April 29, 2016


by Lesley Choyce
Orca Book Publishers
113 pp.
Ages 12+
RL 3.2
April 2016

At 15 short chapters and a mere 113 pages, and a story plotted by Lesley Choyce (see my reviews of Jeremy Stone and Into the Wasteland from Red Deer Press, 2013 and 2014 respectively), Scam is a valuable addition to Orca Book Publishers' Orca Soundings series of hi-lo books for teens with a story that explores the resiliency of youth.

Scam begins with sixteen-year-old narrator Josh Haslett dealing with the death of his mother.  Josh has always thought of himself as a “good cover-up artist”  (pg. 3) as he had taken care of the household after his dad left and mom had continued to party and do drugs and he had kept social workers oblivious to their situation.  But on the way to his mom’s funeral, as arranged by social work, Josh is scammed of his paltry wallet by a beautiful teen named Lindsey.  Frantic, he chases after her and gets his wallet back but she insists on going to the funeral with him.

As Josh is taken into a group home with other male teens, he continues to meet up with Lindsey who involves Josh in a number of scams, including the theft of wedding gifts, while insisting that she can teach him how to take his own efforts of working the system to the next level.  But Josh knows the difference between survival and cheating others, and he is as uncomfortable with her scamming as much as he is drawn to her.  After helping out at a camp for disadvantaged kids and providing Lindsey with the emotional support she needs after a death in her own family, Josh realizes that somethings that seem very tenous can be very real, even if fleeting.

Lesley Choyce capably gets into the heads of young people, whether they be dealing with dysfunctional families, drugs, mental health or just growing up.  In Scam, Lesley Choyce takes on the issues of grief and trust, and demonstrates that we all need a little help sometimes and that the help can come from the unlikeliest of sources, even those in which we don’t always have confidence.

April 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, Alice Babette

by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2016

Happy birthday to Happy Birthday, Alice Babette, the new picture book from Monica Kulling and Qin Leng and their first collaboration.  While a fictionalized account of an April birthday of Alice B. Toklas which her friend and life partner Gertrude Stein seems to have forgotten, Happy Birthday, Alice Babette provides a enchanting glimpse into the Parisian life of the two women and their fondness for eachother and life in general.

While Alice spends the day walking the streets of Paris, enjoying a carousel ride, a puppet show and thwarting a would-be jewel thief, Gertrude secretly prepares a meal and a birthday poem for her dear friend.  But Gertrude is not familiar with cooking or the stove and oven, and she is distracted by her writing of the birthday poem.
Gertrude worked on Alice’s poem.  She wanted it to be as beautiful as a rose. Meanwhile, the pots on the stove bubbled and boiled.  Smoke rose from the oven. (pg. 26)
From Happy Birthday, Alice Babette
by Monica Kulling, illus. by Qin Leng

When Alice returns home after “a day of marvels”, she resumes her role of cleaning and cooking and supporting her writer friend, unaware that the real surprise for her birthday is still to come. 

Monica Kulling persuasively portrays the companionable, caring, and supportive relationship between these two iconic women of the early twentieth-century as they wrote and nurtured writing by creating a scenario in which their personalities are perfectly complementary.  Gertrude may fail at cooking and baking, unlike Alice Toklas who ultimately wrote a cookbook, but her genius at writing is clear.  And the two women together make for any extraordinary couple.  
From Happy Birthday, Alice Babette
by Monica Kulling, illus. by Qin Leng

I have used the term “lightness” for Qin Leng’s illustrations and in Happy Birthday, Alice Babette, the artist displays that same subtlely with every line and shape and colour.  Her depictions of the two women are remarkable, but it’s the elegance of her illustrations that bring forth the beauty and refinement of the time and place and characters.  

Help Gertrude celebrate Alice’s birthday (139 years ago on April 30, 1877) with Happy Birthday, Alice Babette and get a snapshot into what life must have been like for these two memorable literary figures of the early 20th century.

April 26, 2016

Flickers by Arthur Slade: Out today!

