#IMWAYR February 22, 2021

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

I have almost finished all the characters for my Olivier Dunrea quilt. I'm just trying to figure out the best way to create the red stripes for Gideon's friend Otto (the octopus). Should I sew them, embroider them or invest in some fabric pens and colour them in? It will get figured out eventually. After a short reading break I plan to start on the rest of the little animals and plants. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by what I've taken on, but then I remember that it all gets accomplished bit by bit. 

Aside from sewing, I worked on a book review for Naomi Klein and Rebecca Stefoff's book about climate change. It was challenging. I haven't taken that many notes while reading since I was at university. At the same time as I was reading and writing about it, I was reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I also had Crossing Home Ground by David Pitt-Brooke, a title about habitat loss in my part of the world, on the go. It was all pretty grim.

Titles with a 🍁 indicate this is a Canadian Author and or Illustrator. 

Clicking on the title will take you to the Goodreads page of the book. 


How to Change Everything: The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other by by Naomi Klein & Rebecca Stefoff

#IReadCanadian: Books For All Ages


4 stars
In My Anaana's Amautik
by Nadia Sammurtok & Lenny Lishchenko (Illustrator) 🍁

This is told from the perspective of a child being carried in an amautik - a pouch at the back of their Inuit mother's parka. Connections are made from the experience of being inside it to the rest of their arctic environment. The beauty of the land is captured in both Sammurtok's words and Lishchenko's illustrations.


4 stars

Our Corner Store
by Robert Heidbreder & Chelsea O'Byrne (Illustrations) 🍁

This sequel to Rooster Summer, is another novel in verse based on the memories of the author's childhood. It tells the story of two siblings, their friends, and their relationship to the owners of the corner store in their neighbourhood. The rollicking poetry is full of the energy of childhood. Heidbreder captures the sounds and smells of a time gone by in these delightful poems. O'Byrne's illustrations add to these memories. The collection reminded me of being sent to the store to pick up grocery orders my mother phoned in. Imagine sending a four year old a block and a half to the store now!


I was nine in 1962 when this beautifully written book was published. Rachel Carson sounded the alarm about the devastation wrought by our attempt to control insects, weeds and other 'pests' by spraying toxic chemicals  I might have read this book in my youth, but if I did, I have forgotten it. I do remember a conversation with my father about the local consequences of spraying DDT. Here in our orchard/vineyard community in the Okanagan Valley, not only were the birds silenced, the mouse population went out of control and began to destroy fruit trees. The local rattlesnakes, their primary predators, had also been decimated by the poison.
Carson shows us the consequences of an extractivist worldview where humans see themselves as masters of the planet. She takes the reader through episode after episode of the destruction of the natural world and shows how we harm ourselves as a consequence. Most profoundly, we see that any positive results are temporary at best. Because of the chemical's wholesale wreaking of armageddon to ecosystems, they ended up making matters worse. She finishes the book with alternative, and much more cost effective and efficient ways of dealing with the pests in our lives. These are the methods we use in our local garden today.
I couldn't help but make a connection between the subterfuge of chemical companies then and similar tactics used by the chemical & fossil fuel industries today.

In search of pristine bunchgrass meadows, Pitt-Brooke set off to walk from Kereomas and Osoyoos in the southernmost part of the Okanagan Valley here in British Columbia, to Williams Lake in the Cariboo region of the province. Along the way he reminisces about his past and ruminates on the history of the different areas. 

5 stars

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

I've read this one before and am happy to have read it again in the context of the rest of the series. It's one of a handful of best novels from the Discworld collection. It's also one of the few suitable for younger readers (aged 10 and older.) It's a twisted fairytale based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin theme. A group of rats, having eaten some kind of strange food, become sentient and start to talk and think like humans. Maurice, a cat, ended up in the same situation after eating one of them. They band together with Keith, a young flute player. The group travel from community to community fleecing the inhabitants after tricking them into believing they have a rat infestation and being saved by Keith, their Pied Piper.
Things change when they arrive in a new town where the village Rat Catchers have their own nefarious swindle going on. As nasty as they are, they are not the worse surprise for the group. A manipulative evil being gets inside and controls the mind of anyone who gets close to it.
This book is hilarious, heartwarming, and gruesome.


The Pratchett novel I'm listening to is Night Watch. Otherwise, I am between books right. 


I plan to read Twins by Varian Johnson, When You Trap A Tiger by Tae Keller and Measuring Up by Lily La Motte. I'll be reading and writing a review for a Netgalley title, The Incredible Nellie Bly by Luciana Cimino. I'm hoping to find time to start reading The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. I've got an audiobook, On Fire: The Burning Case for A Green New Deal by Naomi Klein checked, but I'm not sure I can handle reading it in tandem with Elizabeth Kolbert's book.


