August 31, 2012

I'm Bored: Book Launch

Debbie Ridpath Ohi 
on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 
from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

at  TYPE Books
883 Queen St. West
(between Bathurst and Ossington)
for the launch of her first picture book
I'm Bored

Written by Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
40 pp.
For release September 4, 2012

This simple but highly relevant picture book focuses on a bored little girl who must change her way of thinking and demonstrate, to a potato, that children are not boring but amazing. 

More about Debbie Ridpath Ohi, a children's book illustrator and writer who lives in  Toronto, can be read at her website

n.b. I'm Bored will be released on September 4th but the official launch will take place on September 18th.

August 30, 2012

Such Wicked Intent: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book Two

by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada
310 pp.
Released August 28, 2012

Wicked.  Intense.  Dark.  A dash of sweetness. 

It could be dark chocolate I'm describing but it's Such Wicked Intent, the sequel to This Dark Endeavour, Kenneth Oppel's first book in The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series.  Just like a good dark chocolate, Such Wicked Intent is a treat that should be savoured slowly, with pauses to contemplate the richness of the experience, even smoother than its predecessor.

In This Dark Endeavour (reviewed here on October 5, 2011), teen Victor Frankenstein pursues an alchemical cure for his deathly-ill twin brother, Konrad.  Following the tomes in the Dark Library of his ancestor Wilhelm Frankenstein, Victor sacrifices much, including two of his own fingers, to save his brother, sadly unsuccessfully.

Such Wicked Intent begins just three weeks after Konrad's death, with Victor's father destroying the Dark Library.  First the books are burned and then the structure itself dismantled, with two significant finds revealed.  Below the former Dark Library, workers discover caves with primitive art etched in the walls.  Perhaps more significant is Victor's discovery of a book-like metal box amongst the burnt books.  Within the box, a pendant and materials and instructions for building a Spirit Board for communicating with the dead capture Victor's attention.

With the help of Elizabeth, Konrad's love, and their friend Henry Percival, Victor unearths an elixir, spirit clock and directions for visiting the spirit world.  Victor is delighted to find Konrad, still in his funeral clothes, as well as another spirit, Analiese, a former servant at the chateau.  Awaiting their "gathering" by the brilliant light, Konrad and Analiese endure the terrorizing thumps and groans heard within the chateau, and the swirling mist outside that Analiese believes is an evil entity.  Sadly, seeing his brother and Elizabeth is almost unbearable for Konrad, as they emit blinding light and heat.  On the other hand, Victor finds that being on the other side leaves him empowered, energized and even pain-free. Victor is determined to deliver Konrad back to the world of the living.

And so begin the psychological and moral debates within and between the characters.  Should Konrad be allowed to remain in a kind of purgatory, waiting for the angels, or returned to his family and Elizabeth?  Should Victor pursue Elizabeth though he has vowed not to covet what was his brother's?  How can Elizabeth justify her visits to Konrad with her religious convictions?  What of the jealousies Victor, Elizabeth and even Henry seem to be experiencing?  Most importantly, are they playing God in recreating life and returning Konrad from the dead?

Victor may feel guilt due to his jealousy of Konrad and this may be colouring his actions, including attempting to save Konrad's life and now retrieving him.  But, Victor cannot resolve what he wants to do with what he feels he should want to do.  He is passionate about unlocking the secrets of the universe, especially those contrary to the laws of nature. But this passion, almost a compulsion, torments him when balanced against his family: his father who has asked Victor to cease his unnatural investigations; his mother debilitated with grief; his young brothers who love him; and Elizabeth who is contemplating entering the convent.  How can he ensure his decisions are just? And does it matter if they aren't?

Kenneth Oppel takes the turmoil of Victor's position, as the twin of a more highly admired brother to whom Victor feels disloyal, and embeds it in the darkness of the unknown afterlife and sorcery.  Embroiled in a shifting matrix of grief, lust, affection and faith, Victor's intents, as well as those of the others, seem to shift in response, vacillating between selfish and compassionate.  The Frankenstein madness of Mary Shelley may be growing in Victor but the elaborate veneer of creativity and ancestry may keep it from erupting. Only Kenneth Oppel's imagination and foresight will determine the full extent of Victor's apprenticeship. 

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Uploaded by HarperCollins Canada to coincide with the release of Such Wicked Intent on August 28th, the book trailer can be viewed at CanLit for LittleCanadians: BookTtrailers here.

August 28, 2012

Shade and Sorceress: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book I

by Catherine Egan
Coteau Books
279 pp.
Ages 10+
September, 2012

It's wonderful getting into a new book and, as you're reading, you realize that it's captivating you the way the Harry Potter series did: anticipating the next turn in the plot or another unknown fantastical creature with crafty powers, or delivery to a world where the laws of nature need not hold true.  Shade and Sorceress continued to surprise me with unexpected plotting, ultimately leaving me waiting for next book in the Last Days of Tian Di series and hopefully answers to a few surprise questions at the book's conclusion.