The long-awaited, new book from 
Arthur Slade

#youngCanLit author of 

The Hunchback Assignments series
Modo: Ember's End
Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival
Megiddo's Shadow
and many more

is here!

by Arthur Slade
HarperCollins Canada
256 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 26, 2016

 * * * 

Described by the author himself:

The Great Gatsby meets The Twilight Zone in this chilling 1920's Hollywood page-turner...
From http://www.arthurslade.com/books/

A movie scream so chilling and powerful, it will open up another dimension ...
Orphaned twins Isabelle and Beatrice Thorn are living a glamorous 1920s Hollywood life as wards of Mr. Cecil, a mysterious and influential director. Isabelle is a silent film starlet, destined for greatness in the very first "talkie"--a horror flick. Beatrice spends her days hidden away on the Cecil estate with her books and her insect collection, scarves covering her birthmarks and baldness. But Beatrice’s curiosity about the death of her parents and the unsettling fate of a reporter is getting the better of her and she’s starting to realize Mr. Cecil has truly dark designs for this movie. 
From http://www.arthurslade.com/flickers

 * * * 

And reviewed by author/illustrator Debbie Ohi as:

So I was just going to read the first few pages of Arthur Slade's new middle grade novel FLICKERS this morning to get a taste of what the book was like but then I COULDN'T STOP READING AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. Finished it just now.

Wow. Such a good read.

SoOOoooOOoooOOooo deliciously creepy and dark (I'm a fan of horror MG). Love how the mystery gradually unfolds, and the plot twists along the way. Love the relationship between the sisters. I just loveloveLOVED this book.

If I have nightmares tonight, I am SO going to blame Arthur Slade. :-) I'm also looking forward to rereading the book when it officially comes out this April!
---Debbie Ohi, Author and Illustrator

 * * * 

If you haven't gotten the impression that Flickers is a delightfully scary read, watch the book trailer here.

Flickers by Arthur Slade

Uploaded by HarperCollins Canada to YouTube on April 25, 2016.

April 24, 2016

2016 Canadian Authors for Indies Day: April 30

Celebrate independent bookstores in Canada
on Saturday, April 30, 2016
with your favourite children's and YA authors 
who will be there volunteering!

Across Canada on Saturday, April 30th, many authors will be volunteering their time to promote independent bookstores.   I know I’m going to miss some of your favourites but here’s a generous smattering of independent bookstores who will be hosting an assortment of authors (children’s, YA and adult) and even providing treats and prizes, if you’re lucky!

As I'm only including the names of authors of children's and young adult books here, PLEASE check with the Authors for Indies website for the complete listing of authors and individual bookstores participating.  Also check the timing of events and schedule for author appearances. As you’ll note, authors may be at several venues during the day and I would hate for you to miss them because of a lack of clarity or detail in my listings.

British Columbia
32 Books and Gallery, North Vancouver
David J. Smith (11 a.m. -1 p.m.)

Albany Books, Delta
Ashley Spires (1-3 p.m.)

Armchair Books, Whistler
Sara Leach (3-5 p.m.)
Alex Van Tol (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Banyen Books & Sound, Vancouver
Julie Flett (2-5 p.m.)

Black Bond Books (Trenant Park Square), Ladner
Darren Groth (10 -11 a.m.)
Ashley Spires (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Tanya Lloyd Kyi (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

Black Bond Books, Maple Ridge
Jason Chabot (2-4 p.m.)
Kallie George (2-4 p.m.)

Black Bond Books (Central City), Surrey
Rachel Hartman (12-2 p.m.)

Black Bonds Books Warehouse, Surrey
Gina McMurchy-Barber (11a.m.-1p.m.)
Ben Nuttall-Smith (1-2:30 p.m.)
Cristy Watson (2:30-4 p.m.)

Black Bond Books (White Rock), Surrey
Ben Nuttall-Smith (10:30-12 p.m.)
Cristy Watson (11-1 p.m.)

Book Warehouse on Broadway, Vancouver
Jeremy Tankard

Hager Books, Vancouver
Sarah Ellis (2-3 p.m.)

Laughing Oyster Bookstore, Courtenay
Lyn Hancock(10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Shari Green (12-3 p.m.)

Misty River Books, Terrace
Kathleen Cherry (1-3 p.m.)

Mosaic Books, Kelowna
Michelle Barker
Nikki Tate
Rie Charles

Munro's Books, Victoria
Susan Juby (12-2 p.m.)
Jordan Stratford (12-2 p.m.)
Caroline Adderson (12-2 p.m.)

Russell Books, Victoria
Julie Lawson (9-11 a.m.)

Audrey’s Books, Edmonton
Richard Van Camp (12-1 p.m.)
Alison Hughes (2-3 p.m.)

Owl’s Nest Books, Calgary
Lisa Bowes  (11 a.m.)
Janet Gurtler  (11 a.m.)
David Poulsen (1 p.m.)

