Children’s Lit

NVCL Reads: Folk and Fairy Tales

If you’re doing #NVCLreads this summer with the kids, they might want to read some Canadian folk and fairy tales for #NVCLreadsFairyTales. (And you may want to read some for #NVCLreadsIllustrated or #NVCLreads200.)  Homa from our fabulous Children’s Department has some ideas about where to start:

Our collection of folk & fairy tales aims to engage children in timeless stories and help them to discover diversity.  This collection represents a range of traditions from various cultures and countries.  Here are some of the Canadian authors that have written fables, fairy tales, legends and myths.

fingerlingLittle Fingerling by Monica Hughes

This familiar Japanese folktale, a cross between Tom Thumb and David and Goliath, is given sophisticated treatment in this attractive picture book. Hughes’s telling is leisurely and formal, with a traditional tone that suits the material. In ancient Japan, a tiny son is born to an elderly couple. As he grows older — but no larger — his courage and resourcefulness see him through many exciting adventures.

41Q+Z8fVfsLThe Nervous Prince and other stories by Michael B. Kerr   

What was Cinderella’s prince really like? Was Red Riding Hood rescued by a woodsman, or not? Was Jack’s beanstalk genetically modified? Why were Hansel and Gretel searching for carbohydrate treats in the forest? And who styled Rapunzel’s hair? These updated versions of popular folk and fairy tales answer all these burning questions and more.

The-King-and-the-Tortoise-1200x972The King and The Tortoise by Tololwa M. Mollel

Who is the cleverest creature of all? In order to find out, the king has issued a challenge: who can make him a robe of smoke? The swift hare, the sly fox, the fierce leopard, and the mighty elephant try but each one fails.  It is up to the tortoise, patient and slow, to win the day through wit alone.  In this gentle traditional story from Cameroon, master story teller Tolowa Mollel has woven a tale of humor and wisdom as magical as a robe of smoke.

mermaid's museThe Mermaid’s Muse: The Legend of the Dragon Boats by David Bouchard 

History meets myth in this dramatic re-telling of the story of Qu Yuan, celebrated poet-in-exile of ancient China. In Bouchard’s tale the poet and a sea dragon, in the appearance of a mermaid, develop a mutually inspiring friendship that drives them to sail away together, to the mistaken alarm of Qu Yuan’s neighbors. The surprising climax illustrates the traditional Chinese origin of dragon boats. Spectacularly illustrated, this book is truly amazing — you should read it!

TwoSistersThe Two Sisters by E. Pauline Johnson

Many thousands of years ago, two little girl with eyes of spring and hearts of summer had the courage to ask their father to stop a war. He does as they ask, and this brings about a lasting peace in the land. This book will lead you on your own adventure through the rich history of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.  I highly recommend it. It is a book for all ages with a valuable message and fabulous illustrations.

 

howsummerHow Summer Came to Canada Pictures by Elizabeth Cleaver Retold by William Toye

When the giant Winter came down from the North to live in Eastern Canada the land became frozen and white. Glooskap, mythical lord and creator of the Micmac Indians, saves his people from endless cold when he brings a beautiful Queen to his country. Her name is Summer and she persuades Winter to relax his icy grip every Spring while she awakens the land from its deep sleep and gives life to everything that grows. The beautiful illustrations of this book feature scenes of icy desolation and sunny flowering greenness.

Let’s read more folk and fairy tales this summer to better understand ourselves and others.

-Homa

Patricia’s 2016 Summer Picks

wantallthebooksThis summer I want to read all the books, don’t you?  ‘Spoiled for choice’ doesn’t even begin to describe the new releases out this season (…which is how a list of 6 titles turned blossomed into the 8 10 12-strong list you see before you). Whether you are looking for something heart warming or spine chilling, summer 2016 has you covered.  Here’s a small fraction of the books I’ll be devouring:

Cuddled Up With the Kids

harrypotterAt the risk of stating the obvious the book of summer 2016 is a script for a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and IIPicking up nineteen years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the play focuses on Harry’s son, Albus.  I know the risk of disappointment is always great when expectations run this high, but it’s Harry Potter, so it’s bound to be lifechanging, right? (July)

furthermoreAlice in Wonderland fans will want to check out Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore.  In this re-vision of the Alice narrative, Alice is a 12-year old girl whose father has mysteriously disappeared.  She enlists the help of her frenemy Oliver to venture into the land of Furthermore and bring her father home. (August)

