#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

17 comments:

  1. Such a heartbreaking loss. Dave and Morley felt like family, and The Vinyl Cafe was a part of my youth. So very sad. :(

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    1. It does feel like we have lost neighbours doesn't it?

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  2. I'm sorry for your loss, Cheriee. When someone leaves that was an important part of a country's soul, the hole left is huge. You've shared so many great books today. I love Bear's Winter Party, and need to read Anna and the Swallow Man. I have it, so hopefully soon!

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    1. I'll look forward to reading what you think of Anna and the Swallow Man. It's good, but not for everyone I think.

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  3. So sorry for your sad news...I feel like I've missed out on something special. You have some awesome books on your list this week. Loved A Poem For Peter and Bear's Winter Party.

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    1. You have missed out Jana, but the good thing about Stuart and his stories is that you can download the Vinyl Cafe podcasts for free from CBC and itunes!

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  4. Most of these are new to me, but I had an eARC of Ryan Quinn... and really enjoyed it. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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    1. I get why people will like it, but I just have such an aversion for books that end in cliffhangers. I'm ok with chapters ending like this, but I want a book that ends making you want to read more just because of the writing and characters. Otherwise it feels like a cheap trick.

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  5. Sounds like Stuart McLean was well loved in the land of literacy in Canada!
    You have several books that are on my to be read piles - Wing and Claw, Flying Lessons, and The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold (how I love Cale Atkinson!)

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    1. I have recently become a serious fan of his@

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  6. So sorry to hear about Canada's loss. So many books on your list! Many are new to me. I just loved A Poem for Peter, both the poem and the illustrations..

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    1. I adore A Poem for Peter. I want to carry that book around with me and take it out and force people to read it.

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  7. I definitely am going to have to check out Ryan Quinn. That one sounds right up my alley. My condolences on Mr. McLean's passing.

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    1. Many people in America have listened to Stuart on PBS. Maybe you can catch him there. Ryan Quinn will certainly work for many readers.

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  8. Thanks for your review of A Boy Named Queen. I was curious about it and had the same first impressions as you. I'm glad I got that cleared up!

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    1. It's sad because I really like how it starts out challenging gender assumptions.

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  9. I will definitely try to find If I Had A Gryphon. Anna and the swallow man also seems to be getting a lot of love. :)

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