September 30, 2013

10 Ways to Improve Your Body Image from Cheryl Rainfield, author of "Stained"

Stained
by Cheryl Rainfield
Harcourt Children's Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
978-0-547-94208-7
304 pp.
Ages 14+
Release date October 1, 2013

Tomorrow is the release date for Cheryl Rainfield's Stained, reviewed by CanLit for LittleCanadians hereBody image is a key factor in plot development in Stained, with multiple characters focusing on their perceived imperfections or those of others to an unhealthy degree.  Knowing the damage that a poor body image can have, Cheryl Rainfield has shared her thoughts, as well as links to relevant resources, in this downloadable article:   

This is an important read for all of us, even younger than the mature readership needed for Stained, as teachers of media literacy will recognize. Help your students and your children understand the issues of body image to ensure good health, mental and physical.

September 29, 2013

Stained: Book Launch (Toronto)

Cheryl Rainfield 

author of
Scars
 Westside Books
248 pp.
Ages 14+
2010 
Hunted
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
316 pp.
Ages 13+
2012 
 
Parallel Visions: A Teen Psychic Novel Book 1
Rain and Sun Press
146 pp.
Ages 13+
2012
  

will launch her newest book 


Stained
HMH Books for Young Readers
978-0-547942087
304 pp.
Ages 14+

This is the story of Sarah Meadows who is abducted on the very day she had hoped to start treatment to remove the port-wine stain on her face, and who is kept in captivity and abused by her captor for months. Fortunately, Sarah recognizes that,
"Sometimes you have to be your own hero."

on

 Sunday, October 27, 2013

12 noon

at

Indigo Books
Yorkdale Mall
Toronto


There will be:
  • a live self-defense demonstration
  • an author reading
  • cake
  • a contest to win coffee with the author
  • a 4-class self-defense prize pack for one teen who attends the book launch
  • book signings by Cheryl Rainfield, and
  •  fun!

September 28, 2013

Stained


by Cheryl Rainfield
Harcourt Children's Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
978-0-547-94208-7
304 pp.
Ages 14+
Release date October 1, 2013
Reviewed from advance reading copy


Sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows has always focused on the port-wine stain that covers the right-side of her face, determined to get the surgical treatments so that she might become "normal".  The debilitating impact she has experienced because of it has compelled her to live vicariously through her comic character, Diamond, to hide behind a curtain of hair, and to only hang out with other social outcasts. But the very day she is to start treatment, her father learns that someone has embezzled so much money from his graphic design company that there isn't enough to pay a bank loan and her surgery.

At school, Sarah has to share this unexpected news with her group of friends: Charlene who is overweight and the brunt of her father's verbal abuse; Gemma, a lesbian; and Nick, who is considered a geeky "doughboy" by others, though Sarah considers that,
"They don't care that he's kind, smart, and good natured, and sort of cute in a soft, chubby way, with messy, sandy hair that's always falling into his eyes and a quick smile. All they see is his weight and his social awkwardness." (pg. 15)
When Nick narrates a chapter, he emulates the same sentiments about Sarah, calling her beautiful and wishing she could see how amazing she is.

On the way home, a bullying incident has Brian Gormley, her dad's cute assistant, coming to her rescue, offering to help and drive her home.  Though she declines, feeling that "Something isn't right" (pg. 35), Brian grabs her, drugs her and locks her away, with a padlocked leather blindfold on.  He claims that he will help her and her parents by giving them "freedom from the pain in their lives" (pg. 84) as he has done for others.  Thus begins a tortuous imprisonment of months in which Sarah endures physical, sexual and psychological abuse at Brian's hands.  Worse is Sarah's ignorance of the efforts being made to find her, especially by Nick and her parents, with the duplicitous Brian even offering assistance.  Nick becomes relentless in pursuing every lead possible, outdoing the seemingly ineffective efforts of the police.

Throughout Sarah's imprisonment, she attempts to understand Brian's motivations, determined that she would not "let Brian's lies become my reality." (pg. 154) As she attempts to appease him, Sarah is actually becoming emotionally stronger, learning how to handle him and manipulate situations as she can. It's ironic that the very manipulation Brian accuses Sarah of instigating to derive guilt from her parents is a skill she develops courtesy of his abuse. Though he may see her as becoming weaker and submissive, Sarah continues to look for any means to save herself, recognizing that she "has to get herself out, not wait for someone to save her." (pg. 179)

Cheryl Rainfield has courageously admitted that she has drawn on her personal experiences to write Stained (see original Stained release announcement ), emphasizing the positive attributes of courage, perseverance, and self-reliance rather than on the trauma.  This becomes self-evident from the tag line for the book,
Sometimes YOU have to be your own hero.
But just as important is self-acceptance, as Sarah, Nick and her friends learn.  They might all see the "better side" of life for those who are beautiful or slender or popular, but a crash course in introspection makes them realize the superficiality of those attributes and the absence of any relationship with goodness.  The beautiful Brian Gormley is a prime example of a revolting inside to an oft admired exterior.  Sadly for Sarah, this lesson must come at the cost of her freedom.

