I admit it; I am an Eric Walters fan. And when Orca Book Publishers asked me who I wanted to interview about The Seven Prequels series, I might have been doing a happy dance and telling everyone I know.

Q. Congrats on your latest book in The Seven Series, the prequels. I had read an earlier interview that you hadn’t planned on writing any more in this series of books (written by seven Canadian authors, to be read in any order. The Seven Series came out first, followed by the Sequels and now the Prequels.) Why the change of heart?

A. Basically they ganged up on me. It was a Jello-wrestling match and basically all six of them combined makes us a good match against me. It was an epic battle – now available on Pay For View. I would have won but (author) Richard (Scrimger) cheated and sprayed his aftershave in my eyes – sort of like pepper spray, but not nearly as aromatic.

Q. I am assuming it was an all-or-nothing situation. If you didn’t convince the other six writers to again write about their characters, the prequels wouldn’t exist. Was it hard to convince the writers to do another series?

A. It was the opposite. They had to convince me. I said, ‘two or three or even all six of you can write this without me’. Bottom line, these are my friends and because they asked I had to do it – although that aftershave/pepper spray incident did have an impact on my final decision.

Q. The original idea of a series was yours. How did you, initially, choose the authors to be part of this series. Had you read their works before? Why did you think they would be a good fit?

I wanted the best writers possible. I made some phone calls. Those people all turned me down. I called some more people and they all turned me down. I finally had no choice but to settle on my No. 23 to 29th choices. At least that’s what I tell all of them.

I knew immediately who I wanted. John (Wilson) and Shane (Peacock) both argue that I called them first. I know which one I did call first, but they’ll never know. These are writers I admire, great with words and excellent presenters, and nice people. I’m too old to be around people I don’t like. Norah (McClintock) had the added quality that she added class to this group. This is a statement about both her being a ‘classy’ person and the rest of us…well…not so much.

Q. Do you have a favourite character (besides your own) in the original series? The sequel? The prequel?

A. Richard’s and Ted (Staunton)’s characters always makes me laugh. Shane’s makes me think. Sigmund (Brouwer)’s makes my palms sweat. Norah’s makes me wonder and John’s makes me ask questions about what comes next.

Q. You have written about DJ, your character in The Seven Series, three times now. What is it about this character that keeps you writing about him? Do you think you will write about DJ again?

A. The joke is that we’ve all written ourselves when we wrote these characters. D.J. is near and dear to my heart. He’s the oldest – although John is clearly the oldest of us. Some would even say he is the wisest. By some, I mean John. He likes to take charge, he’s a bit strong willed and head strong. As my wife would say, ‘Welcome to my world’. I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, wandered around London and trekked through the jungles of Costa Rica for research for these books. There’s no telling where DJ might resurface on his own, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be in another series. John and I have played around with having the two twin brothers in a book, and Richard and Ted are certainly joined at the hip with their characters.

Q. I read all three books in chronological order (prequel, original and sequel, as opposed to when they actually came out – original, sequel and prequel). I tweeted that I actually liked the sequel the best and you responded that was unusual. I liked Jungle Land (prequel). I found DJ sweet – kind, smart, good head on his shoulders, not afraid to admit either fear nor lack of knowledge. I found DJ in the original series Between Heaven and Earth, still kind, but too arrogant for my liking. In the sequel, his arrogance is tamed. Everything is still a competition, not something I enjoy, but he learned humility in Between Heaven and Earth – and remembered it. How hard was it to write a prequel after the character was already developed? What did you have to keep in mind while writing the prequel?

A. DJ evolved and it was important to see that evolution – even if it was reverse evolution in the prequel because it was written out of sequence. My background is in social work as well as education. I tried to show who this young man was, what factors – like being the oldest and having his father die – played in him being who he is. Then, through his experiences he evolves, changes and grows. We’re all growing and changing all the time – at least that would be the hope.

Q. You also created another series of books called Secrets, about girls at an orphanage who try to find their way after a fire burns down the only home they have ever known. What is it about this type of series you enjoy writing and sharing with people? What was the goal of this particular series?

A. I like working collaboratively. Writers are interesting people. I like trying to herd cats. These things combine to make this an interesting undertaking.

Q. Do you hope to create another series of books?

A. Nope. I’ll continue to write with other people sometimes – Kathy Kacer and I are working on a book together right now – but I think this is the end of the line. I’ve been wrong before about this.

Q. You have written 90 picture novels and picture books since you first started writing in 1993 as a way to encourage your Grade 5 students to read (this piece of information fascinates me).  Of all the books you have written, do you have a favourite book? Do you have a favourite type of book you like to write? To read yourself?

