Q. Congratulations, Catherine, on the release of your first book. What a great read with authentic characters. The back of the book, and your thanks, mentions your work with at-risk teens and in particular Sydney Morris, in regards to this book. My condolences about Sydney.
A. Thank you so much. I’ve been fortunate to work with many incredible teens over the years, Sydney being one of them. Sadly, she passed away before the book came out in print. I know she would have been thrilled to see it published.
Q. How did your work with teens help in the creation of this book? What is it that you borrowed from them to create How it Ends?
A. I think that being immersed in the culture of a high school helped me enormously when writing How It Ends. I work in a behaviour support program, and a large part of my job is listening to young people and supporting them as they work through problems. This keeps me attuned to the issues high school students face, and gives me the advantage of interacting with my target audience every day.
Q. How did you come up with the idea?
A. The story really evolved as I was writing it. When I set out, I knew I wanted to write about two friends as they navigated through their tenth-grade year. I was interested in how people perceive the same events differently, and how each person’s understanding of the truth is impacted by those perceptions. I decided to alternate between the perspectives of Annie and Jessie so that readers would be able to see the same events through two different viewpoints.
As I wrote about the girls, their friendship started to take center stage, and the complexity of their relationship began to unfold. I’m really proud of the end result, and I love that friendship is at the core of the book.
Q. What is your goal in writing this book? What do you hope people take away from your book?
A. More than anything, I hope I’ve written a book that will draw readers into the story and where they will find something to connect with. My favorite novels are ones that challenge me to think about my life and relationships in new ways. I hope that readers — whether they identify with Annie, Jessie, Courtney, Larissa, Scott…or even Madeleine — will find something that speaks to them within the pages of How It Ends, and that inspires them to look at their friendships in new ways.
Q. While this your first published book, have you written before? Is there something that you have written in the past you hope to see published now?
A. I’ve always written, but I’d never attempted a novel before. There are no old manuscripts lurking in my drawers, but I am working on a new one that I do hope to see published.
Q. Being a first-time published author, what has been your favourite part of the publishing journey?
A. Definitely the people I’ve gotten to meet and work with along the way. My agent, Mackenzie Brady Watson (New Leaf Literary & Media), and my editor, Sarah Landis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) are absolutely brilliant, and I’ve grown so much as a writer under their guidance. I’m also part of two 2016 debut groups: The Sweet Sixteens (thesweetsixteens.wordpress.com) and Sixteen To Read (sixteentoread.com), and the friendships I’ve made there have been invaluable. The writing community as a whole is incredibly supportive, and I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of it.
Q. Any advice to people wishing to be published themselves?
A. Persevere. Keep on writing and don’t give up. I rewrote sections of How It Ends innumerable times before the story evolved into something that caught the eye of an agent. Take every tiny tidbit of feedback you get from industry professionals and use it to drive your story forward. It can be very hard to receive criticism, but if you can focus on the work instead of taking things personally, there are so many opportunities for growth.
Q. How much did the book change from beginning to end?
A. I did fairly extensive revisions on How It Ends, and reworked a lot of scenes. The most dramatic change, though, was that when my editor acquired the book, she wanted me to change the original ending. Neither of us knew at that point exactly how the book would end, but we agreed that it needed a new ending. Which was more than a little ironic, given that the title was How It Ends.
Q. Who is your favourite character?
A. This is an interesting question for me because I’m equally fond of Annie and Jessie. I enjoyed writing both characters, and there was never a time when I preferred one girl more than the other. Looking back, though, I see a lot of myself in Jessie. Especially the teen me. I struggled for years with social anxiety without having a name for it. I spent a lot of time feeling like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t seem to relax in social situations the way other girls my age did.
When I was Jessie’s age, I was very envious of girls like Annie and was blind to the pressures they were under. To my mind, they were stronger than I was, and they had every advantage. Writing Annie’s character was very important to me because the teen me would have benefited a great deal from understanding the struggles other girls went through. I would have felt a lot less alone had I understood back then that everyone was facing obstacles and getting by the best they could.
Q. Did you have a Courtney in your life?
A. Yes and no. I didn’t have a Courtney like in the novel, but there was a girl in eighth grade who decided she hated me on sight. She spread rumours about me, invited all my closest friends to parties while excluding me, and threatened to beat me up after school. I remember keenly how humiliating it was to be singled out in that way, and how confusing it was to have someone who didn’t even know me dislike me so much. As an adult, I can see that her actions said more about her than they did about me, but as a young person, I believed there had to be something wrong with me to cause her to feel that way.
