March 29, 2019

I Didn't Stand Up

Written by Lucy Falcone
Illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon
Clockwise Press
32 pp.
Ages 5+ (really all ages)
December 2018

In the aftermath of World War II, a Protestant pastor in Germany, Martin Niemöller, popularized a poem called "First They Came" about the abuses enacted by the Nazis upon different groups of people like socialists, trade unionists and Jewish people and how many would not stand up to protect the innocent. Using that text as a model, Lucy Falcone wrote I Didn't Stand Up about not standing up to school bullies who target those they see as different. It's a lesson in compassion and courage to defy oppression and persecution.
From I Didn't Stand Up by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Jacqueline Hudon
The book begins with
First they went after Jamal.
But I'm not black –
so I didn't stand up for him.
It continues with similar verses about Duncan who is targeted as a geek, Shyanne who is poor, Mariana who is an immigrant, Jason who is gay, Aisha who is Muslim and wears a headscarf, Liam who uses arm crutches, transgendered Alexis and overweight Marvin, And then they come after the narrator. Finally the child wants to be part of that larger group that might support them. Fortunately they do.

The text is minimal but says so much about how little it takes for a bully to select a victim and for bystanders to do nothing. Lucy Falcone wallops the reader with the intensity of each situation, seemingly innocuous but always devastating to the victim. The weighting is in Jacqueline Hudon's illustrations, depicting large-eyed victims of bullies who harm with words and actions.
From I Didn't Stand Up by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Jacqueline Hudon
The prevalence of yellow throughout the book can't help but be noted. Yellow, like most colours, has dual symbolism. It can represent enlightenment, as from the sun's light, as well as warmth. But, as with traffic lights, it is the colour of caution, and negatively it has also been used to signify cowardice and betrayal. I like to think that like the children in I Didn't Stand Up, the colour yellow evolves, becoming activated to do something positive.
From I Didn't Stand Up by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Jacqueline Hudon
Lucy Falcone is already known to middle-graders as L. M. Falcone with her award-winning fun and spooky reads like Walking with the Dead (Kids Can Press, 2005) and The Midnight Curse (Kids Can Press, 2010). So it's highly appropriate that Lucy Falcone has chosen a different moniker for her first picture book and one so impactful with its message of social justice and community. With I Didn't Stand Up, illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon who created the artwork for Bye, Bye, Butterflies (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012) and Charlie's Dirt Day (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2015), Lucy Falcone has opened up a new window of writing for herself while shedding light on the damage of being a bystander to bullying and the need to step up and forward for all.

March 26, 2019

Sophie Trophy: Book launch (Coquitlam, BC)

Join author

Eileen Holland

for the launch 

of her novel for early readers

Sophie Trophy
Written by Eileen Holland
 Crwth Press
120 pp.
Ages 7-9
March 2019 


Saturday, April 6, 2019

2-4 p.m.


Coquitlam Public Library 
(City Centre Branch)
 1169 Pinetree Way
Room 136
Coquitlam, BC

From Crwth Press's website:

Sophie is thoughtful and funny and full of ideas. When her friend Brayden brings a spider to school in a jar, Sophie’s excited to study it. But then a classmate frees the spider in the Grade 3 classroom.

Their teacher, Miss Ruby, is terrified of spiders. Sophie wants to save her teacher from the eight-legged intruder without getting Brayden into trouble for bringing it to school. That means getting the spider out of the classroom without letting Miss Ruby know what’s going on.

This is no easy task, and soon Sophie's wacky plans and wild imagination land her in the principal’s office—and hanging upside down outside his window.

Young readers will love Sophie’s antics, her loyalty to her friends and her determination to do the right thing at any cost.
on March 22, 2019.

