March 26, 2015

Whisper the Dead: The Lovegrove Legacy, Book #2

by Alyxandra Harvey
Bloomsbury
978-0-802737502 
408 pp.
Ages 12-18
2014

The dead do indeed whisper. And although not all the Lovegrove cousins can hear them, ghosts and spirits and even those in the Underworld seem to have a lot to say. Seems attention must be paid, for everyone's sake.

In A Breath of Frost, Book 1 in the Lovegrove Legacy, the Lovegrove cousins–Emma Day, Gretchen Thorn and Penelope Chadwick–learned of their supernatural powers and heritage and began attending  the Rowanstone Academy, ultimately helping to thwart the evil Greymalkin Sisters.

Now the Keepers of the Order of the Iron Nail (a.k.a. the Greybeards) are diligent about securing the wards around London to keep it safe from open or leaking portals such as the ones that allowed the Greymalkin Sisters to return.  Gretchen's twin brother, Godric, who is overwhelmed by his ability to see spirits, must help the Keepers such as Emma's love interest Cormac and his partner Tobias Lawless in their task, though it is Gretchen, loathe to limit herself to learnings appropriate for young ladies, who truly wants to help in this endeavour.  In this capacity, Godric becomes acquainted with the unschooled witch and Madcap, Moira, whom he begins to court rather discretely.  However, Gretchen's mother insists that her daughter choose a suitor promptly though Gretchen is too busy developing her gift of hearing whisperings of the dead and curiously examining her feelings for Tobias who has been assigned to watch over her. (Seems the Order is "cautious" about the Lovegrove cousins and their extraordinary magic and is determined to watch their every move.)

While Gretchen is learning to harness the insistent voices buzzing in her head, Emma is trying to open a portal to connect with her father in the underworld and to fix the spell she'd used to harness the Greymalkin sisters.  Fortunately for her, Cormac is by her side all the way.  Penelope, on the other hand, is balancing the attentions of Lord Lucius Beauregard while her childhood friend Cedric, the grandson of the family coachman, remains vigilant about protecting her, though a Keeper has been assigned to her.

While most young women are striving to secure a suitable marriage match, the Lovegrove cousins have greater issues with which to deal and they do it with such style.  And though they are all working to develop their magic and help keep London safe, even if they are ladies, Whisper the Dead is definitely Gretchen's story, just as A Breath of Frost was Emma's.  Gretchen is the gutsy girl who lets nothing stop her from pursuing her interests:  not her clothing, not her mother, not society, not etiquette.  Like her familiar, a wolfhound, Gretchen is fierce, fearless and dangerous, and her dear twin Godric is her champion, albeit a quiet one.  She will fight with daggers, climb houses, break the rules, speak her mind, and listen to her heart.  She is the sister, cousin and friend they all need in their corners.  So, it's especially satisfying for her to find a love in Tobias Lawless, a very proper young man who needs Gretchen to help him release his unreserved self and accept his inner (!) wolf.

Alyxandra Harvey is one of those authors whose stories are so multi-faceted and -layered that it is virtually impossible to provide a succinct yet comprehensive synopsis.  I haven't been able to do so for her Drake Chronicles or these Lovegrove Legacy stories. The weakness is in my retelling.  The stories are so rich and complicated, encompassing different levels of society in Victorian England and in the supernatural world, each with their own characters, protocols and flavours, and their own villains, heroes and common folk.  But Alyxandra Harvey integrates them all superbly in Whisper the Dead into a story abounding with intrigue, secrets, magic and romance, written in a voice uniquely her own.  Readers will find themselves holding their breath throughout the story, anticipating the worst, hoping for the sweetest, and always satisfied that the story has unraveled as it should.  As such, we are drawn further into our own relationships with the cousins as Whisper the Dead reveals more about the legacy that is the Lovegrove family, leaving us again expectant of further angst, conspiracy, and love that is sure to come.

