A Canada Day Shout-out: Some Summer Reads For “Young Readers”

It’s been awhile since I gave a shout-out to some fellow authors by sharing with my readers some of the great Canadian books that are out there for readers, young and old. I thought it was high time I did something about that.  And since it’s the Canada Day weekend, what better way to celebrate than giving a shout-out to some Canadian books? While the title of the post suggests that these books are for young readers I know many older readers who enjoy reading books for the younger set. I happen to fall into that category.

This list contains some of the books I’ve read recently and really enjoyed, and a few that are on my summer reading list. You do have a summer reading list–don’t you?

I hope you’ll keep in mind that a good book is a good book regardless of the intended market. So it you’re not inclined to read books aimed for young readers, I suggest you consider giving some of these a try because a good book really is a good book. Hey, I already said that!

Talking to the Moon: A new middle grade novel by Jan L. Coates. I’m  really looking forward to reading this one. My Dalhousie friends will remember Jan as our author-in-shining armor who pitched in and helped Jeff sell books at my book launch, and helped save the day!

Deep roots. Last year in Social Studies, Miss Matattall got us to draw our family trees. Mine was the only one with no roots and just one full branch for me, plus a half branch for Moonbeam. Because maybe she’s already dead, and that’s why she didn’t come back to get me.

Katie Dupuis Pearson wants to find her real mother; her only clues are her Lavender Lady, a piece of amethyst, and a bookmark from Lunenburg. While spending a month in lovely Lunenburg with her foster mother, Katie makes friends with estranged sisters, Aggie and Jessie Langille. Katie becomes fascinated by stories about their ancestor, Catherine Marguerite Langille, one of the original Foreign Protestant Lunenburg settlers in 1753. Like Katie, Catherine was friends with the Moon. Like Katie, Catherine was uprooted, forced to transplant herself. Will Katie find her own roots buried deep within the Lunenburg soil?

Halifax Time Travelling Tune by Jan L. Coates. This year, Jan has not only one book but two coming out. I’ll be picking up a copy for my grand kids as well as myself!

Grandma closed the piano lid. “I love singing those old tunes with you.
I wish you could have seen the Halifax I once knew.”

This dreamy and whimsical story follows a young child who travels back in time to 1950s Halifax with a whimsical tune. Follow the pair through Point Pleasant Park, the Public Gardens, Spring Garden Road, Citadel Hill, and other historic Halifax landmarks, showing off all the sights and sounds of the city. With lively text from Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Jan Coates and vivid illustrations of mid-century Halifax by Marijke Simons, A Halifax Time-Travelling Tune is bound to conjure more than a few bedtime sing-a-longs.

Camped Out by Daphne Greer. This book has been nominated for the 2019 Hackmatack Award. It’s the sequel to Daphne’s earlier book, Maxed Out. And is definitely on my summer reading list.

Max knows his mom can’t afford to send him to summer camp. But he really, really wants to go. He needs a break from looking after his autistic brother, Duncan. And from his mom’s new boyfriend. He is surprised when his mom says that he can go after all. But there’s a catch. There are spots available at the camp for families with special needs. A grant would cover Duncan’s fees, and Max could attend at no charge. If he goes as Duncan’s escort.

This is the second story featuring Max and Duncan after Maxed Out. 

Here so Far Away by Hadley Dyer. I was anxiously awaiting the release of this book and I wasn’t disappointed. Really, really enjoyed it. It actually stayed with me for a time afterward. Just couldn’t shake it. Valley people might be interested to know that Hadley is a former West Kings student.

George Warren (real name: Frances, but nobody calls her that) is well aware that she’s sometimes too tough for her own good. She didn’t mean to make the hot new guy cry—twice. And maybe she shouldn’t have hit the school’s mean girl in the face. George’s loyalty and impulsiveness are what her friends love about her—they know she’s got their backs.

On the cusp of her senior year, though, everything starts to change: a fight with her best friend puts an irreparable rift in George’s social circle, George’s father can no longer work as a police officer, and the family’s financial problems threaten her dream of going away for college. The year is turning out nothing like what George envisioned, but unfortunately, life’s a bad writer.

Then George meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name and her talent for sarcastic banter. In him, she—the queen of catch-and-release—has finally found someone she wants to hold on to, when lately it seems like she’s only been pushing people away. And with him, she falls hard and recklessly in love in ways she never thought herself capable. In short, it’s the year George nearly loses everything, including herself, in secret and utterly alone. 

With brilliant humor and heartbreaking truth, award-winning author Hadley Dyer tells a story of finding love—and the road back from unthinkable loss.

Missing Mike by Shari Green. Shari’s novels are in verse which makes them unique especially to anyone who isn’t familiar with Verse novels. I met Shari at the Festival of Trees in May. Her book Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess was also a nominee for the Silver Birch along with Cammie Takes Flight. I knew Shari previously through blogging and I have to say she was just as nice in person. This book is on my TBR list. I can hardly wait. Check out her other books.

