kidlit

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

NVCL Reads: Dystopic Canadian Novels

Reading today’s headlines it is no surprise that dystopian fiction has attracted a new audience.  Book sales of classics like 1984 and Brave New World have skyrocketed, meanwhile Canada’s dystopic diva Margaret Atwood has found a new fanbase for her classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, with Hulu’s dark and wildly popular TV series.

In honour of these dark times, may I present #NVCLreadsDystopia

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelstation eleven

I absolutely LOVED this book.

Station Eleven asks a question that most dystopian novels miss: how do the survivors of a worldwide epidemic learn to enjoy life after they’ve learned how to survive? What happens to art when 99.9% of the world is dead? Emily St.John Mandel weaves convincing characters together with the most intriguing elements – Shakespearean theatre, a traveling symphony, cults, kidnappings, a very fluffy puppy, secret poets, sci-fi comic books, the life of the rich and famous, and the life of a paparazzo. Station Eleven is one of those books that sits in your mind, begging for attention, long after it’s over. (From the publisher).

The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
handmaidstales

Although it was originally published in 1985, as mentioned earlier The Handmaids Tale is likely the best known piece of Canadian dystopian fiction today. Set in a near-future totalitarian England, the Republic of Gilead,  the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence.

If you’ve had enough of Gilead, Margaret Atwood has plenty to offer for those interested in imagining just how bad things could get.

As the first book in the dystopic trilogy, and soon to be it’s very own HBO series, no Canadian dystopic list would be complete without Margaret Atwood’s riveting novel Oryx and Crake. 

When the story opens, the narrator Snowman is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes – into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief. (From the publisher).

Neuromancer by William Gibson neuromancer

Neuromancer was  the first novel to win the Nebula, Huge and Philip K. Dick Award–an unprecedented achievement which thereby legitimized cyberpunk as a mainstream branch of science fiction literature. Set within the Matrix, a world within the world and global consensus- hallucination, Neuromancer follows the story of Henry Case. Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction. (From the publisher).

 

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

companytown

New Arcadia is a city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, now owned by one very wealthy, powerful, byzantine family: Lynch Ltd.

Hwa is of the few people in her community (which constitutes the whole rig) to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig—making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. When the youngest Lynch needs training and protection, the family turns to Hwa. But can even she protect against increasingly intense death threats seemingly coming from another timeline?

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability and heightens the unease of a rig turning over. All signs point to a nearly invisible serial killer, but all of the murders seem to lead right back to Hwa’s front door. Company Town has never been the safest place to be—but now, the danger is personal. (From the publisher).

 

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji  nostalgia

For fans of the HBO series Westworld, comes a taut and thought-provoking novel about the personal identity and the power of one’s past.

In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.

Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him? As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient. (From the publisher).

 

NVCL Reads: Science Fiction and Fantasy

First up in our reading recommendations for the Canada 150 #NVCLreads Bingo game (adult version) is the Science Fiction and Fantasy square, #NVCLreadsSciFi! The following is a mix of new(ish), classic, and personal favourites by our talented Canadian SF/FAN authors:

amongothers

Among Others, by Jo Walton (2011)

While Jo Walton is usually categorized as a fantasy writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to also recommend her to non SF/FAN readers as well because of her masterful prose and wonderfully realized characters.  This haunting (and Hugo award winning!) novel follows Mori, crippled and struggling to escape a troubled childhood and the tragic loss of her twin sister, killed in a confrontation with their mother who had been dabbling in dark magics.  But her attempts to build a new life for herself, including a cautious return to magic, bring her back to the attention of her mother and an inevitable confrontation.

If magic isn’t your thing you could try the more speculative My Real Children or, if philosophy is more your bag, her Thessaly trilogy and any of them will count towards the science fiction or fantasy square!

 

walkawayWalkaway, by Cory Doctorow (2017)

Doctorow’s latest is in the speculative fiction genre, and an interesting blend of utopia and dystopia.  Based in post-scarcity society where you can 3D-print any of the basic necessities of life including food and shelter, its premise begins with a young couple who simply choose to walk away from mainstream society and its out of control wealth and power gap and lack of jobs.  Away from society and occupying lands devastated by climate change they and those who join them discover one thing that the ultra-rich have not been able to achieve – a way to conquer death itself.

