Category Archives: Uncategorized

Books for Booklovers

Sometimes I get the feeling that it is not me selecting the next book to read, but that the book is waiting for me to read it.

Recently I read two books that beautifully complemented each other without me realizing it until I delved into the second one.

The first book is by one of my favourite nonfiction authors: Ross King. His books take place in Italy and are all based on historic facts. I loved Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michaelangelo and The Pope’s Ceiling. Both books took me straight into medieval Italy.

When I saw the new, and beautifully executed title The Bookseller of Florence, I had to read it.

The book is a feast for the eye and focuses on all things book: the history of writing, printing and producing manuscripts. I have never left so many sticky notes all over the pages because I wanted to remember all of the fascinating tidbits. 

I did find this book lacking in story line. It did focus on one person: Vespasiano da Bisticci who created and preserved many important books and was the hub of scribes and book producers in medieval Florence. However, unlike the other books, I did not get swept away with strong characters and a spell binding plot. The nonfiction facts, however, were fascinating enough to keep me reading. I learned much about the creation of original books, and enjoyed meeting Gutenberg and learning more about his press. Ross King’s knowledge about politics, economy and life in Europe in this era, is more than impressive.

• The Bookseller of Florence, Ross King, ISBN 978-0-385-69297-7, Doubleday

Having read that book first, I was amazed when I got into my next book, a fictional story called The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer. I am not crazy about adult fiction but this one really appealed to me because of the ‘scribe’ part and because I spent time in Siena. Having been there, I could totally picture the setting: the streets, the Campo, the tower, the church.

This story starts in New York and is contemporary. Neurosurgeon Beatrice Travato inherites a house in Siena. It’s well written but involves time travel – something I wasn’t sure about in an adult novel. I enjoyed time travel in children’s books like The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn. But in this realistic adult book? Hhhmmm…                                   However, the story is so well told that I did not mind the time travel aspect, although I did find I had to buy into it. Beatrice time travels, in a solid, believable manner, to Siena of the mid 1300’s. The book is mysterious and exciting. The solid research behind it makes the characters (names I recognized from the nonfiction book), life and setting real. I was glad I had the knowledge of the previous book, The Bookseller of Florence, because this one too, focused on a scribe copying on parchment. A fascinating read and highly recommended as a twosome.

• The Scribe of Siena, Melodie Winawer, ISBN 978-1-5011-5226-9, Simon & Schuster

Halloween Treats

With Halloween and Día de los Muertos coming up, I can’t resist sharing some wonderful appropriate reads with you! These books are a treat, not a trick!

Brand new this Fall is a book that I immediately fell in love with: The Strangest Thing in the Sea by Rachel Poliquin, with art by Byron Eggenschwiler is brilliant. The clever text tells us about the strangest creature that lives in the ocean. But when you flip the flap over, it reveals the real amazing creature, together with lots of fascinating nonfiction information. But – this is not the strangest thing in the sea… So continues each page, each flap to reveal something even more bizarre. Vampire Squid, Goblin Shark, Yeti Crabs that resemble a pile of skulls… But guess what the strangest creature of all is, who could not survive its explorations of the deep sea without equipment and inventions… A beautifully executed picture book for deep sea lovers of all ages ánd fun to read at Halloween.                                                  ISBN 978-1-77138-918-1, Kids Can Press


FROM FAR AWAYby Robert Munsch. This might be Robert Munsch’s least well known book but it’s one of my favourites. He co-wrote this picture book with Saoussan Askar (age 9). She wrote a letter to Robert Munsch, of Love You Foreverfame, to share her story of immigrating from Beirut, Lebanon. She was happy to live in a safe place, but when Halloween came around she was suddenly confronted with ghosts and skeletons in closets. Munsch skillfully turned her scary tale into a funny one that highlights differences in cultures and the difference a caring teacher can make. Great to share at this time of year! ISBN 1-55037-396-X, Annick Press

GHOSTSby Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel. Its word choices and story content make this is a great story for slightly older readers. Catrina, her sister Maya who suffers from cystic fibrosis and their parents move to a new town. Catrina does not like it there. Nor does she like the town’s history full of ghosts, which is celebrated during Diá de los Muertos. Catrina is very hesitant to go out on Halloween night but she and her sister meet many ghosts who help change their perspective.          ISBN 978-0-545-54062-9, Scholastic



MARY WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEINby Linda Bailey is the beautifully crafted background story of Mary who, as a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on tombstones. At age 19 she is challenged by Lord Byron and Percy Shelley to write a scary story. Mary Shelley ends up creating the most terrifying, and enduring, tale of all: Frankenstein. This gorgeous biography showcases captivating art by Júlia Sardá. A great book to use, even in high school, to discuss the origins of Frankenstein and where stories may come from.                                                       ISBN 978-1770495593, Tundra Books

Unravel by Sharon Jennings


You know those great books that you get ‘into’ and you can’t wait to find out how it ends. But you don’t want them to end…?

