December 07, 2022

Anne: An Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (Sort Of): Guest review

This review was written by Grade 8 student Hasini K.

Written and illustrated by Kathleen Gros
Quill Tree Books (HarperCollins)
304 pp.
Ages 8-13
October 2022
From the classic story of Anne of Green Gables comes this incredible adaptation. This is a story that takes place in our modern world with the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters and plot lines that improve the story and allows it to reach a wider audience in the present era.
From Anne: An Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (Sort Of) by Kathleen Gros
Anne Shirley is a teenager in the foster system, and she’s sick of it. She’s already moved from one house to another, from one foster placement to the next. Anne is tired of starting over every time she has to move. So, when Alexandra, Anne's social worker, tells the girl the exciting news that she's about to move to another place, Anne has mixed feelings. She’s so grateful that someone wants her and really hopes it will work out but a part of her wonders if she'll just end up back in the system afterwards.
From Anne: An Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (Sort Of) by Kathleen Gros
However, things don’t start off as she hopes. When she first meets Matthew Cuthbert, her new foster guardian, he seems confused. When they arrive at the Avon-lea, the apartment building where the Cuthberts live, we learn that Matthew and his sister Marilla had been expecting a younger kid. Anne is devastated and is sure that she'll be sent back, especially when Marilla calls Alexandra. Explaining about a glitch in the system, Alexandra asks them to keep Anne until they can arrange something else. Anne is determined to try her best to make sure the Cuthberts keep her.

But, Anne quickly finds herself in trouble, from physically hurting a classmate to accidentally dyeing her hair green. The Cuthberts may be cool, but Anne worries that she may be too much for them. Still, she has other worries, including developing feelings for her closest friend Diana. Anne wants to ask Diana to the winter dance but what if Diana doesn't feel the same way? You'll need to read Kathleen Gros's book to find out if Anne finally ends up finding her forever home.
From Anne: An Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (Sort Of) by Kathleen Gros
Anne: An Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (Sort Of) is not the kind of book I usually read, but I absolutely enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to readers in Grade 6 and up. In the book, Anne struggles a lot with embracing her appearance, and I love how she gained confidence throughout the story. Kathleen Gros turned the story into something which everyone could relate to, from being the new kid to trying to find friends and fitting in. Although I haven't read the original Anne of Green Gables–I'm very tempted to do so after finishing this book–I think Kathleen Gros's graphic novel version will appeal more to this generation of readers, especially with its diversity and gorgeous artwork and very appealing colours. But most important is Kathleen Gros's message that families come in different forms, and they are all worthy of love, no matter how crazy they may be.
~ Written by Hasini K., Age 13

December 06, 2022

Do You Know Quantum Physics? (Brainy Science Readers)

Written by Chris Ferrie
Text adapted by Brooke Vitale
Illustrations by Chris Ferrie and Lindsay Dale-Scott
Sourcebooks Explore
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
November 2022

The field of quantum physics would seem a challenging STEM topic for adults, much less for children. But one thing Chris Ferrie does very well is distilling down complex scientific ideas into manageable bites and he does the same for quantum physics with his latest in the early reader series called Brainy Science Readers. With clear and concise text and illustrations, and analogies between balls and parts of an atom, Chris Ferrie introduces young readers to atoms, electrons, neutrons, protons, energy, and quanta.
From Do You Know Quantum Physics? by Chris Ferrie, illus. by Chris Ferrie and Lindsay Dale-Scott
STEM books tend to be either extensive middle-grade non-fiction texts or picture books that embed a scientific concept within. Do You Know Quantum Physics? is very different in that it is an early reader devoted to the concept of the quantum theory of the atom at its heart. The illustrations carry the message, but the words are dedicated to explaining what an atom and its component particles are and how electrons gain or lose energy. The vocabulary is appropriate for beginning readers and the repetition of words helps highlight key ideas. Moreover, the digitally-rendered artwork by Chris Ferrie and Lindsay Dale-Scott always matches the text directly, allowing for improved retention of the ideas. Chris Ferrie has not wrapped the learning in a story of a little electron looking for its friends or home. It's just the science of how things work. Because of that, it hits the mark. 
From Do You Know Quantum Physics? by Chris Ferrie, illus. by Chris Ferrie and Lindsay Dale-Scott
The Brainy Science series aims to "improve reading skills while immersing children into scientific theory." (pg. 1) And while quantum physics may not be on many, if any, pre-school through Grade 2 curricula, Do You Know Quantum Physics?, with its simplicity of text, ball analogy and bold illustrations, will be a fabulous introduction to the atom.
From Do You Know Quantum Physics? by Chris Ferrie, illus. by Chris Ferrie and Lindsay Dale-Scott
(Marie Curie even makes a very brief appearance.)