Q. There was an article at insidetoronto.com suggesting anxiety is a growing problem among teens . Why do you think that is? How we help people like Jessie?
A. Anxiety is definitely a growing issue amongst the students I work with. I think teens are under enormous pressure to be perfect, and this pressure is exacerbated by social media. People’s mistakes are now posted online for everyone to see and comment on, and the social consequences for any perceived flaw are steep and long-lasting.
I think the best way to help people like Jessie is to continue talking openly about anxiety and other mental health issues. Jessie often felt flawed and weak in the story, unable to see how strong she really was. We need to reduce the stigma of mental health concerns so that people like Jessie don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of their challenges.
Q. What can we do to help our children not bully, or conversely, stand up for themselves? How about stopping the double standard for boys and girls?
A. These are fantastic – and difficult – questions. On the subject of bullying, I think some great work is being done in schools around emphasizing empathy, as well as addressing the needs and issues of all parties – the bullies, the bullied and the bystanders. Amazing conversations come out of this work, and those conversations are critically important for helping to eliminate the shame that bullied people carry around with them. The more openly we talk about bullying, the more comfortable people are in sharing their experiences and admitting what’s happening to them.
As far as the subject of the double standard for boys and girls – interestingly, that factors into the storyline for the novel I’m currently working on.
Q. What is next for you?
I’m currently finishing up a manuscript that I’m incredibly excited about. It’s another YA (young adult) novel, and I have my fingers crossed that I’ll have good news to share about it sometime soon!
How It Ends
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, hmmhbooks.com
It’s friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs…until suddenly they’re not. Told through alternating points of view, How It Ends is a wildly fast but deeply moving read about a friendship in crisis. Set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys and backstabbing, the novel shows what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other.
Editor’s Note: I understand Jessie, and I certainly feel for her. Of all the books I have read, all problems seem to stem from people not being honest with each other – hiding who they are in hopes the other person will like them for what they are not. Yet we all do it – over and over. I like these characters. Flawed, but, for the most part, great people. I like them. Some great quotes in this book including “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” And Jessie has it right when says: “So basically, what I learned about the world of work is that it’s depressingly like high school. There are still cliques, everyone does the least amount of work to get by, and the beautiful people are in charge.”
End of school, activities, summer vacation
Bats at the Beach
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hmhco.com
Quick, call out! Tell all you can reach: the night is just perfect for bats at the beach! So pack your buckets, banjos and blankets — don’t forget the moon-tan lotion — and wing with this bunch of fuzzy bats to where foamy sea and soft sand meet. Lies also writes and illustrates Gator Dad $24.99, same publisher).
Editor’s Note: I like Lies alligators better than his bats. They are pretty realistic looking. I like that there is a dad who does the dad things (teach you the sounds that all your toys make and agree to do things that we maybe shouldn’t have done) but also put on a play and read. My son kept guessing the ending rhyme. I liked his better.
Are We There Yet?
Let’s face it: everyone knows that car rides can be boring. And when things get boring, time slows down. In this book, a boy feels time slowing down so much that it starts going backward – into the time of pirates! Of princesses! Of dinosaurs! The boy was just trying to get to his grandmother’s birthday party, but instead he’s traveling through Ancient Egypt and rubbing shoulders with Ben Franklin. When time flies, who knows where – or when – he’ll end up.
Editor’s Note: What a unique book about what you can do to pass the time one road trips – and how excited you are when you leave, when you get there but particularly how happy you are to be leaving. Great illustrations, too, and lots to look at.
Clark in the Deep Sea
Clarion Books, hmhco.com
Clark and his brother and sisters are stuck on their front porch on a rainy spring day. When a stuffed bear is flung off the porch into a puddle, the backyard becomes an ocean, and Clark, with some help from his siblings, embarks on a deep-sea diving rescue mission.
Editor’s Note: I liked this book. I loved Clark’s imagination as he attempted to rescue bear from the depths of the ocean and all the adventures he faced. The illustrations are great as well. We also have Gretchen over the Beach, which was fun as well. That book shows the imagination of Clark’s sister Gretchen at work. There is also Mitchell on the Mooon and Annabellle at the South Pole – one story for each of the siblings who make an appearance in each of the books we read.
