April 29, 2016


by Lesley Choyce
Orca Book Publishers
113 pp.
Ages 12+
RL 3.2
April 2016

At 15 short chapters and a mere 113 pages, and a story plotted by Lesley Choyce (see my reviews of Jeremy Stone and Into the Wasteland from Red Deer Press, 2013 and 2014 respectively), Scam is a valuable addition to Orca Book Publishers' Orca Soundings series of hi-lo books for teens with a story that explores the resiliency of youth.

Scam begins with sixteen-year-old narrator Josh Haslett dealing with the death of his mother.  Josh has always thought of himself as a “good cover-up artist”  (pg. 3) as he had taken care of the household after his dad left and mom had continued to party and do drugs and he had kept social workers oblivious to their situation.  But on the way to his mom’s funeral, as arranged by social work, Josh is scammed of his paltry wallet by a beautiful teen named Lindsey.  Frantic, he chases after her and gets his wallet back but she insists on going to the funeral with him.

As Josh is taken into a group home with other male teens, he continues to meet up with Lindsey who involves Josh in a number of scams, including the theft of wedding gifts, while insisting that she can teach him how to take his own efforts of working the system to the next level.  But Josh knows the difference between survival and cheating others, and he is as uncomfortable with her scamming as much as he is drawn to her.  After helping out at a camp for disadvantaged kids and providing Lindsey with the emotional support she needs after a death in her own family, Josh realizes that somethings that seem very tenous can be very real, even if fleeting.

Lesley Choyce capably gets into the heads of young people, whether they be dealing with dysfunctional families, drugs, mental health or just growing up.  In Scam, Lesley Choyce takes on the issues of grief and trust, and demonstrates that we all need a little help sometimes and that the help can come from the unlikeliest of sources, even those in which we don’t always have confidence.

April 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, Alice Babette

by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2016

Happy birthday to Happy Birthday, Alice Babette, the new picture book from Monica Kulling and Qin Leng and their first collaboration.  While a fictionalized account of an April birthday of Alice B. Toklas which her friend and life partner Gertrude Stein seems to have forgotten, Happy Birthday, Alice Babette provides a enchanting glimpse into the Parisian life of the two women and their fondness for eachother and life in general.

While Alice spends the day walking the streets of Paris, enjoying a carousel ride, a puppet show and thwarting a would-be jewel thief, Gertrude secretly prepares a meal and a birthday poem for her dear friend.  But Gertrude is not familiar with cooking or the stove and oven, and she is distracted by her writing of the birthday poem.
Gertrude worked on Alice’s poem.  She wanted it to be as beautiful as a rose. Meanwhile, the pots on the stove bubbled and boiled.  Smoke rose from the oven. (pg. 26)
From Happy Birthday, Alice Babette
by Monica Kulling, illus. by Qin Leng

When Alice returns home after “a day of marvels”, she resumes her role of cleaning and cooking and supporting her writer friend, unaware that the real surprise for her birthday is still to come. 

Monica Kulling persuasively portrays the companionable, caring, and supportive relationship between these two iconic women of the early twentieth-century as they wrote and nurtured writing by creating a scenario in which their personalities are perfectly complementary.  Gertrude may fail at cooking and baking, unlike Alice Toklas who ultimately wrote a cookbook, but her genius at writing is clear.  And the two women together make for any extraordinary couple.  
From Happy Birthday, Alice Babette
by Monica Kulling, illus. by Qin Leng

I have used the term “lightness” for Qin Leng’s illustrations and in Happy Birthday, Alice Babette, the artist displays that same subtlely with every line and shape and colour.  Her depictions of the two women are remarkable, but it’s the elegance of her illustrations that bring forth the beauty and refinement of the time and place and characters.  

Help Gertrude celebrate Alice’s birthday (139 years ago on April 30, 1877) with Happy Birthday, Alice Babette and get a snapshot into what life must have been like for these two memorable literary figures of the early 20th century.

April 26, 2016

Flickers by Arthur Slade: Out today!

The long-awaited, new book from 
Arthur Slade

#youngCanLit author of 

The Hunchback Assignments series
Modo: Ember's End
Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival
Megiddo's Shadow
and many more

is here!

by Arthur Slade
HarperCollins Canada
256 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 26, 2016

 * * * 

Described by the author himself:

The Great Gatsby meets The Twilight Zone in this chilling 1920's Hollywood page-turner...
From http://www.arthurslade.com/books/

A movie scream so chilling and powerful, it will open up another dimension ...
Orphaned twins Isabelle and Beatrice Thorn are living a glamorous 1920s Hollywood life as wards of Mr. Cecil, a mysterious and influential director. Isabelle is a silent film starlet, destined for greatness in the very first "talkie"--a horror flick. Beatrice spends her days hidden away on the Cecil estate with her books and her insect collection, scarves covering her birthmarks and baldness. But Beatrice’s curiosity about the death of her parents and the unsettling fate of a reporter is getting the better of her and she’s starting to realize Mr. Cecil has truly dark designs for this movie. 
From http://www.arthurslade.com/flickers

 * * * 

And reviewed by author/illustrator Debbie Ohi as:

So I was just going to read the first few pages of Arthur Slade's new middle grade novel FLICKERS this morning to get a taste of what the book was like but then I COULDN'T STOP READING AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. Finished it just now.

Wow. Such a good read.

