Vagrant Press, Nimbus Publishing, nimbus.ca
Grace Willingdon has everything she needs. For 15 years she’s lived in a trailer overlooking Bras d’Or Lakes in postcard-perfect Baddeck, Cape Breton, with Fletcher Parsons, a giant teddy bear who’s not even her husband. But Grace’s blissful life is rudely interrupted when her estranged son calls from New York City, worried about his teenaged daughter. Before she knows it, Grace finds herself the temporary guardian of her self-absorbed, city-slicker granddaughter, Melissa. Trapped between a past she’s been struggling to resolve and a present that keeps her on her toes, Grace decides to finally tell her story. Either the truth will absolve her, or cost her everything.
Editor’s Note: Amazing Grace, both the book and the character, is absolutely amazing. I liked the fact there were Canadian references (so many books are not set in Canada). I also loved the characters, all of them. What a story. What a life, Amazing Grace had. As a side note, Amazing Grace, the book, put me in in a book slump – nothing seemed good enough.
Let Me Die In His Footsteps
Penguin Random House Canada, penguinrandomhouse.ca/
Editor’s Note: Days after reading the book, I was still thinking about it – a good sign of a good book and great writing. I wonder about Juna, one of the main characters (you flip between the past of two people – Juna and Sarah – and the present-day of one, Annie). Juna is the chicken and egg situation. Was it the way she was treated that caused her to be the way she is or is she simply evil. What a great book.
Viking Press, http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/vikingbooks/
The Courtesan is an astonishing tale inspired by the real life of a woman who lived and loved in the extraordinary twilight decades of the Qing dynasty. To this day, Sai Jinhua is a legend in her native land of China, and this is her story, told the way it might have been.
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book, so rich in colour and history, yet so much heartbreak and sadness. Awful. It still disturbs me. You like – and hate – many of the characters. And you learn so much about Chinese history. It was also an interesting look at how the “foreign devils”, that being Europeans, were viewed by the Chinese at the time. You understand the culture shock of the Chinese when in Europe and some people couldn’t assimilate and wanted everything to be the same, while others embraced the opportunity to learn more. It was also an interesting look at choices. Great book.
A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, http://www.bloomsbury.com
$19.99, hard cover
Pram Bellamy is special – she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix. Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.
Editor’s Note: I really enjoyed the book. I liked all the main characters – dead and alive. I liked how the author explained ghosts and her version of what happens when someone dies. I disliked the ending, too abrupt. It should have went on a little longer. Does that mean there will be a sequel?
Blood and Salt
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”
These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time. Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.
As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself — and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in — blood and salt.
Editor’s Note: What a page turner. I finished the book in two days. My gut was telling me things, I listened but…
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Diegos-Crossing
Seventeen-year-old Diego dreams of a brighter future. His small town near the Mexican-United States border has been ravaged by the drug war, and the newspaper headlines are filled with body counts. One day, Diego’s older brother Ernesto — the town’s golden boy — shows up in a tricked-out Chevy Silverado. Diego is fully aware of what no one is willing to openly admit: Ernesto is a gangster. Diego manages to avoid his brother, until he discovers Ernesto badly beaten and unable to finish a drug run for a brutal gang. Then Diego does what he swore he would never do — deliver drugs across the border.
Editor’s Note: I stopped reading this book about half way through. It wasn’t a bad book. In fact it was a very well-written book and was interesting. I cared about Diego. I despised his brother; he made bad, selfish choices, which then brought only pain to others. I stopped reading, not because I was bored, didn’t care or found it unbelievable, but because it scared me; that someone’s bad choice would make you have to do something you don’t believe in.
Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.ca/
$21.99 – hardcover
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in 17 years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black – black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
Editor’s Note: What a great book and a quick read. I started it one night and got three quarters of the way through it. I kept wanting to read one more chapter before I realized I needed to stop and go to bed. I like that it’s not just straight text. Sometimes you are reading instant messages, graphs the main character, Madeline, creates or spoiler reviews she writes. Ha, ha. Madeline’s wit and sense of humour reminds me of Hazel in The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene. I like all the characters in these books. I got a little bored in the middle, but I think I was annoyed at the choice Madeline made – I thought it seemed like a stupid teenager move for a boy. I am glad I kept reading. What a shocker. I didn’t see that coming.
