January 16, 2020


Written by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada
312 pp.
Ages 10-14
February 2020

Many Canadians would recognize Salt Spring Island as a popular tourist destination off the coast of British Columbia. But what's happening on this Gulf Island in Kenneth Oppel's latest middle grade novel, Bloom, would have most running away. Unfortunately, there will be nowhere safe to run.

All teens have their angst but Anaya, Petra and Seth have challenges that are unique. Anaya Riggs may have to deal with acne and asthma but she also lives with severe allergies to just about everything: gluten, dairy, eggs, smoke, dust, pollen, etc. Her former friend and all-around popular girl Petra is allergic to water and cannot allow it to contact her skin without developing a burning rash or hives. New kid Seth Robertson, who has been moved from foster home to foster home, is now living with an elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. Antos on their farm and always wears long sleeves to hide the scars that track up and down both arms. 

Then a hard rain comes down for several days and changes everything. Anaya's allergies improve and her acne clears up. Petra can wash with this rainwater–she collects as much as she can–without any reaction. And a strange black grass begins to grow just about everywhere around the world and at an alarming rate.
Pretty much all anyone talked about now was the black grass. How it was crowding out crops, how nothing killed it. You couldn't go on your phone or turn on the TV without people talking about how it was showing up everywhere, and what was this stuff, anyway? (pg. 50)
Attempts to eradicate the grass by mowing or chainsawing it or applying herbicides or fire are futile or dangerous. Anaya's father, a botanist at the Ministry of Agriculture's experimental farm, is working hard to identify the plant, including those germinated in the water Petra has collected, and even Anaya gets involved collecting soil from the school yard, one of the few sites without the black grass. Soon enough, though, the schoolyard becomes a minefield of pit-plants that swallow prey, whether it be a deer or humans. Oddly, Petra, Anaya and Seth are not affected by the pit-plants' acidic walls or tranquilizing gas emissions.

As Mr. Riggs and a research associate head out to the eco-reserve on Cordova Island where the black grass appears to be dying, the three teens are taken by Dr. Stephanie Weber, a scientist with CSIS, to a military base in Vancouver in the hopes of learning what makes them special and possibly developing a vaccine. But what is discovered about the teens is much scarier than anyone ever anticipated.

The word "bloom" suggests something unhurried and beautiful and captivating. The plants in Bloom are nothing like that. They are aggressively growing, violent in their attacks and devastating in their effects. Worse yet, the last line in the book is a harbinger that more, perhaps even worse, is still to come in the next books in The Overthrow series. (Book 2 in the series, Hatch, is set for a fall 2020 release while we'll have to wait until the summer of 2021 for the final book, Thrive.) Bloom is thrilling and scary, a story with all the hallmarks of an edge-of-your-seat cliff-hanger–although you'd more likely be hanging by vines above a lake rife with machine-gun water lilies–blending a survival tale with an action-adventure involving clashes with dangerous life-forms. 

Though Anaya, Petra and Seth, as well as the parents, social workers, and military, carry the story forward, Kenneth Oppel's plot steals the story. It's bizarre, it's compelling and you can't read fast enough to learn what is happening. Kenneth Oppel may resolve Bloom to readers' satisfaction–we do learn what the plants are and how the teens are different–but there's obviously so much more to their story. I'm looking forward to an even more twisted plot when we revisit the kids and the source of Bloom's plants in Hatch and Thrive.

January 14, 2020

The Imperfect Garden

Written by Melissa Assaly
Illustrated by April dela Noche Milne
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
36 pp.
Ages 4-8

I know that it's still winter for many of us. Here in southern Ontario we have snow on the ground and below zero temperatures. But this is the time of year gardeners are perusing gardening catalogues and ordering seeds to germinate indoors or sketching out plans for their outdoor veggie gardens. Let Toronto's Melissa Assaly and Vancouver's April dela Noche Milne motivate you to start planning your own garden with The Imperfect Garden.
From The Imperfect Garden by Melissa Assaly, illus. by April dela Noche Milne
A child and his mother prepare a garden each spring, hopeful of growing their own food. In April they plant, and in June the first cucumbers are ready for picking. But Jay is fascinated by their shapes, so unlike the very straight cucumbers they see in the grocery stores. His mother explains that shoppers seem to prefer the straight ones so the unusually-shaped ones are thrown away.

In July, it's the carrots that are picked and again the child is intrigued by the odd shapes, so unlike those in the store, though they taste "crunchy and delicious." In August, it's apple-picking time and he delights in the assortment of colours and shapes. It doesn't matter what they look like as "Mom says all apples taste delicious in pies" and, by not discarding the less-than-perfect ones, they have sufficient for two pies.
From The Imperfect Garden by Melissa Assaly, illus. by April dela Noche Milne
When the growing season has passed and Jay and his mom go to the grocery store, he misses the variety of shapes they produced in their own garden.
Where are the two-legged carrots, the twirly-whirly cucumbers, and the funny-faced apples? Don't grownups know they all taste the same? Even better, maybe?
Fortunately, the imperfect ones are still available and at a reduced cost.

