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Canadian Kids on Canadian Lit

The thing about kids, you know, is that they say the darnedest things. So we decided to ask some of our favourite kids to guess the plots of some CanLit titles taken from our 100 Books To Read in a Lifetime list. And the results of this experiment are much hilariousness, some definite preoccupations (including death, animal noises, zombies and cannibals) and outright weirdness. You will never look at any of these titles in quite the same way again. 

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Just Pretending, by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Harriet (7): It's about somebody who's pretending, playing a game with a friend and the friend does not like the game and the friend who does not like the game pretends for real that she is a witch and then she pretends again that she can turn her into a frog, so she has to be nice to her. 

Ethan (5): A person who pretends and gets what he wants.

Pascal (5): He's just pretending to be a butterfly.

Aphra (6): About people who play a lot, and people think it's real and they’re like, "Just pretending."

Rowan (11): A book about a sister and a brother who like to dress up and pretend that they are in a different world. They imagine they are kings and queens. As they grow up, they don't play pretend as much, but they watch their kids play pretend.  

Eria (7): Somebody finds a letter that …

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Get Outside! A List of Books to Help Kids (and You) Make the Most of the Rest of Summer

Red-hot alert! If you have kids, if you'd like your kids to get the bleep outdoors, if you aren't a huge fan of the phrase "I'm bored!" on a perfectly beautiful summer's day ... A must-read from our children's librarian columnist, the most awesome Julie Booker. These books might just get you the adult reading time you're craving ...

Ever wonder how to whittle a Whim Diddle? How to measure the humidity using a piece of hair (it lengthens with moisture)? Or maybe your J stroke needs some honing? For those lucky enough to own a cabin in the woods, The Kids Cottage Book is the go-to choice, a veritable manual of up-north ventures by the sister duo Jane Drake and Ann Love. It contains some heavy-duty construction DIY projects: a diving raft with barrels, a flagpole made from a pruned tree, a hammock with handmade grommets, a tree fort complete with intruder alarms, a lean-to and comfy mattress for a sleep-out. But it also inspires clever creations: a scientific snake atlas to record sightings, a wild garden, a cool expedition satchel from old blue jeans. It’s all here, along with rainy day pastimes and recipes for plant fabric dyes. Caution: if you’re trying the fish prints, they get smelly so have a quick seal-tight disposal method.

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Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel on Bringing Their Kids Into Their Books

Marie-Louise Gay David Homel

Marie-Louise Gay, the beloved author and illustrator of the Stella and Sam series, and her husband David Homel, Governor-General-Award-winning translator of over 30 books, have combined forces in the last little while to write and illustrate the Travels series based on their family's vacations—and "stay-cations." The result has been a family affair: their kids' voices have informed the series and also the real, often funny conversations they have about the books in it.

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When our youngest son read Travels with My Family, the first of our Travels series, he couldn’t believe he’d survived his own childhood. “You guys did so many dangerous things with me!” he complained. “I should have called Youth Protection Services.” Then he made a play for a share of the royalties.

“No,” we told him. “Characters in books don’t get royalties. Only writers do. Write your own book.” Now we’re afraid he will!

Our oldest, meanwhile, showed up at our Montreal launch and happily co-signed copies of the book with us, adding “The Narrator” under his signature (more on that in a minute).

Nostalgia usually doesn’t lead to anything worthwhile, but our series of Travels books is the exception that makes the rule. We would sometimes linger at the table after din …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Into the Land of Nod

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, presents some books that just might get your kids to sleep before midnight this summer. No guarantees.

‘Tis the season of overnight camps, slumber party invites, rebellious summer bedtimers. My favourite thing to do with nine-year-olds is to turn out the lights and read scary stories. The kind that end with a spook: “I’m coming for YOU!!!”, as I leap toward a listener in the front row. One year, after a few flashlight sessions, a parent came in to tell me his son was having nightmares, and that each night they lined up a variety of toy weapons (a plastic sword, a water pistol) by his bed. The father then asked for advice about fear of sleep, which, in retrospect, was his way of asking me to quit reading those stories.

The true antidote to sleep anxiety is, of course, great books. Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel at Night comes to mind. The neurotic rodent also makes a list of objects needed to face bad dreams, including a fan to blow away ghosts, a banana peel to slip up monsters. Bonus: the kid-friendly section on the benefits of a good night’s sleep, i.e., increased brain power (see well-rested Scaredy Squirrel proudly present his completed Rubik’s cube).

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