May 29, 2017

The People of the Sea

Told by Donald Uluadluak
Illustrated by Mike Motz
Inhabit Media
28 pp.
Ages 5-8
April 2017

The supernatural can be frightening but all the more when based in a true story.  This is a true story.  It is the story that was told by Nunavut Elder Donald Uluadluak of a childhood encounter that revealed a bridge between the world of his Inuit life and the myths of his people.
From The People of the Sea 
told by Donald Uluadluak 
illus. by Mike Motz
Donald Uluadluak recalled playing with two friends on the beach and in the water near Arviat, Nunavut in 1940.  When a woman with long dark hair like seaweed and pale skin appeared in the water, watching the trio but never speaking, the boys ran away, back to their camp.  It wasn’t until much later that they shared with their families what they’d seen and were told they’d seen an arnajuinnaq, one of the sea-dwellers of Inuit myths.
From The People of the Sea 
told by Donald Uluadluak 
illus. by Mike Motz
Imagine seeing a supernatural creature. Donald Uluadluak and his friends must have been stunned to learn what they had seen.  Startlingly, he reveals that “Our parents told us that, in the past, people of the sea were easy to spot.  But by the time I was a boy, they had become rare and were not often seen.” (pg. 26) I don’t know why these creatures revealed themselves to the Inuit and specifically to Donald Uluadluak and his friends but The People of the Sea gives us a first-hand account like no other.  Whether the reader believes Donald Uluadluak's account or not, there is an honesty to his story, perhaps because of the playful innocence of the children and the earnestness with which they share the story with their families.  Still Mike Motz's illustrations convey a cool creepiness to the story and makes the reader think about the possibility that a supernatural creature visited three boys that day.

Inhabit Media co-founder Neil Christopher provides notes about his interactions and work with storyteller Donald Uluadluak, having helped put the Elder's stories, including Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story (Inhabit Media, 2012), to paper so that all might share in their knowledge and cultural importance.  Though Donald Uluadluak passed in 2014, his daughter Elizabeth Issakiark ensured his tales would not be lost.  Like Neil Christopher does in his introduction, I would like to thank Elizabeth Issakiark for her dedication to helping share her father’s stories and to Donald Uluadluak for revealing so much personal history and heritage for those of us ignorant of much but interested in learning.  I hope that The People of the Sea is but the first of more Donald Uluadluak’s stories that will be shared with the world.
Donald Uluadluak and daughter Elizabeth Issakiark 
from preface to The People of the Sea

May 28, 2017

Hit the road with youngCanLit: Travelling Canada through books for children

Just as books can be elixirs for the sleepless child, they can be a blessing for the bored child travelling with adults who already have their go-to in-flight, on-train or in-car activities.  What better way to occupy your child while engaging them than with a tome of youngCanLit (books for children and young adults by Canadian authors and illustrators)?

Though numerous picture books, early readers and chapter books could be included here, and more so now with Canada celebrating 150 years and a plethora of new books slated for release, I’ve generally focused on books that would appease the youngest of travellers who might be less inclined to find their own entertainment without a little help from Mum or Dad (or Auntie or Uncle or Grandma or Grandpa …)

Whether a picture book that informs and entertains a non-reader about Canada or non-fiction books for pre-teens that cover geography and trivia across our country, this book list of youngCanLit for Canada may include the balm you’re looking for to satisfy your own young traveller.

ABC of Canada
Written by Kim Bellefontaine
Illustrated by Per-Henrik Gürth
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
Learn the alphabet from Arctic to Zamboni and all the letters in between for a colourful look at Canada by alphabet.

The Big Book of Canada (updated ed.)
by Christopher Moore
Illustrated by Bill Slavin
Tundra Books
256 pp.
Ages 9-12
April 2017
Rich with photographs and illustrations, this book delves deep into Canada’s places and people.

Canada 123
Written by Kim Bellefontaine
Illustrated by Per-Henrik Gürth
Kids Can Press
24 pp.
Ages 2-6
Counting from one maple leaf onward and back has never been so Canadian or fun!

Canada 123
Written and illustrated by Paul Covello
HarperCollins Canada
30 pp.
Ages 2-5
September 2017
Counting book from 0 degrees through 10 sled dogs, and 25, 50, 100 Canadian attributes, with endpapers that sum up our country.

Canada ABC
Written and illustrated by Paul Covello
HarperCollins Canada
28 pp.
Ages 1-3
The alphabet provides the basis for a simple book of Canadian images like dogsled and Ottawa, with more hidden in the details.

