May 29, 2013

2013 TD Summer Reading Club: GO!

. . . join the TD Summer Reading Club!

It's time again for TD's special free summer reading program for Canadian kids. Kids who join the club (at their public library or through the website) at the end of the school year will get a passport in which to place special stickers for every book they read during the summer.

By joining, young readers have opportunities to win prizes, do great crafts, participate in free programs, and access members-only stuff!  There are book lists, scavenger hunts, jokes and more!

This year's Summer Reading Club artist is Matt James, illustrator of the award-winning book I Know Here (Groundwood Books, 2010) and Yellow Moon, Apple Moon (Groundwood Books, 2008).  Check out his wonderful graphics at some of which I have displayed here.  Matt James' illustrations encourage exploration, travel, adventure and world-wide expeditions.   

So, just GO!


May 28, 2013

The Lives We Lost

by Megan Crewe
Disney Press
288 pp.
Ages 12+
February 2013

The first book in Megan Crewe's Fallen World Trilogy, The Way We Fall, ends with Kaelyn sighting her best friend, Leo, returning alone on the ferry to the island.   The Way We Fall is essentially a series of journal entries that Kaelyn has been writing to Leo who is attending dance school in New York City as a way to share her experiences about their island's ruin by a contagious virus that takes its victims from scratching, coughing and sneezing, to hysteria and delusions and ultimately death.  Though her microbiologist father had attempted to find a vaccine, he was killed senselessly by panic-stricken islanders.

The Lives We Lost begins with Leo's return and news that the virus has also ravaged the mainland communities and Kaelyn's discovery of six vials of vaccine that her father had synthesized before his death.  Determined to get the samples to Ottawa, probably the largest centre with medical and biotech facilities to help determine the vaccine's formulation, Kaelyn and her boyfriend Gav have loaded up an SUV with gas, food and supplies to help get them there in the bitter winter conditions of December.  But rogue soldiers dropping bombs from a helicopter onto their island has all of their group loading up a boat with the supplies and heading to the mainland with their rescuer, a young soldier named Tobias.  Once on the mainland, the plan changes to Kaelyn and Gav using Tobias' army jeep and travelling to Ottawa with Meredith, Kaelyn's young cousin; Leo; Tessa, Leo's girlfriend; and Tobias. 

So begins a trek across a frozen, deserted land, rife with criminal survivors and the awkwardness of Kaelyn and Leo's reunion, especially after he kisses her.  While the tenuous nature of their relationship pervades Kaelyn's deliberations on their journey, the danger and uncertainty of finding help overwhelm their daily travels.  It isn't long before the group crosses paths with some people who learn about the vaccine (courtesy of Meredith's innocent comment), disabling their jeep and hunting them down, using two-way radios and armed with rifles.  Kaelyn and company manage to evade this group, ultimately entering Quebec, always on the lookout for rations, shelter from cold and blizzards and transportation. 

Their arrival at a former artists' colony brings them some comforts: showers, warmth, food and information.  Although Gav and Tobias are quarantined, being the only two of the group who have not been exposed to the virus or received the vaccine, the rest are welcomed to stay with the colonists who've organized themselves well to protect themselves from danger and looters.  But, a surprise visit by those who'd been hunting Kaelyn's group for the vaccine has them on the road again, this time leaving Tessa and Meredith at the artists' retreat, and reluctantly letting fourteen-year-old Justin join them.  Their destination: Toronto.

While The Way We Fall reads as a series of shocking developments, The Lives We Lost emphasizes the arduous journey of Kaelyn and her group, looking for help and hope, forced to grow into their new lives because their former lives are gone, just as are so many of their loved ones.  Megan Crewe uses the unsettled winter weather, the unsophisticated characters and the fear of the unknown to keep the tension high.  The young people are never sure whom to trust or to what extent and what recourse they should follow whenever they cannot proceed as originally planned.  But they demonstrate the resilience and determination needed to achieve the greater good (i.e., get the vaccine replicated so that others' might survive); unfortunately, they learn that sometimes tough, even reprehensible choices must be made, whether to continue to strive for that greater good or just to survive, as we learn Leo did.  And yet Megan Crewe's characters could be anyone who finds themselves in desperate circumstances, drawing from their past experiences to help them maneuver through new situations: viral, fatal or otherwise.  With The Worlds We Make (Fallen World #3) due out in February 2014, readers will learn how successful they've all been in their endeavours.

