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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Into the Land of Nod

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, presents some books that just might get your kids to sleep before midnight this summer. No guarantees.

‘Tis the season of overnight camps, slumber party invites, rebellious summer bedtimers. My favourite thing to do with nine-year-olds is to turn out the lights and read scary stories. The kind that end with a spook: “I’m coming for YOU!!!”, as I leap toward a listener in the front row. One year, after a few flashlight sessions, a parent came in to tell me his son was having nightmares, and that each night they lined up a variety of toy weapons (a plastic sword, a water pistol) by his bed. The father then asked for advice about fear of sleep, which, in retrospect, was his way of asking me to quit reading those stories.

The true antidote to sleep anxiety is, of course, great books. Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel at Night comes to mind. The neurotic rodent also makes a list of objects needed to face bad dreams, including a fan to blow away ghosts, a banana peel to slip up monsters. Bonus: the kid-friendly section on the benefits of a good night’s sleep, i.e., increased brain power (see well-rested Scaredy Squirrel proudly present his completed Rubik’s cube).

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Enviro Fiction Picks

Book Cover Complete Adventures of the Mole Sisters

Our resident Children's Librarian Julie Booker brings us her best picks from the stacks.

When I start to feel anxiety regarding the environment I like to quote the Mole Sisters: “Sometimes it’s important to do nothing.” "Nothing" involves being open to the natural world and, for the Mole gals, curiosity always leads to serendipity. It’s the perfect message for a five-year-old. Like the time the rain kerplunks into the siblings’ burrow creating a gleeful spa-like puddle. Most days, though, the sisters venture out, turning right “instead of always going left” and end up making a kite from dandelion stalks or swings from two blue eggshells. Or they stumble upon what look like the caves of Lascaux, as in the final story of The Complete Adventures of The Mole Sisters. The best way to appreciate Roslyn Schwartz’s Mole Sisters is to read the entire collection.

Beneath the Bridge by Hazel Hutchins works for the eight to nine-year-old crowd.  A paper boat gets launched in a forest stream by a small boy. Each page invites a kind of Where’s-Wald …

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Marthe & Nell Jocelyn in Conversation: On Monkeys, Collaboration and Avoiding Purple & Pink

Book Cover Where Do You Look?

Marthe Jocelyn and Nell Jocelyn are the mother/daughter picture-book creating powerhouse behind Where Do You Look? most recently, and also Ones and Twos. We thought it would be fun if they interviewed each other, and we weren't wrong!

Marthe: I'll start by asking you the same question that everyone else asks: What was it like working with your mother?

Nell: I've never been too excited about working with a partner or in a group at school but somehow working with you is a lot easier. We've known each other for 22 years so we know what makes the other tick. In other aspects of our lives we might intentionally push each others' buttons but professionally we keep it... well... professional.

How do you like working with your (favourite?) daughter?

Marthe: Intentionally push each others' buttons? You say those things on purpose? Just kidding... I LOVE working with you! (Also with your sister, Hannah, by the way, but that's a different interview). It's a marvel to me to watch another artist work from the same sketch and come up with something so utterly different from what's in my own head. But then to recognize at once the references, or the path that took you there. I also like that we both avoid pink and purple as much as we can.

Nell: Who is your favourite character that …

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Roy MacGregor on the Kids' Hockey Series The Screech Owls

Book Cover Face-Off At the Alamo

In 1992 I became a sportswriter by accident. I had been on Parliament Hill for 14 years and was in a small dispute with my editor at the Ottawa Citizen over parking. We who worked on the Hill thought the paper should pay for parking if, as the paper had stated, it no longer wished us to avail ourselves of the free media parking at the bottom of the Hill by the river.

The editor, Jim Travers, took me to lunch and told me he had solved my problem: “From now on you’ll be parking at the Civic Centre—we want you to cover the Ottawa Senators.”

But if that was happenstance, it was nothing compared to how I became a children’s author.

I had never written for children, did not read children’s books— had not read many as a child, even, as I much preferred comic books. But Doug Gibson, then publisher of McClelland & Stewart, wanted to talk to me. M&S had heard from librarians and teachers that the reasons boys did not read much was because there were few books out there on subjects that fascinated active boys. He wanted me to consider writing hockey books for kids. There hadn’t been a hockey series, he said, since Scott Young’s books some two generations back.

I thought about it. Why not try it? Trouble is, I thought in today’s hyper-active world, hockey alo …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: On the Literary Quest

Book Cover A Big City ABC

Our Children's Librarian Columnist on Books that (Literally) Take You Places. 

I know a mom who uses A Big City ABC as a scaffold for outings with her three year old. The book consists of colourful detailed drawings of beloved places in a city: M is for market, P is for park, R is for rink. This mother/daughter duo travels to each location and takes a photo that captures the scene created by the author/illustrator, Allan Moak. The book is Toronto-centric (i.e. X is for the Ex), however it could spark an inquiry in any city.