With a Flashlight Under the Covers

watchYou’re never too old to stay up too late eagerly turning pages to find out how the story ends.  For years Stephen King has been my go to late night reading buddy.  This summer he offers us End of Watch, the conclusion to the Bill Hodges trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes.  Hodges once again faces off against Brady Hartsfield who has developed unforeseen powers thanks to an experimental drug.  (June)

devilsrockI was so blown away by Paul Tremblay’s Stoker award-winning A Head Full of Ghosts that I can’t wait to get my hands on his latest, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock*Ghosts did a marvellous job of walking the line between realistic drama and supernatural thriller partly because Tremblay revels in his characters’ unreliability.  Devil’s Rock promises more of the same with the missing of a teenage boy Tommy, and the promise of finding him relying on the lies and half-truths told by the friends he was with before he disappeared. (June)

With a Box of Tissues

lilyHere’s one that’s perfect for fans of Garth Stein’s heartwarming The Art of Racing in the Rain.  And perfect for dog lovers.  And fans of quirky fiction like The Storied Life of AJ Fikry or The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Lily and the Octopus* by Steven Rowley tells the story of singleton Ted Flask, and his furbaby Lily.  As for the octopus, you’ll have to read it to find out more…   (June)

With a Highlighter

homegoingThese days my Litsy account is non-stop quotes from Yaa Gyasi’s  Homegoing*, a sprawling family story that starts in 18th century Ghana with two sisters: one who marries a British governor and lives in a castle, and one who is forced into slavery.  It’s the kind of book you put down every few pages just to savour the writing properly.  My favourite quote so far: “Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you.  Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.” Literary tattoo anyone? (June)

With a Fruity Drink in the Sun

nineSooner or later we all need something frivolous and fun.  I’m looking forward to dipping into Nine Women, One Dress*a novel about an LBD in NYC and the women who buy, return, and borrow it from Bloomingdale’s (July)– and Hadley Freeman’s Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies* — because I quite simply am still not over Molly Ringwald, Baby, or Buttercup (June).  If I’m blessed enough to need a third fruity drink book, I choose Danika Stone’s All The Feels, a YA title that celebrates geek fandom. (June)

 With a Fan (When It’s Just Too Hot)

sunlightWhen it’s too hot to move, I recommend reading about the cold.  This summer I’ll be heading to Clachan Falls, November 2020.  Jenni Fagan’s post-apocalyptic The Sunlight Pilgrims* tells the story of an Earth with three suns, melting polar ice caps, and a temperature of -40C (in England!?!).  Trust me, when it’s scorching out, this one will hit the spot.  It’s a joyful novel about how we adapt and survive.  (July)

Wherever, Whenever

spellsMy final two picks are books I’m so excited to read that I’ll dive right in wherever, whenever.  Emma Cline’s debut The Girls* is a coming-of-age story that will get under your skin with its examination of the intensity of female friendships framed by a Manson-like cult.

Toronto! Witches! Russian folklore!  Family relationships!  Shapeshifters!  Claire Humphrey’s debut The Spells of Blood and Kin has it all, and I want in. Now, please.

What are you planning to read this summer?

-Patricia

*Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for ARCs of the starred titles — much appreciated!

 

 

 

Freedom to Read 2016

raifbadawiSaudi blogger Raif Badawi became known around the world when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes because of his writing.  Many people, myself included, thought to themselves that such a thing could never happen in Canada.  Because we live in a world where freedom of expression is not an inalienable right for everyone, it is important that we appreciate the freedom we often take for granted and renew our commitment to defending freedom of expression for all.  For these reasons, Freedom to Read week is a valuable part of our cultural lives and Canadians and Canadian residents.

freedomtoreadEach year the he Canadian Library Association’s Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom, in partnership with the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee, conduct a survey identifying library materials that have been challenged.  These materials are those that concerned members of the public have asked to be removed from library collections or reclassified for a variety of reasons.