Orca Soundings, http://www.orcabook.com/Foolproof-P1067.aspx
Seventeen-year-old Daniel’s new girlfriend says she loves him, that she’d do anything for him. She makes Daniel feel like anything is possible. So he ignores her lies. It’s not like Cyn is a bad person. Then Daniel finds out that Cyn has been using him to move drugs across the border.
Editor’s Note: How do these things happen? I grew up completely different and away from this sort of thing so it always surprises me that somewhere out there a teen would have to deal with these issues. It was a quick read so the action happened fast – no waiting to find out that Daniel’s ‘girlfriend’ has him running drugs across the border. What I also liked – perhaps not the right word – was that the boy was manipulated by the girl; it’s usually the other way around. I plan to save this book for my son for when he is older. Trust your instincts.
My Girlfriend’s Pregnant! A Teen’s Guide to Becoming a Dad
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/My-Girlfriends-Pregnant
For teens faced with an unplanned pregnancy, the news can be devastating. Typically, most attention is focused on the needs of the mother, but teenage fathers also face a future filled with fear, doubt and guilt. My Girlfriend’s Pregnant provides much-needed information and support for teens suddenly thrust in the role of father.
Editor’s Note: I pulled this book out a box and read the title to a coworker who informed me she never wanted to see the book, never mind think about her son becoming a teen dad. Ha, ha. It’s interesting to get a book about teen pregnancy from the boy’s point of view. I think that is often overlooked, perhaps because most of the child-rearing and decisions tend to fall to the mother. I liked the take-aways from this book – boys are not alone; they always have options; and they don’t need to accept the assumptions and judgements people make (which of course applies to mothers as well).
The Accident Season
Penguin Canada, penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/penguin-canada
The accident season has been part of 17-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Toward the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear. But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?
Editor’s Note: I needed to know what was happening in this book – does the family really have an accident season?. The ending was a surprise on all counts
The Unquiet Past
Orca Book Publishers, http://www.orcabook.com
Tess has always been tormented by waking visions that make her question her sanity. When the orphanage she lives in burns down, she decides to face her fears and find out once and for all what is wrong with her. She believes the truth must lie with her parents, and so, armed with only an address and phone number, Tess travels to a crumbling mansion in rural Quebec, where she discovers evidence of mistreatment of mental patients. She also makes an unlikely ally and gradually unearths her family’s sad history — and finally accepts the truth about her paranormal powers.
This book is part of the SECRETS — a series of seven linked novels that can be read in any order.
Editor’s Note: Great book. It always disturbs me about how we used to treat our “insane”. I guessed some parts, but the book went in a direction I didn’t expect.
Other books in the SECRETS series:
After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, ON. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers her mother had also been a maid there and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.
A Big Dose of Lucky
Malou has just turned 16 – hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own – and all she knows for sure is she’s of mixed race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she finds out that she may have been born in a small town in Ontario’s cottage country. Much to her surprise, Parry Sound turns out to have quite a few young brown faces, but Malou can’t believe they might be related to her. After she finds work as a cleaner in the local hospital, an Aboriginal boy named Jimmy helps her find answers to her questions about her parents. The answers are as stunning – and life-changing – as anything Malou could have imagined back at the orphanage.
All three are part of the SECRETS – a series of seven linked novels that can be read in any order.
Candlewick Press, http://www.candlewick.com
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie . . . Since 1956, whenever time and clarity are of the essence, everyone from firefighters to air traffic controllers has spelled out messages using the NATO phonetic alphabet. Now, with equal precision – infused with a singular wit and whimsy – award-winning author-illustrator Isabelle Arsenault interprets this internationally recognized code and makes it her own. From the elegant Tangoto the enigmatic Echo, from the humorous Kilo to the haunting Romeo and Juliet, the striking art in this remarkable ABC book elicits laughter and curiosity, calls up endless associations, and will draw the viewer back again and again.
