August 27, 2019

Double Trouble (Orca Currents)

Written by Joanne Levy
Orca Book Publishers
132 pp.
Ages 9-12
August 2019 

While many of us display different personalities depending on the circumstances–reserved, outgoing, chatterbox, leader, etc.–Victoria Adelman takes it to a whole different level when she meets Jazzy, the granddaughter of her neighbours and a potential new best friend. She actually becomes her own twin.

With her best friend Anna having moved away, Victoria fills her time cultivating her organic garden, feeding her family–her Dad and grandmother Bubby–and their neighbours and tending to her compost. But when she meets the Patels' granddaughter Jasvitha (Jazzy) shortly upon returning home from synagogue, Jazzy gets the impression that Victoria likes fashion and dressing up. Later when she spots Victoria wearing her grubby gardening clothes and working with her worm bin, Jazzy apparently does not recognize her and keeps asking for Vicky. Victoria, desperate for a friend, pretends to be Tori, Vicky's twin sister, and launches the charade of switching between the garden-loving Tori and the fashionista Vicky, depending on when she sees Jazzy.

But you know things cannot go smoothly when you attempt to deceive and must alter your personality and dress for one person and keep all the others in the dark.
I suddenly felt guilty. Because not only had I made up a sister, but now I was trash-talking her. To the girl I'd lied to. (pg. 68-69)
From a trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens with Mr. and Mrs. Patel and Jazzy, and a shopping trip with Bubby and Jazzy, Victoria is torn between being herself and the person she thinks will win her a new friend in Jazzy.  And then there's the sleepover which Jazzy expects to have with Tori and Vicky. Will it all blow up for Victoria or will she get the friend she is desperate to have?

While Joanne Levy has brought us stories with extraordinary circumstances (see Small Medium at Large, 2012), she does equally well with middle-grade stories that are typical of most young people. Whether it's friendships or family, bat mitzvahs or first crushes (Crushing It, 2017 and Yael and the Party of the Year, 2018, writing as Tamsin Lane), Joanne Levy brings the humour to everyday ups and downs in a middle-grader's life. Moreover, she gets that eagerness to be accepted by your peers, when you'd try just about anything to be liked. The farce that becomes Victoria's life is so representational that I could imagine a young reader wondering if they could pull off faking being twins too. (My advice based on Victoria's experience: Don't.)

Readers will enjoy the ridiculousness of Victoria's deception, which is never spiteful nor mean-spirited, and the farcical scenes of her attempting to pretend to be both Vicky and Tori in this short, hi-lo novel. Still, fortunately, they'll be left with the honest message that self-acceptance will always triumph over pretending to be someone you're not, though you might get a few laughs, plus some heartache, along the way if you do.

August 26, 2019

A Likkle Miss Lou: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

Join children's author 

Nadia L. Hohn

for the launch of her newest picture book

A Likkle Miss Lou
How Jamaican Poet 
Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice
Written by Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2019


Saturday, September 14, 2019

3-5 p.m.


A Different Booklist
779 Bathurst St.
Toronto, ON

There will be a reading, book signing and refreshments.


Jamaican poet and entertainer Louise Bennett Coverley, better known as “Miss Lou,” played an instrumental role in popularizing Jamaican patois internationally. Through her art, Miss Lou helped pave the way for other poets and singers, like Bob Marley, to use patois in their work.

This picture book biography tells the story of Miss Lou’s early years, when she was a young girl who loved poetry but felt caught between writing “lines of words like tight cornrows” or words that beat “in time with her heart.” Despite criticism from one teacher, Louise finds a way to weave the influence of the music, voices, and rhythms of her surroundings into her poems.

A vibrant, colorful, and immersive look at an important figure in Jamaica’s cultural history, this is also a universal story of a child finding and trusting her own voice. End matter includes a glossary of Jamaican patois terms, a note about the author’s “own voice” perspective, and a brief biography of Miss Lou and her connection to Canada, where she spent 20 years of her life.  

