Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Time to work on my own books

I confess that it's been a while since I've posted, but I've come to the conclusion that the more I write about other peoples books, the less I work on my own so an extended writing jag is in order. Be sure to check out the archives, other favourite book blogs, and check back here for occasional lapses whereby I can't help but talk about what I'm reading. And now back to work. Have a great summer. S.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good News

A bit of good news arrived in the mail this morning. The Smell of Paint was included in The Canadian Children's Book Centre's 2008 Best Books for Kids & Teens.

Friday, June 20, 2008

on an adult mystery jag

I know I've been ignoring the blog lately so check out some past reviews while I continue with my adult mystery jag. Don't worry, I'll get back to kids books again soon. Sheryl

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

It's been close to a year since I discovered Sara Pennypacker, and I'm still totally in love with her characters. Clementine is back with another new adventure, or rather misadventure in The Talented Clementine. And, once again, Pennypacker's quirky sensibility and Marla Frazee's charming line drawings work seamlessly to bring the lively Clementine to life.

In this latest installment, an upcoming school talent show has Clementine seriously worried. While her friend Margaret has so many talents she has to alphabetize them, Clementine can't dance, sing or even burb the 'Star Spangled Banner'. Several trips to the principal ensue as does Clementine's valiant effort to learn tap dancing using her running shoes with beer bottle caps glued to the soles (unfortunately, Clementine's feet were too big to fit Margaret's tap shoes). Needless to say, her father is not pleased that Clementine smells like a brewery. Nor is he impressed that she had helpfully removed the caps from 2 dozen full bottles being saved for the Condo Association meeting later that month.

As the big day draws near, Clementine concludes that her best talent bet is to get her little brother to bark like a dog. Unfortunately, her father won't even consider the idea of her little brother on stage with a leash around his neck. It isn't until the night of the Talent-Palooza that Clementine's talent for creative, one-of-a-kind problem solving ensures that the show will go on despite stage fright, cartwheel mishaps, and act over-runs.

Kids will love this second Clementine offering just as much as they did the first. And so will you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems

I have loved Mo Willems since Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! first hit bookstores. I was thrilled when Knuffle Bunny won the Caldecott Award and have enjoyed the further adventures of pigeon. So, when I heard that Mo Willems was speaking at a Seattle conference that I was attending, I rushed to his website to check out a bit of background info. It was all I expected and more. I was so excited. Willems was entertaining but not as informative as I'd hoped, relying on his quirky, off-the-cuff humor and general charm. It was a bit disappointing coming from someone with such obvious talent.

Still, I remain a fan of Willems picture books as well as his early readers like I am Invited to a Party from the Elephant & Piggie series. Willems uses a minimum number of words along with priceless illustrations to maximum effect. His simple line-drawn animal characters are perfectly imbued with facial expressions and body language that children easily identify with. Like other Willems' stories, I am invited to a Party! has that perfect story arc that kids find universally appealing. The tension in the story develops as a result of the familiar personality types that kids will recognize and appreciate. It's classic, and yet not. Willems success lies in his ability to bring an appealing freshness & quirky sensibility to the familiar. In fact, I've yet to read a Willems book that I didn't like. Still, I think I'll stick to enjoying his books and leave public appearances for other conference attendees.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm the proud owner of a Janet Wilson sketch

Just back from Vancouver where I attended a fabulous fundraiser for the Canadian Children's Book Centre. Wine, cheese, seriously yummy deserts and 100 illustrations donated by Canadian book illustrators were up for grabs. My daughter managed to get a very cool Wallace Edwards sketch and I, lucky me got a graphite sketch done by Janet Wilson from the book by Andrea Spalding, Sarah May and the New Red Dress. I have always wanted the chance to work with Janet who is a wonderful illustrator, but never had the chance. Owning one of her drawings is the next best thing. I totally love both the sketch and the book. You can't check out my sketch because it's too big too scan, but you can check out the book. It's such a lovely story, but then that's no surprise because Andrea Spalding always writes lovely stories.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

All-Season Edie by Annabel Lyon

Every now and then you come across one of those delightful characters that make you glance back longingly at your childhood. Eleven-year-old Edie Jasmine Snow, from All-Season Edie, is just such a girl. Edie is nothing like her perfect older sister Dexter who has been allowed to stay with her best friend to attend dance camp instead of accompanying the family on their annual holiday to the lake.