December 05, 2022

Kids Write 4 Kids Creative Challenge

We know that kids who read gain worthy skills in language, knowledge, critical thinking and far more. And writing is just as worthwhile, allowing them to express their individuality while giving them opportunities to develop their imaginations and creativity. I encourage young people, and their teachers and parents, to consider entering this free annual writing challenge from the Ripple Foundation, a Canadian educational charity that is run 100% by volunteers. Its mission is to advocate for creative literacy in young people through a variety of programs including the Kids Write 4 Kids Creative Writing Challenge. Check out the details below and get your kids writing!

Challenge: Single authors (no partners or groups) are invited to submit an original story, written in English, with a maximum of 5000 words. It can be fact or fiction, prose or poetry. (A story checklist here will help direct your writing as will these tips.) There is no entry fee!
Eligible participants:  Canadian residents enrolled as full-time students (public, private, institutional or home schools) in Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 at the time of their entry are eligible.
    (There are some other restrictions related to employees, agents, and representatives of Ripple, yada, yada, yada, which you can check out here.)
What to submit:  A story of maximum 5,000 words (includes the words “a,” “an,” and “the"), typed in 12 pt Times black font and in a .doc or .docx format.
How to submit:  Entries must be made by either the parent/guardian of the minor author of the submission or by the author’s teacher with the author’s parent/guardian’s permission at the following link:

Deadline for submissions: 11:59:59 pm ET on March 31, 2023
Judging Criteria: Entries will be judged on the following criteria:
  •     Creativity and originality of plot and/or themes (40%)
  •     Story structure, characters, and setting (40%)
  •     Style and tone i.e., the quality of writing (20%)
Prize: The winner with the highest score (see judging details here) will be published in a professional e-book and paperback book by the Ripple Foundation and sold on Amazon, Apple, Google Play and Overdrive with proceeds donated to the author's Canadian charity of choice.

Prize announcement:   June 1st, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario.

December 02, 2022

How to Be a Goldfish

Written by Jane Baird Warren
Scholastic Canada
240 pp.
Ages 9-12
October 2022
Most kids will end up doing a family tree or genealogical research sometime in school. Many will have family members they can talk to or use the internet to seek details. But, in 1981, when given a family history project called "Every Family Has a Hero," 13-year-old Lizzie Ross wonders how she's ever going to manage. Her family is basically her mother Susan and her grandmother Emma. Her grandfather had died in the war, and her mother had never married the man who'd fathered Lizzie. Thankfully Lizzie does have Harry, the elderly farmer next door, who cares for her after school. Harry, on the other hand, certainly has some stories, from being sent to Canada as a Home Child to saving a man at Juno Beach. When her mom, a lawyer, heads to nearby Toronto, to help in the defence of gay men who were being harassed by the police after the infamous bathhouse raids–it is 1981–Lizzie goes digging into old family photos and memorabilia hoping to get something to present.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, eleven-year-old David Macrath is still trying to adjust to his new life after the passing of his grandfather with whom David and his mom Carla had once lived. Now they live with Mom's latest boyfriend and her boss, Cameron Kelch, above his real estate office. At home, David is dealing with Kelch who wants David to man up and play sports and forget about his comics, movies, and favourite Star Wars. In fact, Kelch would love to send David away to boarding school, especially as he has big plans to develop the land and farm which Carla inherits from her father.

When David, his mom and Kelch head out to check out the farm and find Harry living there, the two story lines come together, with the two kids becoming allies. But will their alliance help them to save Harry's farm and protect the families they want and deserve?

Because this is historical fiction, author Jane Baird Warren embeds the reader in a time of the original Star Wars, the bathhouse raids and homophobia, no cell phones or computers–hence no easy genealogical research–and more. But this really is a story of family and family secrets and thus has no time constraints. It's about making family from bits and pieces, sometimes related and sometimes not. And that is a story for all times, regardless of the setting. By making family the focus, young readers will recognize the different configurations of family as authentic, though Lizzie and David still have to deal with small-mindedness related to those families.

