December 31, 2014

Upcoming Releases for Spring 2015

Instead of looking back on the past few weeks of virus-induced blog inactivity, let's look forward to a spring of new releases.  There's a plethora of titles coming out this spring, whether you're looking for a picture book, novel, YA or non-fiction.  I'm especially looking forward to:
  • reconnecting with a favourite character (e.g., Neil Flambé and the Bard's Banquet by Kevin Sylvester; The Agency: Rivals in the City by Y. S. Lee brings back Victorian spy Mary Quinn);
  • revisiting authors or illustrators whose work we've missed for a few years (e.g., Not Just Another Princess Story by Sheri Radford; The Farmerettes by Gisela Sherman; This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary);
  • returning to cliffs upon which plots are hanging (e.g., Noir by Jacqueline Garlick; Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman; The Clouded Sky by Megan Crewe; Thor's Serpents by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr); 
  • checking on established series that missed my initial perusal (e.g., Charmed by Michelle Krys; Second Kiss by Robert Priest);
  • discovering new writing paths of favourite authors (e.g., The Nest by Kenneth Oppel; The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! by Wesley King);
  • looking beyond mesmerizing covers (e.g., Curiosity by Gary Blackwood; The Dogs by Allan Stratton; Painted Skies by Carolyn Mallory);
  • delving into the unknown (e.g., Prison Boy by Sharon E. McKay; Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass; Delusion Road by Don Aker; Say You Will by Eric Walters); 
  • delighting in joyful graphics (e.g., My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić; The (Almost) Everything Book by Julie Morstad; The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc; Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt; The Tweedles Go Online by Monica Kulling, illus. by Marie LaFrance); 
  • sharing for classroom learning (e.g., Ready, Set, Kindergarten! by Paula Ayer; Hungry for Math by Kari-Lynn Winters; A Ticket Around the World by Natalia Dias and Melissa Owens)
  • and...and...and....I'm looking forward to all of them!
Finally, let me know if I've missed any key titles and take a minute to share the titles of any youngCanLit you're especially eager to read.  It's always great to share our reading, especially if you only have to type in a title! (I always have the best of intentions with catching up on Goodreads and LibraryThing but, my goodness, I need a lot of time to update my reading records.)

Happy Reading Anticipation!

  • The Case of the Missing Moonstone (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 1) by Jordan Stratford, illus. by Kelly Murphy (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
  • Neil Flambé and the Bard’s Banquet by Kevin Sylvester (Simon & Schuster) >>> long-awaited Book 5 in the Neil Flambé series
  • Unleashed by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Canada) >>> newest book in Swindle series

Young Adult
  • Fight for Power by Eric Walters (Razorbill) >>> The Rule of Three sequel 
  • How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) >>> sequel to How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied
  • New Order by Max Turner (HarperTrophy)≫ sequel to Night Runner and End of Days
  • Noir by Jacqueline E. Garlick (Amazemo Books) >>> Book 2 of The Illumination Paradox steampunk series
  • Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers (St. Martin's Griffin) >>> sequel to This is Not a Test
  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne (Dundurn)
  • Willowgrove by Kathleen Peacock (Katherine Tegen) >>> Hemlock, Book 3

Picture Books
  • The Duck Says by Troy Wilson, illus. by Mike Boldt (Scholastic Canada)
  • Duet by Sleepless Kao (Simply Read Books)
  • Not Just Another Princess Story by Sheri Radford, illus. by Qin Leng (Simply Read Books)
  • Ready, Set, Kindergarten! by Paula Ayer, illus. by Danielle Arbour (Annick Press)
  • Taffy Time by Jennifer Lloyd, illus. by Jacqui Lee (Simply Read Books)
  • The Yoga Game by the Sea by Kathy Belliveau, illus. by Denise Holmes (Simply Read Books)

  • Defend or Die The Siege of Hong Kong, Jack Finnigan, Hong Kong, 1941 by Gillian Chan (Scholastic Canada) >>> newest I Am Canada
  • The Dogs by Allan Stratton (Scholastic Canada)
  • A Hanging Offence by Don Cummer (Scholastic Canada) >>> sequel to Brothers at War
  • The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman)
  • Infinity Coil by Marty Chan (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) >>> Book 2 in steampunk series The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles
  • The Lost Diary by Julie White (Sono Nis Press)
  • Masterminds by Gordon Korman (HarperCollins) >>> new series
  • Misty by Christine Dencer, illus. by Jessica Meserve (Simply Read Books)
  • The Moment by Kristie Hammond (Sono Nis Press)
  • Paint by Jennifer Dance (Dundurn)
  • Piper’s First Show by Susan Hughes, illus. by Leanne Franson (Scholastic Canada) >>>The Puppy Collection #5
  • Random Acts by Valerie Sherrard (Penguin)
  • Reality Check in Detroit by Roy MacGregor (Tundra) >>> newest in Screech Owls hockey series