March 25, 2019

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Written by Katherena Vermette, Sonny Assu, Jen Storm, David A. Robertson, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Richard Van Camp, Brandon Mitchell, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Chelsea Vowel

Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, Kyle Charles, Natasha Donovan, GMB Chomichuk, Ryan Howe, Jen Storm, Tara Audibert, Andrew Lodwick

Colour by Donovan Yaciuk, Scott A. Ford, Natasha Donovan, GMB Chomichuk, Andrew Lodwick

HighWater Press
274 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2019
Reviewed from advance reading copy
...what this anthology does. It takes stories our people have been forced to pass on quietly, to whisper behind hands like secrets, and retells them loudly and unapologetically for our people today. 
 Foreword by Alicia Elliott

This Place: 150 Years Retold is an anthology of graphic novels that covers stories by Indigenous writers about historical figures, events and more, providing a new perspective for all to read. They should have been allowed to be told sooner and more frequently but This Place: 150 Years Retold starts that here.
From Annie of Red River by Katherena Vermette, illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, colour by Donovan Yaciuk in This Place: 150 Years Retold
In ten stories, told in chronological order from the 1850 story of Annie Bannatyne to the world of 2350, This Place chronicles in graphic format Indigenous lives lived, struggles endured and work pursued. These are the stories of the Inuit, Cree, Métis, Wiwéqaýl, Mi'gmaq, Mohawk, Anishinaabe and others from the north to the Pacific, the prairies to Quebec and New Brunswick.

The first story, Annie of Red River by Katherena Vermette and illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, highlights Métis Annie Bannatyne's 1800s feminism and refusal to allow a newspaperman's disparaging remarks about Métis women to go unpunished. David A. Robertson's story Peggy, illustrated by Natasha Donovan, also focuses on an important Indigenous person whose name should not be forgotten. Francis "Peggy" Pegahmagabow was the most decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history though he returned from World War I, including battles at Ypres and Passchendaele, to combat discrimination on the homefront.
From Peggy by David Robertson, illustrations and colour by Natasha Donovan in This Place: 150 Years Retold
Sonny Assu's story, Tilted Ground, illustrated by Kyle Charles, focuses on the banning of the potlaches and honours his ancestor Chief Billy Assu's efforts to learn the white man's ways while protecting his community. Other stories of protest and civil disobedience include Richard Van Camp's Like a Razor Slash, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, about Chief Frank T'Seleie's 1970s fight against the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project which was significant in returning unceded lands; the 1980s salmon wars in Migwite'tmeg: We Remember It by Brandon Mitchell and illustrated by Tara Audibert; and Warrior Nation by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and illustrated by Andrew Lodwick which chronicles discussions on the Meech Lake Accord and the Mohawk resistance at Oka in 1990.

A horrific story of starvation and killing, Red Clouds by Jen Storm, illustrated by Natasha Donovan, recounts the true story of the shaman Zhauwuno-Geezhigo-Gaubo a.k.a. Jack Fiddler who was imprisoned for the murder of those who subsumed the wendigo.
From Rosie by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by GMB Chomichuk in This Place: 150 Years Retold
Other stories tell of those who would attempt to usurp the identities and cultures of Indigenous People. Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley's Rosie, illustrated by GMB Chomichuk whose graphics are both surreal and subtly evocative, demonstrates the complexity of the Inuit traditions for naming and the importance of protecting those names. Nimkii by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and illustrated by Ryan Howe and Jen Storm speaks to those taken into foster care, losing family but finding it among themselves.
From Warrior Nation by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, illustrations and colour by Andrew Lodwick in This Place: 150 Years Retold
Finally, This Place: 150 Years Retold ends with a futuristic story in which fifteen-year-old Wâpanacâhkos is sent back in time to learn about those who'd left the kisiskaciwani-sipiy (a.k.a. Saskatchewan River) valley three centuries earlier.  Her mission is to learn what happened and how best to welcome the 1.5 million Returners. Even for Wâpanacâhkos who witnesses the racism, the struggles and standoffs, and the injustices, it is too much. In kitaskînaw 2350, writer Chelsea Vowel and artist Tara Audibert show the darkness of our current world from the Indigenous perspective and sadly it is overwhelming.