As someone who lived in the 1980s, I can attest to the turbulent times. The news was rife with protests, war, strikes, riots, homophobia, and all manner of discontent. But it was also a time of learning and understanding with the opportunity to see that diversity enriched our lives and that different did not mean bad. How to Be a Goldfish reminds us that, in the right environment and with people in our corners, we can flourish and be and do better.

November 30, 2022

Chickadee Criminal Mastermind: Guest review

This review was written by teacher Elizabeth Cook.
Written by Monica Silvie 
Illustrated by Elina Ellis
Kids Can Press
36 pp.
Ages 4-7
June 2022

A Chickadee Criminal Mastermind? This book captured my interest right away. The story is narrated by the chickadee himself and it starts with him telling the reader how the forest has a criminal living there. It is him, calling himself "a real rapscallion and all-around bad seed.” He then explains to the other animals, and the readers, how he started his life of crime in the forest.
From Chickadee Criminal Mastermind by Monica Silvie, illus. by Elina Ellis
His story starts when he was a pink, featherless baby still in the nest learning all that he could from his parents. After his long childhood of sixteen days, he flew off to start his own adult life in the forest. He quickly discovered that finding food was of the utmost importance and that it got harder and harder as winter encroached on the forest. As such, he had to start stealing from the mother lode of all treasures…a box full of bird seed hanging from the tree branches. Using a map reminiscent of Kevin's battle plan from the movie “Home Alone,” the chickadee steals his seed each day. This may have made him a well-fed “King of Thieves” in the forest…but it also made him lonely.
From Chickadee Criminal Mastermind by Monica Silvie, illus. by Elina Ellis
One day, when Chickadee hears young children gleefully watching him, he remembers one of his parents' lessons about something called a bird feeder. They'd told him that a bird feeder was a safe place for birds. Realizing this, Chickadee wonders if he perhaps isn't the "bad seed" he'd always seen himself as and that perhaps his forest peers might now become his friends. In fact, it looks like he just might make one new friend when another chickadee appears.
From Chickadee Criminal Mastermind by Monica Silvie, illus. by Elina Ellis
This picture book by BC's Monica Silvie is adorable. From the outset, I was engaged with the story of this criminal mastermind bird. Monica Silvie’s writing helps the reader see the humour in a story of our chickadee while still teaching readers quite a bit about these common birds. I found myself cheering for the little chickadee on his adventures as a “King of Thieves” and also in his quest to make friends. The story is appended with additional information about chickadees, including sources for further research. The artwork by Ukrainian-born UK-resident Elina Ellis is quite precious as she brings expressions to our dear chickadee that really help the reader feel connected to him.

This story will be a delight to share in classrooms and with children in your home. As a teacher, I am already thinking of some great activities including watching for chickadees in the forest behind my school, making bird feeders with the students, and even some creative writing from Chickadee’s perspective. This book will also tie in nicely with many science curricula. You definitely want this delightful book in your school library.

~ Elizabeth Cook is a teacher in the Halton District School Board. She is an avid reader and fan of Canadian literature.  


November 28, 2022

Cocoa Magic

Written by Sandra Bradley
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
November 2022

There is much kindness in giving gifts in secret, in not expecting thanks or acknowledgement. It's giving for the sake of giving and not for reciprocity or reward. With the holiday season upon us, Sandra Bradley's book of Cocoa Magic, deliciously illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, reminds us of the goodness of giving.
From Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Daniel's Great Uncle Lewis is known as the Cocoa King of Charlottetown. From a very young child, Daniel learned the magic that came from a cocoa bean when vanilla, sugar and milk were added. By the time he is eight, he is spending an hour crafting chocolate into treasures at his uncle's shop before he is delivered to school.
From Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard

When a new girl, Sarah, arrives at school, looking a little hesitant, Daniel comes up with a plan to make her feel more welcome. The day after her arrival, he slips a gold box with a single chocolate caramel into her desk. Like magic, when she opens the little box, Sarah smiles for the first time. He repeats this for several days, with a luscious vanilla fudge, a coconut cream and a piece of nougat. And each day Sarah seems less scared and more cheerful.

Then Daniel notices Ben watching Sarah enjoy her treat and decides to surprise the boy too with some magic. Was it the chocolate that made Ben a little kinder that day? Everywhere Daniel looks, it seems someone needs to be touched by a little cocoa magic. With a tearful classmate and an injured boy and more, Daniel enlists his uncle's help in delivering little boxes to the whole class.
From Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Then his uncle goes away to the World's Chocolatiers' Conference in Switzerland and must close the shop for five days. Daniel is devastated. He misses his uncle, working in the shop and he worries that without their secret chocolate gifts, the joy would disappear from his classmates. He's wrong. In fact, his classmates bring the magic to Daniel when he needs it.

