April 29, 2013

Record Breaker

by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers
978-1-5546-9959-9
152 pp.
Ages 9-12
2013

Most of us would do anything to alleviate the sadness and despair of one we love.  Children are inclined to do the same, although the means by which they are convinced they can do this may be rather unconventional.  Take young Jack, for example, in Robin Stevenson's latest from Orca Book Publishers, Record Breaker.  He is sure that breaking a world record will propel his mother from her overwhelming sadness following the death of his baby sister Annie, and he's willing to try just about anything. 

Jack seems like a pretty good kid.  When his dad tells him to get to the dinner table or help his mom or go to his dad's cousin's place, the Miller's, he does.  Because he often gets sent to the Millers, Jack spends a lot of time with his second cousin, Allan, who likes to repeat his mom's and dad's comments, ("My mom said it'll be a miracle if she (Jack's mom) ever gets over that baby dying" pg. 23; "My dad always said Kennedy was soft" pg. 40).  Regardless, Allan is willing to help Jack out in his record attempts, even painful ones like face-slapping. 

While Jack's concern for his mother tends to overwhelm his daily activities, several key events have an impact on him and those around him.  First, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.  Although they live in Ancaster, the possibility of bombings are a real concern, and Jack's dad returns to building a fallout shelter started before Annie's birth.  Second, a new girl, Kate Levine, moves to a nearby neighbourhood, using a local treehouse that Jack had been using as an escape.  Kate is an astute young girl, helping Jack see that there is something, other than a world record, that he can accomplish to help his mother.  In fact, her mom believes Jack's mom needs someone to whom she can talk and Mrs. Levine volunteers to help.  Together with Allan and Kate, Jack finds the means to add some light to his mother's life, and remind both his parents that they still have a son who has been burdened with dealing with his sister's death on his own.

In the context of 1963 southern Ontario, Robin Stevenson shares the grief and fears and innuendo of a time unknown to most young readers.  But, by making the focus in Record Breaker a local one, with the grief related to the loss of a family member, the fears about a family who may be unable to rebuild itself, and others' gossip about issues of which they know very little, young readers will be able to empathize.  Even so, whether global or local, these issues can be devastating, and recovery may seem impossible.  But, as Jack and Robin Stevenson demonstrate, with a little help and a different perspective perhaps from unlikely sources, there is hope.

April 28, 2013

When I Was Eight

by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Annick Press
978-1-55451-490-8
32 pp.
Ages 6-9
February, 2013

The retelling of a story in a different format rarely amounts to anything distinctive.  Whether in graphic format or picture book or movie, many stories are just abridged versions or subsets of the original or greater work.  When I Was Eight is that one story that is not only distinctive, it is exceptional. 

A picture book version of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's true story of her experiences at residential school, originally told in Fatty Legs (Annick, 2010), When I Was Eight is an even more powerful read due to its emphasis on concise, affective text coupled with Gabrielle Grimard's quietly unpretentious artwork.

Regardless of her father's reluctance to deliver her to the residential school, Olemaun's desire to read convinces him of the value of sending her away for additional schooling.  There Olemaun is converted outwardly into Margaret, the girl with short hair who wears the required tunics and wool stockings and labours at her cleaning chores.  But by making it clear that she believes she should be learning to read, Margaret incurs the wrath of one mean-spirited nun whose desire to humiliate and scare the young girl both torments and challenges her. 

The stories of the residential schools are involved and harrowing, and Margaret's tale is not any different.  What is unique is her passionate desire to learn to read which consequently points her towards the school.  In fact, she learns to read in spite of the schooling and treatment she endures there.  Without her strong character and sense of justice, Margaret may have taken nothing from the residential school experience except abuse and loss of self.  Instead, Olemaun keeps with her the valuable learning both pre- and post-schooling, and uses it to help her reconfigure herself so that she is less a stranger at home than many other children from the school.  While her return to Banks Island as an awkward local is addressed in A Stranger at Home (Annick, 2011), the sequel to Fatty Legs and When I Was Eight, Oleamun/Margaret's struggle and ability to manage her own life has her returning to her homeland as a reader, fulfilling her foremost desire.

April 25, 2013

Taking the Reins: Book Launch (Campbell River)

Coteau Books

proudly announces

the launch of

Taking the Reins
 by Dayle Campbell Gaetz
 
Saturday, May 4th 

at 1:30 pm

Campbell River Library
Campbell River, BC



Join
Coteau author Dayle Campbell Gaetz  
and 
Dundurn author Kristin Butcher 
as they launch their new novels for teens.
 
  • Refreshments
  • Prizes
  • Books for sale

Everyone is welcome!