Melissa Assaly's The Imperfect Garden will raise interesting discussions about gardening with children but also about food wastage. She shares notes about both, providing tips for planting with children but also about how much food is wasted when so many go hungry.  In her inviting story about a mother and child growing their own food and appreciating whatever grows, however it grows, Melissa Assaly will make us all think about why we think some foods are considered "perfect" when they are still very edible and tasty, and how we can change that attitude with our children. Jay's pleasure in finding heart-shaped kiwis and other oddities suggests that we've learned and taught our children poorly when they think that only one kind is the right kind.

I like April dela Noche's earthy illustrations, from her misshapen fruits and vegetables to her characters' clothing to a yard that is less manicured and more wild and real. At this time of year, it's lovely to see what will be and can be and to feel the warmth and green of the natural world growing, producing and feeding. In The Imperfect Garden, everything is perfect.
From The Imperfect Garden by Melissa Assaly, illus. by April dela Noche Milne

January 08, 2020

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano

Written by Marthe Jocelyn
with illustrations by Isabelle Follath
Tundra Books
336 pp.
Ages 9-13
February 2020
Reviewed from advance reader's copy

At the time, I did not see that a sequence was unfolding. One never does. Afterward, it was clear how the moments piled up, each leading naturally to the next, quietly altering the course of things. (pg. 4 in arc)

The events to which twelve-year-old Agatha Morton is referring are those that have lead to the death of their neighbour, the cankerous Mrs. Irma Eversham, at the dance studio of her sister-in-law Miss Marianne Eversham.  It's 1903 Torquay, England and the murdered woman has been discovered by Aggie the morning after the "Befriend the Foreigners" recital aimed at collecting clothes for needy refugees and immigrants, many of whom have fled persecution, hunger and political turmoil. Among the recipients will be Agatha's new friend, Hector Perot, a Belgium boy with impeccable manners and a brain blistering with reasoning, who becomes her compatriot in sleuthing.

When it is discovered that Mrs. Eversham has been given rat poison, Agatha and Hector lead their own investigation, sometimes with the assistance of Aggie's Grannie Jane, to ascertain who had the opportunity and the motive to murder the prickly widow who'd tried to control her daughter Rose's social life and disapproved of her sister-in-law's efforts to help newcomers and get the vote for women. But what of Mr. Roddy Fusswell who was interested in Rose and whose hotel had provided food and dishes for the charity drive event? Or the reporter Mr. Augustus Fibbley who keeps popping up and getting Aggie to reveal what she has learned? There are so many potential suspects and players in this middle-grade mystery that it's helpful that Swiss artist Isabelle Follath provides illustrations of 16 characters, including Aggie's dog Tony.
From Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn, illus. by Isabelle Follath
If the reader is a fan of cozy mysteries, they will recognize the names of Agatha and Hector Perot and Grannie Jane as homage to writer Agatha Christie and her sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. But for our youngest readers for whom Agatha Christie is an unknown, author Marthe Jocelyn will snag them with an excellent murder puzzle and a host of rich characters in a unique historical context while introducing them to Christie through a detailed author's note and list of information sources. Aggie is a precocious child who is developing her investigative skills while she tries her hand at writing descriptions and scenarios that could become part of future books. She inserts herself into police investigations and processes what she sees and what she knows into a logical interpretation and ultimately a resolution that will amaze the professionals and dumbfound her family and others. As a reader, I am so pleased that Marthe Jocelyn chose to introduce us to her Aggie in the context of a soft whodunit–there is absolutely no violence to distract from the plot–and look forward, as we all should, to the series's second book, Peril at Owl Park, set for a fall 2020 release.

January 01, 2020

Upcoming releases for Winter and Spring 2020

I get so excited at this time of year, anticipating a new year and a plethora of new titles of books for young people by Canadian authors and illustrators. There's a little bit of something for everyone: funny picture books, illustrated biographies, short story collections, sequels in favourite series, issues-driven young adult novels and an assortment of graphic novels. (In fact, there's a few more than anticipated, as several titles were released just after Christmas and I have added them to the January lists just to make sure that they weren't missed.)

With the inaugural I Read Canadian Day happening on February 19, 2020, I hope you find something to read or share with young readers on that day.  (Details on my post about the day should send teachers, librarians, parents and readers in the right direction to plan for joining in the day's events.)

Happy Reading for 2020!

