Review: Gottika by Helaine Becker

 I’ve always been a fan of Helaine Becker’s nonfiction and her picture books, but I was intrigued when I heard she had a new fantasy novel in the works.

Incorporating graphic novel elements illustrated by Alexander Griggs-Burr,  and set in an alternate dystopian world, Becker hinges the turning point of Gottika on a character straight out of a Jewish legend, a Gol.  These are magical creatures made from clay and earth and brought to life by powerful charms are charged with protecting against oppression. These incongruent elements come together to create a fabulous read enhanced by Griggs-Burrs visuals.

The story begins with fifteen year old Dany yearning for relief from the oppression of Count Pol’s reign. But, he is too young to know how to bring it about. As a Stoon, he, his family, and his friends are nothing more than second class citizens subject to the brutality of Gottika City’s Guards. Dany can’t understand why his father, a respected elder, doesn’t  do more to stop the tyranny. Instead of acting, his father hides behind closed doors with the few books the officials have allowed him to keep.

Dany seethes with frustration that is further fueled by a father who treats him like a child and a mother whose secret past  haunts her. Pol’s increasingly brutal actions force Dany’s father to take a stand, but not in a way that Dany had ever imagined.  His father creates and breathes life into a Gol. The Gol is charged with protecting their people, but when his father is imprisoned and slated for execution, even the Gol can’t help, Dany must act to stop Count Pol.

Gottika is the perfect mashup that results in a great read; one that kept me awake until I turned the last page.

2014 GG short list

The Governor Generals’ 2014 shortlist for Children’s Literature has been announced. Congratulations everyone. Find the full short list here.

Children text:

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (Puffin)
Jeremy Stone by Lesley Choyce (Red Deer Press)
Skraelings by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (Inhabit Media Inc.)
When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid (Arsenal Pulp Press)
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)
Children illustrated:

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, illustrated by Qin Leng, text by Chieri Uegaki (Kids Can Press)
Once Upon a Memory, illustrated by Renata Liwska, text by Nina Laden (Little, Brown and Company)
Julia, Child, illustrated by Julie Morstad, text by Kyo Maclear (Tundra Books)
This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, text by Mariko Tamaki (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)

Picture Book Review: When Emily Carr Met Woo

Monica Kulling’s When Emily Met Woo is a perfect introduction to one of Canada’s most famous artists, Emily Carr. Young readers will find an engaging story,  a brief history, some of Ms. Carr’s most famous images and the charming illustrations of the very talented Dean Griffiths.

Monica Kulling paints a vivid picture of Emily Carr’s life in simple, direct language. Emily is thought to be a “strange bird” whose art no one wants.  “To make a living, she [Emily] made and sold clay bowls and hooked rugs.”  The painter was known as an eccentric who housed a menagerie of animals, including a monkey she called Woo. The depth of love Emily feels for her animal companions is clear when Woo becomes gravely ill.  Fortunately, Woo makes a full recovery and accompanies Emily to the forest where “Cedars touched the sky. They touched the painter’s heart too.”

 

I especially like the design of the dust jacket. The front cover integrates a photograph of Carr and Woo within the illustration while the back cover features several of Carr’s paintings as well Griffiths illustration of Woo.

Picture book biographies are difficult to write well, but Pajama Press, Monica Kulling and Dean Griffiths all get top marks with When Emily Carr Met Woo.

Why I stock a free library

These neighborhood kids rode over after school yesterday to choose a book.

photo

Finalists for the 2014 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards

sherylbooks:

Check out some of the fabulous books on these short lists. I wish they could all be winners. The pile of books by my bed is about to get higher!

Originally posted on Talking with Tundra:

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) has announced the finalists for its seven major children’s book awards – the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, John Spray Mystery Award, and the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The nominated books exemplify some of the best work by Canadian authors and illustrators. The following Tundra titles have been chosen:

MARILYN BAILLIE PICTURE BOOK AWARD

My Name Is BlessingMy Name Is Blessing
Written by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Hardcover | 32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-77049-301-8
“This story of an African boy plagued by disability, poverty and prejudice, and ultimately saved by love, is unfailingly respectful… Every child can be enriched by the unsentimental, honest and enlightening text and be carried…

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Picture Book Writing Contest for U.S. based writers of color

Picture Book Writing Contest

Sadly, Canadians can’t take part in the Lee & Low Books New Voices Picture Book Writing Contest, but if you live south of the border, and are a writer of color, this is a good one…a cash prize of $1,000 is a bonus to the real prize, which is a publishing contract.

Deadline: 09-30-2014

WRITING CONTEST WEBSITE

To recognize the talents of children’s picture book authors, Lee & Low Books (est. 2000) is inviting U.S.-based authors of color to submit manuscripts (up to 1500 words) to its 15th Annual New Voices Award for a chance to win a cash prize of $1,000 and a publishing contract with the company. 

A second-place winner will receive $500.

The judges accept unagented, original, unpublished children’s stories only. Categories include fiction, poetry, and non-fiction appropriate for kids, ages 5-12.

Submissions should focus on the necessities of children of color and engage young readers with relatable stories. You can submit up to two entries per application.

#willholdtheline … A shout out to support teachers

#willholdtheline. Let teachers know that you support them.

I’ve been a little lazy about posting lately…enjoying my granddaughter, gardening, socializing, and busying hosting out of towners. But, a plea has gone out (Thank you, Kara) that our province’s teachers are still without a contract and September is just around the corner. As a former teacher, a parent and writer and citizen, I care deeply about education. I know that teachers make a difference in the lives of children.  I knew it as a student, I know it as an educator, as an author who has been in schools all across this province, and I know it as a parent.  I am deeply indebted to teachers, and I want them to know that they have my support. Teachers need to know that we stand behind them as they fight for our children. They need to hear from you, and so do our politicians.  Tie up their phone lines and fill their mailboxes. Demand that they make our children’s education a priority.

 

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