Canada Counts: A Charles Pachter Counting Book
Written and illustrated by Charles Pachter
Cormorant Books
64 pp.
Ages 8+
Artist Charles Pachter uses his uniquely Canadian artwork to cover numbers 1 through 20, with a couple of other important numbers like 1867 thrown in.

Canada Year by Year
Written by Elizabeth MacLeod
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Kids Can Press
96 pp.
Ages 9-13
A book of history like no other, commemorating important historical events in politics, sports, the arts, and more from 1867 to 2017.

Carson Crosses Canada
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Kass Reich
Tundra Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
May 30 2017
Annie Magruder and her dog Carson travel from BC to Newfoundland to visit Annie’s sister, enjoying the expansive scenery and attributes of Canada along the way.

Crazy Canadian Trivia
Written by Pat Hancock
Illustrated by Bill Dickson
Scholastic Canada
128 pp.
Ages 7-12
Hundreds of quirky facts about Canada. 

A Day in Canada
Written and illustrated by Per-Henrik Gürth
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
Take a trip over the course of one day (timed delightfully by a clock) with various Canadian animals to stops at recognizable Canadian locales.

Do Beavers Eat Poutine?: Cool Canadian Quizzes
Written by Helaine Becker
Scholastic Canada
96 pp.
Ages 8-13
Trivia, jokes, and puzzles that are all about Canada.

Eh? to Zed: A Canadian ABeCedarium
Written by Kevin Major
Illustrated by Alan Daniel
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 4+
A rhyming alphabet book with images of quintessential Canadian icons and events, including a Mountie, soapstone carvings and a Montreal Canadian. 

Good Morning, Canada
Written and illustrated by Andrea Lynn Beck
Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
Wake up with children across Canada and see the landscapes of each’s life.

Good Night, Canada
Written and illustrated by Andrea Beck
Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
Follow a young boy's nightly ritual of adieus from coast to coast to coast, as he looks out his window at his country and wonders who else is going to bed.

Hey Canada!
Written by Vivien Bowers
Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Tundra Books
72 pp.
Ages 8-12
Gran takes her two grandchildren on a road trip across Canada, covering details about flags, terrain, points of interest and more.

I Am Canada: A Celebration
Written by Heather Patterson
Illustrated by Jon Klassen, Barbara Reid, Marie-Louise Gay, Danielle Daniel, Geneviève Côté, Ashley Spires, Qin Leng, Ruth Ohi, Irene Luxbacher, Cale Atkinson Jeremy Tankard, Eva Campbell and Doretta Groenendyk
Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
May 2017
Multiple-illustrator version of Heather Patterson’s free verse poem I Am Canada (1996).

The Kids Book of Canada
Written by Barbara Greenwood
Illustrated by Jock MacRae
Kids Can Press
60 pp.
Ages 8-11
Compendium of facts about each province and territory, including geography, history and symbols.

M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet
Written by Michael Ulmer
Illustrated by Melanie Rose
Sleeping Bear Press
40 pp.
Ages 8+
A classic alphabet book illustrated by scenes of key Canadians and circumstances like Terry Fox and Anne of Green Gables.

M is for Moose: A Charles Pachter Alphabet
Written and illustrated by Charles Pachter
Cormorant Books
64 pp.
Ages 10+
Artist Charles Pachter lends his own artwork to depicting the alphabet in this sophisticated book for older readers.

My Canada: An Illustrated Atlas 
Written by Katherine Dearlove
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
May 2017
A picture book atlas covering each province and territory with icons and labels of key cities, landmarks, etc.

That’s Very Canadian:  An Exceptionally Interesting Report about All Things Canadian, by Rachel
Written by Vivien Bowers
Illustrated by Diane Eastman
Maple Tree Press
96 pp.
Ages 8-12
This is Rachel’s school report on Canada in which she covers all things Canadian, with the help of  Moose, Goose and Bucko Beaver.

Where Are You, Bear?: A Canadian Alphabet Adventure
Written by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Sean L. Moore
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-5
As Sophie sets out on her cross-country trek from Newfoundland to BC, her Bear has his own adventures as he chases after her.

Wow Canada!: Exploring this Land from Coast to Coast to Coast
Written by Vivien Bowers
Illustrated by Dan Hobbs and Dianne Eastman
Owlkids Books
160 pp.
Ages 9-12
Take a road trip with Guy, his sister Penny and their parents to learn all about Canada’s special points of interest and symbols, through photos, stamps and illustrations.

May 26, 2017

Where Will I Live?

