October 31, 2013

Vampire stories

The Big Book of Vampires
by Denise Despeyroux
illustrated by Fernando Falcone

Vampire stories from around the world are featured in this oversized book. Nine stories are adaptations of vampire stories written by the likes of Bram Stoker, Alexandre Dumas, and A.K. Tolstoy. Some of the tales are written from the victim's point-of-view, while others are portrayals of female vampires. The final four stories are vampire legends from China, Spain, Poland, and Denmark. The Chinese and Spanish legends are particularly intriguing, as they describe fox-tailed vampires and a black fly vampire respectively. The creepiness is further heightened by Falcone's drawings, which portray pale, elongated, sharp-clawed creatures.

For maximum scares, read each story in a dimly-lit room. 

October 29, 2013

Scary Inuit tales

The Shadows that Rush Past
by Rachel A. Qitsualik

Qitsualik introduces young readers to four of the scariest creatures from Inuit mythology: the amautalik, an ogress who steals little children; the akhlas, giants who eat people; the nanurluk, a massive polar bear; and the mahaha, who tickles people to death!

Written in a conversational tone in keeping with an oral storytelling tradition, these are frightening tales that are quite different from ordinary ghost stories. The creepy pictures are sure to haunt many readers. 

Best read with all the lights on!

October 23, 2013

Pumpkins at sea

Spin to Sea
written & illustrated by Izra Fitch

Carved pumpkins are set afloat in this luminous picture book. This is Izra Fitch's first book, and it's a credible accomplishment. She ably conveys the warmth and joy of this particular harvest festival. However, there are a few minor problems. While the words are lovely, the rhyme scheme is uneven. The verses that have few or no rhymes sound much better. Also, though the story is set in Nova Scotia, the final picture seems to depict a medieval village instead. It has a distinct European look. Perhaps some background information is needed - did the festival originate in Europe?

Still, this is an attractive book. It will be interesting to see what Fitch will create next.

October 16, 2013

Menacing spirits in an apocalyptic world

Shadows Cast by Stars
by Catherine Knutsson

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi lives in a world where Plague is ravaging the planet, and aboriginals are hunted for the antibodies contained in their blood. Threatened by searchers, Cass and her family flee to an island where they'll be protected by the Band. The Island also confines the Spirit World - a collection of supernatural creatures trying to break free. Cass and her twin brother Paul can sense these spirits, and that puts them in even greater danger. Helped by the village healer, Cass tries to harness her powers to help the spirits, a task made treacherous when the evil ones kidnap Paul.

Knutsson skillfully weaves together aboriginal culture, Greek and Arthurian mythology, romance, coming-of-age, sci-fi, and fantasy into an intriguing mix. With multi-faceted characters and otherworldly suspense, it should keep readers fascinated. Open-ended plot points, especially regarding Paul's fate, suggests a sequel may be in the works. 

October 9, 2013

Historical mouse tales

The Malagawatch Mice and the Church that Sailed
by Caroline Stellings

Gentle rhymes tell the story of a congregation of mice, whose church is about to be moved out from above them. When a rummage sale doesn't earn enough to finance their move, they put an antique quilt up for sale. Saved by Grandpa mouse, the quilt helps them follow the barge to the church's new location.

A uniquely historical tale, with lovingly rendered watercolours reminiscent of Beatrix Potter.

Based on a true Cape Breton story.

The Malagawatch Mice and the Cat who Discovered America
by Caroline Stellings

The Malagawatch Mice are enjoying life until a large orange cat takes up residence in the church. Henry is a no-good stray and will always be a no-good stray and to that end is determined to eat up every last mouse. But Grandpa's convinced that if Henry knew his family history - he is a descendant of Prince Henry Sinclair, who first discovered Nova Scotia - he would behave more honorably (and not eat mice).

Once again, Caroline Stellings has written a uniquely creative historical tale with a happily ever after ending. The story is also a lovely tribute to the Mi'kmaq people, who were the first inhabitants of Nova Scotia.

October 2, 2013

Love story

by Cathy Ostlere

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in New Delhi, with Sikh men being targeted and killed in retribution. It is into this chaos that fifteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, find themselves after arriving from Canada. They have come to India to dispose of her mother's ashes. Maya's mother was Hindu, and was unable to overcome the differences of belief between her and her husband. 

Maya is torn between four cultures - Hindu and Sikh, Indian and Canadian. She doesn't know where she fits in, and the riots only add to her turmoil. Separated from her father and traumatized by the horrors she witnesses, Maya loses her voice, further endangering her life. Her only hope is a boy named Sandeep. 

Ostlere has written a sweeping historical romance, beautifully written in free verse. Imbued with great compassion, it is a novel of forgiveness and self-sacrifice. A novel to be treasured.