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All stories by Laura Godfrey

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Fall preview 2013: non-fiction and international titles for young people

In the June issue, Q&Q looks ahead at fall’s most anticipated books for young readers.

Non-fiction

Deborah Ellis spent two years travelling across the U.S. and Canada speaking to native children for Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids (Groundwood, $15.95 cl., Sept.). As with Ellis’s previous work focusing on children in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, the book gives a diverse group of kids a chance to share their experiences in their own words. • Nancy Runstedler chronicles the true and inspiring stories of North American kids who have taken action in the areas of homelessness, human rights, literacy, and more in Pay It Forward Kids: Small Acts, Big Change (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $18.95 cl.), available this October.

If you could write a letter to your teenage self, what would you say? In Letters Lived: Radical Reflections, Revolutionary Paths (Three O’Clock Press Inc., $14.95 pa., Oct.), Sheila Sampath, editorial director of the feminist youth magazine Shameless, brings together social-justice advocates such as Nina Power, Grace Lee Boggs, and Rae Spoon to answer that question. • Those who find other puberty books lacking might appreciate Owlkids’ Growing Up, Inside and Out ($18.95 cl., $11.95 pa., Oct.), written by Kira Vermond and illustrated by Carl Chin. The book, targeting both genders, provides answers to questions about physical and emotional changes associated with puberty, including queer issues.

The roots of conflict are explored in Why Do We Fight? Conflicts, War, and Peace (Owlkids, $16.95 cl., Sept.) by Niki Walker, which examines the factors that lead to clashes, whether personal or global.

Cat Champions: Caring for Our Feline Friends (Pajama Press, $21.95 cl., $14.95 pa., Sept.), by Zoocheck Canada founder Rob Laidlaw, is filled with colour photographs and true stories about kids who volunteer at shelters, foster kittens, and generally make the world a kinder place for feline furballs. • Michael Worek’s Weird Insects (Firefly Books, $9.95 pa., Sept.) delivers an up-close look at some of the animal kingdom’s strangest (and tiniest) creatures.

Jill Bryant, author of Dazzling Women Designers and Amazing Women Athletes, profiles 10 creative business leaders in Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs (Second Story Press, $10.95 pa., Sept.), which looks at the lives of a diverse group of women including The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and finance expert Naina Lal Kidwai. • Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and more than 20 other musical heavyweights get the profile treatment in Legends, Icons & Rebels (Tundra Books, $29.99 cl., Oct.), written by the Band’s Robbie Robertson, with co–authors Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson, and Jared Levine.

International

The YA fantasy genre is as hot as ever, and the new book from Holly Black, best-selling author of the Spiderwick series, will only fan the flames. In The Coldest Girl in Cold Town (Little, Brown/Hachette, $21 cl., Sept.), Tana wakes up one morning to find herself in a dangerous walled city where monsters lurk in search of human prey. • Those hungry for more Suzanne Collins should get ready for something a little different. Year of the Jungle (Scholastic, $19.99 cl., Sept.), featuring James Proimos’s illustrations, is an autobiographical picture book that follows little Suzy, who is left wondering what her father will face in the jungles of Vietnam.

Iranian-American author Sara Farizan delves into sensitive territory in If You Could Be Mine (HarperCollins Canada, $17.99 cl., Aug.). The novel tells the story of Sahar and Nasrin, teenage girls in Iran who have been in love since they were six. Sahar believes the only chance for them to be together is for her to undergo sex reassignment surgery, which is accepted in Iran but would change her true identity forever. • From Drawn & Quarterly comes a full-colour biography of 19th-century birth-control activist (and Planned Parenthood founder) Margaret Sanger. American cartoonist Peter Bagge brings equal parts humour and respect to the story of the trailblazing woman’s life in The Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story ($21.95 cl., Oct.).

Elizabeth Wein returns to the Second World War setting of last year’s Code Name Verity with Rose Under Fire (Doubleday Canada, $19.95 cl., Sept.), about a young pilot who must survive capture by the Germans and incarceration at Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration camp for women. • Razia is a young Afghan girl who longs to attend her village’s new school in Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education (Kids Can, $19.95 cl., Sept.). Based on a true story, this picture book by Elizabeth Suneby, with art by Suana Verelst, follows Razia as she teaches her father and brother that going to school would benefit the whole family.

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Fall preview 2013: fiction and picture books for young people

In the June issue, Q&Q looks ahead at fall’s most anticipated books for young readers.

Fiction

In August, Scholastic Canada offers up a brand new YA series from the prolific Gordon Korman. In The Hypnotists: Book 1 ($18.99 cl.), young Jackson Opus discovers the explanation behind his inherent persuasiveness – it turns out his ancestors were powerful hypnotists. But when things get out of control after he’s accepted to a special program at the Sentia Institute, he has to work to save everyone he cares about. • Following last year’s The Taming, Governor General’s Literary Award nominee Teresa Toten is back with a new teen novel. In The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Doubleday Canada, $14.95 pa., Aug.), Adam and Robyn, two 14-year-olds struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder and their burgeoning relationship, discover that Adam’s mother has begun to receive threatening letters from an unknown person.