A. I like writing historical fiction, contemporary serious, contemporary funny, animal, sports, sci-fi, dystopic, picture books, non-fiction and board books. I’m not big into fantasy – although I think Lord of the Rings is a true story.

Q. Those Grade 5 students you taught in the ‘90s would now be in their 30s. Have you kept in contact with any of them? Were you successful in your goal of creating readers?

A. I get emails from them all the time. Each starts with ‘you probably don’t remember me’. I remember everybody. They have gone on to do some amazing things and I take a teacher’s pride in how well so many of them have turned out.

Q. I have read that you go to great extremes to research the characters and situations the characters find themselves in (including, as read on your website, standing outside in a blizzard in a T-shirt. How awful). What was your favourite thing you did for research purposes?

A. My favourite is always the next adventure. Kili was pretty cool – that summit day was the hardest day of my life. I got to share that with my son. Walking across the Sahara for Just Deserts was intense. Walking across Kenya with four of my orphans and four young Canadians – including my youngest daughter – is one of my most profound life memories.

Q. I loved the book Regenesis. What sort of research did you do for that book? (How about sequel?)

A. I spent six years living on a space station…no wait that’s wrong. Lots of reading, talking to experts, being there in my head.

Q. Congratulations on founding and operating an orphanage in Mbooni District in Kenya. I spent a fair bit of time reading through the Creation of Hope , https://creationofhope.com/ ,  website and have read two of your picture books based on stories of the children who live there. How did you come to create this organization and at that location? How does this charity differ from others out there?

A. It is one of the greatest blessings of my life to be involved in this project. My son and I were in Kenya building a school to be named after his uncle who died of cancer. We also had somebody from Kenya living with us who said ‘when you’re in Kenya can you visit my family’. We were taken up into the mountains to an area where they said they thought we were the second and third ‘white guys’ to walk through that market in decades. We discovered that in a community of 22,000, there were more than 500 orphans, many living on the streets, eating from garbage dump. It started with one then four, then 40. Right now we have 69 students in high school, college or university, 65 living in the residence building and the rest living in extended family situations. We also support siblings/cousins in those family situations. We build wells, have a pre-school training program, provide goats/school supplies/tools to needy people, and are now running a program to train ‘grannies’ to make products and earn income.

We have complete accountability in our program. Every cent donated by a child or school goes toward service – there are NO administrative fees. We are aligned with Kids Alive and the 10 per cent admin they charge is offset by my wife and I making a matching donation. And then we show them exactly how we used their money through thank you pictures. We want to create global citizens not global cynics.

We do have 11 orphans waiting to be sponsored if anybody is interested. It’s genuine sponsorship and you will be connected through pictures, letters, stories and you really get to know that child whose life you are changing.

Q. I know you spend summers at the orphanage. What do you do while you are there? What do you enjoy most about being at the orphanage? What is the best way for people to help?

A. This was the first summer in 10 years I wasn’t there. My wife and I are part of the committee – two votes out of 10 – that makes all decisions. The other eight are all Kenyan and live and work in the community. We spend time with the children, their extended families, visiting schools where we have children enrolled, meeting with community leaders, helping to problem solve, working in the residence and just being part of the community.

All decisions are made on the ground. Of note, most programs are pretty thrilled if 1.5 per cent of their funding comes from local sources. Last year we were at 28 per cent. This program works because it respects the knowledge, abilities, skills and integrity of those who live in the community.

Q. During the school year, you are a busy speaker. What do you like most about public speaking? What do you hope people get from your presentations? Who is your favourite group (age) to speak to?

A. I consider myself a literacy evangelist. Well that and a supply teacher. I love talking about books, but I never let that be the focal point. I want to encourage literacy, a love of reading and writing, I speak about social justice issues and being Canadian and what that means.

Q. Where do your ideas come from? What is next for you.

A. Ideas come from everywhere all the time. I’m just finishing up the fifth edit of a book called Fourth Down, which is the fourth in the Rule of Three trilogy – because every trilogy needs a fourth book. Although I’ve taken a different approach, and it’s a parallel novel that you could actually read independently. I’ve just finished a book called Mississippi Summer, which is set in Jackson Mississippi in 1965 and is based loosely on my friend Paul Saltzman, who was a civil rights activist there at that time.

Eric Walters writes Jungle Land.

Jungle Land

Eric Walters

orca book, orcabook.com

$9.95

DJ is always thrilled to spend time with his grandfather, a person he idolizes. When his grandfather announces that he’s going to take all of his grandsons on individual adventures, it seems only fair that DJ, as the oldest grandchild, will get his adventure first. An adventure that sees his grandfather at the controls of a small plane as the two fly to Central America for a week. But when someone tries to kidnap him, DJ must flee through the jungle and down a crocodile-infested river, pursued by armed gunmen. When he isn’t busy trying to stay alive, DJ discovers things about himself he never suspected and uncovers information that leads him to believe his beloved grandfather is living a secret life.

