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Happy Canada Day Everyone!

We all celebrate the BEST nation in the world today in different ways. Some of us plan bashes, some plan trips and others make that trek to the great Canadian pastime: the cottage.

O Canada!

This blessed long weekend means different things to different people.

Take my own family for example: My husband this day means sparking the BBQ from morning until night (actually I think he is BBQ-ing our breakfast as I type), for my first-born this is starting to register as a holiday: Daddy’s home, special clothes and I can’t wait for her reaction to the firework display (and could do without them for our hound Harry’s sake!) and for my new little angel, it will likely mean more of the same: sleeping, nursing, pooping.

 For my PEI born in-laws today means lobster fresh from the boat in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, with family and good friends (and means I am super jealous!) and for my folks today means one last Canadian hurrah before heading home (and enjoying Independence Day a couple of days later!)

On a side note, apparently for my mother Canada Day also means we have to dress up in Dollar Store finds worthy of Liza Minnelli or a not-so-picky transvestite but I digress….can’t blame the lady for getting into the spirit!

For me, Canada Day means celebrating all my beautiful country has to offer and again reminds me of how bereft I am of red clothing and as such will likely be stuck wearing the plush red cowboy hat and faux-feather boa (please see above).

And of course, it always reminds me of books, this particular holiday here are some of the great Canadian books that have caught my eye and are firmly on my own reading list:

Copyright@2011 Nimbub Publishing

LOST ON BRIER ISLAND by Jo Ann Yhard (ISBN: 9781551098197, Nimbus Publishing, 2011)

Anyone worth their weight in salt loves a story about a quirky island and it`s quirky characters. After a tragedy rips her family apart, fourteen-year-old Alex gets stuck on Brier Island for the summer with her aunt. Of course she soon finds something about the place that gives her hope and helps her heal. I can`t wait to dive into the funny and always engaging writing of Jo Ann Yhard.

Copyright@2011 Groundwood Books

MIGRANT by Maxine Trottier and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (ISBN: 9780888999757, Groundwood Books, 2011)

A lovely tale from a child’s view of the Low German-speaking Mennonites who moved from Canada to Mexico in the 1920s and returned every year as migrant workers.

The images are imaginative and stunning and the text delicately and beautifully describes the challenges and character of these unique people in Canadian history.

Copyright@2011 Penguin Books

FLY BOY by Eric Walters (ISBN: 9780143176305, Penguin Books, 2011)

From the Young Adult fiction master, this World War II tale will take you and seventeen-year-old Robbie on a high-flying action-packed adventure.

A little Canadian history and a lot of fun, perfect for those who think entertainment can only be found with a game console.

Copyright@2011 Fireside Publishing

THE LEGENDS OF LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN: An Early Adeventure of John A. MacDonald by Roderick Benns (ISBN: 9780981243320, Fireside Publishing, 2011)

I love this series by Roderick Benn for making our nation`s leaders relevant, real and oh so readable. Book two in the Leaders & Legacies series has a forward by Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (you know, E!Talk host Ben Mulroney’s Dad?!)

Copyright@2011 Nimbus Publishing

WATER HAZARD by Hélène Boudreau (ISBN: 9781551098289, Nimbus Publishing, 2011)

Why do we love mysteries so much? Well they take us out of the doldrums of our own routines and spice them up a bit without ever having to leave the couch! The second in the Red Dune Adventure series for young readers, André and Lucas keep Prince Edward Island on our radar and keep us hopping with excitement!

Keep reading Canadian folks and happy holiday!

SM

 

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When my Miss Mouse was young and I would rather tear off my left arm than be apart from my little girl. I often wondered how I might deal with the returning to work and leaving her for extended periods of time (it was horrid thanks for asking!) and made myself sick just thinking about it! Separation was unfathomable, so I just didn’t do it unless I had to.

As she has grown from a baby to a busy, bouncy, bright toddler, it’s no longer my choice.  It’s my first-born that seeks to be on her own and do things without parental interference. She wants to do everything herself and often waves “bye” without so  much as a backwards glance.