SoOOoooOOoooOOooo deliciously creepy and dark (I'm a fan of horror MG). Love how the mystery gradually unfolds, and the plot twists along the way. Love the relationship between the sisters. I just loveloveLOVED this book.

If I have nightmares tonight, I am SO going to blame Arthur Slade. :-) I'm also looking forward to rereading the book when it officially comes out this April!
---Debbie Ohi, Author and Illustrator

 * * * 

If you haven't gotten the impression that Flickers is a delightfully scary read, watch the book trailer here.

Flickers by Arthur Slade

Uploaded by HarperCollins Canada to YouTube on April 25, 2016.

April 24, 2016

2016 Canadian Authors for Indies Day: April 30

Celebrate independent bookstores in Canada
on Saturday, April 30, 2016
with your favourite children's and YA authors 
who will be there volunteering!

Across Canada on Saturday, April 30th, many authors will be volunteering their time to promote independent bookstores.   I know I’m going to miss some of your favourites but here’s a generous smattering of independent bookstores who will be hosting an assortment of authors (children’s, YA and adult) and even providing treats and prizes, if you’re lucky!

As I'm only including the names of authors of children's and young adult books here, PLEASE check with the Authors for Indies website for the complete listing of authors and individual bookstores participating.  Also check the timing of events and schedule for author appearances. As you’ll note, authors may be at several venues during the day and I would hate for you to miss them because of a lack of clarity or detail in my listings.

British Columbia
32 Books and Gallery, North Vancouver
David J. Smith (11 a.m. -1 p.m.)

Albany Books, Delta
Ashley Spires (1-3 p.m.)

Armchair Books, Whistler
Sara Leach (3-5 p.m.)
Alex Van Tol (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Banyen Books & Sound, Vancouver
Julie Flett (2-5 p.m.)

Black Bond Books (Trenant Park Square), Ladner
Darren Groth (10 -11 a.m.)
Ashley Spires (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Tanya Lloyd Kyi (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

Black Bond Books, Maple Ridge
Jason Chabot (2-4 p.m.)
Kallie George (2-4 p.m.)

Black Bond Books (Central City), Surrey
Rachel Hartman (12-2 p.m.)

Black Bonds Books Warehouse, Surrey
Gina McMurchy-Barber (11a.m.-1p.m.)
Ben Nuttall-Smith (1-2:30 p.m.)
Cristy Watson (2:30-4 p.m.)

Black Bond Books (White Rock), Surrey
Ben Nuttall-Smith (10:30-12 p.m.)
Cristy Watson (11-1 p.m.)

Book Warehouse on Broadway, Vancouver
Jeremy Tankard

Hager Books, Vancouver
Sarah Ellis (2-3 p.m.)

Laughing Oyster Bookstore, Courtenay
Lyn Hancock(10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Shari Green (12-3 p.m.)

Misty River Books, Terrace
Kathleen Cherry (1-3 p.m.)

Mosaic Books, Kelowna
Michelle Barker
Nikki Tate
Rie Charles

Munro's Books, Victoria
Susan Juby (12-2 p.m.)
Jordan Stratford (12-2 p.m.)
Caroline Adderson (12-2 p.m.)

Russell Books, Victoria
Julie Lawson (9-11 a.m.)

Audrey’s Books, Edmonton
Richard Van Camp (12-1 p.m.)
Alison Hughes (2-3 p.m.)

Owl’s Nest Books, Calgary
Lisa Bowes  (11 a.m.)
Janet Gurtler  (11 a.m.)
David Poulsen (1 p.m.)

SK Books & Collectibles Inc., Regina
Alison Lohans (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

McNally Robinson Booksellers, Saskatoon
Alice Kuipers (12-3 p.m.)

Another Story Bookshop, Toronto
Suzanne Sutherland (3-5 p.m.)
Kenneth Oppel (2-3 p.m.)
Jael Richardson (3-5 p.m.)
Vivek Shraya (1-3 p.m.)

Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge
Rebecca Bender
Suzanne Del Rizzo
Jan Dolby
Eugenie Fernandes
Linda Granfield
Heather O'Connor

Book City (Bloor West Village), Toronto
Julie Hartley (10:30-11:30 a.m.)
E. K. Johnston (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Suzanne Sutherland (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Sharon Jennings (12-1 p.m.)
Vikki VanSickle (11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.)
Kenneth Oppel (12-1 p.m.)
Kevin Sylvester (11 a.m. -12 p.m.)

Book City (Danforth), Toronto
Paul Yee (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Debbie Ohi (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Patricia Storm (12-1 p.m.)

Book City in the Beach, Toronto
Joyce Grant (1-2 p.m.)
Angela Misri (1-2 p.m.)
Lesley Livingston (3-4 p.m.)

Book City (Yonge at St. Clair), Toronto
Joyce Grant (10:30-11:30 a.m.)
Angela Misri (10:30-11:30 a.m.)

BookLore, Orangeville
Jael Richardson

The Bookshelf, Guelph
Thomas King (12-2 p.m.)

Bryan Prince Bookseller, Hamilton
Gillian Chan

Curiosity House, Creemore
Tish Cohen
R. J. Anderson (1-2:30 p.m.)

A Different Drummer Bookstore, Burlington
Gisela Sherman
Jennifer Maruno
Sylvia McNicoll

Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore, Toronto
Kate Blair
Lena Coakley
Caroline Fernandez
Sangeeta Bhadra
Barbara Reid

Epic Books, Hamilton
Nicola Stanley

Furby House Books, Port Hope
Michael Redhill

Jessica's Book Nook, Thornbury
Judith Plaxton (10 a.m. -12 p.m.)

Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books, Ottawa
Kate Jaimet (12:15 -12:45 p.m.)
Tim Wynne-Jones (12:15-12:45 p.m.)
Kelley Powell (1-3 p.m.)
Amanda Lewis (1-3 p.m.)
Eleanor Creasey (1-3 p.m.)
Lucy D. Briand (1-3 p.m.)

Lighthouse Books, Brighton
Michael Redhill (3:30-5 p.m.)
Rene Schmidt (1-3 p.m.)
Peggy Dymond Leavey (12-2 p.m.)

Mill Street Books, Almonte
Liane Shaw (3-5 p.m.)

Oxford Book Shop, London
Welwyn Wilton Katz

R&B Novel-Teas, Niagara Falls
Lynne Kositsky (2:30-4 p.m.)
Eve Silver (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
Jennifer Maruno (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Type Books, Toronto
Vikki VanSickle (10-11 a.m.)
Kyo Maclear (11 a.m.-12 p.m.)
Sydney Smith (12-1 p.m.)
Frank Viva (12-1 p.m.)
Mariko Tamaki (3-4 p.m.)

Librairie Bertrand, Montreal
Monique Polak (2-4 p.m.)

Librairie Clio, Point Claire
Lori Weber (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

Livres Babar, Point-Claire
Monique Polak (10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Lori Weber (1-3 p.m.)
Bonnie Farmer (1-4 p.m.)
Marie-Louise Gay (2-4 p.m.)
Marie Lafrance (2-4 p.m.)

The Box of Delights Bookshop, Wolfville
Tom Ryan
Jan L. Coates

Bookmark, Charlottetown
Dave Atkinson
Sharon E. McKay

Check out the Authors for Indies website for the plethora of adult authors I didn't even try to mention, and authors and illustrators whose names I don't even know, yet!

Any errors or omissions are completely my own. Please leave a comment if I've made any horrific impossible-to-ignore mistakes that I can resolve promptly.  Thanks.

April 21, 2016

Small Displays of Chaos: Book launch (Saskatoon)

Coteau Books


debut YA author
Breanna Fischer

for the launch of

Small Displays of Chaos
by Breanna Fischer
Coteau Books
112 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2016


Monday, May 2, 2016


7 p.m.


McNally Robinson Booksellers
3130 8th St. E.
Saskatoon, SK

A riveting, haunting novel about one teenager’s journey toward self-love and strength.

17-year-old Rayanne Timko is only a few months into her senior year of high school, and her biggest concern should be deciding on a university and career path. But while her classmates are filled with anticipation, nothing in her life seems to going smoothly, and Rayanne finds herself struggling to overcome anorexia. She has a new friend: Ed - the seductive and demanding presence in her head who insists she be as skinny as possible. With Ed around, Rayanne is blind to nearly everyone else in her life. But what happens when Ray begins to suspect she may be losing more than weight? Will she be able to save her family - and herself - before it’s too late?

Filled with complex relationships and realistic young adult tribulations, Small Displays of Chaos follows Rayanne as she struggles with the astonishingly common yet stigmatized disorder of anorexia nervosa. Throughout her story she fights to discover who she is despite her illness, and learns that by loving herself, she is better able to love those around her.

Retrieved from Coteau Books website at http://coteaubooks.com/index.php?id=1046 
on March 28, 2016.

Convictions: Book launch (Regina)


Coteau Books


author of

The Secret of Sentinel Rock (Coteau Books, 2003)
The Secret of the Stone House (Coteau Books, 2005)
The Secret of the Stone Circle (Coteau Books, 2010)
Ghosts of Government House (Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2011)
Honouring the Buffalo with Ray Lavallee and Mike Keepness 
(Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2015)

Judith Silverthorne

for the release of her newest 
young adult historical fiction novel

by Judith Silverthorne
Coteau Books
232 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2016


Saturday, May 14, 2016


1 p.m.


Sunrise Branch Library
Regina Public Library
3130 Woodhams Drive
Regina, SK

A gripping historical novel about believing in oneself and standing true to one’s convictions.

It’s 1842. 14-year-old Jennie Lawrence has been found guilty of stealing, and finds herself aboard one of the few women-only convict ships destined for Australia.

Jennie had been desperate – and, as she gets to know the other women on the convict ship – she realizes she’s not the only one. Many of the women she gets to know were trying to survive, and feed themselves and their families, before they were caught and sentenced to Australia.

It’s clear from the moment the ship sets sail that the conditions aboard are abhorrent – women are sea sick and ill from the lack of good food and water, they are beaten if they disobey orders, and sleep brings no reprieve – as bed bugs, rats, and other parasites attack them in the night.

The only way for the women to survive the boat ride is if they band together. And so, with the help of her new “family” - Sarah, Bridget, and Alice - and other convicts, Jennie battles the jailers, the ship, and the sea. But will it be enough to set them free?
Retrieved from Coteau Books website at http://coteaubooks.com/index.php?id=1047 
on March 28, 2016.

