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The Chat with Hasan Namir

Hasan Namir_Author Photo_Credit Tarn Khare

Praising the work, Griffin Poetry Prize winner Kaie Kellough says, “Umbilical Cord’s poems have a lucent quality and a supple rhythm that carries their tenderness to a reader. In an instant, the poems can become as raw, as immediate as touch. This work begins in heat and heartbeat, as a relationship and a family come into being, and it reflects the intimacies, anxieties, and devotions of love.  At once personally revealing and focused outward on the challenges that queer families face, in Umbilical Cord love triumphs over intolerance, and the future, named “Malek,” is nurtured by two devoted fathers.” 

Hasan Namir is an Iraqi-Canadian author. He graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BA in English and received the Ying Chen Creative Writing Student Award. He is the author of God in Pink (2015), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Fiction and was chosen as one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by The Globe and Mail. His work has also been in media across Canada. He is also the author of the poetry book War/Torn (2019, Book*hug Press) which received the 2020 Barbara Gittings Honor Book Award from the Stonewall Book Awards, and children’s book The Name I Call Myself (2020). Hasan lives in Vancouver with his husband and child.

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Trevor Corkum …

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The Chat with Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell

eva 3 photo credit Brian Geary

The vibrant picture book Africville was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Award for Literature for Young People. It tells the story of Africville through the eyes of a young girl. This week we’re in conversation with the book’s creators, author Shauntay Grant and illustrator Eva Campbell.

In a starred review, Quill & Quire says, "Shauntay Grant’s writing is graceful ... She reaches out to young readers and invites them in ... Visually, Africville is gorgeous. Eva Campbell’s illustrations are arresting; the colours are warm and inviting, and her painterly style enhances the dreamlike quality of the story." 

Eva Campbell is an artist and illustrator who teaches visual art at Lester B. Pearson College UWC. She has exhibited her work in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Barbados, and Ghana. Eva won the Children’s Africana Book Award for her illustrations in The Matatuby by Eric Walters. She lives in Victoria.

Shauntay Grant_photo credit Shyronn Smardon

Shauntay Grant is a descendant of Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons and Black Refugees who migrated to Canada some t …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winners David Alexander Robertson & Julie Flett

In the final installment in in our Governor General Award special edition of The Chat, we speak to David Alexander Robertson and Julie Flett. Their book, When We Were Alone, won the 2017 Governor General's Award for Young People’s Literature (Illustration).

David Alexander Robertson

From the Peer Assessment Committee: “When We Were Alone is a poignant story of a dark and unforgettable part of Canadian history. David A. Robertson gently links the residential school experiences to a new generation with an enduring example of healing, love and understanding. Julie Flett’s simple but profound illustrations expertly complement the text and elevate this important story.”

David A. Robertson is an award-winning writer. His books include When We Were Alone (TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award nominee, Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature winner), Will I See? (winner of the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award Graphic Novel Category), and the YA novel Strangers. David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues. David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.
 

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Five Perfect Picture Books for Spring

Here comes the sun, along with an excellent crop of new picture books to read in the warmth of its rays. 

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Book Cover Mr King's Machine

 

Mr. King's Machine, by Geneviève Côté

About the book: When Mr. King the cat discovers that one of the pretty flowers near his home has been chewed by a caterpillar, he is NOT happy. He decides to build himself a Caterpillar-Catcher to track down the culprit who did it. “VOOM! VOOM! VOOM!” But as he speeds up and down the hillsides, Mr. King doesn't notice that the Caterpillar-Catcher is spewing nasty smoke into the air and knocking down the other pretty flowers in his path. Now it's his animal friends who are NOT happy. They explain to Mr. King that his machine is making things worse, not better. And why chase a caterpillar anyway? Caterpillars turn into butterflies, and butterflies help the flowers to grow! Will Mr. King be able to turn things around so everyone will be happy again?

Why it's a perfect book for spring: This is the third book in Côte's Mr. King series, each one with an environmental slant. And this one celebrates butterflies, pollinators, and growing gardens by planting seeds—you don't get more seasonal than that. 