As far as Edie is concerned, it barely feels like Dex is gone since her sister is one of her parents main topics of conversation. The other conversation topic is Edie's beloved grandfather who has suffered a series of small strokes. At the lake, Edie passes the time fishing with Robert, a fat boy who doesn't quite fit in either. The two become fast friends.

Once back home, Edie comes up with a rather outlandish plan to help her beloved grandpa with the help of a little witchcraft and the library. Not surprisingly, Edie's unique efforts to save her grandfather come to naught. Here is where author, Annabel Lyon's deft hand is strongest. There are no magic bullet for grief yet we see many small ways that grief brings Edie's family together without overdoing the sappy. Life goes on, including the self-serving Dexter and her best friend, Mean Megan's plot to get Edie out of the way for a pool party. Edie's eventual revenge is as sweet as it is subtle and unexpected. All-Season Edie is both playful and freshing. Although Annabel confided that it took her fifteen years to complete All Season Edie, (she has written several adult titles in between) I am hoping that her Ramona Quimby-like character is one that we see more of soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Can Lit. Award Round-up

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize


The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane
Written by Polly Horvath
Published by Groundwood Books (2007)

Like her National Book Award-winning The Canning Season, The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane is filled with plot twists and extraordinarily strange characters. It is also a moving meditation on loss and finding family in the most unlikely places. Following the death of their parents, two cousins are sent to live with their distant, scholarly uncle and his eccentric house staff. Told in four characters’ voices, the novel is a layered account of one bad year from multiple points of view linking humour and pain. Polly Horvath has written many award-winning books for children and young adults, including The Trolls and Everything on a Waffle, which won the Sheila Egoff Prize in 2002. She lives in Victoria.

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize
Supported by Kate Walker and Company


A Sea-Wishing Day
Written by Robert Heidbreder
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Published by Kids Can Press (2007)

On a hot summer day, a wish transforms an urban backyard into a place of breezy high-seas adventure. As our bold Captain and Skipper ride the salty waves, they encounter a beastly sea monster, buried treasure, a scurvy pirate crew, lovely mermaids and more. The creative pair who brought you the acclaimed I Wished for a Unicorn offer up another celebration of the boundless distances a childhood wish can travel. A retired elementary school teacher, Robert Heidbreder has been enchanting children with his joyful poems and rhymes for more than two decades. His 2005 book, Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, won the BC Chocolate Lily Young Readers’ Choice Award. Kady MacDonald Denton is an author and illustrator of books for children and lives in Peterborough, Ontario

Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award 2008 (NB)

English Fiction

No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn
Written by Julie Lawson
Published by Scholastic Canada

English Non-Fiction

Hiding Edith
Written by Kathy Kacer
Published by Second Story Press

2008 Manitoba Book Awards Winners Announced

The Younger category of this award was deferred to 2009.

McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award—Older Category


Sandbag Shuffle
Written by Kevin Marc Fournier
Published by Thistledown Press (2007)

Results are in for the Red Cedar and Stellar Awards

Red Cedar information book winner:
Bill Slavin for Transformed: How Everyday Things are Made (Kids Can Press)

Red Cedar fiction winner:
Pamela Porter for The Crazy Man (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)

Stellar Award winner:
Diane Tullson, Red Sea (Orca Books)

Finalists for the Arthur Ellis Best Juvenile Crime Award (announced June 5)
Racing for Diamonds Written by Anita Daher Published by Orca Book Publishers
Spider’s Song Written by Anita Daher Publlished by Puffin Canada/Penguin Group (Canada)
I.D. Written by Vicki Grant Published by Orca Book Publishers
Eye of the Crow Written by Shane Peacock Published by Tundra Books
The Night Wanderer Written by Drew Hayden Taylor Published by Annick Press