April 20, 2016

Everyday Hero

by Kathleen Cherry
Orca Book Publishers
168 pp.
Ages 8-11
March 15, 2016
Reviewed from advance reading copy

Everyday Hero is the story of thirteen-year-old narrator Alice who moves to Kitimat with Dad while Mom stays in Vancouver temporarily to assist her elderly parents.  Alice is very clear in her own mind about who she is, what she likes and dislikes, and what she can do and can’t and doesn’t want to do. But Dad refuses to tell the middle school of Alice’s Asperger’s, convinced she’ll have a chance to be a normal kid without the label.

This omission results in a series of detentions where Alice meets Megan, a goth-inspired teen who seems to attract negative attention but is also the only one who recognizes and helps Alice with her vulnerabilities in social situations, with distractions from routine, and with confusing verbal expressions.  While Alice is wondering whether she can be normal, “average in type, appearance, achievement, function and development” (pg. 54), Megan gives her opportunities to be so. But when Megan decides to get away from her mom’s abusive boyfriend and meet up with an online friend in Vancouver, Alice does what any normal friend would do: she tries to keep her friend safe.

Kathleen Cherry balances Alice’s story on our vague but overwhelmingly-supported ideas of normalcy by demonstrating that anyone can be normal, just as anyone can be a hero, in the right circumstances.  Don’t assume Alice’s thoughts, powerfully reflected in the seemingly erratic and tangential text, are evidence of anything but something normal, though they are manifestations of the syndrome with which she  is labelled. Kathleen Cherry, as a school counselor, get Alice’s voice just right.

Everyday Hero is heavily character-driven though it focuses on the issues of trust and responsibility.  But the message about the perils of labelling and trying to make everyone fit into one definition of normal is clear, and Everyday Hero helps the reader see into a very different but just as real one.

(A version of this review, in conjunction with one about Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw, was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2016, May). [Review of the book Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry]. Quill & Quire, 82 (4): 37.

April 19, 2016

Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell

by Liane Shaw
Second Story Press
272 pp.
Ages 12-16
April 2016

Frederick, 16, in Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, would loathe to be lumped into a group of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome or labelled with his “disorder”.
Giving me a label groups me together with many others who share a cerain number of common characteristics that would then define me as a syndrome or a disorder rather than a person with a mind of my own.  I don’t want to be a syndrome, and I am far too orderly to be a disorder.
     I just want to be me.
(pg. 50)
Though Frederick is different from many of his peers in his love of numbers and math, of routines, and of the dictionary and in the difficulties he has interpreting idioms and slang with which he is unfamilia, he is relatively comfortable in his own skin, having developed some stellar coping strategies for dealing with verbal abuse,  and ensuring that he is able to meet his needs for quiet and routines.  But, when he is befriended by another awkward teen, his routine becomes far more  tenuous and Frederick is taken outside his comfort zone.

Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell begins with Frederick being questioned by the police about the disappearance of the teen who’d befriended him, Angel Martinez.  Though their friendship had been discreet and primarily involved Angel using Frederick as a sounding board, Frederick gets lassoed into keeping a secret for her.  Questioning by the police, however, has Frederick carefully choosing his words, always reminding himself “Don’t tell, don’t tell, don’t tell.” When it seems that Angel’s secret plan isn’t as perfect as anticipated, Frederick begins to rethink that promise and find a way to stay true to himself and bring order to a very disordered situation.

The mature situations that have Angel scrambling for a way out makes Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell more appropriate for a young adult audience but the issue of labelling and keeping secrets are far more universal.  Liane Shaw, whose previous books Fostergirls (Second Story Press, 2011) and The Color of Silence (Second Story Press, 2013) capably dealt with difficult issues of foster care and guilt, continues to demonstrate the empathy needed to understand and help teens with the emotional, behavioural and physical problems.  Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell takes us into the world of a boy with Asperger’s and a girl whose efforts to make friends take a bad turn and demonstrates that we all are looking to find a way to fit into the world, whether it’s a world we make for ourselves or one into which we try to insinuate ourselves.

(A version of this review, in conjunction with one about Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry, was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2016, May). [Review of the book Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw]. Quill & Quire, 82 (4): 37.

April 17, 2016

#CanLitChoices: Alternatives for Hatchet

by Gary Paulsen
Bradbury Press
195 pp.
Ages 11+
RL 6.3

Hatchet, recipient of the 1988 Newbery Honor Book and winner of the William Allen White Children's Book Award for 1990, as well as the basis for A Cry in the Wild film, is a favourite novel read by young people across Canada and the U.S. It is the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson who must learn to survive in the northern Alberta wilderness after the pilot of his small plane has a heart attack and dies, crashing the plane.

Themes upon which teachers focus lessons include the following:
• survival (man vs. nature)
• perseverance
• attitude
• fear

But we have a plethora of youngCanLit that can fill the same novel study bill and, of course, I would like to promote them here.  Each one of these deals with the same themes but in different ways and are all the better for the variety of storylines covered.  This listing includes classics and hi-lo reads, as well as middle-grade and YA titles.  There’s something for every reader who wants an adventure story set in the wilderness, many in the wilds of Canada.

Camp Wild
by Pam Withers
Orca Book Publishers
104 pp.
Ages 10-14
RL 3.8
Fourteen-year-old Wilf runs away from summer camp to stay alone in the woods but ends up with a couple of unwanted followers and a fight for survival.
Teachers guide available at http://digital.orcabook.com/teachersguides-campwild-teaching-strategies/

Chocolate River Rescue
by Jennifer Kent McGrath
122 pp.
Ages 8-12
RL 3.9
Three boys rough housing on the ice of the Petitcodiac River in New Brunswick face danger when the ice breaks away, sending them out towards the Atlantic.