March 23, 2015

The Pirate's Bed: Book Launch (Toronto)

Join author Nicola Winstanley 
and 
illustrator Matt James 

for the launch of their new picture book

The Pirate's Bed
Tundra Books
978-1-77049-616-3
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
March, 2015

on Sunday, March 29, 2015

2:00 p.m.

at

Another Story Bookshop
315 Roncesvalles Avenue
Toronto, ON
416-462-1105

Call or email (books@anotherstory.ca) to reserve your autographed copy

The blurb, retrieved from the RandomHouse site at http://www.randomhouse.com/book/228423/the-pirates-bed-by-nicola-winstanley#blurb_tabs, tells this of the book:
"A pirate is sleeping snug in his bed, dreaming pirate dreams, when a great storm comes up at sea. The pirate sleeps on, but his bed is awake and scared of the thunder and the angry waves. Tossed this way and that, the ship finally crashes, sending the pirate to a tropical island and his bed off to sea.
     At first, the bed is overjoyed. It's free from smelly feet, snoring and scratchy wool. It floats in the now peaceful water, meeting friendly gulls and playful dolphins and basking in the sun. But soon the little bed begins to feel like something is missing..."

Fragile Bones: Book Launch (Toronto)

Join new publisher

 Clockwise Press

and

author

Lorna Schultz Nicholson


for the launch of her new upcoming young adult novel
and Clockwise Press' first book


Fragile Bones: 
Harrison & Anna
by Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Clockwise Press
978-0-993935107
217 pp.
Ages 13+
Released March, 2015

on


    Thursday, April 2, 2015
World Autism Awareness Day

6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

at 
    Geneva Centre for Autism 
112 Merton Street
Toronto, Ontario
M4S 2Z8


Lorna will be there 

to read a short excerpt, 
answer questions, and 
sign copies. 
RSVP here

March 15, 2015

Hungry for Math: Poems to Munch On

by Kari-Lynn Winters and Lori Sherritt-Fleming
Illustrated by Peggy Collins
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
978-1-55455-307-5
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
January, 2015

Teachers and parents will always be clamouring for new and innovative ways to introduce math concepts, and Hungry for Math: Poems to Munch On will surely work.  But forget the classroom and math instruction, or at least put them aside temporarily, and enjoy the rhyme and reason of the verses within and the varied illustrations of dragons, foxes, clockworks and race cars to add the jauntiness that numbers and operations and such can be.

You know that between the dramatic flare of Kari-Lynn Winters and the Tickle Trunk Players founder, Lori Sherritt-Fleming, Hungry for Math: Poems to Munch On has that special something to add spice to early math literacy learnings.  From unique poems like The Balanced Bee with its zen-like insect, the banging of the drum in Patterns Rock! and The Spendosaur in which a dinosaur goes a little crazy spending his coins in a candy store, the math lessons are neither obvious nor necessary to appreciate the silliness of the rhymes.
The Balanced Bee

Three circles, tall not wide.
Six legs – three per side.
Two plus two wings, on its back.
Bands of yellow, white, and black.
Compound eyes to spy the view.
Antennae, not one – always two.
Now fold your paper.
It's plain to see.
Bees are balanced.
It's symmetry! (pg. 5)

Even a poem like Move Around The Clock, that borrows from nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock, takes on a unique flair with an active mouse in a dress changing her movements with the time amongst the clockwork gears.

Whether you want your child to count the five groups of ten fire-breathing creatures in Rot-TEN Dragons or the abundance of heart-shaped treats (which look very familiar) shelled out amongst the cats in That Kitty Counts is irrelevant. Little ones will want to count the assortment of delectables, determine the banana leaves needed to cover the treasure and learn to skip count in 2s or 5s, especially with Peggy Collins' fun characters, human and non, to accompany them along the way.  Kids won't even know they're learning. That adds up to a book full of promise.

