Sep 17, 2014

Haze (Blog Tour)


Written by: Paula Weston

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: September 9, 2014

Ages: New Adult

Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own. 

Gaby and Rafa are back!!! Last year I fell in love with the Rephaim and Pan Beach residents introduced in Paula Weston's Shadows.  That tale was packed with action and building a fascinating world where the children of fallen angels fight to keep humans safe from demons. The best thing about the book is it was only the first. Now Haze is here to continue this story.

Gaby's journey to unravel the web of deceit and false memories she has fallen into continues. The last memory she has of her brother Jude was of him dying in a car crash. But if the car crash wasn't real for her, maybe it wasn't for him either. In that case, where is her twin??

Luckily, Gaby has the mysterious and attractive Rafa to help her follow Jude's trail and introduce her to the other Rephaim, which might be the most difficult part- she steps right into a world fraught with tension and division and she doesn't know who is her friend and who is her enemy from her past life. How do you work beside others to kill demons when you can't even trust them?

Gaby is lucky that she has her best friend from Pan Beach, Maggie, and she knows Maggie is true. Sadly, she knows Maggie has also been dragged into this demon war mess, and has to make sure Maggie is protected too.

Gaby is such a great central character. Her disconnect between her current self and what people tell her about her past self, and especially her past morals, makes her vulnerable despite her physical strength, and without ever veering into whiny. Will she ever develop back into the Gabe who dated the arrogant Daniel? I hope not, I like to see her with Rafa, despite the fact that Rafa won't tell Gaby what was up with them before she landed in Pan Beach.

One of the fun things the fabulous author, Paula Weston, did for the bloggers on the tour was to tell us which character matched our personality the most! I was afraid I would end up being Daniel, we both have a tendency to know what is best for everyone who is not ourselves. But I was so happy to find out that I am most like Micah!

The easy going guitar playing half-angel was Gabe's best friend in the Sanctuary. He, Jude, Rafa, and Gabe were inseparable before Jude and Gabe disappeared. When Gaby comes back he is quick to reacquaint her with the other Rephaim, and tries to play peacemaker between the Sanctuary Rephaim and Rebel Rephaim. Micah is a stand-up guy and I hope to see more of him in Shimmer and Burn.

This book ends on a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to see how it is resolved. Shimmer comes out next autumn and I hope the time passes quickly before I am back in Gaby's world.

Visit the other stops on the Haze tour today!

Summer at MissFictional’s World of YA Books
Jillian at Centre of the Universe
Crystal at WinterHaven Books
Lisa at Turning Pages

Don't forget to check out the home of the Blog Tour at Tundra Press to see what other fabulous places Haze is visiting this week, where there will be giveaways, interviews, and more!

Sep 9, 2014

The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta

The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta 

Written by: Fatima Sharafeddine

Illustrated by: Intelaq Mohamed Ali

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: May 13, 2014

Ages: 5+

This picture book biography introduces a 14th century traveler and a very different view of the world.

Can you imagine going somewhere without a map? Never mind something that tells you exactly where to turn on your mobile device. Ibn Battuta didn't have a travel website to go on when he departed, he had to rely on his wits and what other travellers told him.

This Moroccan adventurer started off from Tangier and made new friends in countries like Iraq, Egypt, and India. He even made it all the way to China. He was a resourceful man who used many different modes of transportation, from camel riding to ships on the ocean.

The reason why Ibn Battuta's name is still known so many centuries later is that he wrote down his impressions on seeing all these places and meeting so many people. Writing things down and sharing them with people not only entertained and enlightened his readers but also guaranteed his place in history.

This is a great book to be tied into a journal-writing activity for early elementary students, or to tie into geography lessons. 

This review is for Nonfiction Monday. Pop by the Nonfiction Monday page and check out other great reviews of children's nonfiction.

Jul 9, 2014

Julia, Child

Julia, Child

Words by: Kyo Maclear

Pictures by: Julie Morstad

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: July 9, 2014

Ages: 4+

What do you make when you add a love of cooking to a bowl full of friendship and bake with the talent of two of Canada's most loved children's book artisans?

Julia, Child.

Kyo Maclear is the author of two the children's books I love most, Spork and Virginia Wolf. As in these amazing books, her writing in Julia, Child speaks to those of all ages. As in Virginia Wolf, Maclear imagines an episode in the childhood of a famous women. Julia and her friend Simka love butter and baking and French food and wish they could spread their joy to others.

Those who have joy and those who need some are easily differentiated in Morstad's (How To) delightful gouache and ink illustrations. Julie and Simka are adorable, but it's truly the little touches like recipe cards with helpful cooking hints or recipes changed to add more butter that show Morstad's true mastery.

I do love extras in books, and the introduction wrapped as an invitation on the first page, as well as the book description on the cover flaps all add to the joy of reading. Any book which mixes a swooshy rainbow and crying lumberjack has to be formulated to bring smiles to the readers' faces.

Like Julia and Simka, Maclear and Morstad are generous with their talent and sharing this book is sure to bring joy to others.

