#IMWAYR February 20, 2017

Here in Canada, we are mourning the loss of one of our heroes. Stuart McLean, renowned storyteller and host of Vinyl Cafe, a CBC radio program celebrating the stories of ordinary people, has died. Not only have we lost Stuart, we've also lost some close friends in Dave and Morley, whose fictional family and community Stuart has been telling stories about for 22 years. 

Since Wednesday, the media, in all it's formats, has resounded with the sounds of our collective hearts breaking.

Shelagh Rogers wrote, "He was a Canadian ganglion, our connective tissue. He was our ear, our stethoscope." 

The following are a few snippets from A final story exchange: Fans honour Stuart McLean 

"It's not that he did not see the differences between us; it's that he found the truth common to us all."

"when we looked into that radio mirror and heard him talking, we recognised ourselves. And most of the time we were laughing—laughing at ourselves." 

Stuart McLean has indeed left "a hole in our neighbourhood."






Meanwhile, life goes on and #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.



PICTURE BOOKS


3 stars
Beach Baby by Laurie Elmquist & Elly MacKay (Illustrations) CL

These soft images are enchanting. Otherwise it is a sweet story that reminds a baby that everything will be here when it wakes up. There is not really a plot. It's the images that make the book. It's good for babies and toddlers, but not really appropriate for K - grade 3.



4 stars
Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge & Lisa Cinar (Illustrations) CL

I am a fan of both Deborah Hodge and Lisa Cinar, but I would appreciate this book even if I were not. Many readers will be able to connect to this story of a lonely bear who decides to invite his neighbours for a winter party. Bear is worried that they won't come, but then when they do, they realize that Bear is not so scary and they all become friends.

My only complaint with this book is that the text layout doesn't fit with the images and it's probably too small a font to start with.


4 stars
The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus & Cale Atkinson (Illustrations) CL

Hilarious, sweet and endearing all at the same time. When Santa stops believing in Harold at the same time as Harold stops believing in Santa, Christmas gets to be a bit dreary. I laughed as Santa used the same rationale to justify his disbelief in Harold as children regularly do as they let go of their own beliefs in him. I'd like to say this book will be good for readers from K on up, but I suspect some parents will not want their children to entertain disbelief as early as 5. Still for sophisticated younger readers and older ones, this will be an entertaining read.

5 stars
If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle & Cale Atkinson (Illustrations) CL

I enjoyed Cale Atkinson's bright and humorous illustrations. They complement the rhyming text. When a young girl gets a hamster for a pet, she thinks it is boring. But after contemplating the benefits and problems with numerous mythical creatures she realizes that a hamster is a delightful.


4 stars
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith & Julie Flett (Illustrations) CL

I enjoyed this book more at my second reading of it. It is a celebration of indigenous culture and community. At the same time it celebrates everyone's ability to find joy in the small details of everyday life. Julie Flett's illustrations are just stunning as usual. I would use this with children from toddlers to grade 3.

4 stars
Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el & Tim Bowers (Illustrator) 


This is a lovely, humorous story that reminds readers that not only is it ok to be different, sometimes it's better! Tim Bowers stylized dragons are just adorable.




3.5 stars

On My Skis by Kari-Lynn Winters & Christina Leist (Illustrations) CL

This will make a delightful book for emergent readers. Christina Leist's engaging illustrations are delightful. The simple sentence pattern intermixed with the rhyming sounds of nature make it a fun book to read. It will be entertaining for toddlers and early primary readers.


3 stars
A Parade of Puppies by Charles Ghigna & Kristi Bridgeman (Illustrations) CL

This would be a delightful book for toddlers who are interested in dogs. I liked the rhyming pattern and can see children learning more about the different breeds and eventually guessing what kind of dog will come next. This one would probably work for toddlers and children up to 5 years.

5 stars
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp & Julie Flett (Illustrations) CL

Julie Flett's illustrations are as gorgeous as usual. Van Camp's text speaks to the special magic that a new baby brings. As much as I love this book, and I do, I'm not sure what age group this would be for. I can see parents reading it to their preschoolers, but I'm not sure this would have a place for K to grade 3 readers.