Colouring the Classics: Anne of Green Gables, A Coloring Book Visit to Avonlea
Waves of Color, waves-of-colour.com
Return to beautiful Prince Edward Island where young Anne Shirley joins her new adoptive family. Follow Anne in her spirited adventures, as she adapts to the joys and the heartache of her new life on a farm, as rendered here in Jae-Eun Lee’s poignant coloring book adaptation of the classic Anne of Green Gables novel series.
Editor’s Note: I was so excited to see this Anne of Green Gables colouring book. I love Anne of Green Gables. I think everyone should read it. This book is a great mix of adult colouring but with spots big enough to keep those who think children’s colouring books (me) are better happy. This book is neat as it has words of the story within the pages so you can be swept right back to Anne’s world. I look forward to colouring Anne with Matthew and Marilla at the kitchen table (complete with what will be blue and white pottery) and the tea party scene.
Do your laundry or you’ll die alone, Advice your mom would give if she thought you were listening
Advice your mom would give you if she thought you were listening.
Editor’s Note: It doesn’t seem that long ago when I remember my own mom telling me that she was up all night worrying about all the advice she failed to give me when I was going away to college. I thought the advice practical with a good mix of funny and serious. I laughed out loud when Blades suggested there was no graceful way to take back asking a woman when she is due and to find humour in all places but not at airport security – or crossing any border.
Keep Curious and Carry a Banana, Wisdom from the World of Curious George
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hmhco.com
For more than 75 years, the world of Curious George has delighted readers with its playful charm and deceptively simple wisdom. Fans of the Keep Calm and Carry On craze will find comfort in this Georgified version of the popular book format. Each inspiration is humorously accompanied by an illustration from the original works of H. A. Rey’s Curious George books.
Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son read this book to me while we were driving one day. He not only read such great advice as “always have an exit plan” but he was able to describe the picture and tell me which story it was from (in this case Curious George Feeds the Animals). Sometimes I had to explain what things are when I laughed and he didn’t get it (If there is an elephant in the room, address it. You’ll sleep so much better). Some of my favourites are “Stay on top of the latest technology. But don’t let it own you.” That is particularly good advice for a seven year old. And “ Life can be a high-wire act – the trick is keeping your balance.” Who knew Curious George was so wise.
Letters to Me, When I Grow Up, Young Writer’s Edition, Write Now. Read Later. Treasure Forever.
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
Twelve letters prompt kids to reflect on what they know now, and what they imagine for their future. When theyre grown, this paper time capsule becomes a meaningfuland likely hilariouslook back on who they once were and who they have become. Prompts to draw, make lists, and fill in the blank encourage kids to give detailed, imaginative answers they will cherish for a lifetime.
Editor’s Note: What a great book. I would have loved filling it out as a kid. I gave it to my seven year old and he has already filled out two pages. It’s amazing to read what is important to your child, as well as to know what he is thinking about his future. He will not floss his teeth, but he will be making potions. His favourite shirt is the Periodic Table and his favourite book is them all. I treasure this book already.
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Throw the ultimate overnight bash! There’s only one thing more exciting than a sleepover – and that’s planning one. Covering everything from games and quizzes to pamper ideas and midnight feasts, you’ll never be short of ideas with Sleepover Party. It’s packed full of party inspiration, activities and themes that will leave your friends talking for days. Learn how to do a fishtail plait, mix up a natural face mask or even some mocktails, then take a quiz to discover your true friendship style. Plus an in-built elastic band around the cover keeps all your ideas and secrets safe and secure inside.
Editor’s Note: This book makes me want a slumber party and I want to do everything within its pages. There are quizzes (what inner animal are you? What type of friend are you?), party game suggestions as well as crafts (no-sew tutus, hair wraps) and recipes (mocktails and a delicious looking ice cream parlor), there are lots of suggestions for a perfect party, slumber or not.
Street Safe Kids, Ten-Step Guide for Teens and Adults
Stephanie L. Mann
Empower youth with emotional tools to stay safe from bullies, drugs, violence and other self-destructive behaviors! While feeding the homeless with Mother Mary Ann Wright, Stephanie Mann saw the consequences of child abuse (mental, physical, and sexual) and neglect. Over the years, drug addicts and former inmates have asked for help. Mann realized most parents demonstrate and share healthy values with children. Neglected or abused adults never learned how to raise centered children. This book gives adults and youth the tools to help one another. Every human being has the inner power to develop courage, character and a self-protective conscience. These basic tools help youth make healthy choices and connect with others so they can reach their God-given potential.