Young Adult
  • Best Friends through Eternity by Sylvia McNicoll (Tundra)
  • Life Cycle of a Lie by Sylvia Olsen (Sono Nis Press)
  • Prison Boy by Sharon E. McKay (Annick Press)
  • Remember by Eileen Cook (Simon & Schuster Canada)
  • Shack Island Summer by Penny Chamberlain (Sono Nis Press)
  • The World Without Us by Robin Stevenson (Orca Book Publishers)

  • 10 Rivers that Shaped the World by Marilee Peters and Kim Rosen (Annick Press)
  • Baseballogy: Supercool Facts You Never Knew by Kevin Sylvester (Annick Press)
  • Crazy About Hockey! by Loris Lesynski and Gerry Rasmussen (Annick Press) >>> sports-themed poetry
  • Foodprints: The Story of What We Eat by Paula Ayer (Annick Press)
  • Galloping Through History: Amazing True Horse Stories by Elizabeth MacLeod (Annick Press)
  • Head Lice by Elise Gravel (Tundra)
  • Power Up!: A Visual Exploration of Energy by Shaker Paleja and Glenda Tse (Annick Press)
  • The Spider by Elise Gravel (Tundra)
  • Superbrain: The Insiders Guide to Getting Smart by Toronto Public Library, illus. by Dave Whamond (Annick Press)

Picture Books
  • And What If I Won’t? by Maureen Fergus, illus. by Qin Leng (Owlkids)
  • The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc (Kids Can Press)
  • The Cardinal and the Crow by Michael Moniz (Simply Read Books)
  • Cub’s Journey Home by Georgia Graham (Red Deer Press)
  • A Day in Canada by Per Henrik Gurth (Kids Can Press)
  • Frankenstink by Ron Lightburn (Tundra)
  • In a Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton, illus. by Brian Deines (Pajama Press)
  • Look! Translated by Karen Li (Owlkids)
  • More Blueberries by Susan Musgrave, illus. by Esperança Melo (Orca Book Publishers)
  • A Morning to Polish and Keep by Julie Lawson, illus. by Sheena Lott (Red Deer Press) >>> new edition
  • The Pirate’s Bed by Nicola Winstanley, illus. by Matt James (Tundra)
  • Rosario’s Fig Tree by Charis Wahl, illus. by Luc Melanson (Groundwood)
  • See You Next Year by Andrew Larsen, illus. by Todd Stewart (Owlkids)
  • Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illus. by Sydney Smith (Groundwood)
  • Walk on the Wild Side by Nicholas Oldland (Kids Can Press)
  • Work and More Work by Linda Little, illus. by Oscar Pérez (Groundwood)

  • Connecting Dots by Sharon Jennings (Second Story Press)
  • Eco Warrior by Philip Roy (Ronsdale)
  • Jasper John Dooley: NOT in Love by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Ben Clanton (Kids Can Press)
  • Jasper John Dooley: You’re in Trouble by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Ben Clanton (Kids Can Press)
  • The Missing Dog is Spotted by Jessica Scott Kerrin (Groundwood)
  • Mystery in the Frozen Lands by Martyn Godfrey and Ken McGoogan (Lorimer)
  • Princess Pistachio and the Pest by Marie-Louise Gay (Pajama Press) >>> sequel to first Princess Pistachio book
  • Rock the Boat by Sigmund Brouwer (Orca Book Publishers) >>> Orca Limelights collection
  • Secrets Beneath the Sea by Janet Gurtler, illus. by Katie Wood (Capstone Press)
  • Tank and Fizz: The Case of the Slime Stampede by Liam O’Donnell, illus. by Mike Deas (Orca Book Publishers)

Young Adult
  • The Choice by Kathy Clark (Second Story Press)
  • Dark Company by Natale Ghent (Doubleday Canada)
  • The Farmerettes by Gisela Tobien Sherman (Second Story Press)
  • Fight Back by Brent R. Sherrard (Lorimer) >>> hi-lo title in Sidestreets collection
  • The Journal by Lois Donovan (Ronsdale)
  • Mac on the Road to Marseille by Christopher Ward (Dundurn)
  • Rivals in the City by Y. S. Lee (Random House)>>> Book 3 in the Victorian mystery series, The Agency
  • The Secret of the Golden Flower by Caroline Stellings (Second Story Press)
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (Doubleday Canada) >>> a companion to Seraphina
  • Thrice Burned by Angela Misri (Fierce Ink Press) >>> new A Portia Adams Adventure
  • Tru Detective by Norah McClintock, illus. by Steven P. Hughes (Orca Book Publishers) ≫graphic novel
  • The Truth Commission by Susan Juby (Penguin)
  • War in my Town by E. Graziani (Second Story Press)
  • When Kacey Left by Dawn Green (Red Deer Press)