May 27, 2013

Community Soup

by Alma Fullerton
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 15, 2013

Ah, it's soup day, and everyone has something to do.  Jomo, Dalila, Matu and Amundi are collecting beans, a pumpkin, sweet potatoes and corn from their school garden.  The teachers are stirring the pots.  And Kioni? She's like Mary of the lambs but with goats who follow her to school although against the No Goats rule! But goats will be goats and they are soon into the garden.  While the children herd the goats away from their produce, Kioni comes up with a tasty solution that allows the goats to participate in the community soup-making, without coming to any harm.

Alma Fullerton may be known for her award-winning novels in verse such as In the Garage (Red Deer Press, 2006), Walking on Glass (HarperCollins Canada, 2006), Libertad (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008) and Burn (Dancing Cat Books, 2010) but last year's A Good Trade, also from Pajama Press, heralded her auspicious entry into the club of CanLit picture book authors.  With Community Soup, her newest offering, Alma Fullerton can now add CanLit picture book illustrator to her resumé.

Still putting her story into the joyous rhyme of a favourite nursery tale, Alma Fullerton enhances it with her three-dimensional artwork in mixed media with collages of paper cutouts creating a bounty of textures, teeming with the bold and evocative colours of a Kenyan community.  And the satisfaction of creating a dish cooperatively from the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour and successfully with solving the dilemma of the errant goats is all the greater, for the children and the readers.

But Alma Fullerton doesn't stop there.  In addition to sharing her art and rhyme, she provides the recipe for Pumpkin Vegetable Soup (see below) and donates a portion of her book proceeds to the Creation of Hope Project, delivering further to the cooperative quality of Community Soup. Bon appetit!

May 25, 2013

Spring is Canadian Children's Book Awards' Season

If you ever have to wonder what you should read next (and I would probably say, "Really?"), consider looking at nominees and winners of the multitude of awards that are announced in the spring because this is definitely the season of youngCanLit book awards.  Of course, this is not too unusual as many programs are run on a school year basis, with reading, voting and awards scheduled to be started and completed within the year. 

Consider this list of nominees and winners which I have posted on CanLit for LittleCanadians: Awards blog since March 21, the beginning of the spring:

Overwhelming, isn't it?  And there is still another month of spring left! 

Last year, I started to put together a listing of book awards for which youngCanLit may be nominated.  I'm still working on it but there always seems to be another book award that I haven't noticed, or one that normally doesn't include children's or YA books and then includes one on its short lists, or new awards are announced like the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature, or some are dropped or renamed.  I will share it if I ever feel that it is complete.

In the mean while, check out these lists of nominees and winners and see how many titles reappear on multiple lists or which ones are unique to one list.  Read the comments made by the juries or readers who make selections.  And enjoy the wealth of outstanding literature, as always!

May 23, 2013


by Shelley Hrdlitschka
Orca Book Publishers
268 pp.
Ages 12+

Allegra is told by Mr. Rocchelli, the teacher whose music theory class she is desperate to drop, that her name comes from allegro which means "lively, with a happy air." (pg. 4) But Allegra is more the serious dance student who has always felt less inclined to join in those lively groupings and fun activities that many children enjoy.

Seventeen-year-old Allegra Whitford, daughter of two very accomplished musicians (Mom is the Deer Lake Symphony Orchestra's harpist and Dad is the bass player of the Celtic-rock group, Loose Ends), is entering her first year at the Deer Lake School for the Fine and Performing Arts.  Already accomplished herself, in completing all levels in the National Music Academy, she is only interested in pursuing dance classes.  But the school, and Mr. Rocchelli, insist that she get a balanced arts curriculum, so she is stuck taking his music theory class. However, after she takes the final exam early and aces it, Mr. Rocchelli gives her a special project: to expand a simple melody into a conductor's score and written for every instrument in the orchestra.

Allegra is especially eager to delve into this project with her father who has just returned from another tour. But her parents' relationship seems rather awkward since he's come home.  Her mother seems more "prickly" and insists on continuing to get rides from another musician, Marcus, who drives a little red sports car.  Dad looks tired and is thinking of one last tour, realizing the impact his touring has had on the family.  Though they have a great time when Allegra invites new friends Spencer and Talia and a couple of others over for chili and to sit in on a Loose Ends rehearsal, Allegra begins to wonder about the steadfastness of everyone's relationships.

When Mom asks Dad to move out, Allegra is embarrassed to tell Spencer and Talia, and finds herself immersing herself in her music project and putting her dance on hold.  Spencer is showing interest, even kissing her but, after a fiasco of a sleepover at Talia's, he tells Allegra that, "You put up a wall and don't let anyone in." (pg. 130) Returning to dance while working even harder on her music composition, Allegra finds herself becoming more distracted by Mr. Rocchelli, especially after he begins to collaborate with her on the music, scheduling late night sessions and even asking her to call him Noel.  Though Mr. Rocchelli makes no advances towards her, Allegra is thrilled with the attention he gives her, convinced that they are in love.

