November 22, 2017

The Christmas Wind: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

Last week I reviewed this very special picture book 
which I believe will be heralded as a Christmas favourite
like The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas 

Now I'm please to announce its book launch.

πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

Join 

author Stephanie Simpson McLellan

for the launch of

The Christmas Wind
Written by Stephanie Simpson McLellan
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-534-9
32 pp.
All ages
November 2017

on

Sunday, December 3, 2017

at

1 p.m.

at

Ella Minnow Children's Bookstore
991 Kingston Road
Toronto, ON

πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

This event will include:
• an interactive reading
• crafts for kids
• treats
• book signing
and
Christmas Wind loot bags.

I can't think of a better way to start the holiday season 
than by attending this launch with your children or without.


Just be sure to RSVP at



November 21, 2017

When the Moon Comes

Written by Paul Harbridge
Illustrated by Matt James
Tundra Books
978-1-101-91777-0
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2017
In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive. – Stephen Leacock
With Stephen Leacock's words prefacing the book, readers can anticipate a book of cold and ice which only hockey can warm to life.  This is our Canada.
Separate illustrations from When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
The children in When the Moon Comes anticipate the coming winter, but it's all about the hockey.  November may still find ducks on the beaver flood in the woods but December finally brings the cold snap that causes it to freeze.  They're already envisioning being on the ice but Arthur suggests they must wait for the moon. When the snow finally comes, dumping it on town and country alike, and the lunar cycle progresses until the full moon, the children make their way after school to the place of dreams and action.
From When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
Their long trek is rewarded with a fire that warms their skates and their anticipation as they take turns clearing the "magic ice."
It is dark, dark now, and the face of the sky is freckled with stars.  But on the far side of the flood, the sky is brighter behind the trees. The moon is rising.
     When the moon comes, we glide out onto the ice we have claimed.  It is marvelous ice, as good as any we have known.
From When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
In several wordless pages of Matt James' extraordinary art, the children skate and play and are stars in their own arena.  It is only when the puck disappears into the snow that Arthur, the voice of reason, suggests it is time to end the game.  The game may be set aside but the magic at the fire, drinking tea and toasty sandwiches, is just a new play before heading home.
Our wet pants freeze solid in the cold, and we walk clanking like knights in armor, lances over our shoulders, hoods like helmets around our faces. 
The story ends with the children warm and slumbering at home while the moon with its promise of more hockey accompanies their sleep.

Paul Harbridge's story of late night hockey on a frozen beaver flood is as magical as the ice.  His words of anticipation and emotion are subtle but reverent, packed with feeling.  Like the world hidden beneath the snow and ice, there is a story of expectation from the past and of the future that underlies what is at its core a tale of shinny.  Artist Matt James, whose work I've admired in Northwest Passage (Groundwood, 2013), The Stone Thrower (Groundwood, 2016) and From There to Here (Groundwood, 2014), enriches Paul Harbridge's text with acrylic and India ink illustrations that convey the awe and appreciation of the children for their landscape and their activity.  There may be darkness and frigid temperatures but there is warmth and camaderie and action.  With many strokes of pen and paint, Paul Harbridge and Matt James take all readers to a place of inhospitable iciness and hospitable hockey that can only be witnessed and fully appreciated When the Moon Comes.

November 20, 2017

Spirited Away: Fairy Stories of Old Newfoundland

Written by Tom Dawe
Illustrated by Veselina Tomova
Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides Inc.
978-1-927917-13-8
60 pp.
Ages 9+
October 2017

If the cover of Spirited Away leaves you with a feeling of dark and foreboding forces at play, then artist Veselina Tomova has done her job admirably because the stories that Tom Dawe recounts from family members and others about the nefarious fairies of old Newfoundland are truly spooky and frightening, if they are to be believed.  Tom Dawe and those who tell and listen believe, and so do I.
From Spirited Away 
by Tom Dawe
 illus. by Veselina Tomova
Nine stories, addended with a glossary and notes about each story's derivation, recall stories of children, a war bride, a visiting nurse, grandmothers and more as they were touched by fairies or were witness to such encounters.  In the first story In a Place Like This, a girl recalls an abandoned house near a pool where her grandfather gathered eels.  She'd heard the warnings of it being a place of spirits and evil fairies and the tales of a man in green dancing upon the house's door ledge.  But her story relates to evil done to the baby sister she watched over as her family cut hay in the adjacent fields.  Only the baby and a green butterfly know how her arm was broken as she lay on a blanket.

