February 12, 2016

Betting Game

by Heather M. O'Connor
Orca Book Publishers
978-1-4598-0930-7
216 pp.
Ages 10+
October 2015

I've never been much for sports-based fiction, assuming that the plot and characters will be less than stellar when focusing on a sport and its logistics.  And it can be even worse if it is a sport with which I am not familiar.  But, though I'm not a big soccer fan, Betting Game easily captivated my interest with its action and suspense and honest teen characters.

Seventeen-year-old Jack and his brother Alex are very earnest about soccer, attending the Durham Lancers Soccer Academy, aspiring to positions in professional leagues.  Alex is the current captain and takes his responsibility very seriously while Jack is doing co-op with the Lancers' physio team, getting an inside track on injuries and the status of the players.  Not surprising then, when Jack meets a bookie, Luka, through his father at a Lancers game, Jack doesn't tell Alex about it.  Though Jack is chagrined when his dad shares with Luka Jack's successes on fantasy soccer online, Jack is finessed into dishing about the team himself and into placing his first real bet.
My first real bet.  It bumps the game up to a whole new level. Like watching a movie on IMAX instead of a laptop.  Or hearing your favorite band live.  No wonder people bet on sports. (pg. 27-8)
 As with all gambling, the successes beget further bets and Jack becomes both a benefactor of Luka's generosity and ultimately a victim of this relationship.  Meanwhile, the boys' team is learning to work with its new striker, Gil, and Alex, as captain, is distracted, leading Jack to get further and further into Luka's betting game.  

Heather M. O'Connor, an author whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Ontario Library Association's recent SuperConference, has no trouble grabbing the reader's attention with a fast-paced action-filled story.  Betting Game is undoubtedly the kind of read that will grip both sports fans and reluctant readers (at a reading level of 2.0, Betting Game is definitely a hi-lo book).  The story doesn't waste time with extensive prose, having Jack quickly falling deep into the betting game and, though he initially acknowledges the stupidity of his actions, he becomes addicted to the thrill of winning, of having a secret that sets him aside from his brother, and of the self-importance it cultivates in him.  And though hi-lo texts tend to place less emphasis on setting and atmosphere and characters, Betting Game does not lack these elements.  Instead, the story wins the reader over fully with its gripping storyline and its winning ending.  That just goes to show that you can't always bet on how things are going to turn out, whether it be a game, life or a book.


A Teachers' Guide is available from Orca Book Publishers at http://digital.orcabook.com/teachersguides-bettinggame/

February 11, 2016

Malaika's Costume: Book launch (Toronto)

Join author

Nadia L. Hohn

and illustrator

Irene Luxbacher

with publisher

Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)


for the official launch of their picture book


Malaika's Costume
Written by Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books
9781554987542
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
March 2016

on

Saturday, March 5, 2016 


2 p.m.- 4 p.m. 

at

A Different Booklist 
746 Bathurst Street
Toronto, ON

The book is described as follows:
It’s Carnival time. The first Carnival since Malaika’s mother moved to Canada to find a good job and provide for Malaika and her grandmother. Her mother promised she would send money for a costume, but when the money doesn’t arrive, will Malaika still be able to dance in the parade? 
Disappointed and upset at her grandmother’s hand-me-down costume, Malaika leaves the house, running into Ms. Chin, the tailor, who offers Malaika a bag of scrap fabric. With her grandmother’s help, Malaika creates a patchwork rainbow peacock costume, and dances proudly in the parade.
(Retrieved from House of Anansi website at http://houseofanansi.com/products/malaikas-costume)


In addition to supporting diversity in youngCanLit,
this book launch will be a great opportunity to:

• get a taste of the Caribbean Carnival season
• hear a reading of the book by author Nadia L. Hohn
• meet the illustrator Irene Luxbacher, and
• purchase a copy of the book, and get it signed. 

February 09, 2016

Hannah and the Wild Woods

by Carol Anne Shaw
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-440-6
240 pp.
Ages 10+
September 2015

Author Carol Anne Shaw introduced West Coast Hannah and her supernatural affinities in Hannah and the Spindle Whorl (Ronsdale Press, 2010) and followed up with Hannah and the Salish Sea (Ronsdale Press, 2013).  In both stories, Hannah, a teen who lives in Cowichan Bay, had been touched by First Nations spirits of the past, giving her a greater appreciation for their history and for the environment.  Though Hannah and the Wild Woods is the third book in the series, I  am pleased to say that it can be read without reading Books 1 and 2, capably standing alone with a new set of characters and story line, while keeping Hannah tethered in spirit to her roots and passions.

