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.

Another classic brought to ebook life

Midnight_Store_Display.225x225-75-1I loved this book when it was first released in print, and I’m so glad to see that it has been release as an ebook for a whole new generation of children and parents to enjoy.

Midnight in the Mountains a lovely book that celebrates a snowy family vacation in the mountains. Julie Lawson lyrical text perfectly contrasts the snow quiet night safely tucked in the cosy cabin with the joyous activities of the sparkling white snowy day. Sheena Lott’s illustrations almost ski right off the page and she brings the snowy night to life in a way that few illustrators could. This enhanced picture book features the author reading the story with sound effects that almost make it better than the original.


Ski_Store.480x480-75 Owl_Store.480x480-75

If you’re looking for quality ebooks for your children, you could hardly do better than Midnight in the Mountains.    

Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean

With the lengthening days I’ve been enjoying spending more lovely time in the garden.  But the other evening the storms of winter returned.  So I sat down to read Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean.  I couldn’t put it down.  A free verse novel, Nix Minus One is a powerful and seamless narrative that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues.

Jill MacLean is a seasoned writer who perfectly captures the voice of the socially awkward fifteen year old protagonist, Nix Humbolt.  Nix would rather fly under the radar at school than confront his tormentors who’ve nick-named him “Fatty Humbolt.” Most often, Nix takes refuge in his father’s wood working shop.  There he creates beautiful wooden boxes, tables, and bird houses for Blue, the younger sister of a class senior and hockey star. Nix may not stand up for himself, but does his best to care for a neighbor’s neglected dog, whom he names Twig.  And he will fight dragons if it would keep his sometimes acerbic sometimes wise older sister Roxy from harm. Things take a turn for the worse once Roxy starts dating Bryan Sykes. Nix tries to warn Roxy that Sykes is a player who’s about to dump her but he is unable to stop his sister’s downward spiral.

MacLean’s poems capture moments of  joy and pain equally well. Nix describes hiking the barrens with Twig, “At the crest, where the brook/meets the edge/and falls,/I straighten, panting,/ and turn around./Breath catches in my throat. The sun’s sinking over Labrador,/the gulf waxed gold.” And, later Nix is in the workshop ” thinking how I’ve dovetailed/guilt to grief–“.

In the end, it is Twig’s faithfulness and Blue’s persistence that help Nix move beyond putting one foot in front of the other  to see that light can “shiver on water.”  I’d highly recommend Nix Minus One. Chalk up another win for Pajama Press!

Family Literacy Day

A sunny day in January, but no gardening for me!  I still have twenty books to read…

And speaking of reading, Family Literacy Day is coming up on January 27th. ABC Life Literacy Canada has a whole host of tips for making literacy a priority in your family.  The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is celebrating with a list of great books for you and your family.  Be sure to check it out.

Happy reading!




Xmas just came early

 I received an early Xmas present in the form of a lovely review of Island Santa in Canadian Materials.  Here’s the link


A nice review of Island Santa

A nice review of Island Santa from Emily Madill…

Critics or bloggers?

I love books.  I really do.  But sometimes I wonder about some of the book crowd.  Take Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement and the chair of the judges of this year’s Man Booker Prize.  He’s afraid that too many of us mere readers are judging books.  Imagine it folks… readers who  value their own opinions enough to share them in book reviews and put them out on the web for other readers!

Stothard argues that “If the mass of unargued opinion chokes off literary critics … then literature will be the lesser for it,”.  He even suggests that our unwashed opinions might actually threaten literature of the future.  Of course he probably isn’t talking about kid’s books… I mean are kid’s books even considered literature in Mr. Stohard’s circles!

What do you think?  Are bloggers (many of whom are authors, librarians and teachers) contributing to the demise of literature?

Things that make me smile

It’s lovely to discover that someone enjoys one of your books, even when it’s one that’s been around for a while.  Here’s a recent review of my very first picture book, Waiting for the Whales

More on Family Literacy Day

The Children’s Book Centre wants to help you celebrate family literacy today and all year long with an annotated list of fabulous books to inspire reading.  Check it out.  Family Literacy Day (January 27, 2012) | Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Don’t Google Yourself

“And if you can’t stand the heat of the blogosphere – don’t Google yourself.”  This is the conclusion of an article in the Guardian about the latest dust-up in the blogosphere around young adult book reviews where readers duke it out over their opinions.  Fortunately the author in question had the good sense to stand back.

There have always been good and bad reviews.  An author’s job is write the best book they can, send it out in the world, then get on writing another one. We may want everyone to love it, but hey, it’s not like we can control what readers do or don’t like.  One thing that really amazes me is how passionate readers can be…when they love your book, it’s a wonderful thing.  The flip side of the coin is obviously not quite so pleasant.  It’s all part of being a writer though.  You just have to let it roll off your back.

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