August 16, 2019

Sharing Our Truths/Tapwe

Written by Henry Beaver and Mindy Willett
with Eileen Beaver
Photographs by Tessa Macintosh
Fifth House Publishers
978-1-92708352-9
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
978-1-77306-036-1
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
2017
Reviewed here

 
My Dog is An Elephant
Written by Rémy Simard
Illustrated by Pierre Pratt
Annick
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
1994

Nancy Knows
Written and illustrated by Cybèle Young
Tundra
40 pp.
Ages 307
2014

Ollie
Written and illustrated by Paola Opal
Simply Read
24 pp.
Ages 2-5
2020

Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave
Written by Ruth James
Illustrated by Kent Laforme
Page Two Books
978-1-989025420
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
2019
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
1991

What Elephant?
Written and illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
2006





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
2011

Big Star Otto (Elephants Never Forget 3)
Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press
96 pp.
Ages 8-11
2015


Big Top Otto (Elephants Never Forget 2)
Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press
80 pp.
Ages 8-11
2013



Elephant Secret
Written by Eric Walters
Puffin Canada
352 pp.
Ages 9-12
2018

Follow the Elephant 
Written by Beryl Young
Ronsdale Press
248 pp.
Ages 10-13
2010

Ghost Boy
Written by Iain Lawrence
Laurel Leaf
252 pp.
Ages 12+
2002

Just So Stories (Volume I)
Written by Rudyard Kipling
Illustrated by Ian Wallace
Groundwood Books
64 pp.
Ages 5+
2013
Reviewed here




Non-Fiction
5 Elephants 
Written by Rob Laidlaw
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
88 pp.
Ages 8-13
2014

Animal Aha! Thrilling Discoveries in Wildlife Science
Written by Diane Swanson
Annick
48 pp.
Ages 7-11
2009

Animals That Changed the World
Written by Keltie Thomas
Annick
112 pp.
Ages 8-12
2010

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
2015

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
2017

Elephant Rescue
Written by Jody Morgan
Firefly Books
64 pp.
Ages 10-13
2004

Elephants: Life in the Wild
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Michael Maydak
Random House Books for Young Readers
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
2000

Endangered Elephants
Written by Bobbie Kalman
Crabtree Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 8-12
2005

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
Walrus
32 pp.
Ages 5-11
2011





🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘

August 09, 2019

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat

Written by Caroline Adderson
Illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-964-5
128 pp.
Ages 8-11
April 2019

Pudding Tat, so named for the special dessert Farmer Willoughby brought to his Wellington County barn cats on Christmas Day, was always a concern for his mother. White as snow and eyes as pink as his tongue, Pudding could not catch mice or avoid dangers as well as Mother Tat had taught her kittens. But, when his siblings are pushed to leave the barn, Pudding literally gets a flea in his ear that encourages him to do the same. That flea, tired of the loud partying of the others, steers Pudding to water, hopeful of drowning his fellow parasites, while keeping the cat safe as a host. 
From The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat by Caroline Adderson, illus. by Stacy Innerst
With each new chapter, Pudding and his flea evolve, developing their relationship from one based in parasitism to one of mutualism. Their first major adventure starts in 1901 when they join Annie Edson Taylor for her barrel ride over Niagara Falls. Next, Pudding and his flea travel to Buffalo, New York, and the site of the Pan-American Exposition. En route, they see the discrimination levelled against the African American railway porters and the indentured child street musicians. They are present when President McKinley is shot and when Vincent Bryan and Gus Edwards compose “In My Merry Oldsmobile” – a tribute to Gus’s new car. In 1910, they’re on-board as Walter Wellman and his crew attempt their first cross-Atlantic airship flight. They even survive the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and a crossing into No Man’s Land at the beginning of the famous Christmas Truce during World War I. While they experience long periods of confinement and hunger, there are moments of opulence, filled with comfort and food. And there is always music to which Pudding Tat is drawn. Relying so much on his hearing, he is lured by songs sung and instruments played, taking him into new circumstances, sometimes comfortable, sometimes perilous. In the end, cat and flea make their way home, having defied all expectations had for and by the visually-impaired feline.