It can be heart-wrenching but I realize that nature has a way of facilitating children’s desire to be autonomous; it’s the word “no”.

The very negative stage that seems to appear almost the moment that those two candles are blown on the birthday cake seems to have two purposes: to allow the toddler to test out some limits of their independence and to annoy parents enough that they begin to welcome the pulling apart.

For me, as challenging as this stage of my daughter’s development is, I am not so secretly proud to see it.  It means she has a secure attachment to her parents and as a female I want her to remain as assertive as she can in this world (I also not so secretly hope she isn’t as stubborn as I was as a child because from what I hear this made me a real pain in the ….well you get the picture!)

For many girls though, the message is learned early in life that it is our job to remain pleasant and accommodating. The old adage “boys will be boys” seems to cover a multitude of boy behaviours while girls are repeatedly told “be a good girl”, then we wonder why many succumb to peer pressure or end up with inappropriate partners.

That is why I absolutely adore finding books like Noni Says No by Heather Hartt-Sussman and illustrated by  Geneviève Côté (ISBN:9781770492332, Tundra Books, 2011) which put the parable in the picture book.

Cover Image Copyright@2011 Geneviève Côté

In this tale, Noni can do many big girl things; help feed her baby brother, help her mom in the kitchen and even walk over to her friend Susie’s house but for some reason Noni has forgotten how to say no, especially when it comes to Susie.

When Susie wants to play with her special toys or sleep over in her bed, Noni can’t say “no”. Even when her friend gives her a horrible haircut (truly every mother’s nightmare) or wants her to be the dog, Noni wants to say “no” but the word just doesn’t come out.

But like everyone, Noni has a limit and when she does find her voice she also finds out what real friendship is about. 

I was pulling for Noni and happy to read this delightful story reminding all of us that people will respect you best when you respect yourself. I also like that in the process Noni is exploring her own judgement and tapping into trusting her own feelings and instincts.

I like that Susie is not depicted as some devil-child either and that you can see she is testing Noni’s limits as perhaps any other kid would.

Susie and Noni ready for extreme makeover day! Images Copyright@2011 Geneviève Côté

You would expect as much for a writer with a hyphenated name right? Hartt-Sussman’s first children’s book Nana’s Getting Married is part of a trilogy of children’s books helping deal with acceptance and change. This book is the second one and you can expect Nana and Bob’s Big Surprise in 2012 (also by Tundra).

I suppose this Montreal-born and now Toronto-based author has honed her social skills as a writer, editor, copywriter and a broadcast journalist in LA. She likely has found lots of inspiration in raising her own two sons.  

Check out her website for more info on her bio and events (check under the “Ideas” section) and lots of gorgeous pics of the author (she’s had more hair changes than I’ve had!)

As for illustrations, you can’t go wrong with Côté. I’ve fallen in love with her work from her own book Me and You and her gentle pencil and watercolour images are a perfect pairing for this pretty important picture book. So much expression in simple lines and basic faces, it’s unbelievable.

Although in our household “no” doesn’t seem to be an issue (and actually seems to be more of a raison d’être right about now) I will certainly keep this book on the shelf to remind all the girls in our house to never lose their own voice.

A  must-read for ages 2-5!

SM

 

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Forgive me readers for I have not absconded and am still blogging. It’s been 2 weeks since my last entry and I have to confess that I have been taking that time to myself, to hang out with Miss Mouse, to organize and mainly to sleep before baby came.

And guess what….she’s here! Quincey Ellin arrived on June 6th in a 7 pound 8 ounce perfect package (as you can see for yourself) and we are all so taken with her we do little else when not nursing or sleeping besides staring at her gorgeous face and inhaling her delicious newborn smell.

Quincey Ellin - our latest greatest passion

So, suffice to say my sporadic blogging will continue with the irregularity you have grown accustomed too in the last little bit. I haven’t stopped reading but the one-handed type and the choice of spending precious time with a screen or a snuggly newborn or busy, wriggly toddler are some deciding factors.

