April 24, 2014

Severn and the Day She Silenced the World: Book Launch (Eden Mills, ON)

Celebrate Earth Day 2014


Janet Wilson
fine artist and author 

of numerous picture books 
non-fiction social justice books

One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists 
(Orca Book Publishers, 2008)
Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet 
(Second Story Press, 2010)
Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World 
(Second Story Press, 2013)
Shannen and the Dream For a School 
(Second Story Press, 2011)

for the launch of her newest book

Severn and the Day She Silenced the World
by Janet Wilson
Second Story Press
184 pp.
Ages 9-13
Released April 19, 2014

Tells the true story of Severn Cullis-Suzuki, daughter of environmentalists Tara Cullis and David Suzuki, who spoke at the closing of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio when she was only twelve-years-old and grabbed the attention of the world.

The Book Launch 

will be held on

Saturday, April, 26, 2014

from 2 - 3 p.m.


Eden Mills Community Hall, Club Room
108 York Street
Eden Mills, Ontario
(east of Guelph)

There will be a presentation, books for sale and signing, and refreshments. 

A Breath of Frost

by Alyxandra Harvey
496 pp.
Ages 12-18
Released January 2014

Starting to feel a bit of a chill? Not surprising when there's murderous magic and family secrets, as well as a potentially disastrous romance, tingling around young Emma Day in 1814 Regency London.  And she understands none of it.

While attending one of those infernal balls at which young debutantes attempt to win the attention of young gentlemen, seventeen-year-old Emma Day drops and breaks a small bottle of liquid which she carries as a talisman as a connection to her mother, Theodora, who has gone mad.  When an earthquake hits, chaos ensues, with Emma first finding an injured girl, Margaret York, and then witnessing a fire breaking out in the ballroom. Grabbing the first help that she can find is somewhat problematic, as it happens to be the debonaire Cormac Fairfax, the young man who'd kissed her over a year ago and then had ignored her so obviously ever since.  Worse yet, they find Margaret dead and covered in ice with a star-nosed mole exiting her chest!  Consequently, Cormac confuses Emma with talk about what she's done and insists she tell no one.

Confusing becomes even more bizarre as the night progresses and Emma and her two cousins, Gretchen Thorn and Penelope Chadwick, return home from the ball.  Gretchen and her twin brother Godric see the ghost of Margaret York and the strange mole.  Penelope, attending to her mother, Lady Bethany, in her sitting room, picks up a ring and falls into visions of being burned at the stake.  And Emma, determined to find out what is going on, steals away to Cormac's bachelor rooms to learn the truth, but not before she witnesses her hands and chest as if on fire.  Luckily, Emma's visit with Cormac is very revealing on several levels.

First, Emma learns she is a witch, one of the Lovegrove line, to which Theodora, Bethany and Gretchen's mother Cora all belong.  Secondly, Cormac is a Keeper for the Order of the Iron Nail, who keep order amongst those who do magic for nefarious purposes and tells her that a door to the Underworld has opened, perhaps because of Emma's "witch bottle", and as a result, Margaret was murdered.  Finally, it becomes evident that, although Emma feels she has been rejected by Cormac perhaps because of her mother's madness, Cormac is very much attracted to Emma but worries that there will be a conflict because of who she is i.e., a Lovegrove.  (Fortunately, I think Cormac will heed the advice of his wise mother that he should not let being a Keeper prevent him from finding true love.)

At 496 pages, A Breath of Frost is a lengthy read and I can't possibly share all the details within.  However, I can tell you that the Order is frightened by the power of the Lovegroves, and when several more young women are murdered, all frosted over, and Emma is the first to find each of them, the Order has her running as a fugitive.  Fortunately, Cormac does all he can to keep her safe, while enjoying stolen moments with her.  Moreover, there are secrets about Emma's heritage (did I mention she grows antlers?) that must be uncovered and worries about the newly-opened doors to the Underworld and the return of the really horrible Greymalkin Sisters, a trio of evil witches.