Martha Brooks wins Vicky Metcalf Award
Martha Brooks of Winnipeg received the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature. Sponsored by the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, this award, which carries a $15,000 prize, is awarded to a writer of children's literature for a body of work.
Jury comments: “Her novels and short stories push the boundaries of the young adult genre in terms of character, situation, and theme, the result of which is works notable for their depth and resonance.”
Jury members: Nora Flynn (St. John’s), Jean Little (Guelph, Ontario) and Susan Perren (Toronto).

The shortlisted titles for the 2008 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award are: Announced May 20.
Ben's Bunny Trouble Illustrated by Daniel Wakeman & Dirk van Stralen (Orca Book Publishers)
Birds of Prey: An Introduction Illustrated by Robert Bateman with Nancy Kovacs (Scholastic/Madison Press)
ChesterIllustrated and written by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press)
Grumpy Bird Illustrated and written by Jeremy Tankard(Scholastic Press)
I am Raven Illustrated by Andy EversonWritten by David Bouchard (MTW Publishers)
Lickety-Split Illustrated by Dušan Petričić Written by Robert Heidbreder (Kids Can Press)
Marja's Skis Illustrated by Jirina Marton Written by Jean E. Pendziwol (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)
Mechanimals Illustrated and written by Chris Tougas (Orca Book Publishers)
My New Shirt Illustrated by Dušan Petričić Written by Cary Fagan
(Tundra Books)
Painted Circus Illustrated and written by Wallace Edwards (Kids Can Press)
Pink Illustrated by Luc Melanson Written by Nan Gregory Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)

CLA Announces 2008 Young Adult Book Award Shortlist (13-18)
The Space Between Written by Don Aker (HarperCollins)

Mistik Lake Written by Martha Brooks (Groundwood Books)
For Now Written by Gayle Friesen (Kids Can Press)
The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane Written by Polly Horvath (Groundwood Books)
How It Happened in Peach Hill Written by Marthe Jocelyn(Tundra Books)
Another Kind of Cowboy Written by Susan Juby(HarperCollins)
Retribution Written by Carrie Mac (Penguin)
Eye of the Crow Written by Shane Peacock(Tundra Books)
Into the Ravine Written by Richard Scrimger Tundra Books)
Better than Blonde Written by Teresa Toten (Penguin)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard

I'm just back from the most awesome Literacy for Life conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where close to 5000 kids were fortunate enough to meet authors, illustrators and science journalists over three days at the University of Saskatchewan. The program was designed for grades 3-12, and featured a fourth day to inspire the business and political community to get on board with literature and literacy .

I was lucky enough to meet a long-time hero, author and radio and TV personality Bob McDonald who hosts Quirks & Quarks, one of my all time favourite science shows. I loved seeing the fabulous Northern Cree, meeting Jamie Bastedo, George Littlechild and Joe Schwarcz, and catching up with old friends Helaine Becker, and Diane Swanson.

I also met Jeremy Tankard, the talented young illustrator of Grumpy Bird, which I adored. I am delighted to report that his new book is just as engaging. Kids will love Me Hungry, and so will adults. When a stone age boy announces, "Me hungry," a "Me busy," reply from parents sends him in search of food. Comical encounters with a crafty rabbit, a too-prickly porcupine, and a saber-toothed tiger are sure to make even the most grumpy readers smile. The simple text adds to the humour implicit in the what has rapidly become a signature illustrative style. Tankard is clearly a creator to be watched, and you might even find him featured in Betsy Bird's "Hot Men of Children's Literature Column" if (I'm hoping when) she reinstates it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sheila Egoff & Christie Harris Book Prize Winners Announced

This year's winner for young readers, Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize goes to:

