August 11, 2022

The Fort

Written by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Press
256 pp.
Ages 8-12
June 2022
When is a shelter not a shelter? When it's a secret that is in danger of being exposed. And when four friends and their unexpected tag-a-long discover the ultimate shelter, it becomes their fort and they'll do anything to keep it safe.

The day after a hurricane rolls through the town of Canaan, thirteen-year-old Evan Donnelly is tasked with looking after newcomer Ricky Molina while their families deal with the aftermath of the storm. The boys meet up with Evan's friends C. J. Sciutto, Mitchell Worth and Jason Brax to check out their man-made shower-curtain and plywood fort in the woods but discover that it has been demolished by the storm. But clever Ricky–he may be a year younger than the boys but he's gifted and has come from a magnet school–unearths a newly-exposed trapdoor into a massive underground bomb shelter, fully stocked with furniture, food, chemical toilet, lights, music records, and VCR and videos. A video reveals the shelter was constructed by the now-deceased Bennett Delamere, founder of one of the town's key industries, now closed, in anticipation of an attack during the Cold War. The boys realize quickly the enormity of their find and vow to keep it secret.

But each of the boys has a complex life going on outside the fort. Evan and his seventeen-year-old brother Luke live with their grandparents ever since the boys were abandoned by their parents for their addictions. Mitchell has always struggled with OCD and now cannot get help from his psychiatrist since his mom lost her job, and benefits, at DelaCraft Auto Parts, and has had to take on three jobs to make ends meet. While Jason is enjoying his first relationship with Janelle, daughter of police Officer Jaworski, he's caught in a nasty divorce in which his parents use him as a pawn. Even C. J., who seems to have everything he wants courtesy of his stepdad Marcus, keeps getting into scrape after scrape on his skateboard or hoverboard or pogo stick, calling his exploits "death-defiers." As for Ricky, who is reluctantly allowed to enjoy the fort he found, is determined to study hard and get into the local magnet school and make the best of things until he does.

The fort becomes a refuge for them, to watch classic movies like Jaws and Star Wars, to eat 40-year-old canned food, listen to records and play games like Fort Olympics. It's even a source of funds as the boys learn the blackened cutlery is solid silver and can be pawned for money. But, their fort is in danger of discovery from scary local teen Jaeger Devlin and his sidekick, Evan's brother Luke, who threaten, steal, coerce and worse and would do the same to the boys if they thought there was something in it for them.

The Fort is Gordon Korman's 100th book, an astounding feat. And it's as fresh and meaningful to young readers as his first, This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, was in 1978. Think of the movie Stand By Me without the dead body and you'll have The Fort. Gordon Korman has given us a coming of age story about a group of boys with different backgrounds and home situations and personal issues who find a way to come together for each other and become something stronger and cohesive. Because The Fort is told in the alternating voices of the five boys, their perspectives on their friendships, school, families and the fort are unique and relevant. The boys make the story because it is their story. In fact, it's all their stories. Like the fort, it's one thing but it's so many different things too. It's acceptance and anonymity, protection and vulnerability, and it's solidarity and individuality. Gordon Korman has made the fort a foundation for the boys to learn more about themselves and each other and build new bonds of friendship and support. And like a fort, their friendships will be a stronghold against life's inevitable challenges and foibles.

August 09, 2022

A Starlit Trip to the Library: Q & A with author Andrew Katz

Yesterday, I reviewed A Starlit Trip to the Library, Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel's latest picture book collaboration with illustrator Joseph Sherman. Today I present an interview I had with Andrew Katz, with input from co-author Juliana Léveillé-Trudel as well as illustrator Joseph Sherman and performer Taes Leavitt, about the book and its accompanying musical performance.

A Starlit Trip to the Library
Written by Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel
Illustrated by Joseph Sherman
CrackBoom! Books (Chouette Publishing)
44 pp.
Ages 3-6
September 2022

HK:  Before we talk about the book, tell us a bit about the collaborations that resulted in both the Julia books, How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read and A Starlit Trip to the Library. How did you all come to work together to create the text and art? 

Andrew Katz:  Our collaboration came together through a series of fortunate events. Juliana and I met about six years ago, and our very first conversations revealed a mutual love of writing. At that point she was a published novelist, writing in French, and I had self-published a few picture books for my nieces and nephews for birthdays and holidays.