#MustReadIn2021 5/25 

#MustReadNFIn2021 2/12 

#MustReadPBIn2021 13/100

Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors: 7/25 

Books by Canadian Authors: 19/100

Canada Reads 2021 1/5

Discworld Series 28/41 

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 70/333 

How to Change Everything: The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other by by Naomi Klein & Rebecca Stefoff

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. It will be released February 23, 2021, by Puffin Canada.

"As the impacts of climate change get worse and worse, change for the better means much more than trying to keep temperatures down. It means rebuilding society to not just stop climate change, but to achieve climate justice. It means changing the way we live so we heal the planet and secure a fair and livable future for all people, with no one and no community left behind."

How to Change Everything is a compendium of much of Klein's work, organized and assembled in a format for young readers. It's an easy and compelling read that's an ideal overview of climate change for all of us. I'm impressed by how thorough and thoughtful it is. The authors manage to introduce important vocabulary and integrate economic and environmental realities into a coherent narrative. 

The publication includes many different nonfiction text features. The layout includes highlighted sections that tell the stories of different climate activists. Readers will learn about people like Esperanza Martinez, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Jackson Hinkle, Celeste Tinajereo, and more. There are photographs, labeled diagrams, and flowcharts. The back matter includes a public letter signed by important authors and individuals in the environmental movement. They are requesting the preservation of ecosystems to remove large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. There is also a bibliography titled, Find Out More, and a Notes section that reference Klein's original work. I wish it had an index and glossary. Perhaps the final copy will. The information is organized into three sections. The first one looks at the world as it now is. The second looks at the history of how we got here and the the third examines strategies for where we go now. 

In section one, the authors examine where we now are with regards to climate change. They write about Greta Thunberg and the student strike for climate change. Examples are provided that explore what climate change looks like. They write in depth about the tragedy of New Orleans before and after the hurricane. We are shown how neoliberal/free market policies failed the city in numerous ways. First it failed to ensure protection for the citizens in the event of such a catastrophe. Second, the for profit recovery efforts not only wasted money, but also made it impossible for people to be able to afford to return to their homes. This is Disaster Capitalism in action: "When the rich and powerful take advantage of painful shocks to widen existing inequalities instead of correcting them." It resulted in the decimation of features considered necessary for the public good. Even the education system was privatized in the rebuilding of New Orleans. 

The authors present alternatives to this kind of disaster response with the proviso that "recovery and green projects must lift up communities, not just corporations." 

Aspects of different sacrifice zones and the role of environmental racism are revealed. We are shown how land and people are sacrificed because of our dependence on fossil fuels. Indigenous and poor people are generally the victims of these kinds of climate cruelty. Ultimately, "people who pollute the least end up suffering the most." We see this climate injustice manifest in 'white power eco-fascism' and the attempt to keep climate refugees out of the country. 

Climate change is clearly defined. It includes both the science underlying it, and the many ramifications of it. The authors explain the terms carbon budget: the amount of carbon we can add to the environment before we have a total disaster on our hands, and climate debt: the amount owed by developed countries to developing ones because of the damage caused by their disproportionately large contributions to climate change. Historically western nations have used most of the budget: 1/5th of the population has used up 2/3rds of the CO2 emissions. 

The next section looks at the history of fossil fuel development, the beginnings of modern capitalism, and the emergence of the environmental movement. The development of coal powered steam engines resulted in fossil fuel based manufacturing. This in turn lead to the onset of consumerism and modern capitalism. The authors show how industrialization goes hand in glove with a significant alteration in our relationship to the earth. Rather than being caretakers, extractivism became the new normal. Europeans saw themselves as masters of everything on the planet. It was theirs to use and colonize. Early 'sacrifice zones' included the coal miners who ended up with black lung, polluted water, slavery and the killer smogs in London. 

The environmental movement arose in response to the decimation of the planet from industrialization. It began with 19th and 20th century conservatism. Upper class individuals and organizations worked to save wild places. It's because of them we have national parks here in North America. Aldo Leopold, often referred to as the father of wildlife ecology and Rachel Carson, the mother of the environmental movement, provided alternatives to the extractivist philosophy and a way to live as caretakers of the earth. Carson is especially known for highlighting the disaster of chemical spraying. The legal system was first used in 1948 in the USA to pass a law to control water pollution. Other laws followed to protect the air, wilderness and rivers. Some legislation focused on protecting human health and others to preserve the natural world. The Superfund act in 1980 was passed to force industry clean up and or pay for cleaning up their messes. (I wish it had worked. Here in BC in 2021, we are left cleaning up the toxic messes from mining operations. The oil/tar sands in Alberta are a whole other debacle.)

Carbon emissions continued to increase, but 1988 was a pivotal year. Industry scientists had been forecasting climate change since the late 1970's. It was a recognized fact. Everyone was onside and aware of the need for change. All political parties accepted it. At the World Conference on Changing Atmosphere in Toronto, Canada, world leaders agreed to reduce their emissions. 