Editor’s Note: I am not a fan of this book. I really don’t know who it is geared to (press release says it’s for five to eight year olds) or who would want to read it. My six year old wasn’t interested in the explanation as to why we used Alpha, Bravo, Charlie. Maybe it really is just a picture book for babies, but not an enjoyable read for their parents.
Animal Hospital, Rescuing Urban Wildlife
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/index.php/catalogue/product/11183-animal-hospital-rescuing-urban-wildlife
A book for kids on how to treat, handle and report injured, orphaned and neglected wildlife.
Our cities are already filled with a huge variety of wildlife. As urban areas expand, they impinge on the natural habitats of animals that would not otherwise find themselves in an urban setting, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as rare, threatened and even endangered wildlife.
Animal Hospital describes how injured and orphaned wild animals are rehabilitated and cared for after being rescued from perilous situations. It follows the activities of an urban animal rescue facility and the efforts of the trained professionals that rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release the animals.
Kids will learn about the amazing wild animals that they may encounter in their neighborhoods, even the most recognizable have fascinating traits. They will get tips on how to protect and support urban wildlife, and learn what to do if they encounter an animal that needs help.
Editor’s Note: I am not just saying this is a great book because Julia Coey is a blogger for insidetoronto.com and her stories are always fascinating. I am saying this is a great book because it’s full of information, great stories about wildlife, beautiful photos and more. There is also a section on how you can help.
Art of the Possible: An Every Day Guide to Politics
We all know what a politician looks like, right? They’re old people who wear suits and make long, boring speeches full of indecipherable words. Not so fast! As The Art of the Possible explains, everyone is a politician – even young people who aren’t yet eligible to vote. We all have influence over how politics function. But what are politics, and why do we need them? This book answers the universal query in nine short chapters that explain everything from why we form societies and the basic types of governments to the power of public opinion, methods of rhetoric and the reasons why politicians “lie.” Written in an accessible, conversational voice and packed with anecdotes and case studies from across history and around the world, this book helps foster independent thought and curiosity about how a government works – or doesn’t work.
Editor’s Note: What a great book. There is a great overview for someone who may have fallen asleep every time she cracked open her political science book, but also great information for a six year old who is interested in changing the world – starting with more TV and computer time before bed.
Awesome is Everywhere
Puffin Canada, Penguin Random House, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com
Are you ready? With the simple touch of your fingers go on a stunning interactive journey to see the world as you never have before. Fly through wispy clouds, dive deep into the sparkling ocean, feel wet grains of sand on a hot and sunny beach… You will discover you can fly your mind to anywhere on Earth. And by the time you reach the surprise ending in this unforgettable journey you’ll learn that awesome truly is everywhere.
Editor’s Note: Apparently I am one of the few people who have never read the Book of Awesome (although I agree that finding $5 in your coat is pretty awesome), I did enjoy this one. While I do sort of tire of interactive books (hasn’t it been done?), I do like they are all slightly different. And this one shows beautiful pictures, including those from NASA, to show and allow you to experience the beautiful places that make up this world.
The six little ninjas of Dojo Daycare are back and rowdier than ever during a field trip to the farm. From the moment the ninja boys and ninja girls step off their minibus, mayhem ensues.
Farm activities like feeding a pig, milking a cow and plowing a field dissolve into chaos as the master slips into the slop trough, is chased by a bull and then is dragged through the hay. YIKES! YEE-OW! It’s a barnyard disaster. Meanwhile, the mischievous ninjas run rampant, setting chicks free and splitting fences, until they remember to shape up and honor their creed: Always help someone in need.
Editor’s Note: We never read the other Dojo books, although it is not necessary to do so. It was a fun read and I think it helped my son remember his own karate class creed.
Freddy and Mrs. Goodwich
Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and XlibrisUS
When Mrs. Goodwich decides to ask Freddy to help her make pancakes, she invites Freddy to her little house to show her how. Fasten your seatbelts for a ride on a broomstick and have fun while Freddy finds out strange ways to use ingredients for making pancakes.