Written by Rosemary McCarney
Second Story Press 
24 pp.
Ages 5-9
April 2017

The loveliness of this young girl's face masks the concern for her fate.  As with all refugees, the question of Where Will I Live? is a monumental one, though based on the simple human necessity for shelter and safety.  Shamefully, while many of us are striving for bigger and better in our homes, there are many who just want someplace they might find lodging and sanctuary.  This is the story that Rosemary McCarney tells in her empathetic text below the powerful images of photographs taken for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Photograph UNHCR/Mark Henley 
from Where Will I Live? 
by Rosemary McCarney
From terrifying scenes of fleeing in the darkness or facing armed soldiers, these families set to their journeys by various means–on foot, in trucks, by boat–over all manner of terrain and water, in all kinds of weather, looking for some place to rest and inhabit.  It might be under stairs or in a city of tents or in the middle of the street.  It might be alone or amongst countless others.  Photographs of children show them watching, waiting, enduring, hoping for someone to say, "Welcome home." Few words are needed to tell the plight of those in Jordan, Rwanda, Lebanon and elsewhere when the photographs, taken by Sebastian Rich, Mark Henley, Andrew McConnell, Shawn Baldwin, Ivor Prickett, and more, expose the desperation of the refugees in all the rawness of their circumstances.
Photograph UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
from Where Will I Live? 
by Rosemary McCarney

Rosemary McCarney, formerly of Plan International Canada and currently Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament, has penned numerous books for children that emphasize social justice themes (e.g., Every Day is Malala Day; Being MeTilt Your Head, Rosie the Red; Because I am a Girl I Can Change the World).  Where Will I Live? supports that same theme by focusing on the plight of many who are ripped from their homes by war and terror and seeking refuge, supported by the photographic evidence of their struggles to find home.  Yet from beginning to end, Rosemary McCarney offers a message about the resiliency of children to endure their struggles and make temporary abodes wherever and whenever necessary until they can find a forever home, thus making Where Will I Live?  a telling story that goes beyond loss and into the realm of hope.
Photograph UNHCR/Shawn Baldwin
from Where Will I Live? 
by Rosemary McCarney

May 25, 2017


Written by Katherine Lawrence
Coteau Books
128 pp.
Ages 9+
April 2017

Stay is a simple middle-grade novel in its length, its form and its story.  But within those few pages and free verse form is a powerful story of a family in transition and a young girl’s need to make a family from its pieces, adopting a few more bits as required.

With her dead twin brother Billy as her sounding board,

My twin is buried in a wooden box
lined with white silk
soft as dandelion fluff, the stuff I blow
to the wind, to you,
(pg. 1)

pre-teen Millie attempts to survive the “family squalls” that have sent her father first to the basement and then to his own apartment. After helping to rescue a starving dog, Millie’s desperate longing for a dog becomes an obsession that pervades her days and nights.

Is love like a tree leaf that browns and drops to the ground? If I had a dog, I would love my puppy evergreen. (pg. 30)

But the two-residences situation is a stumbling block to getting a dog–Dad’s building has a no-animals policy and Mum refuses to be responsible when Millie and her older sister Tara are away–as well as to the copacetic custody of the girls, especially after Mom goes off on a weekend with her new love interest and Dad forgets it’s his weekend with his daughters.  Though Millie is convinced she will be saddled with a “companion named Baggage” for the rest of her life, a chance encounter with the compassionate Mrs. Irene Tootoosis, who’d adopted the dog Millie and her friend had saved, and an unexpected cancer diagnosis brings the family together in a new configuration.

Three tents, two canoes, one pup
sounds like a family.
(pg. 115)

Though the plot of Stay is relatively straightforward, Katherine Lawrence’s writing is not.  An accomplished writer of several books of poetry for adults, Katherine Lawrence pens a novel in verse so profound and complex in its voice and subtle in its story that rereading Stay will be necessary to appreciate all the nuances.  She gives Millie the freedom to obsess about a dog, talk to her dead brother (and play soccer against his headstone), sneak reading of her mother’s cell phone texts, and  be a good friend, while still looking to reconstruct her family as it was or as it might be.  Stay may be a quick read but it’s one that should not be hurried.  As Millie might attest, staying with it is definitely the preferred option, though it might be a lesson that needs to be learned both by dogs and people.

(A version of this review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2017, June). [Review of the book Stay, by Katherine Lawrence]. Quill & Quire, 83 (5): 35.

May 24, 2017

Thousand Words Art Auction: Eden Mills, ON

On Saturday, June 17, 2017

a mystery art auction (and silent auction)
for CanLit book lovers 

will be held at

19 Cedar Street

the new home of the Eden Mills Writers' Festival

in the village of Eden Mills, Ontario

Art preview:  7-8 p.m.
Live auction begins: 8 p.m.
Silent auction throughout the evening

Authors who have read at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival were invited to ‘think outside the book’ and create a small piece of art to be auctioned off to raise funds for the Festival’s new home, Rivermead.

