December 22, 2009

End the year with Evil

by Timothy Carter

There are a lot of issues to deal with in this novel: masturbation, homosexuality, religious fanaticism, hatred, torture, love, forgiveness (or lack of it), and the occult. It all begins when Stuart's brother catches him masturbating in the shower. It sets off a bizarre chain of events that result in Stuart teaming up with a demon named Fon Pyre to save the townspeople from a pair of hatred-inciting fallen angels.

The angels' negative influence over the townspeople cause them to perceive innocent acts, such as watching music videos or changing a tampon, as sinful and punishable. This leads to mob scenes, stone-throwing - injuring the town priest, Father Reedy - and a cringe-inducing incident when Stuart's mother almost scalds his privates with boiling water. It also makes the entire town vulnerable to an invasion by demons.

Evil is fast-paced and violent, but it does contain subtle, even humorous lessons about the dangers of taking the Bible too literally, of not thinking for oneself, and of blindly following amoral leaders without question. Amazingly, it all ends well, even though Stuart is forced to leave town for good. But don't assume that we have heard the last of Stuart, Reedy, and Fon Pyre. More adventures are sure to follow.

December 17, 2009

Perfect winter poem

poem by Robert Frost
iluustrated by Susan Jeffers

Introduce your child to Robert Frost's poetry with this lovely book. The lightly tinted illustrations capture the magic of a winter snowfall.

Angelina Ice Skates

Angelina Ice Skates
by Katharine Holabird

Angelina and her friends are trying to rehearse for their New Year's Eve ice show, but the hockey players keep interrupting them. Then Angelina thinks of a solution. An entertaining book for kids who like figure skating.

Katharine Holabird has written numerous books about Angelina, beginning with Angelina Ballerina. Visit Holabird's website at


by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching made one little mistake - she interrupted a dance and now the Wintersmith is in love with her. He showers her with snowflakes and icebergs and roses. It's all very flattering, but a bit dangerous. If Tiffany can't deal with him, spring will never come. She is assisted as always by the Nac Mac Feegles, the mad pictsies, who manage to make a trip to the Underworld a laugh-out loud adventure.

Wintersmith is the third book in a series; other titles are The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky.

December 15, 2009

When gift-giving goes wrong

My New Shirt
by Cary Fagan

When I was a kid, I always received a box of pantyhose at Christmas. I hate pantyhose; they're uncomfortable and hard to put on. So I can certainly relate to David's aversion to his very white, very stiff, very itchy white shirt. Haunted by the vision of a vast closet filled with an infinite number of shirts, David throws it out the window! When his dog takes off with it, the chase is on! Cary Fagan has written a delightful story enlivened by Dusan Petricic's hilarious illustrations.

Feel-good story from Cary Fagan

Gogol's Coat
illustrated by Regolo Ricci

Gogol, a young scrivener, toils as an alphabet copier, happily writing letters from A to Z. As the winter grows colder, Gogol's tattered overcoat no longer keeps him warm. Finally, he spends all his money on a new coat. The coat is much admired, but Gogol's joy is short-lived. His coat is stolen. With help from a dog named Rose, the story comes to a satisfying end.

December 10, 2009

Letters from Father Christmas

Letters From Father Christmas
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fans of Tolkien will enjoy the letters and pictures that he drew for his three children. In the letters, Father Christmas prepares for the season with the help of the North Polar Bear and Ilbereth the elf.

The House of Wooden Santas

The House of Wooden Santas
by Kevin Major
wood carvings by Imelda George

When Jesse's mother loses her job, she decides to move to a small village to save on living expenses. Jesse's mom hopes to start a new career as a wood carver. Jesse misses life in the city and dreads going to school where he is subject to another boy's hurtful teasing. Before he goes to sleep, Jesse's mom whispers comfortingly, In the House of Wooden Santas there's someone to keep you safe and take away your doubts. Guardian Santa protects you from the worries of the world. Each day, a newly carved Santa arrives to bring Jesse a little trust and a little hope. Then, twelve days before Christmas, their landlady, Mrs. Wentzell, tells them to leave because Jesse's mom can't sell enough carvings to pay the rent. With a little creativity and belief, Jesse tries to get Mrs. Wentzell to change her mind. A heart-warming holiday story.

Hanukkah Moon

Hanukkah Moon
by Deborah da Costa

Isobel spends Hanukkah with her Aunt Luisa. They bake cookies, take pictures, break the piƱata, and welcome the Hanukkah Moon.

A story about the little known Rosh Hodesh holiday. The story also shows how two different cultures - Jewish and Mexican - combine to create unique ways of celebration.

December 8, 2009

A North Pole Adventure

Santa Calls
by William Joyce

Art Atchinson Aimesworth, inventor, adventurer, and crime-fighter, receives a summons from Santa Claus himself. But why did Santa call? Art, his little sister Esther, and his best friend Spauldiing, journey North in their Yuletide Flyer. They meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus and engage in an exciting battle with the Dark Elves before returning home. The next day, they receive gifts from Santa: a canoe for Spaulding, a puppy for Art, and two letters for Esther. The contents of the letters reveal the real reason why Santa called.

An original Hanukkah story

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
by Eric Kimmel
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Hershel of Ostropol is looking forward to the Hanukkah celebrations in the village. But when he arrives, he sees no candles or lights; all the windows are dark. The villagers are afraid of the goblins who haunt the synagogue at the top of the hill. Hershel decides to chase away the goblins. He comes up with several ingenious tricks to fool them. Then the fearsome Goblin King pays him a visit! Hershel will need all of his courage and resourcefulness to bring Hanukkah back to the village.