Editor’s Notes: The book was a little long and the parts I laughed at, my son wasn’t interested in.
Friend of Foe: The Whole Truth about Animals People Love to Hate
Rats, mosquitoes, bats, cockroaches, leeches, vultures – it’s easy to fear and despise them. But are they all bad? You probably know that rats destroy food supplies and can cause house fires when they gnaw on electrical wires, but did you know their super sensitive noses can help detect tuberculosis or even land mines?
Editor’s Note: Bat fleas. Enough said.
I Wish You More
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Kids, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/i-wish-you-more.html
Some books are about a single wish. Some books are about three wishes. Wishes for curiosity and wonder, for friendship and strength, laughter and peace. Whether celebrating life’s joyous milestones, sharing words of encouragement, or observing the wonder of everyday moments, this sweet and uplifting book is perfect for wishers of every age.
Editor’s Note: What a nice book, particularly “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” An easy read.
Kyle Goes Alone
Kyle has to go. There’s just one problem: as a young three-toed sloth, he lives high in the rainforest canopy with his mom, and it’s a LONG way down to the forest floor. Like other sloths, Kyle only goes down to the ground once a week when he has to do his “business.” And he’s never made the journey by himself before.
Editor’s Note: We recently came back from a trip to Montreal where we stopped at the Diodome, which had a three-toed sloth exhibit. We heard a great presentation about the journey sloths make to “go”. So when Kyle Goes Alone came in, my son and I were excited to read it. Kyle Goes Alone seems very realistic, and we enjoyed the read.
Penguin Books, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/313574/little-tree-by-loren-long-illustrated-by-loren-long/
In the middle of a little forest, there lives a Little Tree who loves his life and the splendid leaves that keep him cool in the heat of long summer days. Life is perfect just the way it is.
Autumn arrives, and with it the cool winds that ruffle Little Tree’s leaves. One by one the other trees drop their leaves, facing the cold of winter head on. But not Little Tree – he hugs his leaves as tightly as he can. Year after year Little Tree remains unchanged, despite words of encouragement from a squirrel, a fawn and a fox, his leaves having long since turned brown and withered. As Little Tree sits in the shadow of the other trees, now grown sturdy and tall as though to touch the sun, he remembers when they were all the same size. And he knows he has an important decision to make.
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book. I love the story about a tree who is afraid of loosing it’s leaves, but then gets left behind. What a neat concept.
Look Around Books
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Look-at-the-Sky
A playful look at the wonders of nature in three delightful board books.
With rich vocabulary and delightful illustrations, the Look Around Books are a perfect way to introduce the beauty and power of nature to young children. Hear the Sea depicts the ocean as a majestic force. Look at the Sky describes the many moods of the skies. And Feel the Wind looks at the tricks the wind plays. These three separate picture books are thematically linked, celebrating the wonders of nature that children encounter in their daily lives, but the rhythm of the text and style of the art are unique to each story.
Editor’s Note: My son has requested these books a couple times already. I liked Feel the Wind best as you could see the wind (in the shape of ghosts) in the story. The Hear the Sea was a little more abstract.
Mister Doctor, Janusz Korczak and the orphans of the Warsaw Ghetto
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Mister-Doctor
November 1940. A circus parade walks through the streets of Warsaw, waving a flag and singing. They are 160 Jewish children, forced by the Nazis to leave their beloved orphanage. It’s a sad occasion, but led by Doctor Korczak, their inspirational director, the children are defiantly joyful. Their new home is in the ghetto, a prison for Jews. Day by day, more people arrive. Some are forced to live on the street and freeze to death. Others die of disease and starvation, Though they lack food, warmth, and freedom, the children’s spirits are sustained by the steadfast respect and kindness of “Mister” Doctor. But the Jewish children will never grow up: in August 1942, they board the train that will carry them away to the death camps. Offered his freedom, Doctor Korczak refuses to abandon the children and proudly joins them on their last journey.