* could alternately be used for the #NVCLreadsEnvironment or #NVCLreadsDystopia

 

companytown

Company Town, by Madeline Ashby (2016)

Nominated in the 2017 Canada Reads contest (eventually won by Andre Alexis’ awesome Fifteen Dogs), Ashby’s biopunk novel takes place on a defunct, city-sized oil rig that was recently purchased by an uber-wealthy family company. Its main character, Hwa, is one of the few people in her community (the former oil rig) without any biotechnology enhancements, making her the ideal bodyguard for the young heir of the company. While at its basic its a murder investigation, it contains some excellent world-building, and Hwa is a fascinating, compelling character and the true strength of the book.

 

gardensofthemoon

Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1,
by Steven Erikson (1999)

Ok, now it’s time to admit I haven’t read one of the consistently ranked best Fantasy series of all time. This one’s been on my bucket list for ages, and if it’s on yours too then this is a great excuse to pick it up.  Gardens of the Moon kicks off a 10-volume fantasy epic that spans thousands of years and follows the struggle for power in the Malazan empire. It’s renowned for its world-building, huge cast of characters, and its sheer scale. So, epic fantasy at its most epic.

*coming in at 666 pages, this could alternately be used for the #NVCLreads400

 

Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay (2016)

childrenofearthandskyUsually categorized as “historical fantasy”, Kay’s novels are not really fantasy and are only quasi-historical (although they are meticulously researched, so the term “alternate history” might work better), so, here’s a good read for those of you who are not really fantasy readers, but need to fill that square! Kay’s latest is set in near-Renaissance Europe (specifically 16th c. Croatia) and follows the intertwining lives of a large cast of characters – among them a woman out for revenge, a spy, an artist,  a merchant’s son, and a boy training to become a soldier – against the backdrop of a looming war.

 

oryxandcrake

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2004)

I’m not sure how one could responsibly write a post on Canadian science fiction and not mention Oryx and Crake and the Maddaddam Trilogy, so if you haven’t yet read it now’s the time. Science-fiction of the post-apocalyptic variety, this novel follows Sandman, who may be the last human left alive. Mourning his friend Crake and Oryx, the woman they both loved, he searches for answers in a world destroyed by genetic engineering run amok. While many people I know preferred the sequel – The Year of The Flood – to its predecessor, Oryx and Crake remains my favourite for its disturbing and unforgettable vision of the future.

*could alternately count for the #NVCLreadsDystopia or #NVCLreadsMargaret

 

Need more? Other Canadian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors include Kelley Armstrong, R. Scott Bakker, Julie E. CzernedaWilliam Gibson, Tanya HuffRobert J. Sawyer, S.M. Stirling, Robert Charles Wilson

Happy reading and Happy 150th, Canada!
Kat

NVCL Reads: Canada 150

Canada150Want to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, expand your experience of Canadian literature, have fun, and maybe win a prize?  Then NVCL Reads: Canada 150 is for you!

NVCL Reads is a reading bingo game that allows readers of all ages on the North Shore to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by reading Canadian authors and having fun.

How to Play

  • We have three bingo cards to choose from: children’s, teen, and adult.  Download the card of your choice, or pick up a bingo card from any information desk at the library.
  • Find and read books by Canadian authors to cross off bingo squares. You need a line of 5 to get a bingo.
  • Share the love!  Post about your reads on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to tag us @northvancitylib and use the hashtag #NVCLreads
  • When you have a bingo, let us know!  Come into the library and hand the bingo card in at any desk to get a draw slip, or submit the bingo card electronically. Please visit www.nvcl.ca to find out how.
  • For each line of five you complete, you’ll be entered into a draw for prizes.  The contest closes on September 5, 2017.  Winners must be able to pick their prizes up from the North Vancouver City Library; we are not able to mail your prize to you.

For full contest details, visit our website.

We’ll be blogging suggested reads for each square all summer long.  If you have questions about the program, please email plesku@cnv.org

Happy Canadian reading!