Picture Books and Board Books
Brady Brady and the Most Important Game by Mary Shaw, illus. by Chuck Temple (Scholastic Canada)
The Girl with the Cat by Beverley Brenna, illus. by Brooke Kerrigan (Red Deer Press)
Gloria's Big Problem by Sarah Stiles Bright, illus. by Mike Deas (Tilbury House)
School Rules by Robert Munsch, illus. by Dave Whamond (North Winds Press) 
Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki VanSickle, illus. by Sydney Hanson (Tundra)  
What's Up, Maloo? by Geneviève Godhout (Tundra)

Chapter Books
Dragon Assassin by Arthur Slade (Scholastic Canada)
The Jigsaw Puzzle King by Gina McMurchy-Barber (Dundurn)
The Lost Scroll of the Physician by Alisha Sevigny (Dundurn)>>>Secrets of the Sands Book 1
Notorious by Gordon Korman (Scholastic) 
On the Rocks by Eric Walters (Orca)>>>Orca Currents
The Ride Home by Gail Anderson-Dargatz (Orca)>>>Orca Currents
World's Worst Parrot by Alice Kuipers (Orca)>>>Orca Echoes

Young Adult
Blood Sport by Tash McAdam (Orca)>>>Orca Soundings
Easy Street by Jeff Ross (Orca)>>>Orca Soundings
The Ledge by Lesley Choyce (Orca)>>>Orca Soundings
Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (Puffin Canada)
The PLAIN Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illus. by Jim Rugg (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) 
Stella Rising by Nancy Belgue (Orca)>>>Orca Soundings  
Wildfire by Carrie Mac (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

5 Bears by Rob Laidlaw (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
Earth Defenders: Environmental Trailblazers from 7 to 97  by Jamie Bastedo (Red Deer Press)
Meet Willie O'Ree by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas (Scholastic Canada)>>> Scholastic Canada Biography 
Watch It Grow: Backyard Life Cycles by Barbara Reid (Scholastic Canada)

Picture Books and Board Books
Little Cloud: The Science of a Hurricane by Johanna Wagstaffe, illus. by Julie McLaughlin (Orca)
Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko (HarperCollins)
The Moon King by Cara Kansala (Breakwater Books)
Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, illus. by Rashin Kheiriyeh (Tundra)
Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color by Andrée Poulin, illus. by Lucile Danis Drouot (Pajama Press)
A Wish is a Seed by Jessica Young, illus. by Maria Cristina Pritelli (Creative Editions)

Chapter Books
Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn, illus. by Isabelle Follath (Tundra)
Bloom by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins)
The Comeback by Alex O'Brien (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Sports Stories 
Easy Out by Steven Sandor (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Sports Stories
High and Dry by Eric Walters, illus. by Sabrina Gendron (Orca)>>>Orca Echoes
The Ice Chips and the Stolen Cup by Roy MacGregor and Kerry MacGregor, illus. by Kim Smith (HarperCollins)>>>Book 4 in the Ice Chips series  
Long Bomb by Eric Howling (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Sports Stories 
My Best Friend and Other Illusions by Suri Rosen (Scholastic Canada) 
Nikki Tesla and the Fellowship of the Bling (Elements of Genius #2) by Jess Keating, illus. by Lissy Marlin (Scholastic) 
Northern Star by Lorna Schultz Nicholson (Lorimer)>>> Lorimer Sports Stories 
Rugby Rivals by Mike Levitt (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Sports Stories
Susan B. Anthony: Her Fight for Equal Rights (Step into Reading) by Monica Kulling, illus. by Maike Plenzke (Random House Books for Young Readers)   
Until Niagara Falls by Jennifer Maruno (Dundurn)

Young Adult 
Ace of Hearts by Myriad Augustine (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Real Love
I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin (HighWater Press)
No One's Baby by Wanda Lauren Taylor (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer SideStreets

The Bat by Elise Gravel (Tundra)
The Bug Girl: A True Story by Sophia Spencer and Margaret McNamara, illus. by KERASCOËT (Tundra) 
The Cockroach by Elise Gravel (Tundra) 
Maison Rouge: Memories of a Childhood at War by Leolina Leila Juma (Tradewind) 
Northwest Resistance (A Girl Called Echo) by Katherena Vermette, illus. by Scott B. Henderson (HighWater Press)
P.K. Suban: Fighting racism to become a hockey superstar and role model for athletes of colour by Catherine Rondina (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Recordbooks

