May 31, 2012

Book Award News moving to its Own CanLit for LittleCanadians Blog

With the onslaught of regional, national and international book awards for which our very worthy Canadian authors and illustrators have been nominated and selected, I have found that my book reviews on CanLit for LittleCanadians are getting lost, or at least overlooked.  It's hard for a title of only one or two words to be seen in a list of posts when each award-post title is multi-lined.  Of twenty-four posts logged this month on CanLit for LittleCanadians, eleven were notices about new shortlists and winners.

So, with the intention of highlighting reviews and news about great CanLit for younger readers, I will be moving all award related posts to CanLit for LittleCanadians: Awards at and only posting future award news on that site.  While it will break up readership (and we know how important numbers are when trying to get recognition and subscriptions for your blog), I'm hoping that this will allow the titles and authors/illustrators to shine a little more brightly, as they well should.  Bear with me as I move older posts about awards to their new home on CanLit for LittleCanadians: Awards.

Similarly, I'll be reposting any videos, trailers, etc. onto CanLit for LittleCanadians: Book Trailers and Other Media at for those who love watching this medium.

May 30, 2012

Chocolate Lily Awards 2012/2013 Nominees

The shortlists of nominated titles for the 2012-2013 Chocolate Lily Awards, books by British Columbia authors and/or illustrators for young readers in Kindergarten to Grades 6, were announced on May 25, 2012.

Now just two categories (the Novel category is no longer used), the shortlists on which young readers will vote next spring include the following titles:

In the Chapter Book Category (Grade 3 – Grade 5)

• Ghosts of the Titanic
by Julie Lawson

• Encore Edie
by Annabel Lyon

• That Fatal Night
by Sarah Ellis

• The Runaway
by Glen Huser

• Run Marco Run
by Norma Charles

• The Whole Truth
by Kit Pearson

• Ice Storm
by Penny Draper

In the Picture Book Category (Kindergarten to Grade 5)

• Pussycat, Pussycat, Where have you Been?
by Dan Bar-el

• I Want to go to the Moon 
by Tom Saunders 
Illustrated by Cynthia Nugent (BC)

• Seal Song
by Andrea Spalding

• Can Hens Give Milk?
by Joan Betty Stuchner

• Sounds of the Ferry 
 by Sara Leach

• Louis the Tiger Who Came From the Sea
by Michal Kozlowski

• Grandpa’s Girls
by Nicola I. Campbell

We'll be checking back on these short lists when young readers in B.C. begin their reading and voting and ultimately when the winners are announced in May, 2013.

Chocolate Lily 2012 winners announced

Unlike the British Columbia book awards of Red Cedar and the Stellar Award programs, the Chocolate Lily Book Awards promote children's fiction by B. C. authors and B. C. illustrators. The three award categories for 2011/2012 were:
  1. Picture Book – for readers in Kindergarten to Grade 4
  2. Chapter Book – for Grades 3-6
  3. Novel – for Grades 5 to 8
The winners of the Chocolate Lily Book Awards were announced recently from the following shortlists announced last spring:

In the Picture Book Category (Kindergarten to Grade 3)

• Singing Away the Dark
by Caroline Woodward
Simply Read Books

• Great Lakes and Rugged Ground Imagining Ontario
by Sarah N. Harvey & Leslie Buffam
Orca Book Publishers

•  Stanley’s Little Sister
by Linda Bailey (BC)
Kids Can Press

• The Little Hummingbird
by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Greystone Books

Where are You Bear?
by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Sean L. Moore (BC)
Owl Kids

• Compost Stew an A to Z Recipe for the Earth
by Mary McKenna Siddals
Tricycle Press

The winner in the Picture Book Category is. . .
Stanley's Little Sister
by Linda Bailey
Kids Can Press

In the Chapter Book Category (Grades 3 – 5)

• Emily
by Julie Lawson

• The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw
by Lois Peterson
Orca Book Publishers

• Ben’s Robot
by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers

• Black Dog Dream Dog
by Michelle Superle
Tradewind Books

• No Pets Allowed
by Irene N. Watts
Tradewind Books

The winner in the Chapter Book Category is. . .
Black Dog, Dream Dog
by Michelle Superle
Tradewind Books