The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane

by Polly Horvath
Publisher: Groundwood Books

The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane Like her National Book Award-winning The Canning Season, The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane is filled with plot twists and extraordinarily strange characters. It is also a moving meditation on loss and finding family in the most unlikely places. Following the death of their parents, two cousins are sent to live with their distant, scholarly uncle and his eccentric house staff. Told in four characters’ voices, the novel is a layered account of one bad year from multiple points of view linking humour and pain. Polly Horvath has written many award-winning books for children and young adults, including The Trolls and Everything on a Waffle, which won the Sheila Egoff Prize in 2002. She lives in Victoria. More

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize

Supported by Kate Walker and Company
Judges: Alison Acheson, Kathryn Shoemaker and John Wilson

Winner! A Sea-Wishing Day
by Robert Heidbreder
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Publisher: Kids Can Press

A Sea-Wishing Day

On a hot summer day, a wish transforms an urban backyard into a place of breezy high-seas adventure. As our bold Captain and Skipper ride the salty waves, they encounter a beastly sea monster, buried treasure, a scurvy pirate crew, lovely mermaids and more. The creative pair who brought you the acclaimed I Wished for a Unicorn offer up another celebration of the boundless distances a childhood wish can travel. A retired elementary school teacher, Robert Heidbreder has been enchanting children with his joyful poems and rhymes for more than two decades. His 2005 book, Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, won the BC Chocolate Lily Young Readers’ Choice Award. Kady MacDonald Denton is an author and illustrator of books for children and lives in Peterborough, Ontario.More

And while you're at it, check out the honour books which are awesome too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

Good news; the second teen spy school novel by Ally Carter has hit book stores, although still in hardcover. I couldn't resist, and made the mistake of cracking the cover when I should have been working which can be translated as no work got done the rest of that day! It was unputdownable. I know...I know. Stop making up words Sheryl!

But seriously, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy was just as much fun as the first. The opening finds Cammie Morgan, girl-spy-in-training, back at school after the summer break along with her genius, code-cracking friends. Cammie is still recovering from the loss of her first boyfriend who had to be brainwashed into forgetting about the mission he interrupted in a heroic attempt to save her. While she settles into school and ponders if her ex will even remember her name, she notices that her mother, who happens to be the head of the spy school, is acting awfully strange. But, Cammie barely has time to figure out why before she is blamed for a security breach that puts her top secret school at risk. While trying to clear her name, she overhears her mother and one of the other teachers discussing "Blackthorne," which Cammie figures must be a code name for some mysterious covert op. Soon she and her friends are crawling through walls and surveilling the school to uncover the truth. What they discover will turn their world upside down and send them on a wild ride that you won't want to miss. Once you've finished Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, you, like me, will only be hoping that Ms. Carter has the third in the series is well under way.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Welcome Song for Baby: A lullaby for newborns by Richard Van Camp

I have a bias; well actually more than one, but I have a serious bias when it comes to board books. For one thing, I adore reading them, or at least the ones that aren't merely shrunk down picture books. Still, having written four, I am acutely aware of just how challenging they can be.

Lately, board books have been taking a new direction; board books written simultaneous for little ones and adults. A perfect example is Richard Van Camp's Welcome Song for Baby: A lullaby for newborns put out by Orca Book Publishers. This is a departure for Van Camp, who is known for his gritty YA prose and an occasional picture book. Welcome Song for Baby doesn't follow the unwritten rule of "make it short, then pare it down". It is a lengthy lyrical prose poem that compliments close-up photographs of babies. The close-ups have super baby-appeal as research indicates that the very young are attracted by human faces which are featured on each page. Interestingly, the prose is far too sophisticatedly for babies. However, it is an affirmation of the importance of children in our lives and in our world. It is both intimate and broad in it's message that raising children is life-changing. Van Camp, who is a member of the Dogrib Nation, brings a welcome First Nations cadence to his prose; a cadence that is timeless in it's ability to sooth both the reader and the listener with story.

The sun rises for you
The earth welcomes you
We raise our hands to you
You have made the world beautiful again.