I once read a quote by a well-known British artist when asked by a reporter why she never had kids which I think of now. She said “when faced with the choice between a crying baby and my art, I would choose the baby every single time” and thus opted never to have to make that choice.

I see what she means. I learned with my first born that surrendering yourself to the needs of an infant not only makes your new life bearable but often calmer and more joyful and as such I have prepared my heart to give in completely again.

Which isn’t to say you cannot be you and nor should you ignore your own needs or care as baby (and everyone around you) will suffer along with you.

I love that this is one part of the message of the gorgeous fable Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstansky and illustrated by Janice Nadeau (ISBN: 9781553378211, Kids Can Press, 2011).

Love, passion and the senses all are part of this really beautiful picture book.

Cover Image Copyright 2011 Janice Nadeau

Miriam is a baker who loves her craft and bakes delicious bread every day in her shop. She always leaves the cinnamon loaves for last to savour the smell.

It is this smell that lures the musical Sebastian into her bakery one day and every day thereafter for an entire year until he asks Miriam to marry him. They have a delightful dusky-skinned baby who one day decides to cry and cry until it falls asleep.

Nothing will soothe this little one despite its parent’s best efforts until Miriam has an idea. In the early morning light the sweet little family heads to the bakery and discovers just what baby needs.

There are infinite reasons to adore this book and why I chose it to pair with the announcement of our own. I love the themes; the sacred and often unexplainable bond between mother and child, the journey of life in its sensory pleasures and that the gorgeous and whimsical watercolour, graphite, paper collage illustrations that manage to evoke the feeling of being in some charming European village of yesteryear.

Spread from Cinnamon Baby via Kids Can Press

This is a book with a wide reach: the baby in this story is a product of a real love story and that the parents are a mixed couple add to its appeal. I loved the images of nursing, co-sleeping and even the genderless couple can dig this book as the baby’s sex is never really revealed (although it is always in pink not that it particularly matters right?!)

Winstanley lives in Toronto with her partner and their children and they all love cinnamon –especially her daughter Audie who was soothed by the smell as a baby (no doubt the inspiration for this story) which makes her first picture book even lovelier!

Nadeau has illustrated many lovely picture books, including one of the most interesting Canadian children’s books I’ve read Harvey: How I Became Invisible.

Welcome this book into your home or give it as a beautiful welcome to a newly expanded family.

Thanks for reading and I will see you when I can.

I’m off to enjoy my own little bit of heaven.

SM

 

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I’m one of those moms you know the ones that give the more educational gifts.

I really can’t help it, I love learning and always have and I want kids to experience that feeling too. Sure, I add the action figures and the licenced toys especially if I know that the child loves a particular thing.

Like yesterday, we went to the second birthday party of one of Miss Mouse’s best little friends. This little guy is a big action hero lover and so there were some Spider Man gifts but I just couldn’t resist adding a little gem of a book I stumbled upon to the gift bag.

I fell in love with What Are You Doing? By Elisa Amado and illustrated by Manuel Monroy (ISBN: 9781554980703, Groundwood Books, 2011) precisely because it celebrates the many joys of reading and the innate and insatiable curiosity of a child.

Cover Image Copyright@2011 Manuel Monroy

Today is Chepito’s first day of school and his mother reminds him as he runs out the door asking “why, why, why?”

Chepito comes across various people in the neighbourhood, all of whom are reading for different reasons when he asks them “why, why, why?”

Then Chepito finds out that school is a place for him to begin his own journey with reading and gets so excited he wants to share this pleasure with his younger sister.

I couldn’t love this lovely tale more; it celebrates the many uses and pleasures found in the written word and the beauty of passing along the joy of reading to others.

Children will see their own inquisitiveness in Chepito and love the soft pallet of the happy watercolour and coloured pencil drawings. I love the gentle smiles of the people the little boy meets and this tale carries such a positive message of the power of reading.  I also like that it features a little boy too who are notoriously more reluctant readers!