In drawing attention to some of the more surprising titles on this list, it is not my intention that we scoff at the presumed ignorance of those who challenge library materials, but rather that we open up conversations about why access to materials representing a full range of view points is essential for the health and well being of our society.

Here are some titles that have recently been challenged in Canadian schools and libraries:

warsThe Wars by Timothy Findley

Published in 1977, Findley’s The Wars was most recently challenged in 2011.  The parent of a twelfth grader in Ontario asked that the book be removed from her child’s curriculum because of sexual and violent content including prostitution and gang rape.  The book, which won the Governor General’s Award, remains on the curriculum.

tango.jpgAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell 

This book about homosexual penguins raising a chick together was removed from a Calgary Catholic School Library after being challenged in 2006.  Though for many children this book serves as a compassionate and heartwarming introduction to acceptance, it is clear not everyone feels the same way.  In library catalogues the book has been tagged as “brainwashing children,” and “godless penguins.”

thisonesummerAnd just this week, Canadian graphic novelists Mariko and Jillian Tamaki had their widely acclaimed work This One Summer pulled from the shelves of three American secondary schools in response to a parent’s complaint that the book was inappropriate for a third grader. (I can’t quite figure that one out either.)

If you’d like to learn more about Freedom to Read week, please visit http://www.freedomtoread.ca/.

-Patricia

5 Ways to Read More

jbccIt’s just about the time of year when we all start breaking our well-meaning New Year’s Resolutions.  The gym is emptier and emptier each morning at 6am (not that I’m there; I just have reliable sources.)  For those of you with more bookish resolutions, I offer my help.

In my entire life I’d say the question I’ve most often been readtoomuchasked is, “How do you find the time to read so much?”  (If I’m being honest, I just read what I read without trying to hard and no matter how busy I am it seems to work out to between 50-100 books a year.  But that wouldn’t make a very helpful post now, would it?  So allow me to dig deeper… and present 5 ways to read more:)

cinder5.  Discover audiobooks.  Audiobooks can literally change your whole life.  They allow me to read when I’m:

  • Doing housework
  • Out for a walk
  • Commuting
  • At the gym  (I find if you are listening to audiobooks while doing cardio, it’s better to up the reader’s speed to 1.5x.  Otherwise I tend to keep pace with the voice I hear.)

The other nice thing about audiobooks is you don’t just have favourite authors anymore, you have favourite narrators too.

petitfour4.  Read to children.   My kids are great for a lot of reasons.  One of them is that they give me an excuse to stop whatever boring adulting I’m involved in in the evenings and read them a bedtime story. We’ve done everything from old favourites like Matilda to whimsical new releases like Anne Michael’s The Adventures of Miss Petitfour.

3.  ALWAYS have a book on you.  (You see that staff member reading in the elevator on the way to the break room?  Me.)

33 1_32.  No guilt reading.  If you’re not enjoying it, don’t finish it.  If you’re 100 pages from the end and feel like you know how it’s going to end… abandon it with impunity.  I’m a big fan of reading the right book at the right time.  If that means I’m currently going through a 33 1/3 phase and ignoring award winners and the Canada Reads shortlist, so be it.  (Dear Canada Reads shortlist, I’ll get to you shortly… when the mood strikes.  Fear not.)

  1.  Develop insomnia.
    I realize this might not constitute advice, but it’s still true.  Insomnia is a generous curse that gives you lots of time to read.  Oh, you want actual advice? Fair point.  Find something that captures your imagination.  Ask for recommendations from friends or your local library staff — anybody who gets as excited about books as you want to be.

Have tips of your own to share?  Sound off in the comments below.  Happy Reading!

-Patricia

 

 

Patricia’s Top Ten Reads of 2015

Sigh. I love pouring over the end of year book lists and seeing the full range of what’s out there for us to read and savour. Without further ado, here’s my humble offering of the year’s best reads:

crookedheartCrooked Heart* by Lissa Evans

Best for fans of: Quirky characters, dark comedy, fiction set in WWII

What’s the appeal? Evans draws wonderfully full characters.  I loved Noel and Vee and Mattie and didn’t want their story to end.