This is must have for new parents and a perfect gift for those about to be.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

CCBC announces winners to Kid's writing contest

Young Winners Announced in 2007 Imperial Oil Foundation Writing Contest

TORONTO: April 1, 2008 — The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is delighted to announce the winners of the 2007 Imperial Oil Foundation Writing Contest.

The contest is a much-anticipated part of TD Canadian Children's Book Week festivities, allowing hundreds of students from across Canada to share their stories while celebrating and participating in Book Week. The 2007 national tours ran from November 17 to 24, 2007. A total of 1785 entries arrived at the Canadian Children's Book Centre’s national office in time for the December 15, 2007 deadline.

In keeping with this year’s theme — The Magic of Books — young writers from across Canada, in grades two to six, were invited to enchant our judges with their own spellbinding tales of mysterious magicians, fanciful fairies, wily wizards, and dreadful dragons.

The WINNERS of the 2007 Imperial Oil Foundation Writing Contest are:

Grade 2: Seanna Geary of Red Lake, Ontario (Age 7)
Magic and More

Judge's Comments: Magic and More was a delight to read. I loved Seanna’s characters Lots of Locks and Auntie Moo. I particularly enjoyed the suspense of the story and the nice twist with Auntie Moo being the White Witch. And the way magic was an important part of the story made it really work for me. Congratulations again and I hope Seanna will keep writing!!

Grade 3: Colton Van Gerwen of Winnipeg, Manitoba (Age 8)
The Invisible Book of Magic

Judge's Comments: I applaud Colton’s creation − a not very likeable hero who nevertheless gets our sympathy as he realizes that he has fallen into the witch's trap. The Kafka-esque transformation scene is the coolest moment in any of the stories I read.

Grade 4: Molly Dawson of Toronto, Ontario (Age 9)
Fairy Performance

Judge's Comments: Molly's story is imbued with magic in every sense of the word. Imagine witnessing the most marvelous performance one night; fairies dancing under moonlight by a stream. The magic of Molly's story is in descriptions so real that the reader can easily join in. Her language is rich in description and detail… In the hands of a less adept writer, the story might have been ended differently, but Molly shows her ability to pull a story together when her character insists that "But I KNEW that it wasn't a dream." Molly captures a moment of magic with more than a little magic of her own.

Grade 5: Emma McCallum of Edmonton, Alberta (Age 10)
Magical Friendship

Judge's Comments: This story gives readers an opportunity to think about the power of art. The joy of friendship is also clearly shown in the relationship between Trina and Athiea. Emma’s writing is very imaginative… I enjoyed the bright images of her descriptions. Most important of all I was easily caught up in the plot of her story.

Grade 6: Tamsyn Riddle of Peterborough, Ontario (Age 11)
The Caomhnóir

Judge's Comments: Using some “selkie” folk lore, Tamsyn wrote a captivating folk story of her own about a 12 year-old girl, Elizabeth, who escapes from a planned marriage by jumping into the sea. When she arrives at a magical island, she delays answering a question and cannot resist drinking from a special pond. Elizabeth then faces a different kind of trap.

The winner from each grade will receive a $200 gift certificate for the bookstore of his or her choice. The winning stories can be enjoyed on the Book Week website at www.bookweek.ca/writingcontest.html .
* * *

Due to the outstanding quality of writing submitted by the young writers this year, the Writing Contest judges have also selected two honourable mentions from each grade level.

The HONOURABLE MENTIONS of the 2007 Imperial Oil Foundation Writing Contest are:

Grade 2: Madison Wescott of Kingston, Ontario (Age 7)
Magic is…

Mayson Sonntag of Regina, Saskatchewan (Age 8)
Killer’s Adventures

Grade 3: Brianne Wheat of Vermilion, Alberta (Age 8)
The Spooky Halloween

Naomi Duska of Calgary, Alberta (Age 8)

