#IMWAYR January 30, 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.

This was a picture book week. I got in a bit of other reading, but have some kind of respiratory tract infection that leaves me exhausted and makes concentration challenging. I did manage to do a get a few book reviews written, but will post them nearer to the publication date. 



On Monday I went off to one of my favourite book stores to search for a birthday gift for a one year old. While there I spent time reading picture books. Eventually I picked up three classic Maurice Sendak books in board book format: Chicken Soup With Rice, One Was Johnny, and Alligators All Around. They took me back to when my boys were young and spent so much time watching the following video that we knew the words by heart. 

I also had a pile of picture books from the library that I was able to spend a bit more time with.

4 stars
King Baby by Kate Beaton

This hilarious picture book exactly captures the chaotic reality of living with a baby. I am sensitive to gender pronouns and other gendered language these days. It's probably because I have two grandbabies coming and I don't want the first, and most important thing about them to be how their biology classifies them. Anyway, I was leary of this book to start, because of you know, King, but it's by Kate Beaton, author of The Princess and the Pony.  I ended up being so completely enchanted by it, I made my sons and their partners read it.

5 stars
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear & Isabelle Arsenault (Illustrator)

This tale of a young girl attempting to cheer up her unhappy sister is a story for all ages. Arsenault's illustrations and hand lettering of the text facilitate a profound interpretation of Maclear's words. The contrast between the darkness of some pages and the vibrant colours of gardens accentuates the story and pays homage to Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell, the women who inspired Maclear to write this story.

3 stars
Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice N. Harrington & Brian Pinkney (Illustrations)

I liked the pattern and rhythm of the language in this story of a mother hen and her chicks. In the cold of the night, the mother asserts that tomorrow they will build a new and warmer nest. But when morning comes she is easily distracted by all kinds of delicious food to eat. It's a good thing that her busy busy Little Chick isn't so distracted and as the days go by, is able to work towards a new shelter for them.

Caribou Song Atihko Nikamon by Tomson Highway & Brian Deines 2001, & John Rombaugh 2013

I picked up the original Caribou Song to read for my indigenous author reading goal, and fell in love with it. It's the first of a trilogy, written in both Cree and English, that pay homage to Highway's early years and life in the north. The warm and glorious illustrations by Brian Deines wowed me. Then when I went in search of the others, I discovered that there was a second edition, illustrated by John Rombaugh. Next up for me will be Dragonfly Kites, both the original and the new version, illustrated by Julie Flett.

4 stars
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

This one nearly knocked my socks off. Wow! I appreciated this interpretation of how a cat is viewed differently by the many creatures who see it. The illustrations are drop dead gorgeous. The idea reminded me of The Queen's Shadow by Cybèle Young and would be a delightful companion piece.

4 stars

Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat

This tribute to road trips honours the reality of spending hours and hours in a car, as well celebrating the power of imagination. It would make the perfect road trip book since Dan Santat's rich illustrations will keep a reader entertained for a good long while.

4 stars
Cat on the Bus by Aram Kim

This is the story of a homeless cat that leaps onto a bus to get out of the cold. An older gentleman befriends him and takes him home. This reminded me of Rich Cat, Poor Cat by Bernard Waber, an older picture book I have around here someplace. 

5 stars
Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems

This utterly charming book about a young girl's first time collecting the family baguette is filled with all the humour and surprise we have come to anticipate from Mo Willems. I had fun reading the text out loud to myself in the far reaches of the book warehouse.

4 stars
Egg by Kevin Henkes

I'm so glad this book was on the shelves at the bookstore. It's the story of a group of eggs hatching. When all but one hatches, the birds fly away, but then return. What happens when they help the remaining egg hatch is unexpected. There is an important message here about revelling in our differences. I read it a couple of times to ensure it really was as good as I thought it was. It is.

4 stars

I Need A Hug by Aaron Blabey

This poor porcupine really needs a hug, but everyone is afraid of him. Readers will enjoy the humor in Blabey's illustrations and find that who he finally gets a hug from is a delightful surprise.