Cut Off
by Jamie Bastedo
Red Deer Press
340 pp.
Ages 12+
RL 4.0
Teen Indio McCracken is sent to a wilderness-based rehab camp, which includes a 50-day canoe trip, to help him with his tech addiction.

The Darwin Expedition
by Diane Tullson
Orca Book Publishers
128 pp.
Ages 12+
RL 2.5
After going off run when snowboarding, two boys must deal with an accident, a bear tracking them, impending weather dangers and hunger to survive.

Frozen Fire: A tale of courage
by James Houston
139 pp.
Ages 12+
RL 5.9
Determined to find his father who has been lost in a storm, Mathew and his Inuit friend Kayak brave wind storms, starvation, wild animals, and wild men during their search in the Canadian Arctic.

The Hill
by Karen Bass
Pajama Press
256 pp.
Ages 12+
RL 4.1
March 2016
After a plane crash, a privileged teen is helped by a Cree young man when his decisions have the two pursued by Wîhtiko, the legendary Cree monster.

Island: Shipwreck, Survival, Escape
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
144 pp., 144 pp., 160 pp.
Ages 8-13
RL 4.6, 4.9, 4.8
Six kids must survive after they are shipwrecked on a deserted island with no food and very few supplies.

Lost in the Barrens
by Farley Mowat
McLelland & Stewart
244 pp.
Ages 12-16
RL 7.1
Jamie MacNair and his Cree friend Awasin are separated from others during a canoe trip to the remote barrens and must find the means to survive the winter in the harsh environment.

by Caroline Pignat
Red Deer Press
206 pp.
Ages 11-14
RL 4.5
In this historical fiction, a young man awakens in the snow, knowing neither his name nor his story but find his way back to himself and survive, with the help of a young Anishnaabeg man.

April 16, 2016

Being Me (A Rosie the Red Book)

by Rosemary McCarney
Illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart
Second Story Press
24 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2016

Still sporting the red cape from Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red that helps empower and define her, Rosie the Red returns in her second story. This time she is thinking about what she should be when she grows up when she is realizes that that way of thinking negates any contribution she can make as a kid.  “That made Rosie feel unimportant…not very useful…a little smaller…as if she would only matter when she got big.

A walk with her dad introduces Rosie to the local food bank where the manager, Mr. Santino, shows them around the busy warehouse and allows them to help pack cartons. While there, Rosie spots her friend Sam and his mother getting a box of food. Because he’s obviously embarrassed, Rosie spends the rest of the day thinking about how she could make him feel better.  With a tilt of her head–her standard thinking mode–Rosie comes up with a plan to help the food bank and Sam both.

Rosemary McCarney’s picture books consistently impart positive messages and, in Being Me, Rosie the Red is a great vehicle for teaching kids about food banks and that those who avail themselves of its offerings are no less than those who have enough food to eat without help.  By having Rosie acknowledging Sam’s artistic ability, she’s saying that everyone has strengths and everyone needs help with something, whether it is drawing a poster or getting enough food to eat.  That constructive and optimistic attitude is represented in Yvonne Cathcart’s cherry illustrations with their upbeat reds, greens, turquoise and golds.  The art is as sunny as Rosie’s approach to making life worthwhile and fair for all which is an important lesson to foster citizenship and community.
From Being Me
by Rosemary McCarney, illus. by Yvonne Cathcart

April 13, 2016


by Rolli
Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Groundwood Books
173 pp.
Ages 7-10
April 2016

It’s a different world when your best friend is a cavegirl but Beverly is the very best of friends to Kabungo who lives in a cave on Main Street in Star City.  Beverly has learned much of Kabungo’s vocabulary–sungo for night, sunup for day, sniff for follow and Belly for Beverly–but she still wants to teach Kabungo about living in the “civilized” world. Whether it’s teaching Kabungo the alphabet, or that it’s wrong to steal, Beverly does her best, often with a grain of salt and a whole lot of sugary fun.
I would have told her that flea powder wasn’t for eating, but I never tell anyone anything more than a hundred times.  It’s my personal rule. (pg. 13)
Kabungo, the book, is divided into eight chapters with an odd assortment of titles–Shark Toofs, Targur, Vibbles, Fundersticks, Himplepotamus, Flimsy Tree, Hopping Bird Day and Trigger Cheats!–that play on Kabungo’s ability to anunciate English words because of a scarcity of teeth.  (For a bit of fun, say the chapter titles aloud and see if you can discern what Kabungo is really trying to say.) Each chapter is an anecdote in the story of Kabungo and Beverly’s friendship.  From Kabungo’s desire to make jewelry with teeth scavenged at a retirement home, to her struggling with certain letters of the alphabet Beverly is teaching her, her affection for her new kitten Bun, a visit to Miss VeDore’s mansion and pumpkin field, or Kabungo’s knack for creating a family from an odd assortment of people and branches she comes upon, it's all in day's friendship for these two.

Regardless of how much she seems to understand, Kabungo is an astute and absorbing young girl of ten, and a delight to meet in Rolli’s Kabungo (okay, maybe not in person, as she does have fleas and isn’t into personal hygiene or etiquette).  Same goes for Beverly whose perceptive observations, some via her Aunt Ev and Uncle George, will serve her well in life and her friendship with Kabungo, as well as others who heed her wisdom.
Apologies are heavy.  They’re boulders. It’s hard work pushing a boulder, even if it’s just across the room. A lot of people give up halfway and lose a friend forever. (pg. 85)
As my Uncle George always says, sooner or later, even impossible takes a nap. (pg. 27-8)
Very wise for a ten-year-old.