Within a few weeks, Juliana and I had started writing a children’s play together. Then, a few months later, inspiration for a picture book hit. I spotted a book lying around that I didn’t recognize, and I made an excited lunge toward it, as if it were a chocolate chip cookie. Juliana joked that to make a trap for me, the thing to put in it would not be food but a book. Immediately we sensed a potential plot twist for a story, and soon the tale of Julia, a young girl who yearns for an ursine pal, and Bertrand, a bear who loves to read, began to take shape. We wrote a draft that we had illustrated by a student at the college where I teach, and we self-published the book as a present for our nieces and nephews.
Skip forward to a book fair in Cuba; Juliana was there to present her novel and I was tagging along. One afternoon we crossed paths with a representative from Chouette publishing (the publishers of Caillou), who explained to us that Chouette had just created a new imprint, called CrackBoom! We told the rep about our Julia and Bertrand story, and she suggested that we send it in. We heard nothing for six months, assumed they were not interested, but then out of the blue got an email saying they wanted to publish our book! (It turns out they just hadn’t read the manuscript yet.) 
They asked if we had anyone in mind for the illustrations, and Robin Budd, a multiple award-winning children’s animator, happened to be a family friend of mine. I contacted Robin to see if he knew anyone who might be interested in the job, and he put us in touch with an illustrator named Joseph Sherman, a Gemini Award-winning animator himself who had always wanted to illustrate a picture book. Luckily, Joe was excited to hop on board the project, and the rest, as they say, is history!

That, in a nutshell, is how the collaboration between the three of us got started.

HK:  As a story-telling and book-reading child, Julia is open to the magic that comes with words. After all, she has animal friends, spends nights in a tent in the forest, takes a ride on a house boat, and more. How did you choose which elements to keep real–like Julia being afraid to go through the forest at night–and which would be fantasy, like the talking animals?

Andrew Katz:  There is a rich tradition in English kid lit of children playing in a forest where their imaginations come alive. The forest by Julia’s house is that kind of place. It is a real forest, but it is also somewhere that the dreams of her big heart–such as getting a bear hug from a bear or boldly going to the library at night–can play themselves out.

Stories themselves work in a similar way: they explore both the real world and our inner world at the same time. You pointed out that Julia understands the magic that comes with words and stories, and we wanted to illustrate that idea by having a book within each book. In How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read, Julia is reading a book about a bear, and in A Starlit Trip to the Library, she gets a book about a girl and her animal friends who go on a river journey at night. In both cases, her reading and her adventures reflect each other, suggesting that Julia’s own story involves some overlap between reality and imagination.   

In terms of how to decide what is real and what is fantasy, we try to make sure that the elements related to the flora and fauna of Julia’s forest are more or less realistic. We want these stories to elicit an interest in and love for nature and the natural sciences, so we aim to portray the plants and animals of Julia’s forest in a way that reflects their natural habits and characteristics. We portray Julia realistically as well, to show that she is an ordinary relatable kid; it takes her real effort to climb a tall tree, and she hesitates before venturing through the forest at night. At the same time, we also wanted to include elements that spring from Julia’s imagination: she is able to talk with the animals, and her friend Bertrand turns out to be a remarkable carpenter. (He has a treehouse in the first book and a house boat in the second.)  

Ultimately, Julia is a child playing in the forest by her house, and as her authors we simply tried try to capture her play, as she experiences it. 

HK:  I think most readers and all writers know the importance of the books and libraries in our lives. But A Starlit Trip to the Library (as well as How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read) takes a slightly different take on both by having the characters, Julia and her animal friends, visit the boxes of donated books that the librarians put out behind the library. Why do this rather than have them visit the actual library inside?

Andrew Katz:  In the first book in the series, there is a question as to where a bear who loves to read can get his paws on books. In the spirit of your question above, we wanted to keep some sense of realism, which meant he couldn’t get them from inside the library. (As Bertrand explains in the second book, “Some of us cannot acquire a library card.”) Fortunately, however, his local librarians, as you say, are kind enough to put out boxes of donated books by the back door. And so when all the people in the village are asleep, Bertrand makes his way behind the library and scavenges for fresh reading material. Even though he can’t enter the actual library, he gets to have the same experience as the rest of us of going to the library and browsing through all the books.

When Juliana and I were kids, we loved it when our librarians would introduce us to new books on the shelves. Julia and her friends are able to have this experience, too, thanks to a new character who appears in the sequel: Olga, the night librarian. Olga is an owl who spends all night organizing the boxes of donated books and alphabetizing the titles. As Bertrand says, “She is a librarian of vast experience,” and after Julia and her friends tell Olga the kind of bedtime story they would like to read, Olga finds just the right book for them.