Editor’s Note: It is an unforgettable story. Like all Holocaust stories, can one say it’s a beautiful story? It’s not. It’s tragic and awful and horrific. But it does show courage and bravery. And it’s one that sticks with you.
My Leaf Book
Penguin Books, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/316338/my-leaf-book-by-monica-wellington/
With her trademark bold, graphic style Monica Wellington has created a picture book about autumn, trees, and leaves. When the seasons change, a young girl visits the arboretum to collect fallen leaves and make a book with them. Brilliant illustrations show each variety of tree the girl encounters, from the common oak to the lesser known gingko. Spreads silhouetting leaves up-close help young children learn to identify them. Like the girl in the book, young readers will be eager to make their very own leaf books.
Editor’s Note: Big, bright illustrations and lots of information is tucked into this book. I felt there was too much information for little story, but my son didn’t seem to mind. In fact after we read it, he proceeded to teach us about plants and how they grow, and make his own leaf book.
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Night-Children-The
What happens when the sun goes down at the end of the day?
When the streets are empty and kids are called home for dinner and put to bed, the world becomes a magical place. It’s only then that the night children emerge from the shadows, ready to play. In this evocative and lyrical picture book, it is the night children who rule, taking over the world that the day children have left behind.
The mischievous night children frolic in the twilight, rummaging for treasures and scattering surprises, stealing slices of the moon and dancing on rooftops. Only when dawn breaks do they tuck themselves away. But if you look very closely, you might just catch a glimpse of them disappearing as you wake up. Were the night children ever really there, or did you dream them?
Complemented by beautiful, glowing artwork, this poetic story about the allure of a world unknown and the parallels between imagination and reality will ignite the creative souls of children everywhere.
Editor’s Note: I don’t think I like the idea of night children, children who rip leaves off trees and scatter them like toys on the lawn or steal pieces of the moon. I suspect it’s because they look like real children with hats rather than mystical creatures. My six year old didn’t seem to care for it either.
Once Upon a Rainy Day
Owl Kids, https://store.owlkids.com
This is the story of a story that starts over again every day in the same way: as the sun rises, Mr. Warbler steps outside his cottage and walks into to the forest to wake the Big Bad Wolf. Every day, this action unleashes the same cavalcade of antics as the forest animals try to escape. But today, none of it happens – Mr. Warbler doesn’t even go outside – because it is raining.
In this book, the text tells a story the reader purposely never sees play out on the page. In whimsical color, the settings are illustrated as described, but they are empty of characters and action. The reader has to imagine them to life.
Editor’s Note: Interesting concept, although I had to explain what was happening, or not happening, to my six year old. But we gave it another chance (he picked it for story time) and we both enjoyed it more.
Oscar Lives Next Door, A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood
Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When a bout of childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, Oscar could no longer play his beloved instrument. He took up piano and the rest is history: Oscar went on to become an international jazz piano sensation.
Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional story inspired by these facts. The book imagines a next-door neighbor for Oscar named Millie, who gets into mischief with him but also appreciates his talents: Oscar hears music in everything, and Millie calls him a magician for the way he can coax melodies from his trumpet. Millie writes to Oscar during his long stay in the hospital for tuberculosis, and she encourages his earliest notes on the piano.
Editor’s Note: The book was incredibly long, but my six year old stuck with it to the end; I even asked if he wanted to quit reading it and he wanted to finish it. It was an abrupt ending.
Swan, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
Chronical Kids, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/swan.html
One night, young Anna’s mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time.
Editor’s Note: My son took one look at the the front cover of this book and said ‘no way’ he wasn’t reading it. It’s the first time he has ever judged a book by the cover. it is a beautiful book. I loved the story and the way it was told. My niece will love it.
The Day The Crayons Came Home
Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.ca
I’m not sure what it is about this kid Duncan, but his crayons sure are a colorful bunch of characters! Having soothed the hurt feelings of one group who threatened to quit, Duncan now faces a whole new group of crayons asking to be rescued. From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, whose head is now stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away – each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box.
