Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reader's Diary #572- Alan Moore (Writer), Dave Gibbons (Illustrator): Watchmen

For years now I've been using a blurb from the back of Irving Welsh's Trainspotting as the best example of oversell:

"The best book ever written by man or woman...deserves to sell more copies than the Bible." - Rebel, Inc.

The only way such a blurb as this can possibly work is for potential readers to pick up the book in defiance, as in, "We'll see about that!"

I'd bought my copy of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen online, so I'd not seen the blurbs ahead of time. However, as many of us do when we get a brand new book, I went to the back cover right away. There at the top is a quote from TIME Magazine from an article declaring Watchmen to be one of the best English-language novels of all time. I'd heard that before and admit that Time's endorsement did influence my decision to buy it. However, further down the blurbs there's a quote from Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost:

"The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced."

Lindelof doesn't steal the hyperbole crown from Rebel, Inc, but I did find myself once again declaring, "Oh yeah? We'll see about that!"

And surprise, surprise, it's not in fact the greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced. How do I know? For starters it's not even the greatest graphic novel ever written. (And you can blame Lindelof for my use of such an unnecessary criticism.)

As I was struggling through Watchmen, I found myself defending my new love of graphic novels to a friend. This friend wasn't against graphic novels, just the opposite, but somehow he had gotten the impression that I turned up my nose at them. "Au contraire," I said (which turns out not to be the phrase you use to prove you are not a snob), and merely suggested that I was late to the game. "That could be your issue with Watchmen," he decided, "if you weren't into superhero comics as a kid, you probably wouldn't appreciate it as much."

Finally some honesty here! This isn't a stand alone novel, this needs context, this needs more than a passing familiarity with Superman, Batman and all the other costumed heroes in order to be experienced fully. I found myself thinking of Nirvana's Nevermind album. I should note up front that I absolutely loved that album. I had it twice on cassette, when the 2nd wore out, I got it on CD, and now it's on my iPod. I still listen to it on occasion. However, and believe it or not, I never bought into their hype or the hype of alternative music that surrounded them. Wait one sec, Nirvana still played rock music did they not? Now polka, that's the real alternative. With the exception of killing hair metal, Nirvana didn't really change the music scene. What was the most popular song in the world just five years after Nevermind? "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls. As it turned out, people still wanted to have fun. But, in the wake of Nirvana you had to choose: good music or fun.

Hi there, I just got back from my tangent. Somewhere along the way I meant to show how Watchmen was like Nevermind, but after such a long trip, I'm too lazy to connect my own dots right now.

My problems with Watchmen:
1. Convoluted plot
2. Artistry- Even with my limited experience with superhero comics, I still thought the characters were standard hero fare: lazy, rushed sketch quality, boring angles, and a horrible colourization that made me think of 1970s wallpaper
3. Middle aged crisis- I get it, comic book fans had grown up. But good Lord, did they all need shrinks and Prozac? The psychological elements were simultaneously heavy handed and surface level. Too much, too little depth. A 200m wading pool of disillusionment. Have you had enough yet?

Something nice, something nice... Oh, I've got one! The comic within the comic: Tales of the Black Freighter. In the alternate universe of Moore's, people are not interested in superhero comics, but are instead into pirate stories. One of these comics is being read by a boy in New York City and while it doesn't enter into the main plot at all, it does has some interesting parallels. Plus, I thought it was a nice reprieve from a novel I didn't really care for.

So to Lindelof, TIME writers, and other fans: I'm sorry I didn't like your recommendation. Maybe you just want to enjoy it on your own time. I liked Nirvana, but let's face it, they weren't all that.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Niche market?


If you're Superman (or a pirate or a French maid), you have a few bucks in your pocket, and you find yourself in Hay River this weekend, why not help yourself to some condiments?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Ann-Marie MacDonald VERSUS Joseph Boyden



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Ann-Marie MacDonald Vs Carson McCullers), with a final score of 5-3, was Ann-Marie MacDonald!