And yet, it all fell apart. 

The authors present a couple of reasons. One, the human nature theory presumes that humans "are not capable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations." The other is the rise of neoliberal/free market ideology. This led to a decrease in regulation and a rise in profit and economic growth no matter the waste or cost. Out of this emerged a deliberate system of denial and lies. Even when corporations seemed to be onside, they were mostly engaged in greenwashing: attempts to encourage surface level changes that made no significant difference in carbon emissions. 

Today we are at a place where we have to cut our global emissions in half by 2030, and eliminate them by 2050 if we are to avoid catastrophic climate disaster. 

The words of Brad Werner, a systems theorist, provide hope. He asserted that "the balance between earth's resources and ecosystems on one hand and human consumption on the other is becoming unstable." Yet he goes on to affirm the role of resistance to change this. Examples of social movements and laws are provided to show what people have done to protect their homes and the planet. 

The final section deals with strategies for dealing with where now are. A number of ideas are presented and evaluated. Some like Carbon Capture and Geoengineering are not only risky, they don't address the increase in emissions. Other ideas like Planting Trees and investing in Alternative Energy by way of solar and wind power are looked at positively. 

The authors continue on to talk about a Green New Deal. They begin by explaining the successes and problems of the original New Deal, and then proceed to outline a format for a new one. The three main principles of it are as follows:

1. Stop new fossil fuel endeavours

2. Slow down and end existing production 

3. Increase the use of renewable energy

They go on to show how hundreds of millions of new jobs would be created from the third principle. 

In the adoption of a Green New Deal, "We must make sure that no one is excluded or left behind because they lack political power. We must recognize that when it comes to climate change, business interests are not the same as the people's and the planet. We must not let corporate and business interests make all the decisions, although we must also work to sustain our economies, including businesses that want to be part of the solution. We must seek deep change based in shared, democratic decision-making, with all of our voices heard."

Puerto Rico and Greensburg Kansas are presented as communities who were able to stave off disaster capitalism. They managed to reinvent themselves focusing on community based, sustainable solutions like those proposed in the Green New Deal. 

The last part of the book includes a "toolkit for young activists." Numerous strategies for how individuals can become activists in big ways and small are highlighted. Young activists who have been involved in making change are introduced. Some are involved changing their schools and community. Others are working at a more global level. Felix Finkbeiner in Germany, working for larger change, initiated the planting of over a million trees. Autumn Peltier, an Indigenous Canadian Water Warrior, told the United Nations, "We can't eat money or drink oil." 

Ultimately, the authors of this book assert that while we might not be able to change the past, we can and must change the future. It's imperative to start NOW! 

Purchase one copy for yourself and extra copies for the young activists in your life.

#IReadCanadian: Books For All Ages

I READ CANADIAN DAY, February 17, 2021, is a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people (and everyone). This is a day dedicated to ‘reading Canadian.’ The purpose is to raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity and breadth of Canadian literature. We have a wealth of talent in our country!

If you are wondering what to read, I've compiled some lists of the best Canadian literature I've read in the past few years. Some are recent publications and others have been around for ages. There are #OwnVoices titles from the many groups of people in Canada. Many are Indigenous authors. Most are fiction, but there are nonfiction, poetry and graphic novels as well. There are books for readers of all ages on these lists. 

Clicking on the heading for each category will take you to a page where you can read more about the titles in the picture. 









#IMWAYR February 15, 2021

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

I Read Canadian Day is this Wednesday, February 17th!

Last week I finished a collection of blog posts highlighting some of the best Canadian literature I've read in the past few years. You don't have to be Canadian to help us celebrate! I'm hoping that everyone will find something to read on those lists.  

It was cold last week. I know our -10 C and -11 C isn't a big deal for many parts of the continent, but with that north wind, it was plenty chilly for me. I borrowed my partner's balaclava and planned out my daily walking routes so that I would walk as little as possible into the wind. It warmed up to -3 on Sunday and is supposed to continue the warming trend into next week. We've only had skiffs of snow so far with more light flurries to come.  

Titles with a 🍁 indicate this is a Canadian Author and or Illustrator. 

5 stars

To the Sea by Cale Atkinson
This is a gorgeous story of friendship.
Tim feels invisible until he meets Sam, a stranded whale. No one else noticed him. Tim felt that no one noticed him either. Both of them felt better knowing they weren't invisible. Tim goes out of his way and achieves the impossible to get his new friend back to the sea. It looks like he might just make a new land based friend at the end of it.
Orange text is set against a palette of bright orange, dark green and blue stunning illustrations.

As a quilter, I am predisposed to love this book. I do. It's the story of a young girl who feels like an outsider in her new school until her mother and teacher work together to create an inclusion quilt. Each student in her class creates a template with their name written in Arabic. Adults take these and turn them into a paper quilt that is presented on a bulletin board outside the classroom.
I adored the quilt Kanzi's teita (grandmother) in Egypt made. We creators of fabric art, no matter our skills, are connected around the world through our passion for creating things of beauty out of bits of fabric.