3 stars
Love Is a Truck by Amy Novesky & Sara Gillingham (Illustrations) 

I almost purchased this book as a baby gift, but changed my mind. I appreciated the colour pallet in red and grey and that the characters seem almost genderless. Many young readers will enjoy this book that celebrates love for all kinds of trucks.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern & Jim Dale (Narrator)

4 stars
That was some read.  Although I finished it a few days ago, I'm still in a kind of fog. It took me a bit to figure out what was going on, and then when I got into this book, I really got into it. I sure wish I had read it with a book club. I still haven't figured out who one of these characters is and I'm sure there are layers of meaning I have completely missed. This quote from the end resonates deeply for me. 
"You're not destined or chosen, I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it's not true. You're in the right place at the right time and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that's enough."


I'm about halfway through Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. Music is such an integral part of this story, that sometimes after reading a description of a specific piece, I have to go and listen to it. This can be time consuming when Thien is talking about the different movements of a symphony. Seriously, this is a book to savour. I'm nearly finished listening to Gifts by Ursula K Le Guin. I really need to make more progress on Spin: How Politics Has the Power to Turn Marketing on Its Head. I promise myself I'll focus on this when I'm done these other books.


I have no idea. I've got a monstrous pile of books that I am going to have to take back to the library unread.


#MUSTREADIN2017 2/36 1 in progress

#MUSTREADNFIN2017 1 in progress

50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 4/50

Goodreads Reading Challenge 33/333

Caribou Song Atihko Nikamon by Tomson Highway and Brian Deines 2001, by Tomson Highway and John Rombaugh 2013

Tomson Highway is a well-known Canadian Cree artist. I first came into contact with his work years ago at a production of The Rez Sisters. If you haven't yet experienced it, go see it or read the play. Highway is flat out brilliant. He is an author of plays, novels and picture books. He's a musician and songwriter. Go click that link above and read his biography. I'll still be here when you get back. 

Caribou Song is the first in a trilogy of picture books that pay homage to Highway's early life. Both artists reveal the land and the people's connection to it, albeit in different ways. 

Two young boys, Joe and Cody, travel with their mama, papa, and a black dog named Ootsie as they follow the migrating caribou. They live in the far north where there are few trees. It's a land often covered with snow. Joe spends his days playing the accordion, the kitoochigan, and singing to the caribou. Meanwhile, Cody dances.

Brian Deines

John Rombaugh
While camping on an island, the boys find an open area and begin to sing and dance for the Caribou. They are so busy they aren't aware of the rumbling of a herd who stampede through the meadow. Cody falls in the middle of it, but Joe makes his way to him and they manage to climb to safety on a rock.

Brian Deines

John Rombaugh

The story is laced with magic. It's there in the voice of the spirit of the herd speaking to the boys. It's there in the rescue of Cody. It's there in the land itself. It's embodied in the diverse styles of both these illustrators. It's threaded through Highway's words as this quote about the boys shows: 

Joe played the accordion, the kitoochigan. From morning to night he played and sang, "Ateek, ateek! Astum, astum! Yo-ah, ho-ho! Caribou, caribou! Come, come! Yo-ah, ho-ho!"
And from morning to night Cody danced. He danced on the rocks, he danced on the ice, he even danced under the full silver moon. 

The original version of this story is written in both English and a formal version of Cree. Brian Deines' realistic illustrations are just gorgeous. These classic oil paintings reveal both the beauty of the land and the intimate relationship of the brothers and their family. These two images show Joe rescuing Cody.

John Rombaugh
Brian Deines

This new version uses Highway's original English text, but the Cree is translated into the dialect of Highway's family thus making it more accessible for his people to read. John Rombough, a Chipewyan Dene artist from the Northwest Territories, illustrates this more recent book. The influence of members of the Indigenous group of seven is seen in Rombough's bright, dynamic images. I am particularly fond of his illustration showing the family on a sled against the backdrop of the land. It says something to me about the family's intimate place in the center of it. 

John Rombaugh

Brian Deines
I honestly don't think I could choose between these two versions of the story. I appreciate both, but the earlier version fostered a sense of intimacy with the characters that I missed in the second version. I struggled to figure out if this might be because of my eurocentric bias about art. Perhaps it's just because I read it first, but then, maybe if I had grown up in the north, I would connect more intimately to Rombough's images. 

I showed these to my partner because both are drop dead gorgeous. He said if he was purchasing a copy for himself, he would take the second book, but if he were reading it to a group of children, he would probably choose the first. We both agree that we would love to own a piece of Rombaugh's art to hang on our wall. 

