May 17, 2019

The Magpie's Library: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

I loved her sci-fi YA

Transferral (DCB, 2015)

Tangled Planet (DCB, 2017)

and now


is set to launch 

her middle-grade fantasy

The Magpie's Library
Written by Kate Blair
208 pp.
Ages 9-12
May 2019


Thursday, May 23, 2019

6:30 p.m.


84 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON

From DCB's website at
Silva and her family visit her grandfather, only to find his health has taken a bad turn. As they struggle with this news, Silva seeks escape in books – at the local library.

But she gets more than she bargained for when a magpie guides her to a secret, magical room containing books that she can not only read, but that she can live. Silva finds herself in the worlds of the characters … who all turn out to be real people. People she knows.

There’s a catch, though: she soon discovers that the magpie has lured her to these books for selfish and dark reasons. Going back to the books could mean losing her soul …

May 16, 2019

2019 Forest of Reading® winners announced

The Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading's book awards have been an important part of my school library program and my personal volunteer experiences for many years, so I am always proud to post the results of this wonderful reading program.

It's impossible to congratulate all those who made this reading program and the Festival of Trees such a success but here are some of the amazing people who play important roles in its success:

• the readers;
• the selection committees who read so many books to choose the best for the shortlists;
• the steering committees that organize and put on the fabulous Festival of Trees;
• the OLA staff, with Meredith Tutching at the helm;
• the authors and illustrators who create the wonderful youngCanLit; and
• the publishers who publish youngCanLit and promote it.

Here are this year's readers' choice winners for each reading program as announced at the Festival of Trees in Toronto on May 14, 15 and 16, 2019:

Blue Spruce


Barnaby Never Forgets
Written and illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby


Silver Birch EXPRESS

Meet Viola Desmond
Written by Elizabeth MacLeod
Illustrated by Mike Deas
Scholastic Canada

Silver Birch FICTION

Written by Linwood Barclay

Silver Birch NON-FICTION 


Carey Price
How a First Nations Kid Became a Superstar Goaltender
Written by Catherine Rondina

Le prix Peuplier 

La doudou qui aimait trop le chocolat
Écrit par Claudia Larochelle
Illustré par Maira Chiodi
Les Éditions de la Bagnole

Le prix Tamarac 


Gladiateurs virtuels
Écrit par Paul Roux
Bayard Canada

Le prix Tamarac EXPRESS


Mammouth rock
Écrit par Eveline Payette
Illustré par Guillaume Perreault
La Courte Échelle

Red Maple Fiction


A World Below
Written by Wesley King
Paula Wiseman Books

Red Maple Non-Fiction


Every Falling Star
The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
Written by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland
Abrams Amulet

White Pine FICTION

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
Written by Heather Smith
Penguin Teen Canada


Thrilling news for all authors, illustrators and publishers!

Enjoyed all the more for being selected 
by young Canadian readers!

Congratulations to everyone!


The full list of winners and honour books is posted
 at CanLit for LittleCanadians Awards here.

May 15, 2019

Anne's Alphabet

Inspired by Anne of Green Gables
Written and illustrated by Kelly Hill
Tundra Books
28 pp.
Ages 0-4
May 2019

For parents and teachers who might like to introduce concepts like the alphabet with a truly Canadian flavour, there is a wonderful series of board books from Kelly Hill inspired by L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. Anne's Alphabet is just one of the latest.
From Anne's Alphabet by Kelly Hill
Anne's Alphabet starts with, of course, A for Anne, but then fans of the quintessential Canadian novel will recognize the birch grove of B, G for Gilbert, I for imagination which the young girl has in abundance, K for kindred spirit, L for Lake of Shining Waters, M for Marilla and Matthew, and ending with the Zs as Anne drifts off to sleep.
From Anne's Alphabet by Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill's vocabulary selections for each letter will undoubtedly spark discussions about the inspiration for her book but it's her illustrations made from cut fabric and embroidery that steal the presentation. They are colourful and textured. They are eye-catching and draw the reader to explore details in the letters, in Anne's dress and expressions, and the landscapes of her Green Gables and environs. 
From Anne's Alphabet by Kelly Hill
You can see the shadow effect on the letters to make them look three-dimensional, the sewing stitches, and the twisting of yarn in Anne's hair. Kelly Hill makes everything in Anne's Alphabet so enchanting that the alphabet may offer opportunities for study but the art invites indulgent scrutiny.

