognizing its problems, see themselves as part of the solution. They may not all do it as stealthily as Sensei and Alfred but there's still hope that it's getting done.  By telling the stories of the Submarine Outlaw, Philip Roy gives us all hope as well.

Submarine Outlaw series by Philip Roy

July 10, 2017

Fatima and the Clementine Thieves

Written by Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-529-5
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
July 2017

In 2012, Fatima et les voleurs de clémentines was published by Éditions de la Bagnole and it promptly won the 2012 Prix jeunesse de l’Alliance française and was nominated for the 2013 Forest of Reading Tamarac Express award.  Now, five years later, English readers can share in this heartwarming story based on an African proverb that says “When spider webs unite, they can stop elephants.”  It’s a story of a defeat by the small and insignificant of the large and strong and ominous.  It’s a Moroccan spider vs elephant tale and the winners are Fatima and her grandfather and their clementine orchard.
From Fatima and the Clementine Thieves 
by Mireille Messier 
illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Fatima helps her grandfather in their clementine orchard.  They are looking forward to having enough to take to market so that they can buy fish and pistachios and olives and perhaps a treat of almond paste.  And with her friends, the spiders, keeping the bugs from the trees–she treats them to clementines peeled into flower shapes as a thank-you– Fatima's anticipation is great.

From Fatima and the Clementine Thieves 
by Mireille Messier 
illus. by Gabrielle Grimard 
But the young girl and her grandfather awake to broken branches, trampled fruit and even uprooted trees. A nighttime vigil reveals a mother and two baby elephants are the culprits, surprising Fatima's grandfather who declares elephants have not been seen in the area for centuries.  Though they try to scare the animals off with noise and water and even throwing pistachios at them, the elephants continue to do their damage.

Grandfather in his traditional djellaba and turban and belgha slippers seeks out the advice of others in the market, finally relenting to the purchase of a rifle.  But Fatima is sure there has to be a better way to save their clementines.

Fatima enlists the help of her seemingly insignificant spiders–she actually asks them and they agree–to spin a thick wall of spider webs, thwarting the elephants whose way is blocked.
"You have saved the orchard!"
"AND we saved the elephants," adds Fatima, proudly.
"You may be small, but what you have done is very big."
(pg. 29)
The message in Mireille Messier's text is very clear: even the smallest, most insignificant creature can achieve astounding success when united in purpose and working with determination.  By setting the story in a land of clementines and elephants, she has honoured a very African saying and acknowledged the moral without leaving the continent from which it arises.  Fatima and the Clementine Thieves celebrates a culture of which many Canadian children will be unfamiliar but about which they will appreciate learning, especially since they are undoubtedly familiar with daunting tasks.  Learning a new math skill or studying for a test or dealing with family dramas may not be the same as an elephant destroying your clementine orchard but they are all predicaments or stresses one must handle.  As such, children will be able to empathize with the plight of Gabrielle Grimard's Fatima and Grandfather who appear kindly and sympathetic because of her soft artwork that always emotes beyond the page. (Previous reviews of her artwork include When I Was EightNot My Girl, and The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred.)

Fatima and the Clementine Thieves is a feel-good story about problem-solving and triumph and purposeful work. Thank you to Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard for giving all readers a wonderful back story for every clementine we might enjoy in future and for a new illustrated lesson on achieving success with little but determination and a united front.
From Fatima and the Clementine Thieves 
by Mireille Messier 
illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
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Author Mireille Messier launches Fatima and the Clementine Thieves this Saturday in Toronto.  This free event will take place at the Indigo at Yonge and Eglinton. Details are listed here.

July 08, 2017

Fatima and the Clementine Thieves: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

Join author Mireille Messier

for the launch of her newest English-language picture book

the English translation of
Fatima et les voleurs de clémentines
Texte de Mireille Messier
Illustrations de Gabrielle Grimard
Éditions de la Bagnole
2012

Fatima and the Clementine Thieves
Written by Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-529-5
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
Release July 2017

on

July 15, 2017

11 am - 2 pm

at

Indigo Yonge Eglinton
2300 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON

From Red Deer Press website:
One morning, Fatima and her grandfather wake up to find their clementine orchard savagely ransacked. 
Who could be doing this? 
How can the culprits be stopped?

