Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer reading with a purpose

Last week, I trotted my daughter down to the public library to take part in the kick-off party for our local summer reading club. She danced, ate cake and ... vowed to read 100 books over the course of the summer. She's 6. I quickly checked the fine print and discovered that books that I read to her count as well as those she reads herself. Phew. "A man's reach must exceed his grasp" and all that claptrap, but realistic goals are good too. Together, she and I will rock this challenge.

There's another local kid who has also vowed to read 100 books. He's 8 and he's flying solo on the summer reading challenge for the first time. Such a lofty goal is alone enough to make any parent proud, but Kael's commitment extends far beyond literacy and the love of books. Earlier this spring, Kael's beloved uncle died at the Chalmers Regional Hospital here in Fredericton. Kael and his family spent a lot of time at the hospital during his illness. Now, in the aftermath of his uncle's death, Kael would like to raise money to enhance the hospital's family room so that other members of our community will be surrounded by comfort during their own dark emotional times.

Kael is tracking his progress on a charming and engaging blog. Have a look and consider making a donation. There's a direct link to the Chalmers Regional Hospital Foundation right from his main page. This summer, please take up a challenge to enrich your mind through reading and your heart through community service, as Kael has done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Exhibition and a Celebration

Sea Stacks At Low Tide: An Exhibition of Atlantic Canadian Books For Children

Presented by the Eileen Wallace Children’s Literature Collection and School District 18’s Enriching Visual Literacies Project

May 28th-June 3rd Saturday & Sunday, 1-4pm; Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
Room 415 (The Nan Gregg Room), Harriet Irving Library, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

Exhibition Launch and Celebration: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 5:30-7:00 pm
Please contact Sue Fisher if you would like to attend the launch and celebration.
A contact email is provided in my profile on the left of the screen.


The Eileen Wallace Collection at the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton) is the largest research collection of children’s literature in Atlantic Canada. Its holdings are historically and regionally diverse, with an extensive representation of literature published in, by and about Atlantic Canada. Visit us at

District 18’s Enriching Visual Literacies Project saw children from two Fredericton-area elementary schools spend time learning about artistic techniques and the principles of visual literacy before producing their own picture books. A number of these books will be on display alongside a broader sampling of Atlantic Canadian books for children and young adults from the Wallace Collection.

Sea Stacks At Low Tide grows out of a larger collaborative research project among Dalhousie and Acadia Universities and the University of New Brunswick, entitled Sea Stacks: Atlantic Canadian Books for Children and Young Adults, 1978-2011.

We welcome members of the public as well as those attending the Congress of the Social Sciences & Humanities to attend.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gimme five

Five is a significant number in Canadian women's history, for it was the Famous Five in Alberta back in the late 1920s who fought tooth and nail all the way to the British Privy Council so that Canadian women could be considered persons. And so, on this International Women's Day, I want to celebrate using the number 5. As you know, I spend a lot of my time working with Atlantic Canadian books for children. Here are 5 + 5 + 5 contemporary creators of such books.

Fiction Writers
Kate Inglis: A promising new writer of enchanted realism for the 8-12 set, Inglis has one book The Dread Crew, with a second companion novel in the works.
Janet McNaughton: One of Canada's foremost writers of children's/YA fiction, McNaughton has written in multiple genres for mulitple ages.
Valerie Sherrard: Sherrard also writes for a broad age range. She has penned picture books, detective fiction and contemporary realism.
Darlene Ryan: Ryan has one book for babies under her belt and four titles of contemporary realism for young adults.
Budge Wilson: Prolific, canonical, literary, Wilson is the grand-dame of children's literature in Atlantic Canada.

Darka Erdelji: Erdelji is a Czech artist, set designer, puppet creator and illustrator who is now based in Saint John's, Newfoundland. Her illustrations for Andy Jones' adaptation of The Queen of Paradise's Garden are magnificent. To see a sample, watch the book trailer: here.
Hilda Rose: Hilda Rose is a Nova Scotia-based illustrator. The gallery on her website has many fine examples of her work.
Heidi Jardine Stoddart: Stoddart's regionally-themed picture books create nostalgia for the Maritime shoreline.
Susan Tooke: Nova Scotia-based Tooke is one of the most sought-after illustrators in the region. Her illustrations for numerous picture books demonstrate her wide artistic range.
Frances Wolfe: Wolfe's Where I Live won the Amelia-Frances Howard Gibbon award for illustration in 2002. She has written and illustrated two books since.