Rolli has written a witty story for the pre-middle grade reader for whom the early reader may be too easy and MG books too mature.  It’s comical in its word play, likeable in its characters–Kabungo, Beverly, Mr. and Mrs. Gobshaw, Miss VeDore, and more–and entertaining in its short stories. Having a best friend who’s a cavegirl makes for a world that is hardly boring. And, contrary to her teacher who thinks Beverly’s definition of boredom– “when everything turns out like you expected” (pg. 56)– to be incorrect, I think Beverly knows exactly what boring is and accurately recognizes that her friendship with Kabungo is anything but predictable.

April 12, 2016

Sky Pig

by Jan L. Coates
Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
April 2016

Ollie is a little pig with a big dream and, though he doesn’t speak (he is after all a pig and pigs can’t talk), his friend, Jack, a boy with a big heart and a bigger imagination, tries to help Ollie achieve his dream.

Ollie from Sky Pig by Jan L. Coates,
 illus. by Suzanne Del Rizzo
First Jack fastens leafy branches onto Ollie’s back and they climb to the top of a very high hill. Even though a fast run and a jump has Ollie believing that he’s flying, an “Oooooomph!” and a “Plop!” make it evident he did not.  Having Jack create a kite with some garden stakes, twine, a feed sack and scraps of fabric is Ollie’s next plan to become airborne.  A couple of oinks and another “Oooooomph!” and “Plop!” again foretell the futility of their endeavour. Finally, taking their cues from the geese, chickens and other birds, Jack fashions a set of wings for Ollie. Made from an assortment of papers, including maps and wrapping paper featuring airborne creatures, and miscellaneous gears and leather, Ollie takes to the sky like a kind of steampunk flyer.  Alas, that flight ends similarly.  Even a Mary Poppins-like contraption of umbrellas is unsuccessful.

It’s only when the two make use of an already-tried-and-true flying machine that Ollie is able to stay aloft and experience the joys of floating in the sky, even if only for a short time and at a cost of $5.

Dreamers can dream but, with a friend like Jack, Ollie’s dream that a pig could fly comes true.  It takes a little determination, a lot of imagination and being in the right place at the right time but Ollie’s dream, courtesy of Jack’s friendship and piggy bank, becomes a reality.  Jan L. Coates’ story is uplifting like much of her previous work including A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk (Red Deer Press, 2010), The Power of Harmony (Red Deer Press, 2013), and The King of Keji (Nimbus, 2015), and even more so with Suzanne Del Rizzo’s spectacular art, previously enjoyed in Skink on the Brink (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013) and Gerbil, Uncurled (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2015).  The doughy art (plasticene with polymer clay) with mixed media collage features adds the textures and colour to elevate the story even higher.  Beyond the cuteness of Ollie and Jack is a rich landscape of green pastures and trees, chickens and groundhogs, and flowers and dandelion fluff and sweet details of a chicken protecting her egg in a life-vest or basket and thwarting a mouse that tries to get too close.   There’s so much more to Sky Pig than making a pig fly and young readers will love going along for the ride.

From Sky Pig by Jan L. Coates, illus. by Suzanne Del Rizzo


There will be two great opportunities to check out Sky Pig with author or illustrator.

Illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo will be participating in the I Art Books Exhibit and Sale of Children's Book Illustration on April 30, 2016 at Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, ON. Details here.

Author Jan L. Coates will be launching Sky Pig on May 7, 2016 at The Box of Delights Bookshop in Wolfville, NS. Details here.

April 11, 2016

The Hill

by Karen Bass
Pajama Press
256 pp.
Ages 12+
March 2016

Karen Bass, the award-winning author of Graffiti Knight (Pajama Press, 2013) and Uncertain Soldier (Pajama Press, 2015), takes writing flight with The Hill, a chilling tale of endurance in northern Alberta, blending a survival story with the supernatural of Cree legends.  It’s hauntingly gripping YA and I think it's her best story yet.

Privileged Jared Frederickson is going to spend a mandatory three weeks with his dad when his dad’s private plane in which the teen is travelling from Edmonton to Yellowknife crashes in a mosquito-infested swamp in the northern Alberta bush.  He and the unconscious pilot are discovered by Cree teen, Kyle Badger, who was nearby at their moose camp with his Kokum (grandmother), Moshum (grandfather) and little brother Sam.   Jared and Kyle, both fifteen, are so different in their attitudes, physiques, and family that it’s not surprising that they disagree as to the best course of action.  Sadly, Jared is determined that if he climbs to the top of the adjacent hill he could get cell reception and call for help.  Though Kyle thinks they should stay at the accident scene, especially since his Kokum had always warned him that “no Cree, no person evers walks on that hill” (pg. 20), he follows Jared knowing that his Kokum would be ashamed of him for not helping the boy.

So begins a treacherous journey both onto the ominous hill and into the supernatural world.  After a night on the hill where, of course, cell reception is non-existent, the two return via Kyle’s notched-tree path to the swamp where everything is different: the jet is gone, the mosquitoes are gone, the swamp is smaller as in drier years, and there is a forest fire in the area.  Kyle is obviously freaked out–“Sometimes scared is the smartest thing you can be” (pg. 29)–though Jared, with his better-than-anyone attitude, ridicules Kyle for not knowing where they are.  Returning to the moose camp, the two see Kyle’s Kokum, as if behind a grey curtain of fog, praying for him and then warning them to run.  Kyle believes that they’ve entered the spirit world and, based on the stories he’s been told, that they’ve woken up Wîhtiko, the monster of Cree legends who craves human flesh.

