July 29, 2015

Attack of the Toga Gang

by George Bowering
Dancing Cat Books
978-1-777086-442-9
170 pp.
Ages 10-13
May 2015

Thank you, George Bowering, for bringing laughter and humour and wordplay into my life at this time.  I needed a good laugh and Attack of the Toga Gang provided it aptly.  And for teachers who want to bring poetry, courtesy of officiando George Bowering, former Poet Laureate of Canada, into a humourous plot perfect for middle-graders that includes a variety of hats, peculiar foods, Ancient Rome, a mysterious ring, and lessons on individualism, Attack of the Toga Gang has it all.  It is a complete hoot: funny, clever, poetic, and mysterious.

It all starts when a group of Grade 7 students from Major Douglas Middle School start a poetry club.  In addition to our narrator, Harry Fieldstone, lover of miscellaneous hats and really weird drinks, there is Neville Neatby, leader and innovator; Viv Lemieux, she of the booming voice and copious red hair; Feet Corbishley, lover of bpNichol and sandles-wearing daughter of hippies; and new kid Norm Nakamura-McNamara, who is still to be determined.  The kids meet up at various cafés and diners around town to share the poetry that they’re writing and discuss the nuances of it.
I can’t remember much about Viv’s poem except it was short and to the point and had a zebra in it.  Any time you put a zebra in a poem, you are going to have people remembering it. That’s my advice to all you young poets out there.  Put a zebra in your poem.  Or a kangaroo. (pg. 6)
In between their poetry sessions, going to an odd assortment of  B+ movies and school, Harry likes to play at archaeologist, digging at sites slated for construction.  At one site, he discovers a old ring enscribed with the letters SPQR and, taking it to their wizened university astronomer friend, Professor Purzelbaum, Harry learns that its origin is Ancient Rome.  More importantly, it was the Kauderwelsch ring, that had been imbued with special powers for the wearer who manipulated it a certain way.  The ring had been destined to be used for promoting human progress and well-being.  But then it was taken by the Toga Gang, and they would be determined to possess it again.

Now the kids have to find the means to evade those of the Toga Gang, who seem to manifest in different groupings, while Harry learns of the ring’s mighty powers: invisibility, speed, jumping prowess, mind-reading, etc., each on its own day of the week.  Be prepared for regular eruptions of chuckles as the distinctive group of kids rhyme and reason their way through the muddled subplots of their lives.

For those middle-grade readers who aren’t into the budding romances of YA and enjoy a good laugh at no one’s expense, Attack of the Toga Gang will entrall.  George Bowering’s light-hearted storytelling will delight readers, even old ones like myself, with his play on words, his poetry and prose, and comical take on kids’ being themselves.  Within his droll perspective, George Bowering has a lot to say about poetry, and young people, and life in general.
Then he read from a piece of foolscap paper, and I have to admit that it was pretty good.  I can’t remember the poem off by heart, but it had a goldfish in a blender in it.  And I especially liked the part about the human heart bouncing down a long flight of stone steps.  For centuries poems have had hearts in them, but I had never imagined one so clearly. (pg. 23)
But don’t look for deep insight in Attack of the Toga Gang because that’s not it’s purpose, though a wise teacher would find a valuable read-aloud resource within.  Attack of the Toga Gang is amusing entertainment of the written word and a joy to read.

July 28, 2015

YoungCanLit Who's Who: Illustrators R-Z, List II

This final list of youngCanLit illustrators will round out our lists nicely to 100+!

Erica Salcedo



Sampar



Roslyn Schwartz



Alan Silberberg



Sleepless Kao



Lisa Smith



Sydney Smith



Caroline Stellings



Todd Stewart



Jillian Tamaki



Christine Tripp



Anne Villeneuve



Frank Viva



Ange Zhang



Amei Zhao

So ends this sixth list of illustrators of youngCanLit.  I've included the artwork of some of their non-youngCanLit as well when I thought it would be worthwhile for readers to make the connection between artwork and artist.  Suffice it to say that the richness of illustrators and their works is immense and I could not do justice to that wealth.  I suspect that I will need to refresh these lists again in a few years.  But for now I hope this Who's Who of youngCanLit illustrators is enough to entertain and educate everyone a little.

Just a reminder that the other five lists are:

Illustrators A-G (April 9, 2013)
Illustrators H-Q (April 10, 2013)
Illustrators R-Z (April 11, 2013)
Illustrators A-G, List II (July 24, 2015)
Illustrators H-Q, List II (july 26, 2015)

July 26, 2015

YoungCanLit Who's Who: Illustrators H-Q, List II

Here's list # 2 for this second round of youngCanLit illustrators:

Kellen Hatanka



Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli



Matt James






Brooke Kerrigan






Dayal Kaur Khalsa



Jon Klassen





Julie Kraulis






Eliska Liska





Mike Lowery





J. Lum





Elly Mackay





Patsy MacKinnon





Isabelle Malenfant



Cyndi Marko



Luc Melanson





Nicholas Oldland



Paola Opal




Pierre Pratt

Check yesterday's listing for Illustrators A-G, List II.