What a wonderful story of empathy! Daniel understands Sarah's nervousness at attending a new school, one which he himself finds cold and lonely, and then sees what his other classmates are feeling. He sees their distresses and finds a way, his way, to make them feel better. Sandra Bradley, a clinical social worker and therapist, makes the story of Cocoa Magic one of kindness without expectation of reciprocity. She shows the positive nature of giving both on the recipient and the giver. It is only when children feel safe and secure that they can appreciate the emotional needs of others and Daniel, embraced in the warmth of his uncle and his chocolate shop, has the capacity for that empathy. But by showing empathy for his classmates, Daniel gives them the capacity to feel for others. That is magic in itself.
From endpapers of Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Gabrielle Grimard's illustrations, created with watercolour, gouache, coloured pencil and digital media, are filled with the sweetness of love, kindness, generosity and confections. (The endpapers are filled with an assortment of confectionary delectables too!) Though Gabrielle Grimard transports readers to the 1920s when boys wore knickerbockers, school desks had lift-tops and inkwell holes, and a special treat didn't need to be expensive or extravagant, she makes Sandra Bradley's story contemporary enough that young readers will see themselves in the diverse students who feel fear, sadness, pain and especially joy. 

There may be magic in the cocoa and the sugar but most of it comes from the empathy demonstrated through the gift giving. Perhaps at this time of year, that's the important message to cherish from Cocoa Magic.

November 23, 2022

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Celebration of Nature

By Briana Corr Scott
Nimbus Publishing
32 pp.
All Ages
November 2022
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas out there: snow on the ground, nip in the air and Christmas songs on rotation. It may be a little early for counting down the advent calendar or the twelve days of Christmas–technically between December 25 and Epiphany–but the joy of art in Briana Corr Scott's new picture book is a lovely way to herald the joy of the season in the natural world.
From The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Celebration of Nature by Briana Corr Scott
Nova Scotian artist and author Briana Corr Scott maintains the traditional symbols of the twelve days: the partridge, turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, golden rings, geese a-laying, swans a-swimming, ladies dancing, lords a-leaping, pipers piping and drummers drumming. But she embeds them in a natural world of birds and other animals, playing with the words and their meaning. For example, though the milkmaids are often depicted as young women at their farm task, Briana Corr Scott has eight monarch butterflies working milkweed. The drummers are northern flickers, a common drumming woodpecker of Canada. And the ladies are ladybugs on flowers of echinacea and mums among other plants. The words are familiar, but the images are uniquely of the natural world–as explained by Briana Corr Scott in her afterword–and bustling with the life of the outdoors.
From The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Celebration of Nature by Briana Corr Scott
Briana Corr Scott uses gouache and oil paints to create these lovely double-spreads of ethereal scenes of fauna and flora, often using rose, teal, and gold to emulate the warmth and coolness of nature. As with her earlier books–Mermaid Lullaby, Wildflower, The Book of Selkie, and She Dreams of Sable IslandBriana Corr Scott keeps us in the outdoors, contemplating the interactions between plants and animals and the interrelationship of all living things. This could have been a counting book for young kids–and it could still work that way–or a fun predictable read because of the repetition of lines, but when the detailed art is the highlight, with amaryllis, Christmas cactus, cygnets and more hidden in the illustrations,  The Twelve Days of Christmas becomes the celebration of nature Briana Corr Scott intended.
From The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Celebration of Nature by Briana Corr Scott

November 21, 2022

Night Runners

Written and illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Groundwood Books
52 pp.
Ages 3-6
October 2022

Who needs words when art can say so much? Geraldo Valério is one of our most accomplished wordless picture book author-illustrators, telling rich stories in the natural world with a luxuriance of colour and shape and teeming with interaction that supersedes words. Night Runners is his newest.
From Night Runners by Geraldo Valério
In Night Runners, a stag–with a messenger bag–bounds across a field into a coniferous forest, lured by a shining circlet of stars in the sky. There are many downed trees and just as the stag turns to check out the possibility of wolves, he stumbles on a fallen tree and injures its leg. As the tearful deer lays there, waiting for the wolves to come and slay it, something amazing happens. The wolves do arrive, but they encircle the deer, and bring it water and foraged food, and even wrap the wound with leaves. 
From Night Runners by Geraldo Valério
Together they follow the beacon of stars to a gathering of animals around a fire. All animals are represented, from moose and beaver, dragonfly and rooster, snake and skunk, and they all welcome the wolves and stag to their company. But when the stag opens his bag, the gathering becomes a true party of song and dance, and the circle of stars becomes a sky filled with brilliant stellar orbs.