4 stars
What Grandma Built by Michelle Gilman & Jazmin Sasky (Illustrations) CL

This is a beautiful tribute to a grandmother who honoured and loved the many generations of her family. Jazmin Sasky's vibrant illustrations capture the love and energy of the family members. Michelle Gilman's text reveals an ideal matriarch who made me long for my own mother and grandmother who are not longer here. This is an ideal book for children dealing with the death of a grandparent. Good for grades K - 3


NON FICTION PICTURE BOOKS



5+ stars
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Steve Johnson (Illustrations), Lou Fancher (Illustrations)

Holy Carumba! Keats' work has always impressed me, but I knew nothing about him. This book in narrative verse taught me so much. I learned even more from the additional information in the back matter. These images are brilliant in how they honour the work of the man himself, as well as feeling fresh and new! I have a collection of Keats' picture books around here someplace. I plan on purchasing this for myself to go with them.


4 stars
Go Home Bay by Susan Vande Griek & Pascal Milelli (Illustrations) CL

This book is a vignette taken from the life of Tom Thompson, a famous Canadian painter. He taught Helen MacCallum, whose father was friends of the artist, how to paint while he stayed with them one summer. The writing is beautifully lyrical, but I found it hard to read and focus on because of Pascal Milelli's stunning illustrations. Painted in the style of Tom Thompson, each page is a vibrant work of art. The back matter contains additional information about the life of the artist.


CHAPTER BOOKS



4 stars
Blackberry Juice by Sara Cassidy & Helen Flook (Illustrations) CL

I enjoyed this chapter book so much that I would like to read the prequel. Given the format, Sara Cassidy has created likeable characters readers can connect to. Cyrus and his brother, Rudy, have moved to a rickety farm by the ocean. The older couple next door have a quirky granddaughter, Rachel, living with them. Cyrus befriends Rumply, a bereft donkey. I think this could be an entertaining series where readers get to know more about these characters with each new adventure.


NOVELS



3 stars
A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy CL

This book was given to me as a possible chapter book so I'm going to state right off the back that it certainly isn't.
I assumed it would be about a transgender kid, buts it's not.
Evelyn connects to a new boy at school named Queen. As soon as I heard that his dog's name was Patty Smith I figured his parents were connected to the world of rock and roll. I was correct. Queen is a very confident self assured young man in spite of getting harassed because of his name. Through him, Evelyn begins to see the world differently.
The problem with this book is that first off, it's not at all written at a chapter book reading level. It also starts out slow. I don't hold that against it, but it doesn't fit for that age group. Finally, the ending feels incomplete.
I really like the idea of this book, I just wish there was more to it.


3 stars
Ryan Quinn and the Rebel's Escape by Ron McGee

I know that this book will be very popular with young fans of spy action and adventure series. Ryan Quinn, a young teen, discovers that his parents are not who he thought they were, when his father disappears and his mother is kidnapped from their own home right in front of him. With help from Danny, his technological minded friend, Ryan gets tickets to search for his father in a country ruled by an oppressive military. The story is fast paced with an exciting plot loaded with twists and turns and hairs breadth escapes. It just really isn't for me. The characters seemed like caricatures of people and lacked dimension. I would have given this story 4 stars in spite of this, but I really hate cliffhanger endings.


4 stars
Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park & Graham Halstead (Narrator)

There is a lot going on in this series. It has interesting characters in Raffa, Gilden, Kuma and Trixen. Set in a medieval land, the plot is loaded with suspense, surprises, magical potions and talking animals. It delves into issues of ethical use of animals and the environment. I love the focus on herbs and botany. I'm looking forward to listening more of this series, and suspect children will also.


4 stars

Anna and the Swallow Man
by Gavriel Savit, Allan Corduner (Narrator)


This beautifully written book continues to haunt me, even after I've finished it and moved on. It is set in Poland during the second world war. Anna, a seven year old girl, is left alone after her intellectual father is rounded up by the Nazis. A tall thin man takes her into his care. He teaches Anna how to survive as the two of them spend the war journeying around different part of the country trying to remain invisible. The ending to this book is both hopeful and uncertain, a lot like life itself. I expect it will leave many readers confounded.

CURRENTLY

I'm listening to Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles, #4.5) by Marissa Meyer. I've started Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer, but I'm going to have to set it aside for Flying Lessons & Other Stories since it is due back at the library soon.

UP NEXT

I'll start History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, a library book that is on my must read list for this year. I'll try to read the rest of the Chocolate Lily picture books, and get to a couple of novels and chapter books from the same collection.

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS

#MUSTREADIN2017 3/36, 1 in progress

#MUSTREADNFIN2017 1/12, 1 in progress

50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 9/50

Chocolate Lily (CL) 12/52

Goodreads Reading Challenge 63/333

#IMWAYR February 13, 2017

#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.



I do not recommend travelling in the winter.