Tian Di, the One World, was the fantastical world in which humans were slaves to the Faeries; that is, until the Mancers, scholars of that world, used magic to begin its ongoing separation into Di Shang, the land of humans and beasts, and Tian Xia, the home of the beings of power.  Not surprising that the arrival of five emissary Mancers to Holburg, the island home of twelve-year-old Eliza Tok, would cause such a stir, especially when they arrive on dragons.  On behalf of the Supreme Mancer, Kyreth, these emissaries have come to take Eliza back to their Citadel to begin her studies for her position as Shang Sorceress, the role her mother Rea held until she eloped with a human, Eliza's father, Rom Tok.  Determined to protect her daughter, Rea had used Magic to hide Eliza, although Rea was killed in assisting the Mancers and their allies to entrap the Xia Sorceress in the Arctic.

Although she enjoys learning, Eliza demonstrates no magical powers, except when Kyreth puts her in the life-threatening position of guarding the Crossing between the two worlds.  Eliza learns that her father has been taken by the Cra, the bird-like creatures of the Xia Sorceress, to the Arctic and will only be released if Eliza brings the Sorceress the Mancers' Book of Barriers.  With Charlie, who Eliza sees as a thirteen-year-old boy, though he is a shape-shifting Shade, and Nell, her human friend from Holburg, Eliza sets out to save her father by heading to Tian Xia to seek out the Triumvira, the 3 beings who banished the Sorceress to the Arctic.

Much illusion is used in Shade and Sorceress to hide that which is real and construct that which is imagined but the relationships upon which all plot lines rely are quite genuine.  There are parents protecting their children, lovers who betray, friends who offer unconditional support, prejudice based on power, new allies from nebulous connections, and deception by so many.  The wealth of characters and the nature of their gifts, against a backdrop of caves, carved, black cliffs, ravening forests, hanging gardens, a dead marsh, arctic tundra, temples, a crystal city and all landscapes and structures in between, make an auspicious introduction to the Last Days of Tian Di series.  Fortunately, Catherine Egan, Canadian-born author currently living in New Jersey, neither leaves the reader frustrated with an incomplete ending or a neatly resolved storyline.  With Shade and Sorceress, young readers, not just young adults, are promised a refreshingly new fantasy series that is otherworldy but devoid of vampires.

August 27, 2012

#CanLit Choices: "Holes" alternatives

by Louis Sachar
272 pp.
Ages 9-12
RL 5.2

Holes, the multiple award-winning book by American author, Louis Sachar, is the story of Stanley Yelnats who is sent to a juvenile correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds him digging holes.  Of course, he is not surprised by this turn of events as his family has been cursed ever since his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" failed to keep a promise.

Written at RL 5.2 (this means a child should be able to read this at the second month of Grade 5), Holes is often used to demonstrate the following themes:
  • fate
  • friendship
  • justice
  • determination
Of course, Louis Sachar's sense of humour and surprise twists are also very engrossing.


The following youngCanLit books focus on fate and justice and would serve well as updated and alternative novels to Louis Sachar's Holes. And, for those fans of Holes who might like a Canadian alternative, these novels have the twists, turns and laughs that have made Holes such a popular book.

Banjo of Destiny
by Cary Fagan 
Illustrated by Selçuk Demirel 
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press
127 pp.
Ages 9-12

Courtesy of his parents' dental floss fortune, Jeremiah Birnbaum has the very best of everything that money can buy, including the lessons and education to turn him into a fine young man.  But Jeremiah falls in love with the music of the banjo, and that does not fit in with his parents' plan.

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival
by Arthur Slade
224 pp.
Ages 11-14

Newton Starker has just lost his mother to a lightning strike, the same tragedy that has cursed all his relatives on his mother's side. Armed with his six rules for survival, his trusty truffle-seeking pig, a desire to out-manoeuvre his nemesis Violet Quan, and the will to live, fourteen-year-old Newton, a student at the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival in Moose Jaw, wonders whether he'll be the one to outlive the curse.

Podcast: Audio and Video of Arthur Slade's reading of Jolted 

The Midnight Curse
by L.M. Falcone
Kids Can Press
208 pp.
Ages 10-13

When their great-great-uncle Jonathan dies, eleven-year-old fraternal twins, Charlie and Lacey Darcy, and their mom are summoned to England, hopeful for an inheritance.  But, it is a curse that transfers from Uncle Jonathan to Charlie, already a nervous worrier, which condemns him to a life sleeping in water from midnight to daybreak, or suffer death.

Book trailer can be viewed at my CanLit for LittleCanadians Book Trailers site here.

Neil Flambé and the Crusader's Curse
by Kevin Sylvester
Simon & Schuster Books for Young People
291 pp.
Ages 8-14

Neil Flambé, teen chef and Vancouver restauranteer extraordinaire, does not that know that the great Flambé chefs have been cursed since the 1200's.  He does know, however, that his dishes now taste like sawdust, the re-opening of the restaurant is doomed (especially after closed by the health inspector) and he's challenged by computer wiz and rival, Stanley Picón, with computer Deep Blue Cheese (DBC), to a cooking duel.  It's a very unsavory situation for Neil.

Activity sheets and a How To Draw Neil Flambé video are available at the Simon & Schuster website

Dunces Anonymous
by Kate Jaimet
Orca Book Publishers
157 pp.
Ages 9-12

Josh is sure to win Class President, but it's his mother that wants it for me, not Josh. To find some help with his dilemma, Josh forms a club, Dunces Anonymous, for students whose parents push them to excel at activities they are not interested in. Two students join him:  Wang, whose father is chess tournament crazy, loves fencing, and Magnolia, who likes to act, does not want to be in the school play, Romeo and Juliet.