Danny, Who Fell in a Hole

Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-311-7
116 pp.
Ages 7-11
2013

Danny, Who Fell in a Hole is about a boy named Danny who, you guessed it, fell in a hole.  Yep. It's true.  And the answers to the questions of why Danny fell in the hole, what happened when he fell in the hole, and how he gets out of the hole, are essentially the whole story of Danny, Who Fell in a Hole.  Fortunately, with Cary Fagan's honest humour and Milan Pavlovic's quirky illustrations, the reader can be assured that Danny's story will be more farcical than tragic.

Danny's parents seem to be the new sort that decide to put their own needs ahead of those of their children, planning to temporarily part ways so that they might pursue their separate creative interests.  Mom plans on moving to Banff to extend her cheesecake-baking talents, while Dad will be heading to New York City to explore opera singing.  But, there are no worries about the kids, Danny and his older brother Doug (who would probably accept their decision more easily because of his musical creativity), as Mom and Dad have already decided about living arrangements, even giving their dog Thwack away to a nearby farm before springing their news on their children.  Not surprising, Danny does not take the news well, grabbing his backpack and running off and unfortunately falling into a large hole on a construction site.

Mom and Dad may have been expecting Danny to find it difficult to accept their decision,
"Danny, we knew it would be a little harder for you.  You're the level-headed one in the family.  It's not your fault that you're not creative like the rest of us." (pg. 14)
but they could not have foreseen the character and maturity he demonstrates while trapped in that hole.  Not only does he complete his math homework and write a family zombie story, he devises some shelter from the rain, plays a harmonica for a visiting mole, comes up with some imaginative definitions for a vocabulary assignment, and saves a life.  Not bad for a child with no creativity!

Cary Fagan does not disappoint, taking Danny from the incredulous son of self-indulgent parents to the practical boy who takes inventory of his backpack's contents, always playing out in his mind what his parents would be thinking or saying.
   Hey, Sheila, you don't suppose our son has run away?
   No, not Danny.  He's too sensible. Doesn't have the imagination. (pg. 43)
As imaginative as Danny, Cary Fagan conceives a chatty Mole with the casual demeanour of one who speaks his mind, without being catty or cagey.   
"Hey, Darnit, you seem a little down in the dung." (pg. 73)
"Problem with ants, you eat a few dozen and you're hungry half an hour later." (pg. 79)
While young readers may connect with the shortcomings of Danny's parents', and delight in the boy's quest for some say in the direction his life was taking, Cary Fagan ensures that everyone is able to see the other perspective without giving in or up.  With lightness and the clarity that comes from being stuck in a dark hole, both Danny and his parents are able find their way out of the void and come up for air, sharing it with those who might have sought to suck the life out of their lives.

So, if you ever fall into a hole, keep your head, share your thoughts, and keep working until you find your way above ground.  Danny, Who Fell in a Hole did and everything worked out the better for it.

April 24, 2013

Hoogie in the Middle

by Stephanie McLellan
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Pajama Press
978-1-927485-28-6
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
On sale: April 26, 2013 


"Too big.  Too small.  No room for me at all."
This is the plight of the middle child or, in the case of Hoogie, middle monster.  Not as impressive as the first born, Pumpkin, to whom all things come first and whose firsts are always applauded.  Not as adored as the baby of the family, Tweezle, whose needs are many and who is cherished to hold all memories of youth and cuteness.  Hoogie tries to be responsible and capable like Pumpkin and then tries to be free and helpless like Tweezle.  But, she is neither.  She feels like the hole in the middle of a donut.  Empty.

When the emptiness in Hoogie builds, it creates an explosion of emotions that has her parents finally directing their attention and love to their very pink, middle monster-child, helping her see that middles can be empowered to become the fulcrum upon which all others unify and balance.

Stephanie McLellan has taken a different spin on the middle child woes with Dean Griffith's adorable monster family, a family of greens, blues and pink, in which gender is insignificant but birth order seems to be everything.  Though the reader can discern the genders of the characters by carefully placed pronouns and the girls' dresses, it is irrelevant.  The family dynamics are played out according to how Mom and Dad interact with their "little monsters" and how their little ones consequently feel about themselves.

While Stephanie McLellan's text and Dean Griffith's illustrations ensure that Mom and Dad are seen as engaged parents who really try to be there for all their children, it's easy to understand how overwhelming it is to meet the needs of all of them, especially if their children may not be clear on what they need.  When Hoogie finally finds her voice and demands the attention of her parents, they immediately tell her and, best of all, show her that she is "the sun in the middle of the solar system" and the "pearl in the middle of the oyster."  Hoogie and her parents may not know it but current research (Salmon and Schumann, 2011) suggests that, as a middle monster, Hoogie is learning the skills and strategies that will help her navigate adulthood successfully.  Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffith probably didn't even realize how successful they'd been in delivering that little message to little monsters and their parents everywhere.