Having conquered YA, Lesley Livingston has teamed up with Jonathan Llyr for her first middle-grade novel. In How to Curse in Hieroglyphics (Puffin Canada, $14.99 pa., Oct.), Cheryl and Tweed are 12-year-old cousins who each had an identical twin before a mysterious incident took away their families. Now raised by their grandfather, the two girls bond amid some weird and extraordinary happenings. • Speaking of YA, Livingston will release Descendant: A Starling Novel (Harper-Collins Canada, $19.99 pa.) in August. In this second instalment in the Norse-themed Starling series, the raven-haired protagonist, Mason, must find her way home without setting in motion a terrible prophecy.

Chantel Guertin, beauty expert and best-selling author (as Chantel Simmons) of the adult novels Stuck in Downward Dog and Love Struck, is making her first foray into YA with The Rule of Thirds (ECW Press, $9.95 pa., Oct.). Sixteen-year-old Pippa Greene dreams of being a successful fashion photographer, while her best friend Dace is an aspiring supermodel. But their friendship is tested by new love interests and a major photography competition. • Following the release of last year’s Seven series, Orca Book Publishers is set to release three books in a new YA series called Limelights ($9.95 each pa., Oct.), focusing on kids involved in the performing arts. The first titles on deck are Robin Stevenson’s Attitude (about ballet), Tom Ryan’s Totally Unrelated (about playing guitar in a band), and Karen Krossing’s Cut the Lights (about a high-school play).

School friends Marty Apostrophes and Bill Brown – a.k.a. Nothing Man and the Purple Zero – become instant celebrities after a video of the pair foiling an attempted robbery goes viral in Richard Scarsbrook’s Nothing Man and the Purple Zero ($14.95 pa), due from Dancing Cat Books in September. • Also in September, Annick Press will release a graphic-novel version of Australian author Anna Fienberg’s 2002 swashbuckler Horrendo’s Curse ($24.95 cl., $14.95 pa.), adapted by Toronto’s Alison Kooistra with illustrations by Rémy Simard. The story features young Horrendo, a boy whose politeness gets him in hot water when a gang of unruly pirates invades his village.

Novels exploring native culture continue to be popular. Readers will learn about the North American way of life prior to European conquest in Rick Revelle’s I Am Algonquin: An Algonquin Quest Novel (Dundurn Press, $12.99 pa., Nov.), which is set in the 14th century and describes one tribe’s search for moose and woodland buffalo, conflicts with other nations, and coming-of-age rituals. • Lesley Choyce, author of countless titles for children and adults, tells the story of a First Nations boy and a troubled girl brought together by spirits from the past in the free-verse novel Jeremy Stone (Red Deer Press, $12.95 pa., Sept.). • Sixteen-year-old Darrah is given a lesson in “restorative justice” when she is ordered to help an elderly lady after running afoul of the RCMP. Whatever (-Ronsdale Press, $11.95 pa.), the latest novel by Ann Walsh, ships in September.

This fall sees several new instalments in established series. In Maureen Fergus’s  The Gypsy King (Book Two): A Fool’s Errand (Razorbill Canada, $19.99 cl., Oct.), Persephone and Azriel go in search of the mythical healing Pool of Genezing – with dire consequences if they fail. • Toronto author and illustrator Evan Munday’s morbidly playful series is back. In The Dead Kid Detective Agency #2: Dial “M” for Morna (ECW, $11.95 pa., Oct.), October Schwartz and her five dead friends must solve not one, but two new mysteries: the 1914 death of Morna MacIsaac and who’s behind a harassment campaign at school. • The 14-year-old protagonist of Catherine Egan’s The Unmaking: The Last Days of Tian Di: Book 2 (Coteau Books, $12.95 pa., Sept.) must master “Ancient Magic” to defeat the evil sorceress Nia.

Multiple Silver Birch Award–winning author Eric Walters offers up another round of adventure with Camp X: Enigma (Puffin Canada, $14 pa., Nov.). In the sixth series instalment, brothers Jack and George are aboard a merchant ship with their parents when disaster strikes, and the boys must help unravel a Nazi plot against British intelligence. • Canadian cartoonist Seth once again provides illustrations for one of Lemony Snicket’s new titles. In When Did You See Her Last? All the Wrong Questions, Book Two (HarperCollins Canada, $16.99 cl., Oct.), young apprentice Snicket and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl.

Debut author and television writer Gail Gallant presents a supernatural love triangle in Apparition (Doubleday Canada, $14.95 pa., Sept.). In this romantic thriller, we meet Amelia Mackenzie, a clairvoyant 17-year-old torn between her recently dead best friend Matthew (whom, naturally, she can still see), and Kip, the sceptic helping her solve the mystery of the haunted barn where Matthew died. • Cole is eager to escape his hometown following the death of his mom – until he discovers a secret that could keep him there forever. Anywhere But Here (Pulse/Simon & Schuster, $19.99 cl.), by B.C.’s Tanya Lloyd Kyi, ships in October.

