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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Scrumptious Stories

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

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The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, by Anne Michaels, illustrated by Emma Block, is a brilliant collection of five short stories, all featuring the enigmatic Miss Petitfour. Miss Petitfour loves to bake little cakes and she loves to eat. She loves her neighbourhood with its bookstore and bakery. And she loves to fly, travelling by tablecloth, puffed up “like a biscuit in the oven,” with her “sixteen cats dangling in one gigantic puss-tail.” Each story brings adventures, big and small: discovering the empty marmalade pot, with the spoon still in it; getting caught up in a jumble of coat hangers; chasing a runaway rare stamp; celebrating Minky, the cheese-loving cat’s birthday; rescuing a neighbour from a confetti explosion.

The charm of this book, besides its obvious appreciation of food and enticing descriptions, is found in the playfulness of the language, imaginative characters and creative plot twists. Plus, there’s the bonus of the authorial voice instructing the reader on key phrases (some of which are even in a different font colour) that can turn a story on a dime or resolve a plot thread or steer into an interesting digression. For example, Mi …

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The Donair: Canada's Official Food?

In Book of Donair: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Halifax Street Food that Became Canada's Favourite Kebab, Lindsay Wickstrom explores the history of the donair, and the people who shaped this Halifax-born kebab into the iconic Canadian street food it has become. In this excerpt, she shares how a bitter rivalry between Halifax and Edmonton helped propel the donair to be declared the official food of Halifax.

Bonus: want to win a copy of Book of Donair? We've got it up for giveaway this week.

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“Edmonton is the true donair champion, the true mecca of donairs,” Omar Mouallem said, boldly concluding his presentation at Edmonton’s PechaKucha Night 2014. A PechaKucha is a storytelling art, originating in Japan, where 20 slides are presented with 20 seconds of commentary each. It’s an efficient, creative and personal way for people to share their work with the community.

Omar’s work was journalism. He went on to write an in-depth piece for the Walrus about the history of the donair in Alberta. That year he also wrote donair articles for Maclean’s and Swerve Magazine. In 2017, he wrote a piece for Canadian Geographic’s Canada 150 special issue, which officially made the donair one of CanGeo’s “150 icons of Canada.” A local paper had deemed …

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12 New Books on Community Connections

Our focus on community connections continues with this cross-genre list of twelve recent books that delve into community and community building in singular and fascinating ways.  

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Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life, by Radha Agrawal

About the book: How is it that the internet connects us to a world of people, yet so many of us feel more isolated than ever? That we have hundreds, even thousands of friends on social media, but not a single person to truly confide in? Radha Agrawal calls this “community confusion,” and in Belong she offers every reader a blueprint to find their people and build and nurture community, because connectedness—as more and more studies show—is our key to happiness, fulfillment, and success.
 
A book that’s equal parts inspiring and interactive, and packed with prompts, charts, quizzes, and full-color illustrations, Belong takes readers on a two-part journey. Part one is Going IN—a gentle but intentional process of self-discovery and finding out your true energy levels and VIA (values, interests, and abilities). Part two is Going OUT—building on all that you’ve learned about yourself to find those few special people who feed your soul, and discovering, or creating, the ever-wideni …

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The Chat With Naben Ruthnum

TREVOR CORKUM cropped

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We’re leading off the fall in conversation with Naben Ruthnum, author of Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race. Curry is part of the Exploded Views nonfiction series published by Coach House Books.
 
In this compelling essay, Ruthnum critically examines a range of key works by brown writers. He casts his gaze upon novels, travelogues, recipes, and other pop culture signifiers to argue that “the distinctive taste of curry has often become maladroit shorthand for brown identity.
 
Naben Ruthnum won the Journey Prize for his short fiction, has been a National Post books columnist, and has written books and cultural criticism for the Globe and Mail, Hazlitt, and the Walrus. His crime fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Joyland, and his pseudonym Nathan Ripley's first novel will appear in 2018. Ruthnum lives in Toronto.

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THE CHAT WITH NABEN RUTHNUM

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Bon Appetit: Food in CanLit

We all have our favourite food scenes from books and movies. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega bonding over a $5 milkshake in Pulp Fiction. The poor lobsters in Annie Hall. Lady and the Tramp’s romantic spaghetti and meatball dinner. Butter beer and Cornish pasties in Harry Potter. Loretta telling Ronny how he’ll eat his steak in Moonstruck. Every single meal in Louise Penny's mysteries. Key lime pie and potatoes in Nora Ephron's Heartburn. The list is endless and adding to it is completely addictive. You could lose yourself for hours just by clicking on this link.
 