He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.

Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.
With her signature style combining simplicity and lyricism, the author of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess tells an uplifting story of love and loss. And she shows how one girl’s stressful journey eventually leads her to an unexpected place, and a new definition of home.

The Goodbye Girls by Lisa Harrington. I first met Lisa at the launch for A Maritime Christmas and shortly before her book Rattled was published. I’ve also added this book to my summer reading list. I’m going to be a busy reader!

The students at Lizzie’s high school are notoriously terrible at breakups. Forget awkward conversations—they’re dumping each other via text. Inspired by the terrible breakups around her, sixteen-year-old Lizzie, strapped for cash and itching to go on the school’s band trip to NYC, teams up with her best friend, Willa, to create a genius business: personalized gift baskets—breakup baskets—sent from dumper to dumpee. The Goodbye Girls operate in secret, and business is booming. But it’s not long before someone begins sabotaging The Goodbye Girls, sending impossibly cruel baskets to seemingly random targets, undermining everything Lizzie and Willa have built and jeopardizing their anonymity. Soon family, friendship, and a budding romance are on the line. Will Lizzie end up saying goodbye to the business for good?

So here you have some Canadian books to consider on this Canada Day weekend.  I hope you’ll check some of them out, either for yourself or perhaps a young reader on your gift-giving list. It’s never too early to start thinking of Christmas, or is it?

Please feel free to give your own shout-out to any Canadian books that are on your summer reading list in the comment section below? It’s always always fun to share titles with others. 

Happy Canada Day. Enjoy the long weekend!

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Dinosaurs, Crowns and Twins

I just got to the point where I’d had enough. I was completely fed up. And so, a week ago I decided to slay the dinosaur in my house—yes, I did say dinosaur. Yes, I did say slay. Let me explain.

She was simply taking up too much room with her slow, uncontrolled, unpredictable moves. Not to mention all the grumbling that was left in her wake. As far as dinosaurs go, she wasn’t really so bad, not like your run-of-the-mill T-rex or even stegosaurus which I venture to guess would be next to impossible to cohabitate with. My dinosaur was clunky and pre-historic but I brought her home when she was newly hatched. We bonded. I knew her every clunk, thump and grind. I wasn’t always appreciative of her. (You know how you tend to take all those dinosaurs in your life for granted.) She allowed me to check email, and Facebook, but she wasn’t so nice to me when I visited my friends in blogland. Sometimes she simply refused to budge. She didn’t want me to *like* any of you, and she didn’t want me to make any comments on your posts. Sometimes, she even forced me to go to the local c@p site to upload photos to my own blog. Imagine that.

Power can go to a dinosaur’s head.

Overtime, she became too independent for her own good. We were becoming disconnected. Yet, I resisted…and resisted. Even though I grumbled and complained. Finally, I just had enough. I mean, how long can you cohabitate with a dinosaur and be happy?

Life’s too short not to be happy with your dinosaur.

So, she’s gone, put to rest, retired, withdrawn, given the boot.

My life will be a bit easier.

Saturday was the launching of Jan Coate’s brand new picture book, The King of Keji at The Box of Delights in Wolfville. Can you imagine a better name for a bookstore? I had a great time. The book’s illustrator, Patsy MacKinnon was also at the launch. Crowns were made for the kids which was pretty cool. Did I get a crown? You bet. In fact, I got two for the little people in my life. I didn’t want to push it by asking for one for myself. Seriously, the crown-making was a big hit with the kids and worked in well with the picture book. Jan read the story which many of you know is set at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Park right here in Nova Scotia. Patsy explained a bit about how she creates the illustrations. I believe she said she worked on them for about six months. I love the colours she used.

While he didn't make the book launch, Levi was happy with his crown and book!

While he didn’t make the book launch, Levi was happy with his crown and book!

When you get married and have twins;
Don’t come to me for safety pins.

Speaking of dinosaurs, how out-dated is that verse? Perhaps as out-dated as autograph books which I’m writing into my next story. Does anyone use safety pins or cloth diapers these days? Autograph books?

While on the subject of twins… Some of you already know that we’re about to be blessed with twins this time around. Master Levi is going to be a big brother at the ripe old age of 22 months. There’s no quicker way for a child to grow up then to become an older sibling. I know a mom and dad who are going to be BUSY in the future; September, or so we’re told. Hard to say with twins. We’re all so excited. Being a nanny and guppy is pretty darn cool.

So, that’s my news for now. What’s news in your corner?

Gratitude

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” ~Cynthia Ozick

Today, the key word seems to be gratitude, gratitude for all the good things that are, that were, or will be. I’m sure every day we can find something to be grateful for, but do we always take the time to be aware of the good things in our lives? I hope so..