Amado is a Guatemalan-born author and translator and has written Barrilete: A Kite for the Day of the Dead (Un barrilete para el Día de los muertos), Cousins (Primas) and Tricycle (El triciclo), which is on the Américas Award Commended List and is a USBBY Outstanding International Book and deals with issues of class issues and how they affect children.

She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Monroy is a celebrated illustrator in Mexico, where he currently lives and has won numerous awards for his art. I’ve been enchanted since Be a Baby.

Pick up a few of these little beauties for your next birthday party or you can just invite me as I am sure it’s not going to be the last time this picture book makes it into the gift bag!

SM

 

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I’m a lucky person in many ways.

One of the areas I am truly blessed is in my family. I have a large extended family (and super in-laws) and it’s a nice feeling.

Another great part of my family is that there are a lot of women. I have a number of aunts who I feel close to although we are spread out across Canada and various parts of the world.

Aunts are wonderful creatures they are such a multifaceted role at once motherly, sisterly, doting and friend-like. They get to tell you what to do, spoil you rotten, give advice and talk to you in a way that’s unique because they love you don’t have the intensity of your immediate family and because they are all so unique themselves.

And although I love all my aunts, I do share a particular closeness with my mom’s youngest sister, Wendy. Perhaps it’s due to our proximity in residence (we live 5 minutes away from each other) or age (she’s my youngest natural aunt) or her having lived with us for a time when we were little but she’s always been there. 

She was there when I was three and refused to pick up a cup I had thrown to the floor, through the tumultuous teenage years –through horrible hair and even worse musical choices, provided a comfy place of refuge from the university dorm or during a horrible break-up and even was there to help when my daughter came early helping me pack my hospital bag and ensuring that the baby had clean clothes and sheets to come home too.

Heck she even named my first born!

To be honest, she’s endured more Stacey-dramas than one person should have to suffer through and I for that I will always be eternally grateful to her.

As I got sucked into Beyond Blonde by Teresa Toten (ISBN: 9780143173588, Penguin Books, 2010) all I could think about was my Aunt Wendy as I read it.

Cover Copyright@2010 Penguin Books

On the outset you wouldn’t see the link:  in this final book of the Blondes series sixteen-year-old Sophie Kandinsky’s world explodes: her alcoholic father leaves home to get sober, her Mama shuts down and her first all-encompassing-love Luke gets married and has a baby plus her body has a mind of its own. Even her beloved basketball has been sabotaged by an intriguing assistant coach who seems to have it in for Sophie.

Luckily Sophie has her friends, the Blondes and her overwhelming Aunties to help her through whatever life throws at her.

My Aunt Wendy is far from blonde, was never a basketball star (at least not that I know of) and is nothing like the hilarious aunties in this page-turner. But she is plucky and self-actualized like Sophie and grew up in the seventies in which this tale is set.

When she lived with us my aunt introduced my sister and I to Andy Gibb, a rockin’ dance move called “pumping dynamite” and the notion of dating (I can still remember watching out a second-story window of our house as some young fella came to pick her up) and I could just picture her in this time, a senior in high school ready to tackle the world of university.

I love how the story deals with a multitude of issues that young adults go through around this time in their lives; emerging sexuality, drugs, family drama, first loves, figuring out how the world works in a very normal way. Sophie’s reactions to things are understandable and funnier than anything.

One of my favourite passages of this book is when Sophie is trying to work out her feelings about her father leaving:

I’m plenty sensitive. Still, even now with Papa gone, I couldn’t work up into a decent depression. I was just a bunch of A words. I looked them up when I was searching for the definitions of addictions and alcoholic. At this very moment, I believe I am suffering from being annoyed, anxious, adolescent, agonized, anguished, ambivalent, angry, apathetic, ashamed, and anemic. Well, maybe not anemic. I just liked the way it sounds and the pictures it conjures up. You just know that an anemic-type person is going to be very sensitive.