The best food writing defines characters and crystallizes their challenges and desires, allowing readers and viewers into a fictional world that is both familiar and surprising. When we “read food,” we automatically put ourselves into the scene and imagine how we would feel. Loved. Hated. Shocked. Enraptured. Pretty much any emotion can be summoned through food—and immediately, in very few words—if the writing is brilliant enough.

Food plays a key role in Trevor Cole’s Hope Makes Love. In the novel, the female protagonist, Hope, has suffered a terrible trauma. She is functional, but just, and fearful of intimacy. She meets a man named Adnan, and he is gentle. So as not to give too much away, here’s an excerpt from the book. The context: an email from Hope to Adnan, recalling a night they spent together.

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We made—or you made and insisted it was “we"—tarts with roasted cherry tomatoes and onions and …

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Summer Eats: Fresh Corn and Cherry Tomato Salad

It is summer, so it is high time—the best time!—to talk about corn, especially as it's featured here in Moira Sanders' The Kitchen Table Cookbook. Moira’s recipes have been victorious in county fair bake offs, and this one in particular is easy to make and totally reliant on the freshest produce you can find. PRO TIP: serve with tortilla chips and eat like a salsa!

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Fresh corn and cherry tomato salad - photo

FRESH CORN AND CHERRY TOMATO SALAD

Serves 4

Bright red cherry tomatoes mingling with fresh yellow corn kernels in a Mexican-inspired vinaigrette make for a salad that is as tasty as it is beautiful. We are lucky to have several farms nearby that grow and sell sweet corn, spoiling us against anything that remotely looks like it’s been imported. I recommend making this salad at the height of sweet corn season—August and September.

For the salad

6 cobs of fresh sweet corn

1 cup (250 mL) halved cherry tomatoes

1⁄2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped green onions

1⁄2 cup (125 mL) chopped cilantro

1 cup (250 mL) crumbled Macedonian feta cheese

 

For the vinaigrette

3 Tbsp (45 mL) fresh lime juice

3 …

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Summer Eats: Roasted Tomatoes from Per La Familiglia

Roasted Tomatoes

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bielaski

In most parts of the country, August is peak-delicious. The peaches are ripe and dripping, corn-on-the-cob is beautiful golden, and the tomatoes are huge and full of flavour. Give your Canadian summer a mediterranean twist with this recipe for roasted tomatoes from Emily Richards' Per La Famiglia: Memories and Recipes of  Southern Italian Home Cooking, setting aside some extra to be enjoyed down the line when the August sun is just a hazy memory.

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It is a family tradition to buy bushels of tomatoes to make pasta sauce each year. It is an easy way to save money and enjoy the in-season flavour of tomatoes year round. I always take away about half a bushel to make roasted tomatoes to store away in the freezer. Sweet, dark roasted tomatoes retain a slight juiciness to them. On their own, sit them atop a sliced baguette that has been spread with ricotta or goat cheese for an easy appetizer or add them to soups, stews or pasta dishes.

2 lb (1 kg) plum tomatoes, about 20 (all about the same size)

1/4 cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped fresh basil

2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped fresh oregano

 

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and …

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League of Canadian Poets: Food and Poetry

April 2015 marks the 17th National Poetry Month in Canada. The League of Canadian Poets is pleased to announce that the theme for National Poetry Month this year is Food and Poetry. Inspired by Rachel Rose’s inaugural speech as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, the LCP wants to investigate the ways in which "food is personal, political, sensual and powerful." Food nourishes, grounds and connects us, much like poetry. Without food as without poetry, we go hungry.

In honour of this, Hazel Millar, LCP's Publicity and Media Manager for National Poetry Month, has assembled a recommended reading list of poetry books that explore food and our relationship to it.

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Leak, by Kate Hargreaves

In Leak, bodies lose pieces and fall apart, while words slip out of place and letters drop away. Food is a major theme in this collection, both in the sense of "you are what you eat" but also with regard to what might be thought of as an obsessive monitoring of food intake. Trust me when I say that you will never think of ants, recipes, or open wounds, in quite the same way again.

 

Book Cover Kapusta

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Summer Eats: Vegan al Fresco

tagged: Food, vegan, cookbooks

veganalfresco

As tempting as it can be to throw a hunk of meat at the barbecue in the summertime, the hottest, stickiest evenings call for something a little lighter, something sin fuego. We are pleased to present two recipes from the new cookbook, Vegan al Fresco, by Carla Kelly, with permission from Arsenal Pulp Press.