May 14, 2019

Sophie Trophy

Written by Eileen Holland
Illustrations by Brooke Kerrigan
Crwth Press
120 pp.
Ages 6-9
March 2019 

No, her last name is not Trophy but when her friend Brayden thinks she deserves it as a nickname for her goofy ideas, he's actually applauding her imagination which is stellar. Unfortunately, her classmate Jordy begins to use it as a taunt whenever she does something a little...different.  But it's just Sophie's creativity getting ahead of the third grader.

When Brayden brings a spider to school in a jar, it sets off a series of unfortunate events, all thanks to Jordy's removal of the lid and his exaggerated response to the spider. "It attacked my nose! I may have to go home sick." (pg. 7) But what's worse is that Miss Ruby, their teacher, obviously does not like spiders.  The next day, when Sophie, who sits in the front row, spots the spider first jiggling above Miss Ruby's voluminous hair and then falling into it and onto her hoop earring, Sophie ends up getting sent to the principal's office because of her outrageous and seemingly rude directives to her teacher.

At the office, Sophie's thoughts go wild, launching off of the secretary's pencil, an eraser she finds, and a gold pen she discovers on the floor.  But nothing is ever simple when Sophie gets an idea. Before all is resolved with Sophie and her teacher and the spider safely returned to its new home outdoors, the little girl breaks a special pen belonging to Mr. Homewood (whom she calls Mr. Homework), finds herself stuck hanging out his office window before falling and getting covered in mud and accidentally tripping Jordy.  In the end, the whole story comes out and Sophie makes sure Jordy knows she doesn't appreciate the way he uses her nickname. There may even be a happy dance from a spider.
From Sophie Trophy by Eileen Holland, illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
Early reader fiction is tough to write well. Too often the books are too juvenile–children tend to read up i.e., higher than their age–or lack the content to develop stories fully. They can't rely on illustrations to carry the bulk of the story as is possible in picture books–though Brooke Kerrigan's black-and-white sketches enrich the story–and don't have the volume of text to establish characters and plots as read in middle grade novels. But, when it's done well, as BC's Eileen Holland does in Sophie Trophy, young children get to know a few great characters, can empathize with their stories and cheer for an ending that makes sense without being artificial. Sophie is likeable and, while prone to day dreaming which includes musings about the mundane and the fantastic, it all comes from a good place. Her intentions are driven by her heart as she tries to protect her teacher from a spider, to prevent her friend from getting in trouble for bringing the spider to school, to repair her principal's special gold pen, and to keep the spider safe. For Sophie, doing the right thing just happens to occur while she's imagining ears flying off to overhear conversations and readying herself to swat at her teacher with a fish net. Never a dull day for Sophie Trophy, queen of the quirky ideas.

May 13, 2019

Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths

Written and illustrated by Graham Annable
First Second
128 pp.
Ages 6-10
April 2019

The sloths from Graham Annable's first graphic novel in this charming series, Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths (First Second, 2018), have returned with a greater problem than managing their differences. Ernesto, the beige-coloured sloth, is filled with
From Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
music and joie de vivre and lots of optimism compared to his friend Peter, the grey sloth who is more cautious and realistic and certainly a homebody. But when a hurricane hits and their home tree, along with many in the area, is destroyed, the two and their sloth friends must search beyond their comfort zone and familiar grounds for a new home. Of course, Ernesto leads the way.
From Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
But the world outside of their own area has many unknowns and the group of six come across peccaries shouting about a jaguar, tree vines that are actually snakes, biting ants, a cave full of bats, and a river of crocodiles. But they also make friends of some armadillos, have a fun mud fight with an anteater and find a new home and roommate.
From Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
I was captivated by these two unlikely friends and their search for a new home. They might handle each new set of circumstances differently, one ready to plunge right in and sing his way through while the other focuses on logistics and making good choices, but they are together all the way.  And, as they find that new tree and tree-mate, everyone is reminded that communities are built with unity and support.
From Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
While animation and film fans may be more familiar with Graham Annable as one of the directors of the Academy Award-nominated animated film The Boxtrolls, I think the Peter & Ernesto graphic novel series will win him new fans, middle grade ones, who will appreciate the humour, the graphics and the relationship between the two lovable sloths. Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths has the right blend of those important story elements for this age group: uncluttered artwork, unambiguous dialogue, and a linear story line with the perfect balance of surprise bumps and hilarity along the journey. (The jaguar is not what is expected!) There are life lessons about friendship and acceptance and finding strength from others. Enjoy to your new home, Peter & Ernesto, and I hope to visit with you again.