Though I don't take any joy in Allegra's discomfort in social settings, it's refreshing for readers to recognize that not everyone aspires to popularity at all costs.  However, Allegra's awkwardness in social situations has kept her shielded from sharing herself with others and from gaining the support that friendships can provide.  Without the balance of others' views or input, Allegra's thoughts only feed themselves, both negatively and positively.  While convincing herself that Spencer and the others are only interested in her because of her father - definitely a negative perspective - she also convinces herself that Mr. Rocchelli feels the same excitement about her as she does when with him.  In the end, she does a disservice to everyone while never intending on doing anything but excelling at her craft.

Shelley Hrdlitschka could have made Mr. Rocchelli the "bad guy" by having him lead Allegra on but she charitably creates no good guys and bad guys, just characters who are human, trying to do the best they can.  Their way of doing things, including their reactions and interpretations, may be right or they may be wrong, but they don't seem to have any hidden agendas.  Allegra herself recognizes that she "should" be lively, or that she would at least benefit from being more extroverted, but it's not always possible to be what others want of us, no matter how beneficial.  But, like her parents, her friends, Mr. Rocchelli and others, Allegra takes what she's been given and works with it.  Sometimes it's flat but sometimes it's a superb orchestral piece with layers of harmonies and melodies that inspire and elevate.

May 22, 2013

Games of Survival: Traditional Inuit Games for Elementary Students

by Johnny Issaluk
Inhabit Media
60 pp.
Ages 7+

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I don't review a lot of non-fiction.  I won't repeat my reasons here, as I did in an earlier post; suffice it to say that, Johnny Issaluk's Games of Survival: Traditional Inuit Games for Elementary Students is so unique in its topic and bold presentation that I'm delighted to review it here on CanLit for LittleCanadians.

As teachers, we know that whether we're teaching math or English or geography, if we can connect our students' learning to something relevant to them, then it will engage them.  Games often don't need gimmicks to engage young people; they're just fun.  But what if the games were relevant to your survival, as well as fun?  Wouldn't most young people be intrigued?  By presenting these games as purposeful play, as well as fun, Johnny Issaluk, Arctic Winter Games champion, will grab the attention of young readers as well as their teachers and parents.

Games of Survival presents a series of traditional Inuit games that were used to support skills in agility, strength and endurance - all key capabilities for surviving as an Inuit in the Arctic.  For those of us who do not live within the Far North, we've only seen snippets of these games when reported on the news during the annual Arctic Winter Games, a circumpolar sports competition held every two years.  Without understanding the rationale, rules or methodology, I know that what I saw requires incredible athleticism.  Now, with Games of Survival, my understanding has increased substantially.

The agility games include several versions of the High Kick, in which a competitor kicks up at a target hanging from above.  Enhanced by photographs from Ed Maruyama from different angles and of different ages of competitors, the text explains what skills are practised and developed, as well as their role in the traditional Inuit lifestyle in the Arctic.  Similarly, Games of Survival includes games that match the strength of competitors as they pull against each other, and games of endurance that include the knuckle hop, that imitates the movement of a seal, and the muskox push in which shoulders are locked together.

Games of Survival works so well on so many levels.  Johnny Issaluk is thrifty with his text, explaining well the purpose and mechanics of the games, without drowning the information in pages of dense text (the failing of many books of children's non-fiction).  The photographs are bold and spatially intriguing (i.e., how do they do that?).  And any reader, young or older, will be captivated and maybe even challenged to try the games included here.  The subtitle, Traditional Inuit Games for Elementary Students, may suggest this book is a teacher resource but it's much more than that.  Think of it as a photographic history and how-to book that shares the stories and talents of a culture with which we should all be more familiar.

May 18, 2013

Mother and Daughter Book Launch (Burlington, Ontario)

A wonderful new twist for a book launch!

Mother and Daughter authors

Sylvia McNicoll and J. M. Filipowicz

invite you to the launch of their new books

Dying to Go Viral
by Sylvia McNicoll
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
232 pp.
by J. M. Filipowicz
Double Dragon eBooks
165 pp.

June 9, 2013

 2 p.m.


