Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Kusugak (1990, 2017)

Children’s Fiction
Baseball Bats for Christmas by Michael KusugakWhat fun it is to discover a classic for the first time! The 2017 reissue of this popular children’s picture book gave me the chance to finally read this award-winning Inuit story, based on the author’s own lived experience. When the bush pilot Rocky Parsons delivers a load of Christmas trees in 1955, the children of Repulse Bay are intrigued. Only Peter knows what they are. “Standing ups,” he declares, having seen them in pictures shown him by Father Didier. Asked what they are for, he simply shrugs. But when someone gets a ball for Christmas, the purpose of these standing ups becomes clear to the children – standing ups are ideal for making baseball bats! Read more of this post


Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri Horn (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri HornWherever there are parents, there will be problems for their kids. Bedtime too early; overprotective mums, embarrassing dads – whatever the issue, Dewey Fairchild can help. When Dewey finds success solving his friend Seraphina’s problem, he opens a business helping his Grade 5 classmates with a gamut of grown-up griefs. Things get so busy he recruits his neighbour and long-time (really, really long-time!) family friend Clara to help as an assistant. She is organized and bakes the best cookies, which she shares generously with clients and staff alike. Young readers will laugh out loud at the problems Dewey gets to solve, and enjoy his research-intensive approach to figuring out how to resolve matters for his friends. Read more of this post

Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar (2017)

Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth BeharIt’s so much fun to read “historical” novels set in a time you can almost call your own childhood! Alas, I’m a little too young to remember go go boots, which is what 11-year-old Ruthie has her heart set on. But life is challenging for a Jewish-Cuban immigrant family in 1960s New York City, and Papa already works hard to feed and care for his family. Mami misses Cuba terribly, but tries to hide it as lamenting her homeland only annoys her husband who deeply values the freedom of life in America after Castro’s Communist takeover of the family’s business. Ruthie understands both points of view, but like her mum, cherishes her memories of Cuba, though they are fading more quickly than she’d like. Read more of this post

The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. Read more of this post

The Goat, by Anne Fleming (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
The Goat, by Anne FlemingEleven-year-old Kid moves from Toronto to New York City for a six-month stay while her actor/screenwriter mother works on an off-Broadway production. Teacher Dad is going to work on his own play while homeschooling Kid, which includes daily visits to various NYC museums. They are staying in cousin Doug’s apartment just off Central Park, looking after his dog Cat while Doug is in Europe. When Kid discovers the rumour of a good-luck goat on top of the building, she teams up with new friend Will to find out the truth. Along the way, Fleming switches voices so the diverse residents in the building get to share their stories, including the goat himself! Read more of this post

In the Red Canoe, by Leslie Davidson (2016)

Picture Book
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

Flood: Race Against Time, by Aaron Rosenberg (2016)

Flood: Race Against Time, by Aaron RosenbergThis is the first title in the S.T.E.M. Squad series – adventures about children learning to use Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to solve real-world problems. The five teens are starting Grade 9 when their schedule changes for Science, and they are sent to a new classroom. It turns out to be an experimental class funded by a rich donor interested in getting kids real-life experience with STEM principles. On their first field trip, they head out to see the flood zone in person, and a series of mishaps leaves the teens stranded in a flooded home, where they have to figure out how to save themselves and get rescued, using STEM. So far, so good. Read more of this post

The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson (2014)

Genre: Speculative Fiction
Interest Level: 10-15
The Mark of the DragonflyA delightful foray into a strange, steampunk-y world! Piper lives in the Merrow Kingdom. She is 13 years old and on her own after her father died while working in the brutal factories of Dragonfly Kingdom. She earns a living as a machinist, repairing items that people bring to her as her reputation for a healing hand with machinery grows. Home is a scrapper town, where people scavenge the objects that mysteriously appear after the deadly meteor storms that happen regularly. It’s after one of these storms that Piper discovers Anna, alone and unconscious after a meteor hit her caravan. Anna wakes up with no memory of who she is or where she came from, but soon an ominous stranger arrives, threatening the girls’ safety. Read more of this post