You've got to check the sweetest post by Hoogie at Pajama Press' blog, Pajama Party, called The Worst Parts of Being a Middle Child.  Adorable!


References:
Li, Anita. (2012, September 6). Being middle child isn't so bad. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved at http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/being-middle-child-isnt-so-bad/article2115052/?service=mobile  on April 23, 2013.

Salmon, C. and Schumann, K. (2011) The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middle-Borns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities. Hudson Street Press: New York.

April 23, 2013

International Day of the Dog: Puppies and Dogs Book List III

Last book list for International Day of the Dog.  Picture books, chapter books, young adult books and now non-fiction. Plenty of reads for celebrating a wide variety of dogs and their adventures,  misadventures, history and contributions to our lives.  Send a photo of your pooch with a sample of your favourite dog read if I've missed it here.   But remember:  it must be #youngCanLit!

Non-Fiction

Animals that Changed the World
by Keltie Thomas
Annick Press
112 pp.
Ages 8-1
2004

Dog Crafts (Kids Can Do It series)
by Linda Hendry
Kids Can Press
40 pp.
Ages 7+
2002


Little Lions, Bull Baiters and Hunting Hounds: A History of Dog Breeds
by Jeff Crosby and Shelley Ann Jackson
Tundra Books
72 pp.
Ages 9+
2008

No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs
by Rob Laidlaw
Pajama Press
64 pp.
Ages 9-12
2011

Sergeant Gander: A Canadian Hero
by Robyn Walker
Dundurn
176 pp.
Ages 9-12
2009

Talking Tails: The Incredible Connection between People and their Pets
by Ann Love and Jane Drake
Tundra Books
180 pp.
Ages 8-13
2010


Working Like a Dog: The Story of Working Dogs through History
by Gena Gorrell
Tundra Books
156 pp.
Ages 10-15
2003




Here's to celebrating 
April 28's International Day of the Dog 
with kindness, compassion, and youngCanLit.

April 22, 2013

Summer Days, Starry Nights: Book Launch Party (Toronto)

Join

Vikki VanSickle
author  
of  
Words That Start with B (Scholastic Canada, 2010)
Love is a Four-letter Word (Scholastic Canada, 2011)
Days That End in Y (Scholastic Canada, 2013)

for an evening of reading, music, talking and dance
on

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

at

7:00 p.m.
at 

The Junction 
at 3030 Dundas Street West

for the launch of her newest book

Summer Days, Starry Nights
Scholastic Canada
978-1443119917
240 pp.
Ages 10-14
Release June 1, 2013

The coming-of-age story from the summertime resort of Sandy Shores in 1962.  Think of it like the movie "Dirty Dancing" without the "dirty", says Vikki VanSickle.


Featuring a musical performance by Miranda Mulholland, 
a reading by Vikki VanSickle, 
a 1960's dance party, and
books on sale by Mabel's Fables!

This is an all ages event.

International Day of the Dog: Puppies and Dogs Book List II

Still prepping for International Day of the Dog on April 28, 2013?  Want more than just picture books?  Here's a selection of novels, early readers, middle-grade fiction, and young adult, with important canine characters.


Fiction and YA

Arctic Storm (A Canadian Flyer Adventure #16)
by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Patricia Ann Lewis MacDougall
Owlkids Books
96 pp.
Ages 6-9
2011


Barry, Boyhound
by Andy Spearman
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Canada
230 pp.
Ages 9-12
2005

Bringing Up Beauty
by Sylvia McNicoll
Stoddart Kids
204 pp.
Ages 10-13
1994

Beauty Returns
by Sylvia McNicoll
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
195 pp.
Ages 12-14
2006

A Different Kind of Beauty
by Sylvia McNicoll
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
208 pp.
Ages 13-15
2008

Berta: A Remarkable Dog
by Celia Barker Lottridge
Illustrated by Elsa Myotte
Groundwood Books
99 pp.
Ages 7-9
2002


Birdie For Now
by Jean Little
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
Orca Book Publishers
154 pp.
Ages 8-11
2002

Black Dog Dream Dog
by Michelle Superle
Illustrated by Millie  Balance
Tradewind Books
141 pp.
Ages 9-10
2010



The Carved Box
by Gillian Chan
Kids Can Press
232 pp.
Ages 10-14
2001
Dancing Through the Snow
by Jean Little
Scholastic Canada
248 pp.
Ages 9-12
2007