A little girl faces an ENORMOUS problem. Luckily, Fatima has powerful friends: the spiders!

Retrieved from https://www.reddeerpress.com/Detail/0889955298 on July 7, 2017.

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I will post  my review of this lovely picture book before the launch next week.  Look for it here on CanLit for LittleCanadians.

July 07, 2017

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

Written by Kallie George
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
HarperCollins
978-1-44344-393-7
163 pp.
Ages 7-12
July 2017

The Heartwood Hotel is enchanting and Mona is the endearing mouse who brings heart to it and this first book in Kallie George's new series. Though the Heartwood Hotel is a long-established abode for travellers in search of rest and safety, Mona stumbles upon it when displaced by a storm from her stump–hardly a home, just her most recent residence–and transported by raging water deep into Fernwood Forest.  She is given shelter for the night by the badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, in exchange for help in cleaning up after the First Acorn Festival, a rollicking event held in the ballroom.
From Heartwood Hotel: A True Home 
by Kallie George 
illus. by Stephanie Graegin
But when he learns of her sad story of no family or home, only a walnut-shell suitcase with a heart carved into it, he takes her on as a maid to assist Tilly the squirrel while the housekeeper Mrs. Higgins, a hedgehog, is under the weather.  Though Tilly is supposed to familiarize Mona with the routines and layout of the hotel, she is rather mean to the young mouse and Mona seems to make many a mistake as she learns for herself what to do and not do.  Fortunately, there is a wonderful cast of characters to help her out: Gilles the lizard desk clerk; Ms. Prickles the porcupine cook; Mr. Higgins the hedgehog gardener; and Maggie and Maurice, the sibling laundry bunnies.  But it's the guests like skunks Lord and Lady Sudsbury and Miss Cybele the swallow that truly recognize Mona's spirit in supporting the hotel's motto,
We live by "Protect and Respect," 
not by "Tooth and Claw." (pg. 11)
Still after one too many mistakes and Tilly encouraging her to pack up before she is fired, Mona departs the hotel.  Huddled in an old log, she learns of a planned attack by wolves. The little mouse rushes back to warn Mr. Heartwood and the rest, coming up with a plan to ensure the safety of the Heartwood Hotel and her new family of staff and guests.
"...as she explained, the eyes of the animals grew wide and bright with the power of a big idea, of a brave idea, of a brilliant idea." (pg. 136)
From Heartwood Hotel: A True Home 
by Kallie George 
illus. by Stephanie Graegin

How do I convey to readers the infinite sweetness and gentility of A True Home? From the warm-hearted atmosphere and compassionate mission of the Heartwood Hotel and its staff to the plot of finding home, amidst common foibles and uncommon dangers, Kallie George's text is rich in friendship, courtesy, diversity and affection.  That majestic tree's hotel is built upon a solid foundation of respect for all creatures and the natural world of interrelationships, though as in the human world some need to be avoided if one is to survive.  But even the wolves, though frightening to many of the residents at the Heartwood Hotel, have an inane quality about them, squabbling about their achievements and the existence of the Heartwood Hotel. By doing this, Kallie George makes A True Home a suitable read-aloud for younger children who will easily be able to imagine the Hotel with its miscellaneous accommodations (including the root floors with hibernation suites, trunk floors, branch floors, twig floors and honeymoon and penthouse suites) and star-gazing balcony and ballroom. Graced with the black-and-white pencil drawings of American illustrator Stephanie Graegin, Heartwood Hotel's first book, A True Home, has surely found a place for itself in youngCanLit by captivating and gladdening our own hearts.

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The launch for the first two books in the Heartwood Hotel series, A True Home and The Greatest Gift, will be held next week in Vancouver so, if you can, be sure to check it out. Details here.

July 06, 2017

Jon's Tricky Journey: A story for Inuit children with cancer and their families

Written by Patricia McCarthy
Illustrated by Hwei Lim
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-145-4
70 pp.
All ages
July 2017

The fact that Patricia McCarthy, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, wrote this book is a sad reminder that there are many children, including Inuit children, who must endure treatment for cancer. Their childhoods should be filled by play and learning and friends and family and not the medical traumas involved in being diagnosed with and then treated for cancer.  Jon's Tricky Journey, which is both picture book story and resource guide, takes the reader on that journey and provides a compendium of supportive resources for navigating pediatric cancer treatment in the North.