March 14, 2015

Troy Wilson: Life as a Children's Author (Victoria)

Join

Troy Wilson

children's author of 

Perfect Man
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Orca Book Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2005

Frosty is a Stupid Name
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Orca Book Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2005

and 

The Duck Says
Illustrated by Mike Boldt
North Winds Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-8
2015

for his talk 

Life as a Children's Author


on

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

at 7:00-8:45 pm

GVPL (Greater Victoria Public Library) Central Branch
735 Broughton Street
Victoria, BC


Here are some details about the talk:
Troy Wilson will speak about all aspects of life as a kids’ author. He has written three picture books for kids, as well as numerous stories for Chickadee, Chirp, and Highlights for Children.

Though Troy has given many successful talks for kids of all ages, this one will be geared for grown-ups.

In this talk he will be paying particular attention to his new picture book, The Duck Says, which has been recommended by the National Post and City Parent (Canada’s largest regional parenting publication).
(Retrieved from http://victoriawriters.ca/2015-meetings/ 
on March 14, 2015.)

Also, a 14-page comics story by Troy Wilson and Vancouver artist Caleb Hystad can be read on the School Library Journal blog, Good Comics for Kids.

March 12, 2015

Rosario's Fig Tree

by Charis Wahl
Illustrated by Luc Melanson
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-341-4
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
For release March, 2015

Every neighbourhood has a Rosario in their midst or, if they don't, they should.  Rosario is the gardening aficionado, "a garden magician", who knows the right time to turn over the soil, to plant, and how to tend to his outstanding collection of ginormous vegetables. No one grew vegetables like Rosario. And the young girl who narrates this story is fortunate to live next door and help the older man.

Then one spring, something a little different happens: Rosario brings a big potted fig tree out from his house.  He nurtures it through its summer growth and fruit and, when fall comes, prepares an unusual bed for the tree, essentially laying it to rest as if in a grave.  Our narrator is convinced Rosario is saying good-bye, expecting nothing else to come from the tree.  But when spring comes, Rosario surprises her with how much he still can teach her.

Rosario's Fig Tree is a perfect picture book to herald the beginning of spring, to start thinking about the promise of the earth to bring forth new life and fresh vegetables and fruit.  Charis Wahl's first picture book delivers a message about the value of inter-generational relationships, learning from those with the experience.  An elderly neighbour with a green thumb is the perfect mentor for a child wanting to learn about gardening.

While Luc Melanson is hardly the newbie when it comes to illustration, having previously illustrated The Grand Journey of Mr. Man (Tibo, 2001)–winning the 2002 Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Book Illustration for it–and his own Topsy-Turvy Town (2010), among others, he brings a freshness to the story.  His palette of colours are earthy and promising. His skinny characters with the long and large heads are very distinct in Rosario's Fig Tree, allowing the reader to focus on the expressive nature of the eyes and smiles, and the very simplest details like Rosario's wrinkles and the girl's freckles. As highly stylized as Luc Melanson's drawings may be, the reader, young and old alike, will be able to place themselves easily in Rosario's garden with its robust vegetables, elderly friends who come by to advise, and even its snow-covered and fenced-enclosed winter version.

Rosario's Fig Tree takes me back to another time and place but will deliver young readers to a place where they may search out their own Rosario or appreciate one already next door.  And I hope everyone will see the same magic that Rosario, Charis Wahl and Luc Melanson deliver in Rosario's Fig Tree.  It's ripe for the picking.

March 11, 2015

Thrice Burned: A Portia Adams Adventure


Atlantic Canadian publisher Fierce Ink Press has generously included me in the blog tour Blog on Fire for the release of Angela Misri's sequel Portia Adams Adventure, Thrice Burned.  Please check out additional blog posts at Fierce Ink Press. And, for those of you who have forgotten the deals of Portia Adam's first cases, read my review of Jewel of the Thames and get some additional background from my interview with Angela Misri at the time of its release.