Editor’s Note: I read this book first whereas it was actually published last. I liked DJ. He was a great kid, kind, but also smart, but smart enough to know that he was completely out of his element. We, Canadians, just don’t know about jungles, servants and the need to have armed guards protecting you. Quick read with plenty of action.

Between Heaven and Earth

Eric Walters

orca book, orcabook.com

$9.95

seventheseries.com

DJ is David McLean’s eldest grandson, so it stands to reason that he be the one to scatter his beloved grandfather’s ashes. At least that’s how DJ sees it. He’s always been the best at everything—sports, school, looking after his fatherless family—so climbing Kilimanjaro is just another thing he’ll accomplish almost effortlessly. Or so he thinks, until he arrives in Tanzania and everything starts to go wrong. He’s detained at immigration, he gets robbed, his climbing group includes an old lady and he gets stuck with the first ever female porter. Forced to go polepole (slowly), DJ finds out the hard way that youth, fitness level and drive have nothing to do with success on the mountain—or in life.

Editor’s Note: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not my thing. I also didn’t like DJ’s arrogance. I did, however, love the secondary characters, they were wonderful, and DJ does get better.

Sleeper

Eric Walters

orca book, orcabook.com

$10.95

DJ jets across the Atlantic to England to follow a series of obscure clues and symbols he hopes will reveal the truth about his grandfather. In London, he stays with Doris, the elderly woman he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with. Laid up with a broken ankle, Doris has her grandchild, Charlie, offer assistance. Charlie—short for Charlotte—is a beautiful model who is romantically (and secretly) linked to a member of the British Royal Family. Spies, guns, double agents, the Cambridge Five and a vintage E-Type Jag are a few of the things DJ and Charlie encounter on an adventure that makes climbing Kilimanjaro look like a walk in the park.

Editor’s Note: I still like this story best. I like that Doris makes a return to this book. I like the strong women characters in this series and I love the fact that DJ knows how to treat women. I like the spies, the action and the hunt for the truth.

Intrigued? Metroland Media Toronto is hosting The Seven Prequels Contest where you can enter to win the box set courtesy of Orca Books. Visit http://bit.ly/prequels16.

Highlighted

The Pain Eater

Beth Goobie

Second Story Press, www.secondstorypress.ca

$12.95

She hadn’t told anyone. Not a single soul. Not one word about that night and what had been done to her had ever passed Maddy Malone’s lips. She’d thought about it at first – had been desperate, even frantic, to tell. But then had come the shame, and the intimidation from the boys who raped her – and the one who held her down. Now it’s the beginning of a new school year and Maddy is hoping that she can continue to hide, making herself as quiet and small as possible. She is consumed with keeping the memories at bay, forcing them down through small cuts and the burn from the end of a cigarette. But when her English class is given the assignment of writing a collaborative novel about a fifteen-year-old girl, The Pain Eater, fact and fiction begin to meet up. When the boys spread rumors about Maddy, she realizes that continuing to hide the truth will only give them more control, and she slowly gains the courage to confront them.

Editor’s Note: A hard-hitting prologue pulled you in and the stories, written by Maddy’s fellow classmates, kept you reading, as did what Maddy had to go through and worry about. I suppose I must be a bit naïve (spoiler perhaps). I can’t understand, or have a hard time imagining, what kind of evil person would participate in a gang rape, then torment the victim to keep her quiet. It also baffles my brain, and makes me sick, that boys, regardless if they heard someone is easy, would believe its OK to touch a person in that manner. This book makes me so angry, so sad and so upset. But a great read, and a must-read for girls and boys.

Moonshot vol. 1 The Indigenous Comics Collection

Edited by Hope Nicholson

AH Comics, ahcomics.com

$19.99

MOONSHOT is a collection of short stories created by indigenous writers and incredible artists in Canada and the U.S. The traditional stories presented in the book are with the permission from the elders in their respective communities, making this a truly genuine, never-before-seen publication.

Editor’s Note: Vol. 2 is not yet published yet, but was in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign while writing this review. I am a lover of comic books. I loved that each story in Vol. 1 explains the legend surrounding the comic. The art is beautiful. Some of the stories were a tad dark, some bizarre – even for me – but some quite lovely and others sad. I look forward to reading Vol. 2.

More info about the Kickstarter campaign is available here.