As I mentioned, A Breath of Frost is a long read but it has so many key characters and so many subplots, not to mention taking place in several time periods, that I'm surprised Alyxandra Harvey was able to keep it down to under 500 pages!  And how she is going to keep it to a trilogy is beyond comprehension, but I suspect that each book will focus on one of the Lovegrove cousins, this first centered on Emma.  In A Breath of Frost, Alyxandra Harvey has had to introduce the witch and magic contexts, and there are so many nuances to how magic manifests itself in general and for the individual, that there is still so much to learn. And that's just the content.

But A Breath of Frost's magic goes beyond its plots.  It sparkles with unique characters, great dialogue, some heart-grasping romantic interludes, remarkable imagery and a wit that twines throughout.  Take Godric's discomfort when he sees more ghosts: "Just when I thought it was safe to quit drinking." Or the image of a little girl with a toothless grin walking a gryphon on a silver chain down the street of Goblin Market. Alyxandra Harvey has created a lavish supernatural world that has all the perfect ingredients for casting a spell on readers of young adult fantasy, with a touch of true love.

April 22, 2014

Outside In

by Sarah Ellis
Groundwood Books
208 pp.
Ages 10-13
For release May 2014

It's very reassuring to feel part of something–a family, a group of friends, a choir–and to be appreciated by the others.  Though thirteen-year-old Lynn is hardly part of a "typical" family, she has enjoyed the parental love of and stable home of her mother's boyfriend, Clive, for the past five years.  And with a mother like Shakti, Lynn's life hardly felt stable.  Shakti's self-absorption and twisted decision-making skills continue to wreak havoc in Lynn's life.  Take her recent affair with Brandon, the husband of a nurse at the extended care facility at which Shakti works.  Not only does Shakti put her relationship with Clive in jeopardy, she's oblivious to the real possibility of losing their home in Clive's townhouse and she's not willing to give Brandon up.  Then Lynn's mother quits her job because
"it was a good opportunity because Shakti felt that it was time for a realignment of her energies and a reevaluation of her skills." (pg. 23)
Luckily, Lynn has got some exceptional friends in Celia and Kas and the three are looking forward to attending a choirfest in Portland, Oregon, giving Lynn a chance to extricate herself from an uncomfortable situation, at least temporarily.  But that doesn't happen either, because Shakti had forgotten to send away Lynn's passport application, as promised, too busy with her own dramas.

No Clive, no friends, no choir, and just her mother.  Lynn is ripe for finding something, anything, to keep her occupied while her friends are away.  She begins spending time with a girl named Blossom whose unusual nature intrigues Lynn.  Blossom admits that she is an Underlander and lives with her father Fossick and brothers, Tron (17) and Larch, in a cottage they've constructed and hidden beneath the reservoir.  The family is definitely different:  avoiding attention, using invisibility mugs, setting idea Traplines, and differentiating between steals and finds, and throwaways or keepsakes.  Lynn becomes "the visitor" at their home, promising that she will always keep it secret for them.

While Lynn is anticipating the collision of her old friends and new friends, the greatest threat to the familial goodwill she is enjoying with Blossom is Shakti.  And the resulting implosion is inevitable and devastating.

Sarah Ellis' writing has always juxtaposed the tenuous nature of family with its strength.  There's The Baby Project (Groundwood, 1986), Pick-Up Sticks (Groundwood, 1991) and Odd Man Out (Groundwood, 2006).  In Outside In, Sarah Ellis illustrates the fragility of our worlds and our families, both traditional and not, when secrets are kept, promises broken and new beliefs or ideas introduced.  Fossick has devised an alternative lifestyle for himself, Tron, Blossom and Larch, with their version of family functional as long as they all support and work towards its success.  While Lynn sees them as refreshing, their family is also in jeopardy when outsiders bring in new ideas or family members want to explore the outside world.

