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Writing with Four Hands

Travels in Cuba, like the other books in the Travels series, was written with four hands. Readers are always curious about how we do this. There is piano music for four hands, so why not books? But do the writers sit side by side as if on a piano bench and write with the same rhythm? What happens if they disagree? We know that creative people are solitary creatures with large egos and a need to control their creative process. So what happens when two very independent authors with very different ways of seeing the world begin working together?

Actually, we were surprised at how smoothly it went. Marie-Louise has worked in children’s theatre, writing plays and designing sets, including large puppets. She knew what it was like to work with a team. The two key ingredients are a dash of compromise and criticism of the constructive kind. And David has worked writing and directing documentary films, and filmmaking is the collaborative form par excellence.

Also, the idea behind the very first book we did, Travels with my Family, came out of our shared experience. These were the family journeys we made together with our two boys. And, of course, we don’t sit side by side looking over each other’s shoulders. As the story is coming together, many, many versions of the m …

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The 13 Worst Holidays in Canadian Literature

If you've been away on holiday this summer, you might find some of your story in these unfortunate adventures—but hopefully not too much. And if you haven't been able to go anywhere, you can pick up these books to glad you didn't. 

*****

The Bear, by Claire Cameron

About the book: Told in a voice reminiscent of Room, this nail-biting tale of psychological suspense shows two small children fighting for survival in the wilderness after a terrifying bear attack.  

The black dog is not scratching. He goes back to his sniffing and huffing and then he starts cracking his bone. Stick and I are huddled tight. . . . It is dark and no Daddy or Mommy and after a while I watch the lids of my eyes close down like jaws.

Told from the point of view of a six-year-old child, The Bear is the story of Anna and her little brother, Stick—two young children forced to fend for themselves in Algonquin Park after a black bear attacks their parents. A gripping and mesmerizing exploration of the child psyche, this is a survival story unlike any other, one that asks what it takes to survive in the wilderness and what happens when predation comes from within.

What goes wrong: If you're making a list of what NOT to pack on your next family camping excursion, a homicidal black bear should probab …

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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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Get Away From It All: New Travel Books

Book Cover Full Moon Over Noahs Art

All books are transporting, but none more so than these volumes, which are books that take you places and even books you take when you're taken to places. Whether you're venturing locally or further afield, these great new titles will come in handy for summer travel, vicarious or otherwise.

*****

Visit Mount Ararat and Eastern Turkey

Full Moon Over Noah's Ark, by Rick Antonson

About the book: Mount Ararat is the most fabled mountain in the world. For millennia this massif in eastern Turkey has been rumoured as the resting place of Noah’s Ark following the Great Flood. But it also plays a significant role in the longstanding conflict between Turkey and Armenia.

Author Rick Antonson joined a five-member expedition to the mountain’s nearly 17,000-foot summit, trekking alongside a contingent of Armenians, for whom Mount Ararat is the stolen symbol of their country. Antonson weaves vivid historical anecdote with unexpected travel vignettes, whether tracing earlier mountaineering attempts on the peak, recounting the genocide of Armenians and its unresolved debate, or depicting the Kurds’ ambitions for their own nation’s borders, which some say should include Mount Ararat.

What unfolds in Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark is one man’s odyssey, a tale told through many st …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Graphic Novels for Summer

Each month, our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks. 

*****

Bliss is a hammock in summer and a stack of graphic novels. Right on top of the pile should be This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. It’s the story of Rose and her family’s annual trip to Awago Beach—a summer spent eavesdropping on a grownup world; the cute guy at the variety store who’s rumoured to have gotten a girl pregnant; Rose’s arguing parents; her mother’s confession of a miscarriage. Cottage life is captured in the graphic details: handmade cottagers’ road signs hammered onto a pole, a shampoo bottle floating in a bucket whilst washing hair in the lake. The plot is punctuated with poetic moments, particularly of Rose swimming and there’s a wonderfully playful scene of pudgy cottage best friend Windy, aka HipHop, showing off her “krunk moves.”

The Tamaki’s first book, Skim, is similarly brilliant. Its quiet, insightful narrator, Skim, is a little on the heavy side, the kind of girl who shows up to a Halloween …

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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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Does the great Canadian cottage novel have yet to be written?

chair

On this Victoria Day long weekend, Canadians will travel to cottage country to mark the unofficial start of summer, although many of us will only make the journey in our minds. We’ll have to be content to imagine a sunset reflected on a still lake, the smoky smell of a bonfire, and the crack of a screen-door slam. And perhaps we could be aided in our journey with the help of a little fiction, but maybe not. Could it really be that, as Globe and Mail reviewer Darryl Whetter has stated, “the great Canadian cottage novel” has yet to be written?

There are certainly candidates for the title. And though it’s not a novel, Sarah Selecky’s story “Throwing Cotton” (from her collection This Cake is for the Party) exactly fits the description of the cottage book that Whetter is calling for: “a work devoted to a friendship- and romance-sundering long weekend away in which two or more couples fight, gossip, shift allegiances and repeatedly contemplate infidelity – if not a boozy orgy”.

fenelon

Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing could be loosely termed a cotta …

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