In the Novel Category  (Grades 5 – 8 )

• Hannah & the Spindle Whorl
by Carol Anne Shaw
Ronsdale Press

• Silver Rain
by Lois Peterson
Orca Book Publishers

• Follow the Elephant
by Beryl Young
Ronsdale Press

• Ghost of Heroes Past
by Charles Ried
Ronsdale Press

• No Moon
by Irene Watts
Tundra Books

• Dear George Clooney Please Marry Mom
by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books

• Liar and Fools
by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers

The winner in the Novel Category is. . .
Follow the Elephant
by Beryl Young
Kids Can Press

authors, illustrators and publishers 
on your nominations and wins

May 29, 2012

Way to Go

by Tom Ryan
Orca Book Publishers
978-1-459800779 (pb)
978-1-459800793  (ebook)
224 pp.
Ages 12+
April, 2012

Discovering who you are is a common theme of YA books (sadly as well as of adult fiction and even non-fiction.) In that sense, Way to Go could be seen as a coming-of-age novel in which Danny, 17, searches for his niche amongst his friends, Jay and Kierce, and for his future, in Cape Breton or not.  But trying to identify your sexual orientation can be awkward when you have a friend like Kierce who has hundreds of rules about getting the girl.  It’s especially problematic if you’re unsure whether you want to get the girl or be with a guy instead.  Still thinking about what he wants and who he is has Danny feeling pressured by his Dad who is adamant that Danny go to university.  Working in the Alberta oil fields after the bottling plant closed in Deep Cove, Dad is determined that Danny's employment options will not be limited as his own were.

So starts the summer of 1984, the summer before Danny’s final year in high school.  Resolved that he will not waste it, his mother arranges for him to work for a former classmate, Denise, who has returned to Deep Cove to convert the popular but rundown Burger Shack into an upscale restaurant named The Sandbar.

Focused on his job at helping The Sandbar get up and running, Dan puts aside his worries and finds himself enjoying the camaraderie of his new acquaintances: Denise, who left Deep Cove right after high school; JP, the amazing chef from Montreal; Lisa Walsh who has come from New York City to spend the summer with her aunt; and classmate Maisie who is hired when more wait staff is needed.   

It's the beautiful, sophisticated Lisa that has Dan enamoured and thinking about his feelings for girls. Though only 17, Lisa seems so worldly, coming from New York City with a trove of life experiences Danny cannot even imagine. It is as they become good friends, driving around after work in her old car Bessie and listening to her amazingly diverse collection of mixed tapes, that Danny first considers checking out his feelings for girls on Lisa.  Though his best friend, Jay, who has issues of his own to worry about (failing his exams and jeopardizing his school year), doesn't press Dan about girls,  Kierce is relentless about hooking Danny up with one girl or another and his careless comments about gay people put Danny in an even more precarious quandary.

Meanwhile, with the Sandbar successfully up and running, Dan's skills as a dishwasher are being severely challenged.  Fortunately Denise and JP are very astute, recognizing Dan's fascination with watching JP cook could better suit him for the role of sous chef.  Here Danny finds his forté, prepping for JP and learning about cooking from a master, and considering a culinary institute after high school.

For Dan and Lisa, as well as The Sandbar, Dan's Dad, Jay and Kierce, the Way to Go seems to be forward.  Taking the first step is the difficult one but it's the only Way to Go.  Whether it is sharing hidden truths or the anticipation of decision-making or worries about the unknown, the characters of Way to Go only find growth and learning (as well as relief) by going forward.  Tom Ryan easily finds the voices of the teens, male and female, gay and straight, as well as the adults with whom they interact, as if he has been all those people and speaks from experience.  It's by taking bits and pieces from all of them that Danny comes to recognize that he needn't worry so much about who he would become but just be who he is now.  Life isn't a static enterprise that needs to be prodded to happen.  Even deciding to remain in Deep Cove would never ensure any constancy, just a permanent locale.  By choosing to take those first steps, Dan has chosen the direction of his progress and fortunately it is forward.

