April 18, 2018

Swimming with Seals: Book launch (Ladysmith, BC)

Maggie de Vries


her newest picture book

Swimming with Seals
Written by Maggie de Vries
Illustrated by Janice Kun
Orca Book Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2018


Thursday, May 8, 2018

7:00-8:30 p.m.


Salamander Books
535 First Avenue
Ladysmith, BC

Ally isn't able to live with her mother. Instead she lives far, far away, on the other side of the country, with her gram and great-aunt. But one summer Ally goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in the "big city by the ocean" and gets to spend time with her mom. While exploring the shore, watching whales from the boat dipping into the salty water, Ally finds out something important: her mother loves to swim as much as she does.

This is a very personal story. Ally is based on the author’s niece, Jeanie, and Ally's mother is based on the author's sister, Sarah, who went missing from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in 1998. Jeanie is like a seal in the water, and Sarah was just the same, but they never got to swim together. In this story, they do. Swimming with Seals is a story that was written for the thousands of children who long to live with their birth parents and will never fully understand why they can't.
Retrieved from Orca Book Publishers' website at
on April 3, 2018.

April 17, 2018

Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night

Written by Rob Laidlaw
Pajama Press
48 pp.
Ages 8-12
March 2018

Today is Bat Appreciation Day and Rob Laidlaw's newest children's non-fiction book about protecting animals and animal welfare is THE book that needs to be read today and forever.  Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night takes the story of bats from tragic ecological stories to empowering children to become global citizens in helping protect this oft-misunderstood animal.
From Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw
Rob Laidlaw, biologist, animal activist and award-winning author (including of No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs, Pajama Press, 2011 and Cat Champions: Caring for our Feline Friends, Pajama Press, 2013), may be advocating for bats, but he knows the best way to do so is to educate young readers about these animals and dispel erroneous misconceptions first.  So, he weaves the book's information about types of bats, their biology, habitats, food, predators, and the numerous challenges to their survival with a look at those who champion their needs.
From Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw
Rob Laidlaw introduces young people whom he refers to as Bat Citizens who tirelessly advocate for, research on, and provide for bats around the world.  There's Christian Spaur in Ohio who championed the installation of bat boxes, and Sarah Corton who has been surveying bats for the dangerous white-nose syndrome and creating lesson plans for teachers.  And there's four- and five-year old brother and sister who raised money for the Organization for Bat Conservation by selling hot chocolate.  These young people are doing more than their share to help.  To that same end, Rob Laidlaw discusses various bat challenges, like white-nose syndrome, disappearing habitat, and human activity, but provides solutions to all, including directing readers how they can help.
From Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw

 The book is well-organized and colourful with numerous photographs on every page.  Throughout the book, there are information boxes about "Bat Facts", suggestions of ways to help out in "Batty Ideas" and a comprehensive glossary.  The detailed table of contents and index just top off the impressive organization of Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night, making it a strong non-fiction selection for young readers and animal advocates everywhere. And did I mention the cool poster on the reverse of the dust jacket?

I may be reviewing Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night today because of the day's designation but this title is sure to be saved and read and referred to beyond April 17 because it is more than an encyclopedia about bats.  It is a book about being a citizen of the animal world, our world, and about celebrating young people who already understand that and have stepped up to defend those whose world we share.

April 15, 2018

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book: Book launch (Saskatoon, SK)

A tea party and a book launch!

 Alice Kuipers

is launching her new

illustrated chapter book

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Written by Alice Kuipers
Illustrated by Diana Toledano
Chronicle Books
120 pp.
Ages 6-9
May 2018


 Sunday, April 22, 2018 

 2:30 p.m.


McNally Robinson
3130-8 St E.
Saskatoon, SK

This family and kid-friendly event 
will include 
activities for kids
refreshments from Prairie Ink Restaurant and Bakery.


I have read this darling book about imagination, writing, word play and magic and will review it on May 1, 2018.  The following day, author Alice Kuipers has kindly offered to share a guest post about children writing, having created an free online course (available May 1) on her website for children who want to learn to write or to become better writers.

