October 16, 2017

2018 Forest of Reading® nominees announced

It's here, it's here, it's finally here.  It's the day that the Ontario Library Association announces the nominees for the 2018 Forest of Reading® programs. Now extending beyond Ontario, even more readers are enjoying new Canadian literature as part of the Forest of Reading® programs which includes the following programs:

  • Blue Spruce™: K to Grade 2 reading level 
  • Silver Birch® Express: Grades 3-4 reading level
  • Silver Birch® Fiction: Grades 5-6 reading level
  • Silver Birch® Non-fiction: Grades 5-6 reading level
  • Red Maple™ Fiction: Grades 7-8 reading level
  • White Pine™ Fiction: Grades 9-12 reading level
  • Le Prix Tamarac: les titres en français
  • Le Prix Tamarac Express: les titres en français
  • Le Prix Peuplier: les albums français

  • These readers' choice award programs invite teachers and librarians (school and public), as well as parents of home-schoolers, to sign up for these programs through the Ontario Library Association. Once you've registered for the programs and purchase the books, young readers will be on their way to voting for their favourites in April.

    With ninety nominated titles, I have presented the nominees in multiple posts on my Awards blog.  See the lists below for nominees for the different programs.

    October 13, 2017

    That Inevitable Victorian Thing: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

    I know it's a little late notice but, if you can, you really must go!

    E. K. Johnston

    YA author 
    extraordinary fantasy, sci fi and more

    is launching her newest book

    That Inevitable Victorian Thing
    Written by E. K. Johnston
    Dutton Books for Young Readers
    336 pp.
    Ages 12+
    October, 2017

    October 13, 2017

    6:30-9:00 p.m.


     Bakka-Phoenix Books
    84 Harbord Street
    Toronto, ON

    Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history. The imperial tradition of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage. But before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer of freedom and privacy in a far corner of empire. Posing as a commoner in Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an extraordinary bond and maybe a one-in-a-million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process.

    Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved not by the cost of blood and theft but by the effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a surprising, romantic, and thought-provoking story of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.
    Retrieved from 
    on October 13, 2017.

    October 12, 2017


    Written by Deborah Ellis
    Groundwood Books
    144 pp.
    Ages 10-13
    October 2017

    The premise for Sit is simple.  There are eleven short stories based on chairs and other places upon which the young protagonists sit, rest, work, deliberate, speculate.  Each begins with a name, descriptor of the seat and usually the place.
    Jafar was sitting on a work bench in the furniture factory. (pg. 11) 
    Miyuki was sitting on a tatami in the evacuation centre. (pg. 72) 
    Mike is sitting on his heels on the floor of his cell. (pg. 91)
    Except for two scenarios to which the protagonists return in somewhat different settings, each story is unique.  Still all are touching and deeply personal and insightful about the human condition and humanity, all told based on where we sit and why.

    The first story, The Singing Chair, is the story of Jafar, a young boy who works in a furniture factory in Jakarta in order to pay off his family's debt.  But his life is more than this because after work he attends a school for working children and he is learning to read and write.  Jafar returns in the final story called The Hope Chair which focuses on the school and the overwhelming hope it gives him to write himself a bigger and better story.

    More stories of a contemporary setting but which transport young readers to global locations include an escape from Taliban rule in Afghanistan to an equally reprehensible "safety" (The Hiding Chair) and Miyuki's story of entering the danger zone after the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in order to rescue her mother's donkey (The Glowing Chair).  Still a little different is the story titled The Question Chair in which a Berliner named Gretchen is thrown into intense contemplation about the experiences of the Jewish people and the Germans during World War II after sitting on a toilet at a concentration camp museum outside of Krakow.

    Some stories read as more local but of worlds perhaps unknown to many readers and sadly familiar to others. There is the Mennonite community in the aftermath of a horrible tragedy (The Plain Chair) and a prison in which a young man in solitary confinement finds hope from an anonymous source (The Freedom Chair).  Even The Day-off Chair has a little girl on a street bench trying to find calm in her angry world, one in which harm is expected. The Time-Out Chair, represented by the pink chair with dinosaur on the cover, is the chair to which seven-year-old Macie is relegated for her multitude of "sins" but where she finds solace in her imagining of a forest house. The only other stories in which the protagonists are revisited are The Knowing Chair and The War Chair which focus on children in a family in transition.  From a food court table and chairs to a swing outside the neutral location for the family custody switch, Barry and his little sister Sue are pulled along in their parents' conflict. Regrettably this story may be all too familiar to some children.