Grade 4: Thomas Villeneuve of Gatineau, Quebec (Age 9)
The Alphabet Story

Luke Gagnon of Lloydminster, Alberta (Age 9)
A Secret Worth Keeping

Grade 5: Donovan Stagg of Calgary, Alberta (Age 10)
The Vampire Hunters

Moriam Ahmed of Toronto, Ontario (Age 10)
Electra’s Box

Grade 6: Lucas Bennett of Burnaby, British Columbia (Age 11)
A Boy, a Wolf and a Dragon

Elspeth Yates of Calgary, Alberta (Age 11)
You Never Can Tell With Magic…

* * *

The judges for the 2007 Imperial Oil Foundation Writing Contest are talented authors of children’s and young adult books from across Canada:

Grade 2 judge: David Poulsen (Claresholm, Alberta), author of The Salt & Pepper Chronicles series

Grade 3 judge: Richard Scrimger (Cobourg, Ontario), author of the Norbert series and Into the Ravine

Grade 4 judge: Sheryl McFarlane (Victoria, BC), author of Waiting for the Whales and A Pod of Orcas, The Smell of Paint

Grade 5 judge: Sylvia Gunnery (LaHave, Nova Scotia), author of Out of Bounds and Personal Best

Grade 6 judge: Sylvia McNicoll (Burlington, Ontario), author of A Different Kind of Beauty and Last Chance for Paris

* * *

The Imperial Oil Foundation has a long-standing commitment to supporting education and joins the Canadian Children's Book Centre in congratulating the winners and thanking all of the participants for entering the Writing Contest.

About the Imperial Oil Foundation:
Imperial Oil is committed to supporting community programs where its employees live and work. In 2007 the Imperial Oil Foundation contributed over $11 million to enhance the well-being of communities across Canada. For more information, please visit www.imperialoil.ca .

About the Canadian Children's Book Centre:
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a national, not-for-profit organization founded in 1976 to encourage the reading, writing, illustrating and publishing of Canadian books for young readers. The CCBC is dedicated to promoting quality Canadian children’s literature through its services, publications and programs. For more information, please visit our website at www.bookcentre.ca

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Alfred Kropp series by Rick Yancey

If you’ve been looking for an action packed adventure series with a hint of magic and serious boy appeal for grades 7 and up, look no further than Rick Yancey’s Alfred Kropp series.

Readers will be immediately drawn into Alfred’s extraordinary and somewhat haphazard adventures right from page one of The Exraordinary Adventures of Aldred Kropp. And what adventures! It all starts with Alfred stealing an old sword at his uncle’s insistence. The sword turns out to be the legendary Excalibur (of Arthurian fame) and it falls into the hands of the evil descendant of one of the original Knights of the Roundtable. Feeling responsible, Alfred tries to get the sword back, with the help from another modern day knight. They get the help of a mysterious international organization with serious firepower. Car chases, sword fights, and being falsely labeled an international terrorist make this a page-turner. Alfred’s bumbling but ultimately heroic sense of responsibility makes this accidental hero endearingly likable. The fact that he saves the world is a bonus.

However, the bigger bonus is that there is another Alfred Kropp adventure to crack open, Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon. In the capable hands of Yancey, this second adventure is as wild a ride as the first. It’s just as funny, and Alfred is even more lovable if that’s at all possible. It features an extraction (Alfred getting kidnapped from his not very likable foster parents house), betrayal, magical life-saving blood, jumping out of parachutes, seriously scary demons, rogue agents and yes, a plan to save the world.

More good news is that a third title in the series is about to hit the stores, Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull. Just having finished the advanced proof, I confess that I couldn’t put it down. This time Alfred himself is the target. After a close call in which his guardian is gravely injured, Alfred chases the culprit responsible. He ends up being falsely arrested for murder and his explanation lands him in a psychiatric hospital. It seems that no one believes he has twice saved the world, that he’s on his second life, and that his blood has magical healing powers. He manages to bargain an escape only to land into more hot water (actually snow and ice in Alfred’s case). With bad guys tracking him at ever turn, and no one to trust, Alfred searches for an honorable way to end the standoff, and survive. You guessed it; it’s another page-turner!

