August 30, 2014

Author Event: Deborah Ellis (online)


On Friday, September 19, 2014
at 1 p.m. EST

youngCanLit author 
Deborah Ellis 

will be hosting an 
Ask Me Anything (AMA)
thread on


To participate
set up an account at reddit.com (it's free)

Then, at the designated time and date, 
go to

You can:
• ask questions
• upvote favourite questions that you see
• read answers

With over 20 outstanding books of fiction and non-fiction for young readers, including

The Cat at the Wall 
(Groundwood, 2014)


Moon At Nine
 (Pajama Press, 2014)



Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids
(Groundwood, 2013)










No Ordinary Day
(Groundwood, 2011)



The Breadwinner
(Groundwood, 2000)
Deborah Ellis will certainly inspire great discussions about her writing and important social justice issues.


Don't miss this great opportunity to speak to one of Canada's award-winning authors for young people!


The Cat at the Wall

by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-491-6
154 pp.
Ages 8-12
For release September, 2014

Many people believe that we are each put on this earth for a specific purpose: to love, to suffer, to teach, to battle, to learn humility, to help others find their voices.  But, if one is placed here to learn a lesson that doesn't get learned, the consequence might be reincarnation to try again. I suspect that's why thirteen year old Clare from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has returned as a scrawny cat in Bethlehem on the West Bank. And judging by her attitude, she still has a lot to learn.

Clare the cat becomes immersed in a situation in the West Bank that has her reflecting on the circumstances that led to her death and her return as a feline struggling for food and shelter and avoiding skirmishes with other cats, including the king tom and his bunch.  Her past human life and current feline existence are told in parallel lines, allowing comparisons between her role in her own demise and in helping to resolve a conflict in which she is essentially an observer.

After being chased from the wall at a checkpoint from the West Bank to Israel, the cat sneaks into a small house when two Israeli soldiers break in, planning on setting up a surveillance on another residence.  Happy for the safety, shelter and opportunities for food and the occasional scratch, the cat makes herself quite at home, even creating some of the same mischief she enjoyed in her previous life.

When she exposes a young boy hidden under a toy city constructed of boxes and cans and other garbage, the two soldiers first restrain him as a potential threat before coming to his aid with an inhaler for his asthma and food. Sadly, the two Israelis do not understand the child as he chants and rocks himself back and forth.  However, Clare the cat has the distinct ability to understand all languages spoken by humans and animals and recognizes the boy's repetitious murmurings as the famous poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (1927), words that she despises because of their negative association with a teacher, Ms. Sealand, whom Clare blames for her death.  Aaron, the more seasoned soldier, a commander from Tel Aviv, is more intuitive about the boy than Simcha, the gun-happy young American private who came looking for a chance to fight and who is suspicious of everything including the scared little boy.  Even while they wonder about the young boy's family, Aaron is able to empathize with the youngster, seeming him as vulnerable and as scared as any of them.

Meanwhile, the cat watches and judges all those around her: Aaron, Simcha, the boy, and others who later become players in the situation, all the while recalling events involving her younger sister Polly, her parents, Ms. Sealand (rudely called Ms. Zero)–everyone.  Her own refrain seems to be "Not my fault.  Not my problem." (pg. 24), acknowledging that "Being kind doesn't lead to anything good." (pg. 63) 

But even the cat (who understands all linguistically) could never have imagined that the life lessons shared with her before she'd died as a thirteen-year-old girl would be others' salvation.  Not that Deborah Ellis ever writes anything that contrived or convenient.  Clare the cat doesn't just, bang, recognize how she can help resolve conflicts; Clare the girl never did.  The cat is still essentially the brash female who absolves herself of any responsibility for the consequences her actions bring about.  It's almost impossible for her to look beyond herself, to see the big picture, the context in which she experiences life.  That is, until she realizes she must do something quite extraordinary.

The concept of karma is well-illustrated in The Cat at the Wall, as is the idea of a purposeful life. But Deborah Ellis does not belabour these themes to teach responsibility or gratitude.  She simply tells an extraordinary story of conflicts that can spiral out of control and be resolved by adherence to some simple truths. The Cat at the Wall is a touching allegory that should remind us all to live a life of goodness and honesty.  It will be well worth it in the end.