Karen Davidson: Davidson was the winner of the New Brunswick Born to Read manuscript contest in 2008. The resulting book, published by the Early Childhood Centre at The University of New Brunswick, is a collection of verses called Baby's Garden. A copy, along with several other books, is given by the provincial government to each child born in New Brunswick.
Shirley Downey: The pioneer of New Brunswick's Born to Read Program, Shirley Downey, is a poet in her own right with four fun and fabulous titles to her name.
Sheree Fitch: Poet and fiction writer, Fitch plays non-stop hopscotch with words. From 1987's Toes in My Nose through to 2010's Pluto's Ghost, her titles have been as varied as they are excellent. She is one of Canada best-known and best-loved writers for children.
Shauntay Grant: Grant is a spoken word performer, musician and poet from Halifax. Her two books for children are Up Home and The City Speaks in Drums.
Rita Joe: Rita Joe is known as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq nation. A collection of her poems suited to a younger audience, entitled For the Children, was published posthumously in 2008.

May you all find good words and pictures to keep you company on this International Women's Day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Follow me on Twitter

For any of you who are interested, I now have a twitter account devoted solely to children's literature. You can find me at @bookmuggins. Thanks to Sheree Fitch for giving me my new handle.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No memory can replace it

While others were complaining about the lack-lustre hosting of the Oscars on Sunday night, or perhaps being either delighted or mortified by the use of the "F-bomb" in an Oscar acceptance speech*, I was doing a little dance of delight in my living room for Australian author-illustrator, Shaun Tan. Tan won the Oscar for best animated short for the film adaptation of his cross-over picture book, The Lost Thing. If you haven't encountered Tan's work before, please make a point of doing so. His wordless novel The Arrival is a masterpiece. Don't believe me? Go have a look at some of the stills from it and then make a point of tracking down a copy. (note: you might have to click on the thumbnail for the book in order to see the full entry for it.)

And if, like me, you're always a bit disappointed that you never get the chance to see Oscar calibre short films, fear not. You can view The Lost Thing in its entirety here. Now if only there was a way to see fellow nominee and children's book adaptation, The Gruffalo, online as well. I guess you'll just have to settle for the trailer--that is if you didn't catch it on TV last week or in the run up to Christmas.


* I sometimes marvel at television controversy. While the f-bomb may have no place in an acceptance speech, these are the Oscars for pete's sake. Almost all the films being honoured flaunt that word with reckless abandon. Heck, even the King of England got in on the action. So, maybe there is no need for a tempest in a teapot.


Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss. I hope there is much glee, nonsense and rhyming wherever you may be.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sheree: exciting and new

Climb on board, she's expecting you.

Maritime writer, poet, children's author, public speaker, award winner, tongue-tripper and all-around ball of energy, Sheree Fitch, has started a blog as part of her professional website. You can pay her a visit here, right after you've put down your copy of Pluto's Ghost or have finished reading Sleeping Dragons All Around and/or Mabel Murple out loud for the 100th time. She's smart, she's fun, and today's post has the prettiest darn pictures: Words on Art: The Wheel Deal. Way I Feel. Weee of Letting Go.

Say "hi" while you're there, because she's awfully friendly to boot.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Excellent resource: Picturing Books

Over the last few years, I have given several workshops on visual literacy and the picture book. I've also written quite a bit about it on this blog. It's one of my favourite topics to discuss with students and educators because it's one of my favourite pastimes to pursue. When new picture books come into the library, first I do a little happy dance in my office and then, more often than not, I am the first to sign them out.

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon this excellent website that's devoted to the picture book. The most interesting part of the site, from an academic standpoint, is The Palette section that's listed on the left-hand side bar. Here you will find numerous slide shows that explain in detail the complex sophistication of the picture book form. One of the slideshows, this picture book timeline, makes for a perfect coffee- or lunch-break escape.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feminist books for children and young adults

There was a big hullabaloo in the book blogging world last week when Bitch Magazine published a list of 100 Young Adult titles for the Feminist Reader. I won't go into the drama here but I will sum it up briefly: there were a few reader complaints about the list which lead to Bitch removing three titles and admitting to the fact that maybe they hadn't necessarily read all the titles on the list in the first place, and then a whole lot of people got upset at the removal of the titles in question and-- well, if you want to lose a day to following the drama, you can, but I'm not going to perpetuate it here. Suffice to say, some very interesting debates arose around this issue and some very smart people furthered the discussion in fascinating ways. Sure, I have an opinion on the whole affair but, really, I'd rather be reading the books at this point in the game.

One thing that came out of the hullabaloo is that I learned about a long-standing blog/list that I'd never heard of before. It's called The Amelia Bloomer Project: Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18. If you want to print out the project's 10 year collection of annual lists, click here. Keep in mind, you can also nominate books yourself, so don't be afraid to become part of the conversation. Now I am off to do a bit of list reading myself, with my library card at the ready.