**A word of caution for the squeamish; if blood and gore make you queasy, give this series a pass. Personally, I loved all three and await book 4.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lois Lowry is Awesome

I went to hear Lois Lowry speak in Vancouver a few days ago and she was awesome. She talked about the way in which serendipitous events in her life have sparked books like The Giver and Number the Stars and Autumn Street. It was fascinating to discover that part of the inspiration for The Giver came from her experience with her aging father who could remember her older sister, but did not remember that she had died. It led her to ask herself a what if question of the sort that many authors find themselves asking. In this case, it was What if one person were responsible for keeping the memories of a community? She talked about the way in which a books often changed kids' lives; one of the reasons she became a children's writer. There is no question that Lowry has changed many many lives with that book alone.

It was also delighted to hear her read from her new book The Willoughby's and I look forward to reading it. Clearly Lowry has a talent for capturing a child's perspective whether drama or humor.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pink by Nan Gregory

You might think of pink as a mere colour, but in the hands of a skilled author, Pink by Nan Gregory is a treasure. Vivi may not have much, but she has a loving family and a modest home. Still, Vivi wants more. She wants to be part of "the Pinks," a group of girls for whom money is no object. Pink is perfection in Vivi's mind, and she longs to be a part of that perfect world; a world symbolized by an expensive doll she sees in a shop window. Her pragmatic father who struggles to make ends meet tells her that "You can't have everything," but that doesn't stop Vivi from coveting the doll which she saves for. However, the doll is sold to one of "the Pinks" leaving Vivi so devastated that this is how she describes the trudge home from the store. "It's hard to go fast when your heart is a stone."

Fortunately, Gregory doesn't leave readers with a stone heart, but there is no pat ending here. What she does give readers is a gentle reminder that children, just like adults, must learn to survive disappointments and that happiness need not be tied to material possessions. Impressively, Gregory does all this at a child's level, in a mere 32 pages and without being preachy. Hooray for Pink, hooray for superb writers like Nan Gregory.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Support our libraries

Hello fellow book lovers,

Locked-out library workers in Victoria, BC are planning two upcoming events to continue to inform and mobilize public support, in order to achieve a fair contract and get our libraries re-opened.

Two upcoming events:

Thursday March 6, 7 pm
Windsor Park Pavilion, 2451 Windsor RD : Town Hall meeting on the subject of Pay Equity

Saturday March 8 1:15-4:00 pm
The library will be holding a rally on International Women's Day (next Saturday March 8), marching from Centennial Square down Government to the Legislature.The actual march is set to begin about 2:45 although there will be activities preceeding this, beginning at 1:15.

Speakers at the legislature grounds between 3-4 pm.

Never enough time...

Back after a wonderful weekend with my even more wonderful editor, Ann Featherstone. Now I have even more books to add to my pile of "must reads". And then, of course, there's her sage writing advice and insight. Sometimes I wish we had more hours in the day...sigh

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Please Louise! by Frieda Wishinsky & Marie-Louise Gay

Frieda Wishinsky is one of those wonderful as well as versatile authors and she has another hit on her hands. Having written picture books, juvenile novels, and even biographies, she has recently teamed up with the quirky and equally wonderful Marie-Louise Gay for a gem of a picture book, Please Louise! Anyone with siblings will perfectly understand why Louise drives her big brother Jake crazy. She is always underfoot, invading his room, playing with his toys, bouncing on his bed, and even hanging from his chandelier. When he goes outside, or course Louise follows.

Jake's only escape is closing his eyes to shut Louise out. He wishes his sister were a dog. "A dog wouldn't dance into his room./ A dog wouldn't pound on his door./ A dog wouldn't talk all day." But, Jake panics when he opens his eyes to find his little sister gone. He frantically searches everywhere for her, but instead finds a strange little dog who exuberantly jumps into his arms. Did he turn his little sister into a dog? A contrite Jake wishes again, this time "Please Louise./ Don't be a dog.../Please Louise./ Come Back...Please, Louise./ Be my little sister again,".