Not an easy read, Stained will have young adult readers both cringing for the physical, sexual and emotional abuse Sarah must endure and cheering for her efforts and determination to survive, recognizing that her Stained face has only been masking, temporarily, the hero within.

___________________________________________

Look for posts shortly regarding Cheryl Rainfield's book launch for Stained and her take on improving body image.  In the meanwhile, check out Cheryl Rainfield's video explaining why she wrote Stained  here on YouTube.

September 26, 2013

How to Curse in Hieroglyphics: Book Launch (Toronto)


How to Curse in Hieroglyphics

is coming!

Authors 
Lesley Livingston & Jonathan Llyr
and
illustrator
Steven Burley

will be launching

 How to Curse in Hieroglyphics

Puffin Canada
978-0143184249
248 pp.
Ages 8-12


Book 1 in a new middle-grade series
The Wiggins Weird

on 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

3 p.m.

at

 The Dominion Pub
The Dominion on Queen
500 Queen St. East
Toronto, ON


There will be:
  •  readings
  • signings
  • popcorn
  • a special Drive-In themed menu
  •  music from John Stuart Campbell 
  •  fun for the whole family (kids are encouraged to come!)

Sounds like lots of fun!
See you there

September 25, 2013

Do You Know Chameleons?

by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar
Illustrated by Sampar
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
978-1-55455-299-3
64 pp.
Ages 7+
August, 2013

Do You Know Chameleons?  If not, you soon will and that learning will be accompanied surprisingly by uproarious laughter that is rarely heard when young readers check out non-fiction.  Why does non-fiction have to be so dry?  Of course, there are many topics which cannot be lightened with humour because the tragedy and horror embedded therein.  But, what about when learning of chameleons (and toads, spiders, crocodiles, and then rats, leeches, crows and porcupines)?  Let's face it: chameleons are odd little organisms with their quirky nature of camouflage. (See why youngCanLit Camilla Chameleon by Colleen Sydor from Kids Can Press, 2005 was such a hit with kids.  But I digress.) So by taking advantage of the weird and wonderful and then developing a graphic Do You Know? series, Alain M. Bergeron, Michael Quintin and Sampar, courtesy of Fitzhenry & Whiteside, have just given young readers another reason to enjoy non-fiction.

From a graphic of a mother telling her chameleon son to look both ways before crossing the street to demonstrate the organism's independent eye movements (noted in captions) to the boxing match between two chameleons in which the victor becomes more colourful and the loser discolours, Do You Know Chameleons? is filled with bright cartoons depicting key attributes of these animals.  The readers may not always get the puns but they are sure to enjoy the chameleons and other animals as they shop, go to school, eat, fight, surprise and even get traffic tickets! A succinct but useful glossary and index complete the book's well organized format.

Other books in the series include the following:
Do You Know Crocodiles?
by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar
Illustrated by Sampar
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
978-1-55455-304-4
64 pp.
Ages 7+
August, 2013
Do You Know Spiders?
by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar
Illustrated by Sampar
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
978-1-55455-302-0
64 pp.
Ages 7+
August, 2013
Do You Know Toads?
by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar
Illustrated by Sampar
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
978-1-55455-303-7
64 pp.
Ages 7+
August, 2013


... and they are all equally engaging and informative.  I love this series!

September 24, 2013

Whimsy's Heavy Things: Book Launch (Toronto)

Join

debut author and illustrator 
Julie Kraulis

website: http://www.juliekraulis.com/


for the launch of her first picture book


Whimsy's Heavy Things
Tundra Books
978-1-77049-403-9
32 pp.
Ages 4-7

on

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
at
6-8 p.m.

at

Modern Baby
208 Christie Street
Toronto, ON 
416-536-9977


RSVP to 
RSVPCanada@randomhouse.com

September 23, 2013

The Camel in the Sun

by Griffin Ondaatje
Illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-381-0
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
October 2013

Imagine the oppressive, unrelenting heat of the desert east of the Red Sea, and the heavy, cumbersome weights of spices, silk, silver, wool and such that a camel has been forced to carry year after year for a merchant who disregards his beast of burden, only focusing on reaching his destinations so that he may rest in the shade and become more prosperous. 

