Krista Kim-bap, by Angela Ahn (2018)

Contemporary Fiction
9-13
Krista Kim-bap, by Angela AhnLibrarians and writers often share the same circles, but it might surprise you to learn how many writers ARE librarians. Lewis Carroll, Sarah Ellis, Kit Pearson, Bill Richardson, Beverly Cleary, to name just a few. And now Angela Ahn joins this fine group. As she and I went to library school together at UBC, I was both delighted and secretly a bit apprehensive when her publisher, Second Story Press, agreed to provide me with a digital copy for review. What if I don’t like it? But I’m happy to report this is a truly enjoyable story that celebrates culture, friendship, and family. Krista Kim is almost 12 years old and lives with her Korean-Canadian mum, dad, and sister Tori in Vancouver. Read More »

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Cry, Heart, But Never Break, by Glenn Ringtved (2001, 2016)

Illustrated Book
4-9
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn RingtvedThis is the second of two books I’m reviewing today on grief and death. They are challenging issues for any of us, and when children are involved, books can offer a way for adults to help kids grasp an understanding of death and accept the pain of loss. This tender and sensitive book offers an honest and gentle approach to an impending loss. Four children are sharing a kitchen table with Death, who has come for their beloved grandmother. Death is presented as a visitor, a kind one, whose heart is surprisingly full of a love for life. The children naturally try to deter Death from his task. Read More »

The Funeral, by Matt James (2018)

Children’s Fiction
3-8
The Funeral, by Matt JamesThis is the first of two children’s picture books dealing with death I’m reviewing today. Matt James is the Canadian illustrator who so beautifully created images to accompany the words of the Stan Rogers ballad, Northwest Passage, for a picture book that I reviewed several years ago now. (He won a Governor-General’s Award for that one!) This is his first foray into both writing and illustrating a children’s picture book, and he does it brilliantly. Funerals are difficult for children, both conceptually and emotionally, so I was expecting images of frowning and shushing grown-ups. But James captures the conflicting emotions perfectly – Norah really is sad that her Great-Uncle Frank is dead, and practises her “sad face,” but she is secretly happy to have a day off school. Read More »

Duck Soup, by Jackie Urbanovic (2008)

Picture Book
4-8
Duck Soup, by Jackie UrbanovicThis delightful and comical picture book is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and is still in print – it’s easy to see why! The book was first published in 2008, when it earned a starred review from Kirkus. I recently discovered it on my library’s bookshelves and immediately fell hard for this funny and silly story that will appeal to young children. Max the Duck likes making soup and has had both hits and misses, from the yummy-sounding squash gumbo to the Cracker Barrel Cheese and Marshmallow soup. But this time, this time Max is about to create his culinary masterpiece. Read More »

Life on Mars, by Jon Agee (2017)

Picture Book
3-8
Life on Mars by Jon AgeeI really enjoy Jon Agee’s humour, first discovered while browsing picture books at Vancouver’s beloved Kidsbooks store. The book was called Terrific and I immediately bought a copy for a grandchild and ordered a copy for my library’s storytime collection. It was a stalwart title for elementary school visits to the library, fun to read aloud and giving us a chance to convey great emotional range in a readaloud. This one has less range but is a surefire winner for storytime sessions and lapsharing. An astronaut visits Mars in search of life, and finds a desolate planet devoid of any living thing. Or so he thinks. Children won’t be able to resist pointing out the giant alien our astronaut doesn’t see. Read More »

Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. Montgomery (1995)

Short Stories
7-Adult
Christmas With Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. MontgomeryWith so many demands on our time this month, it can be a challenge to make it a priority to relax and enjoy the sounds, sights, and scents of the holidays. This year I chose a classic Canadian collection by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. This collection of holiday stories was put together by Rea Wilmshurst, who found a number of unpublished stories in the late 1970s at Montgomery’s birthplace. She obtained a list of every item Montgomery published (more than 500), and spent years collecting as many as she could. Many of the stories were only published at the turn of the 20th century, in magazines or other formats. The list includes included a number of Christmas stories, the best of which appear here. Read More »

The Best Medicine, by Christine Hamill (2016, 2017)

Humour
10-14
The Best Medicine by Christine HamillPhilip Wright dreams of becoming a comedian like his real-life hero Harry Hill. Philip is dealing with typical middle school problems – too much homework, a demanding bully Philip calls The Yeti, and the heartbreak of unrequited love for a classmate. But Philip relies on getting laughs from his close friend Ang and his mum, known as his biggest fan. So when she cries instead of laughing, Philip knows something is wrong. It turns out she has cancer. And it’s an embarrassing one too. Humour abounds, sprinkled with honest tender moments that strike just the right note for young readers. it’s also full of information about cancer, delivered in a way that feels natural and will inform young readers whether or not they are dealing with this themselves. Read More »