Paddy the Hermit, called the Music Man, often told scary stories but they became reality when walking home he is encircled by a group of little fairies who put a spell on him to play his harmonica until he collapses.
From Spirited Away 
by Tom Dawe
 illus. by Veselina Tomova
In several stories, people seek shelter inside at night when fairies seek to harm them outside.  In The Marsh, floating lights, said to portend death, follow two young men on their return from a dance.  Only shelter in a church all night with the light hoovering outside kept the men safe. Where Water Ran the Other Way tells of trapper Solomon finds refuge in a small cabin when caught at dusk.  Though feeling compelled to open the door to those calling him, he wills himself not to listen or look out the windows at the strange goings-on.

There's the story of The Fairy Funeral, Bones and Fallen Angels (from which the cover illustration is derived)  but the other two most compelling stories for me were Spirited Away and The Changeling.  In Spirited Away, a grandmother disappears from a family outing of blueberry-picking.  She recalls being lured deep into the forest by drumming and hours later being found but without memory of her extraordinary walk including the crossing of major rivers. The Changeling is perhaps the most disturbing.  It is the story of a visiting nurse called in the night to the home where less than two months earlier little Gracie was born.  Fearing the only child of John and Sally was ill, she discovers a mother declaring that there was something in the crib but not her child.
Finally, I found the courage to approach the crib. I pulled back the sheet.  And then, God protect us all! I'll never forget the sight. (pg. 46)
It's a chilling story of fairies taking babies and leaving something in its place but it's the certainty of what that nurse saw that was the most compelling.
I know what I saw.  And I know what happened.  John and Sally lost their only child. And that night in an outport years ago, I witnessed an evil transformation.  Something ugly and strange was left in the cot where Gracie was supposed to be. (pg. 49)
Tom Dawe tells some disturbing stories in Spirited Away, enhancing the atmosphere with the flavour of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador.  From the music to blueberry picking and the vocabulary much unknown to me (you may not need to look up duckish, emper, fetch, livyers and herts but I did), these are the stories of the people of Newfoundland.  Veselina Tomova's woodcut illustrations, in dark tones and snatches of light, reflect the very settings in which the fairies appear.  These are not your Disney fairies.  These are frightening, and Tom Dawe ensures that we know that they are real.
From Spirited Away 
by Tom Dawe 
illus. by Veselina Tomova

November 19, 2017

Mine!: Rescheduled Book Launch (Waterloo, ON)

Yeah!  This event has now been rescheduled.  
See details below.

•••••••••••••••••
Join 

 fiction and non-fiction author

Natalie Hyde


for the launch of her new middle-grade novel

MINE!
Written by Natalie Hyde
Scholastic Canada
978-1-44314-660-9
240 pp.
Ages 9-12
September 2017

on

Saturday, November 25, 2017

at

1-3 p.m.

at

Earth Sciences Museum
University of Waterloo
shows the Earth Sciences Building 
and parking lots, 
including free parking in X Lot or $5 parking in Q)


Three will be:
• a book reading
• Q & A
• book signing
• light refreshments
• gold panning (!)
• Mine Tunnel tour

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Like her previous middle grade fiction Saving Armpit (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011) and I Owe You One (Orca, 2011), Natalie Hyde is putting her humour to work!  And this time it's about a gold claim in the Yukon and saving a family's reputation.


If it weren't for bad luck, Chris Dearing would have no luck at all. 