Not surprising that, after many, many years of such toil and hardship, a camel would become overwhelmed by the sadness of his situation, shedding tears for the futility of his life and his suffering, both past and yet to endure. The merchant witnesses the tears but chastizes the camel for wasting time and keeping himself away from the water the camel requires.

A chance encounter with the Prophet gives the camel the emotional and physical support to release his sadness, trembling in heaving waves of unhappiness against the Prophet's shoulder.  But as the camel sobs, his tears enter the dreams of the merchant who sleeps in the cool shade just steps away from the camel tethered in the hot sun.  When the merchant awakens from his grief-stricken sleep filled with tears and heartache, the Prophet simply asks, "Can't you see that the camel is sad?"  Yes, he finally can.

Inspired by a traditional Muslim hadith–an account of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings–Griffin Ondaatje (yes, son of Michael Ondaatje) simply and eloquently conveys the lesson that empathy has value in making respectful connections between living things, resulting in greater peace and contentment.  The text of The Camel in the Sun is appropriately subdued, never rushed but epitomizes the plodding burdens, physical and emotional, endured by the camel. The illustrations by Austrian Linda Wolfsgruber complement the very essence of this retelling of the hadith, conveying the vastness of the world and its overwhelming nature while still emphasizing the importance of compassion on a one-to-one scale.  Respectfully, the Prophet is never illustrated and the faces of both the merchant and camel are ambiguous, allowing the reader to extend the message in The Camel in the Sun–empathy as the foundation of all positive relationships–to all living things, human and otherwise.

September 22, 2013

Curse of the Dream Witch

by Allan Stratton
Scholastic Canada
978-1-4431-1937-5
266 pp.
Ages 8-12
September, 2013

While Allan Stratton has demonstrated a craft for social justice fiction writing with Leslie's Journal (Annick, 2000), Chanda's Secrets (Annick, 2004) and Chanda's Wars (HarperCollins, 2008), last year's The Grave Robber's Apprentice (reviewed here) has grounded the author's writing feet firmly on middle-grade turf.  With Curse of the Dream Witch, Allan Stratton has secured himself a position in MG youngCanLit.

In the Kingdom of Bellumen, it is the twelfth year of the Great Dread, a time in which parents fear for their children's safety, with boys and girls disappearing at night or in the woods.  All is blamed on the Princess Olivia, whose parents King Augustine and Queen Sophia had sought the help of the Dream Witch in having a child.  The Dream Witch had only asked for a small keepsake which she demands at their daughter's christening: the heart of their daughter, Princess Olivia.  But, Olivia is protected by a dozen pysanky (decorated eggs) gifted to her from Ephemia, the court wizard, and the Dream Witch angrily curses them,
"By the morning of the princess's thirteenth birthday, these twelve pysanky will be destroyed and I will have her heart. Until it beats in my hand, none of your children will be safe." (pg. 11)
So the Great Dread began, with curfews and restrictions placed on the children of the Kingdom, including Olivia, so that they may be kept safe from harm, though many children do go missing and their family homes burned.  By the time Olivia is 12, there is only one of the delicate pysanky left unbroken and she is locked in a turret cell with it and only her books and pet mouse, Penelope. 

Milo, a farmer's son born on the same day as Olivia, is desperate to leave his tedious life of corn farming by day and locked in the house at night.  Accidentally, Milo ventures into the woods and is taken by the Dream Witch, awakening in a glass jar, one of many with children from which she takes gratings for her spells. Using a drawing to transport Milo to the armoire in Olivia's turret, the Dream Witch threatens Milo with his parents' lives if he does not bring Olivia to her.  It is fortuitous that Milo is there in the armoire when Olivia decides that she must runaway rather than going with the disgusting and arrogant Prince Leo of Pretonia and his uncle, the Duke of Fettwurst, ostensibly to keep her safe but ultimately for marriage.

So the adventure begins, with everyone tackling their fears, Olivia trying to evade Leo and the Dream Witch, Milo struggling with his need to save his parents but not get Olivia harmed, Penelope showing herself to be...(you'll discover this when you read the book) and Leo and the Dream Witch manipulating everyone with lies and magic.  For Olivia, Milo and Penelope, it's a perilous escapade through repugnant heaps of earthworms, demon dolls, deceiving look-alikes, and other beasts, with only fear, friendship and courage to guide their actions.