Geraldo Valério's message of finding unexpected friends, even among those most feared, is a compelling one, especially for our times. The deer expects the worst when faced with a potential enemy but instead finds compassion and companionship. And together they discover something even more powerful and add to it with their presence.
From Night Runners by Geraldo Valério
Geraldo Valério's story fills the reader with hope for respect and humanity, something desperately needed nowadays. We need to know that good can happen in the midst of tragedy and Geraldo Valério makes us feel that promise for goodness and empathy. His striking artwork, rendered in acrylic paint and coloured pencil on watercolour paper, gives us that hope, with the boldness of colour and line bringing the power of his story to the eyes.  The stars that shine are for everyone and, with his diversity of animals, both domestic and not, Geraldo Valério makes sure that everyone can be part of this story.

November 18, 2022


Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
288 pp.
Ages 8-13
September 2022
Our way of life was being erased. We had to figure out a way to escape before we were erased too. (pg. 38)

With a war currently raging in Ukraine, it's easy to remember that Ukraine has suffered oppression for centuries. As it sought independence and freedom, the country was repeatedly targeted and made to suffer. Winterkill is but one story of an attempt to quash a people with a strong cultural identity and fervor for autonomy. 

In 1930, 12-year-old Nyl Chorny lives on a small farm with his parents and younger siblings Yulia (11) and Slavko (9) in the village of Felivka near Kharkiv. Ukraine is currently under the control of the Soviet Communists led by Stalin whose five-year-plan to modernise the country is really aimed at hurting Ukrainians by eliminating small family farms and combining them under large collectives called kolkhozes. Some villagers are buying into the lies told by Comrades Tupolev and Chort–Russians charged with governing them–and shock workers promising tractors, increased grain, and better opportunities. But for those like Tato, Nyl's father, the collectivisation is just a replacement for landlords and will have nothing to do with them. Still, they must abide by the demands of Communist workers who inventory all their goods, ban religious faith, and requisition their grain with the threat of being labelled kulaks and executed or deported. Some Communists are foreign specialists like Canadian George White who will be working at the future tractor factory and truly believes in Communism as does his young daughter Alice. Others have just found a new way to bully and exert control and gain wealth at the expense of others.
If you want to eat, join the kolkhoz. (pg. 50)
Still the family farms as best they can, managing with less after Nyl's Uncle Illya is executed for being a kulak, and Auntie Pawlina and baby cousin Tanya move in with the family. A bumper crop of wheat, millet and corn in the summer of 1930 has them all hopeful again and the family considers leaving the Soviet Union via Auntie's cousins in Ternopil, a city across the border in Polish Ukraine. But all those dreams go up in smoke when soldiers steal all the grain while the families celebrate the harvest.

Relying on foraging, hunting and fishing for food, and no way to get money needed for travel, Nyl and Slavko steal away to work in Kharkiv where the tractor plant needs construction workers. But what they find there is as dismal as at home though they are able to make some money. Still, what they return home to is worse than they could have expected. Whether any of them will ever survive, much less escape, a genocide by starvation and violence is Nyl's story to tell.

Winterkill is a big story. It is so big that I can't possibly reveal all the details and nuances of Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's story in a short review. There are good people and evil ones, both Ukrainian and Russian. There is joy and heartache, resourcefulness and laziness, greed and generosity. And there is oppression. Though much of Winterkill deals with the Holodomor, the 1932-1933 genocide of Ukrainians by starvation, it's a story that's bigger than that. It's about that oppression of people and culture. There is resilience, as Nyl demonstrates with his story, but there is death and destruction and horrific suffering. And Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch tells it with such authenticity that this book of historical fiction could be a biography. Still, she tells it with sensitivity and compassion and allowed this  Ukrainian-Canadian to read it with appreciation, albeit filled with sorrow.


Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch will launch Winterkill at the Brantford Public Library’s downtown branch on Thursday, November 24, 2022, at 6 p.m. Copies of the book will be available for purchase from Green Heron Books for signing by the author.  

