May 20, 2015

The King of Keji: Book Launch (Wolfville)


author Jan L. Coates

and illustrator Patsy MacKinnon

for the launch of their new picture book

 from Nimbus Publishing

The King of Keji
32 pp.

More than just a camping trip to Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park

on Saturday, June, 6, 2015

11:00 a.m.


The Box of Delights Bookshop
466 Main Street
Wolfville, Nova Scotia

May 19, 2015

2015 Forest of Reading winners!

The Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading's book awards have been an important part of my school library program and my personal volunteer experiences for many years, so I am always proud to post the results of this wonderful reading program.

It's impossible to congratulate all those who made this reading program and the Festival of Trees such a success but here are some of the amazing people who play important roles in its success:

• the readers;
• the selection committees who read so many books to choose the best for the shortlists;
• the steering committees that organize and put on the fabulous Festival of Trees;
• the OLA staff, with Meredith Tutching at the helm;
• the authors and illustrators who provide enviable youngCanLit;
• the publishers who publish youngCanLit and promote it; and
• the winners and honourees in each reading program.

Here are this year's readers' choice winners for each reading program:

Blue Spruce


The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten
by Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
Kids Can Press


Silver Birch EXPRESS


Let's Get Cracking: Kung Pow Chicken #1
by Cyndi Marko
Scholastic Canada

Reviewed here

Silver Birch FICTION

The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier

Silver Birch NON-FICTION 


Annaleise Carr: How I Conquered Lake Ontario to Help Kids Battling Cancer
by Annaleise Carr, as told to Deborah Ellis

Le prix Peuplier


Le voleur de couche 
by Nadia Sévigny, AnneMarie Bourgeois 
Éditions de la Smala

Le Prix Tamarac 


La plus grosse poutine du monde
by Andrée Poulin
Bayard Canada

Le Prix Tamarac EXPRESS


Guiby - Une odeur de soufre 
par Sampar (Samuel Parent)
Éditions Michel Quintin

Red Maple Fiction


The Rule of Three
by Eric Walters 

Red Maple Non-Fiction


The Last Train: A Holocaust Story
by Rona Arato

White Pine FICTION

by Eve Silver
Katherine Teegen Books/HarperCollins


Thrilling news for all authors, illustrators and publishers!

Enjoyed all the more for being selected 
by young Canadian readers!

Congratulations to everyone!

The full list of winners and honour books is posted at CanLit for LittleCanadians Awards here or from the news release from OLA .

May 11, 2015

Susan Juby and Susin Nielsen: Book Launches

Two authors

two new books

The Truth Commission reviewed here
We Are All Made of Molecules reviewed here

many book launch events

Monday, May 11, 2015
7:00 p.m.
Indigo CrossIron 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
7 :00 p.m.
Chapters Brampton

TORONTO (North York)
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
7:00 p.m.
Toronto Public Library, North York Central Branch 

Thursday, May 14, 2015
6:30 p.m.
Ottawa Public Library, Carlingwood Branch

VANCOUVER (Kitsilano)
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
7:00 p.m. 
Kidsbooks in Kitsilano

We are All Made of Molecules

by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books
246 pp.
Ages 12+
For release May, 2015

Blending families can be difficult but even more so when each family has a young teen burdened by the issues related to why their original family no longer exists.  We Are All Made of Molecules is told in the alternate voices of two young teens, Ashley and Stewart, whose families are joined together when Stewart’s dad, Leonard Inkster, and Ashley’s mom, Caroline Anderson, decide to move in together.  Stewart’s wonderful mother, Janice, has died of ovarian cancer, and Ashley’s father, Phil, has realized that he is gay and now lives in the laneway house behind the very house Stewart’s dad, Ashley’s mom, and Ashley and Stewart, and Stewart’s cat Schrödinger, will now cohabit.  Yep. Awkward.

Even though Stewart could continue at Little Genius Academy, he chooses to attend Ashley’s high school, claiming “It’s time for me to work on my ungifted parts.” (pg. 31) In fact, he makes a list of things he will do at his new school like getting more involved, smiling more, making jokes, and not getting discouraged.   And with a new “sister” like Ashley who melds her drama queen with mean girl to perfection, Stewart has to work pretty hard.  But the serendipitous attraction between Ashley and a jock hottie and bully named Jared puts Stewart in the awkward position of liaison, one that gives him some respite from attacks on two fronts but also breeds some doubts.

