November 24, 2017

The Gnawer of Rocks

Written by Louise Flaherty
Illustrated by Jim Nelson
Inhabit Media
60 pp.
Ages 9-14
October 2017

Author Louise Flaherty prefaces the telling of her story with its origins, the storytelling tradition of an Inuk storyteller Levi Iqalugjuaq who would visit their school in the 1970s.  This legend was one of many he told the students.
From The Gnawer of Rocks 
by Louise Flaherty 
illus. by Jim Nelson
As an Inuit camp prepares to pack up for the trek to its winter grounds, two girls, with babies in their care, go off for a walk, to soothe the children.  As they walk, they find beautiful smooth stones, and even lovelier ones as they continue, until they are lead to the mouth of a cave strewn with bones.  Drawn to the shinier stones within, the girls and their charges become trapped when the cave slams behind them.  Forced to enter further, they are horrified to discover a cache of human heads and bones which they suspect are those of missing children. One of the heads warns them that they are in the dwelling of Mangittatuarjuk and to escape by digging through the gravel walls but the warning comes too late as the hideous creature crawls out of the shadows.
From The Gnawer of Rocks 
by Louise Flaherty 
illus. by Jim Nelson
The old woman with extraordinarily long arms blocks their way but one of the girls taunts her to show them her strength, challenging her to bite down on a stone. Whilst Mangittatuarjuk attempts to gnaw at the rock, the other girl uses a bone to dig through the wall, ultimately allowing the girls to escape.  Returning to camp with their news, the hunters set out to kill the creature to ensure the safety of all their children.  Mangittatuarjuk is called forth from her cave, the men claiming they have come to honour her.  Tending to her feet, one of the hunters ties a rope around one so that their dogs could drag her from the cave entrance and across the sharp rocks to kill her.  Only after hours does the creature die of her injuries, at which time the hunters cut up her body so that her spirit could not return to life.

Louise Flaherty honours the storytelling tradition of her parents, grandparents and ancestors with this telling of Mangittatuarjuk, The Gnawer of Rocks.  This legend, like all, is rife with cautions to children who might stray too far, as well as honouring those who rise to the challenge of protecting children.  Inuit legends abound with scary creatures like Mangittatuarjuk and are told in such a way that one might never question their veracity.  Somewhere someone knows whose ancestor was one of the hunters or the girls, and it is just repeat tellings of the story that makes it sound more incredible.  American artist Jim Nelson's shadow-rich graphics convey the cold of that Arctic landscape and the gloom and blackness of the creature's cave and force.  Coupled with the graphic novel format, the illustrations support the grisly story's premise while advancing the story at a brisk pace.

True or not, The Gnawer of Rocks is splendid storytelling, horrific in its content but wise in its consul.
From The Gnawer of Rocks 
by Louise Flaherty 
illus. by Jim Nelson

November 23, 2017

2017 TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards: Winners announced

Tuesday night, the Canadian Children's Book Centre, our nationally-renowned authority on all things related to youngCanLit, announced the winners of the 2017 TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards. On November 8, 2017, the French language winners were announced.  I've posted the names of all winners here.

Congratulations to all!

TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
($30,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk
Written and illustrated by Jan Thornhill
Groundwood Books

Fan Choice Award/Choix du public littérature jeunesse


The Skeleton Tree
Written by Iain Lawrence
Tundra Books

Le Prix TD de littérature pour l'enfance et la jeunesse canadienne
($30,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group

Même pas vrai
Écrit par Larry Tremblay
Illustré par Guillaume Perreault
Éditionas de la Bagnole

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award 
($20,000) Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie

The Snow Knows
Written by Jennifer McGrath
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Nimbus Publishing

Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
($10,000) Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation

Canada Year by Year
Written by Elizabeth MacLeod
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Kids Can Press

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People 
($5,000) Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund

Mark of the Plague (Blackthorn Key, Book 2)
Written by Kevin Sands

John Spray Mystery Award
($5,000) Sponsored by John Spray of Mantis Investigation Agency