In this way, the back of the library at night becomes an animal-friendly version of the library that kids experience inside during the day.

We also thought that kids might enjoy the idea of going to a place they normally visit during the day at an unusual time––i.e. at night. When Juliana and I were young readers, we would have been very excited by this prospect! In fact, there is a town not far from where we live whose library is perched on a riverbank, and we have some friends who live in that town who own a canoe, so we are contemplating a little paddle at sundown to visit the back of the library ourselves.

HK:  The characters in A Starlit Trip to the Library were first introduced in How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read. When you could have chosen from countless species, you’ve selected a diverse group of creatures that differ in size, in temperaments, and more. Why did you choose a groundhog, a skunk, a squirrel and a bear?

Andrew Katz:  For Julia’s three smaller animal friends, we were looking for animals that she would be likely to find in a Canadian forest. We also tried to think of animals that she could play games with, such as climbing trees with the squirrel and playing hide-and-seek with the groundhog. (Juliana’s taboo-breaking sensibility, common in French children’s literature, inspired the skunk character, with whom Julia has tooting contests.)

As for the bear, Julia is a character with a big heart who dreams big, and a bear matched the size of both her heart and her dreams. At first, she wants to meet a bear because she thinks a bear would give the best bear hug ever. But after she encounters Bertrand, she also discovers that they share a mutual love of reading. (Juliana also has an unconditional love of bears, so she was eager for us to include a bear in the story.)

It was a challenge to give so many different animals their own unique personalities and voices. But who they were and how they spoke gradually revealed itself as we wrote the story. The squirrel is very excitable, like a small child. The groundhog has a grandmotherly disposition. And the skunk is full of curiosity. Bertrand is gentlemanly and gracious, and his manner of speaking is that of a self-educated bear; he loves words, including some big words, but he uses them in his own idiosyncratic way.

HK:  A Starlit Trip to the Library may be about stories and the places they can take us but the book also gives us more than a story. For example, you share information about animal constellations, providing teachable STEM content in the book. Are you a fan of astronomy and the stars of the night skies?

Andrew Katz:  The night skies in the book help establish the mood of awe, exploration and discovery that accompanies Julia and her friends on their quest for a bedtime story. Their entire journey to the library at night is also meant to be a metaphor for the experience of reading itself; at its best, a book take us on a journey, carrying us into the unknown. As Emily Dickinson once wrote, “There is no Frigate like a Book / to take us Lands away”–a quote we often kept in mind while writing this story.

One of the ways we navigate the unknown is by locating the familiar in it–for example, finding familiar shapes, including the shapes of animals, among the stars. Since Julia is a little obsessed with animals in general and with bears in particular, we thought it would be fun for her to identify the animal constellations on her way to the library. We wanted to use real constellations that Julia, along with young readers, would see in Canada during the summer, such as the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, conveniently also known as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor–aka the big bear and the little bear. She also learns about the swan-shaped constellation (Cygnus) and about the North Star (Polaris), which always shines brightly in the same place, right at the tip of the little bear’s tail–a fact that comes in handy for Julia when she has to bravely take the helm of the raft and keep it on course.

HK: Your story is appended with the lyrics to "Julia's Song", a song you wrote, based on a line from Emily Dickinson’s poem "There is No Frigate Like a Book." There is also a QR code to link to a video on Bibliovideo of Taes Leavitt’s performance of it. What came first: the song or the story?

Andrew Katz:  The story came first, but the idea of a song to accompany the story goes back to How to Catch a Bear who Loves to Read. I had thought about writing a song for that first book, but the whole publication process moved along fairly quickly, and it was also our first book, so in the end I let the idea go. But once we began to write the sequel, I didn’t want to miss the chance to write a song for it. Julia sailing to the library under the stars seemed like a situation that would move her to sing. And I knew it would take me many, many months of playing around at the piano to find a melody, so I started to work on the song right away. Our publisher was very supportive of the idea, and Juliana also agreed to translate the lyrics into French so we could have the song in both languages.

HK: The song is incredibly catchy and I found myself humming it after listening to it just once. I will be posting the link to the audio performance of the song to encourage young readers and their teachers and parents to get to know Bibliovideo and to learn the song. ( Still I think it could be something big. Taes Leavitt has a beautiful voice and especially for children’s songs as it’s melodic and she enunciates well. How did a collaboration with Taes Leavitt arise? 