Set during the Second World War, Kid Soldier (Dundurn, $12.99 pa., Aug.) by Jennifer Maruno is about fatherless 15-year-old Richard Fuller, who hastily (and illegally) enlists in the army after hearing war stories from Mr. Black, the local baker. • Search and Rescue: Powderhounds (Lorimer, Sept.), by B.C.’s Heather Kellerhals-Stewart, promises an adrenaline-filled story about efforts to find a couple that goes missing while skiing out of bounds.

Picture Books

This fall will see the return of a couple of beloved and wacky characters from Kids Can Press, not the least of which is Mélanie Watt’s famously fearful rodent. Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween ($18.95 cl., Sept.), the second in a series of safety guides, will help kids navigate the spooky October holiday. • Binky: License to Scratch ($16.95 cl., $8.95 pa., Sept.), from author and illustrator Ashley Spires, follows the latest exploits of Binky the Space Cat. In the final instalment of the Binky Adventures series, our feline friend and his team uncover a secret experiment at the vet’s office.

Calgary author and illustrator Dave Whamond had a hit on his hands with 2011’s Oddrey. That picture book’s quirky titular protagonist returns for another adventure in Oddrey and the New Kid (Owlkids Books, $17.95 cl., Sept.), which takes place at the zoo. • The red-haired heroine of Marie–Louise Gay’s much-loved Stella series is back in Read Me a Story, Stella (Groundwood Books, $16.95 cl., Aug.), in which the precocious bookworm introduces her younger brother, Sam, to the pleasures of reading.

The Raven and the Loon (Inhabit Media, $16.95 cl., Sept.), by husband-and-wife team Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, and featuring illustrations by Kim Smith, tells the traditional pan-Arctic story of how the titular birds’ white feathers turned into their present colours. • A little dragon tries to learn to contain his flame in Spark (Simply Read Books, $12.95 cl.), forthcoming in October from author Kallie George. The book – the first in the Tiny Tails series – features illustrations by Geneviève Côté.

Nicholas Oldland’s Up the Creek (Kids Can, $16.95 cl., Sept.) is a very Canadian story about three best friends: the bear, the moose, and the beaver. Things get rough when the pals can’t agree on a plan during their canoe trip, and the trio must find a way to get along before the river sweeps them away. • Ruth Ohi leaves Chicken, Pig, and Cow in their Popsicle-stick barn in favour of a weightier story, but one that is told with a light touch. Kenta and the Big Wave (Annick, $19.95 cl., $9.95 pa., Sept.) tells of a boy whose beloved soccer ball is washed away in the Japanese tsunami, and the surprising journey it takes before being returned to him.

In October, the queen of nonsense verse, Sheree Fitch, brings us Singily Skipping Along (Nimbus Publishing, $19.95 cl.), a “body movement multi-sensory inventive language poem” for very young kids. The poem, which shows preschoolers how to move their bodies (like a tree, a whale, or a spider), includes hooked-rug illustrations by Deanne Fitzpatrick. • Jean Little’s On a Snowy Night (Scholastic Canada, $19.99 cl., Oct.), with illustrations by Brian Deines, is about a young boy who becomes too busy to play with his pet rabbit, Rosa, and one day accidentally leaves her outside.

Griffin Ondaatje (son of Michael) presents a retelling of a hadith, a traditional Muslim story the author first heard in Sri Lanka. The Camel in the Sun (Groundwood, $17.95 cl., Sept.), with artwork by Linda Wolfsgruber, tells of a man named Halim who learns to care for his exhausted camel after encountering the Prophet in the city of Medina. • When children are nestled all snug in their beds, let visions of Barbara Reid’s latest book dance in their heads. This new edition of The Night Before Christmas (Scholastic Canada, $19.99 cl., Oct.), featuring the Order of Ontario recipient’s intricate Plasticine images, gives Clement Clarke Moore’s timeless holiday poem a twist.

Kass Reich follows up her beloved counting book Hamsters Holding Hands with another board book featuring the adorable critters. This Little Hamster (Orca, $9.95), a colour primer, ships in October. • More cute animals star in Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That (Pajama Press, $19.95 cl., Sept.), about a day (and night) in the life of a drowsy cat and rambunctious kitten. The picture book by Victoria Allenby features illustrations by Tara Anderson.

 

 

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Ten years of TCAF

TCAF 2012 (photo: TCAF)

If you’ve attended the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in recent years, you may find it hard to believe that this thriving event began a decade ago in a modest church space, with about 70 artists and 600 comics lovers in attendance. Compare that with 2012, when TCAF attracted 18,000 visitors to its current home at the Toronto Reference Library and at several satellite venues scattered across the city.

Expect more crowds at this year’s 10th-anniversary celebration on May 11 and 12, thanks to some big-name attendees including Art Spiegelman (Maus), Françoise Mouly (art editor for The New Yorker), and Japanese artist Taiyo Matsumoto (debuting his new manga series, Sunny), as well as hundreds of emerging local and international artists.