It’s spring break and fifteen-year-old Hannah is heading to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to work with the Coast-is-Clear program, clearing beach debris, much washed up from the Japanese tsunami of 2011.  Surprisingly, also going is Sabrina Webber, Hannah’s rich-girl nemesis, who has to do some eco-community service to avoid juvie for shoplifting.

Things at home are a little tenuous with Hannah’s dad considering moving them from their houseboat at Cowichan Bay to a home in Victoria with his girlfriend, Annie.  Moreover, Hannah’s boyfriend Max is in Mexico vacationing with his family and seemingly at arm’s length.  But Hannah does have Jack, her raven buddy, who follows her to the Tofino area where she will be staying at the lodge called the Artful Elephant with other Coast-is-Clear volunteers.  Led by the program facilitator, Peter, and his girlfriend Jade, Hannah and Sabrina are joined by an older teen, Kimiko, who reveals that she lived through the tsunami and has lost her father.  But there is something unsettling about Kimiko, from the way she moves and disappears sometimes to her relentless questioning of Hannah, and it’s evident that the lodge’s resident dog, Norman, thinks things are off with Kimiko too, kicking up a fuss whenever she’s around.

When a glass ball with curious markings on a gold chain that Jack finds for Hannah goes missing, Hannah begins to suspect Kimiko.  But, Hannah has no idea how weird things are going to get, especially when she spies a fox with multiple tails and the glass ball and chain hanging from one of them.  There’s also a lone wolf that appears to be watching the lodge and the volunteers.  With Jack’s help, Hannah tries to learn Kimiko’s secret and that of the fox and wolf, and make things right for the whole lot of them, while still working to clean up the environment.  She’s one busy girl.

It’s evident that Carol Anne Shaw has great affection for the West Coast, its people and environment, and she takes the reader into that milieu easily.
I push my hair under my hat and face the sea, leaning into the wind at a forty-five degree angle.  It's as though the wind up here is on steroids! I hang for a couple of moments, feeling weightless before allowing myself to be blown back upright.  I feel a little bit like the shrubs and western hemlock out on the point, all of them growing in the same direction, shaped by years of being hammered by the relentless winds. (pg. 38-39)
Everything Hannah feels and does is embedded in that caring and concern and she is a totally believable character.  She wants to be good and do good but is still human with her distress, frustration, suspicion, worry and anger.  But by tying in elements of Japanese folklore, specifically the kitsune and Okami, Carol Anne Shaw makes Hannah and the Wild Woods into a bigger story of finding oneself and one’s family and accepting mistakes as learning steps.  Kimiko has lots of learning to do (even if she is almost 900 years old!) but, at 15, Hannah has lots of life wisdom to share.  Though there are multiple harrowing circumstances and even a devastating loss, Hannah and the Wild Woods will deliver the reader to a calm that can only appear after the storm.  Look forward to the ending.

February 04, 2016

To the Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground (Great Idea Series)

by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by David Parkins
Tundra Books
978-1-77049-520-3
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
January 2016

The son of former slaves, Garrett Morgan, came from humble beginnings, working on a Kentucky farm alongside his family before heading north at 14 to find something more.  His first invention came by simple observation from the clothing factory floor which he cleaned.  Sewing machine belts were often breaking and Garrett Morgan's development of a stronger belt resulted in a promotion to sewing-machine repairman.  Garrett Morgan relayed this success into his own sewing-machine shop and tailoring shop, and was on his way.

Garrett Morgan could well have been considered a success at this point, owning his own house, and running his own businesses.  His successes were all the more because he was an African-American man in a time of great prejudice and ignorance.  But he continued to develop new products, serendipitously developing a cream for hair straightening which led to his first patent and the beginnings of the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Company.

But the key product for which Garrett Morgan is showcased in To the Rescue! came from the man's shock at the death toll from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911.  Determined to help the firefighters breathe while inside burning buildings, Garrett Morgan developed a safety hood, the precursor to the gas mask, that utilized long hoses to draw breathable air from ground level and allow the wearer to exhale safely, with a sponge to filter out smoke.  He called it Morgan's Safety Hood and Smoke Protector.  Though it worked, it was often shunned because the inventor was black.

It wasn't until a gas explosion trapped more than thirty men underground in Cleveland that Garrett Morgan's safety hood was utilized and applauded as valuable. Not surprising the safety hood was developed further for use as a gas mask during World War I.