In each of the above books, the protagonist must deal with a destiny/fate/curse that is none of his doing, and must look towards his friends and show real determination to ensure that the resolution is more to his liking.  What else does a book alternative to Holes need?  Absolutely nothing!

Leave comments if you have any other suggestions for Holes alternatives or to select an age-old novel that needs refreshing with #CanLitChoices.

August 23, 2012

A Good Trade

by Alma Fullerton
Illustrated by Karen Patkau
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 5+
Release October 1, 2012

Alma Fullerton, one of my favourite writers of novels in verse (e.g., Libertad, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008; Burn, Dancing Cat Books, 2010), has applied her formidable craftsmanship to create a text light in word count but powerful in message. The story of A Good Trade features a young Ugandan boy Kato whose daily routine has him waking at dawn to collect the day's water at the local well.  Carrying two jerry cans, Kato skips, races and treks to the borehole where he joins other children in filling the cans.  On his return journey, he glimpses into an aid worker's truck and the routine of Kato's day takes on a new spirit and task.

Kato's story could be a sombre one, considering that for his whole life Uganda has been in the midst of a civil war in which children were abducted and terrorized to fight for the rebel forces. But, while not ignoring the presence of armed soldiers, A Good Trade accepts the unrest and horror as only one aspect of Uganda.  There are also the gardens, hills, trails, fields with cattle, and villages with neighbours and children.  And those who offer help.  Alma Fullerton emphasizes the hope that accompanies that aid and the touching gratitude of a young boy, while smoothing the wrinkles of Kato's life to remain a textured canvas of many threads: some thicker, some brighter, some coarser, others frail.

And Karen Patkau's illustrations are the embodiment of that texture, in mosaics of bold colours and angular shapes, recreating Kato's Uganda as a rich landscape.  While Karen Patkau has illustrated many books (e.g., One Watermelon Seed, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008; Creatures Great and Small, Tundra, 2006) and has had her artwork recognized with awards, nominations and honourable mentions, I believe that the pairing of Alma Fullerton's text with Karen Patkau's art style in A Good Trade is inspired.  It's almost as if Karen Patkau's art was destined to evoke the landscape and story of Uganda.  Her sultry skies alone capably recreate the shimmering heat of an African day. 
Whatever forces, human or supernatural, that brought together these two artists, one of words and the other of graphics, knew exactly what they were doing.  There's gratitude all around here: from Kato, from picture book lovers, from compassionate readers.

*     *     *     *     *

By bringing together Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau, Pajama Press, which was only established in April 2011, continues to impress me with the quality of the titles it publishes. I'm starting to feel like a groupie, promoting great book after great book like True Blue by Deborah Ellis; Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War by Marsha Skrypuch; and Don't Laugh at Giraffe by Rebecca Bender.  The only one I've missed reading is No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs by Rob Laidlaw and that's only because I'm too much of a wuss about animal non-fiction.  Continue to look for reviews of Pajama Press' books here at CanLit for LittleCanadians and at your bookstore.

August 21, 2012

Word on the Street 2012: Kitchener, Toronto, Halifax

In addition to the three communities promoted earlier, Word On The Street, the annual celebration of literacy and the written word, will take place in Kitchener, Toronto and Halifax. 

Below, I've outlined the basics about the Kitchener, Toronto and Halifax WOTS, including listing of children's and young adult authors and illustrators scheduled to appear.  Check the website of the specific WOTS to determine how each author will participate in Word On The Street. Regardless, the list of youngCanLit authors and illustrators is mind-blowing! I truly hope you are near enough to attend one of these festivals.  Go YoungCanLit!

Date:     Sunday, September 23, 2012
Location:    Kitchener City Hall

YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Erin Bow, children's author of Plain Kate 
  • Laura Beingessner, illustrator of Our Corner Grocery Store
  • Rona Arato, picture book author of Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium
  • Jan Andrews, children's author of Rude Stories
  • Lana Button, picture book author of Willow's Whispers
  • Sean Cassidy, author and illustrator of Kazaak!
  • L.M. Falcone, children's author of The Midnight Curse
  • Richard Scarsbrook, YA author of The Monkey Chronicles
WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS


Date:    Sunday September 23, 2012
Times:    11 am - 6 pm
Location:    Queen's Park Circle

YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Andrew Larsen, author of picture book Bye, Bye, Butterflies!
  • Dennis Lee, poet and author of Alligator Pie and Garbage Delight
  • Hilary Leung, illustrator of Ninja, Cowboy, Bear series
  • Peyton Leung, author of The Pirate Girl's Treasure: An Origami Adventure
  • J. Torres, graphic artist and writer of Checkers and Dot
  • Susan J. Atkinson and Elizabeth Todd Doyle, author and illustrator of Witches Don't Do Winter
  • Sarah Tsiang, author of The Stone Hatchlings and A Flock of Shoes
  • Rebecca Bender, author/illustrator of Don't Laugh at Giraffe and Giraffe and Bird
  • Kari-Lynn Winters, author of picture book Gift Days
  • Dave Whamond, author and illustrator of Oddrey and My Think-a-Ma-Jink
  • Kevin Sylvester, author of Neil Flambé and the Crusader's Curse
  • Kari Trogen, author of Margaret and the Moth Tree
  • Cary Fagan, children’s author of The Boy in the Box and picture book Mr. Zinger's Hat
  • Claudia Dávila, illustrator of Luz Makes a Splash
  • Kyo Maclear, author of picture book Virginia Wolf
  • Cybèle Young, author and illustrator of A Few Bites
  • Tim Beiser, author of Miss Mousie's Blind Date
  • Joyce Grant, author of Gabby
  • Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of I'm Bored
  • Andrew "Too Tall" Queen, musician and children's performer
  • Patricia Storms, author and illustrator of  The Pirate and the Penguin
  • Stella Partheniou Grassso, author of Over the Rink: A Hockey Counting Book
  • Lizann Flatt and Ashley Barron, author and illustrator of Counting on Fall
  • Megan Crewe, paranormal YA author of The Way We Fall
  • Francine Gerstein, author of children's non-fiction Body Works: My Itchy Body
  • Deborah Kerbel, YA author of Under the Moon
  • Adrienne Kress, YA author of The Friday Society
  • Norah McClintock, YA mystery author of She Said/She Saw
  • Shane Peacock, children’s author of The Boy Sherlock Holmes series
  • Alyxandra Harvey, YA author of Haunting Violet and The Drake Chronicles
  • Richard Scrimger, author of Ink Me and Me and Death
  • Ted Staunton, author of Jump Cut
  • Lesley Livingston, YA fantasy author of Starling and Once Every Never
  • Mariko Tamaki, YA author of Skim and (You) Set Me on Fire
WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

Date:     Sunday September 23, 2012
Time:    11 am - 5 pm
Location:    Halifax waterfront

YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Don Aker, YA author of The Fifth Rule, The First Stone
  • Gary Blackwood, author of The Imposter
  • Lesley Choyce, YA author of Rat, Breaking Point, Dumb Luck
  • Cynthia D'Entremont, author of Oak Island Revenge: A Jonah Morgan Mystery
  • Theresa Meuse, children's author of The Sharing Circle
  • Philip Roy, author of the Submarine Outlaw series, Outlaw in India
  • Jessica Scott Kerrin, children's author of Lower the Trap, the Martin Bridge series
  • Steve Vernon, author of The Lunenburg Werewolf, Sinking Deeper
  • Alice Walsh, non-fiction author of upcoming A Long Way From Home
  • David Weale, storyteller, children's performer and author of picture book Doors in the Air
WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

If there are any errors in this posting, they are completely my own. Please check the Word On The Street websites provided to confirm details.

Word on the Street 2012: Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon

Across Canada, six communities are planning their WOTS days.  If you see "WOTS" in Twitter, Twitterers are talking about Word On The Street, an annual celebration of literacy and the written word.  Usually held in late September, readers and writers come together to share their love of books and magazines, participate in workshops, readings, and check out the CanLit book buyer's nirvana of marketplaces. 

Details about WOTS in Vancouver, Lethbridge and Saskatoon follow here.  I'll post about the other three WOTS later.

Date:   Friday, September 28  - Sunday, September 30, 2012
Location:  Homer Street, Hamilton Street, and in and around the Vancouver Public Library (see map)

YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Caroline Adderson, children's author of Middle of Nowhere
  • Nicola I. Campbell, picture book author of Shin-Chi's Canoe
  • Hiromi Goto, YA author of Half World, Darkest Light
  • Rachel Hartman, YA fantasy author of Seraphina
  • Robert Heidbreder, poet author of Noisy Poems for a Busy Day 
  • Lauren Howell, author of If I Was the Mayor, What Do You Want to Be?
  • Glen Huser, author of The Runaway
  • Tanya Lloyd Kyi, non-fiction author of Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood
  • Shar Levine, non-fiction author of Yo-Yo for Beginners, Hockey Science
  • Gina McMurchy-Barber, author of When Children Play, Free as a Bird, Reading the Bones
  • Julie Morstad, illustrator The Swing, How To, When I Was Small
  • Susin Nielsen, author of The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom
  • Sylvia Olsen, author of A Different Game
  • Kit Pearson, author of And Nothing But the Truth, The Whole Truth
  • Lois Peterson, author of The Paper House
  • Rhea Tregebov, picture book author of What-If Sara, The Big Storm
  • John Wilson, YA author of Lost Cause, Shot at Dawn: World War I, Allan McBride, France, 1917
  • Caroline Woodward, picture book author of The Village of Many Hats, Singing Away the Dark

WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

Date:   Sunday September 23, 2012
Time:   11 am - 5 pm
Location:  Main Library at 5th Ave. S. and 8th St. S.

YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Susan Aiyoshi, children's author of Torn Apart: The Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1941
  • Amy Bright, YA author of Before We Go
  • Scott Chantler, graphic artist and author of The Captive Prince, the Three Thieves series
  • Shane Peacock, children's author of Becoming Holmes: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case, The Boy Sherlock Holmes series - via SKYPE
  • Kit Pearson, children's author of The Whole Truth, And Nothing But the Truth
  • Janet Gurtler, YA author of I'm Not Her, If I Tell, Who I Kissed
  • Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, non-fiction authors of Fatty Legs, A Stranger at Home
  • Lisa Matchev, YA fantasy author of Eyes Like Stars, Perchance to Dream and So Silver Bright - via SKYPE
  • Arthur Slade, children's author of Island of Doom, the Hunchback Assignments series - via SKYPE
  • Thomas Wharton, fantasy author of The Fathomless Fire, Perilous Realm trilogy
WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