Editor’s Note: I was very excited to see the sequel to the Day the Crayons Quit come across my desk. I laughed out loud, particularly for brown crayon who is embarrassed by what bear leaves behind and I certainly understand, and have experienced, what happens when crayons get left out in the sun. My son didn’t laugh as hard I did during the first reading. He laughed harder and pointed things out to his cousin when we read it to her.
The Great and the Grand
“The New knows softness. The Old knows life can be hard. The New holds on. The Old is learning to let go.” First-time author Benjamin Fox uses simple words to explore the vastly deep themes of life and love as a new baby and an old grandfather prepare to meet each other for the first time. Illustrated by award-winning and nationally recognized artist Elizabeth Robbins, The Great and the Grand celebrates the beautiful balance of age and youth, experience and innocence, the Old and the New.
Editor’s Note: I think this is a beautiful book with stunning illustrations. My son was indifferent.
The Elephant Man
Mariangela Di Fiore
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Elephant-Man
Every night people swarm to a theater in London to see the Elephant Man, whose real name is Joseph Merrick. They scream in terror at the sight of him. But beneath Joseph’s shocking exterior, he longs for affection and understanding. Disfigured in childhood by a rare disease, Joseph is rejected by his family, bullied in the streets and ridiculed at his job. While touring Europe with a freak show, he’s robbed and abandoned. Joseph seems to encounter misfortune at every turn, but eventually finds friendship with a kind doctor in England. Though he died young, Joseph became world famous and inspired many with his gentleness and dignity.
Editor’s Note: My heart breaks reading this story; another example of how awful we can be to each other. But within darkness is kindness including Frederick Treves, who took time to get to know the real Joseph Merrick and see the kindness inside his heart.
The Little Book of Big Fears
Whether it’s raccoons, the dark, math, or whatever lurks in the bathtub, everybody is afraid of something. This book introduces 16 fictional children, named in alphabetical order, along with something each fears. There’s Claire, who recoiled from legumes; Drew, who was scared of raccoons; Quinn, horrified by needles; and Will, unsettled by beetles. Darkly playful illustrations show each fear as magnified and real as a child would imagine it. Rhyming text and complex, interesting vocabulary make this book an enriching read.
Editor’s Note: I was concerned that reading a book of fears would make my child think he requires to be afraid of something, but it was fine.
The Specific Ocean
Kid Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/specific-ocean
In this gently told picture book, a young girl is unhappy about having to leave the city for a family vacation on the Pacific Ocean (which she used to call the Specific Ocean). As the days pass, however, she is drawn to spend more time in and near the water, feeling moved by its beauty and rhythms. “The ocean does its own thing, rolling backward and forward. Wash, swash, splash, hush. There is no late or hurry or racing in ocean time.” By the end of the vacation, the girl has grown to love the ocean and now feels reluctant to leave it behind. But as she soon realizes, it doesn’t ever have to leave her. “Calm. Blue. Ruffled. Gray. Playful. Green. Mysterious. Black. Foggy. Silver. Roaring. White. No matter where I am, this specific ocean will be with me.”
Editor’s Note: I couldn’t convince my six year old to read this book. I kept pulling it out and he would pick other ones. But I thought it was a beautiful book and I certainly understand the pull of the water.
Owl Books, https://store.owlkids.com
In a story set deep in the wild winter wood, two hungry ravens fly in search of their next meal. A pack of wolves is on the hunt, too. Food is scarce, but, if they team up, the ravens and wolves just might be able to help each other. The ravens follow a pack of starving wolves on the hunt. The wolves come up empty handed – and even lose one of their own in the chase – but the ravens have better luck. The wolves hear the ravens cawing and investigate only to find an injured deer, the perfect meal! The wolves make the kill; the opportunistic ravens benefit, feasting alongside and after the wolves. The Wolf-Birds takes an honest, unflinching view of survival in the wild, highlighting the fact that one animal’s life helps many others live.
