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What the Kite Saw: Stories of Children and Crisis

Book Cover What the Kite Saw

My new picture book, What The Kite Saw, illustrated by Akin Duzakin, shares what a young boy feels and does after soldiers seize control of his town and take his father and brother away. War has a brutal impact on children whenever adults (nations) resolve a conflict through military force. I gave this story a universal setting because, sadly, it could happen anywhere.

Children have their own unique ways of facing a crisis. Yes, they need protecting, but they are also resilient. They have inner resources, spunk and imagination. The young protagonists in the stories I’ve chosen face their crisis in ways I find inspiring with an idea they’ve imagined themselves. No adult guides the child. Regardless of the situation, these stories reflect a respect for the dignity of children.

Book Cover Fatty Legs

Fatty Legs, by Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak is determined to learn to read and ignores her father’s warnings that residential schools are terrible places. After Margaret leaves the safety of …

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Books for Remembrance Day

New stories of war and military history are still being told. On the occasion of Remembrance Day, we're sharing these 14 recent books approaching war and remembrance from a variety of perspectives. 

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A Mohawk Memoir from the War of 1812: John Norton - Teyoninhokarawen, edited by Carl Benn

A Mohawk Memoir from the War of 1812 presents the story of John Norton, or Teyoninhokarawen, an important war chief and political figure among the Grand River Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) in Upper Canada. Norton saw more action during the conflict than almost anyone else, being present at the fall of Detroit, the capture of Fort Niagara, the battles of Queenston Heights, Fort George, Stoney Creek, Chippawa, and Lundy’s Lane, the blockades of Fort George and Fort Erie, as well as a large number of skirmishes and front-line patrols. His memoir describes the fighting, the stresses suffered by indigenous peoples, and the complex relationships between the Haudenosaunee and both their British allies and other First Nations communities.

Norton’s words, written in 1815 and 1816, provide nearly one-third of the book’s content, with the remainder consisting of Carl Benn’s introductions and annotations, which enable readers to understand Norton’s fascinating autobiography within …

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The Chat with Kelly S. Thompson

Kelly S. Thompson served as a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and writes about her experiences as a female soldier in her compelling debut memoir, Girls Need Not Apply: Field Notes from the Forces (McClelland & Stewart).

Lauren McKeon, author of F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism, writes, “In Girls Need Not Apply, Kelly S. Thompson presents us with a masterclass in resilience. With equal parts strength and vulnerability, Thompson navigates what it means to find belonging—and success—in a hyper-masculinized culture that was never built for women. A must-read for those of us who make it our daily habit to smash through age-old, sexist barriers.”

After several years of service, Kelly S. Thompson retired from the Canadian Armed Forces after an injury. She has an honours BA in Professional Writing from York University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and is a PhD. candidate in Literary and Critical Studies at the University of Gloucestershire. Her work has appeared in MacleansChatelaine, and Maisonneuve, as well as in various anthologies.

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The Chat with Anthony De Sa

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We continue our summer edition of The Chat in conversation with Toronto writer Anthony De Sa. His new novel, Children of the Moon, takes us back to twentieth-century Tanzania and Mozambique and tells the stories of Pó and Zeca, whose lives intertwine in the shadow of war.

Anthony De Sa grew up in Toronto’s Portuguese community. His first book, Barnacle Love, was critically acclaimed and became a finalist for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2009 Toronto Book Award. Anthony’s novel, Kicking the Sky, was set in 1977, the year a twelve-year-old shoeshine boy named Emanuel Jacques was brutally murdered in Toronto. Anthony graduated from University of Toronto and did his post-graduate work at Queen’s University. He attended The Humber School for Writers and Ryerson University. He lives in Toronto with his wife and three boys.
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THE CHAT WITH ANTHONY DE SA

Trevor Corkum: Anthony, your novel explores the lives of several characters with albinism in eastern Africa, as well as the brutal human trauma of the colonial war in Mozambique. When and ho …

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The Chat with Rawi Hage

Hage, Rawi -- credit Babak Salari

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Rawi Hage’s latest—the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize-longlisted Beirut Hellfire Society—follows the story of an undertaker’s son during Lebanon’s Civil War.

Quill & Quire calls Beirut Hellfire Society “a novel of tragic beauty and dark humour that is comfortable with contradiction and charged with probing philosophical insights and the luminosity of Arabic poetry. It’s a timeless story of the outcast whose act of witness chronicles the world he observes.”

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He immigrated to Canada in 1992 and now lives in Montreal. His first novel, De Niro’s Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award. Cockroach was the winner of the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. It was also shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. His third novel, Carnival, was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Award and won the P …

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The Chat with Ahmad Danny Ramadan

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We begin The Chat in 2018 with a conversation with Ahmad Danny Ramadan, author of the stirring debut novel The Clothesline Swing (Nightwood Editions). A journey through the aftermath of the Arab Spring, The Clothesline Swing is “an enthralling tale of courage that weaves through the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, the encircling seas of Turkey, the heat of Egypt and finally, the hope of a new home in Canada.”