    As very different as the stories are in situation, each is a story with a young person struggling either with others or with themselves in order to survive emotionally and/or physically the trials of their lives.  What they learn of others and themselves in the process of sitting is extraordinary.  For Deborah Ellis's young people, sitting is but a starting point for new life stories.  Given the choice of remaining seated, condemned to a suspended existence, or getting up and moving forward, Deborah Ellis's young people choose life in whatever form is available.
    Maybe she would live.  Maybe she would ride a great train of suffering for a long, long time, but there might be one day when that train would stop, and she could have a belly full of food and a face full of sun. (pg. 117)

    October 11, 2017

    Canada 123

    Written and illustrated by Paul Covello
    HarperCollins Canada
    30 pp.
    Ages 2-5
    September 2017

    For little ones who are only discovering that they live in Canada, Canada 123 will take them on a fun romp through the cultural and physical landscapes that define us.  It's fun and comprehensive and bold in colour and message.

    From Canada 123 by Paul Covello
    From the icy landscape of 0 zero degrees, each double-spread shows the number in numerical value and word with an appropriate Canada attribute.  There’s 1 flag, 2 official languages, 3 polar bears, 4 seasons, 5 farms (including crop, dairy and wind), 6 hockey players (diverse in gender and race), 7 geese (yes, Canadian), 8 Mounties (similarly diverse in gender, skin tone and head gear), 9 whales, and 10 sled dogs.  Then Paul Covello jumps to 25 fishing boats, 50 train cars, and 100 snowflakes (there truly are 100).  Finally, the back endpapers sum up Canada in 10 provinces, 3 territories, 1 country.
    From Canada 123 by Paul Covello
    Canada 123 has a little bit of everything that is Canada including urban and rural scenes, Arctic, Pacific and Maritime displays, and sights from across the country.  Paul Covello's illustrations are vibrant and upbeat and dramatic and the lines and textures smooth, perfect for our youngest non-readers and readers.  It's a great introduction to counting and Canada and is a worthwhile addition to my booklist of Canada picture books (which I'll now amend to include this Canada 123).
    From Canada 123 by Paul Covello

    October 09, 2017

    The Theory of Hummingbirds

    Written by Michelle Kadarusman
    Pajama Press
    160 pp.
    Ages 8-12
    September 2017

    Middle-grader Alba has always been defined by Cleo.  Cleo is her left foot, the foot with talipes equinovarus, a deformity formerly known as club foot.  She has endured multiple treatments and restrictions on what she can and cannot do but, with her most recent surgery, Alba is convinced the normalcy she has always craved is almost upon her.  She is sure that, once her cast is removed, she will be able to shed her timekeeper role and run in the year-end cross-country race.
    The idea of being NORMAL hovered ahead of me like a glittering, shining new world–a place that I had never been allowed into.  Somehow I knew that if I could just run in the race like everyone else, it would prove that I deserved to be there–in magical Normal Land. (pg. 48)
    Alba is adamant that she will run and so, when best friend Levi isn't an enthusiastic supporter of her plans–he's wrapped up in proving there's a wormhole in the librarian's office–she lashes out, calling him weird and his ideas stupid.  Even Coach and her doctor caution her about making plans before they see how the foot has healed and how the physiotherapy works.  Sadly, in her efforts to get that normal life, she twists the truth, manipulates her mother and almost loses a friend. She may see herself as fierce but, like the hummingbird of the title, she can be vicious. Alba's story may not turn out as she plans, in a blaze of running glory with new friends, but it's closer than you think, resolving  itself appropriately and ultimately better for Alba, Cleo, Levi and others than expected.  