Surprisingly, TCAF has remained free for the public even as its popularity has grown. For Christopher Butcher and Peter Birkemoe, co-founders of TCAF (and manager and owner, respectively, of the comics bookstore The Beguiling), this approach has been key to the festival’s success.

“Our goal has always been about taking the medium of comics, which we love, and making it as accessible as humanly possible – and that starts with being free,” says Butcher. “Removing every barrier to entry is the best way I can think of to interest people in the medium, and partnering with the library is really what drives that idea, because TCAF is free and going to the library is free. You go there to read, you go there to experience.”

How have organizers kept TCAF free, when most comics conventions charge admission fees? Birkemoe says it’s a combination of hard work, luck, and dedicated volunteers. The festival receives some financial support, which this year includes a grant from the Toronto Arts Council (the first since 2005). The Toronto Public Library has provided a free venue since 2009, and children’s publisher Owlkids is a sponsor, assisting with operational and publicity costs.

“The relationship with Owlkids has grown naturally over many years because of the large number of Toronto artists attending TCAF who they have published,” says Birkemoe. “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Owlkids to promote and develop our kids’ programming.”

Outside of Owlkids, TCAF organizers have avoided corporate sponsorship. While Birkemoe says popular artists such as Chester Brown, Kate Beaton, and Bryan Lee O’Malley, along with cartoonists Andrew Hussie and Jeph Jacques, “have put the biggest strain on our attempts to control crowding,” TCAF remains a grassroots event dedicated to giving new artists a chance to exhibit their work.

“Someone who is producing reasonably professional work but who has not yet exhibited at TCAF does get a certain amount of weight over someone who already has,” says Birkemoe. “That keeps things fresh and interesting for the audience, but it is also a way of ensuring there’s an opportunity for the up-and-coming artists to exhibit, both locally and from afar.”

Click on the thumbnails below to see photos from previous years.

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Inspired reading: getting kids to engage with important books

(illustration: Byron Eggenschwiler)

Whether it’s war and poverty on the evening news or bullying in our own schools, we all wish we could protect children from life’s harsh realities. But at the same time, we want them to grow up to be well-informed, open-minded adults with an understanding of the world outside their front doors. No doubt they’ll pick up some of this information from the media, the Internet, and their friends at school, but wouldn’t it be better if we introduced them to the wider world in a supportive environment, to avoid the spread of misinformation and promote understanding?

For Linda Granfield, author of more than 20 children’s books, it’s important not to shy away from difficult topics. Her upcoming picture book, The Road to Afghanistan (due from Scholastic Canada in August), is aimed at ages seven and up, and tells the story of three generations of a family who all take part in different wars. (The book is illustrated by Brian Deines.)

“Kids won’t [choose this book on their own], but that’s why we need these materials,” says Granfield. “A kid isn’t going to pick up a book on AIDS either, but it could be part of their family story, and it’s definitely part of the community story.”

Granfield stresses the importance of having a grown-up share her books with children, as the stories inevitably lead to questions. “These difficult topics do need an adult who is sort of a go-between, who selects the material and then presents it,” she says.

Janet Wilson, whose non-fiction picture book Our Rights: How Kids Are Changing the World (Second Story Press) is coming in April, agrees this type of book should be read in a supportive setting, and acknowledges that most children won’t be drawn to them on their own. “The publisher is aware of that risk and still commits to producing these books, because they recognize the importance,” says Wilson. “I’m just so grateful that we have publishers like that in Canada.”

The Road to Afghanistan doesn’t shy away from the realities of war – Granfield mentions sleeping in trenches with rats, killing enemy soldiers, and suffering horrific injuries – but she balances those descriptions with relatable stories of hope and family bonds, and tries to convey soldiers’ motivations without introducing personal bias.

However, Granfield strives to create books that are more than simply didactic teaching tools. She’s aware kids may need some persuasion to read about war, and that’s why she believes the picture book format, combined with a story as focused on human emotion as it is on historical detail, will help hold their interest. “The language has to be very simple, so I was very careful about word selection – not in the sense of censoring, but the sound of words,” she says. “It’s very much made to be read aloud.”

Another way of attracting young readers to difficult subjects is with a charismatic young protagonist who stands up to an enemy. Such is the case with When I Was Eight (Annick Press), a picture book by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton about an Inuit girl who faces humiliation at the hands of a cruel nun at a residential school. With the Idle No More protest movement having become a prominent Canadian news story, this aspect of our country’s history – the abuse suffered by native children at residential schools – is arguably more relevant than ever to today’s kids.

“We meet many students from foreign countries who have been through some pretty rough ordeals, and they’re able to gather things from Margaret’s stories to give them strength,” says Jordan-Fenton, who wrote the book based on the personal experiences of Pokiak-Fenton, her mother-in-law. “I guess what I would most like children to know is that, even as children, they have the strength inside of them to get through anything and come out with a very positive view, as Margaret did.”