Writing in Quill & Quire, Kamal Al-Solaylee says, “This debut novel from the Vancouver-based Syrian writer reads as many things—a coming-out memoir, a history lesson, a critique of authoritarianism, a narrative about sharing narratives—but above all, it’s a requiem for a dying country and people.”


Ahmad Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-born author, storyteller, and LGBTQ-refugees activist who calls Canada home. His debut novel is The Clothesline Swing. He also translated Rafi Badawi's 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think, and published two collections of short stories in Arabic. His work in activism has supported the arr …

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The Chat With Kevin Patterson

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Today's chat is with Kevin Patterson, author of the critically acclaimed novel News From the Red Desert. It’s a book that brings readers into the heart of the Afghanistan conflict and introduces us to men and women whose lives are forever changed by the war.

Writing in The Globe and Mail, Robert J. Wiersema says “Kevin Patterson has crafted one of the finest war novels this country has ever seen, exploring a conflict many Canadians have already conveniently forgotten, or chosen to ignore.”

Kevin Patterson grew up in Manitoba, and put himself through medical school by joining the Canadian army. Now a specialist in internal medicine, he practices in the Arctic and on the coast of British Columbia. His first book, The Water In Between, was a New York Times Notable Book. Country of Cold, his debut short fiction collection, won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2003, as well as the inaugural City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. He lives on Saltspring Island, Canada.

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THE CHAT WITH KEVIN PATTERSON

Trevor Corkum: Your novel News From the Red De …

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Quick Hits: Historical Fiction for Tweens and Teens

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

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The Hangman in the Mirror, by Kate Cayley

Genre: Young Adult (age 12+), Historical Fiction

Publisher: Annick Press

What It's About

Françoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France (modern-day Montreal), Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things—and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise’s relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau’s house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn’t an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress’s beautiful gloves, she faces a …

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How We Remember

This selection of books, which we highlight on Remembrance Day, runs the gamut from fiction to non-fiction to poetry to books for kids. Together, they represent our duty to not just remember, but to consider the path ahead.

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Tell, by Frances Itani

A 2014 Giller Prize contender, Tell concerns itself with a community struggling to emerge from the trauma of WWI. It follows Itani's beloved Deafening, a novel also set amid the horrors, and feats of love and survival, of WWI.

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About War, by Noah Richler

A fascinating exploration of the way rhetoric—in communications and media—shapes how Canadians think of themselves as a nation and informs Canada's engagement in peacekeeping, war, and on the international stage.

 

Braco, by LesleyAnne Warren

Lesleyanne Ryan’s debut novel takes place over the five days followin …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on War

Book Cover Hana's Suitcase

With Remembrance Day falling next week, our resident children's librarian, Julie Booker, shares some titles that reveal the realities of war to younger readers. 

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Whilst browsing through the stacks for this piece, I found a novel read aloud to me in grade five about a boy who escapes from a concentration camp. The whole plot came rushing back, along with the terror that something so horrifying could happen to a kid, a kid like me. I found myself asking: when should a child learn about war, real war? I've watched the expressions of eleven-year-olds listening to Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine. It felt as if I were witnessing a loss of innocence.

I spent the weekend reading nine books about war, which I will rate on a scale of tears, beginning with those that didn't make me cry.

The Sky is Falling by Kit Pearson is the first in a trilogy set during WWII. When a German war plane crashes in their English village Norah and her brother, Gavin, are sent to Toronto to live far from danger. As "War Guests," Gavin is the favoured one, leaving Norah to struggl …

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Gerry Fostaty on reliving a youthful trauma in his memoir As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier

Julie Wilson: The tragedy of which you speak in your book, As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier occurred in 1974 on a Canadian Forces Base in Valcartier, Quebec. During a routine lecture on explosives safety, the pin was pulled on a grenade thought to be a dud. Six teenaged boys died and fifty-four were injured. One hundred and forty boys survived, but were left traumatized. You've noted surprise that so many people remained silent in the aftermath, some who have since come forward to talk more openly after having read your book. Can you share some anecdotes?

Gerry Fostaty: I initially thought I was the only one to remain tight lipped. I was wrong. Only a few of the boys, who are all now in their fifties, have broken the silence, and even then, only to those they feel they could trust. Most didn’t even speak to their families about the explosion for years: not their parents, siblings, nor even their spouses later in life. It was just too painful to focus on the memory, much less to recount it to someone else. So much energy was spent avoiding the memory of the trauma that it seemed counterproductive to revisit that which we would have gladly escaped.

We would all like to position ourselves as strong, and a first response is to “man up, brave it out, suck it up and walk it off.” Not many men are immune to the cultural conditioning and the media influence that promotes the image of the strong silent male. There are men with visible scars on their bodies, who still refuse …

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