Editor’s Note: I must say reading this book make me actually feel sick and worried about messing up my child. I don’t think that is the intent of the book so it might just be me. There was some great information in it. I liked the life experiences, true stories of people making choices – good and bad. The book in intended to be read by both teens and their parents so they can discuss what is learned. There are activities at the end of each chapter.
Virginia Brimhall Snow, virginiabrimhallsnow.com
Ramble through the woods, as you join Grammy and her favorite grandkids on a summer walk. Beautiful illustrations and clever rhymes will guide readers as they learn to identify twenty-six different bugs, from grasshoppers to moths, snails to katydids. At day’s end, discover how to create a caterpillar habitat; observe over time as your caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly you can then release on your next summer walk.
Editor’s Note: We also have Winter’s Walk by Snow, which I liked better. My seven-year-old son liked this one better. It still like the mix of green pencil drawing and full colour paintings. This one, however, has bugs and while the information is interesting, they are still creepy bugs.
the airport book
Roaring Brook Press, mackids.com
In a book that is as intriguing as it is useful and entertaining, we follow a family on its way through the complexities of a modern-day airport. From checking bags and watching them disappear on the mysterious conveyor belt, to security clearance and a seemingly endless wait at the gate to finally being airborne. But wait! There’s more! The youngest family member’s sock monkey has gone missing. Follow it at the bottom of the page as it makes a journey as memorable as that of the humans above.
Editor’s Note: There is lots to look at within the pages of this book. I particularly liked the yakking business woman, who stops yakking for a very great reason when this family arrives at their destination – their grandparents.
The Big Trip, Your Ultimate Guide to Gap Years and Overseas Adventures
Lonely Planet, http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/
So, you know you want to experience that ultimate overseas adventure – but where do you start? Right here, with the one-stop guide to planning the trip of a lifetime.
The Big Trip is your ticket to all this and more: Essential pre-trip planning: health, safety, kit costs, tickets; volunteering and working abroad: from fruit picking to teaching, yacht-crewing and au pairing; regional overviews, maps and a diverse range of road-tested itineraries; tips and stories from travellers and experts; and comprehensive directory of essential resource
Editor’s Note: What a wonderful book, a truly ullimate guide for traveling to various places in the world. Beautiful full-colour photographs coupled with as much information as you need for working (finding jobs, what you need, what you need to avoid), volunteering, teaching and courses. There is also sections on various destinations including the Middle East, Europe, Africa and more with each section offered information such as what to expect, sample costs, when to go and how to get out of there.
The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer…
Chronicle Books, chroniclekids.com
What really happened over the summer break? A curious teacher wants to know. The epic explanation? What started out as a day at the beach turned into a globe-spanning treasure hunt with high-flying hijinks, exotic detours, an outrageous cast of characters, and one very mischievous bird! Is this yet another tall tale, or is the truth just waiting to be revealed?
Editor’s Note: We read A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School… when it came out and my son didn’t like it at the time. As this one is very similar, and he liked it, I have to think he was too young for this book. This one he understood right away that it was a tall tale and the character was using his imagination to describe his summer.
Write Your Own Book
Kids are creative, imaginative and love telling stories. The Write Your Own Book Book guides your child through the excitement of writing their very own story. From setting the scene to describing an action, each section focuses on a different skill for your child to focus on, gradually building up to the very end where your child can write their own story. If your child gets stuck “talking point” boxes will spark new creative ideas or help children get the story started. “Word boxes” help develop kids vocabulary and enhance their story. Plus, there’s plenty of drawing inside, too, including a space to illustrate your own personalised book cover. Your child will be able to master writing skills required by the national curriculum in The Write Your Own Book Book, including recounting events and persuasive writing.
Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son wasn’t nearly as excited as I was when I received this book. If I was my seven-year-old self, I wouldn’t have pulled this book out of the very generous pile from DK Books first (being my seven-year-old son, he loved the gem and mineral book). I think my niece would really love this book and it is certainly a more appropriate for her, but I am itching to fill in the blanks – from a conversation with an alien to Give Me A Clue, a murder mystery where you can also build your own code. Each page offers a word box with three words based on the story you are writing plus space to write two more of your own. For example, in the mix up magic page where you are making a spooky potion, the word box offers adjective to describe your ingredients. They offer stinky, gruesome and sticky and you are add two more. I am going have to buy two more copies.
