Tag Archive | Canada

Oh, such critters in this sketchbook! If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel (book review)

book cover of If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel, by Elise Gravel. Published by Drawn & Quarterly 2017  | recommended on BooksYALove.comWant to become an illustrator?
Ready to step up your drawing style?
Elise says “let out all the ideas” in your sketchbook!

Monsters and microbes and funny mushrooms are some of the “complete nonsense” that this Quebecoise author/illustrator allows herself to draw in her plain black notebook, only later revising them or adding funny stories or spinning them off into her many books for kids.

Her top advice for illustrators-in-training? “Draw all the time!”

Enjoy this sample of Elise’s unique creatures and drawing style here, courtesy of the publisher, then visit your local library or independent bookstore to get your own copy.

What creatures might your doodling reveal?
**kmm

Book info: If Found, Please Return to Elise Gravel / Elise Gravel, translated by Shira Adriance. Drawn & Quarterly, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Creatures large, small, and all whimsical fill this notebook by Canadian illustrator and children’s author Elise Gravel, as inspiration for us to draw, draw, draw!

Draw in spare moments, like Elise does – practice and more practice is the way to improve, as you find your own drawing style.
You can imitate illustrations for practice or create crazy ideas and doodles. Some may inspire a story, so write it.

Look at her Floofs and foxes, bunnies dressed in punk rock t-shirts, and “the Incredible Hulk presents his favourite recipes for a romantic dinner” – mashing up ideas can make really funny pictures!

To become a better illustrator, just grab your notebook (any color, says Elise) and keep on drawing!

W is We Are All Made of Molecules, by Susin Nielsen (book review) – stepfamily is big step for him

book cover of We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Neilsen published by Wendy Lamb Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comFinally having a sister will be nice, Stewart thinks.
No, getting a nerdy stepbrother is awful, Ashley thinks.
How is this blended family thing going to work?

A genius with digestive issues and a so-so student who’s a social climber now have to share a house and a high school – not easy.  Add in the new guy on the basketball team with a mysterious past (Ashley’s secret crush!) who attacks Stewart in phys ed, plus Ashley trying to keep the truth about her parents’ divorce a secret – not easy at all.

This laugh-aloud look at serious issues will be released in paperback on May 10, 2016 – if you can wait that long to read it!

Must moving forward mean leaving the best of your past behind?
**kmm

Book info: We Are All Made of Molecules / Susin Nielsen. Wendy Lamb Books, 2015 (hardcover); 2016, Ember (paperback).  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Stewart understands why his dad wants to remarry after Mom’s death, but the gifted 13-year-old is uncertain about his new stepsister’s popularity and academic problems when he transfers to her Vancouver high school, despite her wishes.

Adding Stewart’s favorite quirky possessions to his 14 year old stepsister’s sleek modern house is a balancing act, as is his nerdy presence at Ashley’s school where she’d rather study celebrity gossip than her textbooks.

A handsome new guy on the basketball team, the chance to become school mascot and a Mathlete, not-so-subtle mean girl comments – so much change in high school!

Can Stewart hold onto some of his mom’s molecules among so many new things?
Can Ashley keep the whole school from knowing that her dad is gay?
Why do parents have silly rules about no parties while they’re gone?

Told in alternating chapters by Stewart and Ashley, this Canadian family story brings humor to the often-tricky worlds of high school, stepfamilies, and identity. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Numbers, by David A. Poulsen (book review) – friendly teacher, hostile beliefs

book cover of Numbers by David A. Poulsen published by Dundurn |BooksYALove.com review Popularity or individuality,
Leader or follower,
History is written by the victors.

Mr. R knows every kid at school by name, crafts the most interesting lessons ever, and wants to rewrite a particular part of history in their minds. Eventually, Andy questions his favorite teacher’s views, but is it too late?

Ask for this re-released Canadian title at your local library or favorite independent bookstore – it’s worth the wait if they need to order it, trust me!

When it comes to teachers, where’s the line between sharing beliefs and recruiting to a cause?
**kmm

Book info:  Numbers / David A. Poulsen. Dundurn, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Wondering if he’ll ever fit in at his Canadian high school, Andy basks in the attention of his history teacher, but must decide how far to follow as Mr. R strays far from the textbook during their Holocaust project.

Andy started off on the wrong foot the first day of freshman year, isn’t doing well at this dating thing, and is just tolerated by The Six misfits who aren’t exactly fans of being in school.