Let me begin by saying that this isn't a European style traditional picture book. It tells the story of a young Inuit boy and his uncle who are walking along the beach to the family's annual camp. On the way they meet up with some of his cousins who are fishing through the ice. Along the way the boy and his uncle talk about the different plants and animals they see. The boy has come from the south where he lives with adopted parents. It's through these walks with the uncle that he is able to connect to, and become part of his roots. I admit to wanting to know more about why the boy was living in the south to start with.
Some people might think that nothing is going on here, but I disagree with them. Who says the activities of daily life can't be a story? This is an Inuit author and teacher who is writing for her community. Qin Leng's illustrations are lovely but I wish the pages were not so text heavy. That said, the book doesn't have to fit into anyone's Euro-Western ideals.
I would love to have had this book back in the day when I was in a classroom teaching my students about Indigenous Canadians. I appreciate that it integrates traditional knowledge and modern life.
The back of the book contains more information about these different plants and animals as well as explaining their traditional Inuit uses.


5 stars

What Is a Refugee?
by Elise Gravel πŸ

This is a brilliant introduction to refugees for younger readers. In simple text and colourful illustrations, Gravel explains what a refugee is and why people like you and me had to leave their country. The back matter contains illustrated pictures of refugee kids who told Gravel something about themselves. It also contains a list of famous refugees.
My only quibble with this book is that I wish there had been a page and statement talking about climate refugees.

5 stars

The Nest That Wren Built
by Randi Sonenshine & Anne Hunter  (Illustrations)

Thanks to Linda Bai for telling me about this book. Rarely do I find rhyming poetry in picture books that is this lovely and works so well.
The story line follows a couple of wrens as they build a nest, lay and hatch eggs, and raise their brood from hatchlings to fledglings.
Anne Hunter's soft, exquisitely detailed illustrations are a wonderful companion to Sonenshine's poem.
I appreciated the Glossary and Wren Facts sections in the back matter.


4 stars

Navigate Your Stars
 by Jesmyn Ward
I've listened to this about 4 times and can't come up with words to describe how profound it is. It is inspiring and hopeful as Ward tells readers that persistence and adaptation are the strategies that will enable you to achieve your dreams. Last fall I saw Ibram X. Kendi and Jesmyn Ward In Conversation, as part of the Thinking While Black series hosted by the Phil Lind Initiative at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. She talked about her early years and how hard it was/is for Black people growing up where she came from. In comparison, this speech, where racism is never named, seems to gloss over the very real obstacles faced by many Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. 

I just finished this Netgalley title and will have a full review next week sometime. In a nutshell, the authors take Klein's writing for adults and adapt it for teens. It is brilliantly done. It will be released on February 23rd. Preorder it. 


4 stars

The Spellman Files
by Lisa Lutz & Christina Moore (Narrator)

I enjoyed this introduction to the series. The characters are hilarious and the mystery was interesting. I admit to being surprised as heck by the ending.

3 stars

The Last Hero
by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Briggs (Narrator)

From what I have read of this book, I think you need to read it rather than just listen to it. Apparently it is a perfect marriage between Terry Pratchett's words and Paul Kidby illustrations.
The Silver Horde, a group of aged barbarians led by Cohen the Barbarian, head off to return fire to the gods. While they are there, they plan to blow the place up. If they are successful it will mean the end of the Discworld. A group of Ankh-Morporkians create a plan to stop them. It involves sending Rincewind, Leonard of Quirm, and Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson in a dragon powered spacecraft to stop them.


I'm in the middle of listening to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and have to finish it before it has to go back to the library. I listen while I am out on my walks and end up swearing to myself regularly at the stupidity of humanity. The Pratchett novel I'm listening to is The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Other than that, this week I'm planning on reading primarily Canadian authors. I'll be continuing with Crossing Home Ground by David Pitt-Brooke.  


I'll be starting Our Corner Store by Robert Heidbreder. I've abandoned hope that I will find time to get to the Canada Reads before the debate, so I will see what other Canadian titles I have at hand. 


#MustReadIn2021 4/25 

#MustReadNFIn2021 2/12 

#MustReadPBIn2021 12/100

Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors: 6/25 

Books by Canadian Authors: 17/100

Canada Reads 2021 1/5

Discworld Series 27/41 

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 64/333 

#IReadCanadian: Some Authors for Adults

I READ CANADIAN DAY, February 17, 2021, is a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people, but older readers will enjoy participating too. This is a day dedicated to ‘reading Canadian.’ The purpose is to raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity and breadth of Canadian literature. We have a wealth of talent in our country!


