Showing posts with label West Coast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Coast. Show all posts

June 13, 2020

Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak

Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers
Text by Robert Budd
Harbour Publishing
20 pp.
Ages 2-6
June 2020

If you’re going to introduce the mooing of a cow and the quacking of a duck to young children, be sure to expose them to the symphony of the Northwest Coast’s landscape for a sonorous sensory experience evoked by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd in their fourth book in their First West Coast book series.
From Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak, art by Roy Henry Vickers, text by Robert Budd
As in their earlier concept books in this series, Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd have blended rich graphics with simple words evocative of a beautiful British Columbia environment. There are rivers that rush with whisper and splash; drummers that beat with boom, bang, and pound; cedars that rustle with a murmur and a creak; and geese that fly high with honk, hiss and flap. There are people and places, animals and nature: living, moving, resonating with energy, both subtle and blaring.

From Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak, art by Roy Henry Vickers, text by Robert Budd
If you close your eyes, Robert “Lucky” Budd’s words embed you on the BC coast, hearing, sensing, experiencing its many, many glorious attributes. (In my interview tomorrow with the author and artist, Robert Budd tells how their final double spread was used to pack in the sounds of another twelve animals under the text “with Nature Singing all around”.) The rolling water against a boat or a shore, the overhanging trees, the animals on land, in water, and in the air, while people interact with the natural environment–it’s the life and sound of this place.

Artist Roy Henry Vickers does more than do justice to the text; he conjures it with depth and layers and authority. From the coniferous forests and snow-capped peaks, to waters still and turbulent, and creatures engaged with their worlds, all enriched with spot-gloss elements, Roy Henry Vickers uses strong lines and shape to transport the reader to this place. The art reflects and honours his First Nations heritage and shares it with readers.

From Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak, art by Roy Henry Vickers, text by Robert Budd
Whether the readers are the very young who will recognize the images, rich in their simplicity, and vocalize sounds depicted within, or adults who will revel in the heart of the art and words, Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd have brought the spirit of the West Coast to the page once again.

  • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Look for my interview with Roy Henry Vickers and Robert "Lucky" Budd tomorrow here on CanLit for Little Canadians.

 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Check out all four books in the First West Coast book series which includes:
 Hello Humpback! (2017)
and now
Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak

August 31, 2018

A West Coast Summer

Illustrated with watercolours by Carol Evans
Text by Caroline Woodward
Harbour Publishing
32 pp.
All ages
September 2018

While A West Coast Summer may be a perfect book for reminiscences of a summer past, I think we should enjoy one last plunge into a summer on Canada's West Coast.

A West Coast Summer is a print gallery of dramatic artwork by watercolour artist Carol Evans who lives on Salt Spring Island. Her paintings–cameos, single pages pieces and art that spans double-spreads–depict children in activities along the coast, both on land and on the water, sometimes solitary, often with companions as they explore, play and reflect. It's an intense experience for all the senses as the reader steps foot in the water, cycles on a land spit, scrutinizes the small amidst the majestic landscape of trees and rock, honours their ancestry and accompanies friends and family on common and extraordinary adventures.
Art by Carol Evans from A West Coast Summer, text by Caroline Woodward
You will hear descriptors of the art as gorgeous, breath-taking and beautiful and they are all those things. By Carol Evans's hand, the water becomes palpable, lapping or still, serene or powerful, a playmate, a well of life, or a depth of secrets.  Her ability to give light to landscapes both open and sheltered is astounding. Most readers will feel the need to look closer to convince themselves that Carol Evans's art is not photographic or at least not produced with a camera.  It is not, but it is certainly true to life while evocative of time and place and feeling.
Art by Carol Evans from A West Coast Summer, text by Caroline Woodward
Caroline Woodward, author children's book including Singing Away the Dark (illustrated by Julie Morstad, Simply Read Books, 2011), knows how to put power in words. She hears what children are feeling and thinking and takes the reader with them to the places they visit. The lines
To the sea, to the sea,
who or what waits here for me?
are repeated several times through the book, with rhyming answers like
Sea salt in the air floats everywhere
and cedars smell so sweet beside the shore.