November 17, 2022

2022 Governor General Literary Awards: Winners announced


Yesterday, the Canada Council for the Arts announced the winners for the highly prestigious Governor General's Literary Awards.

Books were awarded in seven categories, both in French and English, and I'm so pleased to announce the winners of those books for young readers.

Congratulations to these winners!
• • • • •

English-language: Young People's Literature (Text)

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet
Written by Jen Ferguson
Heartdrum (HarperCollins)


English-language: Young People's Literature (Illustration)

The Sour Cherry Tree
Written by Naseem Hrab
Illustrated by Nahid Kazemi
Owlkids Books

French-language: Young People's Literature (Text)
Cancer ascendant Autruche

Written by Julie Champagne
la courte échelle

French-language: Young People's Literature (Illustration)


Written by Nadine Robert
Illustrated by Qin Leng 
Comme des géants


Congratulations to this year's finalists
and these four stellar winners  
of books for young people

November 16, 2022

Boney: Guest review

This review was written by Grade 8 student Hasini K.

Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
October 2022
While Annabelle and her dad are taking a walk in the woods with their dog, Scoot, Annabelle discovers an animal bone. Annabelle asks her dad if they can take the bone home, and her dad agrees. 
Annabelle decides to make the bone her new playmate, and names him Boney. Annabelle feels that Boney is a great playmate – and she is completely in love with her new friend! They hang out at the park and Annabelle even makes Boney a bed complete with a blanket and pillow in his own room. 

From Boney by Cary Fagan, illus. by Dasha Tolstikova
However, when creatures run wild in Annabelle's dreams, she wonders for the first time where Boney truly belongs. What becomes of Annabelle’s and Boney’s friendship? You'll need to read the book to find out.

Boney is written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova. It is a short but sweet story with very vivid and beautiful illustrations which are very thought-provoking. Kids may wonder where Boney, the bone, was actually from. The story does mention how the bone could've been any animal, but we can't help but wonder. I would recommend this book to readers from Grade 1-4 since it is pretty relatable in many ways. At some point in our lives, we all have to deal with the fact that something we might be doing is not right, even if we want to do it. Making tough choices is also very hard to do, no matter your age. Personally, I liked how the story had a really meaningful message. It teaches us that, sometimes, we have to do things that aren't easy to make the situation right. It captures the innocence and uncertainty of kids when they’re dealing with conflict within themselves. Little kids would especially take losing a friend or a toy or item they have gotten attached to, as Annabelle must do with Boney, very hard. I would certainly grab a copy of this creatively written book to enjoy!

~ Written by Hasini K., Age 13

November 15, 2022

2022 Le Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse: Winner announced

Today, the Canadian Children's Book Centre and Communication-Jeunesse (CJ) announced the winner of the 2022 Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse from an impressive short list of finalists. Congratulations to this year's French-language award-winning author who will receive $50,000.
Prix TD de littérature jeuness canadienne 


La fin des poux?
Written and illustrated by Orbie
Éditions Les 400 coups

 Toutes nos félicitations!


November 14, 2022


Written by Alison Hughes
Kids Can Press
200 pp.
Ages 10-14
October 2022 body is not all that I am. (pg. 40)

Fly is what 14-year-old Felix Landon Yarrow (a.k.a. Fly per his initials) dreams of doing. In his dreams, he is no longer trapped in a wheelchair by cerebral palsy. He is free to spread his arms and soar.
            My disability,
                         my difficulties,
                                               my pain–
often on public display–
in fact
all my own.
                                       Private. (pg. 59)
But, Felix is in a wheelchair. And though he feels very much like his pain is often on public display, whether he is working with his aide Levi or being driven in the "special" school bus, he knows that he is invisible to many, especially his peers. Still, that invisibility becomes his superpower, with Felix becoming a "Fly on the Wall" and ready to emulate his literary guide, Cervantes's Don Quixote, and follow truth and justice. His quest: to save his classmate and damsel in distress, Daria, from the arrogant and dangerous Carter.

As Felix watches and learns, he becomes Knightwatch and emails warnings to Daria about Carter and to Carter that his heinous and potentially criminal behaviour has been observed. But, like Don Quixote, along with battles with enemies come inner battles of understanding of self. 