As year 10 students, they’re finally in Mr. R’s modern history class where every lesson is interesting. But Mr. Retzlaf’s ideas about the Holocaust don’t agree with what’s usually taught, and only Patti stands up to him.

How can someone as cool as Mr. R be wrong?
Why aren’t problems with girls and his alcoholic uncle and history as simple to fix as old cars?
Can ex-girlfriend Diana really hate him enough to carry out the ultimate revenge?

As some of The Six plan a terrible crime to gain Mr. R’s approval, Andy must decide what he believes and what to do about it. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow (book review) – hostages for peace or pawns in greater game?

book cover of The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow published by Margaret McElderry Books | BooksYALove.comTo keep the peace,
no price is too high –
if children are the hostages.

Four hundred years from now, the artificial intelligence Talis ensures world peace by holding rulers’ heirs as hostages – attack another country for its water, and your heir is executed on the spot.

A new alliance brings a new boy to the remote Canadian prairie where princess Greta has spent a decade lived for years as schoolchild hostage, and he doesn’t plan on staying there quietly…

Happy book birthday to The Scorpion Rules  – fittingly, yesterday (21 Sept.) was International Peace Day.

Erin Bow also wrote mystical Plain Kate (my no-spoilers review here), and her tale-spinning of a former time works well in this too-possible future narrative.

A bitter and breathtaking view of world peace at great cost.
**kmm

Book info: The Scorpion Rules / Erin Bow. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Hostage princess Greta prays that her country stays at peace so she stays alive, but a new Child of Peace is ready to gamble away his life in this water-poor future where omniscient AI Talis holds all the cards.

Humanity can no longer wage war from a distance, 400 years after nearly nuking itself extinct, as Talis holds rulers’ heirs hostage throughout childhood, executing any whose home country attacks another.

Yet newly arrived teen Elian doesn’t care to follow Talis’ strict rules, and Greta gradually begins to question the generations-old method of peacekeeping too.

She’s spent years at this remote Canadian location with other royal youth, learning from AI tutors and working to raise their own food – how can Elian become part of their group so quickly?

Her roommate and first love Xie counsels patience as Elian’s foolish remarks (and threats to Talis) earn him terrible scorpion shocks from their proctors and raise new feelings in Greta.

Surely Greta will survive these last few months until her 18th birthday and return to the palace in Halifax – unless the new confederacy that sent Elian as hostage is a threat to her mother’s kingdom…

Elian’s favorite historical person is Spartacus, Talis decides to communicate directly with Greta, and long-quiet concerns suddenly flare to life – nothing for the Children of Peace will never be the same.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Courageous teens in World War II – stories to read with your ears

For this final week of their summer program, AudioSYNC brings us two very different stories of teens coping with World War II .

Remember, these free complete audiobooks are only available from Thursday through Wednesday (12 Aug 2015), but you have free use of them as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device. Just click on the title to reach its download page with quick registration.

Thank you to @AudioSYNC and all the audiobook publishers who provide these great free downloads – looking forward to summer 2016!

CD cover of Under a War-Torn Sky  by L.M. Elliott | Read by Elizabeth Wiley Published by Tantor AudioUnder a War-Torn Sky
by L.M. Elliott
Read by Elizabeth Wiley
Published by Tantor Audio

Shot down behind enemy lines during WWII, a young American pilot tries to reach safety with the help of French Resistance members and learns first-hand of their sacrifice and bravery.

 

The Old Brown SuitcaseCD cover of The Old Brown Suitcase  by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz | Read by Sofia Bunting Newman Published by Post Hypnotic Press Inc.
by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz
Read by Sofia Bunting Newman
Published by Post Hypnotic Press Inc.

From the Warsaw ghetto to a new life in Canada, Slava carries a battered suitcase filled with memories and more sorrow than any 14 year old should have endured – can the young Jewish woman ever fit in?

Courage in harrowing circumstances – got it?
**kmm

Brave girls in unexpected situations – free SYNC audiobooks this week!

A teenage spy falling in love!
An orphaned girl sent to do a boy’s farm job!
Two great stories to read with your ears this week, courtesy of AudioSYNC!

You can download either or both free audiobooks beginning today through Wednesday 25 June 2014 at the SYNC site. Then you can listen to them any time that you like,  as long as you keep those files on your computer or electronic device.