This is a collection of some of the best Canadian work I've read in the past few years. Some are brand new titles and others had been on my to read list for decades. It includes, fiction, fantasy, poetry, memoirs and nonfiction. There is even a graphic novel. I hope you can find something here that interests you so that on #IReadCanadianDay, you can join the rest of us showing love to Canadian authors. 


All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny (series)
This series, featuring Inspector Armand Gamache of the SΓ»retΓ© du QuΓ©bec, is absolutely addicting. It's best to start with Still Life, the first one so you can almost keep track of all the shenanigans the Inspector has to deal with while he's busy solving murders.

The Break by Katherena Vermette
Vermette takes you into a world of women survivors. She reveals how much work it takes for them 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.

Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin
This is a story of two sisters, Lark and Robin, and their absent Mother. Lark, the eldest, ends up raising Robin, a piano prodigy. The two sisters end up distanced emotionally and physically, but end up there for each other when they need to be. 

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
Dimaline's work functions on so many levels. On the one hand this is a stand alone love story showing what we will do for people we care about.  At the same time, it ends up being a profound examination of indigenous/settler relationships historically and today. It's also very very creepy. 

Haunted Hills and Hanging Valleys: Selected Poems 1969-2004 by Peter Trower
Trower was a Vancouver poet whose fame is mostly restricted to the west coast. He deserves to be read more widely. His work feels like a cross between Robert Service and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. These poems reveal what it means to be a west coast logger. My father and uncles would have loved these.

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
This is a collection of short stories about Laos immigrants negotiating their way in a strange new country. They tell of poverty, heartache and hardship. Thammavongsa’s characters are so matter of fact real it’s like you could run into them on the street. If not them, then people very much like them.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Read anything and everything you can get your hands on by Richard Wagamese.
This book made me weep. Saul Indian Horse survived life at St Jerome's Residential School. He was settled into a supportive home when his hockey teammates told him he had to go and play with the big boys and get out - if only so the rest of them could live some of their dreams through him.
It was racism, not lack of skill that sabotaged him.

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Jonny Appleseed is a two spirited Cree. You know how the best literature slips you inside a character’s soul and you come to understand what it means to be the other? This book is one of the finest examples of this.

Life Long Distance: Dialogue Poems by Robert Heidbreder
I adored this collection of poetry. It was like visiting with my mother in law and her bridge and coffee clutch gals. So many times I just laughed out loud. You will too.

Monkey Beach
by Eden Robinson
You know how you finish a book and wonder what took you so long to get to it? This is one of those. Lisa's brother has gone missing while out fishing. While her parents head south to search for him, she stays in Kitamaat and cycles through her memories of other family who are no longer here. Eventually she ends up in a confrontation with the spirit world.

Now You're Logging! by Bus Griffiths
Bus Griffith's graphic novel showcases logging in the 1930's. I know these kinds of men portrayed here. They are my grandfather and uncles, especially the older ones. My younger uncles and father logged using chainsaws instead of crosscuts, but much of the industry, and certainly the culture, were similar. The romantic sections are a bit hokey, but I was charmed by the innocence of it.

Obsidian by Thomas King (series)
This is the most recent titles in King's DreadfulWater series. Thumps DreadfulWater, a Cherokee ex cop, returns from following leads in his search for the serial killer who murdered his girlfriend and her daughter many years earlier. It turns out that the murderer is now stalking him.
You should probably start this series at the beginning. 
Anything by this author is a treat. 

Ru by Kim ThΓΊy & Sheila Fischman (Translator)
This is a fictionalized account of a Vietnamese family who were part of the first group of Boat People. It weaves together a young woman's memories of being a young girl in Vietnam, then living in a refugee camp in Malaysia, immigrating with her family to a small town in Quebec and then visiting Vietnam as an adult.

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles
This is a painful but brilliant read. The two main characters are young women trapped in circumstances of poverty and abuse. It's brilliantly written with the odd bit of dark humour thrown in. It was an emotionally hard read watching the train wreck of their lives unravel.

This Accident of Being Lost: Songs and Stories by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Simpson's writing is just stunning. This collection of poems and prose is a profound window into another way of knowing the world.

Tilly and the Crazy Eights by Monique Gray Smith
Tilly and a group of indigenous elders head out on a road trip to Albuquerque for the world's biggest Powwow. It's a coming of age novel for the older crowd. It's loaded with laughter and tenderness, but there is also loss, heartache and romance.

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
You need to must make space in your heart for Zelda and her tribe. Zelda, who has symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, lives with her brother, Gert. She's obsessed with Vikings and is determined to live her life according to the principles held by those ancient Norse warriors. When it turns out that Gert is in trouble with a gang, she sets out to be a hero.


Black Water by David Alexander Robertson
Robertson writes about his father and his relationship with him. Out of the ashes of the residential school system and a grade eight education, Donald Alexander Robertson ended up going to university to become a church minister. Eventually he became an important leader in Indigenous education here in Canada. He and his wife thought that keeping their Indigenous heritage from their children, was the right thing to do. They were wrong. 

Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui
Ann Hui and her partner, Anthony, travelled across the country visiting chop suey restaurants along the way. While working on the project she discovered that her parents had run similar restaurants. This book integrates the story of the author's journey and research with the more personal story of her father's history.

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle
In this biography Thistle talks about being abandoned and placed in abusive foster homes with his two brothers before being rescued and taken in by their paternal grandparents. His story is a slow downward spiral that escalates into addiction, homelessness, a life of crime and prison stays. In his thirties he finally made his way through rehab and ended up going to university. This is a hard read but well worth it.

Half-Breed by Maria Campbell
Maria Campbell had a challenging, but love filled childhood. Her family were poor, but so was everyone else around her. As the oldest child, she did what she had to to protect her younger siblings. After her mother died, that meant, at fifteen years old, getting married to someone she did not love in order to give them a home. She survived all kinds of horror before finally starting to get her life back in order around the time she turned 30. This is another one of those books that has been languishing on my to read shelf for years. I wish I had read it earlier.

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Billy-Ray Belcourt writes with powerful clarity in this poetic memoir. His words mine reality for essential truths. In the process, white readers like myself come to understand more clearly how colonialism pervades all aspects of NDN life.

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
This is a book all people living in North America should read. As I read of the repeated land grabs and ongoing attempts to eliminate indigenous peoples, I was struck by the fact that we are continuing to do this still today. 

Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy by Manjusha Pawagi
This memoir Pawagi was diagnosed with leukaemia and the treatment regime she had to endure to get rid of it. It's loaded with gruesome details, truly wretched experiences and episodes of black humour.
What struck me most was the strength of the relationships she began with, and those she forged during her horrific marathon.
It is beautifully written. “ Love is not a tree, because trees die. Love is a rock. And not stone that crumbles into dust. It’s the Canadian Shield itself, granite as old is the Earth, solid and unwavering beneath my weak and unsteady feet.”

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod
Darrel McLeod's childhood was brutal. My heart ached for the child he was. In his award winning memoir he writes of his abuse, his love for music, his desire to help his family, his struggles with his sexuality, and his conflict with fundamental Christianity. What I took away from this book is hope. I hope you do too.

Saga Boy: My Life of Blackness and Becoming by Antonio Michael Downing
This book translates the global ramifications of colonialism into an intimate level. At age 11, when his grandmother died, Downing was uprooted from a loving home in Trinidad and ended up in Northern Ontario. In the following eight years he lived in six different cities, went to six different schools, and had six different guardians. It's more than enough to crush the strongest White boy, never mind a Black youth who, on top of all that, was abused in Trinidad. Music and art saved him. This a crossover YA/Adult novel.

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga
Tanya Talaga painstakingly takes the reader through a detailed chronicle of how the Canadian government explicitly attempted to destroy indigenous peoples. She leads us through the lives and deaths of seven students from 2000 to 2011, who were forced to leave their homes and cultures and travel to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to get a secondary education. This is a damning revelation that highlights the institutionalized racism of the police, all levels of the justice system, as well as the provincial and federal governments. Citizens of the city don't come across very positively either.

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole
This felt like bearing witness to a year of police brutality in Canada. Desmond Cole is a brilliant writer who takes the time to educate readers fully about each of these different episodes of violence. I really appreciated all the background information he reveals. 

#IReadCanadian: Books for Tweens, Teens, and Young Adult Readers

I READ CANADIAN DAY, February 17, 2021, is a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people (and everyone). This is a day dedicated to ‘reading Canadian.’ The purpose is to raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity and breadth of Canadian literature. We have a wealth of talent in our country!

Categorizing books according to age is a messy business. Just like there is a lot of crossover between adult and YA, there is also cross over between YA and younger teens. I've starred the YA titles that could easily be read by students in grades six and up. The following lists are a hodgepodge of all kinds of genres, nonfiction, poetry and graphic novels. I hope think there is something for everyone!


Bloom * (The Overthrow #1)by Kenneth Oppel (series)
Creepy plants are taking over the world! Yikes. Teens don't just seem like they are part alien, they really are! Thankfully they have lots of courage to deal with this evil flora. 

Celia's Song by Lee Maracle
This beautifully written book, if you are able to let go of your own conceptions of reality, will show you that there is more than one way to know the world. The characters in this novel inhabit a landscape where past, present, future, and physical and spiritual realms exist simultaneously.

Cold Falling White by Gabrielle S. Prendergast (series)
Earth has been invaded by alien creatures called The Nahx. The Nahx, who are a cross between machine and clone, hunt humans and kill them with a special kind of poison dart. The story focuses on a group of friends who were camping in the Rocky Mountains when the invasion took place. This saved their lives, but they were still hunted by Nahx soldiers. The world building, the characters, and the story held me in its sway till it was finished.

Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Like all great historical fiction, Skrypuch's novel opened my eyes to world events that I was unaware of. In this case it is the Armenian genocide from the time of the first world war. Her characters, Ali and Zeynep, will win your heart.

Half-Breed by Maria Campbell
Maria Campbell had a challenging, but love filled childhood. Her family were poor, but so was everyone else around her. As the oldest child, she did what she had to to protect her younger siblings. After her mother died, that meant, at fifteen years old, getting married to someone she did not love in order to give them a home. She survived all kinds of horror before finally starting to get her life back in order around the time she turned 30. This is another one of those books that has been languishing on my to read shelf for years. I wish I had read it earlier.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
Toxic relationships exist no matter your sexual orientation. Getting out of them isn't easy. In this book, Freddy has to figure out what she gets out of her relationship with Laura Dean and what she gives up. 
I love love love Mariko Tamaki's art. It's so easy for the reader to see what's going on before Freddy does

Leggings Revolt * by Monique Polak
This is the story of some teens who take challenge the misogynist dress code at their high school. I really appreciated the solution that the students finally came up with.

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
This addresses big issues, but isn't overwhelmed with angst. Adam and Zayneb each have a lot on their plates. Adam is dealing with a diagnosis of MS. Zayneb is in the middle of confronting an Islamophobic teacher. Falling in love ends up enabling them to help each other.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Imagine the future 40 years from now wherein climate change and global warming have caused the ice to melt. Massive storms continue to destroy coastal landscapes and the earth has responded sending its own kind of the destruction: earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Corporate entities have ravaged the water supplies and sucked dry what fresh water was left in Northern Canada. White people have lost their ability to dream and are harvesting dream marrow from indigenous people. A small group have banded together in the North Ontario wilderness to escape from the recruiters.

Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont
The power in family, community acceptance and love are the most important elements I took from this brilliant, semi autobiographical, first novel by Cree author, Dawn Dumont.
It doesn't hurt that it is screamingly funny.
Her narrative is imbued with such abundant tenderness, that it's one of those profound coming of age books I want everyone to read.

Sadie by Courtney Summers
This book took me way out of my comfort zone. It's told in two parts. One part is the story of a girl name Sadie, who is searching for her sister's murderer. The other part is the transcription of a radio show about the two girls and what happened to them. It's a dark thriller that brings awareness of child sex abuse and highlights why so many girls go missing.

Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King
King takes us inside the head of a young girl with all kinds of mental health issues. Sara is a teenager who wants, more than anything, to be normal. She has a long checklist of things to achieve in order to get there. The thing is, Sara has never been normal, and no matter how hard she tries, never will be. This is a book about the power of friendship. It's about learning to love and accept yourself for who you are.

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson (series)
This is one of the most brilliant coming of age novels I've read in ages. It's the first in series of books about Jared, a young man growing up in a culture almost decimated by the actions of colonialism.

Strangers by David Alexander Robertson (series)
Blending science-fiction and indigenous mythology Robertson has created a riveting mystery full of heartbreak and humour. The characters, all of them, including the supernatural, are convincing. The dialogue is brilliant. Cole Harper returns to his hometown of Wounded Sky after being away for ten years. Shortly after he arrives, people are being murdered and a deadly virus starts killing people off. It’s up to Cole and his remaining friends to figure out what’s going on.

Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett & Natasha Donovan (series)
Let me begin by saying that this isn't a story for the faint of heart. The history of indigenous peoples in Canada is rife with violence and oppression. This short graphic novel deals with one aspect of it: murdered and missing women, girls, and two spirited peoples.

Tilly by Monique Gray Smith
Based on the author’s life, Tilly started drinking while in grade seven. She didn’t stop until she was in her twenties. This is her story of becoming sober, healing, and finding out how to help others.


44 Hours or Strike! by Anne Dublin
This is an historical novel based on true events. It’s the story of two Jewish sisters involved in the Toronto garment strike of 1931, that lasted from Feb 25 to May 1. Strikers walked the picket line during worst snowfall in 55 years

Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School) by Svetlana Chmakova (series)
The Berrybrook Middle School is a series of graphic novels that look at the emotions and choices young teens have to deal with. Each book highlights one of the students. They are all fabulous, although my favourite is Crush.

The Barren Grounds by David Alexander Robertson (series)
This middle grade fantasy novel, featuring two indigenous youths, is the first in Robertson’s Misewa Saga. Morgan and Eli are living in a supportive foster home. In the attic of the house is a painted over door that turns out to be a portal into Aski, the land of the Misewa people. This is an adventure that will appeal to all kinds of readers.

The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn (series)
Aggie Morton is a precocious, imaginative twelve year old writer growing up around the turn of the century in 1902. Many of the characters Agatha Christie would come to write about are integrated into this murder mystery for middle grade readers. Peril at Owl Park, the second in the series is also available.