Jun 29, 2014

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Written by: Christine Baldacchino

Illustrated by: Isabelle Malenfant

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: May 13, 2014

Ages: 4+

Morris Mickelwhite, son of Moira and roommate of Moo the cat, is a character. He's creative and strong and unique. When he hits a snag he takes a moment out then dusts himself off and comes back up again.

Morris loves to play dress up in a tangerine dress, and I'm sure you can imagine the comments he gets from school mates. These comments about something he love give him a stomachache. Taking time off to regroup with his mother, his cat, and his imagination gives him the confidence to go into school and blaze his own path.

I have read a lot of "issue" books and it just doesn't work if the quality isn't there. In this case the storytelling, the character building, and the artwork are well beyond what you would expect of a normal picture book. Baldacchino uses great use of onomatopoeia to bring  interest to younger readers as well as older readers who will enjoy the story and characters.

Morris isn't the only the star character. Malenfant uses the same deft hand for the moving expressions on Morris' face as she does to bring the tangerine dress to life. Make no mistake, this dress will be as fascinating to most readers as to Morris. Malenfant's charcoal, watercolour and pastel illustrations draw your eye to that dress and make you realize just why he has such a yearning for it.

This is more than just an issue book. Yes, it breaks gender stereotypes and gives a great role model for going your own way, but the reason you'll re-read it is because of the stunning artwork and the way the words work perfectly together.

Jun 28, 2014

Just So Stories Volume II

Just So Stories Volume II

Written by: Rudyard Kipling

Illustrated by: Ian Wallace

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: October 1, 2013

Ages: 8+

Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

The second volume of Rudyard Kipling's classic stories provides an excellent companion to Just So Stories, Volume I.

Like the first volume, Kipling's classic stories are married with Wallace's stunning art.

My kids, currently learning Japanese characters which includes the history of these pictorial characters, were especially fascinated by How the Alphabet Was Made, the continuation to How the First Letter Was Written. My kids haven't been exposed to a story like this about the roman alphabet, so it was especially exciting. Since O is similar to the shape of the mouth to make the sound and S looks like a snake these are easy to figure out but the A for the mouth of a carp fish is pretty ingenious., as is the beaver tail for the letter B. It helps that the character of Taffy is engaging as well as being creative.

Kipling has a heavy respect for nature and its creatures, and this comes through in Wallace's paintings. From the ocean to the crabs and butterflies, all the natural components is fused with life and movement, and Wallace's style is classical enough to meld with the old style of Kipling's stories.

Jun 12, 2014

Kicking a Ball

Kicking a Ball

Written by: Allan Ahlberg

Illustrated by: Sebasten Braun

Published by:  Puffin Books

Published on: May 1, 2014

Ages: 3+

The World Cup starts today! Despite the controversies, we are so excited in our house! Soccer is our game and we are all rooting for Japan and a variety of secondary countries. May the best team win!

The bloated capitalism of the FIFA organization and the very important concerns of the Brazilian peoples haven't been enough to put us off. The reason is, like this book, very simple. Two teams and a ball are just very exciting.

That joy is captured perfectly in Ahlberg's verse. The wee boy in this book just loves the time he spends with his inanimate object, the way he can manipulate it, and the joy it brings.

Props certainly need to be given to the internationalness of this book. Besides the delightful map illustrations, Ahlberg brings mention to many of the countries in which soccer is played, from Nepal to Bengal. It's lovely to see a book for kids about this game that doesn't focus on any one country.

Pick this up for the kicking or poetry lover in your life.

Jun 1, 2014

Soccer Star

Soccer Star

Written by: Mina Javaherbin

Illustrated by: Renato Alarcao

Published by: Candlewick Press

Published on: April 8, 2014

Ages: 5+

It's June and that means World Cup month! The most popular event in the world starts in two short weeks. If your house is anything like mine, World Cup mania has already started and conversations about Japan's hope for the Cup and whether Luis Suarez will actually be healed from his knee injury before Uruguay's first game are dinner table topics. Or maybe not!

Soccer Star is the perfect book for a kid who is interested in soccer or geography, or someone who loves a feel-good sports story about hard work and dedication.

Paulo is the protagonist of this story, and this Brazilian boy loves soccer so much he thinks about it during his job on a fishing boat. The realities of life for most Brazilians are not glossed over here, as all the boys on his team work instead of go to school so they can just eke out a living. Paulo learns from his sister Maria who still goes to school.

Despite his harsh reality, Paulo dreams big. He dreams of being a huge soccer star, big enough to be known as just one name ala Pele! Then he can support his hard-working mother and sister, and play soccer on beautiful pitches for a living.

Javaherbin is also the author of Goal! which was in the same vein as this book, released at the time of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Her rhythmic text captures the imagination of readers while adding in the realities of life in the host countries and a message of never giving up hope are inspirational to young readers, soccer players and non-players alike. Soccer Star and Goal both inspired social studies units in our after schooling regimen and they were very well received. It's hard to say enough good things about these books.