This week we bid farewell to Carson McCullers. If you happened to catch my ranking of favourite novels read last year, you might remember that my number one was McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I still don't like the title, but man, what a fine book. As B.Kienapple said in the comments last week, it was "chillingly excellent." Now I need to read something else by her.

In any case, we move on.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Feb 2, 2010), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reader's Diary #571- Robert Louis Stevenson, Adapted by Alan Grant and Illustrated by Cam Kennedy: Kidnapped

Over at the Graphic Novels Challenge blog, people have signed up to read more graphic novels this year. Offering many levels of commitment (3, 4-10, 10+), it's a great place for those who are just graphic novels curious or for those who are genuine fanatics. I joined last year, again this year, and am probably somewhere in between. I really liked the idea of a mini-challenge they ran in January: to read a graphic novel interpretation of a classic, so when I was at the library and came across Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy's version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, I knew I just had to grab it.

However, I haven't read the original and now I'm not sure if I'd made the right choice. I enjoyed it well enough; Kennedy's artwork was great and his sketchy traditional action comics style fit the fast paced adventure. Likewise, I enjoyed the Grant's fast paced version of Stevenson's book. At first it even seemed ludicrously fast, jumping from one peril right into another and I began to worry that none of the pieces would connect-- though fortunately it all came together in the end. But now I question whether or not Stevenson's original book was as energetic. It's certainly portrayed as a plot driven book, but what if Stevenson's was more character driven? It shouldn't matter, I guess, if I enjoyed Grant and Kennedy's take, but I feel almost as if I cheated, like I read a Reader's Digest Condensed Version. The other problem is that I'm less likely to go back and check. I mean, I already know the gist of the story at least, it's hard to find motivation in that. From now on, if I read a graphic novel interpretation, I'm going to read the original beforehand.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reader's Diary #570- Nicola Slade: My Dear Miss Fairfax


A couple weeks ago, Nan over at Letters From a Hill Farm reviewed Nicola Slade's short story "My Dear Miss Fairfax." Her review caught the eye of a few of us short story aficionados. Perhaps it was Nan's enthusiasm, perhaps it was that it was Slade's story is in epistolary form and that's not something you come across that often in a short story. Whatever the initial attraction, Teddy Rose decided to have her say on the story last week and now I'm getting in on the action.

In Teddy's review, she refers to Slade's story as "charming." That made me nervous. "Charming" is one of those words that makes me think of doilies, and tea cozies, and Jane Austen. Please, if you're a doily and tea cozy person who loves Jane Austen, don't bother writing me angry letters, it's nothing personal. I live in a double wide trailer-- I'm really not being a snob (except to those single wides--- pffft). It's just a personal preference thing, I like a bit more edge in my stories than "charming" would describe.

So was "My Dear Miss Fairfax" charming? Absolutely. But I'll give Slade credit for pulling off the epistolary form in such a limited space. And it did hold my attention. It is the story of Ambrose Rogers, a British plantation owner living in the West Indies. He writes to a lady friend named Selina Steyne, living back in London, asking to be paired up with a lady, any lady in fact, to be his wife. Turns out that Selina knows just the woman and has them meet through letters of their own before meeting in person. It's charming, so you know it has a happy ending (and for what it's worth, my issue is with "charming" not with "happy.")

I found myself comparing it to modern day romances that have developed over the Internet and how Slade's tale could just as easily be told today, only with a huge overhaul of the language.

Lady Steyne has painted a most agreeable picture of you= My BFF Steyne told me that ur hawt! LOL ;)

Yeah, at least charming isn't nauseating.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Word Play- Before and After Canadian Edition


A while ago I featured a Before and After game on Saturday Word Play, but since the CRTC has been on my back to make my blog more Canadian, I've revamped it so that each clue contains at least one Canadian book. Can you fill in the blanks to complete the two titles? Bonus points for naming the two authors. (Points can be redeemed at Snow Covered Hills for a free grammar lesson.)