Curse of the Dream Witch is a cautionary tale that illustrates, as the Dream Witch so aptly recognizes, "Dreams can become nightmares" (pg. 4) with Allan Stratton's imagery so visual that the nightmare is almost tangible. From the Dream Witch's nose that was,
"Longer than an elephant's trunk, and twice as wrinkled, its base spanned the width of her forehead, descending between her eyes to her waist, where it coiled around her body and looped itself into a belt." (pg. 4)
 to Leo who was "... slimy, with spots. Sweat dripped from his pasty cheeks, while his pimples glistened like ripe cherries" (pg. 59) and a beast with, "Claws attached to tentacles with suckers the size of plates." (pg. 152-3) Yuck, right? In the true spirit of folktales and fairy tales, children's stories that include supernatural elements such as the magic of the Dream Witch, Curse of the Dream Witch does more than teach about perseverance and self-respect and caring for others (that's the teacher in me talking): it entertains with humour, irreverence and surrealistic repugnance, without the violence.  I can already hear the laughs and "Yucks" soundtrack that is sure to accompany any reading of Curse of the Dream Witch.

September 20, 2013

Book Rapport: WordFest (Calgary)

WordFest is a literary festival held in Banff and Calgary, bringing readers and writers together through readings, performance, panel discussions and interviews.  A part of WordFest is its educational program, First Calgary Financial Book Rapport, when children and youth will have the opportunity to experience the power of stories.

Welcome to Book Rapport!

For five days each October, Book Rapport hosts an eclectic mix of talent, bringing the ideas and words of great writers alive and up close to youth in Calgary and Banff. In 2012, over 6,600 students experienced these fun and engaging events in various cultural venues in Calgary and in schools.

This year's list of authors for children and young adults includes both youngCanLit authors and illustrators (names in colour) and those from outside Canada:

  • Marie-Louise Gay, author and illustrator of Read Me a Story Stella, When Stella Was Very, Very Small, Caramba and Henry
  • Eric Walters, picture book and middle-grade fiction author of My Name is Blessing, The Matatu, Camp X, and Between Heaven and Earth
  • Monica Kulling, children's fiction and non-fiction of Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, Going Up: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top, Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity, and Making Contact: Marconi Goes Wireless
  • Teresa Toten, YA author of The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, The Taming, and Me and the Blondes
  • David Ward, author of picture books and children's fiction including One Hockey Night, The Hockey Tree and Escape the Mask
  • Barbara Reid, plasticene illustrator and author of Perfect Snow, Read Me a Story and Fox Walked Alone
  • Alan Silberberg, author of illustrated middle-grade books Milo and his newest The Awesome Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt and Craz
  • Cary Fagan,  children's fiction author of Oy Feh So?, Mr. Zinger's Hat, The Boy in the Box and The Fortress of Kaspar Snit
  • Rhéa Dufresne, l'auteure de Arachnéa
  • Wallace Edwards, illustrator and author of Uncle Wally's Old Brown Shoe, Alphabeasts and Monkey Business
  • Hélène Koscielniak, l'auteure de Filleul et de Marraine
  • Glen Huser, young adult author of The Runaway, Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen and Stitches
  • André Jacob, l'auteur de Le Journal de Guerre d'Emilio
  • André Marois
  • Sophie Chérer
  • Geronimo Stilton

September 19, 2013

The Spotted Dog Last Seen

by Jessica Scott Kerrin
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press
978-1-55498-387-2
196 pp.
Ages 8-11
August 2013

The Spotted Dog Last Seen may focus on a cemetery and headstones and the dead, but it's really a story about buried secrets and making things right. And with a motley crew of characters led by our narrator Derek (whose passion is collecting sayings to put on t-shirts e.g., Change is good.  You go first.) and the cotton-ball eye-browed Mr. Creelman, The Spotted Dog Last Seen takes the story from grave (pun intended) to middle-grade perfection.

Imagine having Grade 6 students volunteer once a week for the last three months of the school year and getting the assignment of helping the Twillingate Cemetery Brigade tend to the grave markers.  Along with Pascal Bender and Merrilee Takahashi, Derek gets lessons from the trio of elderly men, led by the emphatic Mr. Creelman, about reading numbers, symbols, epitaphs, shapes, and composites of stone, all with the aim of helping them clean the markers. While Derek reacts strongly to stone-carved hands and his recurring nightmare about an orange rubber ball, he starts to enjoy their Wednesday afternoons together.  Pascal is entertaining and asks quirky questions, Merrilee engrosses them in a mystery involving codes linked to some library books, and Derek finds himself learning so much that his fear of cemeteries is diminishing.
"Creelman had been showing us all along that cemeteries were much more about the living than they were about the dead." (pg. 118)
The Spotted Dog Last Seen is a mystery at its heart so I can't give much more away except to say that it involves a school's time capsule, a Mystery Book Club, hidden memories, guilt and much more work in the Twillingate Cemetery. 