Adventures of Kikera and Sol
Kikera Books, available at book stores including Chapters
Adventures of Kikera and Sol is a story of a half-breed wolf dog (Kikera) and a happy-go-lucky but vulnerable young dog (Sol) that she adopted. Cabbagetown’s Greensmith, a former teacher, is working on the sequel.
Editor’s Note: Although the Adventures of Kikera and Sol is aimed at nine to 13 year olds, I quite enjoyed it. It was a quick read about wolves. How could you go wrong? The main wolf characters were well developed and you wanted them to succeed. There was only one part that didn’t work. Kikera compared how busy life with humans is to a Paris Boulevard. It was the only slip in the book. The rest of the book made me feel as through I was living in a wolf’s world. I look forward to reading the sequel.
Black River Falls
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, http://www.hmcho.com/
Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories. He chooses to remain in the quarantined zone, caring for a group of orphaned kids in a mountain camp with the help of the former brutal school bully, now transformed by the virus into his best friend. But then a strong-willed and mysterious young woman appears, and the closed-off world Cardinal has created begins to crumble.
Editor’s Note: What a great read. Heartbreaking, scary, realistic; I couldn’t image living in Cardinal’s world. I like that the book has a strong male lead and likely had all the makings of a great book for boys 12 and up – comic books, action, heroic behavour. I plan to keep this one for my son for when he is a bit older.
Victorine Publishing, Upon A Star Books Inc., victorinepublishing.ca http://www.inspiredtoactioncoaching.com
Ginny grew up in a traditional ethnic family caught between two worlds with distorted and often amusing perspectives. She is a counsellor with her fair share of quirky clients. There is Dora whose biological clock is ticking so fast, her eggs are cracking as we speak. She has a Macedonian mother who ardently believes that being married will elevate her to sainthood, and then there is Ginny’s outrageous cousin who needs her help to find the money her stepfather stole from her mother, and a hunky love interest-all leading to a series of amusing adventures and mishaps.
Editor’s Note: From the stories told to me by my Macedonian coworker, Ginny’s experiences with her mother and her crazy extended family doesn’t seem that much of a stretch. In fact, writer Virginia Presseault’s characters are wonderfully human, and the situations they find themselves in are terrifically funny. I want to join Ginny, Lydia, Peter and David on whatever adventure they go on next. As a side note, my review is featured on the back of this book, which is super exciting for me.
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
Doubleday Canada, penguinrandomhouse.ca
When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler. Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing, and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.
Editor’s Note: This book is as good as I expected when it came across my desk; I ended up putting it on top of the to-read pile. I would be interested to know how much creative liberities author John Boyne took with Hilter himself. I was hooked within the first several pages, and was basically anxious most of way through. I was also incrediably sad. Great book the entire way through.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hmhco.com
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron’s senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
Editor’s Note: What a great book. And frightening at the same time. Sometimes I got so caught up about the injustice of it all, and how scary the world has become. It frightens me that one requires a high-paying lawyer and a media team to spin stories in order to prove one’s innocence before you step in a courtroom. Perhaps because the book was written by Jill’s point of view, I felt her frustration and hurt, particularly about her father. I want to speak to Vancouver-based author Eileen Cook about the ending. Excellent read.
Alfie’s Lost Sharkie
Clarion Books, hmhco.com
It’s time for bed, and Alfie can’t find his most important toy. Where could it be? There are plenty of places to look . . . and that makes focusing on getting ready to sleep very difficult.
Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son told me it was a book for babies. We have books that I thought were for babies and he loved them so I am not sure why he was so set on this book being too young for him. I thought it cute. I laughed out loud when Alfie picks a toy for bedtime. I feel this is a very realistic look at bedtime – even for seven year olds.