Fly, a novel in free verse, may have a contemporary setting but its story is as classic as that of Don Quixote. It's about finding inner strength and fighting against injustices. But author Alison Hughes makes sure the reader realizes that much of this is also about perception. Told in Felix's voice, the reader will sympathize with his constrained physical nature and applaud his courage to pursue chivalrous goals of protecting first Daria and then others from oppressors. Going after Carter gives Felix purpose, though he doesn't realize until the end that his manner of attack may leave others vulnerable. His goal is outward, to help others, but the learning he takes from his endeavour is all about him and what he needs to do to be fair. The growth that Felix experiences, moving from annoyance at how others judge and treat him to appreciation for efforts others make, is a monumental one. And Alison Hughes takes the readers along on that epic journey through her elegant free verse. The writing flows and has shape that comes with self-discovery, engagement with others and context of circumstances. Felix's story takes a form not unlike his own body, both vulnerable and combative, and we're there for the moment of battle, within and externally, when Felix realizes that some of the limitations to the freedom to fly may be those he's imposed on himself.

November 10, 2022

Killer Underwear Invasion!: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories

Written and illustrated by Elise Gravel
Chronicle Books
104 pp.
Ages 8-12
September 2022

A killer underwear invasion? It must be true if it's been posted in the media, or you heard it from your mother! Right? Or is it? With her quirky art and common sense bathed in tongue-in-cheek humour, Elise Gravel helps young readers recognize the news that isn't real out there, from peanuts that enhance your muscles, and a politician who pinches puppies, to underwear that kills, and how to critically think about the news that is out there.
From Killer Underwear Invasion! by Elise Gravel
In six chapters, Elise Gravel describes what fake news is, why people create it and believe it, why it's bad and how it blows up, and how to differentiate it from the real news. Starting with a fabricated scorpion invasion, Elise Gravel shows how her little monsters create it and disseminate it. To demonstrate the reasons people create it, she uses the nefarious peanut-seller Nerbert. His aim may start with selling a product and making money, but it morphs into dreams of celebrity and power. There's also the aim to spread beliefs and ideas and engage social media. And so, we have fake news.
From Killer Underwear Invasion! by Elise Gravel
The danger of fake news is explicit, especially when it dissuades us from listening to the real experts and compels us to make harmful decisions about ourselves, our environment, our democracies. And when disinformation is woven together, it can overwhelm.
From Killer Underwear Invasion! by Elise Gravel
In the shadow of the disinformation perpetuated on social media, infiltrating everything from our health to our elections, Elise Gravel's Killer Underwear Invasion! is a sobering read. But, because of her comic approach, silly examples, and un-human-like characters, Elise Gravel teaches young readers thoroughly about fake news in a way that they will remember. It's informative without being heavy-handed or preachy, and terms such as clickbait, conspiracy theories, confirmation bias and satire are explained in the simplest of terms, making Killer Underwear Invasion! a perfect read for middle graders and even some younger children. (Especially helpful would be the teacher's guide at which includes pre-reading activities, chapter by chapter discussion questions and activities, and guidance on evaluating the news.)
From Killer Underwear Invasion! by Elise Gravel
As illustrated non-fiction, Killer Underwear Invasion! will reach young people through its humour and irreverence. But it will teach them to become responsible readers of news and hopefully help them guide others to become better informed participants and patrons of social media and other broadcast accounts.

November 08, 2022

Berani: Guest review

 This book was reviewed by Grade 9 student Bronte.

Written by Michelle Kadarusman
Pajama Press
224 pp.
Ages 8-13
August 2022

Malia is a courageous girl who stands up for what she believes in, but activism can be a risky business. When she gets into some trouble with her school for circulating a petition against palm-oil, a product that many families in her town rely on for their income, she has to make a difficult decision that could result in lots of trouble for many people. Meanwhile she is trying to convince her Canadian-born mother not to move the family from Indonesia where Malia has lived all her life, and where her late father is buried.