Jon is an Inuit boy who lives with his parents (anaana and ataata) and two siblings and their husky dog Nanuq in Nunavut.  He loves camping, watching the northern lights and hearing stories about his ancestors.
From Jon's Tricky Journey 
by Patricia McCarthy
illus. by Hwei Lim
When Jon starts to feel pains, a visit to the nursing station ends up sending him to the hospital far away south.  Only his anaana goes with him to a land of trees and noise and busyness that made him fearful.  A social worker helps him and his anaana adjust, including finding them a place to stay, while he visits with the oncologist Dr. Lewis who tells him that he has a lump called cancer inside his body.  An operation is needed to remove it and then he'll have to take special medicines.
From Jon's Tricky Journey 
by Patricia McCarthy 
illus. by Hwei Lim
From the nurses and child-life specialists, pharmacists and special visitors, Jon is helped through what he calls his "tricky days," those days when pain, fatigue and homesickness overwhelm him.  (The above art illustrates Jon's trick of thinking happy thoughts, such as camping, to get through episodes of pain.) As he deals with his chemotherapy (a word not used in the story) and becomes more familiar with the routines and the hospital and meeting other children with cancer, Jon begins to appreciate that he is showing strength and resilience, just like his Inuit ancestors.

Patricia McCarthy's intent for this book is to "serve as a source of comfort and useful information for families who find themselves far from home, facing a cancer diagnosis in a strange and sometimes frightening environment." (pg. 37)  Jon's Tricky Journey, the story, is a reassuring depiction of what a child might need to go through when being treated for cancer but that story only takes 34 pages.  The remainder of the picture book lists children's hospitals and cancer treatment facilities and a map of flight paths from Arctic locations to these facilities; navigation and coordination services by region; descriptions of all medical team members; answers to FAQs; the northern pain scale, most appropriate for Inuit children; a glossary; an art project; and additional resources.  Jon's Tricky Journey, brilliantly translated into Inuktitut so that it can be read by all family members, should be available at every treatment centre accommodating Inuit children and their families as well as the nursing stations of their home communities.  By depicting Jon's Inuit life and his oncology journey with simplicity and realism, Malaysian illustrator Hwei Lim ensures that any child of the North dealing with cancer will see himself or herself within the pages. This is as it should be.  Sadly, Jon's Tricky Journey could be the journey of far too many children but, within the pages of this book, there is some solace that it's a journey that is not taken alone.

July 05, 2017

I See London, I See France

Written by Sarah Mlynowski
HarperCollins
978-1-44344-317-3
377 pp.
Ages 13+
July 2017

I See London, I See France could be 19-year-old Sydney Rothstein's travel journal but it's more a story of her coming into herself, evolving from doormat and people-pleaser to the protagonist of her own adventure, all within the grand setting of Europe. It's a bumpy road with a lot of switchbacks, drama and tourist attractions and it's worth the ticket price.

This was the summer trip to Europe that wasn't supposed to happen, although Sydney and her BFF Leela Veer had been planning on it since they were children.  With Sydney's mom's agoraphobia putting the kibosh on her going to college anywhere but home in Maryland, it looked like Leela was going to end up in Europe with her boyfriend Matt whom she'd met at McGill.  But then Matt kisses some random girl and the two break up and he's supposed to cancel his ticket and Sydney's younger sister Addison agrees, reluctantly, to take on the job of caring for their mother for a month and Sydney finds enough money to go.  So, with Travel Europe guidebook in hand and a cell phone which she only uses with free WiFi, Sydney sets out on her excellent European adventure with her supportive but oft-coddled best friend.

They barely get off the ground when the two American girls learn Matt did not cancel his trip but is instead going to be travelling with his best friend Jackson.  Leela can't help stressing over what Matt is doing and if they're going to bump into the guys (and sometimes making sure they do!) and what she still feels for him.  Being the sensitive friend she is, Sydney goes along with Leela, trying to make sure she has a great time, sacrificing her own needs even while stressing over her sister's casual care-giving of their mother.  And, amidst all that emotional balancing act and visits to London, Amsterdam, Paris and several more planned and unplanned destinations, Sydney starts experiencing her own panic attacks and crushing on Jackson, whom Leela calls a "man whore."