Before that review comes out, here is a bit about the book from the publisher's website:

Polly loves words. And she loves writing stories. So when a magic book appears on her doorstep that can make everything she writes happen in real life, Polly is certain all of her dreams are about to come true. But she soon learns that what you write and what you mean are not always the same thing! Funny and touching, this new chapter book series will entertain readers and inspire budding writers.
Retrieved from

April 12, 2018

What Happens Next

Written by Susan Hughes
Illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Owlkids Books
40 pp.
Ages 4+
March 2018

Carey Sookocheff's understated illustrations may give the impression of a simple story but Susan Hughes' What Happens Next is nothing less than a compelling revelation about the secretive and debilitating nature of bullying and the sharing of an inspired strategy for resolution which begins with empathy.
From What Happens Next by Susan Hughes, illus. by Carey Sookocheff
The story of What Happens Next follows a child who is bullied by another child at school with name-calling ("Weirdo") and hurtful comments and physical acts like blocking their way and shoving at their books.  Sadly, there are children who are bystanders who either laugh or ignore the bullying.  Even though the child who is bullied has many positives at home like a playful and loving dog and a caring parent, this child carries the burden of the bullying which affects their sleep and behaviour. 
From What Happens Next by Susan Hughes, illus. by Carey Sookocheff
Finally the child, encouraged by their love of books and science, feels strong enough to share with Mom what has been going on with Bully B.
What I Say about Bully B. When Mom Comes to Kiss Me Good Night:

What Mom Says:
That I'm brave for telling her.
That she's sorry I feel scared and hurt.
That she'll help.
But it's the mother's intensity of empathetic insight that should be included in every handbook on dealing with bullies.
What Mom Says Next:
That everyone has their own way of looking at things and people.  That each person's way of looking is made up of where they're standing and how they got there.  It's made up of what's in their mind, what's in their heart, and what's in their imagination.
From What Happens Next by Susan Hughes, illus. by Carey Sookocheff
And with that, Mom shows her child that, by sharing things they like with Bully B., they may be able to help change Bully B.'s way of looking. With courage and some trepidation, and ignoring Bully B.'s habitual meanness, the child tells Bully B. about genomes, water on the Earth's surface and Earth in the orbit around the Sun.
What's Different Now:
Not everything. But enough.
In fact, I'll let you read What Happens Next for yourself to see that enough is pretty darn good.

You'll notice that Susan Hughes' text takes on a form similar to a script with bolded directives and plain-text responses that gives an organic texture to the story.  In fact, when the child is being bullied or worried about the bullying, the text is very terse, like punches.  When involved with their books and the science within, as well as when Mom shares her insight into bullying, the text is softer, like blankets.  Illustrator Carey Sookocheff's artwork reflects this imbalance through her choice of colours and simple lines and shapes.  Everything is understated from her limited palette of pale grey and yellow with white, against grey-blue, green and red-orange to her simple scenes at home and playground.  But simple here is meaningful, as substantial as a careless case of  bullying.

What Happens Next is like nothing I've ever read for opening up discussions about bullying with our youngest readers to those in middle grades. To that end, Owlkids Books has created discussion guides for using the book with children. There is one for Grades 1-3 and one for Grades 4-6 and both are available at the Owlkids Books website. I encourage everyone, from educators and school administrators to parents and child and youth care workers to make What Happens Next a part of their programming to encourage meaningful lessons and dialogue about this perennial issue.


Copies of the illustrations from within What Happens Next were retrieved from Carey Sookocheff's website, specifically at http://careysookocheff.com/what-happens-next/ on April 9, 2018, as they afford clarity of image that my own scans of the book could not.

April 10, 2018

Wash On!

Written by Michèle Marineau
Illustrated by Manon Gauthier
Translated by Erin Woods
Pajama Press
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
April 2018

Though most of us wash off any dirt and colours that stain our skin, a little twist of words and fate have colour splotches washing onto little Petronilla in Quebec author and translator Michèle Marineau's newest picture book Wash On!
From Wash On! by Michèle Marineau, illus. by Manon Gauthier
Petronilla is known in her family to have "a talent for chaos" and probably more so when compared to her perfect sister Babette.  But nothing could have prepared her mother for the twist of process when colours from the washcloth during a bath begin to transfer to Petronilla's skin and then her mother and the whole bathroom.  Joyously, Petronilla continues to exclaim, "Wash on! Wash on! Wash on!' regardless of her mother's demands she say "Wash off!" When her father, Babette and dog come to see what's going on, the colours continue to transfer from one object to another.  Although the family thinks they'll just stay in the house until Petronilla drops her new mantra, no one could foresee the weeks that would pass as the child refuses to relinquish her powerful chant.
From Wash On! by Michèle Marineau, illus. by Manon Gauthier
Finally, the family visits the doctor who declares a case of acute coloritis, a condition so contagious that the whole planet becomes infected.  But, as lovely as all the colours are, everything blends in with everything else and no one can differentiate between objects. Even their dog is hard find except when his bark alerts them to his feeding time.  That is, until they can not locate him because there is no bark.  It is only then, when she is desperate to find their dog, that Petronilla changes her tune and finds "Wash off!" just as useful in enacting change in her home and around the world.
From Wash On! by Michèle Marineau, illus. by Manon Gauthier
Wash On! may be based on a silly situation in which colours are transferred rather than cleaned off but the story actually has several powerful messages hidden in that imaginative scenario.  First, Wash On! focuses on the joie de vivre of a world filled with colour. We all need a little colour in our lives, though some people need more and some need less.  But like anything, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, as everyone learns, including Petronilla.  Once the colours explode and there is no contrast and no way to differentiate objects, that joy is lost, like the dog, in an overabundance of stain.  Splashes of colour are wonderfully invigorating and therapeutic but excesses are debilitating and even harmful.  Second, Governor General award-winning author Michèle Marineau recognizes the power of children in defining the world and their need to manage their own circumstances.  Her family may think of Petronilla as chaotic but she seems to just want a hand in determining the life she will lead.

