June 15, 2018

Mallard, Mallard, Moose

Written and illustrated by Lori Doody
Running the Goat Books & Broadsides
978-1-927917-16-9
44 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2018

The title sounds like the game Duck-Duck-Goose but, although there are ducks and a goose, the hero of the story is a moose and this is no game. It's about finding a home.
From Mallard, Mallard, Moose by Lori Doody
A moose is wandering the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. It happens. But, he's accompanied by two mallards who follow him everywhere. He's perplexed by their attentions and "It was beginning to put him in a foul mood." His wanderings are not aimless: he's looking for a new home for his ducks. But, like Goldilocks, somethings just don't fit. A park has swans that make the mallards nervous. The downtown has pigeons. The harbourside has seagulls and even a menacing chicken. Location after location don't seem to work for the ducks. Even the restaurant Mallard Cottage looks to have potential until they check out the menu which apparently highlights wild game. (Oh dear!) It's not until a goose, which Lori Doody identifies as a Graylag Goose, a Eurasian species that is only rarely found in North America, agrees "to take the mallards under his wing" that the moose know his quest is complete.
From Mallard, Mallard, Moose by Lori Doody
Like her previous picture books Capelin Weather and The Puffin Problem (Running the Goat Books & Broadsides,  2017), Lori Doody embeds the reader in a Newfoundland setting of hilly streets, buildings of colourful clapboard siding, shorelines, animals and whimsically-named businesses. Her art is the centrepiece of Mallard, Mallard, Moose though the story itself is charming and feasible. That's the thing with Mallard, Mallard, Moose.  You know the story could be true. Moose in Newfoundland? Yep. Mallards too? Yes. One species imprinting on another? It's happened. And the Graylag Goose, which extraordinarily was a resident of St. John's for ten years, probably encountered more than a few mallards. This could be their story, and Lori Doody makes it all the more authentic with her folksy fine art. The mixed media on paper allows her to emphasize the depth of colour and the simple lines of a St. John's landscape and transport readers to a storefront window or park bench to observe the goings-on. It's bold and humble and concrete and pragmatic, and it works so well.  I love the drama and the earthiness of the story and art in Mallard, Mallard, Moose and I expect and hope that we'll continue to see Newfoundland in Lori Doody's picture books in the future.

June 13, 2018

Forest Kid Committee and Forest Teen Committee: Summer Reading Lists

In the past several weeks, selected young readers who'd applied to participate on the second Forest Kid Committee (ages 9-13) and the first Forest Teen Committee (ages 14+) came together at the Ontario Library Association and talked books.  From their discussions, which were interspersed with visits from award-winning Canadian authors and pizza and ice cream, these young people produced three extraordinary lists of recommended titles to keep everyone reading Canadian over the summer.  These are their recommendations to their peers in the Silver Birch, Red Maple and White Pine reading programs of the Forest of Reading.


Silver Birch (Grades 3-6)

Clara Humble and the Not-So-Super Powers
by Anna Humphrey
Owlkids Books
224 pp.
Ages 8-12
2016
Dingus
by Andrew Larsen
Kid Can Press
208 pp.
Ages 9-12
2017
Reviewed here
Downside Up
by Richard Scrimger
Tundra Books
272 pp.
Ages 9-12
2016
Howard Wallace PI: Shadow of a Pug
by Casey Lyall
Sterling Children’s Books
247 pp.
Ages 8-12
2017
MiNRS 3
by Kevin Sylvester
Simon & Schuster
336 pp.
Ages 8-12
2018
Missing Mike
by Shari Green
Pajama Press
248 pp.
Ages 8-12
2018
Review here
Seeking Refuge
by Irene N. Watts
Illus. by Kathryn E. Shoemaker
Tradewind Books
136 pp.
Ages 8-11
2017
Supergifted
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
297 pp.
Ages 8-12
2018

These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens, Northern Ontario, 1966
by Ruby Slipperjack
Scholastic Canada
192 pp.
Ages 9-12
2016
A World Below
by Wesley King
Simon & Schuster
272 pp.
Ages 8-12
2018








Red Maple (Grades 7-8)

90 Days of Different
by Eric Walters
Orca Book Publishers
312 pp.
Ages 12+
2017
250 Hours
by Colleen Nelson
Coteau Books
152 pp.
Ages 12+
2015
Review here