Date:    Sunday September 23, 2012
Time:    11 am - 5 pm
Location:    23rd Street East between 3rd and 4th Avenues

YoungCanLit writers/illustrators scheduled:
  • Adele Dueck, children's author of Racing Home, Nettie's Journey
  • Alice Kuipers, YA author of 40 Things I Want to Tell You, The Worst Thing She Ever Did
  • Alison Lohans, author of Picturing Alyssa 
  • Marion Mutala, children's author of Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Christmas 
  • David Poulsen, children's and YA author of the Salt and Pepper Series, Numbers
  • Will Stroet, children's performer
  • Alison Uitti, author of First Days Night Movies
WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS     WOTS

If there are any errors in this posting, they are completely my own. Please check the Word On The Street websites provided to confirm details.

August 19, 2012

Middle Ages (Medieval Times) Book List II

Clip art from

This is the second list of Canadian titles that deal with Medieval Times or the Middle Ages, which is generally accepted to have occurred from about 500 to 1500 C.E., after the fall of the Roman Empire until the Renaissance Era (14th c. to 16th c.). Several of these young adult books may be set in the 17th century as well.

Young Adult Fiction

1212: Year of the Journey 
by Kathleen McDonnell
Second Story Press
290 pp.
Ages 12+
Based on a true story of a peaceful crusade in 1212 led by children, 1212 traces the lives of three multi-faith characters who search for answers to their questions about faith.

The Apprentice's Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain
by Melanie Little
Annick Press
310 pp.
Ages 12+
In fifteenth century Spain, the Benvenistes, a family of conversos (Jews who converted to Christianity) must keep their secrets well once Queen Isabella comes to power and imposes her intolerance on the country. After Amir, a young man in Muslim attire, is welcomed by the family, shocking events, including the Spanish Inquisition, transpire to divide and destroy the family.

The Battle for Duncragglin
by Andrew H. Vanderwal
310 pp.
Ages 11-14
From a mysterious cave in Scotland, a young boy is transported to late 13th century and the time of William Wallace's struggle for Scottish independence.

The Burning Time
by Carol Matas
106 pp.
Ages 13-15
Rose, a fifteen-year-old girl, and her mother are accused of witchcraft in late 1500's France. 

An Earthly Knight
by Janet McNaughton
255 pp.
Ages 8-15
After her sister is disgraced,  Lady Jeanette Avenel, the teen  daughter of a Norman nobleman in Scotland, finds herself betrothed to the king's younger brother and heir.

Crusade: The Heretic's Secret, Book 1
by John Wilson
Key Porter
348 pp.
Ages 11-14

Grail: The Heretic's Secret, Book 2
by John Wilson
Key Porter
348 pp.
Ages 11-14
Two teenaged boys, John and Peter, raised in a Catholic orphanage, find themselves on opposite sides of the Roman Catholic Church's crusade against the Cathars in 13th century France.

Nine Days Queen
by Karleen Bradford
200 pp.
Ages 13+
The story of Lady Jane Grey who was forced to become queen of England in 1553 when she was only 15 years of age.
The Sinclair Saga
by Mark Finnan
154 pp.
Ages 13+
The story of Prince Henry Sinclair of Scotland and his possible voyages to the New World in the late 14th century.

by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Spotted Cow Press
110 pp.
Ages 12-17

A Winter's Tale
by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Great Plains Publications
172 pp.
Ages 12-17

A Glass Darkly
by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Great Plains Publications
192 pp.
Ages 12-17
This fantasy trilogy in a medieval setting tells the story of young Ingamald's battle to rid her homeland of Hinterland from the evil Morton Cornelius Winter, the self-proclaimed lord of the land.

Bleeding Hearts

by Alyxandra Harvey
Bloomsbury US
304 pp.
Ages 14-17

Bleeding Hearts, the fourth book in Alyxandra Harvey's vampire series The Drake Chronicles, introduces a new character to Violet Hill - Christabel, Lucy's cousin who has come to stay with them while her mom is in rehab for alcoholism. Lucy appreciates her cousin's company (even if Christabel is content to just read), especially when she's barely seen her best friend Solange, a newly-turned vampire, in over a month. Even Solange's boyfriend, Kieran, a Helios Ra vampire hunter, is concerned about Solange's odd behaviour.  Luckily, Lucy is still dating Solange's brother, Nicholas Drake, and is training with Hunter Wild, a student at the Helios Ra Academy and girlfriend of Quinn Drake, Nicholas' older brother, so she knows what's going on around Violet Hill.

And what's going on around Violet Hill is that it's no longer a quiet and safe community.  The dark, blue-skinned Hel Blar continue their nasty attacks, although many seem to be wearing copper collars and responding to a whistle summons now.  But, with a Blood Moon gathering scheduled, vampires, including a few articulate light-skinned Hel Blar, from around the world are converging on Violet Hill.

Although Lucy's parents have imposed an incredibly early curfew on the girls if they are unescorted, to keep them safe from the increased Hel Blar attacks, Christabel knows nothing of the paranormal activity and is convinced that she's street-wise enough to take care of herself. That's how she first encounters Connor Drake, Quinn's more modest twin, as she sneaks out for a walk.  There's obviously some subtle chemistry between them, but Christabel doesn't know he's a vampire.  That is, until she is kidnapped by the light-skinned Hel Blar, called Na-Foir, who believe she is Lucy and she can't explain away all the weirdness she sees.  Luckily, Connor has become familiar with Christabel's scent (how romantic!) and gets involved in her rescue, but not before he has to reveal his vampire-ness to her, negotiate with a Wendat and a pirate Na-Foir, and fight more nasty Hel Blar.