The two boys must now work together, no easy feat for a spoiled rich kid who’d always gotten his way and knows nothing of the outdoors and for a hulky First Nations teen who refuses, admirably, to be a lackey to anyone but learned well from his grandparents of respect and integrity and perseverance.  Outrunning Wîhtiko is just the beginning of their foray into the supernatural world and one which they must survive if they are able to return safely to their own corporeal one without bringing harm to others.

In addition to a gripping action-rich plot of frightening circumstances, getting the voices of Jared and Kyle and the tone of the story right are Karen Bass’ greatest strengths in The Hill.  She balances the heart-pumping pace of a looking-over-your-shoulder chase with the antagonistic sparring between Jared and Kyle.  The two are so different in what they have, what they know, and who they are that it’s only fate in the form of a plane crash that could bring the two together. Though it is evident that Kyle has much to offer in the way of outdoors experience and familial grounding, Jared learns that he too has some value and can be integral in their escape.  Fortunately for them, and those who read this story, Karen Bass demonstrates that even the most of awkward of allies can achieve great things when they work together, whether it is to outsmart a blood-thirsty monster or finding your way home.


April 12, 2016

from 7-8:30 p.m.

author Karen Bass

will be reading and signing copies of

The Hill 

Owl’s Nest Books 
815A 49 Ave SW
Calgary, AB 
(403) 287-9557

 It's a great opportunity to get a signed copy and hear a reading of The Hill from the author who made it so frightening.

April 10, 2016

2016 CBC Shakespeare Selfie Writing Contest: April 11-29

CBC Books is once again offering its Shakespeare Selfie Challenge for students of Gr. 7-12 who are Canadian residents.  The challenge is to write a modern-day monologue or soliloquy by a Shakespearean character based on a news event that took place between April 2015 and April 2016.

The judge will be none other than one of our favourite youngCanLit authors, Kenneth Oppel, whose award-winning books include Silverwing, Airborn, Half Brother and The Boundless.

Details for the Challenge can be found at CBC Books website here including:

  • a list of possible topics;
  • the rules and regulations;
  • discussion and videos differentiating between soliloquies and monologues;
  • the link for submitting entries as of tomorrow, April 11, 2016, 

Here's what students and teachers need to know:

Write 200-400 words as a modern-day soliloquy or monologue of one of Shakespeare's characters as he/she would think aloud to himself/herself or speak to another character about a prominent news event that took place between April 2015 and April 2016. Students can submit as many different soliloquies or monologues as they choose to write.

Monday, April 11 at 9 a.m. ET to Friday, April 29 at 6 p.m. ET. 

Two separate age categories of students who are Canadian residents will be judged:

  • Grades 7-9
  • Grades 10-12 


  • An iPad mini for each category's grand prize winner.
  • The school library of each grand prize winner will receive 50 YA books from Canadian publishers Penguin Random House, Groundwood Books, Scholastic Canada, Raincoast Books, Great Plains Teen Fiction, HarperCollins Canada, Arsenal Pulp Press, and Simon & Schuster.

This is a fabulous opportunity for young people to get into some purposeful creative writing (something teachers are always eager to present to their students).  Don't miss out!

Morrow will soon be upon us
I prithee, do not tary
Draw paper and ink
And starteth writing!

April 09, 2016

Festival of Trees 2016: Scheduled events

This month, young readers are voting for their favourite books in the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program, and next month these readers' choice awards will be announced at Festival of Trees celebrations in London, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto.  For those whose children are voting but haven't committed to attending one of the ceremonies, rethink that decision with this listing of workshops by youngCanLit authors and illustrators.  What a phenomenal opportunity for young people to meet and learn from our outstanding contributors to young CanLit.  Full details are available at the website Forestfestivaloftrees.ca/festivals/

Awards Ceremony 10-11a.m.

Workshops 11:15-11:45 a.m.
  • Janet Wilson, author/illustrator of Our Heroes: How Kids are Making a Difference
  • Emil Sher, author of Young Man with Camera
  • Kevin Sylvester, author of Baseballology: Supercool Facts You Never Knew

Workshops 12-12:30 p.m.
  • Lorna Schultz Nicholson, author of Fragile Bones: Harrison and Anna
  • Liam O'Donnell, author of Tank and Fizz: The Case of the Slime Stampede
  • Wesley King, author of The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!

Workshops 12:45-1:15 p.m.
  • Karen Bass, author of Uncertain Soldier
  • Joel Sutherland, author of Haunted Canada 5: Terrifying True Stories
  • David Skuy, author of Rocket Blues

Workshops 1:30-2:00 p.m.
  • Charis Cotter, author of The Swallow: A Ghost Story
  • Jennifer Mook-Sang, author of Speechless
  • Kathleen Cook Waldron, author of Between Shadows
  • Eric Walters, author of Hope Springs

Awards Ceremony 10-11a.m.