The Assassin’s Curse (The Blackthorn Key Book 3)
by Kevin Sands
Simon & Schuster Canada
532 pp.
Ages 9-13
2017
Don’t Tell the Enemy
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Scholastic Canada
184 pp.
Ages 10-14
2018
Review here

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
by Kim Fu
HarperCollins Canada
256 pp.
Ages 12-17
2018
The Painting
by Charis Cotter
Tundra
271 pp.
Ages 9-13
2017
Say You Will
by Eric Walters
Doubleday Canada
192 pp.
Ages 12+
2015
A Time to Run
by Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Clockwise Press
208 pp.
Ages 11-15
2018
To Look a Nazi in the Eye
by Kathy Kacer with Jordana Lebowitz
Second Story Press
256 pp.
Ages 13-19
2017
Trial by Fire: A Riley Donovan Mystery
by Norah McClintock
Orca Book Publishers
231 pp.
Ages 12+
2016
Review here




White Pine (Grades 9+)

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You
by Vicki Grant  

Running Press Teens
288 pp.
Ages 13+
2017
Review here

90 Days of Different
by Eric Walters
Orca Book Publishers
312 pp.
Ages 12+
2017
The Agony of Bun O’Keefe
by Heather Smith
Razorbill Canada
224 pp.
Ages 12+
2017
Caterpillars Can’t Swim
by Liane Shaw
Second Story Press
256 pp.
Ages 13-18
2017
Review here
The Game of Hope
by Sandra Gulland
Penguin Teen
384 pp.
Ages 14-18
2018
Kat and Meg Conquer the World
by Anna Priemaza
Harper Teen
368 pp.
Ages 13+
2017
Maud
by Melanie J. Fishbane
Penguin Teen
386 pp.
Ages 12+
2017
Missing
by Kelley Armstrong
Doubleday Canada
375 pp.
Ages 12+
2017
Munro vs. The Coyote
by Darren Groth
Orca Book Publishers
288 pp.
Ages 12+
2017
On the Spectrum
by Jennifer Gold
Second Story Press
336 pp.
Age 13-18
2017
Review here

Prince of Pot
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Groundwood Books
216 pp.
Ages 13+
2017
Review here

Pulse Point
by Colleen Nelson and Nancy Chappell-Pollack
Yellow Dog
192 pp.
Ages 12-15
2018
Review here

Saints and Misfits
by S.K. Ali
Simon & Schuster
336 pp.
Ages 15+
2017
The Skeleton Tree
by Iain Lawrence
Tundra Books
288 pp.
Ages 10-15
2016
With Malice
by Eileen Cook
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
316 pp.
Ages 13+
2016
Review here




••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

The downloadable lists, which include annotations about each book, can be downloaded from the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading at the following links:

Forest Kid Committee Summer Reading List for Grades 3-8
http://www.accessola.org/web/Documents/OLA/Forest/Resources/2018/Kid%20Committee%20List%202018.pdf

Forest Teen Committee Summer Reading List for Grades 9+
http://www.accessola.org/web/Documents/OLA/Forest/Resources/2018/Teen%20Committee%20List%202018.pdf


June 12, 2018

I'm Sad

Written by Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
978-1-4814-7627-0
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
June 2018