As always, feel free to do all ten at home, but only answer one in the comment section below-- that way, at least nine others can play along.

1. Sea of ---------house five
2. Mercy Among --- -------- of Men
3. Green Grass, Running ----- for Elephants
4. Rebel ------ & Demons
5. Republic of ---- in the Time of Cholera
6. Running in the ------ Matters
7. The Watch That Ends --- ----- Before Christmas
8. Anne of --- ------ Walkers
9. Bottle Rocket ------ in Atlantis
10. Sleeping Dragons All ------ the World in 80 Days

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reader's Diary #569- Kenneth Yasuda: The Japanese Haiku

As someone who prefers his poems concise, I've long been attracted to haiku, though have never really given it the attention it deserved.

Actually, I've felt sorry for the haiku. It seems to be so misunderstood and abused by elementary school teachers who want a quick poetry lesson for the kids who've mastered syllables.

Fortunately Yasuda sheds some light on the topic. Where did the 5-7-5 come from? The Japanese didn't just pick those numbers at random. (And for all those who would say that the 5-7-5 is just an English approximation, Yasuda seems to think it is the best approximation.) 17 syllables, according to Yasuda is the average number of syllables that can be uttered in one breath, or in the Zen-like "haiku moment" the poet has experienced. Plus, the 5-7-5 arrangement adds a harmonious symmetry. Suggesting possibilities of haiku is English, Yasuda also recommends rhyming the first and last lines-- an impossibility in Japanese, but since the tool is available to English poets, could further tighten the symmetry.

Such discussions of technique make up the first half of Japanese Haiku and really made me appreciate the work and thought that should go into a real and good haiku. In the second half, Yasuda explores the history of the form, how it came to be, why the seasonal element is so crucial, why obviously metaphorical language is not recommended, and other points of interest. What I found particularly encouraging is that us westerners weren't the first ones to abuse the form. The haiku went through many troubled periods at the hands of the Japanese themselves, often because people took the short length for granted-- 17 syllables, who can't fire off one of those?

Occasionally I found Yasuda too rigid and critical, especially at the beginning of the book when he seemed to have it out for western imagist poets, showing for instance why a particular Basho haiku is superior to William Carlos Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow" poem and another time suggesting that Ezra Pound's "Metro" poem doesn't succeed. However, towards the end of the book, either he had lightened up or I came to appreciate the man's enthusiasm for and almost protective stance over the haiku.

Here's one the I wrote and worked on during the course of the book:

Slapping at insects-
The lake orange red purple
Fish, flies stop biting

It's not perfect, I know. I think it's too much of a story for the "haiku moment" Yasuda speaks of. There's a definite moment of understanding, but perhaps it's at the end of too long a narrative. Plus, it seems a little choppy. Essentially I have three moments: the onslaught of bugs, the sunset, the tranquility. As for Yasuda's suggestion of adding rhyme, I didn't as such, but I have added -ing words in the 5th and 7th line, though crossing over the poem instead of both at the end. I liked the idea of beginning and ending with similar words, thinking it might tighten up the whole passage of time issue. I've also gone for alliteration in the final line, trying to show a connection between me bothering the fish and the flies bothering me. Plus the "f" sound makes me think of air being released and energy subsiding. Finally, I played with punctuation in the second line, finding that the commas broke up the smoothness of a sunset transition. Anyway, here are much better haiku, taken from Yasuda's book:

Gentle Willow
Angry, I came home
And found within my garden
A willow-tree

-Ryota

Golden Maple Spray
City folk are they;
In the home-bound train they hold
Golden maple sprays.

- Meisetsu

The Galaxy
Wild the rolling sea!
Over which to Sado Isle
Lies the Galaxy.