Knowing author Jessica Scott Kerrin from her Martin Bridge early-reader series from Kids Can Press, I am familiar with her capable writing with boys as protagonists.  With The Spotted Dog Last Seen, Jessica Scott Kerrin can now add middle-grade writing to her skills.  Boys will enjoy the irreverence of Derek's t-shirts, Pascal's lack of self-control and the grim aura of the Twillingate Cemetery Brigade of Mr. Creelman, Mr. Peeble and Mr. Wooster.  While I felt that there were too many dangling subplots at one point, and I could not keep track of how they were related, I just needed to be patient.  Jessica Scott Kerrin entwines the subplots almost effortlessly.  For me, it's the crisp dialogue, usually between characters but just as effectively in Derek's head, that says much more than a few words normally can that enriches the story beyond a mystery to a personal journey of understanding and growth.

September 17, 2013

Kenta and The Big Wave

Written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Annick Press
978-1-55451-576-9
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
July, 2013 

Most Canadian young readers will recognize Ruth Ohi's distinct style of illustration which blends softness with gravity and whimsy. (I know, how is that possible?) Check out Hazel Hutchins' Nicholas at the Library (Annick Press, 1990) and The Sidewalk Rescue (Annick Press, 2004) and Joy Kogawa's Naomi's Tree (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010) and Naomi's Road (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005) to see how Ruth Ohi has taken others' text and magnified it into astounding stories.  With her own books, including Chicken, Pig, Cow (Annick Press, 2008) series, Clara and the Bossy (Annick Press, 2006) and Me and My Sister (Annick Press, 2005), Ruth Ohi has found the means to share compassionate stories that teach about getting along with others. While focusing on a historical event, Ruth Ohi brings these same virtues to her newest Kenta and The Big Wave.

Based on the tsunami that hit the coast of Japan in 2011, Kenta and his family are part of the population that responds to the sirens and evacuates to higher ground and the shelter of the school gym.  With each step of Kenta's family's journey to safety and in dealing with the aftermath of the devastation, Kenta's beloved soccer ball travels across the turbulent ocean.

While Kenta and The Big Wave may seem a simple story with a happy ending with regards to a boy's lost soccer ball, it has far greater depth in its story-telling and illustrations.  Ruth Ohi ensures that the reader understands the breadth of the tsunami's destruction and the effects on Kenta's community first and foremost. The overwhelming waves on double-page spreads fully engulfing the soccer ball are reminder enough.  But, although she never trivializes the context of Kenta's soccer ball story, she tenderly demonstrates how important that ball is to him. 

I know that Kenta and The Big Wave will touch many readers, though I suspect there will be many a teacher who will recognize the multitude of teachable moments in the book: perspective, compassion, loss, grief, generosity and tsunamis.  Here is a story that explains, with kindness, that which seems almost inexplicable.

September 16, 2013

Big Top Otto: Book Launch (Toronto)


Author and illustrator Bill Slavin

well-known for illustrating 
Linda Bailey's Stanley picture books 
and Good Times Travel Agency non-fiction series, 
among many other books,

launched
his Elephants Never Forget graphic novel series with

Big City Otto
(Kids Can Press, 2011)


and is ready to launch
the second book in the series

 
BIG TOP OTTO
written and illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press
978-1554538065
88 pp.
Ages 7-11
August 2013


on

Saturday, September 28, 2013
1-3 p.m.

at

Little Island Comics
742 Bathurst St.
Toronto, ON


In Big Top Otto, Otto, the elephant, and his parrot friend, Crackers, search for Otto's childhood friend, Georgie, the chimpanzee.


In addition to launching the book, Bill Slavin will provide a special opportunity to view and purchase original artwork from both Elephants Never Forget volumes.