For Lana Button, an early childhood educator and author of two picture books for three- to seven-year-olds, the goal is to provide social and emotional guidance through her writing. “It’s very hard to get young children to see somebody else’s point of view, but that’s one of the duties of a picture book,” says Button. “It allows you to open up a page and show a child and say, ‘How do you think that made her feel?’ It allows children to see not just their own perspective, but their friend’s perspective as well.”

In Button’s Willow Finds a Way (the follow-­up to 2010’s Willow’s Whispers, both from Kids Can Press), the shy protagonist and her friends learn the power of the phrase “You can’t come to my birthday party!” when a girl at school lords her upcoming celebration over her classmates, leaving some feeling left out. It’s a form of social bullying, and for someone as timid as Willow, it takes a lot of courage to overcome.

The success of the first Willow book has already proven that these stories are reaching the kids who need them. After it was published, a teacher sent Button a brief letter from a young ESL student that said: “I feel like Willow. I feel invisible. I’m going to try harder to speak up.”

That, for Button, was worth more than any book review. “That was so inspiring for me,” she says. “I think socially, emotionally, if she felt connected and thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and stick up for myself,’ that’s all you can ever hope for.”

With books that tackle challenging subjects, the hope is that young readers will actually enjoy reading them – that they will be good, not just good for you. Ideally, the educational element is blended into a story that is compelling, relatable, and boosted by illustrations – kind of like sneaking bits of cauliflower into your kid’s mashed potatoes.

And although the authors hope children will enjoy simply reading these books, Janet Wilson emphasizes the importance of taking it one step further. “Discussion is an important part of any book that deals with a difficult subject,” she says. “You don’t just read it and put it down like a Cinderella story – it’s the basis for a conversation.”

– From the March 2013 issue of Q&Q

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Spring preview 2013: international books

Rumours to the contrary notwithstanding, publishing is alive and well moving into spring. In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the spring’s biggest international titles.

Fiction

Afghan-born Khaled Hosseini, author of the best-selling novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, is back with his first work of fiction in six years. And the Mountains Echoed (Viking Canada, $30 cl., May) revisits the theme of family, this time in a multi-generational story about a brother and sister and the ways they love, betray, and sacrifice for each other.

Coming in June is the latest from another big name in fiction: Irish author Colum McCann, winner of the National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin. His new novel, Transatlantic (HarperCollins, $29.99 cl.), tells the story of the first pilots to cross the Atlantic ocean, and interweaves it with a cast of characters spanning 150 years. • See, Now, Then (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux/Raincoast, $27.50 cl., Feb.) is the first novel in a decade from Jamaica Kincaid. Billed as the Antigua-born author’s most thematically daring work yet, it seeks to reveal the joys and agonies in the marriage of a New England couple.

The Mothers (Scribner/Simon & Schu­ster, $28.99 cl., April), by Jennifer Gilmore, is about a couple who, after years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, decide to navigate the difficult path of open adoption. Along the way, they find themselves dealing with their own conceptions of race, class, and culture, and with a very difficult emotional and bureaucratic process. • The latest from perennial bestseller Jodi Picoult presents readers with a moral dilemma: is forgiveness possible for a truly evil act? In The Storyteller (Atria/S&S, $32 cl., Feb.), Sage Singer must come to her own conclusions when she befriends a beloved old man, who asks her to kill him because of a terrible secret from his past.

This year’s London Book Fair was abuzz about up-and-coming English author Abigail Tarttelin’s second novel. In Golden Boy (Atria/S&S, $24.99 cl., May), Max Walker is the ideal son in an ideal family. But when his father runs for Parliament, Max fears the repercussions should people discover his secret – that he was born intersex. • From English author Rhidian Brook comes The Aftermath (Random House Canada, $22.95 pa., May), a novel set in post–Second World War Germany, in which Captain Lewis, charged with rebuilding the ruined city of Hamburg, finds his family in close quarters with a German widower and his daughter.

Crime & fantasy

More than 50 years after publishing his first spy novel, John le Carré is set to release his 22nd this spring. In the latest thriller from the former MI5 operative, a rising Foreign Office star needs to find out why he was kept out of the loop about a covert counter-terror operation. A Delicate Truth (Viking Canada, $32 cl.) is out in May. • A new psychological horror story is on its way from prolific U.S. author Joyce Carol Oates. In The Accursed (HarperCollins, $19.99 pa., Feb.), residents of early 20th-century Princeton, New Jersey, realize they’re facing the devil himself after a terrible crime in a nearby town is covered up.

After languishing unpublished for 80 years, a new work from the creator of Middle-­earth appears in May. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur (HarperCollins, $24.99 cl.), edited by the late author’s son Christopher Tolkien, is a retelling in verse of King Arthur’s final battle against Mordred.

Graphica

What began as a museum exhibition honouring Art Spiegelman has turned into a detailed retrospective spanning the Maus creator’s entire career. Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps (Drawn & Quarterly/Raincoast, $39.95 cl., May) includes full-page reproductions of the Pulitzer Prize winner’s work. • Also from D&Q comes Marble Season ($21.95 cl., April), a semi-autobiographical comic about growing up in 1960s California by Mexican-American graphic novelist and Palomar creator Gilbert Hernandez. The book follows a group of siblings and neighbourhood friends as they move from playing marbles and staging plays to dealing with the name-calling and judgments of older kids.