Bringing the outside in can be dangerous, as Fossick fears, and the disaster experienced because they trusted Lynn would bear witness to the validity of that view.  Lynn's own "family" knows that conundrum of letting someone from outside in with Shakti's involvement with Brandon.  But Sarah Ellis makes it clear that it's not that simple.  Whether it's Lynn appropriating some of Fossick and Blossom's views, or Larch venturing outside when he'd rather not, the outside and inside of anything are never clearly defined as good or bad.  Having witnessed this herself, Lynn could only hope that Shakti would embrace this learning herself.  But the imperfect family is a reality.  Sadly, I believe that Shakti has a lot more growing up to do if her selfish insideness is ever to be open to the goodness that Lynn and the world has to offer. 

April 20, 2014

The Boundless: Book Launches (Canada and USA)

Award-winning author

of these favourites

Kenneth Oppel

launches his newest book and series
a middle-grade fantasy with trains, murder, steampunk automotons
and no-end adventure

The Boundless

by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada
336 pp.
Ages 10-14
Release April, 2014

While Kenneth Oppel will also be attending numerous schools, both in Canada and the United States,
most of the following tour dates at bookstores and such are open to all!


April 26, 2014
2:00 PM
Chapters Brampton
Brampton, ON 

May 5, 2014
7:00 PM
Munro's Books
Victoria, BC 

May 6, 2014
9:15 AM
Belfry Theatre
Greater Victoria Public Library
Victoria, BC 

May 6, 2014
7:00 PM
Vancouver Kidsbooks
Teacher’s Night Event
3083 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC

May 7, 2014
7:00 PM
North Vancouver District Library 
(Lynn Valley branch)
1277 Lynn Valley Road 
North Vancouver, BC
May 10, 2014
2:00 PM
Fish Creek Library
11161 Bonaventure Dr SE 
Calgary, AB 

May 11, 2014
2:00 PM
Chapters Sherwood Park
#500 - 2020 Sherwood Drive 
Edmonton, AB

May 12, 2014
7:00 PM
McNally Robinson Grant Park
1120 Grant Avenue 
Winnipeg, MB 

May 14, 2014 
1:00 PM
Point Claire Public Library
Point Claire, QC

May 14, 2014
7:00 PM
Beaconsfield Public Library
303 Beaconsfield Boulevard 
Beaconsfield, QC


April 28, 2014 
4:30 PM
Children's Book World
Philadelphia, PA

April 29, 2014 
10:30 AM
Politics and Prose
Washington, DC

April 30, 2014
6:30 PM
St. Charles City-County Library 
Spencer Rd. Branch 
St. Louis, MO

May 2, 2014 
7:00 PM
Anderson's Bookstore
Chicago/Naperville, IL

May 20, 2014
7:00 PM
Copperfield's Books
Petaluma, CA 

May 21, 2014
7:00 PM
San Francisco, CA 

May 22, 2014
7:00 PM
Reading Bug
San Carlos, CA

Get more details at
 Kenneth Oppel's blog at http://kennethoppel.blogspot.ca/ 
check out the book trailer  here.

April 18, 2014

Lockdown: Book Launch (Vancouver)


Maggie Bolitho 
at the launch of 

her young adult disaster/survival book

by Maggie Bolitho
Great Plains Teen Fiction
192 pp.
Ages 12+
Release June, 2014

 This Book Launch 

will take place on
May 2, 2014

7:30 p.m.

Lynn Valley Library
Vancouver, British Columbia


The following blurb comes from Great Plains Spring 2014 catalogue at http://www.greatplains.mb.ca/wp-content/uploads/GP-Spring%202014_web.pdf
When a great earthquake rocks the Pacific Northwest, fifteen-year-old Rowan Morgan is hiking in a suburban forest. Tremors rip the coast from Oregon to Alaska and turn Rowan’s world upside down.  After her father is wounded and taken to the hospital, he orders Rowan and her brother to stay inside his earthquake-proof, survivalist home. While the electrified fences offer some protection, it isn’t long before mobs gather, desperate for some of the food and water rumoured to be held inside.
Rowan knows that if the hungry neighbours had any true idea of the riches in father’s cellar and water tanks, they wouldn’t be so easily sent away. Early one morning, Rowan leaves the compound and sets off in search of her father. She is turned away from the hospital and so goes to check on nearby friends where she finds a local gang has moved in. She escapes from them only to run into a stranger she met in the forest the day before.  Why is he following her and what does he want?