After you sample these recipes, you'll want to check out the whole cookbook, which boasts recipes such as Peanut Potato Salad, Tomato & Olive Tarts, Pita Po'Boys, Sweet Chipotle Tempeh with Berries,  Cedar Planked Rosemary & Lemon Tofu, Strawberry & Basil Scones, Maple & Walnut Cheesecake, and yummy vegan ice creams.

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Caper & Edamame Dip

caperedamamedip

The green colour of this dip is so intense, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s guacamole—until you taste its briny kick. Enjoy with crudités.

Makes 1 cup (250 ml)—Preparation time 10 mins + 1 hour chilling

1 cup (250 mL) frozen edamame, cooked to package directions, refreshed under cold water
¼ cup (60 mL) + 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise such as Tofonnaise
2 tbsp capers with brine
1 garlic clove, minced
1 s …

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Eukrates’ Guide to Wining and Dining in Athens, by Karen Dudley

Corey Mintz may have a few pearls of wisdom when it comes to entertaining guests in 2013, but would he know what to do in Ancient Athens? Thankfully, none of us need go ignorant now that Karen Dudley is sharing Eukrates' Five Quick Tips for Hosts, complete with recommended—and edible—sex toys for bored women-folk.

Karen's genre-defying Food for the Gods, an historical fantasy novel set in ancient Athens, has been nominated for an Aurora Award (for science fiction and fantasy), a Bony Blithe Award (for humorous mystery), a Mary Scorer Award (for best book by a Manitoba publisher), and a High Plains Book Award for best culinary book. The sequel, Kraken Bake, is forthcoming in 2014.

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Ensure your dinner party is a success by following these Five Quick Tips for Hosts:

1. Hire the best foreign chef you can afford for your symposion. In some circles it has become common practice to demand that a cook and his slaves eat before they arrive so you do not have to bear the expense of feeding them. Although some find this behaviour acceptable, it is, in fact, niggardly and vulgar. By offering to feed the cook and his retinue, you will, in addition to appearing magnanimous, secure his gratitude and through this obtain a vastly superior meal for your special dinner party. …

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Six Foods to Change Your Life, With Mouth-Watering Recipes

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the power of food

It's one thing to tell people what to do about their health and lifestyle. It's another for an author to apply his advice to himself, lose 40 pounds, say goodbye to depression, and reverse his pre-diabetic diagnosis. Here are six of Adam Hart's top foods from his new book, The Power of Food, along with three recipes that illustrate how to incorporate them into a delicious diet: Pistachio Mango Salsa, Hummus Five Ways, and Warm Quinoa With Beets and Swiss Chard. With the bounty of fresh food we can access in the summer, there's no better time to try them out ...

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1. Pistachios
Pistachios are a great source of protein, fibre, and essential fatty acids (EFAs). Studies have found that EFAs help hair quality and strength so if you’re planning on spending lots of time reading at the beach or cottage this summer, be sure to pack a handful or two of pistachios to help keep your hair looking healthy and strong.

2. Chia Seeds
If you’ve suddenly got the jingle from the Chia Pet commercial stuck in your head than you’re on the right track. It turns out t …

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Shopping for Poetry in the Grocery Aisle: Guest Post by Sonia Saikaley

Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter

I love wandering down the aisles of grocery stores. Different types of food fascinate me. I stop, touch the exotic fruit, examine the vegetables from faraway places and wonder how each of these could become part of a poem. A poem about an apple or an orange may sound dull but a poem about a Red delicious or a mandarin orange, well, that’s something, no? Chinese and Italian eggplants, Shanghai bok choy, couscous, feta cheese, goat milk, naan and pita, Polish kielbasa, Jamaican patties, baklawa and Turkish delights, green tea, allspice and ginger all suggest something exotic, somewhere between the old world and new, some place where Canadians had once lived before making new lives in this land of freedom and glacial landscapes.

All these foods and spices are poetic and represent a connection to the past and a way to still hold onto the memories of old countries. Several years back, when I first started writing poems that would later become part of my poetry collection Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter, I was watching my mother cook, crushing dried mint leaves with her fingers and tossing these green bits into the fattoush. While she explained the art of making this Middle Eastern salad, it suddenly struck me how important food is to understanding a culture and how …

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