Workshops 11:15-11:45 a.m.
  • Kevin Sylvester, author of Baseballology: Supercool Facts You Never Knew
  • David Skuy, author of Rocket Blues

Workshop 12-12:30 p.m.
  • Alma Fullerton, author of In a Cloud of Dust

Workshops 12:15-12:45 p.m.
  • Eric Walters, author of Hope Springs, Walking Home
  • Joel Sutherland, author of Haunted Canada 5: Terrifying True Stories

Workshop 12:45-1:15 p.m.
  • Daphne Greer, author of Jacob's Landing

Workshops 1:15-1:45 p.m.
  • Janet Wilson, author/illustrator of Our Heroes: How Kids are Making a Difference
  • Elly MacKay, author/illustrator of Butterfly Park

Workshop 1:30-2:00 p.m.
  • Natalie Hyde, author of Glow-in-the-Dark Creatures

White Pine Award Ceremony 10-11 a.m.

Workshops 10:30-11 a.m.
  • Eric Walters, author of Walking Home
  • Susin Nielsen, author of We Are All Made of Molecules
  • Sharon E. McKay, author of Prison Boy

Workshop 11:15-11:45 a.m.
  • Sandra Bradley, author of Henry Holton Takes the Ice

Workshops 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Elly MacKay and Claudia Dávila, author/illustrators of Butterfly Park and Super Red Riding Hood
  • E. K. Johnston, author of The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
  • Jeyn Roberts, author of The Bodies We Wear

Red Maple Award Ceremony 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Workshop 12:15-12:45 p.m.
  • Alma Fullerton and Sangeeta Bhadra, authors of In a Cloud of Dust and Sam's Pet Temper

Workshops 12:30-1:00 p.m.
  • Don Aker, author of Delusion Road
  • Jennifer Gold, author of Soldier Doll

Workshop 12:45-1:15 p.m.
  • Caroline Pignat, author of The Gospel Truth

Blue Spruce Award Ceremony 1-2 p.m.

Workshop 1:15-1:45
  • Lorna Schultz Nicholson, author of Fragile Bones: Harrison and Anna

Workshops 1:30-2:00
  • Karen Bass, author of Uncertain Soldier
  • Allan Stratton, author of The Dogs
  • Emil Sher, author of Young Man with Camera

Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award Ceremony 10-11a.m.

Workshops 10:15-10:45 a.m.
  • Eric Walters, author of Hope Springs
  • David Skuy, author of Rocket Blues
  • Alison Hughes, author of Lost in the Backyard
  • Wesley King, author of The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!
  • Chris Earley, author of Weird Frogs
  • Sharon E. McKay, author of The End of the Line
  • Joel Sutherland, author of Haunted Canada 5: Terrifying True Stories
  • Margriet Ruurs and Elizabeth McLeod, authors of A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison and Colossal Canada: 100 Epic Facts and Feats

Silver Birch Fiction Award Ceremony 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Workshop 12-12:30 p.m.
  • Sue Carstairs, author of Saving Turtles: A Kids' Guide to Helping Endangered Species

Workshops 12:15-12:45 p.m.
  • Kallie George and David J. Smith, authors of The Magical Animals Adoption Agency: Clover's Luck and If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers
  • Liam O'Donnell, author of Tank and Fizz: The Case of the Slime Stampede
  • Kevin Sylvester, author of Baseballology: Supercool Facts You Never Knew

Workshop 12:45-1:15 p.m.
  • Charis Cotter, author of The Swallow: A Ghost Story

Silver Birch Express Award Ceremony 1-2 p.m.

Workshops 1:15-1:45 p.m.
  • Kathleen Cook Waldron and Jennifer Mook-Sang, authors of Between Shadows and Speechless
  • Gordon Korman, author of Masterminds
  • Jordan Stratford, author of The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone

Workshop 1:30-2:00 p.m.
  • Caroline Fernandez and Natalie Hyde, authors of Boredom Busters: 50+ awesome activities, recipes, experiments, and more and Glow-in-the-Dark Creatures

Author Kevin Sylvester hosting an awards ceremony

Cérémonie de remise des Prix Tamarac 10-11 a.m.

Atelier 10:15-10:45 a.m.
  • Katia CancianiLe voyage en Chine
  • Alain RaimbaultIdées de génie - tome 1 - Championne d'Expo-sciences?
  • Andrée PoulinUn bain trop plein

Atelier 11:15-11:45 a.m.
  • Nadya LaroucheComme un tour de magie
  • Joannie BeaudetL' île de Cosmo le dodo: La potion magique
  • Dominic LangloisLe trésor de Memramcook
  • Jennifer CouëlleL'homme sans chaussettes
  • Caroline MerolaÇa commence ici!

Cérémonie de remise des Prix Tamarac Express 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Atelier 12-12:30 p.m.
  • Dominique de LoppinotLes vers de terre d'Ester
  • Danielle VervilleLa fée des poils
  • Renée RobitailleDouze oiseaux
  • Jean Beaudry, La Gang des hors-la-loi
  • Sylvie Roberge, Le vol TS-236

Atelier 12:45-1:15 p.m.
  • Karine Gotton et Mathieu LampronLes Mutamatak -tome 1 - Les superhéros
  • Marie-Andrée ArsenaultLes souvenirs du sable
  • Rhéa Dufresne, Un clic de trop

Cérémonie de remise des Prix Peulplier  1-2 p.m.

Atelier 1:30-2:00 p.m.
  • Lydie ColetteNOA - À la rencontre des enfants du monde!
  • Laurent ChabinLa momie du Belvédère