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Deborah Ellis

Book Cover The Breadwinner

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month. For a complete list of Deborah Ellis's books, check out her 49th Shelf Author Page

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I have a confession: I used to often recommend the much-acclaimed Breadwinner trilogy without having actually read it. But now I can finally say I'm a true convert, and a huge fan of Deborah Ellis. Ellis is adept at writing about children who are in impossible situations and forced to make adult decisions. She's written more than 20 books (fiction and non-fiction), addressing issues faced by kids around the globe, donating more than a million dollars from the proceeds of her trilogy to worthy causes including Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Street Kids International, the Children in Crisis Fund of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) and UNICEF. All three books in the Breadwinner trilogy are listed for “mature readers” and have an author's note giving context to the stories. These are recommended for Grade 5+.

In the first book, The Breadwinner, 11-year-old Parvana's Kabul house has been bombed many times. Her family has gone from middle class to poverty, and since the Taliban, women cannot walk unattended and without wearing burqas. Her mother refus …

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Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2016 Children's Book Preview

Book Cover Sky Pig

Amazing books are arriving this spring for young readers of all ages (and the not-so-young readers, too). Gorgeous picture books, middle-grade books to get kids hooked on reading, and hard-hitting YA titles are collected here. It's going to be a marvellous season. 

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Picture Books

Victoria Allenby and Tara Anderson follow up their award-winning Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That with the delightful rhyming romp, Rhino Rumpus (June). Inuit artist Germaine Arnaktauyok's illustrations bring creatures from her culture's myths to life in Those That Cause Fear (June), written by Neil Christopher. This spring brings two new books in the "Lucy Tries Sports" series, by Lisa Bowes and illustrated by James Hearne: Lucy Tries Short Track (January) and Lucy Tries Soccer (April). Willow’s Smile (March), by Lana Button and Tania Howells, is Willow's third adventure, and this time she's navigating the perils of picture day and achieving a perfect smile. Award winners Jan Coates and Suzanne Del Rizzo team up for Sky Pig (April), which is about two friends conspiring to make pigs fly, against all odds. And Geneviève Côte's third Mr. King book is Mr. King’s Machine (April), in which the foolhardy kitty's friends teach him another lesson about environmentalism. 

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Picture Book Summer Magic

Summer! So perfect, so ephemeral. And yet also potentially endless if you keep rereading these beautiful summery new books.

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Song for a Summer's Night, by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Qin Leng:

Book Cover Song for a Summer's Night

The charm of this gorgeous book won't be completely apparent until you've read it in the company of at least one small child who will inevitably join for the summer song chorus—"shh-shh glint glint pring pring tra-la-la..." It's the perfect book to wind down with at the end of a busy sun-soaked day, its verse as contagious as that of Heidbreder's previous book, Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, and perfectly complemented by Leng's full page spreads. 

Song for a Summer's Night

 

See You Next Year, by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Todd Stewart:

Book Cover See You Next year

We're in love with this book about the small pleasures of the summer holiday, an annual journey to a place where nothing ever c …

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Coming of Age With This is Sadie

Book Cover This is Sadie

This weekend, the New York Times called This Is Sadie an "elegant tribute to the inner life of an imaginative girl" and declared the book to be "an appealingly rounded glimpse of girlhood that’s somehow both timeless and modern." It's a fitting reception for one of the season's most anticipated picture book titles. Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad have scored another winner. 

Here, O'Leary answers our questions about Sadie as bildungsroman, the wisdom of five-year-olds, the genderization of play, and reading and empathy. She also suggests Sadie's summer reading list.

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49th Shelf: I am having a lot of fun thinking about This is Sadie in conjunction with the idea of coming-of-age and coming-of-age books. Sadie seems to have so many of the fundamentals of the universe worked out already. How old is she, in your imaginings?

Sara O’Leary: I think Sadie is about five—five for me was the year that I started school, received the tremendous gift of a baby brother, and read my first word (wagon). It was a big year.

But Sadie could also be older. There's a beautiful Mary Norton line in Bedknob and Broomstick where she slyly tells you that one of the characters is "about your age." And I hope Sadie's a little like that—about the age of whoever is reading themselves int …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books for Mother's Day

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Mothers come in many forms in these books that put moms in the spotlight. 