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata (2013)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 10-14
The Thing About LuckTwelve-year-old Summer and her brother Jaz are joining their grandparents on wheat harvest, which means leaving school before the summer break. It’s been a tough few months for the family. A mosquito bite gave Summer malaria and nearly killed her; she now obsessively covers her skin with DEET and creates almost perfect drawings of both male and female of the species. Jaz can’t make any friends, her grandmother’s back pain is worsening, and now her parents are called to Japan to care for three dying relatives, leaving the grandparents to come out of retirement and join the custom harvest team. A mortgage (whatever that is) weighs heavily on the family, Read more of this post

Sure Signs of Crazy, by Karen Harrington (2013)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest level: 10-14
Sure Signs of CrazyI absolutely adore this word-loving protagonist who is both daring and timid as she navigates the rocky path life has set out for her. Sarah Nelson is turning twelve. Her best friend is off to camp, and it looks like she’ll again be sent to her grandparents for the summer. Her father teaches at college, and her mother, well, that’s the secret that drives dad and daughter to move from town to town, and that has Dad reaching for the bottle. Sarah’s mother, we soon learn, tried to drown her twin children when they were just two. Sarah survived, but Simon died. Sarah has never known her mother who now lives under psychiatric care, and her father won’t talk about the crazy. Read more of this post

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Great Bear Rainforest, by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: 8-14
Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Great Bear RainforestA fact-filled adventure involving teenage twins Gannon and Wyatt trying to survive in the Pacific rainforest against wolves, bears, bone-chilling cold, a deadly fall and even evil gunmen out to destroy the environment for profit. This is the second title in the series, written in the grand tradition of the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and Willard Price’s adventure-seeking brothers Hal and Roger Hunt. Wyatt and Gannon tell their tale in alternating journal entries, which can sometimes provide comical contrasting views of the same event. The e-book version I obtained from NetGalley (in exchange for my honest review) included occasional black and white images and links to the companion website, Read more of this post

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (2008)

Genre: Horror
Interest Level: 8-15
The Graveyard BookThis is, I believe, the first children’s book I’ve ever read that opens with a triple murder. Neil Gaiman first caught my attention with the delightfully creepy Coraline . A few years later, he won the Newbery and the Carnegie Medal for The Graveyard Book (the first book to win both). I went into this title cautiously – double award-winners have a lot to live up to! In The Graveyard Book, a toddler survives the murder of his family and makes his way, unnoticed, to a graveyard. There, he is adopted by the ghosts who live there: together they agree to raise him (it takes a graveyard to raise a child) and protect him. With the exception of having ghosts for parents, the boy (known as “Bod”, short for Nobody Owens) enjoys a relatively normal life. Read more of this post

Almost Home, by Joan Bauer (2012)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 9-13
Almost HomeJoan Bauer is one of my favourite authors for young adults – Hope Was Here and Rules of the Road are top of the list for me. Here, she writes for a younger audience, delving into the topic of homeless children in America. Sugar Mae Cole and her mother Reba find themselves without a home when Reba’s gambling addicted husband causes them to lose their Atlanta home. They sleep in the car, couchsurf with family, and finally land in a shelter. Sugar, an eloquent and, remarkably, emotionally sturdy sixth grader, watches helplessly as her mother struggles to recover her pride and a home. She finds solace in two things – her writing and her puppy Shush. Read more of this post

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping, by Mélanie Watt (2013)

Genre: Picture Book
Interest Level: 4-7
Scaredy Squirrel Goes CampingAward-winning Canadian illustrator and children’s author Mélanie Watt returns to enchant us with the delightfully wary and timid Scaredy Squirrel. This time, Scaredy is petrified by the prospect of going out into … the woods. Even though he lives in a tree. The great outdoors, Scaredy is quick to point out to readers, contains wicked dangers like mosquitoes, quicksand, and the ever-dreaded penguin, sure to be found wherever there’s a cooler. Because camping, of course, means coolers. Scaredy again demonstrates his firm belief that a prepared squirrel is a safe squirrel, loading up with rations and supplies, Read more of this post