August 23, 2019

The Starlight Claim: Book launches (Perth, Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston, ON)

It's not a sequel but it shares commonalities with

Tim Wynne-Jones's
Governor General award-winning novel

The Maestro
Written by Tim Wynne-Jones
231 pp.
Ages 11+

and it is launching this fall.

Join author Tim Wynne-Jones

for multiple launches of his new #YA psychological thriller

The Starlight Claim
Written by Tim Wynne-Jones
Candlewick Press
240 pp.
Ages 13+
September 2019


Sunday, September 15, 2019
1-3 p.m.

The Book Nook and Other Treasures
60 Gore Street East
Perth, ON


Monday, September 16, 2019
 6 -8 p.m.

Ben McNally Books
366 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario


Thursday, September 19, 2019
7-9 p.m.

Books on Beechwood
35 Beechwood Avenue
Ottawa, ON


Thursday, October 3, 2019 
7-9 p.m.

Novel Idea Bookstore
156 Princess Street
Kingston, Ontario

Fast-paced, evocative, and intensely suspenseful, Tim Wynne-Jones’s latest psychological thriller finds a teenager setting his wits against the frigid wilderness and a menacing crew of escapees.

Four months after his best friend, Dodge, disappeared near their families’ camp in a boat accident, Nate is still haunted by nightmares. He’d been planning to make the treacherous trek to the remote campsite with a friend — his first time in winter without his survival-savvy father. But when his friend gets grounded, Nate secretly decides to brave the trip solo in a journey that’s half pilgrimage, half desperate hope he will find his missing friend when no one else could. What he doesn’t expect to find is the door to the cabin flung open and the camp occupied by strangers: three men he’s horrified to realize have escaped from a maximum-security prison. Snowed in by a blizzard and with no cell signal, Nate is confronted with troubling memories of Dodge and a stunning family secret, and realizes that his survival now depends on his wits as much as his wilderness skills. As things spiral out of control, Nate finds himself dealing with questions even bigger than who gets to leave the camp alive. 

Retrieved from on July 15, 2019.

August 22, 2019


Written and illustrated by Ani Castillo
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
48 pp.
Ages 4-8
September, 2019 

Ping is both subtly complex and powerfully simple in its message about communication and connecting with others. It says loads about how to do it, when to do it, and the need to accept how others return that communication. Like the game of ping-pong–the premise upon which the story is based–there is a give and take between communicants that must be respected to ensure successful connections are made.
My friend,
in this life...

...we can only PING.

The PONG belongs to the other.
From Ping by Ani Castillo
Ani Castillo highlights the multitude of ways you can Ping (note that the verb "Ping" is always capitalized). It can include using your voice or painting or using a computer. It can be with small or large gestures, and you can Ping to one or many. But it's the approaches to Pinging that are most impressive. With many adverbs, Ani Castillo recommends Pinging freely, generously, wisely, kindly, persistently, hopefully, and mindfully. However, even with those intentions, you must still wait for the Pong and accept it as given. It may come as expected or not but it will be the basis for new connections regardless.
From Ping by Ani Castillo
Best known for her cartooning, Ani Castillo's illustrations of amorphous characters in Ping will be relatable to all children. They're cute but unrecognizable and could be any person reading this book. But, with Ping, her debut picture book, Ani Castillo has found a voice that communicates with heart as well as art. She helps us see the importance of self-expression but always with thoughtful intent and consideration for the recipients of that expression. In a world of social media and the constant airing of opinions, we need to follow the sage advice that Pinging requires wisdom and responsibility. Regardless of the reciprocating Pong, we must Ping with humanity.  Shouldn't this always be the way with communication?
From Ping by Ani Castillo
Ping is about thoughtful discussion and that is exactly what it will inspire: conversations about how we communicate and how we should. It is learning and teaching in one, all with tenderness and understanding for our need to connect with others and how to do it effectively and with compassion.