    Alba is like the hummingbirds of the title.  Most people would see them as delicate creatures, perhaps fragile and vulnerable. But Alba and Levi, hummingbird aficionados, know that the little birds are not always what they seen.  They can be intense, even ferocious, not unlike Alba herself.  While the birds' behaviour is driven by survival, Alba's may be the same, or as she feels it to be so, especially when she doesn't get the reactions she wants or the outcomes she desires.  Fortunately, she gets some valuable guidance from friends and family about appreciating herself and being the best person she can be, regardless of things which might hold her back.

    The Theory of Hummingbirds is Michelle Kadarusman's first middle-grade novel (Her first book, Out of It (Lorimer, 2014), was written for young adults.) and she's made it reader friendly in more than just vocabulary and content.  Her characters are both sensitive and gritty, as the need requires, and neither goody-goody nor reprehensible.  In other words, they are real children with strengths and challenges.  Because she underwent a series of surgical procedures to correct her own congenital talipes equinovarus, Michelle Kadarusman writes from experience.  Hence Alba's determination and drive for normalcy is written with authenticity and reads the same.  If  there's a lesson to learn, it's that seeing the hummingbirds and Alba and Levi and others only one way does a disservice to them and anyone.  We are all far more than our greatest challenge or weakness or even strength.  For that, on this day, we should all be ever thankful.

    October 06, 2017

    The Disappearance

    Written by Gillian Chan
    Annick Press
    197 pp.
    Ages 12+
    September 2017

    The who of the disappearance is Jacob but the why and where and how are answers that the police are  trying to extract from his group home roommate Mike McCallum, a teen who obviously has something to hide and is pleased to do so.  

    It's pretty hard for Mike to stay under everyone's radar.  He's a big guy and his face is massively disfigured after his mother's boyfriend Danny brought a cleaver down on it.  Still Mike's internal scarring, from the death of his little brother Jon by Danny's drunken hand, is far worse.  Taken from his mother, a woman who regrets Danny being in prison, Mike has been in foster care for three years before he ends up at Medlar House.  There amongst the foster kids he meets the enigmatic Jacob, a boy who'd been found beaten up and unconscious in Dundas Valley Conservation Area and rarely speaks and shuts down in body and spirit when overwhelmed.  But when Jacob finally speaks to Mike it is to tell him that Jon has been there and has told Jacob about his death and more.

    As Mike learns the routines of Medlar House and the personalities of the other kids, especially keeping an eye on the vicious Paddy and his lackey Matt, the fearful Adam and the victimized Jacob, he finds his role changing from thug to protector.  In his own way, Mike is trying to right his own wrong i.e., not saving Jon. But before he can really help, Jacob is exposed to far greater danger and horrific bullying that compels Mike to try to find a happy ending for this boy.  What he learns, with the help of Adam, is as mysterious as Jacob himself.

    Without spoiling Gillian Chan's extraordinary plot twist, I can say that The Disappearance includes a supernatural element that has never been handled as eloquently as it has here. It is unexpected and unique and wholly convincing. (I want to share.  Really I do.  But I can't.) Still, even beyond her fantastic plot, Gillian Chan creates rich characters–Mike, Jacob, Adam, Chaz, Paddy, and others–that carry this story of hurts.  What has happened to Mike and Jacob is tragic.  Their lives have been destroyed by vicious and uncaring people whose choices superseded benevolence.  Even the charity granted the boys is tempered by the personalities of those involved: some do-gooders, some lazy, others greedy and some, like Chaz, compassionate and effective.  All they can do is endure and hopefully survive.  Without giving the reader a fairy tale ending of rainbows and sunshine, Gillian Chan resolves the story with realism and justness and the anticipation that sometimes you can save another.


    The launch for The Disappearance is tomorrow in Hamilton.  Do go if you're in the area.  Details are provided here.

    October 05, 2017

    On the Spectrum

    Written by Jennifer Gold
    Second Story Press
    336 pp. 
    Ages 13-18
    September 2017

    The push for books that reflect diversity has been extending more recently to include those with characters on the spectrum or with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as does On the Spectrum.  But, unlike the recently reviewed Slug Days by Sara Leach (Pajama Press, 2017), On the Spectrum takes a different approach, placing the character on the spectrum in a secondary role, as a step-brother to the teen protagonist, thereby providing a different perspective to life on the spectrum. 

