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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Water

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


On the fiction side of things:

Solid, Liquid, Gassy: A Fairy Science Story, by Ashley Spires, is a delightful picture book featuring Esther, a different kind of fairy who chooses to adhere to scientific fact over magic. This book teaches not only the water cycle, but also the scientific process. When the local pond dries up, Esther leads her fellow fairies on a hunt for evidence as to what's happened—ending with a dramatic rain shower of the pond’s evaporated water. At the culminating Science Fair, she convinces some of her friends to continue pursuits in the scientific world. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


The Water Walker, by Joanne Robertson, is the story of Nikomis, an elder who goes through “three knees and eleven pairs of sneakers walking for Nibi (water).” Nikomis and other Mother Earth Water Walkers sing and pray in the four cardinal directions and still nothing changes. It’s based on the true story of Josephine Mandamin, a First Nation …

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Launchpad: Sweet Water, by Yvonne Blomer

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds, an anthology edited by Yvonne Blomer, a book on which Maude Barlow advises, "Stop. Slow down. Suspend time. Let your soul come to rest in this haunting book as you take a quiet journey to a watershed that someone cherishes."


The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds is the second of a trilogy of water-based poetry anthologies, a gathering of voices emerging and established in a beautiful a …

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Endlessly Flowing: Five Books on Water

Watermark, Christy Ann Conlin's latest book, has been a favourite this fall among our editorial team here at 49th Shelf. These spooky, rich, and Gothic tales are gripping and immersive, the entire collection so propulsive. Here, Conlin recommends a handful of other titles that share her own book's preoccupation with water. 


Hunting Down Home, by Jean McNeil

Jean McNeil, a prolific writer originally from Cape Breton, has lived in the UK for 23 years. Water plays a symbolic role in all her books. “It was a dark shame, floating just beneath the meniscus of history and story and folklore, like the whale I once saw from a plane as we banked into Brisbane, passing beneath the surface of the sun-stuck water, heading up to the Great Barrier Reef,” remembers Morag in McNeil’s first novel, Hunting Down Home. Set partially in Cape Breton, the book tells the story of Morag and her last year living on Boularderie, an island separating the Bras d’Or Lake from the Cabot Strait. It is a rugged island which is a world unto itself, as is the Bras d’Or Lak …

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Andrea Curtis: The Weight of Water

Big Water is Andrea Curtis's debut novel, and she marks its release with this fantastic list of books that will make for riveting dockside or beach reading. 


Big Water is a young adult novel inspired by the true story of one of the worst shipwrecks in the history of the Great Lakes. The main characters are the only two survivors, teenagers Christina and Daniel, stuck in a lifeboat, corpses at their feet. But the water—horrible and beautiful all at once—is equally a protagonist. Its fickle moods and outrageous power shape the plot and arc of the other character’s experience. 

My own life has also been defined by this water. Georgian Bay, known as the sixth Great Lake, is the landscape of my heart and imagination. I have grown up there, sung into the wind, swum, paddled and skimmed over its surfaces and explored its depths. I love and fear it in equal measure.

In a country like Canada, so rich in water (inland and coastal), it’s hardly surprising that many other writers have also felt its formidable weight on their psyche. The list below includes both adult and young adult novels that treat water not as incidental colour or backdrop, but as a defining force in their character’s lives.


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Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea

Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea, edited by Michael L. Hadley and Anita Hadley, is an anthology of 170 pieces of writing from over 130 of Canada’s most significant literary voices. The passages range from Kwakiutl prayers to stories of immigration and exile; from tales of nautical exploration to humorous portraits of coastal characters; and from classic Canadian poetry to sea-themed contemporary fiction. It showcases the relationship of all Canadians to the three oceans that frame our country.


from the Introduction, by Anita Hadley:


The inspiration for [Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea] arose from an evening of nautical readings held at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Victoria. Entitled “Master and Commander,” the presentation offered an entertaining selection describing daring exploits upon the high seas. While passages were largely drawn from the adventures of Patrick O’Brian’s swashbuckling hero, Captain Jack Aubrey, other works from around the world were also represented. We were enthralled—and our seagoing imaginations tweaked. As we walked home past the vessels moored in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, we began to imagine a similar evening based on Canadian nautical writings. What would it include? Who would be the wr …

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Maude Barlow's Boiling Point: An Excerpt

Book Cover Boiling Point

Maude Barlow's Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse and Canada's Water Crisis is a self-described "cry from the heart" from one of the world's foremost water activists. "Passionate and cogent, this could be the most important book of the year for Canadians." We're pleased to feature an excerpt here, and along with a list of other remarkable books on the subject of water. 


For over three decades, I have travelled the world, learning about water, learning that abundance is not a given, and that the future of the human race and the species with whom we share this planet is literally dependent upon it. I have stood in solidarity with those fighting for water justice in their communities or trying to save endangered lakes and rivers from contamination, overextraction and corporate malfeasance, and I am always amazed at how far away these struggles appear to be to most Canadians when I return home.

For make no mistake, the world is running out of accessible water. On World Water Day 2015, the UN reported that demand for water will increase by 55% over the next 15 years. By that time global water resources will meet only 60% of the world’s demand. A 2016 report from leading scientists warned that two-thirds of the global population currently lives with …

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Adrienne Gruber: Reasons to Choose the Octopus As Your Lover

If you're thinking summer books, consider Globe and Mail reviewer Emma Healey's description of Adrienne Gruber's poetry collection, Buoyancy Control“...a book about water that’s really a book about bodies—what they are capable of together and on their own. Moving through lakes and oceans to dreamier, less literal spaces, these poems, like their subject matter, are playful and dark in equal measure.” 

And now we're pleased to be featuring a delectable sample from the collection. Read on for the most tantalizingly titled poem ever...


Buoyancy Control Cover Full Size



            Eight tentacles. A hundred tiny cups to suck.
Morphs to camouflage (i.e., your favourite
celebrity). Master of disguise (warning: a bit of
a player). Savvy; smooth talker who keeps you
guessing. Manoeuvres in tight places (has no
internal or external skeleton). Only the blue-
ringed octopus (his Harley, his soft leather jacket
against your cheek) is deadly.



            There are dreams of others. Pressed chests
together like tight barnacles, the shredded silence
of wet open mouths. Gulp sweat and warm night
air. Swim in a glittery smear of phosphorescent
stars. There is always another imperfect fit; one
who eats deep-fried Mars bars and says your …

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