September 14, 2013

The Night Has Claws (The Magdeburg Trilogy, Book Two)

by Kat Kruger
Fierce Ink Press
978-0-9917937-5-4 (pb)
978-1-927746-02-8 (ebook)
269 pp.
Ages 14+
Release September 24, 2013
Reviewed from advance release ebook

When Kat Kruger ended her award-winning first book in The Madgeburg Trilogy, The Night Has Teeth (reviewed here on January 13, 2013), it was bloody mayhem.  Really.  Seventeen-year-old Connor Lewis had learned that he is a pure werewolf whose "nature" was only revealed after born-werewolf Amara had accidentally bitten him.  His special nature had drawn the attention of Henri Boguet, one of the bitten "monsters", whose biotech company has developed an antivenin for werewolf bites as well as a cure he calls Wolf Bane.  And Connor's school friends, Madison and Josh, had revealed that Josh had bitten Madison, condemning her to a life as a monster too. Even though Josh is still in love with Madison and desperate to make things up to her, Madison and Connor have an affinity for each other. With the nature of one's werewolfness determining the allegiances one has, Connor is confused understandably about whom to trust.

The Night Has Claws begins with three different story lines which will ultimately converge.  First, with Boguet being captured, he is remanded to custody to stand trial before the High Court of Madgeburg, the werewolf court.  Secondly, Madison who has shot Boadicea, Boguet's associate, believing she was going to harm Connor, focuses on what she has done, what is on the USB stick Boadicea tried to give Connor, and how she feels about Connor and Josh.  Lastly, born-werewolf Arden, Amara's mate, who'd appeared to die by Boguet's hand (teeth, actually), had been buried along with Boadicea by the Hounds of God (a society of the bitten).  But Arden had not died, though he desperately wished he had, becoming human instead, getting Boguet's cure through his venom. 

So we've got Connor sticking close to Arden and helping him survive as a human while learning from Arden how to live as a werewolf.  But through it all, Connor must decide to whom he will ally himself:  Roul (Rodolfus de Aquila), leader of Arden's former pack, or the Hounds of God to which Josh and Madison belong. 

In Quedlinburg, Germany, where the High Court of Madgeburg officiates, all gather for the prosecution of Boguet by Heaven's Hand, the organization that governs werewolves.  In addition to Connor, Roul, Arden, Amara, Madison, and Josh and their related groups, the Luparii (marked by white armbands) who act as an intergovernmental European task force to limit and maintain control of the werewolf populations show a strong presence.  On the surface, the court and Heaven's Hand profess to protect all life with the singular law of condemning to death any who bites a human but, as with many organizations in which individuals carry their own emotional baggage and opinions, hypocrisy creates exceptions and thus friction.  While Boguet may be the official defendant, Connor and Arden become targets for the judge, Breber. While Madison may come to their aid with surprisingly revelations about Boguet, instead of quelling both judicial and physical attacks, her news launches a new barrage hitherto unknown.

Hold onto your book or device because The Night Has Claws may start with the emotional and physical clean-up of story-lines from The Night Has Teeth but it ends on an even messier closing. I don't mean messier as in confused but rather in terms of catastrophic ruin.  It breaks apart with secrets revealed, relationships and alliances exposed and shattered, and upcoming hostilities and combat forecast. The reader may still be hopeful for reconciliation between Connor and Madison and Arden and Amara but surprisingly Kat Kruger has you cheering for the motley band of protagonists and even laughing along at times. (Honestly, how often can a writer use the admonishment "Bite me" as a double entendre?) And there's even more action, surprises and affairs of the heart coming because we know that where The Night Has Claws leaves off, Book Three will launch and continue to thrill.

September 12, 2013

The Pocket Mommy: Book Launch (Ottawa)

Join singer, actor, music director and 
author Rachel Eugster


for the launch of
her new picture book

The Pocket Mommy
Written by Rachel Eugster
Illustrated by Tom Goldsmith
Tundra Books
978-1-77049-300-1  
32 pp.
Ages 4-6
August, 2013

at

Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books 
1018 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON 
K1S 3W8
 
 on

Sunday, September, 22, 2013

4:00 pm - 7:00 pm


September 11, 2013

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley

by Jan Andrews
Great Plains Teen Fiction
978-1-926531-68-7
200 pp.
Ages 12-15
2013

This year in January I had the pleasure of introducing Jan Andrews at the Ontario Library Association's SuperConference as winner of the 2012 Silver Birch Express Award for her book When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: the Tales of Ti-Jean (Groundwood, 2011), stories starring Quebec’s traditional folktale hero. I emphasized that Jan Andrews is foremost a storyteller, able to weave tales in text and spoken word for all audiences, sharing cultures and wisdom, entertaining and teaching. While her first foray into young adult fiction may not be what many would judge as a storyteller's story, The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley is very much a tale in that it teaches, it exposes, it shares, and it entertains. It opens one's eyes. Isn't that what every good story should do?