The requisite romance, Christabel and Connor's, will please teen readers of The Drake Chronicles, especially as both characters demonstrate an endearing modesty and the awkwardness of the first serious relationship.  But, by introducing Aidan and Saga as representatives of the new sub-species (I'm not sure if that is correct taxonomically), the Na-Foir, and Christabel who leaps from the naive human to something which you will need to read the book to learn, Alyxandra Harvey has enriched the series.  The impending Blood Moon gathering (and Book #5 in the series) is sure to create more conflicts from the developments in Bleeding Hearts, particularly as there may be every reason to believe that not all the romantic pairings will survive.

Alas, if there ever was a single-word sentence to end a book that could leave the reader dangling over a crevasse of trepidation, Bleeding Hearts has it.  Luckily, Blood Moon was released in June.

August 18, 2012

Nobody's Dog

by Ria Voros
Scholastic Canada
150 pp.
Ages 8-12
Available September 2012

Reviewed from uncorrected proof

Jakob Nebedy, almost 14, must feel like a star (the celestial kind) just hanging in the sky, without any connections.  Well, at least not anymore and very few.  Six months earlier his parents were killed in a car crash that has left him without any memory of the event.  Although he still lives in the family home, his mother's sister, Aunt Laura, an ER nurse, is his guardian, and she's barely managing herself.  Luckily before his parents died, Jakob had made a great friend, Grant, who had given him the guts to be J-man or J, rather than Nobody, a nickname given to him at school.  But Grant has moved to England, and it's the beginning of summer.  If Jakob had had a dog, like he'd begged for year after year, he wouldn't feel so alone.  But his dad had always said Jakob wasn't responsible enough to care for a dog.

Not surprising Jakob gets recruited to hang out with Libby, the eleven-year-old living with her mom Soleil in the basement apartment, when her mom's at work.   While eager to earn a few bucks to save towards getting a dog, Jakob is very conscious of Libby's relentless drawing and her knowing watchfulness.  Late one night, when Jakob sees a husky wandering outside his house, he follows the dog for hours, even feeding it, but being sure to tell Libby it was only a raccoon.  The husky, who Jakob learns later is Chilko, the pet of Soleil's new boyfriend, returns night after night.  Jakob, who feels like Chilko "gets him", discovers that roaming with the dog provides him with opportunities to connect with others, recall times watching the stars with his dad, experience his bolder J-man persona again, and even trigger his memories about the accident.

In Nobody's Dog, her first children's novel, Ria Voros has managed to create a perfect middle grade read attractive to junior readers: eleven- and thirteen-year-old protagonists, an engaging dog, secret outings, learning about oneself, and an uncomplicated and satisfying resolution.  Nobody's Dog lacks the saccharine nature of so many animal stories:  the heroic feats, the gushy love between child and animal, the evil pet-hater from whom the animal must escape, and the requisite happy reunion at the end.  Nobody's Dog is nobody's 101 Dalmatians. Nobody's Dog is a sophisticated story of survival and friendship layered with memories, youthful judgements and everyday living, with a noteworthy canine presence.

August 17, 2012

Sean Cassidy presents . . . August 27, 2012

* Celebrate *
the YoungIFOA
(Young International Festival of Authors)
the Blue Spruce™ Award

author and illustrator
Sean Cassidy
Monday, August 27, 2012

at 1:15 p.m.

Kid's World
Exhibition Place

with a presentation and special reading of his picture book

August 16, 2012

Outlaw in India

by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
212 pp.
Ages 8-14
September, 2012

Since he was 14, Alfred has travelled in his twenty-foot, diesel-electric submarine (built by junkyard genius Ziegfried) from his home in Newfoundland around the Maritimes (Submarine Outlaw, Ronsdale Press, 2008); across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean (Journey to Atlantis, Ronsdale Press, 2009); down the St. Lawrence River (River Odyssey, Ronsdale Press, 2010); and into the Pacific and Mariana Islands (Ghosts of the Pacific, Ronsdale Press, 2011; reviewed here).  In his fifth adventure, Outlaw in India, Alfred and his crew (Hollie, the dog, and Seaweed, the seagull) have continued on from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Sea, heading for India.

The sub's unregistered status has Alfred trying to stay under the radar and sonar of the authorities, but selecting to follow a ship that turns out to be a navy frigate (their first destination Kochi is home to a naval base) makes the submarine a target for three depth charges sent out to disable them and force them to surface.  The sub loses its power and Alfred loses his hearing but is able to safely manoeuvre to a deserted boathouse connected to a series of old warehouses.  With the help of a ten-year-old boy who Alfred discovers living in the warehouse, Alfred is able to get medical help for his loss of hearing, to get money at the bank, and to get food.  As helpful as the young boy is, he is turned away from many places and Alfred learns the boy is Dalit, an Untouchable.  Though he shows the boy the submarine, cooks dinner for him, and teaches him to play chess, Alfred doesn't learn the boy's name, Radji, until a kindly electrician speaks to the boy and writes down his name for the hearing-impaired sailor.