- Basho

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reader's Diary #568- Katherine Paterson: Bridge to Terabithia

Published in 77, Newbery Medal winner in 1978, and yet somehow I missed this book, this now classic book, in my childhood. Do I regret having spent my time with Ralph S. Mouse and Bunnicula? Not a chance. Adulthood is a perfect time to go back and read those that got away. For the most part I've been using my kids as excuse for this task. Sorry kids, daddy's already read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, let's read the BFG instead! I'm not that selfish, I swear! But just in case, this time I read Bridge to Terabithia on my own. Hearing that it's usually introduced in schools at an older grade, I didn't want to risk reading something to my kids that they aren't yet able to handle maturity-wise. (In retrospect, my daughter would have cried over this book, but handled it okay, whereas my son would have been bored to tears).

I enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia, with a few reservations. It is the story of two fifth grade kids, a boy and a girl named Jess and Leslie, that become inseparable, despite Leslie being new in town and coming from a family that doesn't quite fit the small town's mold. Terabithia is their imaginary kingdom, where Jess and Leslie work out their daily stressors and feel free to finally be themselves.

With the exception of his penchant for running, Jess was a boy I could totally relate to. Likewise, I'm sure many girls could relate to Leslie. Paterson did a wonderful job of creating believable characters.

I did think the story was a bit slow and unbalanced. Trying not to spoil the book, I will say that it revolves around a tragedy. However, the book is only 128 pages and the tragedy doesn't occur until page 102. It's all build up and little follow through. The build up is important in order to make the tragedy more palpable, but then Patterson attempts a resolution that felt rushed to me, a little like those 80s sitcoms when they'd attempt their serious episode, managing to curb a divorce, teach the dangers of drunk driving, and find the true meaning of Christmas all within 22 minutes. Well, maybe the ending of Bridge to Terabithia wasn't quite Growing Pains script, but I still think the build up could have been shaved down just a bit (I suspect many kids tune out before the drama happens), and the ending extended a little. Otherwise, I thought Bridge to Terabithia was a fine book.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Ann-Marie MacDonald VERSUS Carson McCullers



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Ann-Marie MacDonald Vs Gabrielle Roy), with a final score of 5-4, was Ann-Marie MacDonald!

Last week's vote once again resulted in a tie, and so I cast the vote for Ann-Marie MacDonald. I had to do so for a couple reasons. One: Ann-Marie has a more varied portfolio; journalist, playwright, and novelist. Two: While I liked Gabrielle Roy's Tin Flute more than MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees, I really didn't enjoy Roy's collection of short stories, Children of My Heart. So, until I read something of MacDonald that I dislike more, my vote will have to go in her favour. By the way, last month I made a comment about not noticing what's on our Canadian money. I even reviewed a book about the carving pictured on the 20 dollar bill. But it was only while writing this post about Gabrielle Roy that I discovered there's a quote from her alongside the carving, "Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?" Isn't that nice?

Anyway, this week we move out of Canada for the new contender.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Jan 27, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reader's Diary #567- Edwidge Danticat: Ghosts


With all the news out of Haiti lately, I thought I'd try to find a Haitian author to read. Until now I could name but one Haitian writer, Canada's slam poet Oni, the Haitian Sensation. Not that Haiti is a particularly large country, so I don't feel too embarrassed. There's plenty of bigger and more populous countries in which I couldn't name a single author. But, it's still sad that it takes an earthquake to make the world (self-included) to pay attention again. It's certainly not the only tragedy they've experienced.

Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian born author living in the US, speaks of those other tragedies in her short story "Ghosts". "Ghosts" is the story of Pascal Dorien, a young man living in Bel Air-- not quite a full-on slum, but certainly not Fresh Prince's home. This is Haiti. Gangs and corruption are the order of the day. Pascal, living with his parents, good people who run a local restaurant, dreams of starting a new radio show that would explore Bel Air's ganglife, create a dialogue, and lead to social activism.

However, Pascal's plans get sidetracked, no fault of his own. Danticat's "ghosts" represent wasted potential and sometimes the helplessness here is stifling. I gather this is realistic and serves as a great reminder that there's more than one mess that needs cleaning up in Haiti.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Reader's Diary #566- Katsuhiro Otomo: Akira Volume 1

This March, the Mutfords are going to Japan!