Kyle McGinley is a fifteen-year-old boy who, on the way to his latest foster home, makes a drastic decision that gives him a feeling of control, something he has lacked since his mother died and his abusive father abandoned him at age 8.
"I, Kyle McGinley, have given up on talk of any kind." (pg. 7)
The talk he gives up is the out-of-his-mouth kind, starting with his newest social worker and his new foster parents, Jill and Scott, consultants that work out of their rural home. But Kyle still does a lot of talking in his head with two significant voices that cohabit there: his father's bold and italicized abusive comments, and the helpful, encouraging italicized suggestions of a scientist he calls Ingen.

Strangely, on a large property with a barn, stream, trails, cattle, a deep pit, and a swamp of lifeless trees, Kyle admits to himself that he's "never been less frightened in my life." (pg. 66) That is, until Jill and Scott hear via the social worker that Kyle's dad has engaged a lawyer to help him reconnect with Kyle. That sends Kyle into a tailspin that has him twisting both with the memories of his father's abuse and with the chance to have a father in his life again. Jill and Scott seem to be pretty cool, letting him sleep out in the loft of the barn, making a space for himself, driving the tractor and then letting him care for a little crow that has been physically abused and abandoned too. But Kyle barely knows them and he's been been through enough types of parenting –abusive, negative, negligent, excessive– to anticipate their rejection of him. Sadly, Kyle doesn't recognize caring.

Like Kyle, the little crow whom he names Lady C is just an avian version of the teen: frightened, flightless by abuse, abandoned and speechless, though the thoughts are clearly there. His heart goes out to Lady C, bringing her into his loft and his life, engaging with her in ways that he cannot with others, yet. Jan Andrews draws on the parallels between Lady C and Kyle, and Kyle and Jill, using expressive dialogue (I know it seems strange considering Kyle doesn't speak aloud) to draw you into Kyle's head and heart. And the uncertainty about the issues with which Jill seems to be dealing and about Kyle's dad's potential for positive change will keep readers wondering and apprehensive and hopeful.

Jan Andrews gives Kyle a distinct voice that stirs and startles, never letting the reader completely understand how the boy thinks. Fortunately, without wrapping up the story with a predictably saccharine ending, Jan Andrews allows Kyle to find, in his own time, his voice, a home and himself.

September 09, 2013

Launch of the inaugural TD Canadian Children's Literature Fan Choice Award


TD and CBC Books 
present 
the TD Canadian Children's Literature Fan Choice Award

Starting today, young readers will have a chance to go online and pick their favourite book
from the 5 finalists for the 2013 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award

The book with the most votes will win and be awarded the 
TD Canadian Children's Literature Fan Choice Award

and
one lucky entrant will win a trip to Toronto 
to present the award at the gala ceremony on October 22.

See details at CBC Books (www.cbc.ca/books/kids).

Here are this year's 5 finalists:

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War
Written by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books
Ages 11+


One Year in Coal Harbour
Written by Polly Horvath
Groundwood Books
Ages 9-13







The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books
Ages 11+


The Stamp Collector
Written by Jennifer Lanthier
Illustrated by François Thisdale
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Ages 8+


Virginia Wolf
Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Kids Can Press
Ages 5-10







* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As an aside, I hope this experiment in a fan choice award works somehow.  Having been part of both juried award selections and readers' choice award selections, I suspect that different titles may be selected from the same short-list of finalists.  Although both award winners will be honest and worthy selections, I have to wonder how not being the fan choice might diminish the thrill of winning the juried award. 

Moreover, although juries can look at a wide variety of books, here ranging for readers from ages 5 to 13+, young readers will be limited as to the books they can and will read.  An eight-year-old is unlikely to select The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen because he or she would not have read it.  And a 12-year-old may too easily dismiss Virginia Wolf and The Stamp Collector as picture books, the realm of the youngest readers.  And how will Deborah Ellis' complex and heart-stopping Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War fare amongst die-hard fiction readers?

Mixing picture books, middle-grade fiction and non-fiction in a single list for adult jurors is not an issue but for young readers it is.  This is why popular readers' choice book awards like Ontario's Silver Birch,  BC's Red Cedar Book Award and the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award compile lists of nominees according to age of readership and genre.  I suspect that, for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Fan Choice Award, readers and titles are at a disadvantage, making the ultimate selection less accurate and more subjective.

That said, young readers are still privileged to choose one of these fine titles for this new award and any title chosen from this complex list will be a worthy recipient of the award.  Good luck to all nominees.

September 06, 2013

2013 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards' finalists announced

(Normally I don't post award short-lists or winners here but I always make a few exceptions for ones that I consider especially important to youngCanLit.  As such, I am posting here an identical post that will be added to my CanLit for LittleCanadians: Awards blog. No need to read it twice!)