July 24, 2015

YoungCanLit Who's Who: Illustrators A-G, List II


Here is the first of three new posts of youngCanLit illustrators whom I'd like to celebrate and promote.


Andrea Torrey Balsara



Kate Beaton




Josée Bisaillon

  


Mike Boldt



Claudia Dávila



Geneviève Després




Julie Flett





Alma Fullerton





Celia Godkin




Elise Gravel




Gabrielle Grimard




Per-Henrik Gürth
____________________________________________

Look for the following lists in the next couple of days:

YoungCanLit Who's Who: Illustrators H-Q, List II
  • Kellen Hatanka
  • Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli
  • Matt James
  • Brooke Kerrigan
  • Dayal Kaur Khalsa
  • Jon Klassen
  • Julie Kraulis
  • Eliska Liska
  • Mike Lowery
  • J. Lum
  • Elly Mackay
  • Patsy MacKinnon
  • Isabelle Malenfant
  • Cyndi Marko
  • Luc Melanson
  • Nicholas Oldland
  • Paola Opal
  • Pierre Pratt
YoungCanLit Who's Who: Illustrators R-Z, List II
  • Erica Salcedo
  • Roslyn Schwartz
  • Sampar
  • Alan Silverberg
  • Sleepless Kao
  • Lisa Smith
  • Sydney Smith
  • Caroline Stellings
  • Todd Stewart
  • Jillian Tamaki
  • Christine Tripp
  • Anne Villeneuve
  • Frank Viva
  • Ange Zhang
  • Amei Zhao

More youngCanLit illustrators to celebrate

Several years ago I prepared three lists of 50+ Canadian illustrators whose artwork featured prominently in young CanLit.  But now I've got so many more to add this Who's Who of Canadian illustrators. So let me remedy those omissions with a new series of illustrator profiles.

Here are the names of those illustrators I previously listed, including the links so that you can reexamine their work.

Illustrators A-G
Isabelle Arsenault
Andrea Beck
Philippe Béha
Rebecca Bender
Renné Benoit
Rachel Berman
Sean Cassidy
Brenda Clark
Gary Clement
Geneviève Côté
Mike Deas
Brian Deines
Suzanne Del Rizzo
Jan Dolby
Marianne Dubuc
Wallace Edwards
Eugenie Fernandes
Marie-Louise Gay
Georgia Graham
Dean Griffiths



Illustrators H-Q
Ted Harrison
Linda Hendry
Stéphane Jorisch
Vladyana Krykorka
Kim LaFave
Marie LaFrance
Hilary Leung
Qin Leng
George Littlechild
Michael Martchenko
Esperança Melo
Julie Morsted
Cynthia Nugent
Ruth Ohi
David Parkins
Karen Patkau
Dušan Petričić
Stéphane Poulin




Illustrators R-Z
Karen Reczuch
Barbara Reid
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Bill Slavin
Ashley Spires
Bruno St. Aubin
Patricia Storms
Kevin Sylvester
Jeremy Tankard
François Thisdale
Chris Tougas
Vlasta Van Kampen
Ian Wallace
Mélanie Watt
Dave Whamond
Janet Wilson
Yayo
Cybèle Young




In the next 3 posts, let me introduce you to another 45 that will round out our youngCanLit illustrators list to a lovely 100 plus! Some of these are very new to illustration while others are well-known and definitely belong in a listing of the best of youngCanLit illustrators. Prepare to be amazed!

Illustrators A-G, List II
Andrea Torrey Balsara
Kate Beaton
Josée Bisaillon    
Mike Boldt
Claudia Dávila
Geneviève Després
Julie Flett
Alma Fullerton
Celia Godkin
Elise Gravel
Gabrielle Grimard
Per-Henrik Gürth

Illustrators H-Q, List II
Kellen Hatanka
Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli
Matt James
Brooke Kerrigan
Dayal Kaur Khalsa
Jon Klassen
Julie Kraulis
Eliska Liska
Mike Lowery
J. Lum
Elly Mackay
Patsy MacKinnon
Isabelle Malenfant
Cyndi Marko
Luc Melanson
Nicholas Oldland
Paola Opal
Pierre Pratt

Illustrators R-Z, List II
Erica Salcedo
Roslyn Schwartz
Sampar
Alan Silberberg
Sleepless Kao
Lisa Smith
Sydney Smith
Caroline Stellings
Todd Stewart
Jillian Tamaki
Christine Tripp
Anne Villeneuve
Frank Viva
Ange Zhang
Amei Zhao

As always, any omissions or mistakes are solely my own and never meant to exclude or offend.  I have far too much respect for these talented artists to do anything but admire and promote.