This is the power of storytelling. It's going deeper and truer than the history books and the newspaper accounts. It's bringing the stories to the people for the people and doing it for the right reasons: to teach and to illuminate. This Place: 150 Years Retold is the dawn to a new storytelling tradition that doesn't need to be held back. It should be shouted forward from now on.

March 21, 2019

Ojiichan's Gift

Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Genevieve Simms
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2019

When Mayumi was born, her grandfather built a special rock garden to celebrate.  Then each year, she would visit him in Japan for the summer months, spending time with her Ojiichan while learning to tend to the garden, including how to weed, water, prune and the all-important raking of the gravel. Over this task, grandfather and granddaughter would bond.
From Ojiichan's Gift by Chieri Uegaki, illus. by Genevieve Simms
Amidst the bustle of her own city, Mayumi would recall those special times and that Zen garden by studying her tin box of treasures: dried leaves, tiny pine cones and smooth rocks.
From Ojiichan's Gift by Chieri Uegaki, illus. by Genevieve Simms
But with time, things change. Little girls grow up and grandfathers grow older.  The summer comes when Mayumi's parents must visit Japan to pack up Ojiichan's house which, like his garden, cannot be cared for by the now wheelchair-bound man. Frustrated by her Ojiichan's new circumstances, Mayumi's tries to take on the garden. But it's only when she concedes, creating a Zen garden for Ojiichan in a lacquered bento box, that Mayumi can find calm again.

Chieri Uegaki has honoured her Japanese heritage once again, having already helped showcase it in Suki's Kimono (Kids Can Press, 2003) and Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin (Kids Can Press, 2014). In these previous stories, a young girl looks up to her Obachan who gifted her with a kimono or to a grandfather who plays Second Violin in a symphony orchestra. In Ojiichan's Gift, a girl is again looking up to a grandparent, here a grandfather who has gifted her with a garden that celebrates her birth. But when he can no longer care for that garden, that little girl, not so little anymore, gifts him with a portable garden that would enshrine his original forever.
... if she closed her eyes and listened, she was certain she could still hear the pebbles' soothing chatter.
From Ojiichan's Gift by Chieri Uegaki, illus. by Genevieve Simms
Genevieve Simms creates that same distinction of adoration and respect in her illustrations. While her artwork goes beyond the garden, including spreads of air travel and life in a Canadian city, it's Genevieve Simms's illustrations of the garden that favour Chieri Uegaki's message of serenity and connection. The rocks and the shrubs, the trees and gravel, bamboo and sparrow all create a living world in a dry landscape. It's a world perfect for meditation and companionship.

The garden may have been Ojiichan's gift to Mayumi and her bento box garden may be the gift she presents to him, but the greatest gift is the relationship between Ojiichan and granddaughter and that's something special to contemplate.

March 19, 2019

The Moon Watched It All: Book launch (Saskatoon, SK)

I may have missed an earlier launch for this book, one at which 
both author Shelley A. Leedahl and illustrator Aino Anto 
were in attendance,


here is a second opportunity 
and in a city that generally has fewer book launches than Toronto

so I'm pleased to post about it here.



Shelley A. Leedahl


the Saskatoon launch of

her new picture book

 Written by Shelley A. Leedahl
Illustrated by Aino Anto
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
February 2019


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

7 p.m.


McNally Robinson Booksellers
Travel Alcove 
3130 8 St. E.
Saskatoon, SK 


March 18, 2019

The Moon Watched It All

Written by Shelley A. Leedahl
Illustrated by Aino Anto
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
February 2019

The moon may watch over all of us, sometimes only shining light or hiding in the dark, but, like a watchful deity, it is omnipresent, guiding with a subtle beacon for those seeking direction.