December 3, 2009

An ice fishing adventure

by W.D.Valgardson
illustrated by Ange Zhang

Thor usually spends Saturday mornings watching cartoons. But his grandfather needs help with his fishing nets. Thor thinks he is too little to help and his grandfather agrees, but Grandmother insists that Thor can do the job.

Early the next morning, Thor puts on layers of clothes and goes out on the ice with Grandfather. Together, they set the nets and pull in the fish. On the way home, they find a snowmobiler who has fallen through the ice. Thor is the only one who can help and proves to himself & Grandfather that even if he's not too big, he can still be brave.

Arctic Stories

Arctic Stories
by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak & Vladyana Langer Krykorka

Three stories that capture the people and surroundings of the Arctic. A prologue and afterword gently remind readers of events that influenced generations of people.

In Agatha & the Ugly Black Thing, the people flee from an approaching airship. Only Agatha stands her ground.

In Agatha & the Most Amazing Bird, Agatha befriends a raven. She is surprised when the raven flies upside down. She is also entranced by the other birds and animals - snow buntings, sandhill cranes, swans, foxes, rabbits. Unfortunately, not all animals are depicted in the illustrations.

An airplane takes Agatha and her friends away in Agatha Goes to School. In spite of some of the bad things that happened (which is only implied), there were also good things - Agatha learns to ski. Her skill becomes useful when kind Father Fafard falls through the ice.

December 1, 2009

Tales of Wisdom and Wonder

Tales of Wisdom & Wonder
retold by Hugh Lupton
illustrated by Niamh Sharkey

Who put a tree in the middle of a desert? Did the fox cure a little girl's illness or was it the other way around? Will a pedlar follow his dream? Who is the most powerful man in the world? Can a blind man see more than a hunter? How will a farmer keep his gold? Which shepherd saw the greatest wonder?

For the answers, read this collection of enchanting folktales from countries such as Haiti, France, Russia, and Ireland. They serve to remind us of the mystery and wonder that fill our world.

Myths and legends from around the world

Golden Myths and Legends of the World

A collection of 50 stories from around the world, among them: Brave Quest (Native American), The Lake that Flew Away (Estonia), Rainbow Snake (Australia), The Death of El Cid (Spain), The Gingerbread Baby (Palestine), Biggest (Japan), and The Flying Dutchman (sailor's legend).

Storyteller Geraldine McCaughrean has rewritten numerous folktales and legends. She has won many awards, including the Guardian Children's Fiction Award and the Carnegie Medal. Her clear prose and sense of humour make her stories very accessible and entertaining. She has another collection called Silver Myths and Legends of the World.

November 26, 2009

"Wisdom comes on silent wings."

by Jan Bourdeau Waboose
illustrated by Brian Deines

Two sisters search for the SkySpirits on a cold winter night. As they climb Coyote Hill, they stop to pluck icicles on trees, meet a rabbit and a deer, and listen to faraway sounds. Filled with wonder and excitement, they dance beneath the stars.

Brian Deines' paintings capture the vast night sky, the closeness between sisters, and the magic of the Northern Lights.

November 24, 2009

Warm vacation story

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
by Shyam Selvadurai

Fourteen-year-old Amrith is still mourning his mother's death eight years before. Even though he has a loving home with Aunty Bundle and Uncle Lucky, he feels lonely and apart. Then his Canadian cousin comes to visit. Entranced by Niresh's North American ways, Amrith falls in love.

Shakespeare's Othello, with its theme of disastrous jealousy, is the backdrop to the drama that Amrith soon finds himself. In a satisfying ending, Amrith comes to terms with his past and his sexuality.

November 19, 2009


by Jacqueline Woodson

When Lonnie Collins Motion was seven years old, his life changed forever. Now eleven, he is still trying to deal with his feelings. With the help of his teacher, Ms. Marcus, he discovers a new way of expressing himself and a renewed determination to put his family together again.

Told in the form of free verse poetry, this is a thoughtful, lyrical novel.

November 17, 2009

Pictures and music make a winning combination

Yellow Umbrella
by Jae Soo Liu
music by Dong Il Sheen

A wordless picture book to be read along with the accompanying CD. As you listen to the music and imagine the movement of the umbrellas, it becomes a wonderfully immersive experience. I can see the book as the inspiration for a dance or a short film.

November 12, 2009

Inspiring young minds

The World is Your Oyster
by Tamara James

For any child who has ever had a bad day, this collection of well-known idioms is the perfect antidote. The charming illustrations ably help readers understand that if they persevere and don't give up, the world really is their oyster.

For budding philosophers

The Three Questions
by Jon J. Muth

When is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

A boy seeks the answers to the above questions. Through his actions, he finds the answers: the best time is always now, the most important one is the one you are with, and the right thing to do is to do good for the one who is standing beside you.

Also by Jon J. Muth: Zen Shorts

November 10, 2009

Intriguing tale about friendship, truth, and heroism

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World
by e.l. konigsburg

Amedeo Kaplan had a dream: he wanted to discover something. More specifically, he wanted to find something that had been lost; something that people didn't even know was lost, until it was found. When he and William Wilcox assist with the estate sale for Amedeo's neighbour, Mrs. Zender, a former opera star, they find a sketch by Modigliani. The story behind the sketch reveals a secret that dates back to Nazi Germany.

Not your typical fairy tale

Briar Rose
by Jane Yolen

Promise me you will find the castle.
Promise me you will find the prince.

Ever since she was a little girl, Rebecca has loved her grandmother Gemma's stories about Briar Rose. But when Gemma lays dying, she makes an incredible statement: I am Briar Rose. Bound by a promise, Rebecca goes on a journey to uncover the truth about Gemma's past, a journey that will take her to a Polish concentration camp and the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust.

Jane Yolen has turned the tale of Sleeping Beauty into a haunting, unforgettable novel, both romantic and heart-breaking.