    In On the Spectrum, the protagonist Clara is a sixteen-year-old whose issue is orthorexia i.e., an unhealthy preoccupation with how much and what she eats.  After a social media faux pas and the intervention of social workers disturbed by her ballerina mother’s own extreme healthy lifestyle fixation, Clara heads to Paris to spend the summer with her Dad, his new wife Mag and her half-brother Alastair, a six-year-old child on the spectrum.  While visiting Parisian tourist attractions and adhering to Alastair’s routines, Clara begins to learn about her little brother’s behaviours and needs, like his weighted vest and use of noise-cancelling headphones to help him calm, and starts to really care about him.  Conversely, Alastair is learning about his sister, putting together the pieces of what he overhears from his parents’ discussions and interpreting her words and actions, convinced that, though Clara denies it, she must be on a spectrum herself, on an eating disorder spectrum.  Complicating matters for Clara is Alastair’s friendship with Michel, the son of a local baker, who whips up amazing pastries and meals with Alastair and is convinced he can help Clara enjoy food once again.  

    Young adult author Jennifer Gold, whose previous books Soldier Doll (Second Story Press, 2014) and Undiscovered Country (Second Story Press, 2017) have been reviewed on CanLit for LittleCanadians, gives Alastair voice through Clara’s narration; only through his sister’s interpretations do we hear what Alastair says and does.  It’s still a valid voice but it reads very differently from the first-person narrative of Slug Days or Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food (Jodi Carmichael, Little Pickle Press, 2013), both of which are written for younger audiences.  But then again, On the Spectrum is Clara’s story and Alastair is akin to her sidekick who is there to help steer and illuminate her thinking, which he does so effortlessly both about his autism and her issues.  He may be on the titular spectrum but apparently Clara is on one as well.  The spectrum, whatever it may be based upon, is broad, indicating that there is no one way of being autistic or having eating issues.  Even being different is different for everyone, and Jennifer Gold's Clara and Alastair and all those in-between make that abundantly clear.


    (A version of this review was originally written for and paid for by Quill & Quire but space limitations prevented its inclusion in the recent October issue.)

    October 04, 2017

    2017 Governor General's Literary Awards: Finalists for Young People's Literature

    Today, the Canada Council for the Arts announced the finalists for the highly prestigious Governor General's Literary Awards. These will be the first GGs presented by our new Governor General, Julie Payette, who was just sworn in two days ago.

    The seven categories of books, both in French and English, for which awards are given are:
    • Fiction
    • Non-Fiction
    • Poetry
    • Young People's Literature (Text)
    • Young People's Literature (Illustration)
    • Drama
    • Translation

    Congratulations to the finalists 
    for the literary awards of English or French language 
    works for young people.

    English-language: Young People's Literature (Text)

    Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
    Written by Danielle Younge-Ullman

    Reviewed here

    Hit the Ground Running
    Written by Alison Hughes
    Orca Book Publishers

    The Marrow Thieves
    Written by Cherie Dimaline
    Dancing Cat Books

    The Way Back Home
    Written by Allan Stratton
    Scholastic Canada

    Those Who Run in the Sky
    Written by Aviaq Johnston
    Inhabit Media

    English-language:  Young People's Literature (Illustration)

    Short Stories for Little Monsters
    Written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
    Groundwood Books

    Reviewed here

    The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk
    Written and illustrated by Jan Thornhill
    Groundwood Books

    Reviewed here

    Town is By the Sea
    Written by Joanne Schwartz
    Illustrated by Sydney Smith
    Groundwood Books

    Reviewed here

    When the Moon Comes
    Written by Paul Harbridge
    Illustrated by Matt James
    Tundra Books

    When We Were Alone
    Written by David A. Robertson
    Illustrated by Julie Flett
    HighWater Press

    French-language: Young People's Literature (Text)

    Chroniques post-apocalyptique d'une enfant sage
    par Annie Bacon
    Bayard Canada