Andrew Katz:  Kids may know Taes Leavitt as Boots from the Canadian children’s music duo SPLASH’N BOOTS. (They won their second JUNO Award just this past year.) I am fortunate to know Taes as my sister-in-law. My brother, Peter Katz, is a musician, and Taes is his partner. Taes kindly agreed to perform the vocals for the song, and Peter arranged and played the piano to accompany the melody. He also did all the editing and a good deal of the mixing of the song. There were other collaborators around the song as well: a friend of Juliana’s, Marion Boudreault, sang the French version of the song, and Cassandra Huynh at our publisher created the song videos in both English and French that appear on the Bibliovideo site. Trish Osuch and everyone else at Bibliovideo were also super kind and helpful.

On August 26 the song will be released on steaming platforms, so that people can listen to it on Spotify, iTunes, etc. as well. I am also currently working on a video compilation for the song–i.e. singers each performing short sections, with all the sections then spliced together–which will appear sometime after the book’s release. Some of the musical guests for the compilation will include Taes Leavitt, Jack Grunsky and an all-girl choir in Tofino. 

I like the idea that the song gives Julia another way to express herself; the books are in the 3rd person, but through the song she can speak in the 1st person too. It’s also nice to imagine kids turning the last page of the story and then having the song to  help them drift off to sleep.

HK:  Have you ever considered amalgamating your Julia stories into a children’s musical or an animated film with music? In fact, do you see there being more Julia stories?

Andrew Katz:  Actually, we have imagined a musical! We are currently working on a third Julia story that takes place in winter, and the changing settings and seasons between the  stories, each with an adventure that revolves around a book, seem like they could be woven together to make a play. Of course, at this point that feels like a far off dream–I don’t even know how we would begin to make a children’s musical or an animated film happen–but writing a book once seemed like a far off dream, too, so who knows! Maybe How to Catch A Bear Who Loves to Read: The Musical will find its way to a stage someday. We’ll just have to work on a few more songs, first! 


It was my pleasure to speak with all the collaborators of A Starlit Trip to the Library via co-author Andrew Katz and to learn more about their storytelling process and integration of multimedia.

Thank you to all of them for sharing with readers of 
CanLit for LittleCanadians.

August 08, 2022

A Starlit Trip to the Library

Written by Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel
Illustrated by Joseph Sherman
CrackBoom! Books (Chouette Publishing)
44 pp.
Ages 3-6
September 2022
A trip to the library is always special but a starlit one is even more so. 
From A Starlit Trip to the Library by Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel, illus. by Joseph Sherman
Camping out on an island near her home, Julia spends time with her forest buddies from How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read: Frieda the skunk, Abigail the groundhog, and Scotty the squirrel. But, just as she's about to start storytime, Julia is disappointed to find her storybook missing from her backpack. Fortunately, their bear friend, Bertrand, arrives via houseboat, and invites them to join him on a book-scavenging adventure to the "perfect place to dig for page-turners, sublime rhymes and other treasures."
From A Starlit Trip to the Library by Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel, illus. by Joseph Sherman
Using the stars to guide them, the reading adventurers head to town and to the library. But, because it's late and not all of them are permitted to have library cards, the group heads behind the library. There they meet up with the night librarian, Olga the owl, who shows them the many boxes of donated books which she organizes.
From A Starlit Trip to the Library by Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel, illus. by Joseph Sherman
Olga offers assistance in finding just the right book but it's a tall order as they all want something specific in the book, something that reflects their own lives. Of course, like the wonderful librarian that she is, Olga finds the perfect story to make everyone happy.
From A Starlit Trip to the Library by Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel, illus. by Joseph Sherman
Readers know the joys of connection that come with finding the right book and sharing that reading with others. In both their Julia books, Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel focus on books and the richness that comes with the reading. They show us the inspiration that comes with connecting with others, or seeing oneself reflected in the stories, or learning new things, or getting lost in new worlds. But this time, Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel also highlight the library and librarians and the bounty that comes from engagement with both. Reading is paramount but only if you have the book that fits your needs at that time. Thankfully, there are loads of books available at our public libraries, and school libraries too, and qualified staff to advise, recommend, listen, read and share their expertise with readers of all ages.  And Andrew Katz and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel celebrate them and their readers both in A Starlit Trip to the Library. (And if that's not enough, there's also notes about animals in the constellations and a very catchy song, sung by JUNO Award-winning Taes Leavitt of Splash’N Boots.)
Joseph Sherman, a Gemini Award-winning animation designer as well as illustrator, uses colour and shape to bring that celebratory luminosity to A Starlit Trip to the Library. Though the setting is night, the stars are out in the sky and there's a brightness to the characters and their landscapes. Illumination, through books, stars and constellations, and friendship, is aptly evoked through Joseph Sherman's artwork.