Picture Books and Board Books
ᓇᑦᑎᖅ nattiq and the Land of Statues: A Story from the Arctic by Barbara Landry, illus. by Martha Kyak (Groundwood)
At the Pond by Geraldo Valério (Groundwood)
Clarence's Big Secret by Roy MacGregor, illus. by Christine MacGregor Cation (Owlkids)
David Jumps In by Alan Woo, illus. by Katty Maurey (Kids Can Press)
I Am a Beaver by Paul Covello (HarperCollins)
I Am Scary by Elise Gravel (Orca)
In the Red Canoe by Leslie A. Davidson, illus. by Laura Bifano (Orca) >>> also Le canot rouge
Love You Head to Toe by Ashley Barron (Owlkids)
My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Jillian Tamaki (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
My Ocean Is Blue by Darren Lebeuf, illus. by Ashley Barron (Kids Can Press)
Pierre & Paul: Avalanche! by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Alice Carter (Owlkids)>>>first book in a new series, Pierre & Paul, told half in French and half in English
Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao by Helaine Becker, illus. by Liz Wong (Groundwood)
Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan, illus. by Anna Bron (Annick)
Simon Steps into the Ring by Marylène Monette, illus. by Marian Arbona (Orca)
The Train by Jodie Callaghan, illus. by Georgia Lesley (Second Story Press)
Usha and the Stolen Sun by Bree Galbraith, illus. by Josée Bisaillon (Owlkids)
Violet Shrink by Christine Baldacchino, illus. by Carmen Mok (Groundwood)
What If Bunny's NOT a Bully by Lana Button, illus. by Christine Battuz (Kids Can Press)
What's Growing in Mommy's Tummy? by Rachel Quiqi-Li (Cameron Kids)
William's Getaway by Anika Dunklee, illus. by Yong Ling Kang (Owlkids)
Window by Marion Arbona (Kids Can Press)

Chapter Books
Abby in Oz (Whatever After Special Edition #2) by Sarah Mlynowski (Scholastic) 
Camp Average by Craig Battle (Owlkids)>>>first book in new series Camp Average 
The Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson (Second Story Press)>>>sequel to The Case of Windy Lake (A Mighty Muskrats Mystery series) 
My Name is Konisola by Alisa Siegel (Second Story Press) 
Princess Angelica, Junior Reporter by Monique Polak, illus. by Jane Heinrichs (Orca)>>>Orca Echoes

Young Adult
Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal (Penguin Teen)
Hearts of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto (Simon Pulse)>>>sequel to Crown of Feathers 
My Long List of Impossible Things by Michelle Barker (Annick)

50 Animals That Have Been to Space by Jennifer L. Read with John A. Read (Formac)
Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella, illus. by Kim Smith (Kids Can Press)
Consent: Deal with it before boundaries get crossed by Keisha Evans and N.B. Gonsalvez, illus. by Jenny Chan (Lorimer)>>>Lorimer Deal With It series
The Dog Patrol: Our Canine Companions and the Kids Who Protect Them by Rob Laidlaw (Pajama Press)
On Our Nature Walk: Our First Talk about Our Impact on the Environment by Dr. Jillian Roberts, illus. by Jane Heinrichs (Orca)>>>new volume for The World Around Us series
Our Environment: Everything You Need to Know by Jacques Pasquet, illus. by Yves Dumont (Owlkids)
A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas by Evie Robillard, illus. by Rachel Katstaller (Kids Can Press)
Proud to Play by Erin Silver (Lorimer)
Trending: How and Why Stuff Gets Popular by Kira Vermond, illus. by Clayton Hanmer (Owlkids)
Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom by Heather Tekavec, illus. by Susan Batori (Kids Can Press)
What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows?: True Stories of Imagination and Courage by Heather Camlot, illus. by Serge Bloch (Owlkids)

Picture Books and Board Books
Bath Time by Eric Walters, illus. by Christine Battuz (Orca)
Don't Let Go! by Élisabeth Eudes-Pascal (Owlkids)
Going Up by Sherry J. Lee, illus. by Charlene Chua (Kids Can Press)
Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo, illus. by Miki Sato (Owlkids)
The Haircut by Theo Heras, illus. by Renné Benoit (Pajama Press)
I am Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik, illus. by Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic (Second Story Press)>>> board book
I Got You a Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan, illus. by Cale Atkinson (Kids Can Press)
I Just Want To Be Super! by Andrew Katz, illus. by Tony Luzano (CrackBoom! Books)
I Want To Be...A Gutsy Girls' ABC by Farida Zaman (Second Story Press) >>> board book version
Kamik Takes the Lead by Darryl Baker, illus. by Ali Hinch (Inhabit Media)>>>fourth picture book about Kamik the sled dog
Little Cheetah's Shadow by Marianne Dubuc (Princeton Architectural Press)
Margot and the Moon Landing by A. C. Fitzpatrick, illus. by Erika Medina (Annick)
Nibi is water (nibi aawon nbiish) by Joanne Robertson, trans. by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press)
Run Salmon Run by Bobs & LoLo, illus. by LoriJoy Smith (Page Two Books)
The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets by Joseph Dandurand, illus. by Dionne Paul (Nightwood Editions)
A Stopwatch from Grampa by Loretta Garbutt, illus. by Carmen Mok (Kids Can Press)
The Truth about Wind by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, illus. by Dušan Petričić (Annick)
What Grew in Larry's Garden by Laura Alary, illus. by Kass Reich (Kids Can Press)
You and Me Both by Mahtab Narsimhan, illus. by Lisa Cinar (Owlkids)