Written by Caroline Pignat
Razorbill Canada

Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
($5,000) Sponsored by Amy Mathers' Marathon of Books

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Written by E. K. Johnston
Dutton Books

Prix Harry Black de l'album jeunesse
($5,000) Sponsored by Mary Macchiusi

Au-delà de la forêt
Écrit par Nadine Robert
Illustré par Gérard DuBois
Comme des géants

November 22, 2017

The Christmas Wind: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

Last week I reviewed this very special picture book 
which I believe will be heralded as a Christmas favourite
like The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas 

Now I'm please to announce its book launch.



author Stephanie Simpson McLellan

for the launch of

The Christmas Wind
Written by Stephanie Simpson McLellan
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
All ages
November 2017


Sunday, December 3, 2017


1 p.m.


Ella Minnow Children's Bookstore
991 Kingston Road
Toronto, ON


This event will include:
• an interactive reading
• crafts for kids
• treats
• book signing
Christmas Wind loot bags.

I can't think of a better way to start the holiday season 
than by attending this launch with your children or without.

Just be sure to RSVP at

November 21, 2017

When the Moon Comes

Written by Paul Harbridge
Illustrated by Matt James
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2017
In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive. – Stephen Leacock
With Stephen Leacock's words prefacing the book, readers can anticipate a book of cold and ice which only hockey can warm to life.  This is our Canada.
Separate illustrations from When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
The children in When the Moon Comes anticipate the coming winter, but it's all about the hockey.  November may still find ducks on the beaver flood in the woods but December finally brings the cold snap that causes it to freeze.  They're already envisioning being on the ice but Arthur suggests they must wait for the moon. When the snow finally comes, dumping it on town and country alike, and the lunar cycle progresses until the full moon, the children make their way after school to the place of dreams and action.
From When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
Their long trek is rewarded with a fire that warms their skates and their anticipation as they take turns clearing the "magic ice."
It is dark, dark now, and the face of the sky is freckled with stars.  But on the far side of the flood, the sky is brighter behind the trees. The moon is rising.
     When the moon comes, we glide out onto the ice we have claimed.  It is marvelous ice, as good as any we have known.
From When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
In several wordless pages of Matt James' extraordinary art, the children skate and play and are stars in their own arena.  It is only when the puck disappears into the snow that Arthur, the voice of reason, suggests it is time to end the game.  The game may be set aside but the magic at the fire, drinking tea and toasty sandwiches, is just a new play before heading home.
Our wet pants freeze solid in the cold, and we walk clanking like knights in armor, lances over our shoulders, hoods like helmets around our faces. 
The story ends with the children warm and slumbering at home while the moon with its promise of more hockey accompanies their sleep.

Paul Harbridge's story of late night hockey on a frozen beaver flood is as magical as the ice.  His words of anticipation and emotion are subtle but reverent, packed with feeling.  Like the world hidden beneath the snow and ice, there is a story of expectation from the past and of the future that underlies what is at its core a tale of shinny.  Artist Matt James, whose work I've admired in Northwest Passage (Groundwood, 2013), The Stone Thrower (Groundwood, 2016) and From There to Here (Groundwood, 2014), enriches Paul Harbridge's text with acrylic and India ink illustrations that convey the awe and appreciation of the children for their landscape and their activity.  There may be darkness and frigid temperatures but there is warmth and camaderie and action.  With many strokes of pen and paint, Paul Harbridge and Matt James take all readers to a place of inhospitable iciness and hospitable hockey that can only be witnessed and fully appreciated When the Moon Comes.