Different Dragons
by Jean Little
Puffin
112 pp.
Ages 8+
2007 (reissue)

Dog Days
by Becky Citra
Orca Book Publishers
93 pp.
Ages 7-11
2003

Dog House Blues
by Jacqueline Pearce
Orca Book Publishers
176 pp.
Ages 8-12
2005

Dog Lost
by Ingrid Lee
Scholastic
197 pp.
Ages 9-12
2008

Dog Tracks
by Ruby Slipperjack
Fifth House
225 pp.
Ages 12+
2008

Dog Walker
by Karen Spafford-Fitz
Orca Book Publishers
110 pp.
Ages 11-14
2006

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be
by Farley Mowat
Random House Canada
226 pp.
Ages 12+
1984


Einstein Dog
by Craig Spruce
Thistledown Press
258 pp.
Ages 11-14
2009

Elixir
by Eric Walters
Penguin
192 pp.
Ages 8-12
2005


The Graveyard Hounds
by Vi Hughes
Tradewind Books
167 pp.
Ages 9-11
2008

Hubcaps and Puppies
by Rosemary Nelson
Napoleon
172 pp.
Ages 9-11
2002

Junkyard Dog
by Monique Polak
Orca Book Publishers
107 pp.
Ages 11-14
2009

Last Chance (A Robyn Hunter Mystery)
by Norah McClintock
Scholastic Canada
228 pp.
Ages 12-15
2006


Last Chance for Paris
by Sylvia McNicoll
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
204 pp.
Ages 12-15
2008



 


Lost and Found
by Jean Little
Illustrated by Leoung O'Young
Viking Kestrel
82 pp.
Ages 8-10
1985

Lucky Baldwin's Vow
by Morley Callaghan
Stoddart
181 pp.
Ages 9-12
1995 (re-issue)


Lucky's Mountain
by Dianne  Maycock
Orca Book Publishers
112 pp.
Ages 8-11
2007



The Mummy Lives (Sam, Dog Detective series)
by Mary Labatt
Kids Can Press
114 pp.
Ages 8-10
2002

Nix Minus One
by Jill MacLean
Pajama Press
296 pp.
Ages 12+
February, 2013

Nobody's Dog
by Ria Voros
Scholastic Canada
150 pp.
Ages 8-12
2012

No Pets Allowed
by Irene N. Watts
Illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker
Tradewind Books
112 pp.
Ages 7-9
2010

Piper
by Natale Ghent
Illustrated by Cindy Ghent
Orca Book Publishers
176 pp.
Ages 9-13
2000

The Prairie Dogs
by Glenda Goertzen
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
164 pp.
Ages 8-12
2005

City Dogs
by Glenda Goertzen
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
133 pp.
Ages 8-12
2007

Miracle Dogs
by Glenda Goertzen
Hazeldell Productions
142 pp.
Ages 8-12
2012

Prince for a Princess
by Eric Walters
Illustrated by David Parkins
Orca Book Publishers
64 pp.
Ages 7-9
2012

Puppy Love
by Frauke Scheunemann
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi
312 pp.
Ages 9-12
2012


 



Rescue Pup
by Jean Little
Orca Book Publishers
101 pp.
Ages 8-10
2004

Forward, Shakespeare!
by Jean Little
Illustrated by Hanne Lore Koehler
Orca Book Publishers
100 pp.
Ages 7-9
2005


Sea Dog
by Dayle Campbell Gaetz
Illustrated by Amy Meissner
Orca Book Publishers
62 pp.
Ages 6-8
2006
 
Shimmerdogs
by Diane Linden
Thistledown Press
134 pp.
Ages 9-13
2008

Shu-Li and Diego
by Paul Yee
Illustrated by Shaoli Wang
Tradewind Books
84 pp.
Ages 7-10
2009

Snitch
by Norah McClintock
Orca Book Publishers
100 pp.
Ages 12-16
2005

Swindle
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
252 pp.
Ages 8-12
2008

Zoobreak
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
230 pp.
Ages 9-12
2009

Framed
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
34 pp.
Ages 10-12
2010

Showoff
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
248 pp.
Ages 10-12
2012

Hideout
by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada
256 pp.
Ages 8-12
January 2013

What's a Daring Detective Like Me Doing in the Dog House?
by Linda Bailey
Kids Can Press
185 pp.
Ages 8-11
1997








Non-fiction titles will be listed tomorrow.  But, at 48 picture books and today's 49 novels, I think we've made an excellent start at our dogs and puppies' #youngCanLit booklist!