A Different Drummer Bookstore
513 Locust Street
Burlington, Ontario 

(905) 639-0925

What you can expect to do:
• Listen to two unique perspectives on YA vs Sci Fi
• Enjoy Mars bars squares and refreshments
• Pick up autographed first editions of 
Sylvia McNicoll's Dying to go Viral 
J. M. Filipowicz's Wardroids


May 17, 2013

2013 Forest of Reading winners announced at Festival of Trees

Of course, the winners of the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading's book awards are listed on my CanLit for LittleCanadians: Awards page, but the news is too big not to share it on my main page.  It's just too fantastic!

After two glorious days of great weather, words and winning, young readers in Ontario learned the results of their reading and voting for the Forest of Reading award programs, a readers' choice award.  On May 15 and May 16, at the Festival of Trees event at Toronto's Harbourfront, young readers celebrated their reading accomplishments, shared the joy of reading great youngCanLit, played games for books, met numerous authors and illustrators, and enthusiastically learned their selections for the favourite books in each program. And authors, illustrators and publishers enjoyed the well-deserved and uproarious cheers and recognition from fans of fantastic youngCanLit.

It's impossible to name all those who made this reading program and the Festival of Trees such a success but I will try.  And, though I've said it before, I'll say it again and again and again,
congratulations to:
• the readers on their amazing selections from exemplary lists of Canadian literature for young people;
• the countless volunteers and OLA staff (Meredith Tutching directing at the helm) who ensure that Ontario young people read the best titles and who help bring the Festival of Trees to fruition (pun intended);
• the authors and illustrators honoured with Forest of Reading nominations;
• the authors and illustrators who enjoyed the undeniable adoration of thousands of reading fans;
• the publishers who are recognizing the importance of publishing and promoting children's and YA literature in Canada; and
• the winners and honourees in each reading program. 

Here are the winners and honour books for each reading program:

Blue Spruce

Kate and Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story
by Martin Springett
Illustrated by Isobel Springett
Puffin Canada/Pengiun Group


by Kevin Sylvester
Tundra Books

Don't Laugh at Giraffe
by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press

Silver Birch EXPRESS

Margaret and the Moth Tree
by Brit Trogen & Kari Trogen
Kids Can Press


Dalen & Gole: Scandal in Port Angus
by Mike Deas

Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artist
by Janice Weaver
Illustrated by Chris Lane
Abrams Books for Young Readers/ABRAMS

Silver Birch FICTION

Making Bombs For Hitler
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Scholastic Canada


by Becky Citra
Orca Book Publisher

A Tinfoil Sky
by Cyndi Sand-Eveland
Tundra Books

Silver Birch NON-FICTION


No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs
by Rob Laidlaw
Pajama Press


50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Annick Press 

Case Files: 40 Murders and Mysteries Solved by Science
by Larry Verstraete
Scholastic Canada

Le prix Peuplier


Le zoo de Yayaho
par Geneviève Lemieux
Illustré par Bruno St-Aubin
Bayard Canada Livres inc.

                              HONOUR BOOKS                                        

Salto: L'ultime défi
par Pierre Labrie
Illustré par Tristan Demers
Boomerang éditeur jeunesse inc.


Prince Olivier et le dragon
par Caroline Merola
Les éditions Imagine

Le Prix Tamarac


Le mystère des jumelles Barnes
par Carole Tremblay
Bayard Canada Livres 


par Julie Champagne
Bayard Canada Livres 

Biodôme: Dans le sens du poil
par Frédéric Antoine
Illustré par Yohann Morin
Boomerang éditeur jeunesse

Le Prix Tamarac EXPRESS


Billy Stuart: 1. Les Zintrépides
par Alain M. Bergeron
Illustré par Sampar
Éditions Michel Quintin


Du soccer extrême
par François Gravel
Illustré par Philippe Germain
Les éditions FouLire inc.

Ziiip Sur Terre!
par Johanne Mercier
Illustré par Gabrielle Grimard
Les éditions FouLire inc.

Red Maple Fiction

The Vindico
by Wesley King
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group


This Dark Endeavour
by Kenneth Oppel
The Vampire Stalker
by Allison Van Diepen

Red Maple Non-Fiction


Real Justice: Fourteen And Sentenced To Death
by Bill Swan
James Lorimer & Company


Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Pajama Press

Running To Extremes: Ray Zahab's Amazing Ultramarathon Journey
by Steve Pitt with Ray Zahab
Puffin Canada/Penguin Group

White Pine FICTION

Dark Inside
by Jeyn Roberts
Simon & Schuster BFYR/Simon & Schuster


All Good Children
by Catherine Austen
Orca Book Publishers

by Lena Coakley
Atheneum Books For Young Readers/Simon & Schuster

Thrilling news for all authors, illustrators and publishers!

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

Congratulations to everyone!