At any time, there will be media coverage about a celebrity's unexpected death from suicide. There will be yet another outcry for resources to support mental health initiatives.  And there will be those who still won't get it, thinking that having everything–fame, money, friends, home–is enough assurance that overwhelming, debilitating sadness cannot overtake and even engulf.  But if there's a great place to start to acquire an understanding of sadness, which can manifest as depression, it's the newest collaboration from the dynamic duo of Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi who amused and enlightened us with I'm Bored (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012).
From I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black, illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
The first double spread has a single image of the pink flamingo simply stating, "I'm sad." The message is a simple statement but Debbie Ridpath Ohi's illustration says so much more. From the drooping feathers to the bowed neck and downcast eyes, this bird is barely holding itself up or together.  The imaginative little girl and bored potato from I'm Bored listen and attempt to understand. They try to help by acknowledging that they don't think the flamingo will always feel sad and that everybody feels sad sometimes. Even as they try to help, as all friends would want to do, they grapple with understanding what the flamingo needs, initially only thinking of what would work for them. Michael Ian Black astutely recognizes that we all can only understand from our own frame of reference, with the little girl thinking ice cream, sports and activity while the potato knows that dirt would certainly cheer it up.  Even after the little girl recognizes that sometimes allowing oneself to be sad can be therapeutic and relieving flamingo that its sadness will not change their friendship, it's a good laugh courtesy of the potato's dry wit that relieves some of the tension.  It may not alleviate the sadness but it can help.
I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black, illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Many children's books that attempt to provide bibliotherapy fall short of the mark because they tend to get too preachy, convinced they have the answer. I'm Sad is not one of them. It surpasses in its message that sadness can be a significant emotion and reassurance can be the most effective strategy for helping a friend feeling debilitated by it.  By having the little girl and the potato attempt to understand, question, reassure, and suggest, Michael Ian Black has them standing with flamingo in its struggle with sadness. They don't try to vacuum it up or ignore it. They simply accept it as the flamingo explains it.  If flamingo begins to feels better, so be it.  If it doesn't, they are still there for it.

In the boldness of her colour and line, Debbie Ridpath Ohi makes sure that the depth of Michael Ian Black's message is evident. Amidst the potato's cynicism and the little girl's joie de vivre, the flamingo's sadness is unmistakable. Debbie Ridpath Ohi's ability to evoke so much story with the simplest of lines continues to astound and impress me. (See my reviews of Sam & Eva and I'm Bored.) Even her final image packs a punch of friendship and support with only a silhouette without benefit of colour.
From I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black, illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
All school libraries and guidance counselling offices should have a copy of I'm Sad to help children understand the sadness they or their friends or family may be experiencing and to reassure, just as the little girl and potato do, that support is there, even if the sadness can't be wiped out.
From I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black, illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
• • • • • • • • • •
n.b. There is a classroom guide by Marcie Colleen available for download here

June 11, 2018

The Promise

Written by Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe
Illustrated by Isabelle Cardinal
Second Story Press
978-1-77260-058-2
32 pp.
Ages 7-10
April 2018

The cover of The Promise is all encompassing. Within that single graphic, the reader knows the darkness and sobriety of a story told in a concentration camp during World War II, an impenetrable bond, and a smidgen of hopeful blue sky. This is The Promise.

When Rachel and Toby's parents are taken away by the Nazis, the two sisters are given three gold coins, hidden in a shoe paste tin, to help save their lives and asked to promise to always stay together. 
"...above all, stay together.  This is how you will both survive." (pg. 5)
From The Promise by Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe, illus. by Isabelle Cardinal
When the two girls are taken to Auschwitz, slaving away at mindless work and starved with meagre food rations, they show courage in small acts of heroism and defiance.  But when Rachel falls ill, all is put at risk. Though Toby begs to work double for her sister, she returns to find Rachel gone from their barrack.  Knowing this could mean the worst, Toby uses the gold coins to bribe an inmate acting as guard at the barrack of the sick to allow her access and an opportunity to sneak Rachel out.  However, the next day Rachel's unauthorized return is noted by their Nazi guard who punishes Toby for her actions though, in a miraculous turn, allows Rachel to remain with her sister.
From The Promise by Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe, illus. by Isabelle Cardinal
Against all odds, Rachel and Toby, the mothers of authors Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe respectively, honoured their parents by staying together.  Though it was Toby who held onto those coins for years until the time came to use them, both young women showed extraordinary fortitude in everyday acts of courage and endurance such that they were able to survive a camp from which over a million never returned.  Likewise, Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe honour their parents with the retelling of this story, told with admiration and candour. 
From The Promise by Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe, illus. by Isabelle Cardinal
To add to the story's power, artist Isabelle Cardinal uses digital collage to blend reality with illustrations.  The horrors she needed to convey–hunger, illness, fear, cold and more–are evoked in the photos of faces but tempered with the sombre drawings of stark colours and textures. The art, like the story, is commanding and yet subtle. 

Based on a true story, The Promise reveals just one significant but uncelebrated act of heroism during a time and place of brutality. It's a story that needs to be recognized and its characters acclaimed for their survival.