With Black History Month upon us and To the Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground just published last month, it seems appropriate that I share the book with readers now.  Everyone knows the big inventors like Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison but Monica Kulling continues to shine some publishing light on the accomplishments of lesser known but just as notable inventors.  The safety hood was a great idea and Garrett Morgan is deserving of recognition for this achievement.  It’s heartbreaking that the colour of his skin may have prevented earlier implementation of his invention and perhaps could have saved lives sooner.  Fortunately, some were able to see beyond that and accept the significance of the safety hood for everyone.

Surprising, Tundra’s Great Idea Series uses a variety of illustrators, though the text is wholly Monica Kulling, and I like the selection of David Parkins to illustrate To the Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground.  David Parkins, who also illustrated In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up and Spic-and-Span! Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder Kitchen by Monica Kulling, is reknowned as a cartoonist, including an editorial cartoonist for The Globe & Mail, and there’s a retro cartoon feel to the art that works well for To the Rescue! The illustrations of pen and ink with watercolours are embedded in realism, necessary for non-fiction, but still gentle and detailed, conveying much about the time and the people, critical for a biography.

I understand that there will only be ten books in the Great Idea Series and this one is the eighth.  So, if you haven’t already, get with it and start your collection of illustrated biographies with To The Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground to recognize the inventiveness of one African American while talking up safety and necessity as the mother of invention.

February 03, 2016

Black History Month: An updated youngCanLit book list


Two years ago I prepared my first book list of 54 youngCanLit titles for Black History Month.  I have updated that list periodically when important titles were brought to my attention or were newly published, like Caroline Pignat’s Governor-General award-winning book, The Gospel Truth.  But, it gets to the point when that list becomes a bit ragged and the formatting starts to go wonky and I thought it best to update it and reorganize it completely.  I hope that, in this more complete list of 76 titles, enhanced with the addition of titles brought to my attention by readers, everyone will find something that helps them grasp the importance of Black History Month to all Canadians.




Dear Baobab
by Cheryl Foggo
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Second Story Press
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
2011
Immigration to Canada


From Lands of the Night
by Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by Darrell McCalla
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 7+
January, 2014
East African traditional stories, celebration


Malaika’s Costume
by Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
2016
Carnival, immigration to Canada


Mayann's Train Ride
by The Honourable Mayann Francis
Illustrated by Tamara Thiébaux Heikalo
Nimbus Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 4-9
2015
Biography

Music From the Sky
by Denise Gillard
Illustrated by Stephen Taylor
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
2011
African-Canadian intergenerational relationship

Nana's Cold Days
by Adwoa Badoe
Illustrated by Bushra Junaid
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
2002
Visit to Canada from Africa
The Orphan Boy
by Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by Paul Morin
Oxford University Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
1990
Masai folklore




A Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories
by Adwoa Badoe
Illustrated by Baba Wagué Diakité
Groundwood
62 pp.
Ages 7-10
2001
African folklore 

Up Home
by Shauntay Grant
Illustrated by Susan Tooke
Nimbus
32 pp.
Ages 7-11
2011
North Preston’s black community

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged!
by Jody Nyasha Warner
Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Groundwood
32 pp.
Ages 7-10
2010
Biography, civil rights







Black and White
by Eric Walters
Puffin
232 pp.
Ages 10-13
2009
Racism, friendship

Crossing to Freedom
by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Scholastic Canada
231 pp.
Ages 10+
2010
Slavery, freedom

Dark of the Moon
by Barbara Haworth-Attard
Roussan Publishers
136 pp.
Ages 9-12
1995
Underground Railroad

A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson (Dear Canada)
by Karleen Bradford
Scholastic Canada
240 pp.
Ages 9-13
2009
Slavery, Underground Railroad

Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada
288 pp.
Ages 9+
2007
Freedom, slavery, Ontario

The Freedom of Jenny
by Julie Burtinshaw
Raincoast Books
182 pp.
Ages 7-10
2005
Underground Railroad, British Columbia

Grease Town
by Ann Towell
Tundra
192 pp.
Ages 10-13
2010
Racism, Ontario
The Heaven Shop
by Deborah Ellis
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
192 pp.
Ages 10-14
2004
Malawi, HIV/AIDS

Hurry, Freedom (A Canadian Flyer Adventure)
by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Maple Tree Press
81 pp.
Ages 6-9
2008
Underground Railroad

I Came as a Stranger: The Underground Railroad
by Bryan Prince
Tundra Books
160 pp.
Ages 11-14
2004
Underground Railroad, slavery