An unlikely love story unfolds in Raven Girl (Abrams ComicArts/Canadian Manda Group, $21.95 cl., May), Audrey Niffenegger’s fantastical new graphic novella, which includes paintings by the author. When a postman brings home a raven, the two fall in love and produce a raven girl who longs to be free of her human body.

Cookbooks

From Alice Waters, a leader in the local, sustainable food movement long before it became fashionable, comes The Art of Simple Food II: Recipes, Flavor, and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden (Crown/­Random House, $39.95 cl., April). As well as including 300 recipes, the cookbook offers gardening information and other tips for those who pay close attention to the source of their food.

Food Network star and best-selling cookbook author Nigella Lawson, who studied Italian at the University of Oxford, is set to release her latest collection of recipes in February. Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes (Knopf Canada, $45 cl.) features 120 everyday recipes (and accompanying photographs) including Spaghetti with Tuna, Meatzza, and Mascarpone Mash.

Biography & memoir

On Dec. 26, 2004, a devastating earthquake in Southeast Asia triggered a massive tsunami. For Sonali Deraniyagala, who was vacationing with her family in Sri Lanka, the natural disaster became very personal: she lost her mother and father, her husband, her two sons, and a close friend when a giant wave engulfed their hotel. As the sole survivor, the author recounts how she has tried to piece her life back together in Wave ($27 cl.), which appears from McClelland & Stewart in March.

Bosnian-American author Aleksander Hemon is arguably best known for his novel The Lazarus Project (2008), which was nominated for a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. In The Book of My Lives (FSG/Raincoast, $29 cl., March), the author writes about many of the themes addressed in his fiction, including his experience of being stranded in the U.S. after war broke out in Sarajevo and of establishing a new life in Chicago. • In The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari (M&S, $34.99 cl., May), acclaimed travel writer Paul Theroux recounts his 2,500-mile trip spanning Cape Town to the Congo.

John Elder Robison, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 40, invites readers into the world of parenting a son with the same disorder. In his memoir, Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl., March), the pair run into trouble when Cubby’s chemistry skills produce highly explosive results.

From American journalist Alan Huffman comes Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer (Atlantic Monthly/Manda, $29.50 cl., March), a biography about the photojournalist famous for his iconic photos of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, who was killed in 2011 by a mortar blast during the Libyan civil war. • Greenpeace co-founder and controversial animal-rights activist Paul Watson tells his story to shipmate Lamya Essemlali in Captain Paul Watson: Interview with a Pirate (Firefly Books, $24.95 pa., March).

Politics & current affairs

George Monbiot, the award-winning author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, brings his environmentalism to the fore in Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea, and Human Life (Allen Lane, $30 cl., May), in which he argues for the restoration of damaged ecosystems while pursuing his own adventures hiking through Britain and kayaking off the coast of Wales. • Jaron Lanier, the computer scientist who coined the term “virtual reality,” follows up his 2010 book, You Are Not a Gadget, with the more ambitiously titled The Fate of Power and the Future of Dignity (Free Press/S&S, $29.99 cl., March), in which he questions the negative effect network technologies are having on the middle class.

Undeclared battlefields of the U.S. War on Terror are exposed by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, in his new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield (Nation Books/Manda, $32.50 cl., April). The book, which reveals the ways U.S. President Barack Obama has covertly escalated ongoing U.S. wars, has been made into a documentary that will appear at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Science & psychology

Temple Grandin, who has inspired millions by writing about her own autism, teams up with Richard Panek to bring her unique perspective to the field of autism research. In The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Thomas Allen & Son, $32.95 cl., May), Grandin introduces new theories about diagnosing and treating the condition, and even shares her own brain scans from scientific studies.

Some of life’s big questions about love, loss, and change are tackled by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz in The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves (Random House Canada, $32 cl., May). Each chapter is a self-contained story, offering dramatic tales about human behaviour based on Grosz’s 25 years in the field.

David Bainbridge is a veterinarian and zoologist at the University of Cambridge who has a particular interest in evolutionary zoology. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, as he approached the age of 40, Bainbridge began to ask questions about the evolutionary purpose of the mid-life crisis. Drawing on the fields of anthropology, neuroscience, psychology, and reproductive biology, Middle Age: A Natural History (House of Anansi Press, $18.95 pa., May) contains some of the answers he discovered.

Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 31, 2013. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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Casting for votes: CBC and the Giller Prize

Last year, the public had a say in nominating a book for the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. This year, the Readers’ Choice Award will still be presented, but the title will not appear on the official longlist. In the November 2011 issue of Quill & Quire, writer Laura Godfrey took a look at public voting, and whether organizers have gone too far in democratizing Canada’s most prestigious literary award.*

(Illustration: Kyle T. Webster)

It’s that time of year again. Bibliophiles and critics alike are poring over nominations for some of the country’s biggest prizes, debating who they think should win the Governor General’s ­Literary Awards, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the inaugural Hilary ­Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-­fiction. But even before the literary awards season was in full swing, the Scotiabank Giller Prize – the most prestigious prize in Canada and, at $50,000, one of its most lucrative – was the subject of heated debate.