We explore the bog and flip over a log
to find beetles and bugs galore!
Art by Carol Evans from A West Coast Summer, text by Caroline Woodward
The dedication from Carol Evans is a telling statement about the intent of her art and the book:
Dedicated to all the children who will inherit this coastal homeland. And to the children who come to visit her. May we hand it down to you intact.
For those who live on or visit the west coast, A West Coast Summer will be familiar and comfortable.  It will be home.  For those who have never been, the book will be an invitation.

September 01, 2016

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles

by Shari Green
Pajama Press
240 pp.
Ages 8-12
September 2016

I’m trying to have faith
trying to believe everything
will be okay.
But what if things don’t work out?
What if Jasper leaves,
Daniel can’t breathe,
my parents aren’t in love?
What if my family falls apart,
and I have to choose a parent
and not
the other?
Then what good
 is faith?
(pg. 145)
It must feel like the weight of the world is upon Bailey’s small eleven-year-old shoulders.  Being sent with her 8-year-old brother to stay with their hitherto-unknown grandmother, Nana Marie, at Felicity Bay on Arbutus Island on the west coast seems trepidatious enough but this strangeness is compounded by her concerns for her parents who are attending Marriage Repair camp.
My parents should be here.
We should be together
the four of us–
diamonds, clubs, spades, hearts,
Crazy Eights on a Sunday afternoon,
four quarters making a whole
like we always used to be
but might never be
(pg. 13)
Still Bailey has the joie de vivre to find adventures in everything from the pancakes in which she searches for the face of God–Aunt Debbie saw Tom Hanks’ face in her pancakes once– to a piece of driftwood that becomes a mermaid she christens “Our Lady of the Bay.”  And when the prophecy-delivering ice-cream man Jasper, a former preacher, foresees a stranger coming who will change everything, Bailey is hopeful that it’s Our Lady of the Bay who will bring about some good fortune.  With her parents’ marriage in need of repair, her friend and neighbour Daniel suffering with cystic fibrosis, a community divided and occasionally hostile, the compassionate Jasper being disgraced and driven out of town, and the church’s chalice missing, Bailey and Felicity Bay need a miracle or two.

But, even with these uncertainties and burdens, don’t ever think of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles as anything but a story, told magnificently in verse form, of hope and courage and trust in the universe.  Good and bad may ebb and flow like the tides but that’s just the nature of  things.  In the end, it is what it is, and Bailey accepts it to be so.  Nonetheless it doesn’t stop her from making an all-out effort to help, whether it be her parents, Jasper, or a beached dolphin, and try to turn the tides of adversity.

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is Shari Green’s debut novel but it is an accomplished story in form and content worthy of a seasoned writer.  If you’ve enjoyed reviews on CanLit for LittleCanadians, you know that I am fond of novels in verse, but I fully comprehend the titanic challenge of writing one well.  Balancing structure with plot is complicated.  Yet Shari Green dives right in, creating characters and circumstances that effortlessly carry the reader from beginning to end on waves of sentiments, some fearful, most benevolent, all heartfelt.  Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is in itself a miracle of a free verse of
of significance,
ordinary things
that turned out to be
” (pg. 232)

February 09, 2016

Hannah and the Wild Woods

by Carol Anne Shaw
Ronsdale Press
240 pp.
Ages 10+
September 2015

Author Carol Anne Shaw introduced West Coast Hannah and her supernatural affinities in Hannah and the Spindle Whorl (Ronsdale Press, 2010) and followed up with Hannah and the Salish Sea (Ronsdale Press, 2013).  In both stories, Hannah, a teen who lives in Cowichan Bay, had been touched by First Nations spirits of the past, giving her a greater appreciation for their history and for the environment.  Though Hannah and the Wild Woods is the third book in the series, I  am pleased to say that it can be read without reading Books 1 and 2, capably standing alone with a new set of characters and story line, while keeping Hannah tethered in spirit to her roots and passions.

It’s spring break and fifteen-year-old Hannah is heading to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to work with the Coast-is-Clear program, clearing beach debris, much washed up from the Japanese tsunami of 2011.  Surprisingly, also going is Sabrina Webber, Hannah’s rich-girl nemesis, who has to do some eco-community service to avoid juvie for shoplifting.