May 28, 2012

Red Cedar Award 2012 winners announced

British Columbian children in Grades 4 through 7 have read and voted for their favourite titles among the Fiction nominees and Information Book nominees for 2011/2012. We are pleased to announce the winners in each category.

For the Red Cedar Book Award for Fiction, the winner is . . .

After the Fire
by Becky Citra
 Orca Books 
186 pp.
Ages 8-11
While her mom and boyfriend are passed out drunk, a fire breaks out and Melissa is left scarred.  Two years later, Melissa, her brother and mom are spending the summer at a friend's cottage. There Melissa meets Alice and, although she is embarrassed about her less-than-perfect family, Melissa learns that Alice is not what she seems, her family also less than perfect and dealing with grief in a variety of unhealthy ways.

For the Red Cedar Information Book Award, the winner is . . .

How to Build Your Own Country 
by Valerie Wyatt
Illustrated by Fred Rix
Kids Can Press
40 pp.
Ages 9-11
This "how-to" book will help readers establish their own countries, learn how to set up their governments and how to set up international relations with other countries.  All the organization needed and the knowledge of government, economics, trade and other key national endeavours are illustrated in this worthwhile book. 

May 27, 2012

First Nation Communities Read 2012 Winner announced

Celebrate the onset of National Aboriginal History Month 
with the compelling text with First Nation, Métis or Inuit content
 that has won 
the 2012 First Nation Communities Read program.  
The winner of the 2012 First Nation Communities Read 
program,  as selected by the First Nations public library communities of Ontario, is .  .  .

Shannen and the Dream for a School
by Janet Wilson
 Second Story Press

206 pp.
Ages 8+

This non-fiction text by award-winning author and illustrator Janet Wilson tells the story of thirteen-year-old Shannen Koostachin who in 2007 began her fight to have a new school built in her Cree community of Attawapiskat in northern Ontario.  Since 1979, when the school was contaminated after a fuel oil spill, the community of Attawapiskat had been using temporary portables lacking heat and susceptible to mould as a school.  Shannen and fellow students began the Students-Helping-Students campaign that included a YouTube video, visits to Ottawa, Facebook pleas and letter-writing, and became the largest child rights movement in Canadian history.


The following PowerPoint presentation, uploaded from YouTube, was produced by Shannen and her fellow students as a plea to Minister Chuck Strahl for a new school.
Uploaded by on Mar 23, 2008 to YouTube.

This documentary short, also uploaded from YouTube, covers Shannen's story in full as told by HeartSpeakTV.
Uploaded by on Jan 23, 2011 to YouTube

          ~             ~               

Do yourself a favour and read Janet Wilson's Shannen and the Dream for a School for a compassionate and informative read about a poignant story of a community's quest for social justice.

May 24, 2012


by Caroline Wissing
Thistledown Press
241 pp.
Ages 14+

Even before Annabel becomes voiceless, her life is tenuous, though virtually tethered to the very mother who causes its deficiencies.  Abandonning Annabel at age 5 for a boyfriend, leaving her to be rescued by the police and to move in with Granny, Annabel's mother pops in intermittently, always with ephemeral cheer and a new boyfriend and the promise to return for her daughter.  Unfortunately, the last time Annabel sees her mother, during the Christmas holidays of her Grade 7 year, is the night Mama and new beau Julian ransack Granny's apartment looking for money and Granny is murdered.

Voiceless now, Annabel goes into foster care and is placed at the Noble Spirit Farm and Horse Sanctuary of Mary and Bobby Gervais.  While becoming a foster child can be the beginning of more transience, Annabel's placement provides her with some comfort, especially with a rescued horse, Jett.  Now being called Ghost, Annabel joins other foster children at the farm: Tully, a teen boy with dwarfism; Char, a street-wise young prostitute; and Big Jerome, an Ojibwa teen whose little brother killed himself with a rifle carelessly stored by his negligent, alcoholic parents. But the arrival of Graydon Fox (whose history is unclear) and the sexual relationship he and Ghost form leads Ghost away from the farm, into the savage, drink- or drug-addled world of Graydon's acquaintance, Cooper.