 

-Patricia

Patricia’s Top 10 Reads of 2016

2016 is well-acknowledged to have been a pretty terrible year.  You know why.  On the plus side, 2016 has been a very very good year for books.  Here are my ten favourites:

hatchingBest Horror – The Hatching
I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than alien spiders that do what the spiders in this novel can do (and I’ve had six month’s worth of delicious fun trying.)  Let me say it again:  alien spiders.  (Also, they chew.) I pride myself on liking epically violent horror and yet could only read this book — the first in a series — with the lights on in the daytime when other people were around.  Warning: You will want to read the sequel immediately after finishing this book.  Also: alien spiders.

weepingwoman

Best Fiction for Art Lovers – The Weeping Woman
I feel deeply in love with this novel about a Cuban woman living in Paris and writing a biography of Picasso’s one-time lover Dora Maar, and have been mulling it over in my mind for the better part of this year.  Its release was timed near perfectly with the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Picasso: The Artist and his Muses.  I’m very much looking forward to a re-read in 2017.

exitBest Teen Read – Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Hermione Winters is a high school head cheerleader who gets raped at cheerleading camp.  The way that she copes and heals in the aftermath makes for compelling reading.  Hermione’s powerful relationship with her best friend Polly and the strength she draws from her make this book my favourite YA read of the year.

blizzardBest Post-Apocalyptic Red – The Blizzard
In nineteenth-century Russia. Garin, a district doctor, is desperately trying to reach the village of Dolgoye, where a mysterious epidemic is turning people into zombies. He carries with him a vaccine that will prevent the spread of this terrible disease but is stymied in his travels by an all-consuming snowstorm.*

prettyfastBest Quick Read – Life Moves Pretty Fast:  The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Anymore)
It’s okay to be authentically awkward in 80s films, and to dress badly, and to grapple with difficult problems.  Hadley Freeman celebrates many of our favourite 1980s films while examining them with a critical (often feminist) eye.  This book would make a perfect Christmas present for anyone nostalgic for the 1980s, or for those interested in feminist takes on pop culture.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

paxBest Book to Share with the Family – Pax
Pax is the story of a boy and his pet fox, Pax.  Peter’s father forces him to abandon his beloved companion in the woods.  Unable to be apart Pax and Peter each go on journeys to get back to one another.  The story is told alternates between Pax and Peter’s perceptions.  Pennypacker does a marvellous job of writing a page-turning adventure that still leaves room for quiet beautiful moments. (And Jon Klassen should illustrate everything.)

preciousBest Memoir – Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
Craig Davidson is now a well-known writer of Canadian literary fiction.  He’s also a successful writer of horror under the pseudonym Nick Cutter.  And he used to be a bus driver. “For readers of Kristine Barnett’s The Spark , Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree and Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon, here is a heartfelt, funny and surprising memoir about one year spent driving a bus full of children with special needs.”*

breathBest Tearjerker – When Breath Becomes Air

Confession: Even the title makes me teary.  I cried so much reading this book that my eyes hurt for a whole day.  After nearly a decade of training to be a neurosurgeon, 36-year old Paul is on the cusp of the career of his dreams when he learns that he has an aggressive form of cancer.  I cannot highly recommend this memoir enough: it’s questioning, moving, and wise.  Nor can I warn you enough against reading it in public.  It should come with a warning: for home use only.

everyheartBest Fantasy – Every Heart a Doorway
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those people who still half believes in magical lands like Narnia or Fillory.  I can clearly imagine how privileged I would feel to belong in a place so precious that few people know it’s really real.  I can imagine how desperate I would be to get back ‘home’ to such a place if I left.  This book tells of children who have found their ‘home’ in magical places and are desperate to get back there.  It feels raw and true and beautiful.

homegoingBest Book of 2016 – Homegoing

The concept of Homegoing is simple and rich: it traces the lives of the descendants of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana.  One sister marries an Englishman an lives in a castle; the other is captured into slavery.  Each chapter jumps forward one generation.  There is longlasting evidence of the damage done by colonization and slavery in these very personal feeling stories.  Best of all, the ending is note perfect.

I’m super keen to know what other people’s favourite reads of 2016 are — Please share in the comments!

-Patricia

*Description from Bibliocommons

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