The discrimination which Radji endures as normal behaviour has Alfred buying him sneakers, clothes, sunglasses and a hat to help hide his Untouchable appearance, but Radji is determined that he will have a happy life if he uses the skin-whitening cream advertised everywhere.  It is this same determination that has Radji stowing away on the sub when Alfred leaves.  Luckily Radji becomes Alfred's ears and helps them evade those tracking the sub.

In agreeing to take Radji to Varanasi so that he may cleanse himself of his sins in the Ganges River, Alfred must find a place to hide the sub in Goa, from which they will travel by train to Varanasi.  A fortuitous encounter with an elderly woman, Melissa Honeychurch, who has lived in India all her life, changes everything - their travel plans, their futures, their ideas - and shows Alfred another side of India.

While Radji and Melissa Honeychurch become two significant characters in the Submarine Outlaw series, perhaps the most imposing character in Outlaw in India is not a character at all.  It is India.  The country, as Alfred experiences it, is a living entity, a complicated being of the expected (e.g., the heat and amazing foods) and the surprising (e.g., discrimination and kindness).

"Every country smells different, feels different, and looks different.  India was the most beautiful country I ever saw.  If you think of a country as being like an animal then India was the animal with the most colour, the softest fur, the shiniest eyes, the sharpest claws, the longest tail, and the prettiest face.  She also smelled the nicest . . . and the worst." (pg.76)
I am convinced that for Philip Roy to create a character such as Alfred, one of such compassion, wonder and insight, Roy must be such a person himself for the character to be so real.  Alfred cannot  be a creation of the imagination.  I also suspect that Alfred's experiences in India are those of Philip Roy, demonstrating the fullness of his own experiences there, probably making him an excellent choice for an author visit to a school or library.

Though the series could easily be promoted as a great adventure series for boys, the Submarine Outlaw books will continue to garner fans of both genders for its great characters and adventure with a frisson of the impossible and the hope for everything working out well (a.k.a. the happy ending). Readers will continue to find all that here in Outlaw in India, fresh and engrossing, just as each new book in the series has offered.  With Africa set to be the location of the next book in the series, there is even more to anticipate.

August 13, 2012

New Releases for Fall 2012

I've spent hours perusing catalogues from Canadian publishers, looking for new releases for my MUST READ pile.  I look for my favourite authors, new books in series, illustrators whose work I adore, and books with just something a little different that grabs my attention.  While not a complete list, the books I've included below are ones for which there will be much anticipation, at least from me.

Picture Books
  • Maggie's Chopsticks by Alan Woo, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant (Kids Can Press)
  • Mr. King's Things by Geneviève Côté (Kids Can Press)
  • Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dušan Petričić (Tundra)
  • Nobody Knows by Shelley Tanaka (Groundwood Books)
  • Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy (Bloomsbury/Penguin)
Young Adult
  • And Nothing But the Truth by Kit Pearson (HarperCollins) >>> sequel to The Whole Truth reviewed here
  • Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers (Scholastic Canada)
  • Starling by Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins)
  • Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins Canada) >>> sequel to This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor of Frankenstein reviewed here
  • Through Indigo's Eyes: Why Two Little Words Mean So Much by Tara Taylor and Lorna Schultz Nicholson (Hay House Visions)
  • Mimi's Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed it by Kate Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Kids Can Press) >>>  part of the CitizenKids series
  • Robbers! True Stories of the World’s Most Notorious Thieves by Andreas Schroeder, illustrated by Rémy Simard (Annick Press)