Class Pet Squad, Journey to the Center of Town (chapter book)
Feiwel and Friends, mackids.com
Every school needs a little help now and then, especially PS 1000. Sure, just like your school, PS 1000 has teachers, a principal and a maintenance crew, who all keep everything running smoothly, but they don’t do it alone! Who do you think makes sure everyone gets back on the bus after a class trip? Who doesn’t let the scenery in the school play accidentally fall over? Who fights off a gang of rampaging squirrels trying to steal chocolate pudding cups from the cafeteria? The Class Pet Squad, that’s who! And when a student leaves his beloved action figure behind in class, the CPS a hamster, a turtle, a rabbit, and a lizard have to find a way to get it back to him, even if it means crossing paths with a dog and, worse, a cat.
Editor’s Note: This book, and its premise, reminded me of the TV show Wonderpets that my seven year old watched when he was younger. My son didn’t remember the show but said he liked the book. I realize I am not seven to nine (the targeted age), but I have read better ones for this age group. I found the illustrations OK, and the cats downright frightening, which I suppose was the point – the point of view is the class pets who are turtles and other small creatures that would make a great meal for a cat.
Cozy Classics Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
Jack and Holman Wang
Chronicle Kids, chroniclekids.com
Classics never go out of style—thats what makes them classic. Cozy Classics is a new board book series that presents well-loved stories to children aged 0+. Every classic in the series will be condensed to 12 baby-friendly words, and each word will appear alongside a photograph of needle felted objects. Moby Dick is a high seas adventure about one mans quest to find the whale who took his leg, and one of the worlds most beloved classics.
Editor’s Note: I interviewed Jack and Holman Wang for their Star Wars series of Cozy Classic books so I understand the amount of work these books take. I haven’t read Moby Dick myself, but I get a good indication from this book – it seems dark and a tad bit scary. The captain looks like a scary man. I liked this one better than Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, a classic I have also not read. I didn’t get the flow the story like I did with Moby Dick or the Star Wars series before it. My favourite page in this book, however, must be the last page – garden. It might be the dress, but the page itself seems like love. Raincoast Books kindly sent me a selection of post cards from Cozy Classics series, including War & Peace, Pride & Prejudice and these two books.
Daddies Are Awesome
Henry Holt Company, us.macmillan.com/henryholt
Daddies are awesome! They’re warm and delicious. They tickle and hug you and shower you with kisses. Loving and thoughtful, playful and daring, cuddly and caring – daddies are awesome.
Editor’s Note: It was a cute book of daddy dogs being supportive and kind with their puppies
Justine McKeen Bottle Throttle (chapter book)
Orca Echoes, orcabooks.com
Justine is worried about what plastic is doing to the environment and to her classmates, so she sets out to ban bottled water school-wide. The only problem is, the new principal, Dr. Proctor, isn’t on board. Justine will have to convince him and persuade her classmates if Project Bottle Throttle is going to succeed. Justine McKeen, Bottle Throttle is the seventh book in the popular Justine McKeen series.
Editor’s Note: The book may have been bit too old for my seven year old. Not that it didn’t hold his attention, but some of the things that happened, or what the students did or said, were for older ears. Saying that, there was some great information in the book, but I am not sure how much my son understood as I had to remind him of of the reason Justine McKeen was going to such great lengths to stop people from drinking bottled water. I liked the instructions on how you can get your own fortunes in fortune cookies.
Murder on the Canadian, 40th anniversary editon (chapter book)
HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins.ca
In Eric Wilson’s internationally bestselling debut novel, the agonizing sound of a woman’s scream hurls young Tom Austen into the middle of a murder plot on board the sleek passenger train The Canadian. Who is responsible for the death of lovely Catherine Saks? As Tom investigates the strange collection of travellers who share Car 165, he gets closer and closer to the truth. But Tom’s own life is put in danger when the real killer confronts him in this speeding plot. To commemorate 40 years in print, this classic Canadian adventure novel has been reissued with a new look.
Editor’s Note: It seems very un-Canadian of me, but I have never read this book. I am glad I had a chance for the 40th anniversary. The book seemed very obviously set in the past, which made it a fun read and a realization about how different things really were. The book goes at a great pace, and at liked Tom Austen’s character, which I find out, is a series. I love how Canadian it is and can’t wait to read it to my little one when he is a bit older.
Salamander Rescue (chapter book)
Orca Echo, orcabook.com
Cricket McKay has lived in Waterton all her life, so she is surprised to discover an animal she hasn’t seen before: the long-toed salamander. She finds a band of them migrating from the pond to their hibernation grounds at Crandell Mountain. Crossing the road that lies between the pond and the mountain is dangerous enough, but now a newly constructed curb makes their journey even more challenging. Can Cricket and her friends come up with a solution to help the salamanders? Salamander Rescue is the second book featuring Cricket and friends, following Ospreys in Danger.
Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son didn’t enjoy the book. After two nights of reading, and fidgeting, which doesn’t usually happen during storytime, I suggested we stop reading it and he readily agreed. Based on the girl characters, horses and kittens, I suspect the book is targeted to girls – and young girls. I wasn’t enjoying it either, but I was never a horse girl. I suspect my nine-year-old niece will love it.
Farrar Strais Giroux, mackids.com
Ursula, a bear, and Ricardo, a human, are preparing for the water ballet competition, where the prize is a million dollars! But a new regulation at the community pool – no bears – leaves Ursula cut from the contest. Luckily, she encounters a group of undaunted animal swimmers at a local pond, and Ursula and her new team figure out a way to participate in the competition and make sure everyone is welcome at the pool once and for all.
Editor’s Note: My son judges books by the cover – not that I blame him as I do as well. He took one look at this one and declared he didn’t like it. I made him read it any way, and agreed it wasn’t my favourite, but it was still good. I did think it was going to go one way, but it went a different way. But the ending came around in a unexpected, but still good way.
The Elephant Scientist (Scientist in the Field series)
Caitlin O’Connell & Donna M. Jackson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hmhco.com
In the sprawling African scrub desert of Etosha National Park, they call her “the mother of all elephants.” Camouflaged and peering through binoculars, Caitlin O’Connell – the American scientist who traveled to Namibia to study African elephants in their natural habitat – could not believe what she was seeing. As the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopping midstride and standing as still as statues. The observation would be one of many to guide O’Connell to a groundbreaking discovery!
Editor’s Note: My son took one look at the cover and declared he wasn’t reading it. I took one look inside and was secretly glad. There is a lot of writing in this book. I, did, however, stop and look at all the beautiful pictures and read the caption information. I think if you were interested in animals, and elephants in particular, this would be a great book full of information about these amazing creatures.
There is a Tribe of Kids
Roaring Brook Press, mackids.com
When a young boy embarks on a journey alone, he trails a colony of penguins, undulates in a smack of jellyfish, clasps hands with a constellation of stars, naps for a night in a bed of clams and follows a trail of shells, home to his tribe of friends.
Editor’s Note: I didn’t know a group of penguins was called a colony or a group of jellyfish a smack. I thought it interesting that a group of ravens was called unkindness of ravens and a crash of rhinos. My seven year old didn’t like the book at all. I like that the boy becomes part of a band of gorillas and a turn of turtles. The illustrations are pretty neat, lots of greens and browns, and plenty to look at.
This is not a picture book!
Chronicle Kids, chroniclekids.com
Duck learns that even books without pictures can be fun. While he and his friend Bug may struggle at first to decipher their book, they stick with it, and before long they discover that not only can they read it, but it deserves a place on the shelf with all their favourite picture books.
Editor’s Note: As soon as we stopped reading the story, my seven-year-old son asked if the story didn’t have pictures, why did we see them. I told him it was because we were see the pictures duck and bug saw in their heads while reading the story. It must have satisfied him as he wants to read it again. I liked the watercolour illustrations.
Burn, The Rephaim Book 4 (young adult)
Tundra Books, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca
For a year she believe she was a backpacker chilling out in Pandanus Beach. Working at the library. Getting over the accident that killed her twin brother. Then Rafa came to find her and Gaby discovered her true identity as Gabe: one of the Rephaim. Over a hundred years old. Half angel, half human, all demon-smiting badass and hopelessly attracted to the infuriating Rafa. Now she knows who faked her memories, and how— a nd why it’s all hurtling toward a massive showdown between the forces of heaven and hell. More importantly, she remembers why she’s spent the last ten years wanting to seriously damage Rafa.
Kill The Boy Band
Scholastic Canada, http://www.scholastic.ca
Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him – his room key, his cell phone and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear.