    L'elixir du baron Von Rezine
    par K. Lambert
    Éditions Pierre Tisseyre

    Les moustiques
    par Jocelyn Boisvert
    Soulières éditeur

    L'importance de Matilde Poisson
    par Véronique Drouin
    Bayard Canada

    Moi qui marche à tâtons dans ma jeunesse noire
    par Roxanne Desjardins
    Les Herbes rouges

    French-language: Young People's Literature (Illustration)

    par Jacques Goldstyn
    Les Éditions de la Pastèque

    En voiture! L'Amérique en chemin de fer
    par Pascal Blanchet
    Les Éditions de la Pastèque

    Fred Petitchatminou
    par Christiane Duchesne 
    Illustré de Marion Arbona
    Les Éditions de la Bagnole

    La légende de Carcajou
    par Renée Robitaille 
    Illustré de  Slavka Kolesar
    Planète rebelle

    Louis parmi les spectres
    par Fanny Britt 
    Illustré de Isabelle Arsenault
    Les Éditions de la Pastèque

    Winning titles will be announced 
    on November 1, 2017
    presented on a later date at Rideau Hall.

    October 03, 2017

    Slug Days

    Written by Sara Leach
    Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
    Pajama Press
    120 pp.
    Ages 7-10
    October 2017

    Slug Days is told in the first-person narrative of a young girl on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Lauren, who is probably seven or eight years of age, gives her commentary on several days at school and home, recounting both her slug days when she feels slow and slimy and people get angry with her and her occasional but glorious butterfly days, when she earns stickers in her school agenda and goes for ice cream with her mom.  Sadly, there is much that breaks Lauren’s routines and confuses her sensibilities resulting in those icky slug days: her bus driver is away, someone is sitting in her bus seat, her shoelace bows don’t match, she misses reading time, or her classmates don’t want to play with her.
    From Slug Days 
    by Sara Leach 
    illus. by Rebecca Bender
    Even though her teachers know the behaviours typical of ASD and how best to help her, Lauren doesn’t always interpret their actions as helpful, challenging them and even being convinced that they make her have slug days.  When a new girl from Sweden joins the class, Lauren comes to understand that she has the capacity to make butterfly days for herself and someone else.
    From Slug Days 
    by Sara Leach 
    illus. by Rebecca Bender
    Sara Leach makes Lauren’s voice young and blatant, focusing on what is important to the child and often ignoring what others deem priorities.  Who the girl is, is undisguised.  She needs her routines and obsesses about things that others might ignore.  She finds security in sticky messes and speaks her mind in an effort to be honest not disrespectful or challenging.  It's usually how others respond to her that gives her the most grief.  Often times she is misunderstood or challenged or ridiculed for her differences and, though she can overlook much, as a strategy to coping, she is as affected by others as most of us are, sadly leading to those slug days.

    The voice is the most compelling element of Sara Leach's Slug Days, as it should be.  Here is Lauren's story, up close and personal.  Whether readers can empathize is not on Sara Leach but on the readers themselves because the author makes it clear and it is an arresting text spoken true by a child on the spectrum. Regardless, it’s evident that Lauren's life is full and complex and often wholly unpredictable.  But, with an arsenal of strategies, she will hopefully have fewer slug days and expand her days, as well as those around her, to those of butterflies.

    (A version of this review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

    Kubiw, H. (2017, October). [Review of the book Slug Days by Sara Leach]. Quill & Quire, 83 (8): 26.

    October 02, 2017

    Sam & Eva: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

      Debbie Ridpath Ohi

    is launching her second picture book!

    Sam & Eva
    Written and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
    Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
    40 pp.
    Ages 4-8
    October, 2017



    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    from 6-8 p.m.


    A Different Booklist
    777-779 Bathurst Street
    Toronto, ON

    There will be 
    • refreshments
    • a reading 
    • a fun art demo
    • doodle keepsake giveaways,
    • book sales 
    • book signing. 

    Get a sneak peek at Sam & Eva from this video uploaded by Debbie Ridpath Ohi just days ago.

    Uploaded by Debbie Ohi to YouTube on September 30, 3017.