That certainly gets my interest up.  I suspect it will do the same for many a reluctant reader as well.  Earthquake, survivalists, mobs, suspense, maybe a romance? Seems to have it all. Enjoy the book launch!

April 17, 2014

Not My Girl

by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Annick Press
36 pp.
Ages 6-9
January, 2014

Last year, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's first biographic story, Fatty Legs (Annick, 2010), was successfully transformed into a picture book, When I Was Eight (Annick, 2013), reviewed here on April 28, 2013.  This book started the telling of Margaret's delivery to a residential school and her experiences there.  A subsequent book, A Stranger at Home (Annick, 2011) has Margaret, or rather Olemaun as she is known to her family, returning home.  Not My Girl is the poignantly illustrated version of that second book.

Margaret had been sent from her home on Banks Island, part of the Arctic archipelago, to attend a Catholic residential school in Aklavik, North West Territories, almost 750 km away as the crow flies (though I'm sure Margaret's journey was far more arduous). Two years later she returns to her homeNot surprising, when her mother sees her daughter, now with shortened hair, wearing clothes and shoes unfamiliar in their community, she shouts out, "Not my girl!" (pg. 3)

Thankfully, a warm welcome from her father, calling her Olemaun again, has her mother and siblings joining in that accepting embrace.  But no matter how much Olemaun wants to fit back into her family, her stomach is unaccepting of their food, the sled dogs don't recognize her scent and she has forgotten her language and the skills she'd learned as a child.  Her disappointment even leads to negligence when she keeps a new pup from his mother, almost causing his death.  But with patience and practice, both mother and daughter find their way back to each other, and the words, "My girl!" (pg. 35) spoken with pride again.

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton dedicates this book as follows:
"For all the children still trying to find their way home.  May you each discover a way to step out from the darkness behind you into the light ahead." (pg. 36)  
She obviously can recall the darkness of the residential school trials and knows of the difficulties associated with going home as a child altered by her experiences.  It is only with the love of her family and the connections with those who were similarly displaced that Olemaun/Margaret was able to find her way home.  While A Stranger at Home indicates that the process of that acceptance was much more complex than illustrated in Not My Girl, the selection of anecdotes here presents a general impression of those struggles without overwhelming younger readers with the horrors and emotional pain that were inevitable.  Gabrielle Grimard's multi-faceted illustrations display that same complexity of spirit, using pencil, gouache, watercolour and even oil paint. There are subtle details in watercolour, the brights of gouache and the depth of oil.  But it's Gabrielle Grimard's drawings of people that convey the breadth of emotions with just the simplest of strokes.  The sorrow and disappointment that must have been part of Olemaun/Margaret's homecoming are evident in the eyes, the turned cheek, the frowning lips.  But just as striking are the brilliant dance of the northern lights and the snow-flying dog-sledding.

Take Not My Girl as a biographic telling of a dark history for Olemaun/Margaret and so many Aboriginal People but experience the lesson of how a little girl and her family were able to turn to the light eventually and together.  The hope for that light is in the words and the illustrations of Not My Girl, and not to be missed.

April 16, 2014

Weeds Find a Way: Book Launch (Calgary)

What a perfect beginning to gardening season and spring!

Carolyn Fisher

invites youngCanLit readers to celebrate
the recent release of her non-fiction picture book

Weeds Find a Way
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
Illustrated by Carolyn Fisher
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
Released February, 2014

Join her


Saturday, April 26, 2014
2:00 p.m. 
Calgary, Alberta

Listen to the story, then make some weedy art!

Everyone welcome!