Today, the Canadian Children's Book Centre, our nationally-renowned authority on all things related to youngCanLit, announced the finalists for the 2013 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards.

The seven major children's book awards, which will be awarded at two invitation-only galas in October, include:

  1. TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($30,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group;
  2. Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse ($30,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group;
  3. Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000) Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie;
  4. Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction ($10,000) Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation;
  5. Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000) Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund;
  6. John Spray Mystery Award ($5,000) Sponsored by John Spray; and
  7. Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy ($5,000)  Sponsored by HarperCollins Canada.

Here are the short lists for each award category, as announced by the Canadian Children's Book Centre today:

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War
Written by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books
Ages 11+


One Year in Coal Harbour
Written by Polly Horvath
Groundwood Books
Ages 9-13



The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books
Ages 11+


The Stamp Collector
Written by Jennifer Lanthier
Illustrated by François Thisdale
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Ages 8+


Virginia Wolf
Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Kids Can Press
Ages 5-10









  Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse 

À la recherche du bout du monde
Written by Michel Noël
Éditions Hurtubise HMH
Ages 11+






 
La clé à molette
Written and illustrated by Élise Gravel
Éditions La courte échelle
Ages 7+



Jane, le renard & moi
Written by Fanny Britt
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Éditions La Pastèque
Ages 11+






Mingan, mon village
Poems by Inuit schoolchildren
Illustrated by Rogé
Éditions de la Bagnole
Ages 9+




Tu me prends en photo
Written by Marie-Francine Hébert
Illustrated by Jean-Luc Trudel
Éditions Les 400 coups
Ages 10+









Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Mr. King’s Things
Written and illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Kids Can Press
Ages 3-7


Mr. Zinger’s Hat
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Tundra Books
Ages 4-8

The Stamp Collector
Written by Jennifer Lanthier
Illustrated by François Thisdale
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Ages 8+





Uncle Wally’s Old Brown Shoe
Written and illustrated by Wallace Edwards 
Orca Book Publishers 
Ages 4-8


Virginia Wolf
Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Kids Can Press
Ages 5-10









Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction

Going Up! Elisha Otis’s Trip to the Top
(Great Idea)
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by David Parkins
Tundra Books
Ages 6-10

Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story
Written by Martin Springett
Photographs by Isobel Springett
Puffin Canada
Ages 5-8


Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War
Written by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books
Ages 11+



Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death – The Story of Steven Truscott
(Real Justice)
Written by Bill Swan
James Lorimer 
Ages 13+



Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport
Written by Deborah Hodge
Tundra Books
Ages 10+










Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction 
for Young People

A Call to Battle: The War of 1812, Alexander MacKay, Upper Canada, 1812
(I Am Canada)
Written by Gillian Chan
Scholastic Canada
Ages 10-14


 
 
The Lynching of Louie Sam
Written by Elizabeth Stewart
Annick Press
Ages 12+



Making Bombs for Hitler
Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Scholastic Canada
Ages 9-14



Violins of Autumn
Written by Amy McAuley
Walker Publishing Company, Inc.
Ages 12+



Yesterday’s Dead
Written by Pat Bourke
Second Story Press
Ages 10-14










John Spray Mystery Award

Becoming Holmes  
(The Boy Sherlock Holmes) 
Written by Shane Peacock
Tundra Books 
Ages 11-14





Breakaway
Written by Michael Betcherman
Razorbill / Penguin Group
Ages 13+



Devil’s Pass 
(Seven the series)
Written by Sigmund Brouwer
Orca Book Publishers
Ages 12-14


The Lynching of Louie Sam
Written by Elizabeth Stewart
Annick Press
Ages 12+







Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure
(The Neil Flambé Capers)
Written and illustrated by Kevin Sylvester
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ages 8-13








Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Girl With Borrowed Wings
Written by Rinsai Rossetti 
Dial Books
Ages 14+

Island of Doom
(The Hunchback Assignments IV)
Written by Arthur Slade
HarperCollins Publishers
Ages 11-14



Rebel Heart
(Dustlands)
Written by Moira Young
Doubleday Canada
Ages 14+



Seraphina
Written by Rachel Hartman
Doubleday Canada
Ages 14+



Shadows Cast by Stars
Written by Catherine Knutsson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Ages 12+








Hosted by the Canadian Children's Book Centre and TD Bank Group, the TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards will celebrate great Canadian children's books and present the winners of the awards on the evenings of October 22 and October 29 2013 in Toronto and Montreal, respectively.