Wishinsky's well crafted text deftly sidesteps the sentimentality trap and perfectly paints the frustrations and joys of sibling relationships. It is well matched by Gay's zany pencil and watercolor illustrations which capture Louise's boundless energy and enthusiastic affection for her big brother as well as Jake's pull-your-hair-out frustration.

Once you read Please Louise! you, like me, will be hoping that Wishinsky & Gay have many more projects up their creative sleeves.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer

For a while now, I have been meaning to pick up The Time Travelers, The First Book of The Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckely-Archer. It has been touted as the new series to fill the gap for Harry Pottter fans, and I wondered how well it would hold up to the comparison. After having read the first in the series, I must admit to being perplexed. Yes, The Time Travelers is a fantasy, and yes it's an adventure story where good and evil are pitted against one another, but that's where the similarities end. The Time Travelers has a strong historical base, and a much less edgy feel to it. It's well written, engaging, and the historical aspect adds an interesting layer of richness to the story that the Harry Potter books lack.

The premise is that Kate, the daughter of an English scientist, and Peter, a visiting acquaintance of her family's, are whisked back in time after an accident with an antigravity machine at her father's lab. The children land (none too gently either) back in the year 1763 where the villainous Tar Man takes off with the machine and their only hope of returning home to their own time. The children are fortunate enough to meet Gideon Seymour, a gentleman who is hiding a dark past. He agrees to help them try to get the machine back. Along the way they meet, highwayman, nobility, famous characters, and even King George III and his queen. They also learn of their ability to "blur" or disappear and rematerialize ghost-like in their own time.

This may not be a Harry Potter substitute, but it is a well-written adventure with colourful characters, surprise twists, and an ending that will leave you wanting more. So, be smart and pick up The Time Thief, Buckley-Archers's second book of The Gideon Trilogy. And if you're lucky, by the time you finish it, she'll have published the third.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stanley at Sea by Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin

I love Stanley, and if you knew him, you would too. For those of you who aren't in the know, Stanley is a dog, a fictional one. Linda Bailey is his creator and she is about to launch her latest in a perfect trio of picture books about doggie adventures or misadventures to be more accurate; Stanley at Sea. Stanley is a dog who isn't content to sit around waiting for his master. He's thrown a party, gone for a wild ride, and now he and his friends are off to test their sea legs, although not intentionally. A nose for food lures the errant dogs into a boat which drifts out to sea. The pooches are faced with wide open spaces, wild waves and no land in sight. But as all dogs know, no matter where you go, "Outside" has one thing in common, a fence, or does it...?

Bill Slavin's depictions are as full of humour as Bailey's quirky text. You won't want to miss this rollicking new adventure by an unbeatable team. And while you're at it, reacquaint yourself with Stanley's Party and Stanley's Wild Ride. You might find yourself looking at your pets with entirely new eyes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Golden Compass; the book versus the movie

I'm such a slacker. Yes, I've been reading, but over Xmas I read a few adult mysteries and now I'm in the middle of reading hundreds of kid's stories for the National writing contest sponsored by The Canadian Children's Book Centre. The winners won't be announced until April 1, but I have to read the stories and choose a winner well before then.

In the meantime, I reread Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and went to the movie. Both are awesome in my opinion, although I would recommend them only for more mature readers and viewers. Pullman's writing can never be matched in film, but Chris Weitz did a fine job bring the book to the big screen; minus a few quibbles of course. I was, for example, disappointed with the oversimplification of Iorek Byrnison's (the armored bear) situation, and the set up at the end of the movie implied a change in who might accompany Lyra in her quest to find dust. On the other hand, Kidman's portrayal of Mrs. Coulter is chillingly real. The controversy seems to be more about Pullman's views than his writing as far as I can see, and the whole idea of the daemons as soul is a most interesting and provocative one. I love that the movie has sparked so much discussion, and renewed interest in what is a very fine book. I do find it strange though, that so many feel qualified to discuss both without having either read the book nor seen the film. Hmmm...