The auction includes the artwork of more than 30 Canadian authors and illustrators (I've highlighted those of youngCanLit) including:

  • Gary Barwin
  • Arthur Black
  • Claire Cameron
  • George Elliott Clarke
  • James Clarke
  • Lorna Crozier
  • Emma Donoghue (The Lotterys Plus One)
  • Wallace Edwards (What is Peace?; Once Upon a Line; Unnatural Selections)
  • Terry Fallis
  • Doug Gibson
  • Steven Heighton
  • Michael Helm
  • Linda Hendry (Pup and Hound series; Erik the Viking Sheep; Priscilla and Rosy)
  • Maureen Jennings
  • Plum Johnson
  • Don Kilby (Hold On, McGinty!; The Prairie Fire; One Christmas in Lunenburg)
  • René Meshake (Blueberry Rapids; Moccasin Creek)
  • Lisa Moore (Flannery)
  • Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Where Are My Books?; I'm Bored; Sea Monkey and Bob)
  • Ruth Ohi (Fox and Squirrel, The Best Christmas Ever; Kenta and the Big Wave; Shh! My Brother's Napping)
  • Heather O'Neill
  • Leon Rooke
  • Jesse Ruddock
  • Nicholas Ruddock
  • Mary Swan
  • Claire Tacon
  • Andrea Wayne von Konigslow (Toilet Tales; Bing and Chutney; Would You Love Me?)
  • Janet Wilson (One Peace; Our Earth; Our Heroes; In Flander's Fields)
  • Alissa York

Bidders will not know the identity of the art’s creator until the big reveal at the end of the evening, so part of the fun will be trying to detect which author created which piece of art!  

In addition there will be
two pieces by friends of the festival, 
Barb Minett and Cheryl Ruddock, 
a 1st edition book of poetry by Margaret Atwood 
accompanied by a signed, numbered relief print,
hand cut by Ms. Atwood 
(donated by Kim Lang, Artistic Director of Eden Mills Writers' Festival)

 A silent auction of quality items for books lovers 
will also take place throughout the evening.

Tickets which are $20 per person 
(and include a complimentary drink and hors d’oeuvres) 
are available online at 
at The Bookshelf  at 41 Quebec St., Guelph.
Tickets are limited so don't delay

To find out more about the auction, including a complete list of participating authors and a preview of their art, visit

May 19, 2017

2017 Forest of Reading winners announced!

The Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading's book awards have been an important part of my school library program and my personal volunteer experiences for many years, so I am always proud to post the results of this wonderful reading program.

It's impossible to congratulate all those who made this reading program and the Festival of Trees such a success but here are some of the amazing people who play important roles in its success:

• the readers;
• the selection committees who read so many books to choose the best for the shortlists;
• the steering committees that organize and put on the fabulous Festival of Trees;
• the OLA staff, with Meredith Tutching at the helm;
• the authors and illustrators who create the wonderful youngCanLit;
• the publishers who publish youngCanLit and promote it; and
• the winners and honourees in each reading program.

Here are this year's readers' choice winners for each reading program:

Blue Spruce


The Night Gardener
by Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Simon & Schuster


Silver Birch EXPRESS

The Biggest Poutine in the World
by Andrée Poulin
Annick Press

Silver Birch FICTION

by Wesley King
Paula Wiseman Books

Silver Birch NON-FICTION 


Haunted Canada 6: More Terrifying True Stories
by Joel A. Sutherland
Scholastic Canada

Le prix Peuplier 

Aux toilettes
Texte de André Marois
Illustrations de Pierre Pratt
Éditions Druide

Le prix Tamarac 


Le Colosse des neiges de Campbellton
Texte de Denis M. Boucher
Illustrations de Paul Roux
Bouton d'or Acadie

Le prix Tamarac EXPRESS


Le facteur de l'espace
Texte et Illustrations de Guillaume Perreault
La Pastèque

Red Maple Fiction


by Caroline Pignat

Red Maple Non-Fiction


Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls 
are Used in War
by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys
Illustrated by Claudia Dávila
Kids Can Press

White Pine FICTION

Fifteen Lanes
by S. J. Laidlaw
Tundra Books


Thrilling news for all authors, illustrators and publishers!

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

Congratulations to everyone!

The full list of winners and honour books is posted at CanLit for LittleCanadians Awards here.