Things at home are a little tenuous with Hannah’s dad considering moving them from their houseboat at Cowichan Bay to a home in Victoria with his girlfriend, Annie.  Moreover, Hannah’s boyfriend Max is in Mexico vacationing with his family and seemingly at arm’s length.  But Hannah does have Jack, her raven buddy, who follows her to the Tofino area where she will be staying at the lodge called the Artful Elephant with other Coast-is-Clear volunteers.  Led by the program facilitator, Peter, and his girlfriend Jade, Hannah and Sabrina are joined by an older teen, Kimiko, who reveals that she lived through the tsunami and has lost her father.  But there is something unsettling about Kimiko, from the way she moves and disappears sometimes to her relentless questioning of Hannah, and it’s evident that the lodge’s resident dog, Norman, thinks things are off with Kimiko too, kicking up a fuss whenever she’s around.

When a glass ball with curious markings on a gold chain that Jack finds for Hannah goes missing, Hannah begins to suspect Kimiko.  But, Hannah has no idea how weird things are going to get, especially when she spies a fox with multiple tails and the glass ball and chain hanging from one of them.  There’s also a lone wolf that appears to be watching the lodge and the volunteers.  With Jack’s help, Hannah tries to learn Kimiko’s secret and that of the fox and wolf, and make things right for the whole lot of them, while still working to clean up the environment.  She’s one busy girl.

It’s evident that Carol Anne Shaw has great affection for the West Coast, its people and environment, and she takes the reader into that milieu easily.
I push my hair under my hat and face the sea, leaning into the wind at a forty-five degree angle.  It's as though the wind up here is on steroids! I hang for a couple of moments, feeling weightless before allowing myself to be blown back upright.  I feel a little bit like the shrubs and western hemlock out on the point, all of them growing in the same direction, shaped by years of being hammered by the relentless winds. (pg. 38-39)
Everything Hannah feels and does is embedded in that caring and concern and she is a totally believable character.  She wants to be good and do good but is still human with her distress, frustration, suspicion, worry and anger.  But by tying in elements of Japanese folklore, specifically the kitsune and Okami, Carol Anne Shaw makes Hannah and the Wild Woods into a bigger story of finding oneself and one’s family and accepting mistakes as learning steps.  Kimiko has lots of learning to do (even if she is almost 900 years old!) but, at 15, Hannah has lots of life wisdom to share.  Though there are multiple harrowing circumstances and even a devastating loss, Hannah and the Wild Woods will deliver the reader to a calm that can only appear after the storm.  Look forward to the ending.

August 16, 2014

A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison

by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson
An Ann Featherstone Book, Pajama Press
40 pp.
All ages
For release September, 2014

I hope that the above reproduction of the book cover of A Brush Full of Colour adequately represents the brilliance of the book's images and the story of artist Ted Harrison, as told by award-winning children's author Margriet Ruurs and biographer Katherine Gibson. If I could have posted a larger graphic of the book here, I would have, because this book is virtually larger than life.

Within a scant 40 pages, the authors share Ted Harrison's progression from the coal-mining County Durham in England, to art school and military service post-WWII, teaching, immigration to Canada, and full-time artistry.  Art was nurtured from a young Harrison by his father and by his own love of reading, and thrived when living in India, Africa, Malaysia, and New Zealand, using ink and watercolours, oils, and acrylics, learning to depict only positive images, as
"There's enough sadness and misery in the world without hanging it on our walls." (pg. 14)
But it's Ted Harrison's move with his wife and son to northern Alberta and the Yukon that compelled him to break free of his early art styles which could not evoke the life and grandeur of the northern land and sky.  Incorporating the colours and techniques he'd seen in his travels, Ted Harrison explored using wild and bold colours and outlining in black, ultimately creating his effusive trademark style.
Northern Education, 1989 by Ted Harrison; Reproduced
on back cover of A Brush Full of Colour

Biographies for young readers can be difficult to write and organize successfully.  Too often, the story and details are lost in dense text, frequently with few graphics, especially when dealing with historical figures.  But A Brush Full of Colour is an exemplary youngCanLit biography having: informative text, organized well under headings such as Childhood, Travelling the World, Life in the North, and A Full-Time Artist; an assortment of visuals, including photographs and samples of Ted Harrison's artwork throughout his career; quotes from the artist; and key features of non-fiction texts such as a table of contents, index and resources section.

The artwork is rich and spirited, the artist thoughtful and A Brush Full of Colour's portrayal honours both.