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Two Amazing Books for Young Readers

At a moment when so many of us are looking for inspiration and longing for visionary leadership, Kids Can Press and their YA imprint KCPLoft are delivering with two extraordinary new releases.

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Canadian Women Now and Then: More Than 100 Stories of Fearless Trailblazers, by Elizabeth MacLeod and Maia Faddoul

To the newish tradition of biographical anthologies of women whose stories deserve to be better known (think Rad Women Worldwide, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and the excellent and Canadian-grown The Girl Who Rode a Shark) comes Canadian Women Now and Then, which puts a fresh twist on the genre by pairing  Canadian legends (think Roberta Bondar, Karen Kain, Emily Carr) with inspiring contemporary examples (introducing astronaut Jennifer Sidney-Gibbons, dancer Santee Smith (Tekaronkiahkhwa) and artist Christi Belcourt). Sometimes the contemporary women are the better known of the pair—journalist Sook-Yin Lee is profiled alongside Mary Ann Shadd, who in 1853 became the first Black woman in Canada to run a newspaper; Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak appears with Fanny "Bobbie" Rosenfeld, who competed as a runner in the 1928 Olympics. The Canadian-specific focus of this book is novel, and it's the connections between the women profiled that is especially m …

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Black History/Black Futures

Recent titles exploring Black history, Black futures, and experiences of being Black right now.

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Portia White:  A Portrait in Words,  by George Elliott Clarke, illustrated by Lara Martina

About the book: In his unique brand of spoken word, Africadian poetry, the incomparable George Elliott Clarke explores a personal subject: his great-aunt Portia White. The result is a stirring, epic poem vibrating with energy and music that spans White's birth in 1911, a coming of age amidst the backdrop of two World Wars, and her life-long love affair with music—from singing in to directing the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church choir to her bel canto tutlege at the Halifax Conservatory of Music to her final, command performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1964.

Portia White is a stunning testament to the first African Canadian to become an international star. Features vibrant illustrations by contemporary artist Lara Martina.

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The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, by Desmond Cole

About the book: In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life …

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7 Books on Politics that Matter

Has there ever been a more vital moment for Canadians to be thoughtful and critical about our democratic institutions? As we head into toward the second half of an election year, these recent titles deserve our attention. 

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Could It Happen Here?: Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit, by Michael Adams

About the book: Americans elected Donald Trump. Britons opted to leave the European Union. Far-right, populist politicians channeling anger at out-of-touch “elites” are gaining ground across Europe and South America. In vote after shocking vote, citizens of Western democracies have pushed their anger to the top of their governments’ political agendas.

Amid this roiling international scene, Canada appears placid, at least on the surface. As other societies turn inward, the international media have taken notice of Canada’s welcome of Syrian refugees; its federal cabinet, half of whom are women; and its acceptance of climate science and mixed efforts to limit its emissions. It seems that Canada is not as bitterly split as the electorates to the south or in Europe.

But Brexit and a Trump presidency were unthinkable until they happened. And Canada has already seen its own forms of populist resentment rear their heads—carbon tax fights, populist premiers, free s …

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Ottawa Writing: Light and Dark, Sepia Toned and Noir

John Delacourt—whose latest novel is Butterfly—celebrates the unique sensibility of Ottawa writers in this fantastic and wide-ranging recommended reading list. 

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It was more than 16 years ago, at an event celebrating the work and life of Ottawa’s John Newlove, that I first discovered the depth and diversity of Ottawa’s writing community (it was at the Manx Pub—where poet David O’Meara tends bar). I was new to the city but realized, as the readings began that night, this was truly a city where a writer could work, find readers and even, every now and then, a little inspiration. The following list is my submission of the evidence.

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Asylum, by André Alexis

Long before his Giller-winning 15 Dogs, author André Alexis spent close to a decade writing Asylum, a novel set in late-1980s Ottawa. The novel’s main character and narrator is a bookseller who joins a group of would-be intellectuals and civil servants called The Fortnightly Club. One of its members, a high-ranking bureaucrat serving Mulroney’s cabinet, aspires to implement the best …

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11 Books that Write the World

These books take their readers beyond Canadian borders to portray the rich lands, cultures, and adventures that can be discovered in other parts of the world, as well as the devastation caused by wars and other conflicts. Travel with these Canadian writers to Thailand, Syria, Rwanda, Bali, Palestine, Turkey, Iran, and other places, letting these perspectives inform your own sense of home. 

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Homes: A Refugee Story, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung

About the book: In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria—just before the Syrian civil war broke out.

Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy—soccer, cousins, video games, friends.

Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone—and found safety in Canada—with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently nece …

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Freedom to Read Week: Mark Bourrie on our Right to Know

Freedom to Read Week Banner 2015

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also an opportunity to discuss and debate threats to free expression on all levels (from the library book objected to in a small town to a tragedy played out on the world stage, such as the shootings at Charlie Hebdo). 

In conjunction with Freedom to Read Week 2015, we discuss censorship and information-access issues with Mark Bourrie, author of Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know. Mark Bourrie appears this Friday, February 27, at the Toronto Reference Library as part of The Decline and Fall of Investigative Journalism event, with all proceeds going to PEN Canada. 

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49thShelf: In Canada, Freedom to Read Week has always been rung in with a note of triumph. We don’t ban books here, and it’s funny to learn about the reader in Edmonton who challenged Ziggy Piggy and the Three Little Pigs because of porcine bad behaviour. But your book suggests that Canadians shouldn’t be so smug. How is our freedom to read (to learn, to know) being infringed upon by government policy?

Mark Bourrie: Books and articles do get printed, but the …

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How We Imagine Ourselves, by Howard White

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"I started incubating a theory of literature which held that mastery of expression could occur as readily in an upcoast bunkhouse as in an ivory tower in some great city in a past age."

—Howard White

At the second Geist Evening of Dinner and Diversion held in February 1994, Howard Whitefounder of Harbour Publishing, author, and Officer of the Order of Canada—gave a talk that Geist later published and which knocked the socks off a good many people. "How We Imagine Ourselves" is one of those pieces of thinking and writing that has never left us—it remains a stunning articulation of why place-based stories are so important to how Canadians understand ourselves.

We are delighted that Geist has given us permission to publish "How We Imagine Ourselves" here. 

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When Geist first approached me with the idea of speaking here, I made it known that of all the things I ever wanted to be when I grew up, being an after-dinner speaker was very low on the list. They took this seriously and called me up a few days later to say that they had taken care of the problem by arranging for me to give most of my talk before dinner, which was not quite what I was getting at, but there’s not much I wouldn’t do for Geist.

I grew up in a logging camp in Pender Harbour, B.C.—I w …

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Power and Politics (List by Jonathan Bennett)

It's not all crooked cops and murder in Jonathan Bennett's novel Entitlement, which is also a gripping examination of power and politics in Canada. On the occasion

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of the upcoming federal election, Jonathan has provided us with a few more books to round out our literary education in power and politics. And it's not all crooked cops and murder here either-- check out the range, from poetry to comic fiction, and non-fiction with intentions noble and/or scandalous. Truly, there is something for everyone.

Jonathan Bennett is the author of five books including, most recently, Entitlement and a book of poems Civil and Civic.

 

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1) Power Politics: poems, Margaret Atwood

This seminal volume was first published in 1971. Happy 40th birthday. Yes, it’s been that long. Wondering what’s changed? Best to re-read it…

you fit into me/ like a hook into an eye

a fish hook/ an open eye

 

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