Chapter Books
Alien Nate by Dave Whamond (Kids Can Press)
Amelia and Me by Heather Stemp (Nimbus)>>>Book 1 in the Ginny Ross series
Camp Average: Double Foul by Craig Battle (Owlkids) >>>second book in Camp Average series
Genius Jolene by Sara Cassidy, illus. by Charlene Chua (Orca)>>>Orca Echoes 
Louder Than Words by Kathy Kacer (Annick)>>>Book 3 in the Heroes Quartet series 
Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House by Janet Hill (Tundra) 
Megabat Is a Fraidybat by Anna Humphrey, illus. by Kass Reich (Tundra)
Meg and Greg: A Duck in a Sock by Elspeth Rae and Rowena Rae, illus. by Elisa Gutiérrez (Orca) 
Music for Tigers by Michele Kadarusman (Pajama Press) 
Our Corner Store by Robert Heidbreder, illus. by Chelsea O'Byrne (Groundwood) 
The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell by Valerie Sherrard (DCB) 
Rock Mammoth by Eveline Payette, illus. by Guillaume Perreault (Orca) 
Tales from the Fringes of Fear by Jeff Szpirglas, illus. by Steven P. Hughes (Orca)
Under Amelia's Wing by Heather Stemp (Nimbus)>>>Book 2 in the Ginny Ross series

Young Adult
Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin (Annick)
For King and Country by Gloria Wesley (Formac)
Good Boys by GMB Chomichuk (Portage & Main Press)
Messenger 93 by Barbara Radecki (DCB)
No Right Thing by Laura Langston (Crwth Press)
Silence of Bones by June Hur (Feiwel & Friends)
The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter (Orca)>>>first book in new series Runecasters
Under the Radar by Judith Clark (DCB)

Big Whales, Small World by Mark Leiren-Young (Orca)
The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World's Largest Land Biome by L. E. Carmichael, illus. by Josée Bisaillon (Kids Can Press)
Canadian Women Now and Then: More than 100 Stories of Fearless Trailblazers by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Maia Faddoul (Kids Can Press)
The Eagle Mother by Brett D. Huson, illus. by Natasha Donovan (HighWater Press)>>> Mothers of Xsan, Book 3
A Forest in the City by Andrea Curtis, illus. by Pierre Pratt (Groundwood)
Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health by Melanie Siebert, illus. by Belle Wuthrich (Orca)>>>Orca Issues
In Good Hands: Remarkable Female Politicians From Around the World Who Showed Up, Spoke Out and Made Change by Stephanie MacKendrick (Kids Can Press)
A Last Goodbye by Elin Kelsey, illus. by Soyeon Kim (Owlkids)
Life Cycles of Caribou by Monica Ittursardjuat, illus. by Emma Pedersen (Inhabit Media)
Nature All Around: Plants by Pamela Hickman, illus. by Carolyn Gavin (Kids Can Press)
One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao (Orca)
Orcas of the Salish Sea by Mark Leiren-Young (Orca)
Powwow: A Celebration through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane (Orca)>>>Orca Origins
Running Wild: Awesome Animals in Motion by Galadriel Watson, illus. by Samantha Dixon (Annick)
Sea Otters: A Survival Story by Isabelle Groc (Orca)>>>Orca Wild
Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars (A Vietnamese War Orphan Finds Home) by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (Pajama Press)
The Ultimate Nova Scotia Quiz Book by Kara Turner (Formac)
West Coast Wild Babies by Deborah Hodge, illus. by Karen Reczuch (Groundwood)

Picture Books and Board Books
The Book of Selkie by Briana Corr Scott (Nimbus)
Born by John Sobol, illus. by Cindy Derby (Groundwood)
Friends for Real by Ted Staunton, illus. by Ruth Ohi (NorthWinds Press)
Grandmother School by Rina Singh, illus. by Ellen Rooney (Orca)
Hey Little Rockabye by Buffy Sainte-Marie, illus. by Ben Hodson (Greystone Kids)
If I Couldn't Be Anne by Kallie George, illus. by Genevieve Godbout (Tundra)
My Friend (Mi amiga) by Elisa Amado, illus. by Alfonso Ruano (Groundwood) >>> available in English and Spanish editions
Natsumi's Song of Summer by Robert Paul Weston, illus. by Misa Saburi (Tundra)
Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak illus. by Roy Henry Vickers, text by Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing)
Summer Feet by Sheree Fitch, illus. by Carolyn Fisher (Nimbus)
The Sun is a Peach by Sara Cassidy, illus. by Josée Bisaillon (Orca)>>>also French-language edition Le soleil est une pêche
Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab, illus. by Frank Viva (Groundwood)
When Emily Was Small by Lauren Soloy (Tundra)
Where Are You, Agnes? by Tessa McWatt, illus. by Zuzanna Celej (Groundwood)