Thrice Burned 
A Portia Adams Adventure
by Angela Misri
Fierce Ink Press
978-1927746691
281 pp.
Ages 12+
For release March 24, 2015
Reviewed from advance reading copy ePub

The shocking revelation at the conclusion of Jewel of the Thames (Fierce Ink Press, 2014) that her grandparents on her father's side are ex-criminal Irene Adler–currently known as Irene Jones–and Sherlock Holmes may have hit Miss Portia Adams hard but she won't let it distract her from her law studies at Somerville College or from honing her detection skills.  She continues her lessons in self-defense from Bruiser Jenkins, and studying alongside Chief Inspector Archer of Scotland Yard.  But she's also learning more about London's landscape, both topographical and invisible, and about lie detection from the formidable lawyer Mr. Ian Meyers.  Having established her own group of Irregulars, street children whom she pays with money, food and treats, Portia undertakes three new cases, Casebooks Five through Seven : Thrice Burned, Box 850*, and Truth Be Told.

In Casebook Five, arsons at three different locations, but with no damage to adjoining buildings, have Portia making the acquaintance of Miss Anne Coleson, a reporter looking to salvage a marred reputation and earn a living to care for her younger siblings.  While Portia is reluctant to oblige, she begins to see some positives to Annie's proposal, especially once Annie becomes romantically involved with Constable Brian Dawes, a young man for whom Portia has romantic feelings.  Ultimately the two women work together somewhat to solve the perplexing arsons, though it is truly Portia with her sharp mind and doggedness who brings the criminals to justice.  And all that while she tries to balance her affections for Brian, the intriguing forensic scientist Dr. Whitaker, and her grandmother's choice of suitor, Dr. Beanstine, coroner and a lord's son.

While the title Thrice Burned does refer to the trio of arsons in which Portia becomes involved in solving, it can also refer to the multitude of circumstances by which her own reputation is injured, through antagonism, humiliation, disappointment and revelation.  Of course, the criminals whose crimes Portia reveals are always a potential threat to her, but the involvement of a reporter, Mr. Dick McGregor, whose fabricated and outlandish stories refer to her and her activities without any veracity, leads to endangering her work and privacy.  Though she has allowed Annie Coleson to refer to her activities as those of Consulting Detective P.C. Adams–without any reference to her gender or ancestry–McGregor puts Portia's actions into question with the police who begin to believe that Portia is taking credit for their work. Fortunately, the support of Brian Dawes, Chief Inspector Archer and Sergeant Michaels helps to right those incorrect insinuations.

In Casebook Six, Angela Misri effortlessly takes Portia into the darkness, that occasionally enveloped her grandfather Holmes, when flummoxed with a case of potential theft, an antagonistic British Secret Intelligence Service agent and her affections for Brian Dawes. 
"This is not an ordinary ennui, Portia.  The excitement and adrenaline of a case–a really engaging, difficult case–that was the high.  The solution and then the time between that and the next exciting case...that was the low.  And for Sherlock, the high was higher than anything else in his life, and, therefore, so was the low." (pg. 150)
Regardless of the complexity of the Box 850 case and the subsequent case involving the disappearance of women of ill-repute upon their public damnation at the Matfelon Church, Portia is able to focus her detection skills on solving the mysteries with scientific elegance.  Though struggling with amorous feelings with which she is wholly unfamiliar, Portia conducts her sleuthing with the eye for details and labyrinthine problem-solving of one grandfather i.e., Sherlock Holmes, and the humanity of the other, Dr. Watson. Angela Misri has created Portia Adams to be a true incarnation of the great detective and his friend and biographer, while ensuring the Canadian consulting detective is wholly her own person too.

Reading A Portia Adams Adventure, whether it be Jewel of the Thames or Thrice Burned, is like revisiting the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle often chose to recount several of Sherlock Holmes' cases in a single tome, Angela Misri follows suit, extending the authentic and complementary nature of the series to those of the famous detective.  Thrice Burned is like having new Sherlock Holmes mysteries to read, only now starring an inquisitive and astute young woman (without the Asperger's Syndrome tendencies) and in a London of the 1930s.  And it works so, so well.  Elementary, wouldn't you say?