My partner and I had to travel on BC Highways Thursday because he had to work on Friday. Our usual route was closed due to avalanche conditions. We headed north from our home in Oliver, to take the Coquihalla route. We arrived at the turnoff to find that not only was that route closed, no routes into Vancouver, were open. After lunch in the small town of Merritt, we got in line hoping that the highway would open at 4:00 when, according to @drivebc, the next update was scheduled. Sure enough, the road opened and we were on our way. 
The roads were treacherous! The pavement was a sheet of ice covered with a layer of water. 
About halfway over the pass, we stopped. A semi truck had jackknifed across the highway ahead of us. There was also an accident behind us. We waited for about an hour and a half till the one ahead was cleared. The group trapped behind were not so lucky and spent the night on the mountain. We managed, ever so slowly, to make our way over the pass and into the town of Hope. We thought the worst was over, but the freeway between Hope and Chilliwack was dotted with small ponds. My partner swears there were fish in some of them. A number of times, I wasn't sure we were going to make it through them. 

I might just have had enough winter.

BLOG POSTS LAST WEEK


PICTURE BOOKS

Dragonfly Kites: Pimihakanisa by Tomson Highway, Brian Deines (Illustrator) 2002

Dragonfly Kites: Pimithaagansa by Tomson Highway, Julie Flett (Illustrator) 2016

These are the second in Tomson Highway's bilingual Songs of the North Trilogy.
In this book Cody and Joe spend their summers in tents near lakes, far from other people. The boys create toys out of what they find on the land and turn the animals around them into pets. Everything is named. Eventually they end up tying string onto dragonflies and using them as kites.
Both these books are beautifully illustrated. I spoke of Brian Deines art in my blog post about the first in this series, Caribou Song.  Julie Flett's images capture a haunting sense of place, but it's the details in the wings of the dragonflies that are spectacular.



NON FICTION

5 stars
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Javaka Steptoe's illustrations are just stunning. I am very thankful for this introduction to the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I spent some time looking at it after I finished this book. This is another title where the endnotes are as interesting as the book itself. It was from these I learned how and why Basquiat influenced Steptoe's art


Hurrah! I finally finished this book. Here's a bit from my blog post to give you a taste of what it is about:
"Ostensibly this is a book that shows what marketers can learn from political persuasion. For the rest of us, it's a brilliant analysis of how we are manipulated by both politicians and advertising. Spin is a book that will reframe the way you interact with the messages and information that bombard you. By the time you finish reading this, you'll be asking all kinds of different questions about what you see and hear and what's the point of the emotional punch it gives you. Before you respond to surveys and questionnaires, especially those that reveal information about who you are, you will stop and ask, who wants it and why? It's bound to help you understand how we've come into an age where facts hardly matters to many people."

NOVELS

5 stars
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz Author & Narrator

Holy Carumba! This medieval story of three magical children is as good, if not better, than I could have imagined. I laughed. I cried. I cheered! There is something powerful about having the author read their work, but from what I have read, I will still have to find a hard copy to have a look at the illustrations. I especially appreciated Gidwitz' notes at the end talking about his research and the connections between his fictional characters and real life people.

4 stars
Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen & Tara Sands (Narrator)

I adore Sammy Keyes! Her adventure this time begins with a Christmas parade gone bad. There is a kidnapped dog, a blackmailer, and a troubled little elf of a girl. Sammy and Officer Borsch get over their antagonism for each other. I wept upon learning the nasty Mrs. Graybill's story and Sammy's response to it. 


Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington

5 stars
Just Wow! Harrington tells this story in poetry. Keet and her family have to leave their family home in Alabama and move to where they are closer to her grandfather. It's hard for her to adapt to a new school and make new friends. Ultimately it's a story of love, resilience and hope. 

The poetry is divine. Here's a snippet.

"WAITING
Waiting is the lace on the collar of your dress that you wear to school,
and it scratches and itches, and scratches and itches:
a long, long time."

At the end of the book, Harrington explains the different poetic forms she used in the book. It will encourage teachers to use this as mentor text.

CURRENTLY

I'm listening to Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park. I've started Ryan Quinn and the Rebel's Escape and am continuing to work on do Not Say We Have Nothing. I've started Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. 

UP NEXT
I really have no idea. 
On Monday I'm picking up a box of books that I will be reading for the Chocolate Lily award. I'm excited about this! 
However, it's going to be rather time consuming, so I have to go through my books from the library, keep the ones I have to read for one of my reading goals and return the rest. I've already paused all my holds. 

PROGRESS ON MY READING GOALS

#MUSTREADIN2017 2/36, 2 in progress

#MUSTREADNFIN2017 1/12, 1 in progress

50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 7/50


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Goodreads Reading Challenge 47/333