Picture Books 
  • The Big Game by Gilles Tibo, illustrated by Bruno St-Aubin (Scholastic Canada) >>> sequel to Where's My Hockey Sweater? and The Best Goalie Ever
  • A Few Bites by Cybèle Young (Groundwood) >>> sequel to A Few Blocks
  •  Finding Christmas by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Scholastic Canada)
  •  Goodnight, Canada by Andrea Beck (Scholastic Canada)
  • I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster)
  •  Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall by Leo Yerxa (Groundwood)
  •  Toads on Toast by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Colin Jack (Kids Can Press)
  •  Wishes by Jean Little, illustrated by Geneviève Côté (Scholastic Canada)
  •  Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press) >>> sequel to Binky the Space Cat, Binky to the Rescue, Binky Under Pressure reviewed here
  •  The Captive Prince by Scott Chantler (Kids Can Press) >>> third book in Three Thieves series
  • Bookweirdest by Paul Glennon (Random House) >>> sequel to Bookweird and Bookweirder 
  • The Boy in the Box by Cary Fagan (Puffin)
  • Breakaway by Maureen Ulrich (Coteau) 
  • Hunter by Eric Walters (Orca) >>> sequel to Catboy
  • I am Canada: A Call to Battle, War of 1812, Alexander MacKay, Upper Canada 1812 by Gillian Chan (Scholastic Canada)
  • Little Jane Silver and the Nameless Isle by Adira Rotstein (Dundurn) >>> sequel to Little Jane Silver reviewed here
  • My Name is Parvana by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books) >>> sequel to The Breadwinner Trilogy
  • Nobody's Dog by Ria Voros (Scholastic Canada) 
  • The One Spooky Night by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by David Huyck (Kids Can Press)
  • One Year in Coal Harbour by Polly Horvath (Groundwood) >>> sequel to Everything on a Waffle
  • Outlaw in India by Philip Roy (Ronsdale Press) >>> reviewed here; fifth book in the Submarine Outlaw series;  Ghosts of the Pacific (#4) reviewed here
  • The Piper of Shadonia by Linda Smith (Coteau) >>>  reviewed here
  • The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen (Tundra)
  • A Sea of Sorrows: The Typhus Epidemic of Johanna Leary, Canada East 1847 by Norah McClintock (Scholastic Canada) >>> Dear Canada volume on escaping the Irish Potato Famine
  • A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Canada)
  • Shade and the Sorceress: The Last Days of Ti Dian by Catherine Egan (Coteau)
  • Time Flies When You're Chasing Spies: A Halifax Mystery by Allison Mahar (Nimbus)
  • Ungifted by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Canada)
Young Adult 
  • Bright's Light by Susan Juby (HarperTrophy Canada)
  • The Darkest Corner of the Universe by Urve Tamberg (Dancing Cat Books) >>> WW2 historical fiction
  • I'll Be Home Soon by Luanne Armstrong (Ronsdale Press) >>>  reviewed here 
  • Live to Tell by Lisa Harrington (Dancing Cat Books)
  • My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt (Groundwood Books) >>> verse novel
  • Not With a Bang by Gail Sidonie Sobat (Magpie)
  • Pieces of Me by Darlene Ryan (Orca) 
  • Rebel Heart (Dustlands 2) by Moira Young (Random House) >>> sequel to Blood Red Road reviewed here
  • Redwing by Holly Bennett (Orca)
  • Yesterday by C. K. Kelly Martin (Random House)
  • (You) Set Me On Fire by Mariko Tamaki (Razorbill)
  • A Long Way from Home by Alice Walsh (Second Story Press) >>> about those stranded in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11

Picture Books 
  • Checkers and Dot by J. Torres, illustrated by J. Lum (Tundra) 
  • Checkers and Dot at the Zoo by J. Torres, illustrated by J. Lum (Tundra) 
  • A Good Trade by Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Karen Patkau (Pajama Press) >>> a special story about a special day for a boy in a Ugandan village
  • Lumpito and the Painter from Spain by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Dean Griffiths (Pajama Press) >>> based on the true story of Pablo Picasso's special relationship with a dachshund
  • Miss Mousie's Blind Date by Tim Beiser, illustrated by Rachel Berman (Tundra) >>> from team that brought us Bradley McGogg, The Very Fine Frog  
  • Murilla Gorilla by Jennifer Lloyd, illustrated by Jacqui Lee (Simply Read Books)
  • Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press) >>> fifth book in the Scaredy Squirrel series
  • That Night's Train Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood)
  • Uncle Wally's Old Brown Shoe by Wallace Edwards (Orca) >>> more hidden objects and meanings from the master
  • Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure by Kevin Sylvester (Simon & Schuster) >>> fourth book in the award-winning Neil Flambé series; Neil Flambé and the Crusader's Curse reviewed here
  • Secret of the Village Fool by Rebecca Upjohn, illustrated by Renée Benoit (Second Story Press)
  • Becoming Holmes: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case by Shane Peacock (Tundra) >>> the sixth and final book in The Boy Sherlock Holmes series; The Dragon Turn (#5) reviewed here
  • Seven: The Series   (Orca) >>> introduced here
  1. Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters
  2. Lost Cause by John Wilson
  3. Jump Cut by Ted Staunton
  4. Ink Me by Richard Scrimger
  5. Close to the Heel by Norah McClintock
  6. Devil's Pass by Sigmund Brouwer
  7. The Last Message by Shane Peacock

Young Adult
  • I, Witness by Norah McClintock, illustrated by Mike Deas (Orca) >>> graphic thriller
  • The Lewton Experiment by Rachel Sa (Tradewind)
  • Oracle by Alex Van Tol (Orca)
  • Shallow Grave by Alex Van Tol (Orca)
  • Three Little Words by Sarah N. Harvey (Orca)
  • Going Up: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top by Monica Kulling, illustrated by David Parkins (Tundra) >>> part to Great Ideas Seried, In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up reviewed here
  • The Hunting of the Snark, Illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko (Tundra) >>> new illustrated version of Lewis Carroll's story
  • One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way by Marsha Skrypuch (Pajama Press) >>> sequel to Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War reviewed here
  • The Quiz Book for Spies by Helaine Becker (Scholastic Canada)
  • Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport by Deborah Hodge (Tundra)

Picture Books
  • Dreamboats by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin (Simply Read Books)
  • Emily and the Mighty Om by Sarah Lolley, illustrated by Sleepless Kao (Simply Read Books) 
  Young Adult
  • The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress (Dial, Penguin)
  • The Geomancer's Compass by Melissa Hardy (Tundra) >>> futuristic setting

  • Anna May's Cloak by Christianne Cicioli, illustrated by Susan Pearson (Simply Read Books)
  @yourbookstore   @yourbookstore   @yourbookstore  

I wish I could post an image of every book listed and even all those set for fall release dates but, as always, there are too many books, too little time, and too little money to purchase all these books.  Special thanks to Pajama Press, Ronsdale Press, Raincoast Books (including Simply Read Books), Coteau Books, Orca Books, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic Canada who have been very generous in sharing copies of their books with me.