Chapter Books
A Beginner's Guide to Goodbye by Melanie Mosher (Nimbus)
Billy Stuart in the Eye of the Cyclops by Alain M. Bergeron and Sampar (Orca)>>>Billy Stuart 4
The Egyptian Mirror by Michael Bedard (Pajama Press)
Footsteps in Bay de Verde: A Mysterious Tale by Charis Cotter, illus. by Jenny Dwyer (Running the Goat)
The Hermit by Jan Coates (Nimbus)
Journal of a Travelling Girl by Nadine Neema and Archie Beaverho (Wandering Fox)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Catcher of Dreams by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Gifts of His People by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Love of the Dance by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Nature of Life by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Offering of Tobacco by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Sacred Eagle Feather by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead (HighWater Press)
Son of Happy by Cary Fagan, illus. by Milan Pavlović (Groundwood)
Waiting Under Water by Riel Nason (Scholastic Canada)
War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories by Tim Wynne-Jones (Groundwood)

Young Adult
Firebird by Glen Huser (Ronsdale)
The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole (Dundurn)
The Notorious Virtues by Alwyn Hamilton (Viking Books for Young People)
My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong (Simon Pulse)
When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson (Running Press Kids)

Birding for Kids: A Guide to Finding, Identifying, and Photographing Birds in Your Area by Damon Calderwood and Donald E. Waite (Heritage House)
Bird's-Eye View: Keeping Wild Birds in Flight by Ann Eriksson (Orca)>>>Orca Wild
Chemical World: Science in Our Daily Lives by Rowena Rae (Orca)>>>Orca Footprints
Eat Your Rocks, Croc!: Dr. Glider's Advice for Troubled Animals by Jess Keating, illus. by Pete Oswald (Orchard Books)
Explore the Eelgrass Meadow with Sam and Crystal by Gloria Snively, illus. by Karen Gillmore  (Heritage House) 
Fight On! Cape Breton Coal Miners 1900-1925 by Joanne Schwartz (Nimbus) 
High Tide, Low Tide: A Shoreline Activity Book by Gloria Snively, illus. by Karen Gillmore (Heritage House) 
A Home Away from Home: True Stories of Wild Animal Sanctuaries by Nicholas Read (Heritage House) 
How I Survived: Four Nights on the Ice by Serapio Ittusardjuat, illus. by Matthew K. Hoddy (Inhabit Media)
How Much Does Your Head Weigh?: The Big Fat Book of Facts by Marg Meikle (Scholastic Canada) 
It Seemed Like a Good Idea . . . : Canadian Feats, Facts and Flubs by Ted Staunton and Will Staunton (Scholastic Canada) 
Mega Rex by W. Scott Persons IV (Harbour Publishing)

Picture Books and Board Books
Barefoot Helen and the Giants by Andy Jones, illus. by Katie Brosnan (Running the Goat)
Benjamin's Blue Feet by Sue Mccartney (Pajama Press)
Fast Friends by Heather M. O'Connor, illus. by Claudia Dávila (Scholastic Canada)
Gary the Seagull by Christian Johnston, illus. by Paul Hammond (Nimbus)
Kits, Cubs and Calves: An Arctic Summer by Suzie Napayok-Short, illus. by Tamara Campeau (Inhabit Media)
Please Don't Change My Diaper! by Sarabeth Holden, illus. by Emma Pedersen (Inhabit Media)
Chapter Books
The Gryphon's Lair by Kelley Armstrong (Puffin Canada)>>>follow-up to A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying

Young Adult
Annaka by Andre Fenton (Nimbus)
Followers by Raziel Reid (Penguin Teen)
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (Penguin Teen)>>>The Wrath of Amber, Book 1

The Mermaid Handbook: A Guide to the Mermaid Way of Life, including Recipes, Folklore, and More by Taylor Widrig, illus. by Briana Corr Scott (Nimbus)
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret by Jess Keating, illus. by Katie Hickey (Tundra)
So Imagine Me: Nature Riddles in Poetry by Lynn Davies, illus. by Chrissie Park-MacNeil (Nimbus) 
The Superpower Field Guide: Eels by Rachel Poliquin, illus. by Nicholas John Firth (HMH)>>>fourth book in this middle-grade non-fiction series