In August, Giller organizers announced that this year’s longlist would include a “readers’ choice” title selected by the general public, who could vote online for their favourite eligible book. The contest was administered by the CBC, which had taken over from CTV as the Giller’s broadcast partner, with the three-person jury – novelists Howard Norman, Andrew O’Hagan, and former Giller finalist Annabel Lyon – setting the rest of the list.

While the public eagerly championed its favourite books, casting more than 4,000 votes for roughly 350 eligible titles, there was vocal backlash from some members of the literary community who felt the contest took away from the award’s prestige.

On Twitter and in the blogosphere, A.J. Somerset, author of Combat Camera (Biblioasis), argued that choosing a book based on popularity, rather than literary merit, is a step backward. “When the quality of the book has nothing whatsoever to do with the amount of attention it’s able to generate, this is cheapening the entire process of talking about books,” Somerset says. “Now it’s whoever can organize a Facebook campaign and whoever can mobilize their local newspaper to tell people to go vote for the book.”

Author Wayne Arthurson agrees the contest devalues the jury’s informed decision, even if he doesn’t always agree with its choices. “It’s a way of getting writers who are more confident in pushing their friends to vote for them. And the publishers [are] doing the same thing,” he says.

Still, that didn’t stop Arthurson, whose debut mystery novel Fall From Grace (Forge Books) was eligible for this year’s prize, from mounting an email campaign of his own. He concedes that the contest at least gives genre fiction a chance at receiving mainstream literary acclaim. “There’s a certain type of book that wins the Giller, so it’s nice to have other people in there who can bring a different perspective to it,” Arthurson says.

As it turns out, the winning readers’ choice title, Saskatchewan author Myrna Dey’s Extensions (NeWest Press), had received little mainstream attention prior to the contest. The debut novel, which won with approximately 240 votes (or 6 per cent of the overall nominations), doesn’t stray too far from the sweeping, multigenerational family sagas the Giller has been known to celebrate in the past.

Despite criticism from some quarters, Ann Jansen, a senior producer at CBC Books, believes the contest was a success. “The jurors are still making the final decision, so it’s not as if the public is the one that brings it home for the shortlist or the winning book,” Jansen says. “It just gives one more book the opportunity to be read and recognized by more people. I think it’s mostly a positive thing in terms of trusting the reading public as lovers of books.”

Giller director Elana Rabinovitch, the voice behind the popular @GillerPrize Twitter account, calls the contest an “enormous success” given the number of votes cast and the many readers who wrote in about why they felt a book deserved the honour. “When it comes to inviting the public into the process to share their voice on their favourite book, I don’t believe that there’s any danger of tarnishing the reputation of the prize,” she says.

Perhaps the biggest problem, one that Rabinovitch concedes was unavoidable, was the fact that some books that were eligible to be voted on by the general public weren’t released until a few weeks after the contest’s Aug. 28 deadline. This loophole gave an advantage to books published in 2010, which had plenty of time to seep into public consciousness, and books by already popular authors, whom readers might have voted for based on their previous work.

Organizers haven’t yet confirmed whether or not the readers’ choice contest will continue next year, or if any changes will be made to address its perceived shortcomings, but Rabinovitch says she “would not rule out doing it again in the future, or something comparable.”

The contest certainly fits nicely alongside the CBC’s other populist-oriented books coverage, especially the annual Survivor-­style showdown Canada Reads. CBC Books associate producer Erin Balser wasn’t surprised by the negative reaction to the Giller contest after witnessing something similar for the 10th-anniversary edition of Canada Reads, in which the public was asked to vote on the 1o best books of the past decade.

“Given that the audiences for Canada Reads and the Giller do have overlap, it was safe to assume that not everybody would be happy with this decision. And I think that’s fine,” Balser says. “As long as people are talking about books and talking about awards, that’s a great thing.”


*CORRECTION, Aug. 3, 3012: The original version of this article stated that the winning title of this year’s Readers’ Choice Award would appear on the longlist.

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Eastern Canada sweeps nominations for children’s book awards

Who better to judge the success of children’s books than a group of grade schoolers? That’s exactly what students from Brampton, Ontario’s Huttonville Public School will be doing on May 26, when they decide the winners of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards. First presented in 1976 to Mordecai Richler’s Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, the award is now given to two children’s authors and artists every year: one for young adult books, and one for picture books, each worth $6,000.

This year, it appears authors from Eastern Canada have swept the shortlist, which was announced today – all nominees hail from Ontario, Quebec, or Nova Scotia. The nominees range from veterans like Toronto-based Barbara Reid, who won the award in 1987 (for Have You Seen Birds?) and in 2004 (for The Subway Mouse), to debut authors like Jennifer Cowan (earthgirl) and Anna Kerz (The Mealworm Diaries), who are both competing in this year’s young adult category.