If I could afford to, I'd get both. I can imagine these books fostering many interesting classroom conversations. I highly recommend schools and libraries purchase a copy of each. 

Next up I'm looking forward to reading both the original of DragonFly Kites, and the newer version illustrated by Julie Flett. 

#IMWAYR January 23, 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.

Wasn't that a Saturday? 
Wasn't that a march?

Against the backdrop of hate and bigotry, of misogyny and homophobia, of 'alternative truth' and pure BS, we marched. Certainly there is more work to be done, but knowing that so many of us have each other's back, that we are the resistance together, empowers me/us to continue on.

My friends and I wore our pink pussy hats at the Vancouver, BC March. 

I've been contemplating A.S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future these days. When I first read it, I thought the idea of women losing what they had gained was fanciful and impossible because American women wouldn't put up with having their rights and freedoms stripped from them. I hate that we might be about to see if this is true. 


The Dance of the Violin by Kathy Stinson and Dušan Petricic

For those of you who read and review ARCs, when do you post your reviews for books that won't be published for a while?


4 stars
The Dance of the Violin by Kathy Stinson and Dušan Petricic (Netgalley)

This is based on an incident in the life of Joshua Bell, renowned violinist and conductor. It's a story of persistence, resilience, and passion. The writing and imagery are powerful, but sometimes they didn't merge together seamlessly. I still think it is a great read, so mark your calendars for March 14 when it is released. 


4 stars
Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (Narwhal and Jelly) by Ben Clanton (Netgalley)

In this sequel, Narwhal and Jelly discover their superhero powers. I enjoyed this novel more than the first one in the series. Even the nonfiction spread talking about the real superpowers of sea creatures was fun. The release date for this is May 2. Full review to come. 


The Year of the Garden (Anna Wang 0.5) by Andrea Cheng & Patrice Barton (Illustrator)(Netgalley)

4 stars
I've been meaning to read some of Andrea Cheng's work ever since I had two very excited grade three students argue over who would be first to read The Year of the Baby. They were shocked that I had not read The Year of the Book. This was a good one to start with since it is a prequel to the first in the series. I now get their joy. Cheng's authentic characters deal with realistic problems. Their diversity doesn't get in the way of solid friendships as they all learn to be better human beings. These children have loving parents and normal siblings who live within a supportive community. It is a delightful series for readers ready to move beyond beginning chapter books. It's publication date is April 11th. Full review to come.

Goblins vs Dwarves (Goblins #2) by Philip Reeve & David Thorpe (Narrator) 

5 stars
So if you are wondering what book or series to read to your younger children, (6 to 10ish?) check out Goblins by Philip Reeve. I just finished this one. Skarper, the goblin, is a character I adore. Reeve wrote this series for his son, so they are already kid tested. They are hilarious, cheeky, and filled with important lessons on how to live a satisfying life and get along with all kinds of individuals. This one deals with how a group of people (the dwarves) get seduced into following an empty headed leader. (Sounds familiar doesn't it?) I was both suprised and impressed by how it backfired. Apparently the books are filled with illustrations, but I listened to them. David Thorpe's narration was perfect. This is my favourite in the series. I now want to go and binge on Philip Reeve. I'm looking forward to reading another title of his, Pugs of the Frozen North, the first in a series he writes with Sarah McIntyre that is supposed to be appropriate for 7 year olds to read on their own. I'm hoping to find time for Mortal Engines sometime this year since I was impressed as heck by Fever Crumb when I read it a number of years ago. 

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey

4 stars
This is a book that needs to be in elementary and middle school libraries. George and Gracefully Grayson tell the story of transgender girls. This is the story of a transgender boy. Shane has been at a new school for a few years and has established himself as his baseball team's star pitcher. He's got a best friend and even the beginning of a relationship with a girl. Then one of the older students discovers his past and posts a picture of him from his previous school. I was worried that this might take the book into a deep hole of bullying, and while there is a bit of that, it isn't the most important aspect of the plot. What's important is that Shane has loving parents, even if his father has a harder time than his mother dealing with his identity. Adults at school are also supportive. He is lucky to go to a support group and get paired up with a trans girl who helps him navigate all the challenges he has to deal with. He's got a true best friend. Ultimately, this is a book that shows all of us how to be accepting human beings. 


Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa, Narrated by Michael Curran-Dorsano, Imani Parks & MacLeod Andrews

3 stars
This debut novel tells the story of three teens, Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy, who become best friends. My niece loved this book or I might not have persisted. I did appreciate the diverse cast of characters, but they are all so damaged in their own way. The story is filled with A LOT OF ANGST, almost too much for me. It deals with depression, drug addiction, bullying and bisexuality. Thankfully there are many supportive adults, although I wanted to smack Mira's father and the high school principal. On the other hand, I loved Jeremy's two dads. This is definitely for older teens as there are some pretty graphic sex scenes.


The Break by Katherena Vermette

5+ stars
Books win awards for a reason. This is why. The Break is profound, heartbreaking, and gritty. Vermette places her readers in the bitter cold Winnipeg winter where generations of women survivors are trying to cope with the brutal rape of their 13 year old daughter/granddaughter/sister/niece/cousin. Vermette reveals how much work it takes to maintain their strength and continue to survive in their world. It's a world permeated with fear, a world marked by violence, a world where many of them can go missing. It's told through the perspectives of the different family members, the policeman investigating the crime, and others connected to it. The writing is exquisite. 

These few sentences punctuate a section from Flora's perspective.

IN THE END, all that matters is what is right here...

IN THE END, all that matters is what has been given...

IN THE END, all that matters is what is left behind. Moments go so quick...

This is one of my books for my goal of 50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors. You should read it. 


I've started reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. Honestly going from The Break to this is pure reading ecstasy. I've started listening to Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and am plodding away at Spin: How Politics Has the Power to Turn Marketing on Its Head. Thankfully I found my reading glasses to help with the small print in that one.


I'll probably get to Catching A Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington, and The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid since they have to be returned to the library soon. I've also got a pile of picture books to get to. Next week I've got to pick up a box of books to read in preparation for being a juror for the Chocolate Lily book award. All my library reserves have been put on hold for a while.


#MUSTREADIN2017 1/36 1 in progress

#MUSTREADNFIN2017 1 in progress

50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 2/50

Goodreads Reading Challenge 19/333

The Dance of the Violin by Kathy Stinson and Dušan Petricic

This story is based on a real incident taken from the life Joshua Bell, renowned American violinist and conductor. Readers see his passion for music from the time he was very small, but this book focuses on a time when young Joshua decided he wanted to enter a competition. The piece he wanted to play was very difficult, even for adults, and it was his first competition. 

Joshua was not to be deterred. He practiced diligently. On the day before the competition, he was very nervous. "By the time they arrived at their hotel, Joshua's insides felt the way his violin sounded if the strings were tuned too tight."

His nervousness continued as he waited for his turn to play. When he finally began, he made a small mistake that then became a series of mistakes. He stopped and asked the judges if he could start over. They acquiesced and Joshua played brilliantly.

This book is beautifully written. The descriptions of other students' performances at the competition are a perfect example.
"The music one student played tickled every hair on Joshua's head and vibrated right down to his toes. Another student hit all the right notes, but they hung limp in the air like wet laundry on the clothesline."

Dušan Petricic's illustrations have a Quenten Blake quality to them. They put me in mind of chromesthesia, a kind of musical synesthesia. Petricic portrays music as patterns of exploding colour; zigzagging, spinning or bursting in straight short lines.

Manifestations of music are the primary use of colour in the first few pages. The rest are line drawings with splotches of pink for cheeks and yellow for hair. Later on he captures Joshua's joy in music eloquently. 

As the story progresses Joshua is filled with more colour, but the rest of the his world is portrayed in shades of brown and grey.

There are moments when the text and images unite brilliantly. Stinson's use of the vocabulary of music and Petricic's images combine to help readers understand this terminology. 

But other times, Petricic's depiction of music as movements of colour didn't mesh with Stinson's narrative of Joshua hearing stories of dancers in the music. I would love to read the text only to a group of students and have them come up with their own illustrations and then compare them with the originals. 

It's a minor quibble compared to the positive messages of not being afraid to tackle hard challenges and not giving up despite setbacks. 

I appreciated the endnotes that provide additional information about Joshua Bell. If you want to find out how he did in the competition, you will have to find the book and read them.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. You won't be able to get your own copy until March 14. Mark your calendar, it's worth the wait.