Picture Books and Board Books
The Adventures of Grandmasaurus by Caroline Fernandez, illus. by Shannon O'Toole (Common Deer Press)
The Barnabus Project by Terry Fan, Eric Fan and Devin Fan (Tundra)
Bobby Orr and the Hand-me-down Skates by Bobby Orr and Kara Kootstra, illus. by Jennifer Phelan (Tundra)
Boo! Hiss! by Cyndi Marko (Aladdin Pix)
The Boy Who Moved Christmas by Eric Walters (Nimbus)
ekospi ka ki pekowak/When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson, illus. by Julie Flett (HighWater Press)>>>Bilingual (English and Cree) edition
Goodnight Noah by Eric Walters (Orca)
Hug? by Charlene Chua (Kids Can Press)
It Happened on Sweet Street by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Stéphane Jorisch (Tundra)
Izzy in the Doghouse by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Kelly Collier (Kids Can Press)
The Lady with the Books: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman
by Kathy Stinson, illus. by Marie Lafrance (Kids Can Press)
The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt by Riel Nason, illus. by Byron Eggenschwiler (Tundra)
Maud and Grand-Maud by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Kenard Pak (Tundra)
Monsters 101 by Cale Atkinson (Tundra)
The Nut That Fell from the Tree by Sangeeta Bhadra, illus. by France Cormier (Kids Can Press)
Princesses Versus Dinosaurs by Linda Bailey, illus. by Joy Ang (Tundra)
Solid, Liquid, Gassy (A Fairy Science Story) by Ashley Spires (Tundra)
This Is the Path the Wolf Took by Laura Farina, illus. by Elina Ellis (Kids Can Press)
Time for Bed's Story by Monica Arnaldo (Kids Can Press)
A World of Calm by Ann Featherstone, illus. by François Thisdale, Tara Anderson and Suzanne Del Rizzo (Pajama Press) 
Your House, My House by Marianne Dubuc (Kids Can Press)

Chapter Books
Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: Peril at Owl Park by Marthe Jocelyn, illus. by Isabelle Follath (Tundra)
Clan by Sigmund Brouwer (Tundra)
Double Dog Dare by Ian Boothby, illus. by Nina Matsumoto (Scholastic Graphix) >>>sequel to graphic novel Sparks! 
Harvey Holds His Own by Colleen Nelson (Pajama Press)>>>sequel to Harvey Comes Home 
Jurassic Peck (Kung Pow Chicken #5) by Cyndi Marko (Scholastic)
King of Jam Sandwiches by Eric Walters (Orca)
War Stories by Gordon Korman (Scholastic)

Young Adult
He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman (Penguin Teen)
You Were Never Here by Kathleen Peacock (HarperTeen)

Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You've Never Heard Of by Helaine Becker, illus. by Kari Rust (Kids Can Press)
Follow Your Breath: A First Book of Mindfulness by Scot Ritchie (Kids Can Press)
Meet Terry Fox by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas (Scholastic Canada)>>>Scholastic Canada Biography
More Scary True Stories (Haunted Canada #10) by Joel A. Sutherland (Scholastic Canada)
The Old Man and the Penguin: A True Story of True Friendship by Julie Abery, illus. by Pierre Pratt (Kids Can Press)
Terry Fox and Me by Mary Beth Leatherdale, illus. by Milan Pavlovic (Tundra)
This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illus. by Drew Shannon (Kids Can Press)

n.b. Any omissions and errors are completely my own. Please feel free to leave a comment to correct any such inaccuracies.

December 27, 2019

Niam! Cooking with Kids

Inspired by the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club
Written by Kerry McCluskey
Inhabit Media
72 pp.
Ages 5-12
December 2019

Any time there is an opportunity to encourage children to learn basic recipes and acquire cooking skills is a chance to help youth become independent, feed themselves and others, and gain confidence in trying new things. For many, the holidays is a great time for cooking with children, whether it is baking cookies as gifts or to have at home for visitors or learning how to work in a kitchen and prepare meals for the family.  The Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club, a weekly after-school program at Nanook School in Apex, Nunavut, kid-tested all these recipes to ensure hearty concoctions that were both tasty and fun to make.
From Niam! Cooking with Kids by Kerry McCluskey
The cookbook provides background on starting a children's cooking club, as well as a glossary of basic terms and measurements. The recipes cover seventeen dishes from smoothies and snacks like sandwiches, mini quiches, and palaugos, to main courses such as chili, bird fingers, jerk chicken, pizza and meatlove. Several sweet treats such as love muffins, and sugar and gingerbread cookies are also included.
From Niam! Cooking with Kids by Kerry McCluskey
Because the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club is located in Nunavut, there are some ingredients like the recommended seal or muskox meat for the ground meat in meatlove that may be perplexing to readers from away. But that just means that these recipes can be used as opportunities to teach young readers about cultural differences, bringing communities together. Community involvement is a big thing for Kerry McCluskey who finds ways to involve her own community in the club's activities. For example, an Iqaluit resident Joanna Awa talked to the kids about the importance of seals to the Inuit and a portion of this discussion is included with the meatlove recipe. Moreover, no worries if you don't have seal meat or ptarmigan in your freezer–Kerry McCluskey always uses generic ingredients like ground meat or poultry so that anyone can try out these recipes.
From Niam! Cooking with Kids by Kerry McCluskey
When people come together to cook, good things happen. Good food, teamwork, skills development, and confidence are all positive outcomes of cooking with kids. With Niam! Cooking with Kids reinforcing that premise while highlighting the specific efforts of the Mamaqtuq Nanook Cooking Club, children everywhere are encouraged to join these young Nunavut chefs in the kitchen and make a difference in all their lives, one dish at a time.