Mysteries

Agatha Christie Closed Casket

Hercule Poirot Mystery

Sophie Hannah

HarperCollins, harpercollins.ca

“What I intend to say to you will come as a shock…” With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford– one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors – springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny, and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live. Among Lady Playford’s visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Insp. Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited – until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why – when the crime is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it – does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?

Editor’s Note: A new Hercule Poirot mystery written in Agatha Christie’s style but a new story. I can say Lady Playford’s family members are despicable. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I am still guessing the who and why, and whether the will changing is research for Playford’s next detective novel.

Fire in The Stars, An Amanda Doucette Mystery

Barbara Fradkin

Dundurn, www.dundurn.com

$19.99

After surviving a horrific trauma in Nigeria, international aid worker Amanda Doucette returns to Canada to rebuild her life and her shaken ideals. There, the once-passionate, adventurous woman needs all her strength and ingenuity when a friend and fellow survivor goes missing along with his son. A trained first-aid and crisis responder, Doucette, always accompanied by her beloved dog Kaylee, joins forces with RCMP officer Chris Tymko to discover the truth about the disappearance. Their search leads them to the Great Northern Peninsula, a rugged landscape of Viking history, icebergs, whales and fierce ocean storms. Elsewhere, a body gets hauled up in a fisherman’s net, and evidence is mounting of an unsettling connection with Doucette’s search for her friend.

Editor’s Note: This book was fabulous. The characters were amazing and the story pulled you in, and kept me guessing until the end. I do hope there will be more Amanda Doucette mysteries.

School’s In

Handwriting Made Easy Cursive

DK Books, dkbooks.com

$6.99

Handwriting Made Easy: Cursive Grade 4 helps kids learn to write in clear, easy-to-read script. From practising lower- and upper-case letters to copying a poem and writing a book review, this workbook is full of activities, exercises, and supportive illustrations that helps makes writing cursive easy for kids to learn.

Editor’s Note: I have been told that cursive is often easier to do for children than printing. I thought it was worth a try for my son. While I have been told tracing letters will help with his handwriting, I can’t convince him this is what he wants to do for his pre-bedtime activity. Saying that, he loves the Made Easy format so I am sure we will be doing the activities and putting gold stars on the ones he completes soon. There is also Handwriting Made Easy Printing.

DK Findout! Dinosaurs

$13.99

dk.com

Discover fascinating facts and participate in quizzes in this DK series.

Editor’s Note: Dinosaurs were never my thing and so far they haven’t been of that much interest to my seven year old either. However, I found myself flipping through this book, reading the facts about each of the types of dinosaurs. I particularly liked the scale, showing the difference between each dinosaur and man. Apparently I am behind the times – I had no idea there were so many of them. A perfect book for dinosaur lovers. This series also includes Animals (which also includes fish, insects and deep and dark, featuring my favourite, the anglerfish); Volcanoes (tools of the trade, ask the expert and hazard warning); Science (great scientists, science in action, energy, motion and gravity); Ancient Rome (medicine, Roman numerals and cracking the code, how to put on a toga and Roman clothing); Solar System (the space race, what it’s like to be an astronaut and alien hunters).

Help Your Kids With Study Skills, A Unique Step-by-Step Visual Guide

DK Books, dk.com

$24.95

Reduce the stress of studying and help your child get the most out of school with Help Your Kids with Study Skills. This unique guide is designed to enhance curriculum learning and build confidence in gathering knowledge, recalling from memory, creating study plans, and managing stress.

Editor’s Note: This book is exactly what I was hoping for – study skills presented in an easy-to-read format and covering everything I thought of and more that I didn’t. Skills include engaging with the work, taking notes, active listening (here’s a skill most people need help with), review techniques, online learning and safety (including a number of social media sites I haven’t heard of) and more. Great book, easy to read, lots of little facts and information, colour and fun graphics with a few real pictures thrown in. Another DK success.

Coding Projects in Scratch

DK Books, dk.com

Using fun graphics and easy-to-follow instructions, Coding Projects in Scratch is a straightforward, visual guide that shows young learners how to build their own computer projects using Scratch, a popular free programming language.

Editor’s Note: My older brother got my seven year old into Scratch at Christmas. I had never heard of it before, but it’s a free online coding program that allows kids to create their own code to make different programs. Pretty cool. DK has already shared with me a Coding Made Easy book, which my son has basically finished. This one is even bigger, allowing you to create a number of new projects including firework displays (which will be very popular) and other simulations; window cleaner (and other games); paint by numbers (and other art). This book will keep us busy for a while.

Children’s books

A Child of Books

Oliver Jeffers

Candlewick Press,

$22

A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him… but who will be next?

