Transphobia: Deal With It, by j. wallace skelton (2017)

Nonfiction
9-15
Transphobia: Deal With It, by J. Wallace SkeltonThis is a new release from James Lorimer Books, the latest in the “Deal With It” series which tackles discrimination issues in colourful, illustrated books aimed primarily at middle school readers. In just 32 pages, readers learn what transphobia is and how they can be “gender transcenders.” The book opens with Transphobia 101, including a quiz to help readers identify situations of transphobia, just plain sexism, or simply lack of understanding. Using age-appropriate and accessible language and cartoon-like drawings, skelton and illustrator Nick Johnson collaborate to help readers learn how to respond to various scenarios in order to create a safe and supportive space for all genders. Read more of this post

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)

Science Fiction
Adult
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan MastaiWhat a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. Read more of this post

In the Red Canoe, by Leslie Davidson (2016)

Picture Book
3-7
In the Red Canoe by Leslie DavidsonWhat a delight it is for me to review this book, though long overdue, I’m embarrassed to admit! Leslie Davidson is a beloved elementary teacher who lived in Grand Forks B.C., where we moved just a few weeks ago. In fact, her home is the one we now call ours. She is so well known that when people here ask where I bought, I simply say “Leslie and Lincoln’s house,” and everyone knows it. This book was published in October, and as we were busy preparing for our move I’ve only now had a chance to buy myself a copy and read it. Beautifully illustrated by Laura Bifano, In the Red Canoe describes a young girl and her grandfather sharing delights and discoveries of nature as they paddle a lake. Read more of this post

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruurs (2016)

Picture Book
3-10, with appeal for all ages
Stepping Stones by Margriet RuursWhen Canadian picture book author Margriet Ruurs first saw Nizar Ali Badr’s artwork made of river stones, she was instantly captivated. How could a handful of river rock speak so eloquently? But they do! And Orca Books’ pairing of Ruurs’ touching narrative with Badr’s art has resulted in a stunning picture book that will delight readers of all ages. The book opens with Rama and Sami enjoying childhood in Syria, a life of school and fruit and tea and family and neighbours. But when bombs start to fall, the community breaks apart. Read more of this post

Two Strikes, by Johnny Boateng (2017)

Contemporary
11-15
Two Strikes by Johnny BoatengThis realistic contemporary story tackles the related themes of racism, sexism and bullying as KalLeah (Kal), a Grade 8 girl of mixed race, struggles to fit in when her RCMP father is transferred from multicultural Halifax to the small town of Trail in British Columbia’s gorgeous Kootenays. Writer Boateng draws on his own experience in this high interest, low reading level (hi-lo) sports novel. Kal is a top-notch ballplayer and scorns the girls’ softball team in favour of the all-boys – at least for now – Trail All-Stars baseball team. Her attempts to prove herself result only in alienating the popular Valley Girls on the girls’ team, leading to cruel insults and cyberbullying. Read more of this post

Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer (2015)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
Fishbowl, by Bradley SomerIan is a goldfish longing for adventure. Life in a fishbowl can be tedious, after all, though Ian’s very poor memory and tiny brain relieve him of the burden of knowing just how boring his life is. But when opportunity presents, he makes a great leap out of the bowl. Over the balcony railing. And down the side of a 27-storey New York City apartment building. As he plunges toward the pavement, where the flashing lights of two ambulances are silently screaming an alarm, his gills forced closed as his velocity increases, Ian flashes past the windows of his fellow residents. And thus we are introduced to eight delightful characters Read more of this post

Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead? Ed. Rudyard Griffiths (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Do Humankind's Best Days Lie Ahead?The semi-annual Munk Debates bring some of the world’s biggest thinkers and personalities together to talk about big issues and ideas. Normally the focus is on current news topics, but in November 2015, Canadians Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell squared off against each other, each with a European colleague, to tackle the idea of progress. In “Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead?” Pinker and British journalist Matt Ridley take the pro side, asserting that thanks to everything from cellphones to clean water, we are indeed making steady progress and we are living, collectively speaking, better lives than ever. Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton joins Gladwell in presenting the nay view, pointing to the wealth gap, natural disasters and deadly conflicts as proof that life is different but not better, and our path forward is a dark one. Read more of this post

Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Rum Luck, by Ryan AldredCanadian Ben Cooper is in Costa Rica for his honeymoon. But the wedding is off, and instead of waking up with a smile, he comes to in jail with only a fuzzy memory of what happened the night before. Lots, it turns out. In a single booze-fueled evening, Ben developed a wobbly business plan and bought a beach bar with the money he and his bride had saved for a downpayment on a home, locked himself out of his account, lost his phone, and is now charged with the murder of the owner of the bar he just bought. His pal Victoria, a high-priced Toronto lawyer, flies in to bail him out, and with best man Miguel, the three try to determine what exactly happened that night. Read more of this post