CD cover of I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You By Ally Carter Read by Renée Raudman Published by Brillance AudioI’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (download here – USA & Canada only)
By Ally Carter
Read by Renée Raudman
Published by Brillance Audio

Enrolled in spy school for teen girls, Cammie faces her toughest challenge yet when she falls for a regular teenage guy. (read chapter 1 here free)

 

Anne of Green Gables (download here)CD cover of Anne of Green Gables By L.M. Montgomery Read by Colleen Winton Published by Post Hypnotic Press
By L.M. Montgomery
Read by Colleen Winton
Published by Post Hypnotic Press

A plucky orphan girl brings new life to the rural Nova Scotia farm where she is mistakenly sent; the first book in the classic series (read here free).

 

Can you identify with what Cammie and Anne are facing in their new situations?
**kmm

Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks (book review) – one ghost too many

book cover of Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks published by First Second BooksFirst day of public school jitters,
a ghost overstaying her welcome,
Mom gone away suddenly,
everything was so much easier in homeschool!

Canadian artist Faith Erin Hicks melded Nova Scotia’s long seagoing history and her personal experience of being homeschooled with 3 brothers to create this coming-of-age story with a ghostly twist.

Alas, she never saw a ghost in her house like Maggie does…

**kmm

Book info: Friends With Boys / Faith Erin Hicks. First Second Books, 2012.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [fan-created book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The ghost lady may be Maggie’s smallest worry now, as being homeschooled with her three big brothers hasn’t prepared her for the people-part of attending high school.

Mags liked Mom as her teacher, but wanted to play with her brothers instead of do girly stuff with her – maybe that’s why Mom left their small coastal town in the Maritimes.

Her twin brothers fight constantly (as usual), but don’t hang out together (not usual), her oldest brother likes theater, but distrusts Maggie’s new friend Alistair, mohawked senior Alistair decided that not being a jerk to his sister Lucy was more important than being a volleyball jock, so now the team hates him, and Lucy is fascinated by ghosts and their town’s history, which all leads to a teeny-little museum caper… by the way, Dad is the police chief now.

This graphic novel follows Maggie as she tries to find her place in the high school hierarchy and make the ghost go back to the cemetery – is that really so much to ask?  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

The Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson (book review) – myth to reality on city streets

Book cover of The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson published by Margaret McElderry Books“Sasquatches, demonic Tinker Bells,
purple hippos wearing party hats;
they were all real now.” (p.167)

Auntie Mryss, cousin of Scotch’s white Jamaican dad, has been waiting for the End Times – looks like maybe they’re here and somehow related to the tarry growths inching along Scotch’s chocolate brown skin.

Hopkinson’s comments on “Noticing Race” are worth hearing, as you can well imagine that questions of race and identity have threaded through Scotch’s life for a long time before the Chaos brings every bedtime story and nightmare to life in Toronto.

Grab this imaginative novel at your favorite local library or independent bookstore and get ready for a mind-blowing ride through the dream-tainted city.

**kmm

Book info: The Chaos / Nalo Hopkinson.  Margaret McElderry Books, 2012.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Fitting in at school becomes the least of Scotch’s worries as legendary creatures descend on Toronto with terrifying results and her big brother goes missing.

Scotch (like the Jamaican hot pepper) doesn’t stand out for being biracial at this more-diverse school. Her dancing is stand-out good, like her big brother’s rap poetry. Their conservative parents don’t like either gift. And how they turned in their own son to the police for one joint! Chuh!

The black gooey growths on Scotch’s arm worry her, the hallucinations she sees flying all over worry her, then everything goes crazy as a bubble of light zings her and Rich disappears!

A volcano erupting in Lake Ontario, monsters from myth stomping through the city streets, cell phones not working – Scotch tries to help people as she doggedly makes her way to Auntie Mryss’s house. And those things from nursery rhyme dreams appearing everywhere? Mryss is sure that Scotch is the key to fixing it all…

Why are all these subconscious images becoming real now?
Why is the black goo spreading over Scotch’s skin so fast?
Where is her brother? Where!?

Jamaican author Nalo Hopkinson brings the myths and stories of many cultures into this nightmare reality threatening her adopted Canadian hometown where a heroine who doubts her own strength perseveres amid The Chaos.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Nix Minus One, by Jill MacLean (book review) – save his sister, a dog, himself?

book cover of Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean published by Pajama PressA dog, beaten and ignored.
A girl, risking and reckless.
A boy who must step out of his safe-place to save them…

I lived in Newfoundland in early grade school (on a now-closed Air Force base), so I have a strong mental picture of the isolated small coastal town that Roxy longs to escape, where Nix’s solitary ways are known to everyone, where a story can never be untold.

