Celebrate World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is an international initiative of Litworld a non-profit literacy organization that believes that the world’s children “have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories.”

Read a story aloud today to someone you love.  And don’t forget to consider helping to create that same opportunity for others in our world community who lack the resources we are so fortunate to have.

Here are two delightful stories brimming with alliteration that I plan to read to my not-yet-two-year-old granddaughter today.

Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That by Victoria Allenby and illustrated by Tara Anderson, is a perfect read for a little one who is fascinated by felines. It features a rhyming story that children will love to chant along to and adorable illustrations of a kitten’s energetic efforts to get Nat the Cat’s attention…

Nat can sleep in dresser drawers,

Or in front of bedroom doors.

Under blankets, on a stair,

Upside-down on someone’s chair-

Have You Seen Birds by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrated by the talented Barbara Reid, was a favorite of my daughter back when she was small.  A generation later, it’s become one of her daughter’s favorites.

Have you seen spring Birds?

Fluffy, cheeping,

sleeping, peeping,

ever-eating baby birds.

Review: Gottika by Helaine Becker

 I’ve always been a fan of Helaine Becker’s nonfiction and her picture books, but I was intrigued when I heard she had a new fantasy novel in the works.

Incorporating graphic novel elements illustrated by Alexander Griggs-Burr,  and set in an alternate dystopian world, Becker hinges the turning point of Gottika on a character straight out of a Jewish legend, a Gol.  These are magical creatures made from clay and earth and brought to life by powerful charms are charged with protecting against oppression. These incongruent elements come together to create a fabulous read enhanced by Griggs-Burrs visuals.

The story begins with fifteen year old Dany yearning for relief from the oppression of Count Pol’s reign. But, he is too young to know how to bring it about. As a Stoon, he, his family, and his friends are nothing more than second class citizens subject to the brutality of Gottika City’s Guards. Dany can’t understand why his father, a respected elder, doesn’t  do more to stop the tyranny. Instead of acting, his father hides behind closed doors with the few books the officials have allowed him to keep.

Dany seethes with frustration that is further fueled by a father who treats him like a child and a mother whose secret past  haunts her. Pol’s increasingly brutal actions force Dany’s father to take a stand, but not in a way that Dany had ever imagined.  His father creates and breathes life into a Gol. The Gol is charged with protecting their people, but when his father is imprisoned and slated for execution, even the Gol can’t help, Dany must act to stop Count Pol.

Gottika is the perfect mashup that results in a great read; one that kept me awake until I turned the last page.

Picture Book Review: When Emily Carr Met Woo

Monica Kulling’s When Emily Met Woo is a perfect introduction to one of Canada’s most famous artists, Emily Carr. Young readers will find an engaging story,  a brief history, some of Ms. Carr’s most famous images and the charming illustrations of the very talented Dean Griffiths.

Monica Kulling paints a vivid picture of Emily Carr’s life in simple, direct language. Emily is thought to be a “strange bird” whose art no one wants.  “To make a living, she [Emily] made and sold clay bowls and hooked rugs.”  The painter was known as an eccentric who housed a menagerie of animals, including a monkey she called Woo. The depth of love Emily feels for her animal companions is clear when Woo becomes gravely ill.  Fortunately, Woo makes a full recovery and accompanies Emily to the forest where “Cedars touched the sky. They touched the painter’s heart too.”


I especially like the design of the dust jacket. The front cover integrates a photograph of Carr and Woo within the illustration while the back cover features several of Carr’s paintings as well Griffiths illustration of Woo.

Picture book biographies are difficult to write well, but Pajama Press, Monica Kulling and Dean Griffiths all get top marks with When Emily Carr Met Woo.

#willholdtheline … A shout out to support teachers

#willholdtheline. Let teachers know that you support them.

I’ve been a little lazy about posting lately…enjoying my granddaughter, gardening, socializing, and busying hosting out of towners. But, a plea has gone out (Thank you, Kara) that our province’s teachers are still without a contract and September is just around the corner. As a former teacher, a parent and writer and citizen, I care deeply about education. I know that teachers make a difference in the lives of children.  I knew it as a student, I know it as an educator, as an author who has been in schools all across this province, and I know it as a parent.  I am deeply indebted to teachers, and I want them to know that they have my support. Teachers need to know that we stand behind them as they fight for our children. They need to hear from you, and so do our politicians.  Tie up their phone lines and fill their mailboxes. Demand that they make our children’s education a priority.


Walter Dean Myers

Sad news…

African-American author, Walter Dean Myers passed away yesterday. He was 76 years old. He was one of several wonderful writers who changed the face of literature for young people in North America.

I had the pleasure of hearing him speak only once, but his words, like his books, will remain with me for years to come. Fallen Angels, Monster, and Bad Boy are some of my favorites. I will be revisiting them, and I hope you do too. He often set his stories in inner city neighborhoods and featured characters who often made  less than ideal choices.

Myers,who grew up in Harlem under some tough circumstances,  dropped out of high school, and had more than a few brushes with the law.  He managed to stay connected to books and reading through his local library.  In a public radio interview on “here & Now,” Myers says, “My circumstances often seemed insurmountable to me, but through reading I reached out for ideas that might help me escape them. The books I read showed me options other than those I saw reflected in my surroundings. They gave me new definitions for success in my life.”

After working a series of low paying jobs, he took the advice of a high school teacher who had told him to keep writing no matter what.  Fortunately for all of us, Walters followed that high school teacher’s advice.  He went on to publish more than 100 books and became one of the most respected voices in young adult literature in America.  He was a tireless advocate for literacy, and his writing was especially popular with middle and high school boys.  His books garnered multiple honors including: five Coretta Scott King Awards for African-American fiction, two Newbery Honor Medals, and a Printz Award. He was named a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2012-13.

For young writers looking for writing advice, Myers published Just Write, which he described as a template from his own life.




Stories come in all shapes, sizes and mediums

I love that stories can be told in so many ways.  Here’s a Ted Talk by Jim Toomey that is really cool…it’s his story on how he became a cartoonist, but it’s also the story of how “Story” comes in a variety of forms and how it can have an impact on our world.  So, for all you parents and teachers out there who tell kids to stop doodling, you may want to check this out. And for those of you who are kids and doodle-inclined, this is for you.

Orca book Publishers spring book launch

Orca Book Publishers is celebrating some awesome authors in their spring book launch.  If you’re in town, be sure to drop in. If you can’t make it, books will be available through your local bookstore, or online.


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