    Harold and the Purple Crayon meets Tom and Jerry in this sweet and funny picture book about a boy and girl who must balance their creativity and figure out how to cooperate after their drawings come to life. 

    When Sam starts drawing a super cool velociraptor, Eva decides to join in. But Sam isn’t too happy about the collaboration. Soon Eva and Sam are locked in an epic creative clash, bringing to life everything from superhero marmots to exploding confetti. But when their masterpieces turn to mayhem will Sam stay stubbornly solo or will he realize that sometimes the best work comes from teamwork?

    When the Moon Comes: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

    I know Canadians and those who love hockey will be anticipating the upcoming winter season.  
    What better way to prepare than with this newest picture book from Tundra Books?

    When the Moon Comes
    Written by Paul Harbridge
    Illustrated by Matt James
    Tundra Books
    40 pp.
    Ages 4-8
    September 2017



    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    7-9 p.m.


    The Dakota Tavern
    249 Ossington Avenue
    Toronto, ON

    Both author Paul Harbridge and illustrator Matt James will be at the launch

    Details about the event were posted on the event's Facebook page:Both Paul Harbridge and Matt James will be on hand to speak briefly about the book and sign copies. Books will be sold on site by the incredible Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue). Following the signing The Très Bien Ensemble (http://thetresbienensemble.com/), featuring Matt James on guitar and vocals, will perform a short set. It promises to be more fun than an honest-to-goodness game of shinny.

    From Penguin Random House Canada website at http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/251515/when-moon-comes#9781101917770:

    In this atmospheric story, a group of kids play hockey on a frozen lake by moonlight. At once nostalgic and timely, this is a gorgeous book that will speak to readers young and old.

    The beaver flood has finally frozen--perfect ice, without a bump or a ripple. For the kids in town, it's Christmas in November. They wait, impatiently, for the right moment. 

    Finally, it arrives: the full moon. 

    They huff and puff through logging trails, farms, back roads and tamarack swamps, the powdery snow soaking pant legs and boots, till they see it--their perfect ice, waiting. 

    And the game is on.

    From When the Moon Comes 
    by Paul Harbridge 
    illus. by Matt James

    2018 Stephen Leacock Student Humorous Short Story Competition

    The Stephen Leacock Medal for Canadian Literary Humour is a prestigious annual which honours the great humorist Stephen Leacock.  While the award is generally given for books for adults, the Stephen Leacock Associates foundation sponsors a student competition.  What a great way to get more humour in our lives, get your students writing with purpose and maybe even win a few dollars!

    Here are the details for the competition, as well as a teacher's guide for writing humour, which are posted at https://www.leacock.ca/studentaward.php.

    Stephen Leacock 
    Student Humorous Short Story 

    Write a humorous story or personal essay in English with maximum word count of 1500 words.
    • titled
    • typed, double-spaced on one side of the page only
    • pages numbered and without any other identifying marks
    • cover page must be included and provide: title, student's name, name of school, school's telephone and email address

    Judging by 3 published authors is blind i.e., cover pages with key information are removed and the entry is assigned a number which is logged with student's info in a register which is only seen after judging is complete.

    Send 3 copies of each entry (plus $5 entry fee) by April 15, 2018 deadline to:
    Christine Spear
    Contest Registrar
    8-40 Victoria Crescent
    Orillia, ON
    L3V 6N6

    Post marked no later than April 15, 2018

    Limited to Ontario secondary school (public or private) students.

    First prize:  $1,000
      + • 2  tickets to the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal Banquet gala (June 9, 2018)
         • accommodation for two
         • an autographed copy of the medal-winning
         • 2 tickets for the Authors Night (June 8, 2018) at which all winners will read their stories

    Second prize: $700
      + • 2 tickets for the Authors Night (June 8, 2018)

    Third prize: $300
      + • 2 tickets for the Authors Night (June 8, 2018)

    Announcements and Presentations:
    Winners announced: May 15, 2018

    Authors Night (for all winners): June 8, 2018, Best Western Mariposa Inn, 400 Memorial Avenue, Orillia

    Gala Dinner (for 1st place winner):  June 9, 2018, Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia

    Christine Spear
    Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal

    Retrieved from https://www.leacock.ca/studentaward.php on October 2, 2017.