I also love that Sophie’s family are unabashedly immigrants and don’t apologize for the way they are or how they see things. How many people can relate to that right? Toten started her writing career with a funny book about growing up as an immigrant in a very Anglo-Saxon neighbourhood called The Onlyhouse (Red Deer Press) and hasn’t lost her sense of humour about it since.

The non-blonde author, Teresa Toten

Also, this book and series are very original which is very much like my Aunt Wendy and you can tell that Croatia-born and Toronto-raised Toten has written this book as a tribute to all those people she has loved and who have helped her! In her engaging bio on her delightful website, it is noted that the author often falls in love with her stories and you can really get that from her writing.

My aunt was privy to many of the joys of being around me when I was figuring out all this stuff (and still has the stories to prove it!) and I couldn’t help but think of how I would have made it through a number of sticky and downright awful circumstances without her and that’s where I am as lucky as Sophie is to have great people in our lives.  

When you have that, you turn out alright. Just look at me right?!

This is a great read for any teen girl in your life. Whether you are an Auntie, Uncle, parent, school counsellor or teacher who is looking for a fresh new way to tell a young lady (age 14 and above) she’s going to be okay and that you care, pick up this book or any other in this series.

SM

 

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The day before last I finally completed the 2011 Census and I think it was the short form for all of those who remember the hoopla of the long versus short form.

Anyway it’s really easy and you can do it online. Right after I was asked to participate in another voluntary household survey and like the eager-to-be dutiful citizen I am, I completed that one too.

Interestingly but not surprisingly many of the questions related to the respondents’ ethnic origins and the background of their parents. It dawned on me that my daughter and the one to come are both second generation Canadian and on my husband’s side even third or fourth generation.

I’ve always taken for granted that all of my friend’s parents were immigrants to Canada and it’s second nature to ask someone “What’s your background?” and to expect them to respond with “Greek/Japanese/Portuguese/Chinese/Ethiopian/Filipino/West Indian/Chinese/insert ethnicity here” even if they are born here. “Well golly gee, I’m Canadian” never seems to pop out as someone’s answer (even without the “golly gee” part).

Canadians have a unique perspective with our heritages, we hold onto the language and traditions fiercely yet love to poke fun at our folks and grandparents for their backwards ways (think about how successful comedian Russell Peters is!)

We also (at least us middle-class natural citizens) have a tendency to romanticize the immigrant experience. My parents are both immigrants and both had relatively good experiences (including a wonderful Canadian-born daughter) but it’s not that way for everyone.

There are challenges, cultural shocks, language issues and emotional baggage no matter where they come from and what part of Canada they end up settling in.

In Learning to Fly (ISBN: 9781551439532, Orca Soundings/Orca Books, 2008) author Paul Yee skilfully manages to bring the teenage immigrant experience in small-town Canada to an accessible and interesting format.

Cover Copyright@2008 Orca Books

Jason is a recent arrival from China with his mother and much-younger brother and can’t quite fit in. He doesn’ t speak the language with enough proficiency, faces small-town racism and has to help his mom in their mall deli and smokes a heck of a lot of pot.

He is unhappy, lonely and just wants to go back to China but his mother is determined to make a success of Canada especially after his father ran off with a new wife and left them to fend for themselves.

So when Chief, a First Nations classmate and leader of the potheads, decides to befriend him Jason finally thinks he’s found a way to fit in. Instead he may be finding himself more and more on the fringe.

This is a fantastic book for so many reasons:

One is that it deals with subjects that we well-meaning, one-love-every-get-along people like to forget, such as racism and our treatment of First Nations people and those from lower socio-economic groups. Racism does exist in Canada, heck I’ve experienced it first-hand and I do not look like a visible minority. It also addresses some of the realities of being an outsider and foreigner outside the diversity of the larger cities.