Editor’s Note: I love Oliver Jeffers. He could be another author whose work I would love just because he wrote it. This is another beautiful children’s book, this one that suggests we need to embrace books and read for the simple joy of it. I love that the illustrations includes words from various classics and the book cover (inside) is filled with the titles of classic books and its authors. Beautiful.

All the World Poem

Gilles Tibo

Pajama Press, pajamapress.ca

$18.95

Gilles Tibo’s wonder-filled tribute to poetry, poems bloom in fields, fly on the wings of birds, and float on the foam of the sea. They are written in the dark of night, in the light of happiness, and in the warmth of the writer’s heart.

Editor’s Note: we didn’t like the illustrations, which didn’t bode well for the book. The words, poetry, were OK, but I confess poetry is not my favourite and I don’t enjoy reading it

Almost a Full Moon

Hawksley Workman

Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca

$21.99

A boy and his grandmother host a gathering in their small cabin in the middle of winter. Friends travel from near and far, and some new friends even turn up. The walls of the cabin are elastic and the soup pot bottomless; all are welcome.

Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son and I both didn’t like this book, although I did like the illustrations. The book made more sense once we read Workman’s bio – we could see Almost a Full Moon was a song first (my son said it played like a song while I read it).

Applesauce Weather

Helen Frost

Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com

$21

When the first apple falls from the tree, Faith and Peter know that it’s applesauce weather, even though Peter is getting a little old for such things. It also means Uncle Arthur should be here to tell his stories, with a twinkle in his eye as he spins tales about how he came to have a missing finger. But this is the first year without Aunt Lucy, and when Uncle Arthur arrives, there’s no twinkle to be found and no stories waiting to be told. Faith is certain, though, that with a little love and patience, she and Peter might finally learn the truth about that missing finger.

Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book and a wonderful story. I loved reading it and want everyone else to read it as well. Go out and read this book! I loved that you had Lucy’s voice in it, but also go the voice of Uncle Arthur, Peter and Faith. What a beautiful love story.

Canada ABC

Paul Covello

HarperCollins, HarperCollins.ca

$12.99

Paul Covello’s bright and detailed board book for the very young highlights Canada’s iconic symbols, souvenirs and events, including the Dogsled, Inuksuk, Loonie, Totem Pole and the Zamboni.

Editor’s Note: Paul Covello’s latest ABC book takes a look at Canada and all things that make it great including flags (all of the province’s flags are included on the page), uniform (snowboarding, hockey, Mountie and veteran) and Xplore. Fun pictures show what is great about our country.

Hat on, Hat Off

Theo Heras

Pajama Press, http://pajamapress.ca/

It’s time for this little one to go out. But which hat will he choose? Red hat, blue hat, striped hat, penguin hat, teddy bear hat? Once that decision is made, that hat just doesn’t stay on, while shoes are tied and jacket is buttoned. One more visit to the potty. And once this child is in the stroller at last, will that hat be on his head?

$15.95

Editor’s note: Cute illustrations, adorable main character, in a great book for little ones.

Hop Along with Me

Michele Murri

JB Printing Limited, http://lightfallpublishing.com/

$14.99

Frankie the frog guides his friends on a mindful journey to help children understand the importance of staying focused in the moment.

Editor’s Note: There is a good lesson in this book – for children to be mindful and live in the present. I liked Frankie’s the Frog’s breathing tip – smell the flowers and blow out the candle. It’s a great description and my seven year old and I tried it. There was a typo in the book, which annoyed me. It should have been caught.

Hungry Bird

Jeremy Tankard

Scholastic, scholastic.com

$19.99

Bird is hiking with his friends when his tummy rumbles. But no one packed him a snack that he likes! With every step, his hunger mounts until he collapses on the ground. How will Bird survive if he doesn’t eat the perfect something this instant!

Editor’s Note: I love Jeremy Tankard’s illustrations. I did not like bird. Bird was demanding and annoying and rude. I had hope, and the it died. Bird should be nicer to his lovely friends.

Juliet Malevolent…An Evil Tale

Peta-Gaye Nash

GMJ Creative Hands Inc.

Young readers will laugh as they follow the delightful Juliet Malevolent through an upside-down, inside-out, alternate world where bad is good and good is bad. Whether at home or in her Kinderevilgarten class, Juliet’s goodness makes her different. Will badness change her or will goodness change those around her?  Who will win in this struggle? Find out.

Editor’s Note: The creative names of the children made me laugh in this book. I liked that there was a glossary at the end, otherwise I would have to had to look up termagant – an overbearing, violent or brawling woman. What a neat way to tell a story about kindness.