Well, I picked up Unravel by Sharon Jennings and I started turning pages. Couldn’t stop reading. The story reads so well, so true. I was right there in Toronto with Rebecca and her strange father. She is such a spunky, independent girl that, despite her strange upbringing, she seems to be alright. But Rebecca struggles with how different her “family” of two is from other families that she observes in her neighbourhood. She doesn’t go to school. She can’t even get a library card even though she is a voracious reader. Books might well be what saved her. She shops at thrift stores and rides the bus by herself.

As soon as she settles and makes friends, her dad packs up and forces her to leave again. But as Rebecca get older, she realizes that something is wrong. Things don’t ring true anymore. The story is so well written that you just have to find out what exactly it is that is wrong.

In the 1990’s I had a favourite book called The Face on The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney. I used that book a lot in writing workshops because the short content was so intriguing. Unravel is every bit as good. A fabulous story for middle graders to sink their teeth in, learn about what life can be like and how what you see on the surface may not be the entire truth…

ISBN 9780889956193, Red Deer Press

The ABC’s of Picture Books

Having written several alphabet books, I love to play with language.
I wanted to share a list of some of my favourite picture books with you and decided to do that in alphabet format. The hardest part was leaving some of my favourite reads ply because I already had one for ‘B’ or ‘W’! But… here it is. Some are brand new books, others are classics. I hope you know some of them but that this might also help you to discover new ones.
More lists to come. Enjoy this one.

Happy reading!

Amos’ Sweater, Janet Lunn

(The)Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians, Carla Morris
Clack-Clack Moo, Doreen Conin
Diary of a Worm, Doreen Cronin
(The) Empty Pot, Demi

Fourteen Cows For America, Carmen Agra Deedy
Gifts, Jo Ellen Bogart, Barbara Reid
Hope Springs, Eric Walters, Eugenie Fernandes
If You Happen To Have A Dinosaur, Linda Bailey, Colin Jack
Jeremiah Learns to Read, Jo Ellen Bogart,

Knuffle Bunny Free, Mo Willems
Last Day Blues, Julie Danneberg

ama Miti, Donna Jo Napoli 

Not a Box, Antoinette Portis
One Word from Sophia, Jim Averbeck
Pog, Lynn Lee
Be Quiet!, Ryan T. Higgins
Round Trip, Ann Jonas
Something From Nothing, Phoebe Gilman
Totem Tale, Deb Vanasse
Up The Creek, Nicholas Oldland
Violin, The Man With The… , Kathy Stinson
Waiting For The Whales, Sheryl McFarlane
EXcellent Ed, Stacy McAnulty
Yetsa’s Sweater, Sylvia Olsen
Zoom, Istvan Banyai

Flat Stanley Inspired Travels

Do you know the Flat Stanley books? (see:

These fictional books are fun stories about Stanley, who was a regular boy until he got flattened by a bulletin board that fell on his bed. Since then he’s had amazing adventures because he fits under doors and through mail slots.

My dream is for my grandsons to be able to travel, albeit it not in a flattened state. I’d love it if, one day, they can come along on some of my travels to schools around the world. I would dearly love to show them Hong Kong, have them meet kids in Cambodia or see life in Dubai. One day I hope I can realize this dream. But for now, I decided to take two flat grandchildren with me on my latest trip.
The boys each coloured a ‘flat Nico’ and a ‘flat Aidan’, giving them the clothes they were wearing that day, as well as an attractive hairdo.
The two flat boys were tucked neatly in our daypack and they came along on the airplane!

They made new friends in a school in Cambodia and visited one of the most amazing sites in the world: the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Flat Aidan and Flat Nico made a trip on a wooden boat on the Mekong river but mostly they loved the white sand beach of Koh Rong in southern Cambodia.

Then the flat boys visited Hong Kong – they saw skyscrapers and a metropolis of apartment buildings and green hill sides. They saw the Star Ferry and bowls of rice with chicken.

Peace is achieved when people make friends, when cultures understand and respect each other. My dream is to help my grandsons make friends around the world. I can’t wait for that to happen.