  • Bite into Bloodsuckers by Kari-Lynn Winters and Ishta Mercurio (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • Hungry for Math:  Poems to Much On by Kari-Lynn Winters and Lori Sherritt-Fleming, illus. by Peggy Collins (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • The Queen’s Shadow: A Story About How Animals See by Cybèle Young (Kids Can Press)
  • Real Justice: A Police Mr. Big Sting Goes Wrong: The Story of Kyle Unger by Richard Brignall (Lorimer)
  • The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Bicycle by Jude Isabella, illus. by Simone Shin (Kids Can Press)
  • Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Native Residential Schools by Melanie Florence (Lorimer)
  • A Ticket Around the World by Natalia Dias and Melissa Owens, illus. by Kim Smith (Owlkids)
  • What Sound Does a Sea Horse Make by Shar Levine, Leslie Johnstone and Aran Mooney (Ronsdale)

Picture Books
  • A+ for Big Ben by Sarah Ellis, illus. by Kim LaFave (Pajama Press)
  • Bad Pirate by Kari-Lynn Winters, illus. by Dean Griffiths (Pajama Press)
  • The Candy Conspiracy: A Tale of Sweet Victory by Carrie Snyder, illus. by Claudia Dávila (Owlkids)
  • Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites by Kellen Hatanaka (Groundwood)
  • Eat, Leo! Eat! by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Josée Bisaillon (Kids Can Press)
  • Hurry Up, Ilua! by Nola Hicks  (Inhabit Media)
  • The Little Knight who Battled the Rain by Gilles Tibo, illus. by Geneviève Després (Scholastic Canada)
  • Me, Too! by Annika Dunklee, illus. by Lori Joy Smith (Kids Can Press)
  • My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić (Kids Can Press)
  • Outstanding in the Rain by Frank Viva (Tundra)
  • Slippers Keeper by Ian Wallace (Groundwood)
  • Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red by Rosemary McCarney, illus. by Yvonne Cathcart (Second Story Press)

  • Andreo’s Race by Pam Withers (Tundra)
  • Attack of the Toga Gang by George Bowering (Dancing Cat Books)
  • Avis Dolphin by Frieda Wishinsky, illus. by Willow Dawson (Groundwood)
  • Between Shadows by Kathleen Cook Waldron (Coteau)
  • Button Hill by Michael Bradford (Orca Book Publishers)
  • Curiosity by Gary Blackwood (Puffin)
  • The Frail Days by Gabrielle Prendergast (Orca Book Publishers) >>> Orca Limelights collection
  • The Ghost and Max Monroe, Case  #2: The Missing Zucchini by L.M. Falcone (Kids Can Press)
  • Ghost Most Foul by Patti Grayson (Coteau)
  • Jacob’s Landing by Daphne Greer (Nimbus)
  • Lost in the Backyard by Alison Hughes (Orca Book Publishers)
  • Peter Puck and the Stolen Stanley Cup by Brian McFarlane, illus. by Geri Storey (Fenn-Tundra)
  • The River Carries Me by Cheryl Stewart (Dancing Cat Books)
  • Rosie and Rolland in the Legendary Show-and-Tell by Jon Berg (Owlkids)
  • Scare Scape II by Sam Fisher (Scholastic Canada)
  • The Travelling Circus by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel (Groundwood) ≫newest edition in Family Travels series

Young Adult
  • Blank by Trina St. John (Orca Book Publishers)
  • Delusion Road by Don Aker (HarperTrophy)
  • Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong (Doubleday) >>> sequel to Sea of Shadows
  • Forever Julia by Jodi Carmichael (Great Plains Teen Fiction)
  • Punch like a Girl by Karen Crossing (Orca Book Publishers)
  • Second Kiss by Robert Priest (Dundurn) >>> Book 2 in Spell Crossed series, sequel to The Paper Sword
  • The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch (Doubleday Canada) >>> sequel to The Oathbreaker’s Shadow
  • The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler (Sourcebooks Fire)
  • Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass (Pajama Press)