George by Alex Ginogeorge

Best for: Reading aloud with your middle-grader, exploring new viewpoints

What’s the appeal? George is a girl who was born a boy and is determined not to let her sex get in the way of her dream of playing the lead role in the class production of Charlotte’s Web.

watchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Best for: Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird who can stand to have their ideas shattered

What’s the appeal?  I found Watchman a very tough book to read because it forced me to question how I could ever have been utterly convinced that a young girl be a completely reliable narrator.

nestThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Best for:  Staying up all night reading, fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline

What’s the appeal?  It’s rare to find a horror novel that’s suitable for children and adults, but Oppel strikes a fine balance, creating a fine-tuned sense of anxiety and absurdity.

outlineOutline by Rachel Cusk

Best for:  Fans of literary fiction, readers who appreciate when authors play with narrative form

What’s the appeal?  The novel is told in ten conversations each of which help us sketch out the narrator’s story.  If the concept doesn’t grab you, it’s worth reading for the writing alone.

PurityPurity by Jonathan Franzen

Best for:  Someone in the mood for a sprawling read, readers of Thomas Pynchon

What’s the appeal?  The Sunday Morning Herald said it best, “Franzen’s greatest strength remains his old-fashioned dedication to the slow time of the artform: its patiently constructed psychology, its slow accrual of event and subsequent resonance.”

rednoticeRed Notice by Bill Browder

Best for:  Those who like to read about lone individuals taking on political corruption and conspiracy

What’s the appeal?  I read this book because I didn’t know much about Sergei Magnitsky beyond the name. While Browder is difficult to relate to at first, how he has dealt with Magnitsky’s murder is exceptionally powerful. What a transformation to undergo.

shadowshaperShadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Best for: Fans of YA urban fantasy

What’s the appeal? The blurb promised a cross between The Mortal Instruments and Caribbean folklore, and that’s pretty much exactly what Older delivers. 

shamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Best for: Someone looking for a quick, but informative read

What’s the appeal?  Ronson frames our modern day obsession with public shaming via social media in terms of the history of public shaming.  His writing is witty, yet not glib — Ronson fully admits his own complicity. 

symphonySymphony for the City of The Dead: Dmitry Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson

Best for fans of: Narrative non-fiction, music history, Russian history

What’s the appeal?  It’s a brilliantly told tale of the survival and triumph of artistry amid political turmoil

What was your favourite read of 2015?  Sound off in the comments below.

–Patricia

 

Holiday Gift Suggestions: Children’s

giftbookIt is so satisfying to give a child a book that they truly love.  Here are my recommendations for children of all ages.

Middle Graders

sunnySunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

If the child in your life has read their copies of Smile and El Deafo to tatters, you’ll want to pick up Sunny Side Up, a big-hearted graphic novel about a girl sent to visit her grandfather at his retirement community.

Absolutely any novel by David Walliamswalliams

It’s too much of a challenge to pick just one David Walliams book to recommend.  His books are very funny and read aloud well.  They are perfect for families who’ve read everything by Roald Dahl and still want more.

nestThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Even as a child, I was drawn to the darker side of life.  Sentient wasps are pretty darn dark.  This tale of a boy dealing with his anxieties over a very sick baby brother is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline without being derivative.  It’s probably the best book I’ve read this year.

 

For The Picture Book Crowd

The Princess and The Pony by Kate Beatonprincesspony

Don’t be fooled by the title — this book isn’t just for pink-frilled Frozen fans.  My 5-year old loves this tale of a would-be battle ready princess and her “cutey-wootey” [his words] farting pony.

waitingWaiting by Kevin Henkes

Perfect for quiet cuddles before bed, Henkes’ Waiting is the quiet story of a collection of treasured toys sitting on a windowsill.  It’s destined to be a classic.

I Will Chomp You by Jory Johnchomp

As much for parents who remember the delights of There’s A Monter At the End of this Book as it is for kids, I Will Chomp You is the utterly interactive story of a monster who desperately doesn’t want young readers to turn the page.

Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

minimythWhile you can’t go wrong with the classics, like Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You?, I would buy one of Joan Holub’s Mini Myths titles and Herve Tullet’s The Game of Finger Worms for the babies on my list.  The Mini Myths are a mix of moral and good humour, while Tullet’s Finger Worms encourage young ones to see books as a kind of play.

Happy shopping!

–Patricia