SK Books & Collectibles Inc., Regina
Alison Lohans (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

McNally Robinson Booksellers, Saskatoon
Alice Kuipers (12-3 p.m.)

Another Story Bookshop, Toronto
Suzanne Sutherland (3-5 p.m.)
Kenneth Oppel (2-3 p.m.)
Jael Richardson (3-5 p.m.)
Vivek Shraya (1-3 p.m.)

Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge
Rebecca Bender
Suzanne Del Rizzo
Jan Dolby
Eugenie Fernandes
Linda Granfield
Heather O'Connor

Book City (Bloor West Village), Toronto
Julie Hartley (10:30-11:30 a.m.)
E. K. Johnston (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Suzanne Sutherland (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Sharon Jennings (12-1 p.m.)
Vikki VanSickle (11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.)
Kenneth Oppel (12-1 p.m.)
Kevin Sylvester (11 a.m. -12 p.m.)

Book City (Danforth), Toronto
Paul Yee (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Debbie Ohi (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Patricia Storm (12-1 p.m.)

Book City in the Beach, Toronto
Joyce Grant (1-2 p.m.)
Angela Misri (1-2 p.m.)
Lesley Livingston (3-4 p.m.)

Book City (Yonge at St. Clair), Toronto
Joyce Grant (10:30-11:30 a.m.)
Angela Misri (10:30-11:30 a.m.)

BookLore, Orangeville
Jael Richardson

The Bookshelf, Guelph
Thomas King (12-2 p.m.)

Bryan Prince Bookseller, Hamilton
Gillian Chan

Curiosity House, Creemore
Tish Cohen
R. J. Anderson (1-2:30 p.m.)

A Different Drummer Bookstore, Burlington
Gisela Sherman
Jennifer Maruno
Sylvia McNicoll

Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore, Toronto
Kate Blair
Lena Coakley
Caroline Fernandez
Sangeeta Bhadra
Barbara Reid

Epic Books, Hamilton
Nicola Stanley

Furby House Books, Port Hope
Michael Redhill

Jessica's Book Nook, Thornbury
Judith Plaxton (10 a.m. -12 p.m.)

Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books, Ottawa
Kate Jaimet (12:15 -12:45 p.m.)
Tim Wynne-Jones (12:15-12:45 p.m.)
Kelley Powell (1-3 p.m.)
Amanda Lewis (1-3 p.m.)
Eleanor Creasey (1-3 p.m.)
Lucy D. Briand (1-3 p.m.)

Lighthouse Books, Brighton
Michael Redhill (3:30-5 p.m.)
Rene Schmidt (1-3 p.m.)
Peggy Dymond Leavey (12-2 p.m.)

Mill Street Books, Almonte
Liane Shaw (3-5 p.m.)

Oxford Book Shop, London
Welwyn Wilton Katz

R&B Novel-Teas, Niagara Falls
Lynne Kositsky (2:30-4 p.m.)
Eve Silver (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
Jennifer Maruno (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Type Books, Toronto
Vikki VanSickle (10-11 a.m.)
Kyo Maclear (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Sydney Smith (12-1 p.m.)
Frank Viva (12-1 p.m.)
Mariko Tamaki (3-4 p.m.)

Librairie Bertrand, Montreal
Monique Polak (2-4 p.m.)

Librairie Clio, Point Claire
Lori Weber (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

Livres Babar, Point-Claire
Monique Polak (10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Lori Weber (1-3 p.m.)
Bonnie Farmer (1-4 p.m.)
Marie-Louise Gay (2-4 p.m.)
Marie Lafrance (2-4 p.m.)

The Box of Delights Bookshop, Wolfville
Tom Ryan
Jan L. Coates

Bookmark, Charlottetown
Dave Atkinson
Sharon E. McKay

Check out the Authors for Indies website for the plethora of adult authors I didn't even try to mention, and authors and illustrators whose names I don't even know, yet!

Any errors or omissions are completely my own. Please leave a comment if I've made any horrific impossible-to-ignore mistakes that I can resolve promptly.  Thanks.

April 21, 2016

Small Displays of Chaos: Book launch (Saskatoon)

Coteau Books


debut YA author
Breanna Fischer

for the launch of

Small Displays of Chaos
by Breanna Fischer
Coteau Books
112 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2016


Monday, May 2, 2016


7 p.m.


McNally Robinson Booksellers
3130 8th St. E.
Saskatoon, SK

A riveting, haunting novel about one teenager’s journey toward self-love and strength.