November 20, 2017

Spirited Away: Fairy Stories of Old Newfoundland

Written by Tom Dawe
Illustrated by Veselina Tomova
Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides Inc.
60 pp.
Ages 9+
October 2017

If the cover of Spirited Away leaves you with a feeling of dark and foreboding forces at play, then artist Veselina Tomova has done her job admirably because the stories that Tom Dawe recounts from family members and others about the nefarious fairies of old Newfoundland are truly spooky and frightening, if they are to be believed.  Tom Dawe and those who tell and listen believe, and so do I.
From Spirited Away 
by Tom Dawe
 illus. by Veselina Tomova
Nine stories, addended with a glossary and notes about each story's derivation, recall stories of children, a war bride, a visiting nurse, grandmothers and more as they were touched by fairies or were witness to such encounters.  In the first story In a Place Like This, a girl recalls an abandoned house near a pool where her grandfather gathered eels.  She'd heard the warnings of it being a place of spirits and evil fairies and the tales of a man in green dancing upon the house's door ledge.  But her story relates to evil done to the baby sister she watched over as her family cut hay in the adjacent fields.  Only the baby and a green butterfly know how her arm was broken as she lay on a blanket.

Paddy the Hermit, called the Music Man, often told scary stories but they became reality when walking home he is encircled by a group of little fairies who put a spell on him to play his harmonica until he collapses.
From Spirited Away 
by Tom Dawe
 illus. by Veselina Tomova
In several stories, people seek shelter inside at night when fairies seek to harm them outside.  In The Marsh, floating lights, said to portend death, follow two young men on their return from a dance.  Only shelter in a church all night with the light hoovering outside kept the men safe. Where Water Ran the Other Way tells of trapper Solomon finds refuge in a small cabin when caught at dusk.  Though feeling compelled to open the door to those calling him, he wills himself not to listen or look out the windows at the strange goings-on.

There's the story of The Fairy Funeral, Bones and Fallen Angels (from which the cover illustration is derived)  but the other two most compelling stories for me were Spirited Away and The Changeling.  In Spirited Away, a grandmother disappears from a family outing of blueberry-picking.  She recalls being lured deep into the forest by drumming and hours later being found but without memory of her extraordinary walk including the crossing of major rivers. The Changeling is perhaps the most disturbing.  It is the story of a visiting nurse called in the night to the home where less than two months earlier little Gracie was born.  Fearing the only child of John and Sally was ill, she discovers a mother declaring that there was something in the crib but not her child.
Finally, I found the courage to approach the crib. I pulled back the sheet.  And then, God protect us all! I'll never forget the sight. (pg. 46)
It's a chilling story of fairies taking babies and leaving something in its place but it's the certainty of what that nurse saw that was the most compelling.
I know what I saw.  And I know what happened.  John and Sally lost their only child. And that night in an outport years ago, I witnessed an evil transformation.  Something ugly and strange was left in the cot where Gracie was supposed to be. (pg. 49)
Tom Dawe tells some disturbing stories in Spirited Away, enhancing the atmosphere with the flavour of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador.  From the music to blueberry picking and the vocabulary much unknown to me (you may not need to look up duckish, emper, fetch, livyers and herts but I did), these are the stories of the people of Newfoundland.  Veselina Tomova's woodcut illustrations, in dark tones and snatches of light, reflect the very settings in which the fairies appear.  These are not your Disney fairies.  These are frightening, and Tom Dawe ensures that we know that they are real.
From Spirited Away 
by Tom Dawe 
illus. by Veselina Tomova

November 19, 2017

Mine!: Rescheduled Book Launch (Waterloo, ON)

Yeah!  This event has now been rescheduled.  
See details below.


 fiction and non-fiction author

Natalie Hyde

for the launch of her new middle-grade novel

Written by Natalie Hyde
Scholastic Canada
240 pp.
Ages 9-12
September 2017


Saturday, November 25, 2017


1-3 p.m.


Earth Sciences Museum
University of Waterloo
shows the Earth Sciences Building 
and parking lots, 
including free parking in X Lot or $5 parking in Q)

Three will be:
• a book reading
• Q & A
• book signing
• light refreshments
• gold panning (!)
• Mine Tunnel tour


Like her previous middle grade fiction Saving Armpit (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011) and I Owe You One (Orca, 2011), Natalie Hyde is putting her humour to work!  And this time it's about a gold claim in the Yukon and saving a family's reputation.

If it weren't for bad luck, Chris Dearing would have no luck at all. 