  • Dark Matters: Life that needs Dark to Survive and Thrive by Joan Marie Galat  (Red Deer Press)
  • Look Where We Live! A First Book of Community Building by Scott Ritchie (Kids Can Press)
  • My Name Is Arnaktauyok: The Life and Art of Germaine Arnaktauyok by Germaine Arnaktauyok and Gyu Oh (Inhabit Media)
  • Never Give Up: A story about self-esteem by Kathryn Cole, illus. by Qin Leng (Second Story Press)
  • On the Shoulder of a Giant by Neil Christopher and James Nelson (Inhabit Media)
  • Reptile Flu: A Story about Communication by Kathryn Cole, illus. by Qin Leng (Second Story Press)
  • School Days Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, illus. by Alice Feagan (Kids Can Press)
  • Stories of Survival & Revenge: From Inuit Folklore by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (Inhabit Media)
  • Trash Talk:  Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World by Michelle Mulder (Orca Book Publishers) >>> Orca Footprints collection
  • Wild Ideas:  Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking by Elin Kelsey, illus. by Soyeon Kim (Owlkids)

Picture Books
  • Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay (Running Press Kids)
  • Gerbil, Uncurled by Alison Hughes, illus. by Suzanne Del Rizzo (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • Giraffe Meets Bird by Rebecca Bender (Pajama Press) >>> third book starring Giraffe and Bird
  • Jayde the Jaybird by Brandee Bublé, illus. by Eliska Liska (Simply Read Books)
  • Jessie’s Island by Sheryl McFarlane, illus. by Sheena Lott (Orca Book Publishers) >>> re-issue
  • King of Keji by Jan Coates, illus. by Patsy MacKinnon (Nimbus Publishing)
  • A Lesson for a Wolf by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, illus. by Alan Cook (Inhabit Media)
  • Nut and Bolt by Nicole De Cock (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • Sea Glass Summer by Heidi Jardine Stoddart (Nimbus) 
  • Song for a Summer Night by Robert Heidbreder, illus. by Qin Leng (Groundwood)
  • That Squeak by Carolyn Beck, illus. by Francois Thisdale (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • Swimming, Swimming by Gary Clement (Groundwood)
  • This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illus. by Julie Morstad (Tundra)
  • The Tweedles Go Online by Monica Kulling, illus. by Marie LaFrance (Groundwood) >>> sequel to The Tweedles Go Electric  n.b. Rescheduled for April 
  • Where are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster)

  • Bagels the Brave by Joan Betty Stuchner, illus. by Dave Whamond (Orca Book Publishers)
  • Learning the Ropes by Monique Polak (Orca Book Publishers) >>> Orca Limelights collection
  • The Mosquito Brothers by Griffin Ondaatje, illus. by Erica Salcedo (Groundwood)
  • Saving Crazy by Karen Hood-Caddy (Dundurn)
  • Thor's Serpents by K. L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)≫ Book 3 in the Blackwell Pages which includes Loki's Wolves and Odin's Ravens

Young Adult
  • Charmed by Michelle Krys (Doubleday) >>> sequel to Hexed
  • The Clouded Sky by Megan Crewe (Razorbill) >>> Book 2 in Earth & Sky series
  • In Search of Sam by Kristin Butcher (Dundurn)
  • Lake in the Clouds by Edward Willett (Coteau) ≫ Book 3 in Shards of Excalibur series
  • Merit Birds by Kelley Powell (Dundurn)
  • Say You Will by Eric Walters (Doubleday)
  • SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly) >>> graphic novel
  • We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (Tundra)

  • Be a Beach Detective: Solving the Mysteries of Seas, Sands and Surf by Peggy Kochanoff (Nimbus)
  • Do You Know Rhinoceros? by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quentin and Sampar, illus. by Sampar (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • Do You Know Tigers? by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quentin and Sampar, illus. by Sampar (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 
  • Painted Skies by Carolyn Mallory, illus. by Amei Zhao (Inhabit Media)

Picture Books
  • Down Here by Valerie Sherrard, illus. by Isabelle Malenfant (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

  • Dead Man’s Boot by Eric Murphy (Dancing Cat Books)
  • Sammy and the Headless Horseman by Rona Arato (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

Young Adult
  • A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes (Razorbill) >>> Book 1 of companion series to Falling Kingdoms series
  • Crash by Eve Silver (Katherine Tegen) >>> The Game Book 3

And just as a teaser...

