November 11, 2019


Written and illustrated by Kim Smith
HarperCollins Canada
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2019

Whether cats or kids, boxes are a source of endless fascination and play.  Now, with the proliferation of makerspaces in libraries and play-based learning in kindergarten, building with materials such as boxes is all the rage, as it is for Meg, an architect whose medium is boxes.
From Boxitects by Kim Smith
Meg's mother, supportive of her child's creative endeavours, sends her to Maker School where there are "blanketeers, spaghetti-tects, tin-foilers, and egg-cartoneers" but, as a boxitect, Meg is a unique. There she learns about making structures useful, strong and beautiful.
From Boxitects by Kim Smith
Then a new kid arrives and she is an amazing boxitect too. But Simone does not hold back her advice to Meg, directing her how to improve her structures. So Meg reciprocates. The two little makers are obviously more interested in showing who is the better boxitect than working together, and this poses a problem when the annual Maker Match is announced and the children must work in teams. Unfortunately Meg wants to build a tree house and Simone is determined to construct a ship so the two children begin to create their own structures, each continuing to amend their own to be taller and more impressive. It's not until a catastrophe befalls the structure that Meg and Simone learn some valuable lessons about working with others to create.
From Boxitects by Kim Smith
Kim Smith, who illustrated the Ice Chips series by Roy MacGregor and Kerry MacGregor (HarperCollins Canada), adds the whimsy to her art through her use of colour and shape. There is no mistaking the boldness of Meg and Simone's creative work in the Calgary artist's illustrations produced digitally with Photoshop. Through edges straight, scalloped and round, doorways and flags of various shapes, and bright tints and patterns, Meg and Simone's maker structures reach the stars, fly off the pages, and spill out of the makerspace. They show the impact of exploration and imagination and encourage thinking outside the box. With her own originality of thought and art, Kim Smith demonstrates to little ones that looking at problem-solving from a different perspective or discovering new ways of expression is a win-win for makers big and small.
From Boxitects by Kim Smith

November 08, 2019

The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids: Essential Skills and Recipes Every Young Chef Should Know

Written by Pierre A. Lamielle
170 pp.
Ages 8-13
September 2019

As a teacher-librarian, I loved purchasing cookbooks for the school library. Kids love looking at photos of great food, dreaming about sweet desserts and baked goods, and emboldening them to try their hand at some kitchen magic. With Chef Pierre A. Lamielle's newest cookbook, this one for children specifically, they'll get a good start on developing their culinary skills and creating some tasty treats.

More than a recipe book, The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids covers important lessons, all told via quirky illustrations and a group of distinct characters called the Munchy Munchy Bunch which includes Sal, Pepper, Ragu, Ziti, Sage, Rose, and Bean. The first lessons focus on avoiding dangers that involve sharp objects, fire and hot items or sources of germs. From learning how to slice, hinge and saw with a knife, to dealing with burns and fires and avoiding Salmonella, Cyclospora and E. coli, Pierre A. Lamielle's "Safety Pages" are an excellent beginning to this cookbook.
From The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids by Pierre A. Lamielle
While introducing the Munchy Munchy Bunch, Pierre A. Lamielle also presents the basic tastes of salty, bitter, sour, sweet and umami, and makes a case for ketchup–with recipe included–being a balance of all five tastes. (Who knew?)

From The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids by Pierre A. Lamielle
The remaining sections–Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Sweets–focus on basic recipes but always offer up more. From cooking eggs six ways to making jam for breakfast, or preparing soup, salad, or sandwiches for lunch, and serving up schnitzel, butter chicken or pizza with homemade dough, each meal becomes an exploration of ingredients, techniques, history, and culture. The photographs, most of which are double-spreads that extend across the hardy hidden wire o binding (making scanning of the images near impossible for me), are appealing and never unsophisticated. The recipes are for restaurant quality food from the pumpkin pie soup to the soy delicious lettuce wraps, veggie chili with mini cornbread muffins and browneapolitan dessert. For vegetarian to meat-eaters, and those who prefer savoury to sweet or vice versa, everyone's tastes are covered within the recipes of The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids,
From The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids by Pierre A. Lamielle
Calgary's Chef Pierre A. Lamielle, who has appeared on Top Chef Canada and Chopped Canada, has his spoon in a lot of creative bowls from cooking and writing, to illustrating and teaching, all related to art and food. By mixing both here in The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids, Pierre A. Lamielle has found a way to teach and entertain young readers with the promise of developing their culinary skills, of feeding themselves and others, and of making tasty food a source of sustenance and joy.