Editor’s Note: The illustration in this book is pretty amazing, however, wolves often get a bad publicity in both books and movies so I was surprised to see what they looked like here – pretty scary. I wouldn’t read this book to kids who get scared easily – the wolves, and the ravens look pretty mean. I thought the information was really interesting, although I tend to shy away from what nature is really like for my six year old. He seem to enjoy it, although he wasn’t interested in reading the information about the connection between ravens and wolves at the back.
Turn off That Light
A little hedgehog is fast asleep when all of a sudden, the light clicks on. He is NOT happy about being woken. “Turn off that light!” he demands. The light switches off. And then on again. And off. And on. “Who keeps doing that?!” The hedgehog bumbles around, exasperated, in a flurry of onomatopoeia — GRRR!! OW! CRUNCH. BANG! — as his room mysteriously goes from dark to light over and over and over again.
Editor’s Note: I thought it would have been much funnier, but instead the hedgehog seemed rude, particularly in light of the ending. However, we liked it better the second time we read it.
Read an article about Turn off that Light designer Steve Wilson: www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/5810855-trinity-bellwoods-designer-steve-wilson-illustrates-john-crossingham-s-turn-off-that-light-by-owlki/
Feiwel and Friends, http://us.macmillan.com/crenshaw/katherineapplegate
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
Editor’s Note: What a great book. I loved the characters – they were real and I am sure their situation was as well. Crenshaw himself is a great character and very much alive. Another book to save when my son is older. Note: There is some spoiling of magic, but on the other hand imagination, and magic, is at work throughout the book.
Seven Dead Pirates
Tundra Books, http://www.tundrabooks.com
Lewis Dearborn is a lonely, anxious, “terminally shy” boy of 11 when his great-grandfather dies and leaves Lewis’s family with his decaying seaside mansion. Lewis is initially delighted with his new bedroom, a secluded tower in a remote part of the house. Then he discovers that it’s already occupied – by the ghosts of seven dead pirates. Worse, the ghosts expect him to help them re-take their ship, now restored and on display in a local museum so they can make their way to Libertalia, a legendary pirate utopia. The only problem is that this motley crew hasn’t left the house in almost 200 years and is terrified of going outside. As Lewis warily sets out to assist his new roommates, he begins to open himself to the possibilities of friendship, passion and joie de vivre and finds the courage to speak up.
Editor’s Note: The main character in this book is a 11-year-old boy and as such I will be saving this book until my six year old is older. Note: There is a magic spoiler in this book, which is the only reason why I wouldn’t read it to my son now. The action took a while to get going, but once the pirates were introduced, the book got pretty good. It kept me reading. I liked the ending. I want the captain on my side.
An anxious boy becomes convinced angels will save his sick baby brother. But these are creatures of a different kind, and their plan for the baby has a twist. Layer by layer, he unravels the truth about his new friends as the time remaining to save his brother ticks down.
Editor’s Note: What a bizarre book. Not bad bizarre, just a very strange, and unique, way to make a point. And along the way, I learned a lot about wasps and stopped to read information to my son. Apparently, wasps do serve a purpose other than to annoy and sting us. Another book I am saving for my son when he is older.
West Meadow Detectives, The Case of the Snack Snatcher
Meet Myron: a third-grade detective who loves logic, facts and solving mysteries. He does “not” love new things. Unfortunately, everything is new this year: Myron has a new baby sister, his family has moved across town and now he’s starting his first day at a new school. But when the school kitchen is burgled, leaving the morning snacks nowhere to be found, Myron gets his chance to crack the case with help from his classmates from Resource Room 15. Myron’s unique perspective from the autism spectrum makes him a top-notch sleuth.
Editor’s Note: The book kept my six year old guessing who is the snack snatcher until the end. And while the one main character has autism, it certainly was central to the story, it wasn’t made to be a big deal. You got to understand what it was like to have the autism, but it was shown in a positive light.
Other Kid books
10 Ships that Rocked The World
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/10-Ships-That-Rocked-the-World
Ships have sailed through human history for thousands of years. Sometimes, their dramatic voyages have even changed the course of the world. For centuries, ships have brought cultures together in peace or conflict, played a role in wars and revolutions, and transformed societies.
Climb on deck for 10 ocean adventures.