King Baby

Kate Beaton

Scholastic Canada, scholastic.ca

$22.99

All hail King Baby! He greets his adoring public with giggles and wiggles and coos, posing for photos and allowing hugs and kisses. But this royal ruler also has many demands, and when his subjects can’t quite keep up, King Baby takes matters into his own tiny hands.

Editor’s Note: King Baby made me laugh out loud. My seven year old also loved it, but I had to explain the story a bit to him – how all babies are the ruler of the households. We still quote parts of the story, and it still makes me laugh.

Little Fox, Lost

Nicole Snitsellar

$16.95

Pajama Press, http://pajamapress.ca/book/little_fox_lost/

Little Fox’s paw prints make such beautiful pictures in the newly fallen snow. Left here, right there, around that fallen branch — he scatters them throughout the forest until, too late, he finds he can’t retrace his steps back home. Lost and afraid, Little Fox wants to agree when a kind, old owl offers to fly ahead and guide him. But Mama Fox has warned him often: “If ever you are lost, my child, / don’t let a stranger guide you. / Be still and I will search the wild / until I am beside you.”

Editor’s Note: What a cute little book. The illustrations are lovely and the message is exactly the one I share with my seven year old about what happens if you get lost.

My Friend Maggie

Hannah E. Harrison

Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com

$23.99

Paula and Maggie have been friends forever. Paula thinks Maggie is the best—until mean girl Veronica says otherwise. Suddenly, Paula starts to notice that Maggie is big and clumsy, and her clothes are sort of snuggish. Rather than sticking up for Maggie, Paula ignores her old friend and plays with Veronica instead. Luckily, when Veronica turns on Paula, Maggie’s true colors shine through.

Editor’s Note: I love children’s books, particularly ones that are beautiful illustrated as is this one. I new where the book was headed and it made me so sad. I loved how it ended. What a beautiful story.

Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea

A Narwhal and Jelly Book

Ben Clanton

Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca

$16.99

Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together. A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever – even though it doesn’t have any words…or pictures!

Editor’s Note: This graphic novel cracked me up. While there is a story, there author cleverly put in facts about the narwhal as well.

Ned the Knitting Pirate

Diana Murray

Roaring Brook Press, mackids.com

$19.50

The crew of the pirate ship the Rusty Heap are a fearsome bunch! They’re tougher than gristle and barnacle grit. They heave and they ho and they swab and they…knit? Well, one of them does, at least! Unfortunately for Ned, his knitting doesn’t go over well with the captain and crew. They urge him to hide his hobby and strive to be scurvier, like pirates should be. But when the briny ocean beast shows up to feast on the Rusty Heap and its crew, maybe Ned’s knitting is just the ticket to save the day!

Editor’s Note: My seven year old took one look at the book and declared he didn’t even want to read it. I took the time to read it and it’s not my favourite. The illustrations are cool, though. And Ned, the knitting pirate, comes out on top.

Piper Green ad the Fairy Tree The Sea Pony

Ellen Potter

Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhousekids.com

$19.99

Piper Green is in for another adventure when she finds an unusual whistle hidden inside the Fairy Tree in her front yard. But Piper doesn’t want a whistle… she wants a pony! On a trip with her dad to check the family’s lobster traps, the whistle attracts the attention of an unexpected friend. Could the fairy whistle working its magic after all?

Editor’s Note: It was a nice book. I wouldn’t want to read it again, although I liked it enough the first read through. I also don’t like books that offer doubt about magic, which this one did. The magic doubting part is easy enough to skip though, which is what I did. It was a quick read; we read it in a couple of days. I liked that it was set on an island. And I love that it was illustrated by Qin Leng.

Rhino Rumpus

Victoria Allenby

Pajama Press, http://pajamapress.ca/

$16.95

Three little rhinos are having trouble getting along as Mama tries to coax them through the evening routine. Will they fidget, fuss, and fight right up until bedtime? Or will their Mama’s love help them find some common ground?

Editor’s note: A cute rhyming book starring an unusual creature – the rhinoceros. We liked the illustrations, and the story of mama rhinoceros trying to get her little ones to bed.

Timo’s Party

Victoria Allenby

Pajama Press, pajamapress.ca

$12.95

Big parties make Timo’s fur stand on end. But hosting one might be the key to helping his friend Hedgewick’s culinary dreams come true; a famous food critic is coming to town, and an apple festival in Timo’s orchard would be just the thing to showcase Hedgewick’s cooking. So the introverted rabbit begins to prepare the party, one invitation, decoration and arrangement at a time. But when the big day arrives, will the support from his friends and his belief in Hedgewick’s cooking be enough to impress Madame LaPointe?