November 07, 2019

2019 CCBC Canadian Children's Book Awards: French-language Winners announced

Tonight, the winners of French-language Canadian Children's Book Centre Book Awards were announced at a gala in Montreal at L’Astral.  (The English-language awards were presented on October 15 in Toronto and are posted here.)

Le Prix TD de littérature pour l'enfance et la jeunesse canadienne: Winner
Anatole qui ne séchait jamais
Written by Stéphanie Boulay
Illustrated by Agathe Bray-Bourret
Éditions Fonfon
80 pp.
Ages 10+

Le Choix du Public Littérature Jeunesse: Winner
Anatole qui ne séchait jamais
Written by Stéphanie Boulay
Illustrated by Agathe Bray-Bourret
Éditions Fonfon
80 pp.
Ages 10+

Prix Harry Black de l'album jeunesse: Winner

Mémé à la plage
Written by Rhéa Dufresne
Illustrated by Aurélie Grand
Éditions Les 400 coups
32 pp.
Ages 5+

Toutes nos félicitations!

November 06, 2019

Larkin on the Shore

Written by Jean Mills
Red Deer Press
310 pp.
Ages 13+
October 2019
"...her words have stayed with me, just like Jonah's. Words do that. Words spoken and words in books. Words you write. They start to breathe and live and just take over. And right now, I've been taken over by the words of other people–people talking–and I can't find myself or my own words." (pg. 221)
After she is traumatized by something that happened with a boy, Jonah, and ejected from a moving car, sixteen-year-old Larkin Day is sent from her home in Toronto to stay with her grandmother Granne in Tuttle Harbour, Nova Scotia for the summer.  Larkin had managed to finish her Grade 10 exams but the gossip and social media about what happened have left her feeling isolated and unsafe and contemplating the relief of suicide. Her dad decides his mother, a retired principal, would be the best bet for his daughter while he heads to Vancouver to deal with Larkin's mom, a woman addicted to painkillers and bouncing between the unsafe streets and rehab. 

But for Larkin, Granne and Tuttle Harbour are unfamiliar and she must learn to assess every person she meets for sincerity and safety. That includes neighbour Will Greenfield who is helping his dad Billy renovate an old house for Granne into the Tuttle Harbour Café and Reading Room. As Larkin helps Granne with the book donations for the reading room, she deals with her anxiety which tempers her interactions with others, even with nice-guy Will. But when Will takes her to a local campfire with his peers, Larkin meets the gregarious Casey Henwood, his girlfriend Beth and others, and overdoes the drink when " tastes so good and goes down easily." (pg. 70). Could she be putting herself in harm's way?

When a fire destroys the back of the café, Casey and Beth and others are quick to point fingers at Will's dad, a recovering alcoholic, who'd apparently once burned down a shed he was building at the Henwood's farm. Hearing the gossip about Billy as well as about Will from Beth, and reflecting on the talk that went on about her after she was injured, Larkin is perplexed about whom to believe or to trust. What's worse is the news coming from her dad about her mother's health situation.  Walking out into the water until the darkness envelopes her or trying to swim out to Prince Edward Island, knowing she'd never make it, continue to overshadow her regular visits to the shore until she starts to live beyond others' words.

Jean Mills, who wrote the Red Maple-nominated Skating Over Thin Ice (Red Deer Press, 2018), knows how to tell a story about dealing with expectations from family, school and self. She gets what it's like to trust and not trust your own feelings and to be confused about how those you care about conduct themselves around you. From an addicted mother to an unfamiliar grandmother and peers that are both charming and deceptive, Larkin must look at every interaction as a potential disaster and possibly harmful. Sadly this is probably not unusual for teens who are trying to understand a world in which they are expected and allowed to take on greater responsibilities but may be unsure whether they have the strength or understanding to meet them. For Larkin, it may not always be evident which is the safe world or the dangerous one, not unlike a shore that borders land and water, but she is developing the courage to choose her heading and a solid intuition about good people that will guide her.

November 05, 2019

I Read Canadian Day: Feb. 19, 2020

Author Eric Walters
wanted to:
  • unite young readers across Canada for a day of reading Canadian books;
  • raise awareness of Canadian books; and
  • celebrate the richness, diversity and breadth of Canadian literature.
(And you know that's what CanLit for LittleCanadians is all about too!)