Annabel/Ghost's world is gritty and dangerous, evoked well by Caroline Wissing's text.  Profanities, alcohol, drugs, sex, prostitution, rape, theft, abuse and arson are all part of the fabric of Annabel/Ghost's life.
"The room was abuzz with people going about the individual business, everyone with their drunk or drugged out tunnel vision, caring only about themselves." (pg. 151)
Imagine believing that "Going to a dance felt like suicide to me" (pg. 121) or that "I felt like I was walking around in a prison full of dead eyes" (pg. 100).  The few tender instances are so fleeting that it's unbelievable that Ghost has only lost her voice, not her essence.  But that essence is still always present, knowing and doing the right thing instinctively though problematic.  Annabel/Ghost finds a way to get the police involved in investigating Cooper, without involving herself.  Moreover, while others around her were using drugs, Ghost will not use them, afraid of becoming her mother.  And when Francine, an unpleasant girl sleeping with Cooper becomes pregnant and Cooper performs an ad hoc abortion, Ghost finds a way to get Francine to the hospital. 

Voiceless is not an easy read.  It's not a coming of age story in which a girl learns who she is and develops into that person, although that does essentially happen for Annabel.  But Voiceless provides greater messages, offering the reader the evidence that voicelessness (or blindness or paraplegia or any other disability) is not in itself the tragedy. The tragedy is in the context.  Ghost may be voiceless but she is substantive and never stronger than when she is voiceless.  Annabel finds the means to communicate and right wrongs without the spoken word, ultimately letting her voicelessness propel her to a future in which she has a say, guaranteeing her a happier life, finally.

May 22, 2012

Don't Laugh at Giraffe

by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7

Rebecca Bender's first book with Giraffe and Bird (Dancing Cat Books, 2010) just won the Ontario Library Association's Blue Spruce Award and it's easy to see why it was the choice of young readers between ages 4 and 7.  It's a story of the ups and downs of friendship which young readers experience on a daily basis.  If schoolyards had walls (as some undoubtedly and sadly do) and the walls had ears, they would hear the refrains of, "He doesn't want to be my friend anymore", "Want to be my friend?", "You're not my friend" and "Are we still friends?" Friendships are often dynamic, sometimes ephemeral and may be inclusive or exclusive.  But Giraffe and Bird's friendship, while occasionally acrimonious (see Giraffe and Bird, 2010 for details), is founded on loyalty and support.

In Don't Laugh at Giraffe, a visit to the watering hole on a hot day has Bird and eventually all the animals heeyawing, guffawing, howling and cackling as Giraffe attempts to drink from the shallow pond water.  Nervous and knees a-trembling, Giraffe ungracefully falls into the water.  Only Bird notices when an embarrassed Giraffe slinks away.  Luckily, the ally in Bird finds the means to help Giraffe return and to have some fun.

Rebecca Bender's experiences in design and publishing (now as art director/designer at Pajama Press) have served her well, helping her create the touchable, plush animals that are Bird and Giraffe.  Bold acrylics fill the pages (try and find large sections of white anywhere) bringing the richness of the settings to act as companions for the distinct characters on which she focuses.  But Rebecca Bender goes beyond just drawing animals in bold colours:  she creates personalities with expressive visages (hard to do on a small bird) and morphologies, with lessons to teach and learn.  Recognizing that we're all a little bit Giraffe and a little Bird makes them even more endearing.

May 21, 2012

Mental Health Book List: Part III

In support of Partners for Mental Health's Not Myself Today campaign across Canada, I've compiled several lists of literature with characters, both main and secondary, dealing with issues typically identified as related to mental health i.e., those that impair judgement, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities.  This third book list indicates how pervasive issues dealing with mental health are in our fictional world, as well as our corporeal one.  In this list, I've included Canadian picture books, fiction and young adult titles, as well as any movies that include characters dealing with or plot-lines embedded with mental health issues.  Additional resources can be found in the earlier two lists: Mental Health Book List I (April 2, 2012) and Mental Health Book List II (April 12, 2012).

Picture Books

Edward the "Crazy Man"
by Marie Day
Annick Press
32 pp.
Ages 6-8
The "crazy man" dressed in wild costumes makes an impression on young Charlie when he spots him on the way to school.  But the "crazy man", who suffers from schizophrenia and lives on the street, comes to Charlie's assistance more than once.