Ashley’s emphasis on the Social Ladder and everyone’s placement on it,
People like Stewart don’t even count. They don’t even have a foot on the ladder. They can’t even touch the ladder.  They are forbidden from going anywhere near the ladder. (pg. 74)
is re-assessed courtesy of Stewart and his quality self.  Susin Nielsen dedicates her book “To Oskar–Boy, did Dad and I hit the Jackpot” and I think Stewart’s family did the same.  He’s a quality human being: incredibly gifted, kind-hearted, compassionate and loyal.  He could rip into Ashley any number of times for her selfishness and cruelty–and her misuse of common phrases are to dye for! (my deliberate faux pas)–but holds back, though he still thinks,
She doesn’t have to changes houses, and bedrooms, and neighbourhoods! And sure, her parents are divorced, but at least they are still ALIVE! (pg. 24)  
Still Stewart shares with Ashley the knowledge that they are all made of molecules, explaining his quirky but tear-jerking way of harnessing any remaining molecules of his mother’s soul. By contrasting these two teens, one with quirky wisdom ringed with love and the other who sees differences as hierarchy and can’t see the difference between “joie de beaver” (pg. 122) and joie de vivre, Susin Nielsen has once again created a story that slices into your heart with tenderness and splinters your side with humour.

Look for We Are All Made of Molecules on award lists everywhere soon. 

May 10, 2015

Giraffe Meets Bird

Written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 2-5
May, 2015

Rebecca Bender’s award-winning duo, Giraffe and Bird, from Giraffe and Bird (Dancing Cat Books, 2010) and Don’t Laugh at Giraffe (Pajama Press, 2012), have returned in Giraffe Meets Bird and young readers will finally learn how the two unlikely but perennial friends came to be.

When little Bird emerges from his shell in the very tree which Giraffe has enjoyed, the two begin the dance of friendship, a fascinating play of learning more about each other’s personality quirks.

Then, not unlike many a friendship, a conflict creates a turning point.  Scratching himself against the tree,  Giraffe accidentally pitches little Bird into the grass, not far from a reclining lion!  Giraffe springs into action, saving Bird and esconcing them safely back in the tree (I know!) to wait out the departure of their potential predator.  But then what?

As a teacher I might be tempted to use the text of Giraffe Meets Bird to demonstrate  the richness of synonyms (e.g., fascinated/tickled, surprised/amazed, cross/angry) as the pair of creatures respond similarly but differently to their circumstances.  Or I might focus on the value of sharing and thinking of others.  But as a reader and lover of children’s illustration, I prefer to revel in a charming story about an unlikely friendship.  Rebecca Bender’s story is sweet and hopeful and enchanting.  But it’s her artwork that would charm birds out of the trees.  (Oh wait, it already has!)  Bird is a bundle of lime fluff, with a singing stance worthy of any Idol wannabe, whereas Giraffe has the wide-eyed wonder–and gorgeous lashes!–of a lanky and clumsy juvenile. They are young and naïve and innocent and generous of heart.  And the rich turquoise sky and the flirty acacia tree (I used the book's endpapers of acacia branches as a frame for the book cover above) will transport young readers to a very real savannah, even one with a lion and elephant or two.

Rebecca Bender could have taken Giraffe and Bird on another adventure with a life lesson about friendship, but I am so glad that first she made sure that Giraffe Meets Bird and had the two became the extraordinary friends they are today. 

May 09, 2015

Mad Miss Mimic: Book Launch (Toronto)

Sarah Henstra 


will be launching her first book

Mad Miss Mimic
by Sarah Henstra
272 pp.
Ages 13+


Tuesday, May 19, 2015
7-10:00 p.m.


High Park Curling Club
100 Indian Road
Toronto, ON

Wear a fancy hat (DIY embellishments encouraged!)
and participate in a contest  (judging at 8:30 p.m. sharp)
to win a free, signed copy of Mad Miss Mimic and other prizes

Special performance by Cantores Celestes Women's Choir

Book City will have copies on sale

May 08, 2015

Mad Miss Mimic: Q & A with author Sarah Henstra

Sarah Henstra
of Razorbill's newest #YACanLit 
and historical romantic mystery

Mad Miss Mimic
272 pp.
Ages 13+
For release May, 2015

has graciously agreed to allow 
CanLit for LittleCanadians 
to explore her writing world 
and learn more details about her and Mad Miss Mimic.

 *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

HK:  Mad Miss Mimic delves into a great number of issues. When you set out to write Mad Miss Mimic, which was the issue (stuttering and mimicry, explosives, overuse of opium, morphine and laudanum, etc.) that spurred you on and why?