 Using the Ontario Library Association’s I Read Canadian fund and initiative as its foundation, I Read Canadian Day was created with input from countless individuals involved with books including authors, publishers, teachers and library organizations. 

With the support from the 
Ontario Library Association,
the Canadian Children’s Book Centre 

was declared for  

February 19, 2020

We challenge everyone from west to east, and far north to south,
 to Read Canadian (that includes reading to children)
for 15 minutes 
and to share their experience at their library, in their school, with their families and friends, or on social media.

(There are no fees, accounts, passwords or subscriptions necessary.
We just want to log how many young people will be reading Canadian on February 19, 2020.)

Teaching and supplementary materials are available at the website with more being developed to really make this a special day for all.
has lots more details and ideas.)

I'll be reading Canadian on February 19, 2020.  

Join me for the first #IREADCANADIAN DAY !

November 01, 2019

Finding Lucy

Written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
October 2019

Lucy is a joyful artist. She paints with bold colours and emotion and a brush full of voice that brings her and her cat great joy. But when others begin to opine about her work and advise her about her painting, that comfort turns to turmoil as she attempts to heed their unsolicited advice.
From Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes
In her raggedy and patched pants, bright yellow tee and paint-splattered apron, with ginger pigtails bursting from the top of her head, Lucy is happy. She paints from her heart. But, then a rabbit reporter tells her that her artwork looks like jellybean soup. An elephant tells her it isn't loud enough. A crocodile tells her it isn't scrumptious enough.
From Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes
When Lucy starts painting for herself again, "the painting was like a dream." But then she starts listening again to those who call her work out as not brave enough (that from a chicken) or not pink enough (that from a mother pig) or in need of more green (a frog shared that with her).
From Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes
By now, Lucy was beginning to see that everybody had something to say.
It would seem that a variety of animals–giraffe, leopard, ostrich, fox and others–all confound her and her creativity. Only the cat reminds her to paint what once brought her joy.
She painted the flutter of birds and the whimsy of the wind.
Ultimately Lucy rediscovers her true art and accepts it as an expression of self, not the means for the approval of others.
From Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes
And ever after, after that,
the cat purred,
and Lucy painted with grit
and determination

And the courage of spring
and the color of laughter.
I don't know if Lucy is supposed to honour a famous artist or a piece of abstract expressionist art but I don't think it matters. Eugenie Fernandes has given us a story in words and pictures that supports that idea that creativity is an expression of self and needs to be embraced rather than questioned, especially when every armchair critic feels the need to voice their personal preferences and expects the artist to accommodate those. From colour to feeling, shape and voice, creativity comes from within and Lucy knew and knows this. Sadly she is distracted by those with loud and overbearing opinions and buckles under their varied and judgemental assertions.

I hope Eugenie Fernandes, whose art work has won her a variety of awards and accolades, has always felt supported in her artistic endeavours whether she chooses to use acrylic paint on canvas as she does here in Finding Lucy or other media. If Finding Lucy demonstrates anything it's that those who observe art derive their perceptions from their perspective and attitudes and Lucy can't possibly give every viewer what they need to see the art's beauty. I'm glad that she finally trusts herself, and her very wise cat, that what she brings to her art is everything it needs to be to bring her joy.
From Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes

October 30, 2019

The 2019 First Page Student Writing Challenge

Get your students in Grades 7 to 12 writing with
CBC Books


in which two winning entries 
 (one for Gr. 7-9 and one for Gr. 10-12) 
will be selected by
 award-winning YA author
Kelley Armstrong

The Challenge:  
• Write the first page of a novel (any literary genre) set in 2169 with the protagonist dealing with an issue currently relevant  (climate change, diversity, gender, refugees, leadership, etc.) and show how it has played out 150 years from now.
• Write 300-400 words.  Be sure to give your "book" a title.

Eligible Participants:
• All Canadian residents who are full time students enrolled in Gr. 7 to 12 may enter.

• Submit between November 4, 2019 and November 25, 2019

• Author Kelley Armstrong will judge the entries based on the following criteria:
  • creativity;
  • critical thinking; and
  • quality of writing
• Shortlists of 10 entries per grade category will be selected from which the winner will be chosen.

• One year subscription to OwlCrate, a monthly delivery of a box of books (winner may select middle grade or young adult)
• The school library of each winner will also receive 50 YA books chosen by CBC.

Full details of this writing challenge are provided at CBC Books 
with rules and regulations available here.

Teachers' guides, writing tips, posters and more are also available at
the CBC Books website for the contest.