Picture Books
  • All Year Round by Emilie Leduc, translated by Shelley Tanaka (Groundwood)
  • The (Almost) Everything Book by Julie Morstad (Simply Read Books)
  • Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus, illus. by Carey Sookocheff (Groundwood)
  • Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt (Tundra)
  • Grant and Tilley Go Walking by Monica Kulling, illus. by Sydney Smith (Groundwood) >>> about artist Grant Wood
  • Kyle Goes Alone by Jan Thornhill, illus. by Ashley Barron (Owlkids)
  • Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel (Groundwood)
  • When Santa was a Baby by Linda Bailey, illus. by Geneviève Godbout (Tundra)
  • The Yoga Game in the Garden by Kathy Belliveau, illus. by Denise Holmes (Simply Read Books)

  • The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illus. by Jon Klassen (Simon & Schuster)
  • A Pocket Full of Murder by R. J. Anderson (Atheneum) >>> Book 1 in new series Uncommon Magic

Young Adult
  • 250 Hours by Colleen Nelson (Coteau)
  • The Asp by B. R. Myers (Fierce Ink Press)
  • Seven Secrets (Orca Book Publishers) by Marthe Jocelyn, Vicki Grant, Teresa Toten, Kelley Armstrong, Norah McClintock, Kathy Kacer and Eric Walters

I'll be back in June for a more complete list of summer and then fall books set for release. And if you find these posts of some value, consider subscribing to the blog.  It's free!

December 17, 2014

Into the Wasteland

by Lesley Choyce
Red Deer Press
174 pp.
Ages 14-17
October, 2014

I'm done. Through. Finished. I'm on the edge of something and I don't know what it is. I just know that everything and everybody is holding me back. (pg. 7)
Dixon Carter is angry and he’s taking himself off his prescription meds.  And though the name of Dixon’s illness is never identified (I don't like those labels, but once they are sewn into your shirt, it's hard to get rid of them; pg. 48), Dixon is far too complex for a simple mental illness label.  He is insightful, expressive, and appreciative of his parents, his brilliant girlfriend Sylvia, his best friend Zeke and Fairweather Dave, a former surf champion and surfing magnate who gave it all up.  Dixon delves into poetry, including a tome of T.S.Eliot's that includes the poem The Waste Land.  He thinks about illusions, rules, paradoxes and Einstein.  

But, by stopping his meds, Dixon is preparing for a trip down that dark path into the wasteland, and he’s sharing it with readers via his manifesto a.k.a. a journal.  Using his thoughts and his interactions for guidance, Dixon tries to sort out who he is, what he wants and how to go about it.
I'm trying to sort out my ideas, my thoughts, my so-called illness, and my condition.  I am, alas, a product of my culture, of my time, of my ancestry, and I'd prefer to step outside of all that. (pg. 31)
Then the unforeseen happens.  Tragedy.  Everything, everything changes.  (Oh how I wish I could share the details but that would truly be a spoiler.) How Dixon deals is just as unforeseen.

Into the Wasteland is so real.  It’s about being labelled with a mental illness and enduring the multitude of treatments in the hopes of achieving a normal life.  It’s about wanting to be a regular teen, to hang out with friends and your girlfriend, and think about a future that doesn’t include regular transgressions into a dangerous darkness.  And then the impending dark path seems like a walk in the park.  An overlay of grief essentially immobilizes Dixon: no way forward or back.  

I can’t imagine how Lesley Choyce is able to convey the twisted negative thinking of a young person with depression or the glorious euphoria of his manic episodes without an intimate knowledge of the complexities of his thought processes.   Think about this as you read Into the Wasteland and attempt to make your way through Dixon’s tortuous reasonings, which he presents as his philosophy.  He is convinced his thinking is clear but, though it is thoughtful and insightful, it is distorted and confusing, as are his writings in the manifesto.  Lesley Choyce persuasively depicts Dixon Carter as a sympathetic character though his argumentative nature and irritability could have precluded that.  Instead, what Into the Wasteland shares is that a person with a mental illness is never just well or unwell but as complex as any being trying to survive in a less than hospitable environment, whether it be internal or external.  

December 12, 2014

Fishermen Through & Through

by Colleen Sydor
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 4+
November 2014
There once lived three fishermen: Peter, Santiago, and Ahab. They were tough. They were as salty as the bottom of a pretzel bag. They were as weathered as a twisted stick of driftwood. (pg. 3)
These three men are the titular fisherman, a companionable trio whose lives on the sea do not preclude their ability to dream. Peter dreams of camel travel across a desert of sand,  Santiago imagines balloon travel on the wide expanse of sky, and Ahab is enamoured with the vision of endless fields of coloured tulips. But, as Fishermen Through & Through, they continue to fish, until one day, blow me down, a beautiful, white lobster becomes entangled in their nets.