EveryBody's Different on EveryBody Street
by Sheree Fitch
Illustrated by Laura Jolicoeur
Nova Scotia Hospital Foundation
25 pp.
Ages 5-8
Sheree Fitch's lively poetry reveals how everyone is different and similar, with weakness and strengths. This book was published to support the Nova Scotia Hospital and raise awareness of mental illness and addiction.

Grumpy Bird
by Jeremy Tankard
32 pp.
Ages 3-5
When Bird wakes up snarly and unhappy, his friends try to change his mood and cheer him up.

Scaredy Squirrel
by Mélanie Watt
Kids Can Press
40 pp. 
Ages 3-7
Scaredy Squirrel's fears of everything from tarantulas to killer bees have left him with a life of seclusion and schedules.

What elephant?
by Geneviève Côté
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
When George comes home one day to find an elephant watching TV and eating cookies in his living room, no one believes him.  When the elephant returns the next day, George begins to wonder whether he is just dreaming or crazy.

After the Fire
by Becky Citra
Orca Books 
186 pp.
Ages 8-11
While her mom and boyfriend are passed out drunk, a fire breaks out and Melissa is left scarred.  Two years later, Melissa, her brother and mom are spending the summer at a friend's cottage. There Melissa meets Alice and, although she is embarrassed about her less-than-perfect family, Melissa learns that Alice is not what she seems and her family is dealing with grief in a variety of unhealthy ways.

by Budge Wilson
152 pp.
Ages 11-13
If you can still find this book, you'll be treated to a compassionate account of a father's depression and breakdown and his family's reactions to his illness and the roles they play in his recovery.

Drowning in Secrets
by Brenda Bellingham
Scholastic Canada
180 pp.

Ages 11-14
Chloe, 16, travels to Shuswap Lake, B.C. to reconcile both her lack of memories about her mother's death by drowning eleven years earlier and the recurring dreams she has of a drowning woman.

Mercy's Birds
by Linda Holeman
Tundra Books
198 pp.
Ages 11+
The women in Mercy's family suffer from depression and alcoholism and dysfunctional relationships including Mercy whose fears, such as of her aunt's boyfriend's inappropriate attention, can be overwhelming.  But, courage and selflessness help rescue them all from the point of no return.

No Cafes in Narnia
by Nikki Tate
Sono Nis Press
173 pp.

Ages 9-12
Part of The Tarragon Island series, No Cafes in Narnia tells the story of a thirteen-year-old girl's need to manage her feelings with regards to a move to Tarragon Island, off the B.C. coast, the death of her grandfather, and her mother's subsequent depression.

Young Adult

Before Wings
by Beth Goobie
203 pp.
Ages 14 and up
After a near-death from an aneurysm, 15-year-old Adrien is more volatile and anxious, so her Aunt Erin offers her a job at the camp she manages.  While her Aunt Erin battles depression, Adrien tries to make sense of the spirits she now sees, even more plentiful at Camp Lakeshore.

Blink and Caution
by Tim Wynne-Jones
Candlewick Press
342 pp.
Ages 14+
Blink left his mother and abusive stepfather for a life on the streets, and Caution took to the streets after the accidental shooting death of her cherished older brother. When Caution decides take off on her drug-dealer boyfriend, Blink and Caution's lives collide in less than conventional circumstances. 

Carving My Name
by Mary-Kate McDonald
Thistledown Press
137 pp.
Ages 12 and up
Nine short stories tell of how young people find ways to deal with grief, schizophrenia and other issues.

Ceiling Stars
by Sandra Diersch
James Lorimer
141 pp.
Ages 12-17
Although Danielle is more adventurous than her friend Chris, her increasingly risky behaviours lead Chris to believe something is not right. 

The Cupid War
by Timothy Carter
234 pp.
Ages 12-16
In this fantastical and humourous satire, Ricky Fallon becomes a Cupid (after his accidental suicide) and finds himself immersed in others' struggles with depression and suicide.