Caroline Adderson, author of award-winning books for adults and children – including Middle of Nowhere (Groundwood, 2012) – blends the right mix of history and fictional narrative to create a story of cooperation, resiliency and risk-taking. She gives Pudding Tat the voice of a modest but heartfelt hero, albeit an accidental one, who experiences big adventures but is surprised by his exploits. He really is a feline Forrest Gump. His poor eyesight and lack of camouflage may make him vulnerable but it doesn’t stop him from living beyond them. With Stacy Innerst’s multi-panelled graphics detailing the breadth of Pudding Tat’s adventures in each chapter, it’s clear that, like the period of innovation in which he lived, the white feline reached beyond his potential and achieved more than expected.

🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈

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

Kubiw, H. (2019, May 7). Review of the book The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat. Quill & Quire. https://quillandquire.com/review/the-mostly-true-story-of-pudding-tat-adventuring-cat/

August 08, 2019

Meet Elsie MacGill (Scholastic Canada Biography)

Written by Elizabeth MacLeod
Illustrated by Mike Deas
Scholastic Canada
978-1-4431-7020-8
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
July 2019


Book 4 in the illustrated biography series Scholastic Canada Biography written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas focuses on Elizabeth (Elsie) MacGill, an aeronautical engineer–in fact, the first woman in the world to earn a master's degree in aeronautical engineering–and a staunch fighter for women's rights in Canada.
From Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas
Though born in 1905, when many girls did not have the same schooling opportunities as boys, Elsie was encouraged, like her siblings, to study hard and get a good education. She became the first woman in Canada to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, before becoming enamoured with aeronautics. Though stricken with polio, she earned her master's degree in aeronautical engineering and worked hard to recover and pursue her interest in planes. She tested airplanes and their designs before accepting the position as chief aeronautical engineer at the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.
From Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas
Now Elsie MacGill was designing planes and helping to build the Hawker Hurricanes which were needed for the war effort, as well as helping train women in the job of manufacturing parts and assembling them into the fighter planes.
From Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas
After World War II, Elsie continued to place her mark in history, working for women's rights in Canada, advising the UN International Civil Aviation Organization and earning numerous accolades and awards.

There is so much to recognize in Elsie MacGill's accomplishments to science and engineering and women's rights that author Elizabeth MacLeod might have been challenged where to focus her story. However, she captures the big picture that is Elsie MacGill, from her family's push for education and women's rights–her trail-blazing mother, Helen Gregory MacGill, was one of Canada's first woman judges and a suffragette–to her education, illness, employment and push for equality. Elsie MacGill's life was extraordinary, as was she, and her accomplishments are featured fittingly in Meet Elsie MacGill without excessive text, the downfall of many biographies for young readers. With Mike Deas's illustrations, a blending of gouache, watercolours and ink media and digital tools, Elsie MacGill's story is given colour and form. The aeronautical engineer, determined to follow her engineering dreams into the skies, regardless of her need for a cane, goes to work on every page, whether repairing a lamp, creating blueprints for planes or shouting down a male chauvinist to help ensure equal rights for women.

It's sad that almost 40 years after Elsie MacGill's death in 1980, we are still trying to promote women in the sciences and engineering and fighting for equality in the world, just as Elsie MacGill had in the mid-20th century. But, with Elizabeth MacLeod and Mike Deas's story of this exceptional woman, girls and young women will know about Elsie MacGill's accomplishments which were all based on her determination to make the world a better place through hard work and egalitarianism.


Check out the earlier volumes in the Scholastic Canada Biography series written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas:

August 06, 2019

Lili Macaroni

Written by Nicole Testa
Illustrated by Annie Boulanger
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-093-2
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
August 2019