How do you have a mind-blowing European adventures with a friend who vacillates between hating and stalking her ex/boyfriend while worrying about your agoraphobic mother who is being looked after by your sixteen-year-old sister? You put on that bon vivant attitude and keep trying new foods and drinks, seeking out the must-see tourist attractions, kissing some random guys and making sure that your BFF has the spectacular adventure you planned. Fortunately, Sydney finds she can talk to Jackson, even when she isn't supposed to be seeing him, and to her college friend Kat whom the girls visit in Paris and unfortunately whom Leela obviously feels threatens her friendship with Sydney.  It's a whirlwind trip of old and new friends, old and new loves, and food and drink–I think I fixated on the waffles and gelato–and selfies.  What they bring home, beyond the snow globes for Addison, is far more than can fit in their luggage.

There are a lot of teens starting their own European adventures right now, perhaps just for the summer or as part of a gap year.  I See London, I See France will certainly resonate with them as they leave family, friends and romances behind and seek to make new connections and memories, some fleeting, some life-long, along the way.  Sarah Mlynowski, who consistently delights with her entertaining and warm-hearted children's, teen and adult books,  takes on this rite of passage for many young people and creates a story that, even with the stressors of family and friends and decision-making, anyone would be pleased to have as their own.  Of course there's angst, both the kind as a result of others' actions and the self-imposed variety, but there's love and sex and novelty and experiences that go beyond the norm.  It's what a summer should be, at least once in your life. Bon voyage!

July 04, 2017

Animals Illustrated


Walrus
Written by Herve Paniaq
Illustrated by Ben Shannon
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-142-3
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
June 2017







Muskox
Written by Allen Niptanatiak
Illustrated by Kagan McLeod
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-122-5
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
December 2016


Narwhal
Written by Solomon Awa
Illustrated by Hwei Lim
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-080-8
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
September 2016



Polar Bear
Written by William Flaherty
Illustrated by Danny Christopher
Inhabit Media
978-1-77227-079-2
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
September 2016



Last year, Nunavut publisher Inhabit Media created a new non-fiction series about arctic animals.  The books of this series, currently a total of four, generally follow a similar format, with chapters on range, skeleton, diet, and babies included in all, but also with possible chapters on predators, defense, traditional uses and fun facts.  Similar in organization but unique in delivery, the books inform, engage and illustrate the nature of these magnificent animals.

Walrus, the most recent volume, was written by elder Herve Paniaq who goes beyond the typical information texts about animals that describe the morphology of the creatures with some life cycle and behaviour.  Readers will also learn about the nature of the walruses' tusks, as anchor, ice pick and defense against their only natural predators, polar bears and orcas, and the function of the walruses’ whiskers and flippers. But it’s the uncommon info, like which bulls can be a threat to boats and how walrus meat is prepared by the Inuit, that makes Herve Paniaq’s Walrus distinct.  Moreover, Ben Shannon’s illustrations bring an elegance to the walrus that might not always be evident.  The cover alone is luxuriant in its depictions of walruses, with one walrus seeming to look out directly at the reader.

The earlier books in the series are all written and illustrated by different authors and artists.  The first book Polar Bear, written by William Flaherty with art by Danny Christopher, includes discussion about the polar bear as hunter and swimmer and its role in Inuit mythology.  Narwhal, written by Solomon Awa and illustrated by Hwei Lim, was also released last June, and includes comment about the narwhal’s deep diving and behaviour beneath the ice, as well as about its impressive tooth, often referred to as a tusk, that can grow up to almost 3 metres in length.  Inuit hunter and trapper Allen Niptanatiak’s volume on Muskox, illustrated by Toronto artist Kagan McLeod, includes extensive information about the muskoxen's strategies for defense and for withstanding the cold.  As in Walrus, the traditional uses of this arctic animal by the Inuit are discussed, providing a community connection that teachers will appreciate.

Animals Illustrated is a significant series for young animal lovers who are interested in reading for themselves about the animals of the Arctic, exotic for many, but without the onerous texts of animal encyclopedias that tell too little about too much.  Walrus, Muskox, Narwhal and Polar Bear strike the right balance of information and graphics, including only relevant and revealing science, intriguing our youngest readers to pursue further information about each as they choose.