SH:  The first idea that started to grow in my imagination into something like a story was Leonora’s ability to mimic other people’s voices. A talent like this could mean trouble for an upper-upper class girl like Leo who is expected to speak with perfect decorum and sincerity at all times. She’d have to keep her mimicry tightly under wraps, right? But what if she couldn’t keep it under wraps? What if she couldn’t control when she falls into mimicry or whom she imitates? What if, despite her beauty and her good connections and her inheritance, Leo has to be hidden away from society for fear of gossip? What if she keeps accidentally scaring away the eligible bachelors who come to court her? Now that would be a story!

HK:  Did you always intend to make Mad Miss Mimic into a historical romantic mystery, or did the plot take you there without your knowledge?

SH:  I started to think about Mad Miss Mimic on a research trip to London. Mornings were spent at the British Library, reading about mourning customs during the Victorian period. In the afternoons I would ramble all around the city, searching out tiny shops in back alleys and sitting under trees in the public gardens. Because of my academic work my mind was already in the nineteenth century, I guess. I love London for the way history is crammed cheek by jowl with the modern commercial stuff. Right behind a Topshop there’ll be a cobblestone lane with huge wooden doors on iron runners and a trough to feed the carriage- horses—that sort of thing. So the historical setting came first, followed by the romantic mystery plot.

HK:  As a professor at Ryerson, your teaching of Gothic literature and women in literature has undoubtedly helped enhance your own writing.  Whose writing most influenced your own?

SH:  I’m a big believer in the role repression plays in romance: the steamiest scenes result from what the lovers are unable, or unwilling, to say to one another. Nineteenth century fiction perfected this formula: Jane and Rochester, Catherine and Heathcliff, Lizzie and Darcy. So I had lots of models to work from.

I was teaching Bram Stoker’s Dracula while writing Mad Miss Mimic, so that book in particular made an impact on mine. The newspaper articles written by Leo’s cousin Archie and scattered throughout the novel are a structural trick I lifted straight from Stoker. In fact, at one point Dracula led me astray when it came to historical accuracy in my manuscript. Stoker has his characters employ all the latest gadgets and medical theories and communication technologies to outmaneuver the vampire (who wants to colonize the ‘new world’ of London but is stuck in the past). Telegrams, phonographic recordings, cinema shows, blood transfusions, steamships— Stoker geeked out about all this newfangled stuff in his 1897 novel.

In one of Mad Miss Mimic’s last rounds of editing, my hawk-eyed copy editor/fact-checker flagged a scene in which Archie is speaking to Leo while trying to meet his deadline for reporting the train derailment. I’d described Archie typing furiously and then tearing the paper out of the typewriter with a flourish and handing it off to the printers. Except that my novel takes place in 1872, and the first QWERTY typewriter—which of course gets heavy play in Dracula—wasn’t manufactured until 1873. Oops!

HK:  I find so much to love about youngCanLit but I'm especially enamoured with writing that is rich and evocative and your writing is both.  I wrote down quote after quote, loving how your words mean so much more than their simple meanings, such as this one passage:
“Where I balanced now, though, was a world askew. Oh, it was still peopled by beer-sellers and fishwives and scavenging children, but all these poor souls went about their business in perfect ignorance.  They did not know what I knew.  How could they?  They had not leapt as I had. They couldn't possibly see how disordered the world had become, how its most basic elements had been shuffled and scattered and turned on end.” (pg. 158)
What experiences (e.g., education, workshops, reading, etc.) were most important in shaping your writing?

SH:  I’ve been reading for pleasure and keeping some kind of journal since I was very young. I first learned to write fiction by copying out passages from my favorite books and writing my own stories in the style of my favorite authors—in other words, through mimicry! Graduate school taught me to read texts more carefully, to notice how they were put together and what effects they created for readers. But what taught me how to write novels was writing a novel. It’s such a long, solitary task, and when you’re finally finished the first draft is when the real work begins! Nothing can really prepare you for that ahead of time.

HK:  This is your first novel.  Was Mad Miss Mimic the book that you always dreamed of writing or are there still more books in your future?

SH:  Mad Miss Mimic is the first novel I finished—there were others I got partway through, including a first installment of a YA fantasy trilogy. I have more ideas for books than I’ll ever be able to write in this lifetime. Luckily, I’ve discovered that writing is like yoga or multivitamins: doing it every day makes me a healthier, happier person. So stay tuned…!

 *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

Many thanks to author Sarah Henstra for answering these questions for CanLit for LittleCanadians and to Vikki VanSickle, publicist extraordinaire, for facilitating this author interview.