<><>><><><><><><><><><<><><><>
Here, for context, is Max Erhmann's famous poem:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and 
remember what peace there may be in 
silence. As far as possible without surrender 
be on good terms with all persons. 
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen
to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too 
have their story. 
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are 
vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself
with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser 
persons than yourself. 
Enjoy your achievements as well as your 
plans. Keep interested in your own career, 
however humble; it is a real possession in the
changing fortunes of time. 
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for 
the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind
you to what virtue there is; many persons
strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is
full of heroism. 
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. 
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of
all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as
the grass. 
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth. 
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in
sudden misfortune. But do not distress
yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are
born of fatigue and loneliness. 
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with
yourself. You are a child of the universe, no
less than the trees and the stars; you have a
right to be here. And whether or not it is clear
to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it
should. 
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever
you conceive Him to be, and whatever your
labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion
of life keep peace with your soul. With all its
sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still
a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
 © Max Ehrmann 1927

August 29, 2014

Swimmers


by Amy Bright
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-513-4
216 pp.
Ages 12+
July, 2014

Amy Bright burst onto the youngCanLit scene with Before We Go (Red Deer Press, 2012), a novel that did not shy away from tough issues like cancer, death and grief, and she felt no compunction to bring it all to a happy conclusion.  As such, I expected another emotionally-engaging story in Swimmers, and I was not disappointed.

Hunter Ryan is returning home to Victoria after spending the past 3 months in Lethbridge, living with his Aunt Lynne and being home-schooled with a twelve-year-old girl, Poppy, by her mother.  When his friend Lee arrives delivering news about Hunter's friend Niall, they board a Greyhound bus to return home, surprisingly bringing Poppy along with them, without her mother's permission.

The events and discussions on the journey home in December are juxtaposed with Hunter's recollections of events primarily from the previous two school years when he'd become close friends with Niall Black, a guy with a lot of issues and always on some drug or another.
"He didn't like the way things were when they weren't blurred around the edges, stretched out and slow." (pg. 17)
And, though a lot of other teens found Niall to be dangerously enigmatic, never knowing what might set him off, Hunter saw something different in Niall.
"The big Niall thing, the one that kept him golden even when everyone started turning on him, was that he was like no one else." (pg. 15)
But, about a year before the trio travel from Alberta to BC, something happens that will change everything for both Niall and Hunter. Much later, Hunter recognizes that,
"You take that step forward and lose the way back" (pg. 91)
Not the same teen who left three months earlier, Hunter proves that sometimes a step forward is just that, hopefully bringing clarity where there was none.  Amy Bright brings Hunter and Poppy through the confusion of misunderstandings about others' actions and their own roles in those choices, burdening themselves with more than just guilt. What's worse is when others attribute that same blame, such as in Hunter's situation.  While Hunter attempts to make sense of his confusion, through interactions with a school counsellor, friends, and family, Poppy suffers in silence, just ruminating about it, wrapping it up in a tight bundle of resentment.

How we see others' flaws and accept responsibility for their choices is a basic theme of Swimmers, a novel in which young people are just trying to keep their heads above water, even attempting to save those who cannot.  Not surprisingly, there are those who should take some responsibility for others' actions, including Hunter's family, Niall's family and Lee, but Hunter and Poppy are not two who should accept it.  They have not only accepted it, they have chosen to carry that burden themselves, never realizing how that load could have been  lessened sooner.  Drowning in it did not have to be an option.

August 28, 2014

Author Kat Kruger: Book Tour (Toronto)

Young adult author
Kat Kruger 
whose supernatural series, The Magdeburg Trilogy
I've completely reviewed and recommended, 
is hitting the road (well, at least into the Toronto area) 
to promote the series' final volume, The Night is Found.  

You've got five wonderful opportunities 
to meet and learn from the popular author of
all from Fierce Ink Press.


Kat Kruger will be at the following locations and times:

ChiSeries Reading
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
8-10 p.m.
The Round Venue
152 Augusta Avenue (Kensington Market area)

The Night is Found book signing
Thursday, September 18, 2014
12-4 p.m.
Indigo at Bay and Bloor


Q & A with Kat Kruger
Thursday, September 18, 2014
7-8 p.m.
Toronto Public Library, Spadina Branch
10 Spadina Road

Writing Workshop with Angela Misri, author of Jewel of the Thames
Friday, September 19, 2014  
1-3 p.m.
Riverdale Library
370 Broadview Avenue

Word on the Street (Toronto): Reading and book signing
Sunday, September 21, 2014
11:45 a.m.
Queen's Park Circle

Word on the Street (Toronto): Wattpad Meet and Greet 
Sunday, September 21, 2014 
3 p.m.
Queen's Park Circle

Say hello from me!