There's magic in books, as every reader knows. There's the magic of searching for the right book, of sharing a story with friends, and of the adventure that comes from within. Julia and friends find their newest bit of magic under the stars and behind a library and, by telling us their story of A Starlit Trip to the Library, Andrew Katz, Juliana Léveillé-Trudel and Joseph Sherman get to share some of that allure with us.


          Music and lyrics by Andrew Katz
          Produced and engineered by Peter Katz
          Performed by Taes Leavitt

Posted on Bibliovideo on February 24, 2022 at YouTube.


Tomorrow I interview co-author (and songwriter) Andrew Katz about A Starlit Trip to the Library, so look for that here.


August 06, 2022


Written and illustrated by Nancy Vo
Groundwood Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-6
August 2022

You will be forgiven if you think Boobies is about the marine bird known as the blue-footed booby. It is, after all, on the cover of Nancy Vo's latest picture book. Ah, but look a little closer at the bird and the placement of the double o's in the title and you'll realize the real story behind Boobies.
From Boobies by Nancy Vo
While Nancy Vo introduces the blue-footed booby ever so briefly, she makes it clear that this bird species has no boobies because it is not a mammal. And with that, she opens up a discussion about mammals with boobies, from a dog and a cat to an opossum, and clarifies which do not, like fish.
From Boobies by Nancy Vo
The variety of human boobies and their functionality for feeding young is explained cheekily but accurately–hence, the essential inclusion of Boobies in STEM book lists covering the human body–as is some natural and art history depictions of these organs.
From Boobies by Nancy Vo
Though this picture book won't be released until the end of August, World Breastfeeding Week is August 1st to August 7th so reviewing it on CanLit for LittleCanadians now seems highly appropriate. While Boobies isn't really a "story" with a beginning, a middle and an end, it is a unique and charming approach to the science behind breasts and will educate as well as engage. Kids may go home and start checking every living thing for boobies but they'll have learned a little bit more about animal classification (mammal vs. non-mammal), about links between morphology and function, and how breasts have been recognized in culture.

Vancouver's Nancy Vo never becomes coy about sharing valuable information about breasts but she does adjust it for younger children for whom lessons regarding their bodies would be relatively new. But, using stencil art with matte acrylics and pen on paper, Nancy Vo takes a convivial approach to an educational topic which some adults may be reluctant to broach, presuming incorrectly that it could be emotionally awkward or insensitive. It is neither. It is science and will give children a better way to communicate about their bodies and to care for them more completely.

I suspect that Boobies may be the first book in a series of non-fiction picture books about various body parts, judging by the book's conclusion when Nancy Vo tells us, "Butt, that's another book." I can't think of a better way to educate and enthrall than through Nancy Vo's art and humour whether it be about boobies, butts or some other body part.

August 04, 2022

Jasper's Road

Written by Susan White
Acorn Press
164 pp.
Ages 8-12
May 2022

There are families by birth and those by invention. And sometimes, because of the families of birth, better families are created from disparate parts. The story of Jasper's Road is about such families.
When Jasper's Road begins, a large extended family is gathering to celebrate Amelia's day. Amelia Walton, who passed five years earlier, started taking in kids after she was struck with a neurological disease which motivated her to become a recluse. Opening her home to more than 100 kids over the years, for short- or long-terms, Amelia Walton left her mark with her heart, her wisdom, and her compassion. Now each year, many of those she fostered along with their own families gathered to share food, memories and trivia as Amelia would have liked.

Thirteen-year-old Jasper, who'd come to Amelia as a baby and now was part of Jodie and Zac Williams's family, had always felt welcomed but, because of a recent fostering of fourteen-year-old Jake Turner by his Aunt Rachel and Uncle Ryan, Jasper is feeling more vulnerable, especially about a facial abnormality that Jake ridicules as "Zipper Lip." But as Jasper tries to figure out how to deal with Jake, Jake himself is struggling with finding himself as a part of yet another foster family and without his little brother Tommy. Then near tragedy strikes and Jake forces Jasper and Jasper's 12-year-old brother Anderson to lie. Add to that the COVID-19 pandemic and the April 2020 mass killing in Nova Scotia and it would seem that everyone has some baggage that they're carrying around that confuses and confounds their relationships with partners and with their families, foster and birth.