An orphaned boy with only vague memories of a woman's voice and a gentle hand survives alone seeking food and clothing wherever and living in the forest. Elsewhere a woman known as Miranda lives in her home near the woods, rocking and talking to the moon.
She praised it, like she once prized her children, in a time before a time that was then.
From The Moon Watched It All by Shelley A. Leedahl, illus. by Aino Anto
After a man brutally chases the boy away–"Get you, Boy"–he runs far away, finding shelter in a chicken coop and food in an adjacent garden. The moon whispers to Miranda of the boy in the garden but it is not until she is ready to invite him inside for better food and shelter that the two become true companions, finding a way to be themselves with each other.

The Moon Watched It All may be marketed for ages five to nine but I think it is an allegory of such depth that it can and should be read beyond those ages. At its foundation, it is a story of an orphan boy, scorned and rejected, who finds a home with a woman alone who talks to the moon. But, in each, they find the family that they have lost.
From The Moon Watched It All by Shelley A. Leedahl, illus. by Aino Anto
Shelley A. Leedahl's intense story may be in prose form but its intensity parallels that of poetry, steeped in the melancholy of Miranda ...
Her face in the moon's unwavering spotlight. She was a lake unruffled, the coal fire's glow. 
... and the isolation and trepidation of the boy.
Night came calling, and he thought of boots, of heels, and the finger-quick hands. He thought of the children with sticks, and villagers who possessed the power to look right through him. The boy held out his own hand, and could not keep it steady.
From The Moon Watched It All by Shelley A. Leedahl, illus. by Aino Anto
There is a stillness of person and place that seeps into the story which is far more extensive in text and lyricism than in books typically for the very young. As such it has a strength of message that is both serene and profound. It bears being read over and over to capture the importance of the text and its voice of solemnity and grace.  I don't know if that comes from Shelley A. Leedahl's skill as a poet but her words lull and inspire and tug and reassure.

The same goes for Aino Anto's illustrations that take the readers through the forest and beneath the moon, watching and waiting as the boy and the woman do. This is Aino Anto's first picture book and her paintings evoke such emotion without indignation at what are sad circumstances for both the boy, whose identity is only that of Boy, and for Miranda, who endures the passage of time rather than biding it for hope. Or that was the situation until they make a family of their own.

I wept for a mother alone and forgotten and a boy ignored and abused. Each alone in their own ways, one speaking to the moon and one living outside in its light. And the moon watched it all as the two come together, as a waxing moon, growing into something important.

March 14, 2019

The Dog Who Wanted to Fly

Written by Kathy Stinson
Illustrated by Brandon James Scott
Annick Press
36 pp.
Ages 3-6
March 2019

A chattering squirrel just out of reach is the frustration of many a dog. Though a chase may be all that is wanted, but unlikely to happen when the squirrel remains out of reach, that mocking babble is taunting, and Zora is determined to find relief. If only she could fly!
From The Dog Who Wanted to Fly by Kathy Stinson, illus. by Brandon James Scott
Tully the cat may be the voice of reason, stating quite clearly that "Dogs can't fly" but Zora is resolute. She bounces as high as she can and she crashes. She flaps her ears and her tail and she crashes. She tries to springboard from a teeter-totter and she crashes. She considers using an umbrella but that idea is thwarted by a human. She fashions herself into a plane with ears, paws and tail extended but she cannot will herself "up." Still, when Tully begins to fall from a perch on a branch, Zora zings to the rescue.
From The Dog Who Wanted to Fly by Kathy Stinson, illus. by Brandon James Scott
Zora's story is that of author Kathy Stinson's own dog Georgia to whom she dedicates the story, but it really is the story of every dog who watches wistfully at chase fodder a.k.a. squirrels. But, like anyone with big dreams that may be preposterous–let's face it: dogs can't fly–there still may be a way to achieve versions of those goals and that's what Zora does when her friend is in danger.  Kathy Stinson, who can write everything from picture books to YA novels, tells Zora's story with words and logic that young readers will understand and enjoy, ending it with the subtle humour that children will appreciate, sure to laugh themselves silly.
And the squirrel was very quiet.
From The Dog Who Wanted to Fly by Kathy Stinson, illus. by Brandon James Scott
Brandon James Scott is an accomplished animator, creating the Emmy-nominated "Justin Time" TV series, but his artwork really shines when giving visual life to Kathy Stinson's story. He endows Zora with the cuteness to sweeten her story and the attributes of determination, imagination and compassion to carry it forward. Her expressive eyes and eyebrows, mouth and body language always speak to Zora's intentions, just as Tully and the squirrel voice their own views. (Check out the final illustration directly above.) Even Zora's backyard of fenced-in greenery is lush with light and life.