August 20, 2019

Anne's Feelings

Inspired by Anne of Green Gables
Written and illustrated by Kelly Hill
Tundra Books
22 pp.
Ages 0-3
May 2019

While many school curricula mandate the teaching very young children to manage their emotions, it's not always easy for kids when they can't identify those feelings in the first place. They may know the way their tummy feels or if their face gets hot and red, but putting names to those emotions and their origins is not always easy. I think that Kelly Hill's latest board book inspired by Lucy M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables can help steer young children to some understanding of basic emotions that include those that are troublesome and those that are uplifting.
From Anne's Feelings by Kelly Hills
In a series of double-spreads of illustration and text, Kelly Hill depicts Anne and a few others as they experience a full range of feelings. They– but mostly Anne–are hopeful, or in the depths of despair, calm or excited, angry, scared, happy, brave, surprised, full of wonder, and loving. From Anne showing hope as she waits for a train that might take her to a real home or excited about ice cream, angry at Gilbert for calling her "Carrots" or showing love for Matthew and Marilla, Kelly Hill's illustrations of each emotion are true to Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic story of the orphan girl who finds a home at Green Gables.
From Anne's Feelings by Kelly Hill
While parents and teachers may be most enamoured with the teachings available in the variety of emotions depicted by the well-loved character, children will be tickled with Kelly Hill's cut fabric and embroidery illustrations. (The book's copyright page and credits on the back cover actually describe the artwork as "created with fabric, thread, embroidery floss, a hint of hope and a drop of bravery.") The artwork is colourful and textured, detailed but without being too busy.
From Anne's Feelings by Kelly Hill
Use Anne's Feelings to introduce lessons about feelings but don't forget to use it as a wonderful bridge to the inspiration for Kelly Hill's whole series of board books which includes Anne's Colors, Anne's Numbers and Anne's Alphabet. Anne would surely support the books that bring "simple pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."

August 19, 2019

Gaawin Gindaaswin Ndaawsii, kimotinâniwiw itwêwina, & Nibi Emosaawdang

This September, Second Story Press will release a trio of translations for previously-published picture books of stories based in Indigenous peoples' experiences. By sharing these stories in dual-language editions, the publisher is inviting new readers of Plains Cree, Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) and Nishnaabemwin (Ojibwe) to draw personal connections with the text while also encouraging discussion and influence on English-language readers. This is especially meaningful and appropriate as we become more and more aware of the necessity to embrace all cultures and meet demands for multilingual editions of stories.

The English-language editions of the three picture books, both non-fiction and fictionalized accounts based on true events, have all been reviewed here on CanLit for LittleCanadians but here are their translations, presented in dual-language editions, which are set for release September 10, 2019:

Gaawin Gindaaswin Ndaawsii/I Am Not a Number
Gaa-zhibiigeuwaad/written by Jenny Kay Dupuis minwa/and Kathy Kacer
Gaa-mzinbiiged/illustrated by Gillian Newland
Gaa-aankanoobiigewaad/translated by Muriel Sawyer minwa/and Geraldine McLeod
Gaa-waadookaaged/with contributions by Tory Fisher
Second Story Press
44 pp.
Ages 7-11
September 2019

English edition (978-1-927583-94-4), 2016

kimotinâniwiw itwêwina/Stolen Words
omasinahikêw/written by Melanie Florence
otâpasinahikêw/illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
translated by Dolores Sand êkwa
Gayle Weenie kî-nêhiyawastâwak
Second Story Press
28 pp.
Ages 6-9
September 2019

English language edition (978-1-77260-037-7), 2017

Nibi Emosaawdang/The Water Walker
Gaa-zhi-biiyang miiniwaa gaa-mzinbiiyaang/written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson
Gaa-aankinootimaagejig/translated by Shirley Williams miiniwaa/and Isadore Toulouse
Second Story Press
40 pp.
Ages 6-9
September 2019

English language version (978-1-77260-038-4), 2017

Each of these poignant stories take on issues which are at the heart of the Indigenous experience, whether it be residential schools, loss of language and culture, or environmentalism and activism. The stories are well told and heartfelt but, with these translations, readers will gain a different perspective that opens up possibilities for learning, discussion and impact. I encourage teachers to make use of these editions, even if they have copies of the original English language versions, to promote those discussions and inclusivity, especially in a land where we need to do so much more to build supportive communities.