Chris Dearing comes from a long line of losers. Bad luck has plagued the Dearing family for generations. Now his dad's about to lose everything, and Chris's only hope lies in the wild rivers of the Yukon. What is up there other than moose snot and mosquitos the size of bats? Gold! Specifically, a gold claim Chris’s grandfather was swindled out of years ago. 

With the help of a tough-talking biker and an ex-con muffin baker, Chris is in a race against time to claim the long-forgotten family fortune. Will he strike out like the rest of his family, or will he strike gold and finally get a chance to rewrite Dearing history?

The stakes are high and the hi-jinx even higher in this laugh-out-loud novel from acclaimed author Natalie Hyde!

 (Retrieved from Scholastic Canada website at http://www.scholastic.ca/books/view/mine)

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Details about this event
(including a lovely picture of Natalie Hyde panning for gold!)
 are available at
(though the date has yet to be updated
so just know that the launch is really on November 25, 2017)

November 15, 2017

The Man Who Knew Everything: The Strange Life of Athanasius Kircher

Written by Marilee Peters
Illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff
Annick Press
978-1-55451-974-3
60 pp.
Ages 9-12
October 2017


Athanasius Kircher, born in 1602 Germany, dreamed of being someone extraordinary, perhaps a scientist or an author or a scholar.  The insatiably curious child who was prone to reckless behaviour to indulge that inquisitiveness would be proud to know that people regarded him as "The Man Who Knew Everything."

Asking questions about all he encountered, Athanasius Kircher chose to become a Jesuit at age 16 so that he might travel away from his village and experience everything the world might hold.  But with the onset of the religious war known as the Thirty Years' War, Kircher found himself evading the conflict by heading to the safety of the Roman Catholicism-based Rome where he became a professor of mathematics.  However, Kircher never limited his drive for knowledge to that field and pursued interests in everything.  From machines that transmitted sound to the secrets harboured within the earth, Kircher's pursuit of knowledge placed him in countless precarious positions.  It may have been the time of the Scientific Revolution when questions about the age of the earth and foundations of life were being asked but it was also the time of the Inquisition when the Church went after those whom they felt threatened their belief system.  Kircher persisted, embarking on dangerous explorations into the heart of a volcano, collaborating with scientists and priests around the world to formulate his ideas about the earth's development and publishing The Underground World, a compendium of his theories.  To share his ideas and display the many exotic oddities he discovered and was gifted, Kircher established a showcase for them, the Kircherian Museum in Rome.
From The Man Who Knew Everything
by Marilee Peters 
illus. by Roxanna Bikadoroff
Marilee Peters ensures that young readers understand that this strange man, with his innovative and bizarre ideas, was imaginative, brilliant and ahead of his times in many ways.  He didn't always get things right, like the use of rocks to extract snake venom or a mammoth bone identified as that of ancient supersized humans, but his original thinking, definitely outside the box, allowed for new ideas to come to the forefront and be considered for future study.  He was a pioneer of the scientific method and probably originated the concept of promoting science by linking it with the wonder of its magic.  (The lobster statue "vomiting" water would be a prime example.) It's not surprising that the word "kircherize" was generated to mean the making of connections between unrelated things.
From The Man Who Knew Everything 
by Marilee Peters 
illus. by Roxanna Bikadoroff

As biography, The Man Who Knew Everything is somewhat a departure for Marilee Peters whose non-fiction for young people includes 10 Rivers That Shaped the World (Annick, 2015) and Making It Right: Building Peace, Settling Conflict (Annick, 2015) but her fastidious research and ability to bring imagination to her topics of study are definitely there.  The text, never extensive but always illuminating, is like a museum of information, short snippets of knowledge bites.  With Roxanna Bikadoroff's quirky illustrations (recently seen in The Alphabet Thief; Groundwood, 2017), The Man Who Knew Everything has a Monty Pythonesque vibe (recall their TV show of the 1970s): a little irreverent, a lot of details and a general impression of something innovative.  By encompassing lots of biographical info and scientific thought in an unconventional style, The Man Who Knew Everything works for a visionary whose unusual drive for knowledge opened many doors and left many open for further exploration. He might not have actually known everything, but he sure tried.
From The Man Who Knew Everything 
by Marilee Peters 
illus. by Roxanna Bikadoroff