Here's to Zora who doesn't let logic keep her from her dreams and to the squirrel and Tully who will have to rethink what a dog can and cannot do.
Zora, The Dog Who Wanted to Fly by Kathy Stinson, illus. by Brandon James Scott


Annick Press, the publisher of The Dog Who Wanted to Fly, just posted this sweet book trailer for it on YouTube.
Uploaded by Annick Press to YouTube on March 12, 2019.

March 12, 2019

Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life

Written by Beverley Brenna
Illustrated by Tara Anderson
Pajama Press
128 pp.
Ages 7-10
February 2019

Finding one’s own purpose in life is not an easy task and one which many of us never find. Imagine being a hamster in a cage in a pet store and wondering about what life holds for you. Is it just anticipating fresh bedding? Is it waiting for extra peanuts? Is it to find a forever home? Is it to be free?  But with the hamster’s adoption by nine-year-old Jeannie, the hamster, first known as Harvey Owens and then Sapphire, looks for that meaning and finds it with the help of a rich collection of characters and a few nibbles on fingers.

Told in the alternating voices of Sapphire and Jeannie, Beverley Brenna begins Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life with a long-awaited trip to the pet store for Jeannie’s promised Christmas gift of a hamster.  Though the visit almost doesn’t happen as Jeannie’s mother deems her daughter’s behaviour at the mall as inappropriate, Jeannie picks out the white hamster with the navy blue eyes and purchases all the materials to make his home perfect. But the hamster, whom she originally names Harvey Owens after her father who has moved out of the house, is frightened by the new sounds, smells and temperatures and lashes out by biting, even more so after they are involved in a car accident. Jeannie, who is dealing with her own stresses that include not being heard, a father who seems to be off with a new life and a mother struggling with two young children and trying to deal with her own grief and anger about her marriage, recognizes that the little guy bites when scared or surprised, and helps educate all who come near him to be considerate. And since he is such a great comfort to all of them–Jeannie, her brother Alistair, her mom and others–once they learn how to be kind to him, he has much to offer them back. And it makes no difference when he is identified as a her.

Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life is far greater than a story about a girl getting a pet hamster. It’s about struggling to find your place. Jeannie is a pretty good caregiver for Sapphire but she’s trying to figure out why her father isn’t keeping in touch, whether her parents are “getting put back together” (pg. 40), why her little brother seems stressed, how to be a friend, why her Mom’s new friend Anna Conda seems reserved though really cool, and the questions that kids want answered but no one will respect them enough to tell them the truth. Meanwhile Sapphire is recognizing how nice her new home is, singing when pleased, and beginning to understand freedom, especially after a dangerous escape outdoors in frigid January.
It seems to me that Free is just a little bit too big to think about for very long. (pg. 67)
It’s perfect that Jeannie’s story and Sapphire’s come together to become something bigger and better. Just as the two are better for having each other in their lives, Beverley Brenna’s text is enhanced with the adorable illustrations by Tara Anderson which head each of the forty-two chapters. Her pencil sketches of Sapphire make up the majority of these illustrations and show the little hamster eating, playing, sleeping, hiding and just being all-around cute. I had some trepidation about an animal story, especially one which begins in a pet store, but Tara Anderson’s charming artwork reassured me that Sapphire’s story would turn out well.