New Brunswick writer Susan White, who has written YA and middle grade books including The Year Mrs. Montague Cried, winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award, brings us into a complicated world of foster children, past and present, as they struggle and learn to make lives for themselves in the context of ever-changing relationships. Whether from abandonment or abuse, neglect or health concerns–including death of a parent–children enter foster care for a variety of reasons and just as varied is the care that they may receive. Some will find forever homes through adoption while others will bounce from one residence to another. In Jasper's Road, those fortunate enough to be taken in by Amelia Walton and subsequently by her "heirs" became part of something significant. And while it took me awhile to figure out all the characters and their relationships, including which were biological or otherwise, I realized it really didn't matter. Susan White gave us a rich community much like the one Amelia endeavoured to create, both complex and natural, saving herself and others in the process, and building something bigger than just a joining of individuals.

While this journey down Jasper's Road is complete, for now, I suspect that there are more travels ahead for Jasper, Jake, Tommy and their families, perhaps in New Brunswick or not, and I really hope that Susan White takes us down a few more of those roads by gifting us with their stories too.

August 02, 2022

The Ugly Place

Written by Laura Deal
Illustrated by Emma Pedersen
Inhabit Media
28 pp.
Ages 4-7
July 2022

When our negative moods take over, everything becomes ugly: places, people, ourselves.  
There is only one way to get to the ugly place, and you have to feel absolutely miserable.
From The Ugly Place by Laura Deal, illus. by Emma Pedersen
With the wet and gloomy weather, this child recognizes that everything is pointing them to a visit to the ugly place. They see ugliness in the exposed shore at low tide, in the fish, in their own mucky footprints on the wet tundra, and the smells of the salt water and the stale seaweed. And this child wallows in that which they see as ugly and matches their ugly mood.
From The Ugly Place by Laura Deal, illus. by Emma Pedersen

But seeing, really seeing, brings clarity. By focusing on that which is in front of them, perception is changed. heart settles when I see the seagull circle around again in effortless flight, joined by another. Their crisp white feathers are exceptionally bright against the sunless sky. They play while gliding and swooping through the air.
They close their eyes and open their senses to the sounds, the smells and the feel of the emerging sun.

Then, and only then, is when IT HAPPENS.
Small things emerge to announce their joyful presence: a stir of the water, the flip and flop of sculpins, and life in the sea, on the land, and in the air. And in the child's heart, through the art of breath.

From The Ugly Place by Laura Deal, illus. by Emma Pedersen
Everything becomes part of an orchestral piece of music with the child conducting. It's up to them to see the virtues of every piece of their place and harmonize them for the big finish. And that grand performance is what finally takes the child from the ugly place to one where smiling is possible and the despair of the person and place disappears.
Getting to the ugly place is not hard when negative emotions overwhelm. Whether it is anger or fear, anxiety or disappointment, misery makes for an efficient vector to joylessness and the blindness to that which would normally inspire gratitude and bring comfort. While Iqaluit's Laura Deal may envision a literal ugly place to which this child visits, with scowling rocks and clouds, the ugliness is actually within and carried by the child, creating the foulness they experience within their landscape. But children, not unlike many adults, don't realize that they carry that ugliness with them to place and people. Fortunately, they also carry the possibility of finding joy both within and without, as this child discovers with some mindfulness in an natural environment. Laura Deal, whose earlier picture books In the Sky at Nighttime and How Nivi Got Her Names share a northern perspective of culture and place, again takes us to a community of the tundra, of rocky terrains, gulls and Arctic sealife. It's a place where a child can walk for great distances from town, ponder their moods and take the time for mindful appreciation beyond themselves. It's a place for insight and reflection, thoughtfulness and solitude, all of which reverberate in Laura Deal's text.

Likewise, Toronto illustrator Emma Pedersen mirrors the moods of the child as they experience the ugly place and shift to acknowledgement of the beauty evident. The furrowed brows and hunched shoulders of a child among the harshness of a landscape teeming with grimacing components reflects the bitterness of their feelings and the gloom of the weather. But all is transformed with light and softness as joy returns. 
Misery and despair will happen in our lives. But, it can and will give way to calm and joy given the opportunity for mindfulness of self and nature, a lesson for all who feel.
From The Ugly Place by Laura Deal, illus. by Emma Pedersen