City Numbers

This got me thinking about literary-inspired hunts. What about a city search for numbers and letters found in obscure places, such as sewer lids and graffiti, triggered by Joanne Schwartz's books: City Numbers and City Alphabet? Another Toronto book that lends itself to a quest is The White Stone in the Castle Wall by Sheldon Oberman. It’s a fictional account of how Casa Loma came to have one anomalous stone. Who can find it?

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Books We're Waiting For: Spring 2013 Preview for Kids and Teens

Book Cover Oy Feh So

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley is a new teen novel by celebrated author Jan Andrews, the story of a young man caught in the foster care system who with a new placement finally glimpses the possibilities of change. Saskatchewan writer Robert Currie's latest is the YA novel Living with the Hawk, a tale of a family torn apart by experiences that read like news headlines. Rachelle Delaney's new novel is The Metro Dogs of Moscow, the follow-up to the much acclaimed The Ship of Lost Souls. Cary Fagan is back with two books, the picture book Oy, Feh, So?, illustrated by Gary Clement, about siblings who push the limits of their imposing relatives' Sunday visits, and also the novel Danny Who Fell in a Hole about a boy who finds himself stranded at the bottom of a giant construction hole.

Book Cover Where Do you Look?

Alma Fullerton's Community Soup is her second picture book, and the first she has illustrated, about a group of Kenyan school-children working together to harvest the vegetables they have grown. Children's literacy advocate Joyce Grant releases her first picture book, Gabb …

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The Canadian Children's Book Centre Starts Off a (Kid) Lit Wish List

This week's Lit Wish List is Books for Kids Who Love Books, and we knew Holly Kent from the Canadian Children's Book Centre would the perfect person to get this Lit Wish List started. The five books she has selected below cross a wide range in terms of genre and reading levels, which means there is something here for every young reader in your life. And if there is an essential Canadian kids' book that you feel is still missing, please add your picture books and/or novel suggestions in the comments below.

Picture Books

Virginia Wolf, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault: A touching story loosely based on the relationship between author Virginia Woolf and her sister, painter Vanessa Bell. Nominated for a GG, this one is a CCBC favourite.

About the book: Vanessa's sister, Virginia, is in a "wolfish" mood—growling, howling and acting very strange. It's a funk so fierce, the whole household feels topsy-turvy. Vanessa tries everything she can think of to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work. Then Virginia tells Vanessa about an imaginary, perfect place called Bloomsberry. Armed with an idea, Vanessa begins to paint Bloomsberry on the bedroom walls, transforming them into a beautiful garden complete with a ladder and swing "so that what was do …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian 800: On Poetry

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

Book Cover I Did It Because

When I was a pre-teen, I visited the poetry section with the voracity of a homebuilder in the DIY department. One of my favourite books was Chief Dan George’s My Heart Soars. I studied the portrait on the cover: his wise wrinkled face, eyes upward, channelling the poetry gods. I knew the 819s so well that when a fresh book appeared I sized it up like a new kid in class, wary yet hopeful. One gem that delivered: Sean O’Huigin’s Poe Tree: A Simple Introduction to Experimental Poetry with its back pocket treasure—a phonograph recording of O’Huigin, bp nichol and Ann Southam. I can still hear their voices 25 years on: ‘wistful wisteria/ gross rose, gross rose…’ Another find was Ted Hughes’ Poetry In the Making, in which the author explains to kids how to be a writer, using poems to illustrate. The first chapter draws a brilliant analogy between catching fish and capturing a poem. Loris Lesynski’s I Did It Because… (How A Poem Happens) is a more modern and immediate how-to, illustrated by Michael Martchenko.

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The 2012 TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards

The Canadian children's lit world turned out last night to the Ritz Carlton in Toronto to celebrate the 2012 TD Children's Literature Awards. And the ambiance was truly ritzy, thanks to sparkling lights, clinking champagne glasses, and the anticipation in the air for the presentation of some of the most exciting literary awards of the season.

Children's Book Awards

The event was hosted by CBC's Garvia Bailey, who held the crowd in thrall and elaborated on the great TD Children's Literature Awards programming going on over at CBC Books. She introduced Tim Hockey to the stage, President and CEO of TD Canada Trust, who was followed by Todd Kyle, President of the Canadian Children's Book Centre Board of Directors. The 2012 TD Grade One Book Giveaway title was announced, I've Lost My Cat by Philippe Béha.

For a full list of the evening's nominees, check out our list here.

Sarah Collins receives Monica Hughes award

The first award of the night was particularly special, the inaugural Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Presented by Hughes' daughter Adrienne, who spoke warmly of her mother's talent and her r …

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