It's too bad that school, a place of opportunity and learning, can be such a stressful experience for some young children. In fact, it can cause so much anxiety that they need to develop coping strategies to get through. That's a problem with the system, not the child, though it is difficult to see the troubles as anything but internal and very personal. Fortunately for Lili, she learns something about making things tolerable for herself and helps out others in the process.
From Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illus. by Annie Boulanger
Lili can see her family in her hair, in her freckles, her eyes and her laughter. Her joie de vivre fills her days with love and imaginative play. When Lili is old enough to go to school, she looks forward to learning and meeting new friends. She does learn much, including about butterflies and moths. But when her new friends make fun of her last name, calling her Lili Macaroni-and-cheese, and her hair, eyes, freckles and laugh, Lili's joy begins to leak from her.
Why didn't Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa tell me that it wasn't good to be Lili Macaroni?
From Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illus. by Annie Boulanger
Though she'd always said "I am the way I am," Lili is now envisioning herself as a dark-haired girl with no freckles. But Sophia is not her.
From Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illus. by Annie Boulanger
Her dad suggests she draw one of her lovely polka-dotted butterflies to "help fly the heartache away." Clipping it to her shoulder, Lili feels the weight of the teasing leave her. It's a strategy she shares with her teacher who in turn shares Lili's butterfly solution with all her students.
From Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illus. by Annie Boulanger
Teasing can be playful but it can also be bullying and very young children don't always know when one has become the other. In the mean while, there are little ones like Lili who must endure humiliating comments about their physical appearance and then wish they were anyone other than themselves. Fortunately, author Nicole Testa surrounds Lili with some very astute adults who recognize the little girl's need to feel good about being herself. Without hoovering up her bad feelings or demanding the school take action, they allow Lili to make her coping strategy work for her.  It's positive and it's empowering.

Quebec illustrator Annie Boulanger, who illustrated Nicole Testa's French-language Lili Macaroni: Je suis comme je suis! (Dominique et compagnie, 2017), gives Lili all the attributes the text imbues her with. She's a little wild, a lot of fun, and a whole lot of smart. She's colourful and inquisitive and enthusiastic. But when she' sad, the light is gone from her eyes and her clothing and the page.
From Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illus. by Annie Boulanger
For young children going off to school for the first time, Lili Macaroni will help prepare them to recognize teasing that is insensitive and harmful and help them handle it for themselves as well as for others.

August 03, 2019

Paint the Town Pink

Written and illustrated by Lori Doody
Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides
978-1-927917213
44 pp.
Ages 3-8
July 2019

Lori Doody is very good about bringing stories from Newfoundland to the bright illustrations of her picture books. In The Puffin Problem (2017), Capelin Weather (2017) and Mallard, Mallard, Moose (2018), she takes odd kernels of truth and germinates them into radiant stories of importance. She does the same in Paint the Town Pink by taking the true story of an accidental flamingo and creates a book about finding one's tribe and acceptance.
Once, on a particularly windy day,
a stranger arrived in town.
From Paint the Town Pink by Lori Doody
So begins the tale of Rose, the flamingo, who arrives in town and tickles the locals into thinking and living pink.
From Paint the Town Pink by Lori Doody
As she searches for a flock of her own, among pink-dressed bridesmaids at the Colonial Building, flamenco dancers, pink poodles, yoga enthusiasts and "a funny bunch of small flamingos who liked to visit a new lawn every day," the town begins to transform. The vehicles become pink, there is a rise in pink foods like ice cream, lemonade, macarons and cotton candy, and everyone starts wearing pink clothing. They even start painting their buildings because "Everyone did their best to make her feel like she belonged." Rose had found her new home.
From Paint the Town Pink by Lori Doody
There really have been pink flamingos that have flown off-course and ended up in Newfoundland, though their tales are not as inspired as Rose's in Paint the Town Pink.  But Lori Doody's story is not really about them. It is instead a story about being a stranger in a strange place and finding a way to make it home but only with the assistance of those who have come before. I know Rose is a flamingo but her story is a universal one of being out of place, feeling isolated, looking for commonalities, and finding acceptance from those who make an effort to embrace diversity as important.

It's lovely that Lori Doody's story is based on the flamingo and the colour pink. To be "in the pink" or "tickled pink" or having things "coming up roses" are all positive sentiments and the tints and shades with which she paints the town are similarly cheerful. Against a blue-grey sky, the streetscapes are bright and lively. Though Lori Doody's illustrations are generally uncomplicated in their design, they hold details that will delight. From the many cats in the windows and playing with yarn, to the names of businesses and music albums that highlight the colour pink, there is so much to observe and consider. Moreover, with her folk art approach to her illustrations, Lori Doody firmly plants Rose and her readers into a Newfoundland of colour and vivacity. It's no wonder that, with a town invigorated with pink from inside and out, Rose would find it a welcoming place.
From Paint the Town Pink by Lori Doody