A lovely thank you card from the Homeschoolers group I read to last Friday arrived in the mail today. What a lovely added bonus to my day! It made me smile.

Today I’m over at Reading Recommendation. If you haven’t checked out Susan Toy’s site before you might want to give it a try. Hey, and you’ll even see yours truly. Find out how we connected years ago without my even knowing. Cool!

Earlier this week I had coffee with Jan Coates. We had some catching up to do as it had been awhile since we’d chatted. Jan’s new picture book “The King of Keji” is scheduled for release this spring. It’s in the spring Nimbus catalogue already! You can check it out HERE.I know some of you from Facebook have already seen it.

I also want to mention that Family Literacy Day is on January 27th. For those of you who need a gentle reminder:

Family Literacy Day is a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 and held annually on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.

I don’t have to mention how important literacy is to us all, especially to the new generation growing up.

Lastly, since I began this post with gratitude, I want to give a shout out to those of you who follow my blog. I appreciate you signing up! I wrote a blog post back in December about Supporting Your Author Friend and things went a little crazy here for a day or so. So, thank you! Also, a big thank you to those of you who recently joined my Facebook page. Well, not just those who recently joined. Whether you joined in the beginning or just recently, I appreciate all of you. Oh, you know what I mean! Saying thank you is something that often gets overlooked and something we kind of take for granted. I don’t want to take any of you for granted. I happen to think thank you are two words that should be said every day. Gratitude should not only thought about but expressed.

So, since I’m ending on a note of gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life, maybe you’d like to share something that you’re grateful for with the rest of us.

Guest Blogger–Jan L. Coates

Today, I am pleased and excited to welcome Jan Coates to my blog. I met Jan a bit over a year ago just before her book, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk” was published. Jan’s book made the shortlist for the Ann Conner Brimer Award this year and has also been nominated for Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Awards (SYRCA) Snow Willow Award; USBBY Honor List of Outstanding International Books 2011; Skipping Stones Honor List, 2011 Way to go Jan!!! Check out Jan’s blog over at Jan L. Coates, Author

A Lost Boy, a Cup of Coffee, Hares and Elephants

When I visit schools as an author, I confess to students that one of the characteristics essential to being a writer is nosiness. They usually giggle, but lots of them are willing to admit to being nosey, too. Well, the younger students will admit to it, anyway. When I describe myself as nosey, I mean it in a good way – I’m simply interested in people and why they do the things they do. Most days as I go about my daily life, I see four or five things that are story-worthy; if only I could retrieve them from the dark recesses of my memory at the right time! Four years ago, when the Acadia Alumni Bulletin asked me to interview Jacob Deng, then an Acadia student, I jumped at the chance as I already knew a little of his story because he had visited my daughter’s school a few weeks earlier. So, we arranged to meet for coffee.

Little did I know that a two-hour meeting over coffee would lead to me spending three years researching and writing Jacob’s story as a Lost Boy of Sudan between 1987 and 1994. During our first two hour meeting, we laughed and cried, and Jacob talked and talked while I listened incredulously. How could boys as young as 5 survive being ripped away from their families by war, only to have to walk for weeks through unbelievably grueling conditions? I was already a children’s writer when Jacob and I met, but I had never written anything longer than picture book manuscripts. As I walked down the street after saying goodbye to Jacob that day, I was already thinking that his story needed to be told for young readers; readers who, like me, are most often blissfully unaware of, or at least not paying attention to, the horrible conditions people around the world are forced to endure on a daily basis.

Of course, I had no idea of the work that would be involved in writing a 300-page novel, regardless of the topic. But I was determined, and once I decide to do something, it takes a lot to deter me from that course. An unexpected heart attack a few months after my initial meeting with Jacob, a striking reminder of how precious time is, spurred me on and gave me time to begin writing. As I started to research and write, things fell into place. I received a mentorship from the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia which enabled me to write the bulk of the manuscript under the wise and intelligent guidance of Gary L. Blackwood. I then submitted it to Peter Carver, children’s editor at Red Deer Press, and he called to say he loved it – a dream-come-true telephone call that made me weepy.

Twelve months later, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk was launched. Proceeds from the book are being shared with Wadeng Wings of Hope, Jacob’s foundation through which he’s raising money to build a school in South Sudan, the world’s newest country! It’s all good, and it all began with a 400-word magazine article and a cup of coffee…

Speaking of coffee, the first time Laura and I met for coffee, I’m sure that meeting lasted for at least three hours – yay, coffee! Thanks, Laura, for asking me to be part of your blog

*I admit to scarcely remembering the taste of the coffee, Jan. Just the great conversation we had that day. Thanks for dropping in and sharing this with us. 🙂

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