A perfect early reader for kids who love animals, Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life is actually more about giving significance to managing our own stories. It may require a nip or a bite or some yelling to be heard, or perhaps a snuggle or a quiet voice might be in order, but it's about finding the meaning of your own life, even if only for the time being.
From Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life by Beverley Brenna,               illustrated by Tara Anderson

March 11, 2019

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired

Written by Lucile de Pesloüan
Illustrated by Geneviève Darling
Second Story Press
48 pp.
Ages 12-18
March 2019

I know last Friday was International Women's Day. I was certainly flooded with notices about books celebrating women and their day. But I didn't want to post this review on that day because I didn't want it to get lost in that flood. I think What Makes Girls Sick and Tired deserves to be recognized beyond that day as all women should be.

The girl's frustrated look on the cover says everything about What Makes Girls Sick and Tired. She certainly looks disgusted and weary and, with the plethora of problematic situations which girls must endure, it's no surprise.
From What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan, illus. by Geneviève Darling
From how girls are told they should behave and how their societies and cultures treat them, any compassionate human should cringe. Lucile de Pesloüan is candid about how women are treated and the unrealistic and ridiculous expectations settled upon them. From domestic roles and judgements placed upon them to emphasize their appearance and not their substance, women are regularly faced with discrimination and criticism. Worse yet, Lucile de Pesloüan shares devastating stats from the likes of the United Nations UNITE Campaign and the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017 about inequities in wages, vulnerabilities in war and with illness, and more. For those who don't believe that injustices are levelled against girls and women, the numbers don't lie.

From What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan, illus. by Geneviève Darling
In graphics of faded lavender, a little grittier than the pinkish purple of the floral, Montreal artist Geneviève Darling provides unique visuals that depict all women. Women of different ages, shapes, colour, relationships, cultures, and circumstance. Everyone is here. She makes sure to ensure inclusivity and diversity. By representing everyone, girls can see their story within, even if those stories are uncomfortable or troubling.
Girls are sick and tired because sexism affects everyone, every day, in ways that are both obvious and subtle and both simple and complex. (pg. 2)
And that's why girls are sick and tired and why they have every right to be.
From What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan, illus. by Geneviève Darling
Girls are less sick and tired when they are encouraging, supportive, and united in solidarity with one another. It's one of the best parts of feminism.  (pg. 47)
Here's hoping that every day there will be fewer and fewer girls who have reason to be sick and tired. What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a fair and equitable portrayal that makes a great start at informing the world.

March 07, 2019

Moon Wishes: Book launch (Toronto, ON)


Patricia and Guy Storms


Milan Pavlović

in celebrating the launch of 

Moon Wishes

Written by Guy and Patricia Storms
Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Groundwood Books
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
March 2019
Reviewed here


Sunday, March 10, 2019

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.


TYPE Books Junction
2887 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON

This free event for all ages
cookies, music and fun!

Moon Wishes

Written by Guy and Patricia Storms
Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Groundwood Books
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
March 2019

Everyone makes wishes to the light of the moon but what does the moon wish for? That’s the question Guy Storms and Patricia Storms answer in their first picture book collaboration with illustrator Milan Pavlović.

From Moon Wishes by Guy and Patricia Storms, illus. by Milan Pavlović
With a beginning that allows young readers to put themselves up in the night sky, Guy Storms and Patricia Storms introduce Moon Wishes with "If I were the moon ..." and then propose the loveliest of sentiments to brighten the world from the darkness that extends far beyond nightfall. There would be the creation of art by shimmering over waters teeming with fish and over "dreams of snow." It would "wax and wane over the Earth's troubles" to soothe and light the way for travellers including human, bird and marine and showcase those who play, sing and reside outside. And the moon would always shine with love and light.