The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson (series)
The Mighty Muskrats are a group of four indigenous cousins who live on their reserve and solve mysteries. In this first novel they are trying to figure out what happened to a missing archaeologist. The Case of the Missing Auntie is available and The Case of the Burgled Bundle will be released in April.

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson
This was an exciting fast paced adventure full of heartfelt characters with all kinds of obstacles to overcome. McKenna Barney agreed to enter a dog sled race for her sister who has stargardt disease. They hope to raise awareness of it so that a cure can be found. The route is challenging, but what makes it more hazardous is that McKenna also has the disease. She's been keeping it a secret from her family because she doesn't want to lose her independence.

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
Wendy Orr has created a fabulous world to get lost in. The gods have carved out a brutal destiny for Aissa. Discarded by her priestess mother upon her birth because of perceived imperfections, she was rescued by Kelya, a wise woman, and adopted into a loving goat herding family. She was orphaned at four when raiders killed her father and kidnapped her mother to sell into slavery. After enduring more hardship, she gets her wish to leave the island and become a bull dancer. She has no inkling of what she will have to overcome before she finds acceptance.

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters
Sam and her father, along with a secret partner, run an elephant sanctuary. They live a comfortable life doing meaningful work. Initially Sam has a bit of conflict with her father's girlfriend, but that gets resolved positively. Then the birth of a new baby elephant changes everything.

Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab & Jackie Roche(Illustrations)
This fictional graphic novel follows a family of four as they are forced to leave their home in Aleppo and travel to Lebanon. There they live as refugees before finally making it to Canada. Although the characters themselves are fictional, they represent the very real experiences of ordinary Syrians.

Finding Grace by Becky Citra
I'm always happy to read anything Becky Citra writes. This is the story of Hope, a girl who writes letters to an imaginary person. It turns out that she might not be so imaginary. Finding Grace is one of those stories with a happy ending, even if it isn't the kind of ending you might have expected.

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating (series)
Ana and her family live at the zoo. It makes her the object of jokes by some people at school. Ana is knowledgeable about and good at talking about animals. Eventually she manages to overcome her fears and anxiety to become the person she wants to be.

Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Dominica Rivers attends a prestigious school that has surveillance cameras everywhere. When someone hacks into them and shares embarrassing clips of students across social media, Dominica and her friends set out to put an end to it.

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
Milo's family was fractured by his mother's death. They don't communicate. They are like separate planets orbiting around a sun that isn't there any more. The tale begins with Milo, his sister and father having moved into their fifth home. He has to start a new school and make new friends all over again. This should appeal to Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but it's much richer.

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat by Caroline Adderson
Pudding Tat, an albino cat, was born on a farm in rural Ontario in 1901. Although he was almost blind, he ended up travelling around the world. He couldn't have done it without Flea in his ear. He has many adventures and meets all kinds of interesting people. Even when the characters are not real, they are composites of people who lived at the time.

Song Angel by Nancy Hundal
Carmen is an angel. Her responsibility is to find the just right song to help people die and move on to the sweet hereafter. If she fails, they will end up with her in the After. We discover that in this intermediary place, as they help the dying transition from earth, song angels have to deal with unresolved issues in their own Before. I was awed by Hundal's world building and wish she had written a sequel because I want to know more about these characters.

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman
Alba has a goal to run the school’s annual two km run. The problem is that she’s still wearing a cast from her most recent surgery to correct her clubfoot. Her best friend, Levi, has his own issues with asthma. The two of them suspect that their teacher librarian has a wormhole in her office.

The Three Spartans by James Alfred McCann
Art, a Canadian boy visiting his family's summer home in Birch Bay, Washington and two friends, Leo, and George are the three Spartans. They challenge Zeke, a local bully, to a paintball war in the woods behind the local campgrounds.

Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley
Wicked Nix is a fairy who was left behind after the last midsummer eve revelry. With the help of Mr. Green, the spirit of the forest, Nix has managed to survive, but now a people has trespassed into their woods. Nix is certain that the queen won't be happy with this turn of events and tries to scare the intruder away.


This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science Is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kyi & Drew Shannon (Illustrations)
This might be targeted towards youth, but it is an important book for adults as well. In only 88 pages Kyi provides a wealth of information to help readers understand how stereotypes and bias work. Not only that, she includes ideas and strategies individuals can implement to try and deal with their own prejudices.

This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm et al
This collection of stories, each written and illustrated by different indigenous Canadians, educates readers about different people and events in the Canadian history of colonization. I especially appreciated how each one divulges aspects that end up personalizing history.

Turtle Island: The Story of North America's First People
 by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger (nonfiction)
This book tells the history of the people in North and Central American centuries before Europeans arrived. Information and understanding who these people were come from archaeological and other kinds of scientific research, artwork, myths, oral storytelling and imagining.