The Mountain Story, by Lori Lansens (2015)

Fiction
Adult
The Mountain StoryWolf Truly takes the Palm Springs aerial tramway on his 18th birthday, intent on ending his life. He is mourning and carrying a heavy guilt for the loss of his best friend Byrd, exactly a year ago on the same mountain. There’s no one to miss him – his mother died when he was a preschooler, and his detestable father Frankie is in jail for killing a couple while driving drunk. But the fates have other plans for Wolf, in the form of three hikers who are lost on the mountain, and convince him to help them find the way to Secret Lake. A series of mishaps strands the four on the mountain, desperately trying to survive the harsh November conditions some 8000 feet (2600 metres, higher than Mount Cheam in Chilliwack) above the desert floor. Read more of this post

Walk on the Wild Side, by Nicholas Oldland (2015)

Picture Book
Ages 3-8
Walk on the Wild SideA moose, a bear, and a beaver enjoy having adventures together. One day they decide to hike up a mountain, but their competitive natures inspire them to make it a race. A boulder and a misstep mess up their plans, and it’s up to Beaver to ingeniously save the day, and his friends. “At the end of the day, the bear, the moose and the beaver agreed that reaching the top of the mountain was great, but enjoying the journey together was even better.” What an enjoyable story! The lesson is delivered only at the end, done gently and with humour, and the illustrations are hilarious. Read more of this post

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

Dystopian Fiction
Adult
Station ElevenAn aging actor has a heart attack on a Toronto stage, performing King Lear. A child actor watches a paramedic leap onto the stage to try to save his life. Within days, nearly every person in the theatre is dead of a virulent flu that spreads rapidly and with deadly consequences. Cellphone and landlines are jammed as loved ones desperately try to reach each other; when a call goes through, no one answers. Traffic clogs the freeways as the healthy seek to escape the cities, but there is nowhere to go. Television station signals fade to nothing, but not until after the camera points at an empty newsdesk. The electricity fails, water stops flowing from taps. The few survivors begin a new count: Year One. Read more of this post

The Offering, by DesirĂ©e Bombenon (2012)

Mystery
Adult
The OfferingJake and Amanda Bannon are rich in every way; they own many companies, they have homes in both Calgary and Hawaii and are now in early retirement, able to travel extensively, including stops to visit their children in Germany and northern Canada. And they have, we are told, “a wonderful relationship.” Yes, told. No need to develop your own picture of this couple and their lives; the omniscient narrator delivers the details straight to the page. Amanda and Jake are welcoming the new year at their Hawaii condo, needing a quiet introspective break. Not to be. Their friend Bernie, an RCMP officer in Calgary, calls them to ask for help. His ex-wife and daughter landed in Hawaii two days before and immediately disappeared. Read more of this post

Tree: A Life Story, by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady (2004)

Nonfiction
Adult
TreeCanadian scientist/CBC icon David Suzuki teams up with science writer Wayne Grady to present a lovely little book that traces the life history of the mighty Douglas-fir tree, from the Pacific Northwest fire that set the ground for its seed to take root through to its death, hundreds of years later, when the weakened snag gives way to a windstorm. “No one hears it fall.” (p. 175) Black and white illustrations by renowned artist Robert Bateman give the reader an opportunity to linger on the pages. I can hear Suzuki’s gentle voice as I read and learn, challenging me with new ideas. I’m startled by the notion of trees engaging in “trade” with fungi, exchanging trace elements for sugar. Read more of this post

Small-Space Vegetable Gardens, by Andrea Bellamy (2014)

Nonfiction
Adult
Small-Space Vegetable GardensCurled up by the fire, it’s a fine time to dream of summer harvest bounties. Vancouver’s own Andrea Bellamy offers practical step-by-step guide to city gardening in just about any space. Useful for both beginners and green thumbs, she guides the eager city dweller away from yard envy and toward developing your own organic food supply. First, find space: a community garden plot, a trio of hanging baskets, a window planter, a rooftop garden or raised beds in your neighbour’s front yard. She then presents a step-by-step process of preparing the soil, assessing climate, choosing containers and plants, and nurturing them to harvest of both produce and seed. Read more of this post

The Slug, by Elise Gravel (2014)

Nonfiction
Ages 4-7
The SlugLooking for a last-minute gift for a little one? Try this hilarious picture book exploration of the slimy misunderstood slug, the latest entry in the Disgusting Critters series. Written and illustrated by Gravel, it was originally published in French in 2013, and this year Tundra released an English edition for the North American market. Sized perfectly for small hands, the book introduces the reader to the humble slug as a naked snail. We learn about its two pairs of tentacles, the mouth on the side of its head, the helpful snot-like mucus that covers its body, and more, all presented in a humourous but informative manner that will make this a favourite for newly solo readers. Read more of this post