Secondly, Learning to Fly, isn’t afraid to deal with some complicated and heady subjects like drugs, racism, the treatment of First Nations people in this country, the Asian immigrant experience, messed up family dynamics and suicide.

Lastly, it is written from the poignant perspective of a young man trying to navigate a very different culture than one he came from and as an older young person this can be more challenging than when you are younger. It is written this way as well, the language is uncomplicated and although there is a lot of meat to the subjects, the tone and words are perfect for English-as-a-second-language readers.

As an Governor-General award-winning author of adult fiction, history books, short stories and novels for young people, Yee writes about the Chinese experience mainly because that`s what he knows, those are the people he cares about and of whom he is most interested in. 

Author Paul Yee

As a fellow Saskatchewan-born Canadian who was raised in Vancouver’s Chinatown, I also love that he notes that when he was growing up in the 1960′s there were no books about “his world of immigrants, racial minorities, and different histories” and I can make the assumption that he writes of those experiences for that reason.

I look forward to reading his upcoming young adult novel, Money Boy, later this year from Groundwood books, which is set in Toronto and deals with some tough issues like homosexuality in a traditional culture and prostitution.

Parents who love historical fiction may also want to check out Yee`s newest novel, The Secret Keepers, a mysterious tale set in San Francisco’s Chinatown before and after 1906.

To learn more about this amazing Canadian author and his work, visit his website and make sure to read his bio, then you won’t have to ask him where he’s from.

SM

 

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I’ve been delinquent and I’m sorry.

I haven’t forgotten about my Stones for my Father contest , it’s just that I’ve been in the throes of nesting and as any woman who has experienced this you know that it is an insatiable need much like eating or sleeping or, at the risk of sounding dramatic, survival.

I want to do other things like watching bad movies and staring out the window with my feet up but I just can’t seem to let go. Making it all the more polarizing is that I am nearing the time in my last pregnancy where I went into premature labour and I am equally concerned about getting things done in time and in listening to my body’s cues about taking it easy.

No easy task for someone like me but who said mothering was easy right?

I find that blogging is a lot like being a mother. You have this “baby” that you want to nurture perfectly, wish you could do nothing else but just sit and focus on it. You want to intently try to figure out what will help you help it blossom onto its own, but sadly, life makes sure it’s noticed too. Laundry, meals, cleaning, caring for a real-life almost-two child: diaper changes, potty attempts, tantrums, snuggles, hours of make-believe and thousands of stories read and re-read.  And don’t forget some well-deserved me-time.

Sometimes as in mothering, you just have to resign yourself to “good enough blogging” and leave perfection for someone else and be okay with that. At least blogs don’t need therapy!

For example had big plans for a Mother’s Day post with a list of great books but after this intense week, I just didn’t have time. In fact, my own plans include parenting from the couch (it’s all I’ve asked for this year from the hubby!) I don’t need flowers, candy or even a special meal, I just want all the cuddles, kisses and fun without having to change one diaper or prep any meals!

Part of a perfect Mother's Day!

So I hope you’ll respect my decision to blog from the couch too, I’ll probably read some of the brilliant posts my more energetic blogging  “parents” will compose and be inspired by them and somewhere deep inside I will strive to do better in the future. Like when you see a mother act calmly and lovingly to a screaming, wailing toddler while you just lost it or bribed your own with chocolate or some other horribly sugar-laden product.

I pick my battles and just in case you thought I forgot (again) I also randomly picked the winner of the Stones of my Father blog tour and it’s:

STEVE VERNON

Congratulations to Steve and thanks for your lovely comments on the post. Please email me your address at stacey@wordofmousebooks.com and I will get that book into the post for you lickety split (I PROMISE I won’t forget!)

And to all those wonderful mothers out there (including my own who I am lucky to get to spend this mother’s day with); whether you are a Tiger, Elephant, Raven or espouse the “good enough” model of mothering, I wish you all the best this weekend.

SM

 

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Today is my last day of work before I go off on leave awaiting baby number 2 and it feels rather surreal.  