August 27, 2014

Tomorrow's Kingdom

nota bene: As Tomorrow's Kingdom is the final book 
in The Gypsy King trilogy, 
I adamantly recommend that, 
if you haven't read Books 1 and 2 already, 
please read them first 
to enjoy the full effect of The Gypsy King trilogy.  
It is so worth it!



by Maureen Fergus
Razorbill
978-0670067664
448 pp.
Ages 12+
July, 2014

Persephone's trajectory has been an extraordinary one from The Gypsy King (Razorbill, 2012) to A Fool's Errand (Razorbill, 2013) and now Tomorrow's Kingdom.  From slave to long-lost twin of King Finnius, then seeker of the healing Pool of Genesing and initially-reluctant bride of the gypsy Azriel, Persephone launches Tomorrow's Kingdom as the true Queen, and hostage of Regent Mordecai who intends to wed her and rule the kingdom himself.

In addition to Mordecai plotting Persephone's future with him, Lord Bartok is working with the other lords to liberate and return her to the throne, by attacking Mordecai's New Men army.  Of course, Bartok plans to wed Persephone himself, in case his daughter Aurelia, who is pretending to be pregnant with King Finnius' child, doesn't succeed in making it a pseudo-reality with some random man.

If Persephone is anything, she is amazingly strong and determined, first to save herself and then focus on her next steps. 
"All that was left to do was to find Azriel, prevent the slaughter of the tribes, save the Kingdom and take the throne." (pg. 113)
Yeah, that's all. 

But, just as Persephone has been transformed, so too has Azriel, from chicken thief and proud Gypsy and target of Mordecai's New Men army, to Persephone's devoted protector and amorous husband.  And when he learns that she is pregnant with his child, there is nothing he won't do to keep her safe.

It's a fight for tomorrow's kingdom, a kingdom which Persephone has promised will unite the five tribes–Erok, Gypsies, Khan, Marinese and Gorgishmen–of Glyndoria.  But, with so much plotting for the throne, it's not surprising that deception and battle may be deemed necessary.  But who is deceiving whom?  Well, it's not Persephone with Azriel or vice versa, and that is the sweetness in a battle-ridden conclusion to the trilogy.  While Books 1 and 2 have Persephone and Azriel doing some romantic sparring as they sort out their feelings for each other and attempt to interpret the other's actions (often incorrectly), Tomorrow's Kingdom releases the reader from worrying whether the two lovers will find their way to each other.  They have.  Now there's so much more to worry about: an angry Mordecai who is losing his grip on his New Men army; Lord Bartok whose plans for control are being thwarted by his hapless son and daughter; the tribes who all have some reservations about Persephone's prophesized reign; and the healthy birth of a baby that may mean everything to everyone.

Maureen Fergus is so adept at carrying readers away to a different land and time, of cultures and societies so different than our own, where their speech is different, from crass to formal, their lifestyles foreign (in more ways than one), and their spirits undefinable.  From vivid descriptions of scenery,
"...as she beheld the sprawling castle that rose up before her.  Built in the shadow of a barren mountain at the very edge of a high cliff, it was constructed of blackest stone.  Except for along the cliff edge, it was protected by a wall so thick that a brace of oxen could have pulled a wagon along the top if it hadn't been for the iron spikes set every few feet.  Several of these spikes were topped with heads that appeared to have been dipped in tar to slow the process of decay; the rest stood empty and waiting against a backdrop of low clouds scudding across the stormy sky." (pg. 65)
to experiences beyond my imagination,
"After shoving into her mouth a piece of meat so tender, juicy, fragrant and delicious that she almost started to cry, Persephone unenthusiastically handed the rotten-toothed man his share." (pg. 134) 
and the seasoned speech of any character, including the third-person speaking Gorgishman,
     "Miter has not pledged friendship!" reminded the Gorgishman shrilly. "Miter has pledged nothing but his eternal enmity if you take this tiresome war of yours anywhere near his beloved valley!"
     "Oh, stop," said the Gypsy dryly.  "You're making me feel all choked up inside."
(pg. 327)
the text becomes a part of the plot, enriching all elements of the story.  Every word spoken or not is fulfilling to the experience that is Tomorrow's Kingdom, as was in The Gypsy King and A Fool's Errand. But here we have the delight of a hard-earned happy finale, with a last-minute surprise or two, before ending with the words, "The Gypsy that would be king." (pg. 456)

August 26, 2014

Word on the Street 2014: Kitchener, Toronto, Halifax


In addition to the two western communities promoted earlier, Word On The Street, the annual celebration of literacy and the written word, will take place in Kitchener, Toronto and Halifax. 