If I Just Had Two Wings
by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Stoddart Kids
221 pp.
Ages 11+
2001
Underground Railroad, slavery

Last Days in Africville
by Dorothy Perkyns
Sandcastle Books/Beach Holme
110 pp.
Ages 8-12
2003
Africville, Nova Scotia, racism

The Madman of Piney Woods
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic
384 pp.
Ages 9+
2014
Sequel to "Elijah of Buxton"

Morning Star
by Judith Plaxton
Second Story Press
277 pp.
Ages 11-14
2011
Underground Railroad

Moses, Me, and Murder: A Barkerville Mystery
by Ann Walsh
Dundurn
112 pp.
Ages 10-14
2013
Based on a Gold Rush murder

My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom
by Afua Cooper
Kid Can Press
160 pp.
Ages 10-14
2009
Historical fiction, slavery, abolitionism

My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom
by Afua Cooper
Kid Can Press
152 pp.
Ages 11+
2009
Biography, slavery, poetry

Rachel: Certificate of Freedom (Our Canadian Girl)
by Lynne Kositsky
Penguin Canada
112 pp.
Ages 8-12
2003
Slavery, racism, freedom, Nova Scotia  

Rachel: An Elephant Tree Christmas (Our Canadian Girl)
by Lynne Kositsky
Penguin Canada
84 pp.
Ages 9-11
2004
Racism, Nova Scotia

Rachel: The Maybe House (Our Canadian Girl)
by Lynne Kositsky
Penguin Canada
83 pp.
Ages 9-11
2002
Loyalists, slavery, racism, Nova Scotia

Rachel: A Mighty Big Imagining (Our Canadian Girl)
by Lynne Kositsky
Penguin Books
64 pp.
Ages 8-11
2001
Slavery, freedom

Seas of South Africa (Submarine Outlaw series)
by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
200 pp.
Ages 10+
2013
Racism, violence, South Africa, apartheid

Send One Angel Down
by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Holiday House
163 pp.
Ages 12-14
2000
Slavery, racism

Stones
by William Bell
Doubleday Canada
210 pp.
Ages 10+
2001
Racism, intolerance

Underground to Canada
by Barbara Smucker
Puffin Canada
144pp.
Ages 9-12
2003
Slavery, Underground Railroad, freedom







Between Sisters
by Adwoa Badoe
Groundwood
205 pp.
Ages 13+
2010
Ghana

A Big Dose of Lucky
by Marthe Jocelyn
Orca Book Publisher
249 pp.
Ages 12+
2015
Heritage

Cape Town
by Brenda Hammond
Great Plains Teen Fiction
326 pp.
Ages 14+
2012
Apartheid, South Africa


Chasing Freedom
by Gloria Ann Wesley
Fernwood Publishing
240 pp.
Ages 13+
2011
Black Loyalists coming to Nova Scotia

Chanda’s Secrets
by Allan Stratton
Annick
193 pp.
Ages 12-15
2004
HIV/AIDS

Chanda’s War
by Allan Stratton
HarperCollins
382 pp.
Ages 13-17
2008
Civil war, child soldiers

The Gospel Truth
by Caroline Pignat
Red Deer Press
328 pp.
Ages 12+
2014
Slavery, freedom

The House of Good Spirits
by Donn Kushner
Lester & Orpen Dennys
214 pp.
Ages 12-15
1990
Racism, slavery, African folktales

If This is Freedom
by Gloria Ann Wesley
Fernwood Publishing
272 pp.
Ages 13+
2013
Black loyalist settlers in Nova Scotia

My Life Before Me
by Norah McClintock
Orca Book Publishers
248 pp.
Ages 12+
2015
Civil rights, racism

Rush Home Road
by Lori Lansens
Back Bay Books
387 pp.
Ages  16+
2011
Town founded by fugitive slaves

Zack
by William Bell
Doubleday Canada
165 pp.
Ages 12-16
1998
Slavery, racism, Richard Pierpoint








Africans Thought of It: Amazing Innovations
by Bathseba Opini and Richard B. Lee
Annick Press
48 pp.
Ages 8-12
2011
Inventions


All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine (Great Ideas Series)
by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Bill Slavin
Tundra Books
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
2010
Biography

Big League Dreams: Baseball Hall of Fame's First African Canadian, Fergie Jenkins
by Richard Bridnall
Lorimer
152 pp.
Ages 11-13
2010
Biography, Fergie Jenkins