Wasn’t it yesterday that I was pregnant with Miss Mouse and at work when just like that my water broke, in the food court of the building in which I work?

Yes, you read that right and it really happened to me! And yes it was as shocking, unexpected and (now) hilarious as it seems.

The brilliant and wise poet Maya Angelou once said “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it” and I can’t help but feel stronger for the experience I had. More wary when I go down to grab a morning snack or second breakfast but a lot tougher.

That experience helped me learn that no matter how you plan, plot and wish things would stay the same, they don’t. Change comes whether you like it or not so you’d better learn to go with the flow.

When I read Ben’s Robot by Robin Stevenson and illustrated by David Parkins (ISBN: 9781554691531, Orca Echoes, 2010) I could empathize with seven-year-old Ben when his BFF Jessy one day decides she does not want to play “robots” and wants to play with other kids.

Cover Image Copyright@2010 David Parkins

Ben loves robots, loves building things with the “treasures” he finds behind a dumpster on the walk home and can’t understand Jessy’s sudden change of heart. His mother, although supportive, finds his proclivities for collecting junk a little tiring and makes Ben keep his projects, like the real robot he’s building, inside the shed.

When Ben finds a circuit board that brings his robot to life, he can’t wait to show his mother and Jessy, but KX 749 doesn’t seem to talk for anyone but him and his little sister, Stella who can’t talk yet!

Ben soon learns that sometimes things just don’t go your way!

I thought this story was a great beginner chapter book that dealt with a number of great themes: friendships and when conflicts strike within them, change and compromise and enough fun and fantasy to engage a young reader.

Stevenson was inspired by her own son, Kai, to write a story about robots and I think its sweet she included some of his preferences in her main character Ben; a love of frozen bread and collecting treasures. Born in England, she moved to Canada when she was seven but has lived in many places as a child and read everything she could get her hands on!

It’s obvious this author of books for kids and older teens has her imagination on what makes seven-year-olds tick. This tale was pitch-perfect for the age group and an enjoyable read.

She lives in Victoria with her partner and son. You can learn more about the author and her books on her website.

Parkins’ illustrations added to the charms of this robot tale and will certainly keep readers interested. I especially loved the depiction of KX 749 and Ben’s expressions.

He has been an illustrator since around the time I was born and has recently moved from his home in the UK to Ontario, Canada. Check out his portfolio including his funny Canadian caricatures and children’s book art on his website.

 (Don’t think it’s lost on me that today’s book creators both have a British connection….I wonder if either got up to watch the Royal Wedding, which is another moment of change I think…)

A great book on change and growing for kids, a great thing to learn at any age!

 SM

 

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As a parent I often have this insatiable urge to shield my daughter from the unpleasant things in life. Whether in song verse (you’d be amazed at how negative, macabre and downright scary some popular children’s songs are if you really listened to them. I mean “down will come baby cradle and all” isn’t the nicest image is it?!) or topics, TV shows, movies or even downright sad stories, I fight to keep her world as lovely and happy as possible.

But that isn’t very realistic is it and quite frankly I often have to check this creating-a-bubble impulse to ensure I am not leading my lass into some la-la land world which will be more of a detriment than anything to my darling girl.

Stories are great for a parent like me because they give me a vehicle for introducing things to my child I may otherwise shirk away from. There is certainly a role for introducing difficult subjects into narratives for children. I think it helps them process and absorb things like death, grief, loss, evil, cruelty, meanness in a safer more abstract manner (helps us parents too!) and encourages conversation.

I was thinking of such things as I first started Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent (ISBN: 9781770492523, Tundra Books, 2011) for the Tundra blog tour.

Cover Copyright@2011 Tundra Books

It’s not that this book is compelling right from the start, it is wholly absorbing, it’s just that Corlie Roux’s story isn’t the happiest one.  This suits me, as an adult reader just fine, but I kept wondering how the target audience, ages 11 and up, would react to such a less than ideal tale of a young girl’s experience in the Boer Wars or “freedom wars” as they were known to the Afrikaans who lived there.