Editor’s Note: What a fun little book about a friend who looks out for his friends. Lovely illustrations, and we hope to make the included recipe – Hedgewick’s Happy Apple-Banana Cake.

The Liszts

Kyo Maclear

Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca

$21.99

The Liszts make lists. They make lists most usual and lists most unusual. They make lists in winter, spring, summer and fall. They make lists every day except Sundays, which are listless. Mama Liszts, Papa Liszts, Winifred, Edward, Frederick and Grandpa make lists all day long. So does their cat. Then one day a visitor arrives. He’s not on anyone’s list. Will the Liszts be able to make room on their lists for this new visitor? How will they handle something unexpected arising?

Editor’s Note: I am a huge fan of lists. I make them all the time. And while I admit I do lack spontaneity, I feel I am much better than The Liszts family, who couldn’t do anything outside of their lists. My seven-year-old son and I both felt the book was a bit too weird for us.

What is Peace?

Wallace Edwards

North Winds Press, Scholastic Canada, scholastic.com

$19.99

Peace is a familiar word, yet its meaning is both simple and complex. Edwards explores peace, and invites young readers to think about what that means to them. In a series of linked questions combined with Edwards’ art, the concept of peace is picked up, shaken, turned all around, and carefully examined from every angle.

Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book. As usual, Wallace Edwards illustrations were glorious, pieces of art on every page. I liked the questions he asked. My seven year old was really listening. He would answer if he thought if peace gave balance or if you can buy it. Great book.

Other kids books

Dara Palmers Major Drama

Emma Shevah

Sourcebooks, sourcebooks.com

$23.99

Meet eleven-year-old Dara Palmer. She loves dancing and dreams of being a world-famous actress, which means she has to get the main part in the school play. When she doesn’t get any part at all, Dara begins to wonder whether it’s because of her looks rather than her acting skills. But Dara has big ideas, and is determined not to let prejudice stop her from being in the spotlight

Everyday Hero

Kathleen Cherry

Orca Book Publishers, orcabooks.com

$9.95

Alice doesn’t like noise, smells or strangers. She does like rules. Lots of rules. Nobody at her new school knows she has Asperger’s, so it doesn’t take long for her odd behavior to get her into trouble. When she meets Megan in detention, she doesn’t know what to make of her. Megan doesn’t smell, she’s not terribly noisy, and she’s not exactly a stranger, but is she a friend? Megan seems fearless to Alice—but also angry or maybe sad. Alice isn’t sure which. When Megan decides to run away, Alice resolves to help her friend, no matter how many rules she has to break or how bad it makes her feel.

Hundred Percent

Karen Romano Young

Chronicle Books

$23.99

The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. In this novel, Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname Tink, which just doesn’t fit anymore.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard

Jonathan Auxier

Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com

$22.99

It’s been two years since Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. In that time, they have traveled far and wide in search of adventure. Now they have been summoned by Professor Cake for a new mission: To find a 12-year-old bookmender named Sophie Quire. Sophie knows little beyond the four walls of her father s bookshop, where she repairs old books and dreams of escaping the confines of her dull life. But when a strange boy and his talking cat/horse companion show up with a rare and mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.

Superheroes don’t eat veggie burgers

Gretchen Kelley

Henry Holt and Company, mackids.com

$19.50

Middle school may be tough, but Charlie Burger has a plan for how he’ll get through it: mind his own business and stay out of the limelight. But sixth grade has other plans for Charlie. His best friend, Franki, starts acting weird – since when does she like to dance? – and everyone from his mom to his soccer coach is on his case all the time. Worst of all? The school bully, Boomer Bodbreath, seems to think Charlie has a bull’s-eye on his back. When Charlie’s eccentric science teacher hands out writing journals instead of beakers and goggles, Charlie is convinced his year can’t be saved. That is, until he starts writing stories about Dude Explodius, an awesome, studly superhero-and those stories start coming true. Can a kid who’s used to the sidelines suddenly take a shot at saving the world?

Other Young Adult

All the Feels

Danika Stone

Feiwel and Friends, swoonreads.com

$13.99

College freshman Liv is more than just a fangirl: The Starveil movies are her life…and her last tangible connection to her deceased father. Thus, when her favorite character, Captain Matt Spartan, is killed off at the end of the last movie, Liv Just. Can’t. Deal. Tired of sitting in her room sobbing, Liv decides to launch an online campaign to bring her beloved hero back to life. With the help of her best friend, Xander, actor and steampunk cosplayer extraordinaire, she creates #SpartanSurvived, a call that ignites the fandom. But as her online life succeeds beyond her wildest dreams, Liv is forced to balance that with the pressures of school, her (mostly nonexistent and entirely traumatic) romantic life, and her disapproving mother’s new boyfriend. A trip to DragonCon with Xander might be exactly what she needs to get away from it all.