From Moon Wishes by Guy and Patricia Storms, illus. by Milan Pavlović
In a series of glorious images, as iridescent with their glowing moons as the cover, Milan Pavlović gives these heartfelt moon wishes substance. They are no longer wishful thinking or dreams for something better. They are real. Readers can see the lustrous moon paving the way for lives to be lived. From refugees trekking across an expansive landscape to the trumpeter serenading delighted felines or the whales swimming in seafoam green waters, Milan Pavlović shows the smiling moon, serene in all its phases, making the world a brighter place for all.

From Moon Wishes by Guy and Patricia Storms, illus. by Milan Pavlović
I will be adding this book to my Read a Book of Bedtime booklist because it belongs among those titles that help ease little ones to slumber.  With its meaningful intentions and luminous illustrations, Moon Wishes will certainly hush children to sleep knowing that the moon is watching over all and wishing only goodness.

The book launches this Sunday (March 10, 2019) in Toronto. Details here.

March 06, 2019

The Triumphant: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

It's finally here!

The final book in
The Valiant Trilogy

Fallon's story began in

and her fight continued in



Lesley Livingston

completes Fallon's story with
the launch 


The Triumphant
Written by Lesley Livingston
416 pp.
Ages 12+
February 2019


Thursday, March 7, 2019
(sorry for the short notice!)

7 -10 p.m. 


Dominion Pub and Kitchen
500 Queen St. E.
Toronto, ON

The event is open to all ages! 
(Don't let the pub in the venue name dissuade you from taking in this event.)


The following blurb about the book comes from Penguin Random House Canada at
The final book in the Valiant series takes Fallon and her warrior sisters on an epic journey from the corrupt Roman Republic to the wonder of the ancient world: Alexandria, Egypt.

In the wake of their victorious fight to win back the Ludus Achillea, Fallon and her gladiatrix sisters have become the toast of the Republic. However, as a consequence of his actions during the Ludus uprising, Fallon's love Cai has been stripped of his Decurion rank and cast down to serve as one of Caesar's gladiators.

Amid fighting for Cai's freedom, Fallon soon learns that Caesar's enemies are plotting against him and planning to get revenge on his fearsome gladiatrices. When Caesar is murdered by these conspirators, Fallon and the girls lose any sort of protection they once had. Fallon also realizes that the foreign queen Cleopatra is now in grave danger.

Fallon rallies her war band and Cai's friends to get Cleopatra out of the city, and the group heads to the safety of Cleo's homeland, Alexandria, Egypt. Once there, the gladiatrices are promised a place of honor in the queen's elite guard, but is that what any of them really want? 


Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press
48 pp.
Ages 4-9
March 2019

Young readers met Circle and her friends Square and Triangle in Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen's earlier books in the Shape trilogy, Triangle (Candlewick, 2017) and Square (Candlewick, 2018), but now it's Circle's turn to reveal herself. In each of the books, the shape at its centre have dealt with personal issues of trust and self-confidence and, above all, friendship, and now Circle finds herself similarly challenged in this final book in the Shape trilogy.
From Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Circle and her friends Square and Triangle are playing a game of hide-and-seek near Circle's waterfall but she insists that they cannot hide behind the waterfall. But Triangle chooses to do just that and Circle slips in behind the falls to find him.
From Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
It is very dark in the cavern behind the falls but, as Circle goes in farther, calling out to Triangle, it becomes pitch black. Only Circle's eyes are visible until a second pair appears. As Circle chastizes Triangle for his rule-breaking and disregard for his friends, the second pair of eyes remains silent. Finally Circle apologizes for her rant and tells Triangle that they love him, just as a third pair of eyes appear behind Circle with Triangle's voice thanking Circle for her declarations. Then things get a little harried as the two realize the third set of eyes does not belong to their friend, though in hindsight, Circle recognizes something highly relevant.
"You know," she said, "that shape in the dark might
not have been bad. It might have been a good shape.
We just could not see it."
From Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Let's talk about the subtlety of message which is perfectly understated for the very young for whom this board book was written. Kids will know about playing and rules and friends and getting frustrated and angry and then taking all back. They'll know about being afraid of the dark and confronting their fears. But, while Circle speaks to all that, in the hands of that dynamic duo of American Mac Barnett and Canadian Jon Klassen, it also speaks to larger issues of forgiveness and tolerance. Big concepts for a little book but presented in such a sophisticated way that it will permeate any barrier.
From Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
There is a quietness to Jon Klassen's earthy illustrations, created with a combination of coloured pencils, gouache and crayons, evoking the natural setting for the stories of the three shape friends. Like the rocks and the cavern and the shapes themselves, the illustrations have substance but are not oppressive, while giving hints of harmony and freshness with the touches of mint green for Circle's waterfall. It's so easy to fall into Jon Klassen's art and swim around, even if in the pitch darkness of the deepest depths of that cavern.