The more I thought the more I realized that not everyone has parents who are as idealistic (and neurotic perhaps?) as I am and their reality is that they are often faced with less than ideal circumstances themselves even if it’s the urban jungle or a challenging family situation that is their fate and then this would be a book that would resonate particularly with such a reader.

As I read more about Corlie’s experiences, as often the brunt of her mother’s wrath, the instability of the world she lives in (the Transvaal during the Boer Wars), her persistent grief at the loss of her doting dad and her emerging awareness of the great divide of race and prejudice, it’s not hard to love this harsh tale.

Like Kent, the main character Corlie is a storyteller and often she uses her tales to comfort herself and her brothers through the many hardships and upheaval they experience in a very short period of time.  I love this part of her and it speaks to her resilience and makes her that much more endearing.

I also love the Canadian component of this book, as Corlie comes to depend on a soldier from the faraway and exotic sounding land of Canada. This part of the story is great for young Canadian readers to understand our role in the Boer Wars and how really how our place in many conflicts, past and present.

Bringing me to my final point, I thought this book was a great introduction to the impact that war has on children and began to realize how important that was for generating understanding, compassion and a certain level of humanity for Canadian kids as an accompaniment to many of the media images and movie scenes they see. There is a tendency to become desensitized to what really happens in times of conflict and how there are feelings, emotions and people on both sides. 

This is an essential lesson in a country like ours which not only affords her citizens a relatively peaceful existence but also welcomes people for all over the world who may have not lived one thus far.

Trilby Kent was born in Toronto and grew up on both sides of the Atlantic. She completed degrees at both the prestigious Oxford University and the London School of Economics and worked in the rare books department at Bonhams and journalism before turning her sights to writing for young people.

The wonderfully named suthor Trilby Kent

Not one to shy away from stories of children in challenging historical situations (maybe it’s her cool and somewhat old-fashioned literary name or something), Medina Hill (Tundra Books), also features the story of 11-year-old mute Dominique in grimy London in 1935. His mother is sick and his father’s unemployed and holds on to his love for Lawrence of Arabia as he goes with his Uncle Roo and sister to a boarding house in Cornwall.

I like how Kent takes some long-ago time and makes it resonate with today. I also love that she told this story from the perspective of a smart, imaginative, resourceful girl who also is gifted with the narrative.

Kent’s latest book, from the haunting image on the cover to the engrossing read inside, will surely evoke thought and emotion, and if you are a lucky parent, perhaps an opportunity for talking with your child.

Don’t forget to check out the other blog posts all this week on the tour and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Want to win your own copy? Just leave a comment on this post on why you would like to read this book and you are entered to win! I will draw the winner at the end of this week and post the results here so check back…

SM

 

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Happy Easter from WomB!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish all my readers a very Happy Easter. In between the chocolate highs, egg hunts, yummy dinners and glorious family time (like Daddy/daughter bunny hopping-see below), I hope you also take some quiet moments to read to your little bunny.

Our Easter Bunny brought some fun Easter books along with the treats including the charming:

Happy Easter Mouse  by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond (Board Book ISBN:9780694014224 , Harper Collins, 2010). Okay this is not a Canadian title but it’s super cute and well this is the perfect book for our own Miss Mouse! Plus it teaches about colours and is sweetly simple.

Better than spending the money on a giant chocolate bunny which would be sitting in my stomach curdling with my guilt as I wondered “Did I really just eat my own child’s entire Easter treat?” Which sadly the answer would like be YES!

Cover Image Copyright@2010 Felicia Bond

I even got a sweet little tale for our little baby Bunny who will enjoy her first Easter in 2012! I like that I can read her the story now and then when we welcome her into the world, she’ll recognize not only my voice but perhaps even the story itself!
So hop to it: go hunt down some rabbit reads and share a story this holiday! It’s an egg-celent idea!
(okay I will stop now!)
Happy Easter!
SM
 

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