Not wishing to be selfish, the three take their catch to the Fisherman's Net, a local restaurant, to be honoured by placement in a grand seawater tank, for all to enjoy.  News of the albino lobster spreads and everyone, from reporters to biologists and photographers, come to visit and witness the splendour of the lobster.  But, when the fishermen are offered a great deal of money for the lobster, they find themselves considering their dreams, the lobster and life on the sea to help them make the right decision.

Whether Colleen Sydor's three fishermen represent Saint Peter, Hemingway's old fisherman from The Old Man and the Sea, and Moby Dick's captain Ahab is irrelevant–though fitting–they are a credit to their vocation, fishermen through and through.  And their respect for the ocean, and what it gives and takes, is uncompromising.  With Brooke Kerrigan creating the graphics, the pencil illustrations are beautifully awash in soft watercolours, bringing the gentle waters and straightforward characters to complement the positive text.  Illustrator of Wellington's Rainy Day (Beck, 2011) and award-winning Kiss Me! (I'm a Prince) (McLeod, 2011) Brooke Kerrigan doesn't just add the pictures; she creates the spirit of Colleen Sydor's story through line and colour. Fishermen Through & Through is a complete story, through and through.

December 10, 2014

Blue Mountain

by Martine Leavitt
Groundwood Books
165 pp.
Ages 8-12
November, 2014

The struggle for survival may bring readers of adventure stories regularly to the brink of their seats, anticipating the worst and hopeful for the best outcome but always calmed by the fictional nature of the story.  But, though a fictionalized account of a herd of bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountains, Blue Mountain reads as authentic and harrowing as any biography of an explorer or a leader making life-and-death decisions for others.  Blue Mountain may be about bighorn sheep but the story of Tuk and his herd mates is a heart-rending tale of life on the edge, an account of the struggle to survive in both the natural and man-made worlds.

The story of Tuk, a male lamb, begins on the lambing cliffs with the other new lambs– Ovis, Rim, Nai, Mouf, Sto and Dall–learning the story about the mountain's gifts to the animals.  Lord Denu, the first bighorn, was gifted with tricky feet, strong jaws, and powerful horns, providing his descendants with the moniker of peaceable, since they did not fight but rather stayed in herds that helped protect their numbers.  When the lambs and their mothers return to the main herd at the summer range, meeting the yearlings and the barren ewes, Kenir the matriarch declares that Tuk is reminiscent of the strong lambs of many years ago and has been gifted to them by the mountain to help keep the herd from dying.  This is corroborated by his vision of a great blue mountain, so rarely seen that it is called story mountain.

This is a heavy responsibility placed on Tuk and, though he suffers ridicule from a yearling named Balus and others, one that he does not take lightly or is convinced belongs to him, especially after he fails to save a lamb from an eagle.  But when a mother puma and her kitten put the herd at risk, Tuk uses his lamb horns to bat the kitten off a ledge, resulting in its death and its mother's vow of revenge.  Ultimately, the king of the rams instructs Tuk,
"You must find a way west from the winter valley to blue mountain before she hunts again."..."Son, it is the only way to save the herd." (pg. 38)
And so begin Tuk's journeys, the first being one of personal growth and learning so that he might lead the second one, a trek through inhospitable territories to one where the herd might thrive.  Enduring food shortages, threats from wolves, men with shotguns, monster machines, and unusual altercations with a wolverine, a bear and an otter, Tuk brings them to a place where
Tuk saw that the herd would always be, and that he had been part of the always. (pg. 159)
He couldn't have asked for a better legacy.

Martine Leavitt tells of her father, James Webster, and his love for the natural world and particularly the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that he studied.  Blue Mountain is her own story based on his notes of observations of these majestic animals through the seasons and years.
My story became a very different thing than his beautiful and perfectly accurate rendering, but we tell the stories we can. (pg. 164)
As Tuk succeeds so nobly after questioning his own leadership as a bighorn sheep, I believe Martine Leavitt has honoured her father's research and reconfigured it into a splendidly beautiful and accurate saga.  I'm sure he couldn't have dreamed of a finer gift.

December 07, 2014

Rain Shadow

by Valerie Sherrard
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
150 pp.
Ages 10+
November 2014

Yes, the book cover is beautiful.  And the beauty of Rain Shadow's cover is only surpassed by Valerie Sherrard's story within.