Mahtab Narsimhan, https://www.mahtabnarsimhan.com/books/mission-mumbai
When aspiring photographer Dylan Moore is invited to join his best friend, Rohit Lal, on a family vacation to India, he jumps at the chance to escape his parents’ bitter fighting and go on an exciting journey just like his Lord of the Rings heroes, Frodo and Sam — except with less walking and lots of amazing food and photo-ops. How hard can it be for a street-smart New Yorker to navigate India? Turns out, really hard. Mumbai is nothing like New York City, as Dylan discovers in his daily encounters with intense heat, massive crowds, filthy streets and strange customs. He loves it all, and it’s a great distraction from what’s happening at home, but he’s always one step away from disaster despite warnings from Rohit and his mom. And when Ro’s family problems threaten to cut the trip short, it seems like the two friends can’t agree on anything anymore. Will their separate goals pit them against each other, or can they set aside their differences in this epic quest for friendship and adventure?
Next Round, A Young Athelete’s Journey to Gold
Pajama Press, http://pajamapress.ca/
Arthur Biyarslanov’s journey to competitive boxing has not been easy. As a small child he fled Chechnya with his family, dodging bullets and rocket fire and fording a freezing river. As a young Muslim refugee he faced hardships and hostility in his new homes in Azerbaijan and Toronto. Soccer became his refuge, and he learned two languages by playing the game with his new friends. In Toronto, he joined a league and quickly became their star player. A broken leg left him weakened and he turned to boxing to keep his strength up. Soon it became his new love. After many hours of hard work, he started to win his bouts. And by the age of 20 the “Chechen Wolf” was a champion amateur boxer, winning gold for Canada, his new homeland, at the 2015 Pan Am Games. That medal earned him a shot at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro — the next round for this talented boxer and determined survivor.
No Flash, Please!: Underground Music in Toronto 1987-92), a photography book (with text)
Derek von Essen (Text by Phil Saunders)
Anvil Books, http://www.anvilpress.com/
The music scene in the mid-’80s was in transition, just as the entire music business was, unaware that it was all about to change in 1991 when Nirvana’s watershed release, Nevermind, would unexpectedly hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart. But that explosion didn’t happen over night. It was the product of years of music scenes like Toronto’s developing, clubs seeking original music and communities of musicians, artists and fans supporting them. No Flash, Please! documents an important period in Toronto’s music community. As seen and heard by two journalists covering it for a number of monthly independent magazines, not only did they experience the local bands they knew and loved becoming famous, they also witnessed soon-to-be legends, come through those same clubs and concert halls.
Susanna Moodie Roughing It In the Bush (graphic novel)
Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe
Second Story Press, http://secondstorypress.ca
Carol Shields was fascinated by the life and writing of Susanna Moodie. Moodie was a romantic writer from a celebrated literary family whose life changed forever when she and her husband left England for the backwoods of Canada in 1832. The Moodies, utterly unprepared for pioneer life, soon found themselves starving in the hostile wilderness of Upper Canada. Susanna began publishing her writing to feed and clothe her growing family. The result was the novel Roughing It in the Bush — an aggravated and acerbic testament to pioneer life that was praised in England but turned Moodie into a controversial figure in Canada. Two centuries later, Moodie is honored as an early feminist and literary pioneer. Shields’ long fascination with Moodie led her to collaborate on a screenplay with Patrick Crowe, which has now found its way to the world as a graphic novel.
The Daywalker Chronicles
Nancy A. Lopes
Twenty-six-year-old Ronan Adams, born admist an outbreak of vampires and werewolves, always knew that he was different. It wasn’t until one day that he learned how different he really was.
Rebecca (RJ) Moershel
One half of the story takes place in Toronto at many familiar local landmarks. The other half of the story is set 75,000 years ago with the prehistoric Flat Rocks clan. The main character, 14-year-old Esri, is living parallel lives in both times. Her character is best described as Anne of Green Gables meets Naomi Klein.
In the current time, Esri is living with her dad and little sister in a low-rent, highrise apartment in Toronto. She begins having vivid dreams about cave people. With the help of a mysterious older woman, Esri discovers she is a Mender with the power to move through time, mending the past to create a better future.
The parallel life Esri is living 75,000 years ago coincides with cataclysmic events that reduced the human race to mere hundreds. The events that unfold during that population bottleneck are destined to set the direction for the social evolution of the human race. Esri bounces back and forth in time trying to accomplish her Mending while keeping her everyday life on track. Her modern life is further complicated when she is confronted by the evil Disruptors, strange beings who can also move through time, bitter enemies of the Menders.
This article was originally published at insidetoronto.com