17-year-old Rayanne Timko is only a few months into her senior year of high school, and her biggest concern should be deciding on a university and career path. But while her classmates are filled with anticipation, nothing in her life seems to going smoothly, and Rayanne finds herself struggling to overcome anorexia. She has a new friend: Ed - the seductive and demanding presence in her head who insists she be as skinny as possible. With Ed around, Rayanne is blind to nearly everyone else in her life. But what happens when Ray begins to suspect she may be losing more than weight? Will she be able to save her family - and herself - before it’s too late?

Filled with complex relationships and realistic young adult tribulations, Small Displays of Chaos follows Rayanne as she struggles with the astonishingly common yet stigmatized disorder of anorexia nervosa. Throughout her story she fights to discover who she is despite her illness, and learns that by loving herself, she is better able to love those around her.

Retrieved from Coteau Books website at http://coteaubooks.com/index.php?id=1046 
on March 28, 2016.

Convictions: Book launch (Regina)


Coteau Books


author of

The Secret of Sentinel Rock (Coteau Books, 2003)
The Secret of the Stone House (Coteau Books, 2005)
The Secret of the Stone Circle (Coteau Books, 2010)
Ghosts of Government House (Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2011)
Honouring the Buffalo with Ray Lavallee and Mike Keepness 
(Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2015)

Judith Silverthorne

for the release of her newest 
young adult historical fiction novel

by Judith Silverthorne
Coteau Books
232 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2016


Saturday, May 14, 2016


1 p.m.


Sunrise Branch Library
Regina Public Library
3130 Woodhams Drive
Regina, SK

A gripping historical novel about believing in oneself and standing true to one’s convictions.

It’s 1842. 14-year-old Jennie Lawrence has been found guilty of stealing, and finds herself aboard one of the few women-only convict ships destined for Australia.

Jennie had been desperate – and, as she gets to know the other women on the convict ship – she realizes she’s not the only one. Many of the women she gets to know were trying to survive, and feed themselves and their families, before they were caught and sentenced to Australia.

It’s clear from the moment the ship sets sail that the conditions aboard are abhorrent – women are sea sick and ill from the lack of good food and water, they are beaten if they disobey orders, and sleep brings no reprieve – as bed bugs, rats, and other parasites attack them in the night.

The only way for the women to survive the boat ride is if they band together. And so, with the help of her new “family” - Sarah, Bridget, and Alice - and other convicts, Jennie battles the jailers, the ship, and the sea. But will it be enough to set them free?
Retrieved from Coteau Books website at http://coteaubooks.com/index.php?id=1047 
on March 28, 2016.

April 20, 2016

Everyday Hero

by Kathleen Cherry
Orca Book Publishers
168 pp.
Ages 8-11
March 15, 2016
Reviewed from advance reading copy

Everyday Hero is the story of thirteen-year-old narrator Alice who moves to Kitimat with Dad while Mom stays in Vancouver temporarily to assist her elderly parents.  Alice is very clear in her own mind about who she is, what she likes and dislikes, and what she can do and can’t and doesn’t want to do. But Dad refuses to tell the middle school of Alice’s Asperger’s, convinced she’ll have a chance to be a normal kid without the label.

This omission results in a series of detentions where Alice meets Megan, a goth-inspired teen who seems to attract negative attention but is also the only one who recognizes and helps Alice with her vulnerabilities in social situations, with distractions from routine, and with confusing verbal expressions.  While Alice is wondering whether she can be normal, “average in type, appearance, achievement, function and development” (pg. 54), Megan gives her opportunities to be so. But when Megan decides to get away from her mom’s abusive boyfriend and meet up with an online friend in Vancouver, Alice does what any normal friend would do: she tries to keep her friend safe.

Kathleen Cherry balances Alice’s story on our vague but overwhelmingly-supported ideas of normalcy by demonstrating that anyone can be normal, just as anyone can be a hero, in the right circumstances.  Don’t assume Alice’s thoughts, powerfully reflected in the seemingly erratic and tangential text, are evidence of anything but something normal, though they are manifestations of the syndrome with which she  is labelled. Kathleen Cherry, as a school counselor, get Alice’s voice just right.

Everyday Hero is heavily character-driven though it focuses on the issues of trust and responsibility.  But the message about the perils of labelling and trying to make everyone fit into one definition of normal is clear, and Everyday Hero helps the reader see into a very different but just as real one.

(A version of this review, in conjunction with one about Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw, was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2016, May). [Review of the book Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry]. Quill & Quire, 82 (4): 37.