August 16, 2019

Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe

Written by Henry Beaver and Mindy Willett
with Eileen Beaver
Photographs by Tessa Macintosh
Fifth House Publishers
34 pp.
Ages 9-12
May 2019

We can't tell you what to do with the truths we share in this book, but we hope that reading our story will help you get to know us a little better so that together we can make this nation a place we can all be proud of.

With his opening, Henry Beaver explains his intention for Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe. He and his wife Eileen Beaver live in Fort Smith, NWT and through time have taught their children and now their grandchildren about their culture and their ways.  Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe is an opportunity to teach others the same.
From Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe by Henry Beaver, Mindy Willett and Eileen Beaver, photos by Tessa Macintosh
With their grandchildren visiting, Henry Beaver and Eileen Beaver introduce them to a variety of activities, places and learning that comes from living where and as they and their ancestors have. There is the harvesting of salt from the Salt Plains, and trapping of the beaver as well as preparation of its hide and meat. Henry Beaver shows his grandchildren how to set up a mikiwawhp (tipi) and prepare a scared fire circle. As a retired educator, Eileen Beaver shares her teaching about the medicine wheel, smudging, sacred plants and storytelling including her telling of How the Female Moose Lost her Beautiful Antlers
From Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe by Henry Beaver, Mindy Willett and Eileen Beaver, photos by Tessa Macintosh
Amidst the richness of their activities and teachings, the authors also share details about the Salt Plains and Wood Buffalo National Park, the Nēhiyaw or Cree, and the Salt River First Nation, as well as including a glossary and short list of Cree words. Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe may only scratch the surface of the teachings that Henry Beaver and Eileen Beaver and other elders can and have shared with others but it's a wonderful introduction that places young readers into their culture. Co-authored by Mindy Willett, who has been integral to the whole The Land is Our Storybook series, and documented in photographs by Tessa Macintosh, Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe shows us the actuality of what it is to be Cree in the NWT and to live on the land.

Tapwe means "it is so" or "the truth" and so it is in this exemplary non-fiction book for young readers which will surely engage and educate.
From Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe by Henry Beaver, Mindy Willett and Eileen Beaver, photos by Tessa Macintosh

The Land is Our Storybook series, which includes several in French translation, is a great starting point for teaching the culture of Indigenous peoples from a child's perspective. There are now nine titles in this series, written at an early reader-middle grade level and featuring photographs that take readers into the heart of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Indigenous communities in Canada.

August 14, 2019

The Playgrounds of Babel

Written by JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Piet Grobler
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 5-10
August 2019

From JonArno Lawson, the author of the award-winning Sidewalk Flowers (illustrated by Sydney Smith, Groundwood, 2015), comes another important story about differences and communication that demonstrates we are far less disparate than appearances may suggest.
From The Playgrounds of Babel by JonArno Lawson, illus. by Piet Grobler
The story begins with a kerchief-clad woman telling a story to a group of children. Her language, in the hand-drawn speech bubbles, is a series of lines, dots, and shapes. One boy translates for his friend, who clearly does not understand the woman, and so begins an updated version of the Tower of Babel biblical story. The dark-haired translator shares how at one time everyone spoke the same language until they attempted to build a tower to reach God. In response, God sent a dragon to destroy the tower and confounded their speech into many different languages. The boy's fair-haired friend interjects about not believing in God and knowing there's no dragon in the story but his friend persists. He focuses his story, or rather the woman's story, on two girls who suddenly cannot speak to one another.
From The Playgrounds of Babel by JonArno Lawson, illus. by Piet Grobler
Amidst their crying at this turn of events, the girls hug and realize that the songs they'd sung before could be the commonality they need. Though the words are different, they now "had a way to translate, because they knew they were singing exactly the same thing in two different languages."
From The Playgrounds of Babel by JonArno Lawson, illus. by Piet Grobler
Author JonArno Lawson explains the origins of his story in his Author's Note and, while it has a personal foundation from his own childhood and from the inquisitiveness of his own daughter, The Playgrounds of Babel extends far beyond these sparks. It speaks to the opportunities our differences provide to make our world richer not weaker. Throughout the story, a variety of languages are "spoken" from the birds who speak in terms of berries or caterpillars and snakes who speak in Ss as well as backward Ss. Everyone has a language that may be different from another but still allows them to communicate. Even in the world from which the boys and storyteller speak, there is more than just the words. There is imagination and the need to suspend disbelief and to see that God could whistle for a dragon to return to the heavens.