November 14, 2017

Goodnight, Hockey Fans

Written by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Jacqui Lee
Kids Can Press
978-1-77138-105-5
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
October 2017

Older readers will recognize the title as the sign-off of radio and TV broadcaster Foster Hewitt after calling a hockey game for Hockey Night in Canada.  They may even recognize the setting, time and place, from their mid-1950s to early-1960s home, with its antennaed television and transistor radio.  But every child, then and now, who dreams of hockey glory will feel this story.

Though the family–mom, dad, son, dog and cat–are enjoying watching television, it's time for the child to go to bed.  He's a little apprehensive, not knowing if he'll be able to fall asleep, especially amidst the silence that seems to roar.
From Goodnight, Hockey Fans 
by Andrew Larsen 
illus. by Jacqui Lee
He shines his flashlight on his hockey poster, pennant and puck trophy and finally settles on calming himself with his dad's old transistor radio.  When he hears the familiar "Welcome back, hockey fans from coast to coast" he knows he has found his ticket to dreamland.
From Goodnight, Hockey Fans 
by Andrew Larsen 
illus. by Jacqui Lee
And dream he does. First it's just the hockey game that might be being watched on TV, but soon the announcement of a boy skating onto the ice and going after the puck is trumpeted.  There is that culminating goal and cheers that fade into the nighttime quiet, but it's not really over until mom and dad head to bed and hear the iconic sign-off from their son's concealed radio:  "Goodnight, hockey fans from coast to coast."
From Goodnight, Hockey Fans 
by Andrew Larsen 
illus. by Jacqui Lee
What a delightful way to celebrate hockey in Canada and to honour Foster Hewitt, the voice of Canadian hockey! By melding the broadcast of a hockey game, complete with the broadcaster's trademark sayings, with a boy's imaginative dreams, everyone is transported to a dreamland of historic play on the ice.  Andrew Larsen who can't possibly be old enough to remember when Foster Hewitt's broadcasts took place on radio and TV captures the wonder of the game and the dream of children nation-wide to play with their hockey heroes and score a winning goal.   The playfulness that Andrew Larsen embeds in his books (see Dingus, Kids Can Press, 2017; Charlie's Dirt Day, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2015; and See You Next Year, Owlkids Books, 2015) comes through loud and clear, even in the quiet of a dreaming child's bedroom.

That same playfulness is evoked in Jacqui Lee's retro-style illustrations. From the colours she selects, very reminiscent of a 1950s paint palette, to the uniforms of the hockey players, Jacqui Lee's artwork blends well with Andrew Larsen's story's setting.  The art, like the text, is of a time when Foster Hewitt was everything to hockey in Canada, including the soothing voice of dreams and comfortable slumber.

November 13, 2017

The Christmas Wind

Written by Stephanie Simpson McLellan
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-534-9
32 pp.
All ages
November 2017