And Then The Sky Exploded

David A Poulsen

Dundurn Press, http://www.dundurn.com

While attending the funeral of his great-grandfather, ninth-grader Christian Deaver learns that the man he loved and respected was a member of the Manhattan Project, the team that designed and created the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during Second World War. Then, on a school trip to Japan, Chris meets Yuko, now 81 years old, who was 11 when she was horribly injured and maimed when the first bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Christian is determined to do something to make up for what his great-grandfather did. But after all this time what can one teenager really do?

Before We Go Extinct

Karen Rivers

Farrar, Straus and Grioux

$24.99

JC, who goes by the nickname Sharky, has been having a hard time ever since his best friend died in front of him in what might or might not have been an accident. Shell-shocked, Sharky spends countless hours holed up in his room, obsessively watching documentaries about sharks and climate change―and texting his dead friend. Hoping a change of location will help, Sharky’s mom sends him to visit his dad on a remote island in Canada. There, Sharky meets a girl who just may show him how to live―and love―again.

Kalyana

Rajini Mala Khelawan

Second Story Press, secondstorypress.ca

$19.95

Growing up in the Fiji Islands in the late 1960s, Kalyana Mani Seth is an impressionable, plump young girl suited to the meaning of her name: blissful, blessed, the auspicious one. Her mother educates Kalyana about her Indian heritage, vividly telling tales of mischievous Krishna and powerful Mother Kali, and recounting her grandparents’ migration to the tiny, British colony. While the island nation celebrates its recently granted independence, new stories of the feminist revolution in America are carried over the waves of the Pacific to Kalyana’s ears: stories of women who live with men who are not their husbands, who burn their bras, who are free to do as they please. Strange as all this sounds, Kalyana hopes that she will be blessed with a husband who allows her a similar sense of liberty. But nothing prepares her for the trauma of womanhood and the cultural ramifications of silence and shame, as her mother tells her there are some family stories that should never be told.

Our Chemical Hearts

Krystal Sutherland

Penguin Random House .com

$54

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change. Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl.

UnRivaled A Beautiful Idols Novel

Alyson Noel

Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins Publishers, HarperCollins.com

$17.99

Everyone wants to be someone. Layla Harrison wants to be a reporter. Aster Amirpour wants to be an actress. Tommy Phillips wants to be a guitar hero.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her own a long time ago. She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel. That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

Spells of Blood and Kin

Claire Humphrey

St. Martin’s Press, stmartins.com

$20.99

Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom. Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.

spontaneous

Aaron Starmer

Penguin Random House, .com

$23.99

Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on. Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece. It’s an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States.

Trouble Makes a Comeback

Stephanie Tromly

Kathy Dawson Books, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/317767/trouble-makes-a-comeback-by-stephanie-tromly/9780525428411/

$23.99

Now that the infuriating and irresistible Philip Digby has left town for a lead on his sister who disappeared years ago, Zoe Webster is looking forward to a quiet spring semester. She’s dating a cute quarterback, hanging out with new friends, and enjoying being “a normal.” Which is of course when Digby comes back. He needs Zoe’s help, and not just to find his sister. Zoe can either choose to stay on her current path toward popularity, perfect SAT scores, and Princeton, or she can take a major detour with Digby, and maybe find out what that kiss he stole from her really meant. Digby and his over-the-top schemes always lead somewhere unexpected and Zoe’s beginning to learn she might just like jumping into the unknown. When it comes to Digby, for Zoe at least, the choice might already be made.

When We Was Fierce

e.E Charlton-Trujillo

Candlewick Press, candlewickpress.com

$23

Fifteen-year-old Theo isn’t looking for trouble, but when he and his friends witness a brutal attack on Ricky-Ricky, an innocent boy who doesn’t know better than to walk right up to the most vicious gang leader around, he’s in trouble for real. And in this neighborhood, everything is at stake.

Other mysteries

A Delicate Matter: A Jack Taggart Mystery

Don Easton

Dundurn Press, dundurn.com

Jack Taggart is once again going head to head with his nemesis, Damien Zabat, national president of the Satans Wrath Motorcycle Gang. As Zabat approaches retirement, his son, Buck, joins the gang. When Taggart obtains evidence to send Buck to jail, he gives Zabat two days to disclose the details of a new European cocaine connection in return for his son’s freedom. Zabat’s refusal leads Taggart to gamble with his own life in a desperate attempt to destroy the man he has long been after. It is a gamble he wishes he had never taken.

This article was originally published at insidetoronto.com

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