December 19, 2019

Runaway (National Film Board of Canada Collection)

Story and characters by Cordell Barker
Adapted by Sarah Howden
Firefly Books
Ages 8-12
October 2019

Cordell Barker's short NFB film Runaway was released in 2009 but its black humour and commentary on greed and self-importance will now reach a new audience of young readers with this adaptation to print medium. Though the 9-minute film has very little discernible dialogue, Sarah Howden's adaptation fills in the narrative about a cow walking on railway tracks when a train is left without its conductor.
From Runaway by Cordell Barker, adapted by Sarah Howden
Sarah Howden's narrative begins with a commentary about how uncomplicated cows are compared to humans who are "always up to something." (pg. 9) There are the wine-drinking, cigar-smoking and billiards-playing top-hatted rich men, and one lady with her black dog, in the first car behind the engine. In the next car with their livestock are the pointy-hatted folk who are crowded to the rafters and who pass the time with music and beer. In the caboose, three train crewmen sleep. As "They were all going about their business, no questions asked" (pg. 14), the little dog escapes into the locomotive. The Captain, not missing an opportunity to ingratiate himself with a rich patron, shoves back the fireman and is promptly bitten by the urchin-like canine. While the rich woman takes the Captain back into her chamber to tend to his wound, the train is left without a man at the helm. The train is now a runaway and all the more after the Fireman falls onto the levers when the cow is hit. (It's okay. The cow survives.)

As the Fireman searches for the Captain, the oblivious patrons continue with their preferred activities. The train loses its caboose on a wild ride down a mountain and destroys a bridge after passing over it but the worst is when there is insufficient fuel to get the train up the slope on the other side of the bridge. Will the passengers work together to find a solution?
From Runaway by Cordell Barker, adapted by Sarah Howden
How the story in the print edition of Runaway ends is up for interpretation though the cow does live to see a glorious sunset. The rich people do take advantage of the common people, promising them money for their clothes to be used for fuel, and then unhitch their car and take back the money. The Captain and lady and her dog eventually reappear and get caught up in the efforts to save the train. But how much can they do when a train is hurtling up and over hills out of control?

Cordell Barker's story takes the reader on an alarming ride of both a train without a conductor and a culture without goodwill. A little benevolence and the tale of this train and its occupants could have had a far different ending. But, with greed and self-importance overriding all common sense, this train is doomed. Regrettably, Runaway is a stark metaphor for our narcissistic world, even more so than in 2009, by reflecting a society that emphasizes taking care of the self before all else. Only the Fireman can see the need to put self aside but even he cannot prevent the disaster when all work against the whole and think only of the self.
From Runaway by Cordell Barker, adapted by Sarah Howden
As in any graphic novel, the art helps tell the story. The art in Runaway is strong in its depiction of the different classes of people, with the rich in their train car decorated in rose with food artwork and the commoners in their earthy-coloured attire living with their food animals. Even the conductor, expecting to be called Captain, aspires to more in his highly-decorated bicorn hat and jacket festooned with golden epaulets. But the art also tells us what the Fireman is thinking, how the cow conducts herself as she needs, and that the rich on the train take glee in taking advantage of the poor and even delight in their demise.

Because Cordell Barker uses dialogue sparingly in the short film, Sarah Howden needed to "fill-in-the-blanks" for young readers for whom the complexity of the circumstances might not be evident. They will understand the story, just as they might understand a fairy tale, but to give them insight into the greater picture of Runaway, Sarah Howden highlights the humans' actions from a distant perspective, trying to understand what they do and why, all which will help explain the outcome of the story. Her words give landscape to the story without explaining everything, allowing young readers to apply their own visual literacy skills and interpretation to the allegory of what can go wrong when self and greed override all.


The original short film is available on the NFB's YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/qUGHv2VAESE and is an accomplishment of movement, tension and social statement. Just be prepared: it's only a happy ending for the cow in this version.

Uploaded by NFB to YouTube on May 26, 2017.