Book Cover Matthew and the Midnight Money Van

It's the eve of Mother's Day in Matthew and the Midnight Money Van, by Allen Morgan, illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Matthew crawls under his bed to count the money in his piggy bank (a money van). There, amongst a host of uneaten food items, he realizes he doesn't have enough for his mom's gift before falling asleep. In what might be a dream, Matthew helps some unusual street-sweepers, such as the midnight mounted geese police with bambino machines collecting dropped pennies. He hits the $2 million mark, enough for a diamond ring for mom. The humorous language and pictures complement each other beautifully, resulting in a lovely sentiment between mother and son. (He ends up preparing a breakfast using all those under-the-bed snacks.) This one is for all ages.

Book Cover Polar Bear Son

The Polar Bear Son, An Inuit Tale, retold and illustrated by Lydia Dabcovich, is about a childless old woman who li …

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How Frieda Wishinsky Found Avis Dolphin

Book Cover Avis Dolphin

It is because truth is stranger than fiction that it turns out Avis Dolphin was the name of an actual person before she was the subject of Frieda Wishinksy's latest book. Avis Dolphin is her story, about a young girl's journey from Canada to England on the ill-fated Lusitania during WW1. Avis is lonely and afraid until she meets a kindly professor whose stories of a magical island help her face an uncertain future. And when the Lusitania is attacked, Avis must draw on all her newfound strength to cope with the confusion, terror, and despair.

How can she survive the sudden devastation of the ship? Will the people she cares about, especially the professor, live through the horror and danger? Wishinsky's story is complemented by the art of Willow Dawson, graphic novel illustrations depicting the stories the Professor tells to Avis. 

In this guest post, Frieda Wishinsky explains how she learned about making stories from history come to life. 

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I "found" Avis Dolphin while researching shipwrecks for a non-fiction book. As soon as I read about this 12-year-old who survived the torpedoing of the ocean liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, I was intrigued. Her story was even more engaging than her name but I had many questions that the facts and official accounts didn’t an …

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Katherine Govier: On Mother Goose and Reading With Mum

Half For You and Half For Me

What is the magic and what is the meaning of the nursery rhymes that stay in our heads for a lifetime? The answers are here in Katherine Govier's new book, Half For You and Half For Me, whose enchanting introduction appears below.

Some rhymes describe historical events and some are just plain nonsense. Some of the oldest rhymes were never intended for the nursery, but for the street—where they came to life as popular judgments on events of the day. In Half For You and Half For Me, the author breaks the codes of these nursery rhymes in accessible, amusing explanations. She also adds some classic Canadiana, including a poem by star children's poet Dennis Lee.

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95 years ago, when my mother was born, her parents bought a beautiful book: The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose. They read it to her while she sat on their knees. When she was old enough for crayons and scissors, she expressed her affection all over the pages. She kept it until she grew up and became a mother. I have a picture of Mum reading to me; I am about two, and I am entranced. I remember how she laughed. I loved the fact that words on a page could make her laugh.

30 years passed and I had two children of my own. When we visited their grandparents, the Mother Goose came out, and we read together. …

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Picture Books Featuring Children of Colour

During Black History Month, we've been looking back at the history of African-Canadians, but it's also just as important to look forward. We asked author and children's librarian Joanne Schwartz to create a list of picture books set in Canada featuring African-Canadian children characters and other children of colour so that young Canadian readers from all kinds of backgrounds can see the myriad ways in which books are a mirror of their lives and of the world.

Up Home by Shauntay Grant, illus. Susan Tooke

About the book: A positive, heartwarming portrayal of North Preston past and present. This touching poem from spoken-word artist, poet and CBC Radio personality Shauntay Grant portrays the Nova Scotian community of Preston. Short, staccato lines, musicality and the use of real, spoken language, and Susan Tooke's breathtaking illustrations using real models from the community, combine in a sensory experience that is sure to wow readers of all ages. Grant's memories of growing up reflect a magical place where landscape, food, history and, most of all, people come together in a community filled with love and beauty. A powerful story with positive images of one of Nova Scotia's most important black communities.

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