Valerie Sherrard takes the reader back to Junction, Manitoba, the setting for her multi-award-winning book, The Glory Wind (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010), a poetic tale of friendship and tragedy.  Two years after The Glory Wind's events, twelve-year-old Bethany Anderson still only knows that something happened to Gracie, though her only memory involves a half penny she never was able to return to her schoolmate before she was gone.  Bethany has never shared that with anyone and certainly not her fourteen-year-old sister Mira who calls Bethany a "Retard" and tells her about scary places for children like Bethany "who have parts that do not work correctly." (pg. 19) Bethany may have difficulties learning, and cannot read, and takes things too literally, but she has the biggest heart and blames herself too readily for things that are never in her control. 
"But I did do wrong things lots of other days.  Mostly, I did not know they were wrong until after I did them.  That made me wish I knew how to write more words.  Then I could have made a list of things I should not do so I would not forget them and keep upsetting Mother.  At bedtime, I said the ones I could remember over and over in my head." (pg. 81)
Perhaps her gravest error, in her mind, was answering the door to a man and his family whose son later died of polio. Of course, no one knew he had polio at the time, and Bethany didn't invite them in or tell Mira to join them and Mother in the house; Mother did that.  But when Mira contracts polio and dies, Mother's grief lashes out at Bethany.
"That made me feel like something black and scary was inside me." (pg. 83)
Surprisingly, school becomes Bethany's salvation.  Without Mira around, the other students are generally kinder to her, and her efforts are recognized, and there is always someone to chastize those who might be mean to her.  So while Bethany might feel unwanted and inconvenient at home, a stone to Mira's jewel, at school she feels exactly like the others.  And it's only through the efforts of others in the community that Bethany is encouraged to see how strong and brave she has always been.

The polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s were all the more frightening for the lack of understanding and the tragic prognoses. But the loss of a favourite and "perfect"child to polio is obviously too much for Bethany's mother to bear. Already flawed, as indicated by her treatment of Bethany, Mother could do nothing less than destroy her relationship with her only surviving daughter. That doesn't excuse her.  But, by continuing to perpetuate the placement of her youngest daughter in Mira's (rain) shadow, her mother has actually nudged Bethany to explore everything she can be.

Valerie Sherrard is so adept at telling a story that could be anyone's tale.  At its foundation, Rain Shadow is just the story of a girl with challenges whose family doesn't know how to meet her needs, especially after a great tragedy engulfs all of them.  Though set in 1949, Rain Shadow encompasses the story lines of our lives: tragedy, relationships with siblings and parents, school life, the kindness of strangers, love, and self-awareness.  But, conceived and written by Valerie Sherrard, Rain Shadow becomes a triumph of the human spirit to weather life's challenges and to even transcend them.  It's a beautiful story amidst despairing circumstances.

December 03, 2014

Gathering Darkness: Falling Kingdoms, Book 3

by Morgan Rhodes
432 pp.
Ages 12+
For release December 9, 2014

(1) Map of Mytica
I am so glad that Falling Kingdoms is not a trilogy, for three books would not be sufficient to house the complexity of the relationships within and between the three kingdoms of Mytica–Auranos, Limeros and Paelsia– and their people, given the richness and depth that Morgan Rhodes has woven into the plot.

When Falling Kingdoms, Book 1 (Razorbill, 2012) ended, King Gaius of Limeros had violently and successfully seized the castle and throne of Auranos, with some magical help from his daughter Lucia who is a powerful, albeit novice, sorceress.  Princess Cleiona, the only remaining Auranian royal, is determined to regain her family's rightful place, perhaps with the help of Jonas Agallon, the rebel who wants to take down the King of Blood.

But, in the second book of the series, Rebel Spring, (Razorbill, 2013), the rebels and Cleo have accomplished seemingly little to halt King Gaius’s plans.  Gaius is having a road constructed to link the three kingdoms of Mytica, through the Wildlands and Forbidden Mountains, destroying much of Paelsia while enslaving its people.  He has also arranged for the marriage of his son, Magnus, to Cleiona, which takes place regardless of an attack arranged by Cleo and Jonas to prevent it.

Now Gathering Darkness returns the story to Auranos where King Gaius continues to rule with fear, hopeful of securing the Kindred, the four crystals that hold the elemental magic: amber for fire, moonstone for air, aquamarine for water, and obsidian for earth.  But the Kindred is a very desirable commodity, and not everyone understands its significance or danger.

In addition to Magnus and Cleo, who have returned from their wedding tour, more perplexed about their feelings for each other, there are others who have appeared in Auranos whose motives are probably linked to securing the Kindred for themselves.  Alexius, the immortal Watcher from Sanctuary who had discovered Lucia’s power as a sorceress, has been banished to the mortal realm, ostensibly to be with Lucia, but claiming the Kindred must be returned to Sanctuary to help save the world from destruction.  And Prince Ashur and his sister Princess Amara from the far-off kingdom of Kraeshia have maneuvered themselves into honoured guests of King Gaius, easily manipulating everyone to their wishes, inevitably to garner the Kindred for their father, Emperor Cortas.