The Christmas Wind is special.  It is very, very special.  And I suspect that it will be the Christmas book for this year and many to follow because of its secular telling of the Christmas story without getting bogged down in the religion.
The wind shoved Jo sideways, stealing feeling from her fingers and toes.  It chased her with ghostly moans and creepy shrieks.  The day before Christmas and still no snow.  She should have been glad, but the skinny road seemed colder without it.
Jo and her mother Merry and baby brother Christopher have had to leave a bad situation.  There may not be snow but it is cold and windy and the bus station, their destination, is still a long way away.  The young girl has taken charge, carrying her baby brother and helping her mother who is obviously unwell and weak.  When she realizes they must find shelter immediately but she cannot shoulder the weight of both her mother and the baby, she takes Christopher and heads to the barn of Franklin Murdock, "an old man as unfriendly as the wind."  Cautiously, she approaches, wary of the man who'd turned crusty after the loss of his wife and child, but Jo is determined to be brave and help her family.
From The Christmas Wind 
by Stephanie Simpson McLellan 
illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
Laying Christopher in a manger amidst the cows and sheep, Jo goes to retrieve her mother.  But when the two return to the barn, the manger is empty.  With a fury and a shovel, Jo heads to the house to confront Mr. Murdock.  But as she berates him and he questions her about why they are in his barn, he offers shelter in his home, first carrying her mother from the cold of his outbuilding.
From The Christmas Wind
by Stephanie Simpson McLellan
 illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
As they stepped into the rising storm, the wind blew both ways at once and a path of light from a single star opened before them.  Jo and Murdock found themselves momentarily suspended between where they came from and where they were going, until an eager blast of air hurried them to the house.
Though he provides them shelter in his house, Murdock seems immobilized by grief, their presence a reminder of his own losses on a past Christmas Eve.  Jo will have none of it.  "You can't give up like that." She swept her arm around the room.  "Things won't get better on their own."

From The Christmas Wind
by Stephanie Simpson McLellan 
illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
How the story ends is secreted away in the glorious final pages of The Christmas Wind.  Suffice it to say that the Christmas wind brings snow and so much more.

Though Stephanie Simpson McLellan touches on the Christmas story with the homeless Josephine, Merry and Christopher, a barn and a manger and a man's name that encompasses the gifts of the magi, The Christmas Wind is not the story of the birth of Christ.  It is a story of compassion and grief and determination and acceptance. Though Brooke Kerrigan's outstanding illustrations suggest another time, perhaps the 1940s, The Christmas Wind is a story for our time.  There is too much misunderstanding and jumping to conclusions and fears about others when we feel vulnerable but it is compassion for others that bridges all that separates us.  Like the wind that carries the family to Mr. Murdock's farm and heralds a new world blanketed in snow, The Christmas Wind portends the need for a deeper meaning to the holidays that should supersede all else.  
From The Christmas Wind 
by Stephanie Simpson McLellan 
illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
The excerpts I've included above speak to the gift of Stephanie Simpson McLellan's words. They are rich and atmospheric, and deep in spirit.   Partnering her text with Brooke Kerrigan's impressive artwork is inspired.  The softness of the watercolour and pencil of Brooke Kerrigan's images conveys much about the characters' strengths and pains, the briskness of that wind, and the inner shelter of barn and house.  The Christmas Wind is a complete package of words and art about that which is right or should be for the holiday season and always.

I'd like to leave the last words to author Stephanie Simpson McLellan who writes about her book and the meaning of The Christmas Wind to her.
“Some of the classic Christmas stories such as Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express, Susan Wojciechowski’s Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Jean Little’s Room for a Little One and Peter Collington’s A Small Miracle were as integral to our holiday traditions as stockings hung by the fire. I wanted to contribute to that tradition. If you read closely, you’ll see that many elements of the original Christmas story are in The Christmas Wind, but jumbled and thinly disguised, suggesting that we all have the capacity for new beginnings. My young heroine, Jo, is my favourite kind of protagonist – someone who becomes fearless through necessity, squaring off against adversity to create something bigger than herself. She and Murdock are, unexpectedly, exactly what each other needed, enabling each to access the true spirit of the season.”
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

The Christmas Wind Project
Teachers, Stephanie Simpson McLellan has been promoting the Christmas Wind project for several years though the book only launches this fall. You can read all about it on her website at http://stephaniemclellan.com/teachers-corner-3/christmas-wind-story-project/. Stephanie Simpson McLellan describes it as a "unique literacy experiment" with "students from JK-Grade 6 listening to a story in a format akin to an old, serialized radio show."

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Book launch
The Christmas Wind launches on Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 1 p.m. at Ella Minnow Children's Bookstore in Toronto.  I will post details soon.