Here’s the full shortlist:

Young adult/middle reader books

  • Vanishing Girl: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Third Case, by Shane Peacock of Baltimore, Ontario (Tundra Books)
  • The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy, by Jill MacLean of Bedford, Nova Scotia (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • earthgirl, by Jennifer Cowan of Toronto (Groundwood Books)
  • The Mealworm Diaries by Anna Kerz of Toronto (Orca Book Publishers)
  • The Awakening, by Kelley Armstrong of Aylmer, Ontario (Doubleday Canada)

Children’s picture books

  • Perfect Snow, written and illustrated by Barbara Reid of Toronto (North Wind Press, an imprint of Scholastic Canada)
  • When Stella Was Very, Very Small, written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay of Outremont, Quebec (Groundwood Books)
  • Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion, written by Jane Barclay of Pointe-Claire, Que., with illustrations by Renné Benoit of St. Thomas, Ontario (Tundra Books)
  • Scaredy Squirrel at Night, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt of Laval, Quebec (Kids Can Press)
  • The Imaginary Garden, written by Andrew Larsen, with illustrations by Irene Luxbacher, both of Toronto (Kids Can Press)

The winner of the young adult/middle reader category will be chosen by a group of Grade 7 and 8 students, while the winner of the picture book award will be chosen by Grade 3 and 4 students.

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Riverdale reaches for the rainbow

The Internet is buzzing with the news that on Sept. 1, Archie Comics’ Veronica will introduce the series’ first openly gay character: a blond-haired, blue-eyed knockout named Kevin Keller. The initial storyline, titled “Isn’t it Bro-mantic?”, has the new Riverdale resident competing in – and winning – a burger-eating contest against Jughead, while newly single Veronica (apparently that whole “marriage” thing didn’t work out) flirts obliviously. The Washingon Post reports that her friends continue to let her squirm:

“Everyone seems to know where Kevin is coming from except Veronica,” says Victor Gorelick, editor in chief of Archie Comics. “They don’t tell Veronica – they let her stew in it for a while. But he hangs out with Jughead – they seem to have a connection as far as food goes.”

So what does this mean for the future of Archie Comics? Archie is already dating Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats, one of the comic’s few black characters, and in the Toronto Star, Jon Goldwater, CEO of Archie Comics, says Kevin will “probably” have a romance at some point. Might that romance be with perpetually single Jughead? Or perhaps shy, nerdy Dilton Doiley?

Unfortunately, no. Despite ongoing suspicions among many that Jughead has been in the closet all this time, the Post quotes Archie writer and artist Dan Parent as saying “traditional Riverdale characters won’t be coming out.”

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Film based on Allan Stratton’s Chanda’s Secrets to compete at Cannes

It was already big news for YA author Allan Stratton when his 2004 novel Chanda’s Secrets, which tells the story of a 16-year-old girl growing up in sub-Saharan Africa during the AIDS pandemic, was adapted into a movie by German director Oliver Schmitz late last year. Now, the film – called Life Above All – has been made an official selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where it will compete in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category, which rewards innovative works by young filmmakers.

“I am, like, dancing on air,” Stratton wrote on his blog when he heard the news. Schmitz, the director, is an expatriate South African, and the entire cast of the film comprises native African actors, including locals who were used as extras. Stratton writes that even the role of Mrs. Gulubane, the spirit doctor in the book, is played by a real spirit doctor.

In fact, in real life, Chanda lives at the end of the road, which is part of what makes the interactions of the child actors and the extras so utterly human and believable. And it’s a main reason why [the actors who play] Chanda, Iris, Soly and Esther are so perfect: They never ‘act.’ They simply are – always real and in the moment.

The jury president for ‘Un Certain Regard’ will be French director Claire Denis, and the festival kicks off in France on May 12.

(Photo via Stratton’s blog.)

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$2 million reward for book-loving fugitive in B.C.

One of the FBI’s 10 most wanted fugitives is a book-loving octogenarian believed to be hiding in Victoria, B.C.  According to the FBI’s website, James J. “Whitey” Bulger has a record of 19 counts of murder, plus charges of money laundering, narcotics distribution, and extortion, among others. The bureau describes Bulger as “an avid reader with an interest in history,” who is known “to frequent libraries and historic sites.”

The Gazette reports that he is believed to have been the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in the Oscar-winning film The Departed. And according to the Vancouver Sun, the owners of Victoria’s two biggest bookstores have already been visited by police, who are warning staff to look out for the dangerous fugitive:

“The FBI don’t have any definite answers that he’s in Victoria, but they’re on the lookout for him,” said Jim Munro, owner of Munro’s Books on Government Street.
[…]
The officers gave Munro and the management at Bolen’s Books posters bearing Bulger’s photo and a number to call.

Bulger is 80 years old, 5’7” to 5’9”, with blue eyes and white or silver hair. His FBI description, which says he likes animals, travelling, and walks on the beach, would almost sound like a personals ad, if not for the part about his violent temper and tendency to carry a knife at all times. The FBI is offering a $2 million reward for any information that leads directly to Bulger’s arrest.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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