It is essentially a race to find the Kindred.  Many are willing to have others find the crystals and then steal them, but Cleo is more proactive, becoming a cherished friend to Lucia, who is frightened by her erratic powers and helping her, with Alexius’ guidance, to focus her magic, hopefully to locate and claim the Kindred.  And, through a secret messenger within the castle, Cleo is able to share this information with Jonas.

Meanwhile, Jonas has been joined by another rebel, the charismatic Felix, and is determined to save Lysandra and the other rebels who are being held in the King's dungeons and awaiting execution.  But what are Felix’s motivations?  Even Jonas’ motives are less transparent, especially as he is confused by his feelings for Cleo and Lysandra.

As in the earlier books in the series, Gathering Darkness is both plot- and character-driven, relentless in its ability to startle, to gratify, and to crush, engulfing the reader in more emotions than the heart can normally endure within a scant 432 pages.  The elemental disasters–fire, tornado, earthquake–are nothing compared to the cataclysmic breaches in the essential relationships within Gathering Darkness: between Magnus and Cleo, Cleo and Jonas, Jonas and Lysandra, Nick and Ashur, Amara and Ashur, Felix and Jonas, Lucia and Alexius, and everyone in between.

Morgan Rhodes wastes neither words nor characters, definitively giving everything and everyone substance.  The words she gives her characters are prophetic and powerful.  For example, Felix tells Jonas that,
“There are no guarantees in this life, only strong possibilities.” (pg.16) 
whereas Cleo reassures Lucia to
“believe in things other people think are impossible, and it makes you strong enough to face whatever comes next.” (pg. 76)
Forgive me for not sharing the gut-wrenching words of spellbound lovers or cutting comments by the wicked. Those are all there too. But, after the intense read that is Gathering Darkness (and that darkness is certainly gathering), I need to hold onto the crystals of tenderness that Morgan Rhodes embeds, helping us to see that it’s not all darkness. In fact, I must thank her for seven simple words on page 397 that carried me through the wickedness revealed in the last chapter and forward to await the next Falling Kingdoms book.  Thank you, Morgan Rhodes, for that gift and for taking Gathering Darkness into new realms of wickedly magical splendour.

(1) Map of Mytica: Retrieved from on January 16, 2014.

December 02, 2014

Guest review: Morven and the Horse Clan

by Luanne Armstrong
Great Plains Teen Fiction
173 pp.
Ages 11-16

Morven and the Horse Clan, by Luanne Armstrong, is the account of young Morven, the girl whose independence and passion for animals set her apart from her people. Morven was raised as a member of her mother’s clan, but has never felt obligated to the chores and work required of most young women in her tribe. Instead, Morven relishes time alone, where only her beloved animals are company in the great wilderness.

As an incredible drought pushes her tribe deeper and deeper into the untamed Kazakhstan wilds, Morven continues to feel unaccepted by her people, until they make camp in a small mountain oasis, where she hopes to find refuge. There, she discovers a band of wild, frightened horses that are just as desperate to survive as her own people are. Gradually, Morven begins to tame the creatures, earning their trust and learning to understand their hidden ways. Though her people are at first skeptical, she soon brings them to understand the value in her newly-found friends, and slowly they begin to appreciate the horses in the way she has come to love them.

Not all people can accept the new creatures so easily, however. As Morven’s tribe travels farther into the dry wasteland they had once called home, they encounter new civilizations and cultures that are groping for survival as the land around them withers. While one is curious and hospitable, the other has adopted strange, possessive ways that are frightening for Morven’s people. It isn’t long before they, too, desire to have power over horses, but it is clear that their ambition is not only to survive, but to conquer. Morven is placed in a leadership role as this new, power-hungry civilization becomes more aggressive, and she is forced to make a decision that will determine the fate of her people: protect her horses, or protect her friends.

Morven and the Horse Clan is a unique and intriguing story, filled with turmoil and themes of isolation, survival, and ultimately, love. The transition Morven endures from a lone castoff to a respected leader truly gives this novel depth, and kept me reading for a conclusion. I enjoyed the element of battle that occurred within Morven, between her feelings, rather than between physical enemies, as it was a more unique read than a typical action novel. The depth and culture within this story have earned it, in my own opinion, seven stars out of ten, and I would recommend it to any vigorous reader that enjoys books full of symbolism and change.

Thank you to Luanne Armstrong for her wonderful book!

Niki F.