I am sorry to see this trilogy end but I am ever hopeful that the partnership of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen will continue, as it should, to add to the canon of picture books that tell powerful stories with distinction and without preaching.
Shape trilogy by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

March 05, 2019

What We Buried

Written by Kate A. Boorman
Henry Holt and Company
320 pp.
Ages 14-18
February 2019

You created your reality; live with it. (pg. 260)

But the realities that have been created for eighteen-year-old Jory Brewer and his sixteen-year-old sister Lavinia (Liv) are only minimally their own doing. Jory, born with Moebius syndrome, has several paralyzed craniofacial nerves which affect his appearance, his speech and his eating. He may choose to say very little and be more socially withdrawn but how others respond to him is not on him. He'd had one corrective surgery as a child and doctors had recommended further intervention but his parents didn't think it was a good investment. On the other hand, what they thought was a good investment was putting Liv on the child beauty pageant circuit, including a stint on Darling Divas, the reality TV show about pageants and their contestants. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that career, Liv is now suing her parents for "irreparable and lasting harm." (pg. 11)

On the day of the trial, their parents disappear from the courthouse. Liv returns to the house, for the first time in months, ostensibly to help Jory but more to learn what has happened to their parents whom she believes Jory is helping. When she thinks she knows where they've gone, the two siblings head out to an old cabin their mother had inherited and which their father had always wanted to sell. But in a chilling road trip during which the two are haunted by fleeting visions, possible déjà vu, recurrent memories and danger, Liv and Jory transform from squabbling sibs to something unexpected.
And there it was–an uncanny sense of temporality. Like my reaction to what was happening–the focus of my attention–was a better measure of time than the minutes clicking over on the digital clock.  Everything was beginning to feel malleable and unfixed, like if I looked hard enough at the road illuminated by our headlights, I'd see beyond it, or behind it, or something. (pg. 103)
Kate A. Boorman has written a thriller that is equal parts plot and character in which both are significant and extraordinary. As the reader struggles to sort out the plot including what happened to the teens' parents, how the repeating news story on the radio is important, and what is real and either supernatural or illusion, Jory and Liv are exploring who they were, who they are and who they want to be.
Book jacket of What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman
The front cover of What We Buried may look like the story is about Liv and her perceptions but the back cover reveals that Jory's perspective is just as important. It's the way the two siblings see things about themselves, each other, their parents and the outside world and how it sees them that makes What We Buried intense and emotional.
You know the saying "Seeing is believing"? It's a problem, when you think about it. I mean, it's reasonable for people to want proof before they accept something they've been told. I do. I'm a fan of logic and demonstrable facts. But the idea inherent: that you can believe what you see? That's majorly flawed, because people usually have no idea what they're looking at. It's why people think my sister is a lovely, tragic victim. It's why they so often assume I can't tie my own shoes. (pg. 6)
The contrast of reality and illusion is a complex one in What We Buried and that's because Kate A. Boorman draws us in but doesn't join us for the journey. It's up to the reader to determine what might be real and what might be memory or what might be something else entirely. See if you can see beyond the masks of Liv's beauty and Jory's disorder and look deeper into their stories to find what may be buried, both literally and figuratively.