The Bite of the Mango
by Mariatu Kumara with Susan McClelland
Annick Press
216 pp.
Ages 14+
2008
Sierra Leone, civil war

Children of Africville
by Christine Welldon
Nimbus
81 pp.
Ages 8-12
2009
Africville, racism, community

Five Thousand Years of Slavery
by Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen
Tundra
168 pp.
Ages 11-16
2011
Slavery

Harriet Tubman: Freedom Seeker, Freedom Leader (A Quest Biography)
by Rosemary Sadlier
Dundurn
190 pp.
2012
Biography, Harriet Tubman

How the Blacks Created Canada
by Fil Fraser
Dragon Hill
255 pp.
Ages 16+
2009
Achievement, Canada, settlement

Jailed for Being Black: The Story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Real Justice)
by Bill Swan
Lorimer
144 pp.
Ages 13-17
2014
Biography, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, injustice, racism

Jarome Iginla: How the NHL’s first black captain gives back
by Nicole Mortillaro
Lorimer
112 pp.
Ages 11-14
2010
Biography

The Kids Book of Black Canadian History
by Rosemary Sadlier
Illustrated by Wang Qijun
Kids Can Press
56 pp.
Ages 9-12
2003
Canada, history

Nelson Mandela: Champion of Freedom (Remarkable People series)
by Simon Rose
Weigl Publishers
24 pp.
Ages 8-12
2010
Nelson Mandela, South Africa

On an American Day: Story Voyages Through History, 1759-1899
by Rona Arato
Illustrated by Ben Shannon
Owlkids Books
96 pp.
Ages 9-13
2011

On a Canadian Day: Nine Story Voyages Through History
by Rona Arato
Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
Maple Tree Press/Owlkids Books
96 pp.
Ages 9-13
2009
Underground Railroad

Out of Slavery: The Journey to Amazing Grace
by Linda Granfield
Illustrated by Janet Wilson
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 9+
2009
Slavery, John Newton

People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression
by Laura Scandiffio
Annick Press
168 pp.
Ages 9-14
2012
Civil rights, Rosa Parks, NAACP, apartheid, South Africa

Season of Rage: Hugh Burnett and the Struggle for Civil Rights
by John Cooper
Tundra Books
71 pp.
Ages 10-15
2005
Racism, civil rights, Ontario

Singing Towards the Future: The Story of Portia White (Stories of Canada)
by Lian Goodall
Illustrated by Liz Milkau
Napoleon Publishing
63 pp.
Ages 9-11
2004
Biography, Portia White

Stay Strong: A Musician's Journey from Congo (Arrivals)
by Natalie Hyde
Clockwise Press
160 pp.
Ages 12-16
2015
Biography

Talking about Freedom: Celebrating Emancipation Day in Canada
by Natasha L. Henry
Dundurn
174 pp.
Ages 12+
2012
Slavery, emancipation

To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada
by Steve Pitt
Dundurn
144 pp.
Ages 10+
2008
War of 1812, Richard Pierpoint, soldiers, Canada

To the Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground
by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by David Parkins
Tundra Books
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
2016
Biography

Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians
by Lawrence Hill
Umbrella Press
64 pp.
Ages 11+
1993
Settlement, slavery, racism, achievements

The Underground Railroad: The Long Journey to Freedom in Canada (Amazing Stories)
by L. D. Cross
James Lorimer
144 pp.
Ages 12+
2010
Slavery, Underground Railroad, freedom

When I Get Older: The Story Behind Wavin’ Flag
by K’NAAN with Sol Guy
Illustrated by Rudy Guttierez
Tundra Books
32 pp.
Ages 7-12
2012
Biography

Willie O'Ree: The Story of the First Black Player in the NHL (Recordbooks)
by Nicole Mortillaro
James Lorimer
140 pp.
Ages 11-13
2012
Biography, hockey, Willie O'Ree

Working for Freedom: The Story of Josiah Henson
by Rona Arato
Napoleon
78 pp.
Ages 10-13
2009
Biography, Josiah Henson, slavery, Underground Railroad







In the Freedom of Dreams: The Story of Nelson Mandela
by Michael A. Miller
Playwrights Canada Press
67 pp.
Ages 14+
2003
Biography, Nelson Mandela









Loyalties: A Trip Down Slavery Lane
Directed by Lesley Ann Patten
Produced by Kent Martin and Lesley Ann Patten
National Film Board of Canada
57 min., 3 sec.
Ages 11+
1999
Heritage, slavery, South Carolina, Halifax