May 09, 2019

Shout Out

Written by Joamette Gil, CJ Walker, Day Irwin, Kieron Gillen, Marie Anello, Andrew Wheeler, Elodie Chen, Nichole Robinson, Sunny Ôchumuk, Nicholai Farber, Anthony Oliveira, Angela Cole, Crystal Frasier, Derrick Chow, H. Pueyo, B.C. Holmes, Lindsay Smith and Ashley Gallagher

Illustrated by Kelly & Nichole Matthews, CJ Walker, Vivian Ng, V. Gagnon, Liz Parlett, Michelle Dix, Elodie Chen, Anika Granillo, Shaina Lu, Nicholai Farber, Josh McKenzie, Cheryl Young, Molly James, Derrick Chow, Dante Luiz, Alex Moore, Adrienne Valdes, Helen Robinson, Amara Sherm, Hien Pham, Maia Kobabe, Pez Moreno and Kristina Luu

Colors and Letters by Joamette Gil and Nichole Matthews

Edited by Andrew Wheeler

TO Comix Press
198 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2019

I love a good anthology.  It offers an opportunity to provide a medley of stories with different settings and characters and plots. Shout Out may be founded on a theme of diverse queer stories, but it roars beyond that, telling stories of Vikings, fairies, virtual reality, superheroes and humans whose stories need to be shared. They are fantasy and legend, reality and historical. And, with a diverse list of contributors, from Canada to the US, Chile to Northern Island, Shout Out becomes a global compilation of stories, providing readers with a little something for everyone.
From Sunlight (in Shout Out), written by Anthony Oliveira, illus. by Josh McKenzie, color by Nichole Matthews
Many of the eighteen graphic short stories in Shout Out include an element of the supernatural.  Some include spirits or fair folk like Amaranthine which tells of a fairy protecting a garden of flowers that can restore life. The Name of the Forest by Toronto-based Day Irwin and Vivian Ng has a character seeking their heart's desire from a forest spirit only to be impeded by not know their own true name.
I guess I don't know who I am either, though. Sorry, I only know who I'm not. (pg. 23)
In Curio by Andrew Wheeler and Michelle Dix, a young man picking gooseberries makes the acquaintance of Curio, the warden of the beasts, with whom he shares a kiss that is both surprising and scary.
From Love in the Cloud (in Shout Out) by Derrick Chow
Technology comes into play in several stories including Glitches Get it Done, a sci-fi story in which a space traveller learns from a hologram of a sociologist about past supports to help those in transition, and Love in the Cloud, the story by Torontonian Derrick Chow, in which two different teens in the virtual world of Polyberg become separated on the cusp of its dissolution.

Warriors, both historical and supernatural, stay true to themselves in three different stories. In Ergi, Aric is desperate to reunite with his love Eldan who has reached Valhalla, whereas there is a secret crush happening between Louis and superhero Vigil who is adept at rescuing everyone from evil villains in Sunlight written by Anthony OliveiraSidekicks and Allies written by Toronto's B. C. Holmes reveals the quandary for Liv who identifies as female but for whom entry through a portal prohibited to males could thwart her plans to enter the Under Realm to stop the destruction of the world.
I'm the universe keeps finding new ways to ask me to prove my gender, and the stakes are completely over the top. (pg. 164)
From Sidekicks and Allies (in Shout Out) written by B.C. Holmes, illus. by Alex Moore
There are so many stories, including of finding love at a speakeasy (Shine So Bright), a young man learning How to Summon a Demon to see if he really likes boys, and two Indigenous girls who are drawn to each other in The Fisher and the Jeweler.
From Torontovka (in Shout Out) by Nicholai Farber
In addition to the eighteen stories, there are five single-page illustrations that support Shout Out's mandate of inviting young readers to see themselves–gay, trans, non-binary, asexual and more–as individuals with their own stories.  Even with supernatural elements, these characters are real. They have questions, show integrity, and feel anger, compassion, and love. Their connections with others make them heroes, as they should be, battling conventions, discrimination, villains and ignorance.

May 08, 2019

Ghosts: Book launch (Winnipeg, MB)

The final book in David A. Robertson's 

The Reckoner Trilogy 

is set to be released!


First came

  Written by David A. Robertson
HighWater Press
216 pp.
Ages 14+2017


 Written by David A. Robertson
HighWater Press
246 pp.
Ages 14+

and now

 The Reckoner Trilogy, Book 3
Written by David A. Robertson
HighWater Press
241 pp.
Ages 14+
May 2019 

which launches

Thursday, May 30, 2019


7 p.m.

McNally Robinson Booksellers
Grant Park in the Atrium
Winnipeg, MB

Author David A. Robertson 
will be in attendance at this event
hosted by CBC's Shelagh Rogers
special guest writer Warren Cariou