South African artist Piet Grobler provides the illustrations that blend harshness with wonder in a story within a story. I like that the contemporary setting from which the boys and the storyteller speak is dark and stark, until the end, and the world of the two girls is colourful and diverse. It reminds us that the storyteller brings the richness of colour to a story, even if it's one based in conflict or difficulty. Using watercolour and ink (including the dip pen to produce lines of varying thickness), Piet Grobler contrasts the two worlds and changes the reader's perspective repeatedly.

The Playgrounds of Babel has a powerful message about communication and differences but it's also about telling stories and realizing that anything can be real if we believe.

August 12, 2019

A youngCanLit booklist for World Elephant Day: August 12

I know many a child and adult for whom elephants are a favourite animal. Celebrate the world's elephants and ensure their preservation and protection by instilling an appreciation for these gentle and powerful giants through these books of youngCanLit. Among the picture books, early readers, non-fiction, middle grade and even young adult, there is learning from information, entertainment through humour and much insight into elephants. In other words, there's something for every reader!

Board Books and Picture Books

Fatima and the Clementine Thieves
Written by Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
Reviewed here

My Dog is An Elephant
Written by Rémy Simard
Illustrated by Pierre Pratt
32 pp.
Ages 4-8

Nancy Knows
Written and illustrated by Cybèle Young
40 pp.
Ages 307

Written and illustrated by Paola Opal
Simply Read
24 pp.
Ages 2-5

Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave
Written by Ruth James
Illustrated by Kent Laforme
Page Two Books
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
Reviewed here

Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper!: A Masai Tale
Written by Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by Barbara Spurll
Clarion Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-8

What Elephant?
Written and illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7

Early Readers, Middle Grade Fiction and Young Adult

Big City Otto (Elephants Never Forget 1)
Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press
88 pp.
Ages 8-11

Big Star Otto (Elephants Never Forget 3)
Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press
96 pp.
Ages 8-11

Big Top Otto (Elephants Never Forget 2)
Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press
80 pp.
Ages 8-11

Elephant Secret
Written by Eric Walters
Puffin Canada
352 pp.
Ages 9-12

Follow the Elephant 
Written by Beryl Young
Ronsdale Press
248 pp.
Ages 10-13

Ghost Boy
Written by Iain Lawrence
Laurel Leaf
252 pp.
Ages 12+

Just So Stories (Volume I)
Written by Rudyard Kipling
Illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood Books
64 pp.
Ages 5+
Reviewed here

5 Elephants 
Written by Rob Laidlaw
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
88 pp.
Ages 8-13

Animal Aha! Thrilling Discoveries in Wildlife Science
Written by Diane Swanson
48 pp.
Ages 7-11

Animals That Changed the World
Written by Keltie Thomas
112 pp.
Ages 8-12

Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity
Written by Rob Laidlaw
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
40 pp.
Ages 8-13

The Elephant Keeper: Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia
Written by Margriet Ruurs
Illustrated by Pedro Covo
Kids Can Press
48 pp.
Ages 8-12

Elephant Rescue
Written by Jody Morgan
Firefly Books
64 pp.
Ages 10-13

Elephants: Life in the Wild
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Michael Maydak
Random House Books for Young Readers
48 pp.
Ages 5-8

Endangered Elephants
Written by Bobbie Kalman
Crabtree Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 8-12

Our Future: How Kids Are Taking Action (Kid Activists)
Written and illustrated by Janet Wilson
Second Story Press
32 pp.
Ages 7-12
September 2019

Welcome to the World of Elephants
Written by Diane Swanson
32 pp.
Ages 5-11