Ari spends his days attending school, playing chess, and doing chores around his uncle’s restaurant in exchange for a chance to live with him, and get an education at the local public school. But the guilt of leaving behind his dear cousin, Suni, and the rest of his family has been gnawing on him. Furthermore, Ginger Juice, his uncle’s pet orangutan, has been suffering from her poor living conditions, and he’s worried her days are numbered. 
Berani alternates between the points of view of Ari and Malia as they help others and try to solve problems around their communities, as well as that of Ginger Juice, who longs for home. It is an inspiring story ideal for grades 4-6, written by Michelle Kadarusman, award-winning author of books such as Music for Tigers and The Theory of Hummingbirds. As someone who cares for the environment, I think Berani is a fantastic way to introduce some of our world’s problems to kids. This book touches on so many important issues: animal rights, climate change, preserving the environment, the loss of family members, and the struggles of moving. The main characters Ari, Malia, and of course Ginger Juice are brave, kind, and thoughtful. The book’s colourful descriptions and Indonesian words sprinkled throughout (a glossary is provided) really set the scene, and the way the chapters flip between the kids' and orangutan's perspectives is a nice touch as well. It’s a great way to start conversations about our world, and our responsibilities as inhabitants of it. (Michelle Kadarusman includes a section with information on orangutans and how we can help them.) Berani, which I would rate 9 out of 10 stars, is definitely worth a read!

~ Written by Bronte, Gr. 9

November 07, 2022

An I Read Canadian Contest: Winner announcement

Last week, to commemorate I Read Canadian Day, I held a contest to test readers' knowledge of Canadian authors and illustrators for young readers. Though some questions were answered correctly by everyone, there were other answers that tripped almost everyone up. In fact, I had to mark submissions manually as some participants gave answers that I had to check might have been correct even if not the answer I had set. (Unfortunately, several of these answers were either non-Canadian authors, or authors but not author-illustrators, or mother and daughter, rather than sisters, or something else altogether.) 

Still, there were two participants who earned 15/18 points (one point for each name) but one spelled Susin Nielsen incorrectly–it is an unusual spelling of the first name–so the winner of the I READ CANADIAN CONTEST is .... 

Deborah Ishii

Deborah is a retired teacher from 
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board in Mississauga.
Congratulations, Deborah! 

Thank you to all participants for playing along and celebrating I Read Canadian Day with CanLit for LittleCanadians. 


For anyone who wants to check their answers to my contest questions, I've posted them below. 

How well did you do?

Questions and ANSWERS

1. Which Canadian author and Order of Canada recipient has written everything from dystopia, tigers, spies, space, 9/11 to Terry Fox?


2. These sisters are both author-illustrators. Though they have illustrated their own books as well as those written by others, they have never co-authored a picture book together. Who are they?


3. This author-illustrator is probably the foremost illustrator of plasticene art, winning countless awards for her artwork including the Governor General's award for illustration, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz children's book award, the Ezra Jack Keats Award and the Vicky Metcalf award. Did I mention she was also appointed to the Order of Canada? Name this author and illustrator.


4. This Canadian author can find the humour in even the most emotional dramas. No wonder a prime-time TV law series which she created is such a hit. Who is this writer?


5. He's done CBC sports, hosted CBC Sunday Morning, illustrates for others, and writes his own picture books and middle grade novels. And he once painted a mural on Yonge Street for his book launch. Who is this author and illustrator?


6. Though she's written many award-winning books, this Canadian writer was bestowed with the Order of Princess Olha by the Ukrainian President for her depictions of Ukrainian history through her books. Who is she?


7. Name two sisters who are Canadian author-illustrators who've written several picture books together.


8. This author is the founder of Canada's first festival for diverse authors and storytellers and a writer of picture books and novels for young people as well as adults. Name this author.


9. This author has written two picture books, one which highlights the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and the other relates to her grandfather's residential school experience. Who is this author?


10. Though her many novels have social justice themes from across the world including Afghanistan, Malawi, Iran, the West Bank and Bolivia, as well as Canada, her latest ventures are one word-titled short story collections that allow readers to travel to a multitude of countries in one book. Who is this author? 


11. This Quebec author-illustrator is probably best known for her frightened sciurine character but my personal favourite is her red marker-wielding feline with cheek. Who is this creator?


12. This Swampy Cree author has written more than 20 picture books, middle grade, and YA books and won two Governor General Literary Awards. Who is this author?


13. This Toronto author blends the surreal with the real so flawlessly that his steampunk airships seem to be historic stories, an attack by aliens with plants and insects seems imminent and the voices of his chiropteran characters totally believable. Name this author.


14. This Irish Canadian author has been awarded the Governor General Literary Award twice, both for novels of historical fiction set in the mid-1800s but one originating in Ireland and the other in Virginia, USA. Who is this author?


15. Most young children will recognize this picture book author's name but they're also probably recognizing the artist who has illustrated more than 25 of his books. Name both the author and the illustrator. 



Thank you again to all participants.

Look for another contest next year
for I Read Canadian Day