Mistik Lake
by Martha Brooks
Groundwood Books
208 pp.
Ages 13-17
In the Manitoba community of Mistik Lake, Odella, the eldest of three daughters, finds herself coping with and helping her sisters cope with their parents' divorce and her mother's unhappiness and death.  Luckily, her mother's aunt Gloria is also there to offer support.

Night Runner
by Max Turner
261 pp.
Age 14-16 
Orphaned and dealing with a multitude of health issues, both physical and mental, Zack is sent to live in a mental health ward of a hospital.  Things get weirder when a strange man tells Zack that he is a vampire and needs to flee the hospital.
Northward to the Moon
by Polly Horvath
Groundwood Books
244 pp.
Ages 12-16
Jane and her family from My One Hundred Adventures (Groundwood, 2008) begin a series of journeys from Saskatchewan to Nevada, Massachusetts, and British Columbia. While they deal with a mysterious duffel bag of money, Jane observes her siblings to attempt to identify their respective fathers based on mental health histories. 

by Robin Stevenson
131 pp.
Ages 12 and up
When teen angst leaves Jayden suffering with depression, his crazy Uncle Mel invites him to Australia but Mel's paranoia soon becomes a greater impediment to Jayden's welfare.

by Kim Firmston
James Lorimer
150 pp.
Ages 12-17
This volume of Lorimer's Side Streets series revolves around Dan's need to be a typical teen while juggling the repercussions of his mother' schizophrenia, particularly after she stops taking her medication.

Shadow Boxing
by Sherie Posesorski
Coteau Books
262 pp.
Ages 12-15
The death of her mother has left Alice grief-stricken, though her father seems ready to move on.  Unfortunately, Alice's choosing to cut herself and create shadow boxes of her mother's trinkets, while failing to "improve" with the help of countless psychiatrists, has her father planning on moving her to either a boarding school or a mental institution.

Somewhere in Blue
by Gillian Cummings
Lobster Press 
336 pp.
Ages 14 and up
The dysfunctional relationship between a mother and daughter is brought to the foreground when the father dies, leaving Sandy suffering from depression and her mother dealing with single parenthood.

by Caroline Wissing
Thistledown Press
241 pp.
Ages 14+
After the murder of her grandmother, Annabel becomes mute.  Now in foster care and known as Ghost, Annabel finds some companionship and solace on a farm.  But, Ghost's yearning for love has her running away with a new foster boy, Graydon, and making some poor choices expose her to sexual abuse and life alone on the streets.


Can I Catch It Like a Cold? Coping With a Parent’s Depression
by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Illustrated by Joe Weissmann
Tundra Books

A boy's questions about his father's depression are answered with regards to what depression is and how it is treated, reassuring children that there is help and support and that they are not alone.

Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees
by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood/House of Anansi
128 pp.
Ages 10 and up
These narratives of young Iraqi refugees tell of the traumatic outcomes of experiencing war.

My Kind of Sad: What It's Like to be Young and Depressed
by Kate Scowen
Illustrated by Jeff Szuc
Annick Press
168 pp.
Ages 13-17
Appropriate for teens, My Kind of Sad describes what depression is, how it can manifest itself, how it can be treated, and what resources are available to those seeking help.


First Break
Directed by Adrienne Amato and Derek Rogers 
Produced by Silva Basmajian
National Film Board of Canada
50 min. 55 sec.
Order Number: C9197 116
Ages 15 and up
This movie looks at several young adults and how they cope with the onset of mental illness, either schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis.

This Beggar’s Description
Directed by Pierre Tétrault
Produced by Gerry Flahive
National Film Board of Canada
65 min.
Order Number: 9105 214
Ages 16+
Pierre Tétrault directs this story of his brother Phil's attempts to deal with his schizophrenia and continue to create poetry.

Flight From Darkness
Directed by Trevor Grant
Produced by Don Copeland and Lynne Beck Copeman
Produced for NFB by Joe MacDonald
National Film Board of Canada
52 min.
Order Number: 153C 9107 052
Ages 13+
Percy Paul from a Dene community in Saskatchewan becomes a brilliant mathematician at Princeton before a suicide attempt leads to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.