Request this novel-in-verse from your local library or independent bookstore; they might have to order it (Pajama Press is a small Canadian firm, not one of the “Big 5”), but it’s so worth waiting for!

Have you ever felt like the only person who could fix a situation?
**kmm

Book info: Nix Minus One / Jill MacLean. Pajama Press, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Nix helps hide Roxy’s wild nightlife from their parents, like he wants to help the mistreated dog he meets, but the consequences may be too much for the quiet teen to handle.

Now that cod fishing is done for good, coastal Newfoundland towns are shrinking fast, but there are still enough bullies at the regional high school to taunt Nix about his weight and red hair. All the ninth grader wants to do is be left alone to play video games and work in Dad’s furniture workshop, pretending that beautiful Loren will pay attention to him some day.

Just by chance, he sees a beaten and half-starved dog at a neighbor’s house and wishes yet again that Mom would have let them have one instead of worrying about clean floors. Maybe the old grump will let Nix walk the dog, just to get her out of that poop-strewn yard full of junk.

Big sister Roxy decides to party with a senior and expects Nix to cover for her when she misses curfew. Their conservative parents warily respect his smooth manners and rich family, but have no idea that he’s the area go-to-guy for drugs. Everyone at school knows Bryan will dump her after a few weeks… everyone but Roxy.

Nix finally coaxes the dog into walking up into the hills with him, occasionally meeting classmate Blue when she’s birdwatching, both laughing about how they’ll never be popular at school with these hobbies.

And then that rainy night, when Roxy doesn’t come home, when silence becomes the fourth person at their dinner table…

Why couldn’t Nix keep his sister safe?
Why can’t he get Twig away from the master who mistreats her?
Why can’t he make Mom and Dad happy?

This powerful novel-in-verse echoes with the rhythms of family life, school tensions, unexpressed dreams and desires, and a long-hidden story that suddenly re-orients everything that Nix ever knew. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Safekeeping, by Karen Hesse (fiction) – on the run, will home still be there?

book cover of Safekeeping by Karen Hesse published by Fiewel and Friends

The president assassinated!
Martial law declared.
No travel without permits.

She got her plane ticket home as soon as she could, leaving the sweet children at the Haitian orphanage where she volunteered. But there was no way for Radley to know that her parents would not be at the airport waiting for her and that everything she knew as safe would be gone.

Listen to the first chapter of Safekeeping  here, then grab the book at your local library or independent bookstore so you can consider each of each black-and-white photograph as you worry through Celia, Radley, and Jerry Lee’s desperate journey away from despair and danger.

What would you do to survive if you were in Radley’s mud-soaked shoes?
**kmm

Book info: Safekeeping / Karen Hesse. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2012. [author’s blog]  [author video interview]  [publisher site]

My Recommendation: When the president is assassinated, Radley rushes home from volunteering at a Haitian orphanage, but everything is going wrong. Her parents should be waiting for her at the airport, but they’re not. No one answers the phone at home, her credit cards no longer work, her cellphone is dead, and US marshals are everywhere.

New curfews and travel restrictions mean that the teen must walk for days to cover the hour’s drive home, avoiding checkpoints and scavenging food where she can find it. Arriving at her empty house, Radley passes dark stains on the pavement and hides in a secret attic room as police pound on the door in the morning, over and over.
No electricity, no food left, only mom’s photos escaped the looting. She can’t stay here, she’s got to get away – from the marshals, from the uncertainty about her parents’ whereabouts, from the totalitarian state that New Hampshire has become.

So she heads north to Canada, traveling by night, avoiding other people and their potential dangers, staying clear of the small towns swarming with soldiers, until a big dog comes to her and begs that she follow him. Radley finds Celia ill and feverish, nurses her until the trio can continue plodding north through the rainy woods.
A small, safe place – that’s all they need – somewhere away from the soldiers and curfews and guns.
Can Radley, Celia, and Jerry Lee actually make it to Canada?
Where are their parents, their neighbors, their friends?
Will they ever be able to go home, or will martial law grip the US forever?
Karen Hesse’s own black-and-white photographs of the places where the girls and dog travel fill this book with darkness and light, as the cadence of her words measures the steps and steps and steps that Radley takes on this long journey.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.