Jan 3, 2015

The Cat at the Wall

The Cat at the Wall

Written by: Deborah Ellis

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: August 11, 2014

Ages: 10+

Clare is a regular girl at a regular school in Pennsylvania, but with a mean streak. Clare is also a cat in the West Bank of the Middle East, who finds a boy hiding from Israeli soldiers. How Clare became a cat and what Clare the cat decides to do about the boy are just two of the mysteries told in this middle grade novel.

Ellis has impecable nonfiction credentials (Looks Like Daylight, Kids of Kabul) and she combines her extensive knowledge of the Israeli-Palestine situation to illuminate an important theme- that we all have choices and we can improve or worsen other people's lives as a result of the path we choose.

The fantasy element was actually quite well-done, although different from what I expected from Ellis' work. The juxtaposition of a normal middle-class life in the US with the fear of an orphaned boy in one of the world's most conflicted areas is clever and the fantasy element makes it feel less like a moral tale.

Jan 2, 2015

Work: An Occupational ABC

Work: An Occupational ABC

Written and Illustrated by: Kellen Hatanaka

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: August 5, 2014

Ages: 3+

This ABC book is not as simple as it appears. It pays homage to a variety of occupations, opening up the vocabulary of the toddler audience as well as their imagination.

Hatanaka's illustrations seem like they are straight out of a mid-century classic.

Aviator and jockey

Vibraphonist and Xenologist

It's not that Hatanaka is introducing concepts that are new to preschoolers- he is introducing concepts that are new to the adults doing the reading aloud as well. His message is that anything could be work so why not think outside the box?

The mid-century-esque illustrations make this seem like a book that shows things have been possible in the past, so you can be a vibraphonist if you want! It all looks so much more interesting than being a desk jockey.

Jan 1, 2015



Written by: Litsa Trachatos

Illustrated by: Virginia Johnson

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: October 14, 2014

Ages: 3+

This is a great, silly picture book for preschoolers that introduces animals and grammar, all while giving the reader the giggles.

Trachatos comes up with some amazingly illogical scenarios, starting with "Don't start a food fight with an octopus." Not only does the reader then have to think about that animal (hints are given on the next page) but they also get to laugh about the situation which would never happen. This is a huge deal in the preschool world, and this has been the best read aloud I have had at my library sessions in the last couple of years.

Johnson's watercolour illustrations deserve mention as well. Watercolour is a perfect medium for non-threatening depictions of threatening situations (nobody wants to find a bear in their bed!) and the simple children's faces frame the reactions to the ridiculous very well.

Highly recommended for anyone with a preschooler.

Oct 13, 2014

Any Questions?

Any Questions?

Written and Illustrated by: Marie-Louise Gay

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: October 13, 2014

Ages: 6+

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

Who wouldn't want an author visit? Especially from an author as fun as the one behind Stella and Sam?

But there are billions of us and only one Marie-Louise Gay.

No problem! Gay has brought an author visit to us in this book.

She takes us through her creative process, from a blank page waiting to be filled with beautiful artwork and lyrical prose.

She adds jokes into the art, so it seems even more intimate than an author visit.

She takes us into the area of writer's block, and we see how her mind wanders, right into a fantastic story about a giant.

This is an amazing book for giving a behind the scenes look at a famous writer, but also for giving young writers an idea of the process. This isn't just for those who want to publish their own books, but also for students struggling to write essays or built stories for school. If the award-winning brain behind Stella & Sam needs to edit her work and let her mind wander, then maybe so does a grade 2 student trying to write an ode to his pet on Valentine's Day. This is an excellent book for early elementary students.

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.