Chris Dearing comes from a long line of losers. Bad luck has plagued the Dearing family for generations. Now his dad's about to lose everything, and Chris's only hope lies in the wild rivers of the Yukon. What is up there other than moose snot and mosquitos the size of bats? Gold! Specifically, a gold claim Chris’s grandfather was swindled out of years ago. 

With the help of a tough-talking biker and an ex-con muffin baker, Chris is in a race against time to claim the long-forgotten family fortune. Will he strike out like the rest of his family, or will he strike gold and finally get a chance to rewrite Dearing history?

The stakes are high and the hi-jinx even higher in this laugh-out-loud novel from acclaimed author Natalie Hyde!

 (Retrieved from Scholastic Canada website at


Details about this event
(including a lovely picture of Natalie Hyde panning for gold!)
 are available at
(though the date has yet to be updated
so just know that the launch is really on November 25, 2017)

November 15, 2017

The Man Who Knew Everything: The Strange Life of Athanasius Kircher

Written by Marilee Peters
Illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff
Annick Press
60 pp.
Ages 9-12
October 2017

Athanasius Kircher, born in 1602 Germany, dreamed of being someone extraordinary, perhaps a scientist or an author or a scholar.  The insatiably curious child who was prone to reckless behaviour to indulge that inquisitiveness would be proud to know that people regarded him as "The Man Who Knew Everything."

Asking questions about all he encountered, Athanasius Kircher chose to become a Jesuit at age 16 so that he might travel away from his village and experience everything the world might hold.  But with the onset of the religious war known as the Thirty Years' War, Kircher found himself evading the conflict by heading to the safety of the Roman Catholicism-based Rome where he became a professor of mathematics.  However, Kircher never limited his drive for knowledge to that field and pursued interests in everything.  From machines that transmitted sound to the secrets harboured within the earth, Kircher's pursuit of knowledge placed him in countless precarious positions.  It may have been the time of the Scientific Revolution when questions about the age of the earth and foundations of life were being asked but it was also the time of the Inquisition when the Church went after those whom they felt threatened their belief system.  Kircher persisted, embarking on dangerous explorations into the heart of a volcano, collaborating with scientists and priests around the world to formulate his ideas about the earth's development and publishing The Underground World, a compendium of his theories.  To share his ideas and display the many exotic oddities he discovered and was gifted, Kircher established a showcase for them, the Kircherian Museum in Rome.
From The Man Who Knew Everything
by Marilee Peters 
illus. by Roxanna Bikadoroff
Marilee Peters ensures that young readers understand that this strange man, with his innovative and bizarre ideas, was imaginative, brilliant and ahead of his times in many ways.  He didn't always get things right, like the use of rocks to extract snake venom or a mammoth bone identified as that of ancient supersized humans, but his original thinking, definitely outside the box, allowed for new ideas to come to the forefront and be considered for future study.  He was a pioneer of the scientific method and probably originated the concept of promoting science by linking it with the wonder of its magic.  (The lobster statue "vomiting" water would be a prime example.) It's not surprising that the word "kircherize" was generated to mean the making of connections between unrelated things.
From The Man Who Knew Everything 
by Marilee Peters 
illus. by Roxanna Bikadoroff

As biography, The Man Who Knew Everything is somewhat a departure for Marilee Peters whose non-fiction for young people includes 10 Rivers That Shaped the World (Annick, 2015) and Making It Right: Building Peace, Settling Conflict (Annick, 2015) but her fastidious research and ability to bring imagination to her topics of study are definitely there.  The text, never extensive but always illuminating, is like a museum of information, short snippets of knowledge bites.  With Roxanna Bikadoroff's quirky illustrations (recently seen in The Alphabet Thief; Groundwood, 2017), The Man Who Knew Everything has a Monty Pythonesque vibe (recall their TV show of the 1970s): a little irreverent, a lot of details and a general impression of something innovative.  By encompassing lots of biographical info and scientific thought in an unconventional style, The Man Who Knew Everything works for a visionary whose unusual drive for knowledge opened many doors and left many open for further exploration. He might not have actually known everything, but he sure tried.
From The Man Who Knew Everything 
by Marilee Peters 
illus. by Roxanna Bikadoroff