Give Me Wings, How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Give-Me-Wings
The 1800s were a dangerous time to be a black girl in the United States, especially if you were born a slave. Ella Sheppard was such a girl, but her family bought their freedom and moved to Ohio where slavery was illegal; they even scraped enough money together to send Ella to school and buy her a piano. In 1871, when her school ran out of money and was on the brink of closure, Ella became a founding member of a traveling choir, the Jubilee Singers, to help raise funds for the Fisk Free Colored School, later known as Fisk University. Framed within Ella’s inspiring story, Give Me Wings! is narrative nonfiction at its finest, taking readers through one of history’s most tumultuous and dramatic times, touching on the Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction Era.
Other Young Adult books
Colour Me Creative, Unlock Your Imagination, My Story So Far and 50 Creative Challenges
From Instagram sensation Kristina Webb (@colour_me_creative) comes a completely original and unique book to inspire and unlock your creativity. Color Me Creative gives readers a firsthand look into Kristina’s personal life, including her exotic upbringing and the inspirational story of how, at 19 years old, she has become one of the most popular artists of her generation, with a following in the millions. Readers can then go on their own journey by completing the fifty creative, art-inspired challenges designed by Kristina herself. This book offers readers the chance to download the free Unbound app to access interactive features and bonus videos by scanning the customized icon that appears throughout the book, including never-before-seen home videos and videos of Kristina drawing.
Penguin Random House, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com
James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents seven years ago…without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his ‘partner in crime’. Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behaviour – not that Mycroft’s ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him…and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.
Penguin Random House, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com
Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodbridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Wilson challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya reluctantly follows. They soon get lost, and they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined. In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.
The Dragon Lantern
Tor | Forge, http://www.tor-forge.com
The Dragon Lantern is the second action-packed, steampunk adventure. Archie Dent is convinced he and his friends Hachi and Fergus are the first three members of a new League of Seven: a group of heroes who come together to fight the Mangleborn whenever the monsters arise to destroy humanity. His belief is put to the test when they are forced to undertake separate missions. Archie and his faithful Tik-Tok servant Mr. Rivets pursue a shapeshifting girl who has stolen the Dragon Lantern, an ancient artifact with mysterious powers. And Hachi and Fergus travel to New Orleans to find Madame Blavatsky, the only person who knows the circumstances surrounding the death of Hachi’s father.
The Summer We Saved the Bees
Orca Books, http://www.orcabook.com/The-Summer-We-Saved-the-Bees-P1055.aspx
Wolf’s mother is obsessed with saving the world’s honeybees, so it’s not too surprising when she announces that she’s taking her Save the Bees show on the road – with the whole family. Wolf thinks it’s a terrible plan, and not just because he’ll have to wear a bee costume in public. He likes his alternative school and hates the idea of missing weeks of classes. His teenage stepsister doesn’t want to leave her boyfriend, and one of his little half sisters has stopped talking altogether, but Wolf’s mom doesn’t seem to notice. She’s convinced that the world is doomed unless ordinary people take extraordinary action. It isn’t until the kids take some drastic action of their own that she is forced to listen when Wolf tells her that dragging the family around the province in a beat-up Ford panel van may not be the best idea she ever had.
Trouble is a Friend of Mine
Penguin Random House, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com
When Philip Digby first shows up on her doorstep, Zoe Webster is not impressed. He’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to. But before she knows it, Digby – annoying, brilliant and somehow attractive? – has dragged her into a series of hilarious and dangerous situations all related to an investigation into the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that may be connected to the tragic disappearance of his own sister eight years ago.
Urban Tribes, Native American in the City
Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Urban-Tribes
Much of the popular discourse on Native Americans and Aboriginals focuses on reservation life. But the majority of Natives in North America live off the rez. How do they stay rooted to their culture? How do they connect with their community? Urban Tribes offers unique insight into this growing and often misperceived group.
Other new releases
Queen of Shadows, Throne of Glass Book Four
Sarah J. Maas
Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom and to confront the shadows of her past. She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.
This article was originally published at insidetoronto.com