Below, I've outlined the basics about the Kitchener, Toronto and Halifax WOTS, including listing of children's and young adult authors and illustrators scheduled to appear.  Check the website of the specific WOTS to determine how each author will participate in Word On The Street. Regardless, the list of youngCanLit authors and illustrators is mind-blowing! I truly hope you are near enough to attend one of these festivals.  Go YoungCanLit!

    WOTS      WOTS     WOTS      WOTS     WOTS     WOTS   

Date:     Saturday, September 20, 2014
Time:     11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Location:    Kitchener City Hall


YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Lesley Livingston, children's and YA author of Wondrous Strange, DescendantNow and for Never and How to Curse in Hieroglyphics
  • Caroline Pignatchildren's and YA author of UnspeakableEgghead, and Greener Grass
  • Eve Silver, YA author of Rush and Push

WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

Toronto

Date:    Sunday September 21, 2014
Times:    11 am - 6 pm
Location:    Queen's Park Circle


YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Helaine Becker, children's and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction author of upcoming Dirk Daring Secret Agent,  A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, How to Survive Absolutely Everything, and Ode to Underwear
  • Andrea Beck, author-illustrator of Goodnight, Canada, Pierre in the Air!, and the Elliot Moose series
  • William Bell, author of YA books Fanatics, Stones, Zack and Only in the Movies
  • Sangeeta Bhadra, author of upcoming picture book Sam's Pet Temper
  • Megan Crewe, YA author of upcoming Earth & Sky, and dystopian The Worlds We MakeThe Way We Fall and The Lives We Lost
  • Laura Croza, picture book author of From There to Here and I Know Here
  • Claudia Dávila, author-illustrator of Super Red Riding Hood and graphic novel Luz Sees the Light, and illustrator of Viminy Crow's Comic Book
  • Rachelle Delaney, author of The Circus Dogs of Prague and The Metro Dogs of Moscow
  • Cary Fagan, children's fiction author of The Show to End All Shows, I Wish I Could Draw, Oy Feh So?Mr. Zinger's Hat and The Fortress of Kaspar Snit
  • Gail Gallant, author of YA Apparition
  • Jennifer Gold, author of YA Soldier Doll
  • Matt James, illustrator of Northwest Passage, From There to Here, and I Know Here
  • Lynne Kositsky, YA author of upcoming With Fearful Bravery, The Plagues of Kondor, and Minerva's Voyage
  • Julie Kraulis, picture book author and illustrator of Whimsy's Heavy Things
  • Kat Kruger, author of paranormal YA The Night is Found, The Night Has Teeth, and The Night Has Claws
  • Lucy Leiderman, author of YA fantasy Lives of Kings and Lives of Magic
  • Lesley Livingston, author of Now and For Never, Descendant, Wondrous Strange, and co-author of How to Curse in Hieroglyphics and upcoming The Haunting of Heck House
  • Jonathan Llyr, co-author of How to Curse in Hieroglyphics and upcoming The Haunting of Heck House
  • Elizabeth Macleod, children's non-fiction author of Bunny the Brave War Horse, Why Do Horses Have Manes?A History of Just About Everything and Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History's Mysteries
  • Brian McLachlin, comic creator of Alex & Charlie
  • Angela Misri, YA mystery author of Jewel of the Thames
  • Melanie Mosher, picture book author of Fire Pie Trout
  • Kenneth Oppel, author of The Boundless, Such Wicked Intent, This Dark Endeavour, Silverwing, Airborn
  • Stella Parthenious Grasso, children's author of 101 Creepy Canadian Jokes and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Puck
  • Karen Patkau, illustrator of picture books A Good Trade and One Watermelon Seed, and author-illustrator of non-fiction books Who Needs a Reef?: A Coral Ecosystem and Creatures Great and Small
  • Shane Peacock, author of Double You, Last Message and The Boy Sherlock Holmes series
  • Caroline Pignat, author of Speakable, Egghead, and Greener Grass
  • Emily Pohl-Weary, author of YA Not Your Ordinary Wolf-Girl
  • Robert Priest, YA author of The Paper Sword and The Old Pirate of Central Park
  • Michael Redhill, author of Saving Houdini 
  • Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of Naked! and I'm Bored
  • Richard Scarsbrook, YA author of The Monkey Chronicles and Nothing Man and the Purple Zero
  • Richard Scrimger, author of upcoming The Wolf and Me, Zomboy, Ink Me, co-author of Viminy Crowe's Comic Book
  • Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, children's author of Dance of the Banished, The Best Gifts, Underground Soldier, and Making Bombs for Hitler
  • Ted Staunton, children's and YA fiction author of upcoming CodaJump Cut, Who I'm Not and Acting Up
  • Joel A. Sutherland, author of scary story collection Haunted Canada 4: More True Tales of Terrors
  • Suzanne Sutherland, author of YA When We Were Good, and Something Wiki
  • David Weale, picture book author of Doors in the Air, Three Tall Trees and True Meaning of Crumbfest


WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS 

Date:     Sunday September 21, 2014
Time:    11 am - 5 pm
Location:    Halifax waterfront, around the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic


YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • David Atkinson, children's author of upcoming Wereduck
  • Jill Barber, singer-author of Music is For Everyone
  • Janet E. Cameron, YA author of  Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World
  • Lesley ChoyceYA author of upcoming Into the Wasteland, Jeremy Stone, Crash and Rat
  • George Elliott Clarke, poet-author of Lasso the Wind: Aurelia's Verses and Other Poems 
  • Jan L. Coates, author of Rocket Man, The Power of Harmony
  • Lennise Gallant, songwriter-author of Peter's Dream and A Day With You in Paradise
  • Jacqueline Halsey, author of Bluenose Adventure
  • Lisa Harrington, YA author of Twisted and Live to Tell
  • Faith Erin Hicks, graphic artist of The Sound of Thunder and graphic novelist of Friends with Boys
  • Kate Inglis, children's author of Flight of the Griffons and The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods
  • Jessica Scott Kerrin, children's author of The Spotted Dog Last Seen
  • Meghan Marentette, children's author of The Stowaways
  • George Murray, author-illustrator of Wow Wow and Haw Haw
  • Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome
  • Natalie Corbett Sampson, author of young adult romance Game Plan

WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

If there are any errors in this posting, they are completely my own. Please check the Word On The Street websites provided to confirm details.

Word on the Street 2014: Lethbridge, Saskatoon


Across Canada, five communities are planning their WOTS days.  If you see "WOTS" in Twitter, Twitterers are talking about Word On The Street, an annual celebration of literacy and the written word.  Usually held in late September, readers and writers come together to share their love of books and magazines, participate in workshops, readings, and check out the CanLit book buyer's nirvana of marketplaces. 

Details about WOTS in Lethbridge and Saskatoon follow here, with a listing of youngCanLit authors who are scheduled to attend.  I'll post about the other three WOTS directly.


Date:   Sunday September 21, 2014
Time:   11 am - 5 pm
Location:  Main Library at 5th Ave. S. and 8th St. S.


YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Karen Bass, author of Graffiti Knight and Drummer Girl
  • Erin Bow, children's author of Sorrow's Knot and Plain Kate
  • Jacqueline Guest, children's author of Ghost Messages, Outcast of River Falls and Belle of Batoche
  • Carrie Mac, author of young adult The Opposite of Tidy, The Gryphon Project and The Droughtlanders
  • Michelle Mulder, fiction and non-fiction author of Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home, Not a Chance and Out of the Box
  • Ruth Ohi, author and illustrator of Fox and Squirrel, Kenta and the Big Wave, and Chicken Pig Cow
  • Morgan Rhodes, author of young adult fantasy Falling Kingdoms and Rebel Spring
  • Martin Springett, author of illustrated non-fiction Kate and Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story

WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS


Date:    Sunday September 21, 2014
Time:    11 am - 5 pm 
Location:    Civic Square around City Hall, in front of Frances Morrison Library


YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Kelley Armstrong, children's and YA author of Odin's Ravens, Loki's Wolves, The Gathering, The Awakening, The Calling, The Reckoning
  • Brenda Baker, YA author of Camp Outlook
  • Deborah Ellis, author of newest The Cat at the Wall, Looks Like Daylight, The Breadwinner, I Am a Taxi
  • Beth Goobie, author of young adult The Throne, Jason's Why and Born Ugly
  • Alice Kuipers, author of  upcoming children's book Violet and Victor Write the Best Ever Bookworm Book, and young adult 40 Things I Want to Tell You and The Worst Thing She Ever Did
  • Marion Mutala, author of A Magical Ukrainian Christmas
  • Martine Noel-Maw, auteur de Le 13e Souhait
  • Barbara Reid, plasticene illustrator of new The Night Before Christmas; also Perfect Snow, Fox Walked Alone
  • Shannon Richards, author of cookbook Monkeys in the Kitchen
  • Carey Rigby-Wilcox, author of My Dad Couldn't Read
  • Arthur Slade, children's and YA author of the Hunchback Assignments series, Dust, and Megiddo's Shadow
  • Edward Willet, author of Song of the Sword and Twist of the Blade of The Shards of Excalibur fantasy series


WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

If there are any errors in this posting, they are completely my own. Please check the Word On The Street websites provided to confirm details.