    September 29, 2017

    Morgan the Brave

    Written by Ted Staunton and Will Staunton
    Illustrated by Bill Slavin
    Formac Lorimer
    96 pp.
    Ages 5-8
    September 2017

    Being scared is normal.  Still, being seen as being scared and labelled a chicken or a scaredy-cat is something all children and many adults would avoid at all costs.  That's Morgan's dilemma.  He and everyone from his class have been invited to new kid Curtis's birthday party at which the boy plans to show the horror movie Brain Eater.  Worse, the rumours about the movie elevate the scariness factor.
    From Morgan the Brave 
    by Ted Staunton and Will Staunton 
    illus. by Bill Slavin
    "I heard they use real earwax," whispers Charlie.
    "My brother watched it," says Matt, "and he passed out!"
    Melissa hisses, "Did you hear what they make the spaghetti out of?" (pg. 11)

    Worse, his frenemy Aldeen (she's the tall one with the witchy hair in Bill Slavin's illustration above) says that scary movies are boring and she's seen a million of them.  So he gives one a try. He watches The Wizard of Oz in the safety of his home with his parents and he still freaks out, closing his eyes.  Is there a way to go to Curtis's party and watch that movie and not lose face?

    Somehow father and son authors Ted Staunton and Will Staunton get into the head of the freakishly normal Morgan, knowing how natural fears can escalate to horrific proportions with the right inputs from peers and an active imagination.  Because the scenario in which Morgan the Brave finds himself is so commonplace, the story becomes familiar and funny and clever.  Though cautionary tales are generally more folkloric, Morgan the Brave is still a lesson-learning story that worries can exacerbate fears and that the anticipation is usually far worse than the reality.

    Parents, you can reassure your children with a reading of Morgan the Brave while teachers can do the same with their early readers who would probably be more accepting of the premise that they shouldn't give into their fears if they read it for themselves.  At a Reading Level of 2.2. (i.e., that of a child in the second month of Grade 2) and accompanied by Bill Slavin's comical art, it's not an intimidating read at all.


    Like Ted Staunton's original Morgan series, Morgan the Brave would be a great addition to the listing of #CanLitChoices for Grade 2 novel studies that I prepared almost exactly two years ago. Check out those titles here.

    September 28, 2017

    The Disappearance: Book launch (Hamilton, ON)

    Join best-selling author

    Gillian Chan

    author of middle-grade and young adult
    historical fiction, short stories and more

    for the launch of her newest young adult book

    The Disappearance
    Written by Gillian Chan
    Annick Press
    208 pp.
    Ages 12+
    September 2017


      Saturday, October 7, 2017

    1:30 p.m.


    The Reading Room
    Bryan Prince Bookseller
    1060 King Street West
    Hamilton, ON

    I hope to review this book before the launch (thanks Annick Press for the review copy!) but, until it is posted, here is the publisher's take on what is sure to be a superbly suspenseful read:

    A fast-paced, gritty mystery with a supernatural twist.

    Jacob Mueller and Mike McCallum couldn’t be more different. After mystifying doctors, who finally decide that he is an elective mute, Jacob ends up in a juvenile group home, isolated, withdrawn, and bullied. Mike, also in the group home, is scarred physically and emotionally after the murder of his younger brother. He uses his horrific appearance, imposing size, sharp intelligence, and a calculated brutality to keep everyone at bay—until he encounters Jacob. Mike is fascinated by Jacob, particularly the way in which he seems able to shut out the world around him. This fascination becomes tinged with a mixture of awe and horror when Jacob starts to talk, and appears to have knowledge of Mike’s past, particularly of his dead brother. Mike takes it upon himself to solve the puzzle that is Jacob Mueller, and when he comes to the impossible conclusion that Jacob is from another time, he makes it his mission to return him home.
    Retrieved from http://www.annickpress.com/Disappearance-The on September 28, 2017.

    The lovely Gillian Chan promises
    • a reading
    • talk of books
    • refreshments
    • book sales and signing
    • learning who disappeared and why.

    Will you be there?