Michèle Marineau tells powerful stories in her native French language and this translation by Pajama Press's Erin Woods highlights that poignancy with merriment and spirit.  That same boldness is depicted with daring by Manon Gauthier's mixed media illustrations. Manon Gauthier, whose artwork I've raved about in Pajama Press's Elliot (Julie Pearson, 2016), All the World a Poem (Gilles Tibo, 2016), Good Morning, Grumple (Victoria Allenby, 2017) and Middle Bear (Susanna Isern, 2017), continues to do amazing things with gouache, pencil and paper collage, ever different and totally wonderful.

Wash On! may say a lot about living a life in colour but it also reminds us about moderation and having control over the lives we lead.  Young readers will laugh at the silliness of the family's situation but we can all learn a lesson or two from Petronilla and her splashy world.

April 06, 2018

Forest of Reading Kid and Teen Committees: Applications due April 20

Do you 💜 reading?
Are you in Grades 4-8 or in high school?
Do you live in Ontario?
Do you want to help choose books that other kids will want to read?

the Ontario Library Association's
Forest of Reading
has a committee for you!

Last year's Forest of Reading Kid Committee brought readers in Grades 4 through 8 together to talk books and produce an exceptional summer reading list for those readers of the Silver Birch and Red Maple reading programs.

This year the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program is again asking students to apply to be on the 2018 Forest Kid Committee and on the inaugural Forest Teen Committee.

Who can apply?
For the Forest Kid Committee: Ontario students in Grades 4-8 (homeschoolers too!)
For the Forest Teen Committee: Ontario high school students

What will you do?
Come together at the Ontario Library Association's offices in Toronto with other readers to select 10-20 titles for a summer reading list. (Check out last year's lists here.) It's a full day of talking books, special treats and making new friends. And it's all about the books!

When will we meet?
Tentatively May 25, 2018 or June 1, 2018

Applications are due April 20, 2018 

Don't miss this great opportunity 
to share your 💜 of Canadian books!
The inaugural Forest Kid Committee was a huge success 
and I'm sure those committee members will be reapplying. 
 But you too can become a committee member on the 
Forest Kid Committee or Forest Teen Committee
and help your peers find great books to read.

Apply before the April 20th deadline 
for your chance 
to be part of something great!

April 05, 2018

My Teacher's Not Here!: Book launch (Burlington, ON) RESCHEDULED

Note this book launch, originally scheduled for April 15, 2018 
has been moved to April 28, 2018 due to poor weather conditions.  


Lana Button

would love you to join her for story time, crafts and snacks 

to celebrate her new picture book

My Teacher's Not Here!

Written by Lana Button
Illustrated by Christine Battuz
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2018


Saturday April 28, 2018

1:00 - 3:00 p.m.


A Different Drummer Books
 513 Locust St. 
Burlington, ON

From publisher Kids Can Press's website:
As soon as she arrives at school, Kitty knows there's trouble. “Smiling Miss Seabrooke should be here to meet me. But my teacher is missing and NOT here to greet me.” With no Miss Seabrooke, everyone should be sent home, right? But no! Kitty and her classmates line up as usual and walk into the school building. Kitty's worries build as she wonders how she will get through the day without her teacher. What will she do when her Thermos gets stuck or her jacket won't zip? Miss Seabrooke is the only one who can fix these things. Or is she?

Author Lana Button perfectly captures the fears and uncertainties of a kindergartner dealing with her first substitute teacher. She also models a way to cope, as Kitty steps up to help the substitute --- a “ginormously tall” giraffe named Mr. Omar --- and discovers that sometimes change can be good. Button's playful and lively cadenced rhyming text, together with Christine Battuz's friendly illustrations of a full cast of animal characters at school, make this a terrific picture book for story time. It provides an excellent lead-in to prepare a class for their first substitute, or for a discussion about how it feels when life doesn't go as expected. A celebration of self-discovery and personal development, this book also makes a wonderful choice for character education lessons on kindness, empathy and perseverance. Educators will appreciate the heartfelt depiction of a young child's warm feelings for her teachers.
Retrieved from 
on April 5, 2018.