Yes, it's an exciting time. And a strange time. See, while I love traveling and learning about different cultures, I'm kind of at a loss as to how Japan ended up topping our spring break travel plans. I've never been a huge fan of Japanese food, didn't quite get anime, and have somewhat of a phobia of insanely large cities. So why I'm ending up in Tokyo is a bit of a mystery. (I'm not shooting a whiskey commercial, I swear!)

But since making the decision a few months back, we've been trying to familiarize ourselves with Japanese culture as best we can in Canada's subarctic. I've come to realize that there's a huge variety of sushi, and have actually found quite a bit that I enjoy. I watched Ponyo, and okay, still don't get anime. But now I'm venturing down a new path for me: manga.

Not knowing where to start, I went for one of the biggies: Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira (Volume 1). Some have hailed it as one of the best graphic novels of all time. It's certainly one of the books that helped bring manga into the North American market.

What a relief! Not only did I really enjoy it, I'll be moving on to read the rest of the series, and new manga as well.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo (so when I visit today's Tokyo, I should actually be relieved), the story revolves around a young male biker gang that inadvertently gets caught up in a street war, a government cover-up, an illegal activist organization, and a whole lot of trouble. How? One night the gang explores a forbidden zone: the bombsite where World War Three essentially began. While there, one of the gang, Tetsuo, nearly runs into a pale childlike figure standing in the road. Tetsuo swerves, falls from his bike and is nearly killed. However, when he wakes up surrounded by strangers, he soon discovers he has new abilities...

The cyberpunk dystopia, the multi-layered mystery, the science fiction; I loved it. I was even surprised by how much I enjoyed the visuals. Growing up with crappy Astroboy cartoons (yeah, I said it), I thought Japan animation was overly and too simplistically stylized. However, the detail in Otomo's drawings was fantastic, especially in the decrepit and vandalized backdrops. Apparently when Marvel Comics bought the rights, they colourized it for publication in North America. However, since then Dark Horse comics has bought the rights and reverted it back to the original black and white, leaving only the first 16 pages colourized. I'm glad they left these pages in for the sake of comparison, and though painted by Otomo himself, I think black and white was the better choice. The graininess, essentially to the feel of Neo-Tokyo, seems to be lost with the colour and besides, the more graphic novels I read, the more I'm starting to think they should all be black and white-- I've yet to see one coloured well.

The only issue I have with Akira, and I'm hesitant to call it a problem, is the lack of a likable character. Kenada, while certainly the protagonist of the piece, is a rude punk at best, a dangerously violent teen at worst. But it's about the only character that could fit in this situation, so I'm not sure what choice Otomo had. Plus, there are five more volumes so there's definite room for growth.

Who knows, maybe when I'm done I'll watch the film version and grow to appreciate anime as well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Ann-Marie MacDonald VERSUS Gabrielle Roy



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Ann-Marie MacDonald Vs Bernice Morgan), with a final score of 6-2, was Ann-Marie MacDonald!

This week we bid farewell to Bernice Morgan. It seems that a lack of popularity did her in, but at least the two who did vote for her were so enthusiastic that a few of the MacDonald fans promised to read Morgan (and we're holding them to it!) While I haven't read and can't say much about Morgan's latest offering and Canada Also Reads longlisted Cloud of Bone, I can say that her Random Passage and sequel Waiting for Time are considered classics back in Newfoundland. Beyond Newfoundland, the first book was also a national bestseller and the two books together generated a CBC miniseries back in 2002 starring Colm Meaney. The movie set was left standing and is now used as a historic tourist site. My wife and I had the opportunity to go there many summers ago and were even able to try on the costumes. Even if you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I'd recommend visiting.

This week we stick with our CanLit theme...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Jan 19, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reader's Diary #565- Michael Kenyon: the Beautiful Children

On the back cover of Michael Kenyon's The Beautiful Children, in the top left hand cover is the word novel. Not a novel, like on the cover, just novel.

The further into Kenyon's book and the more I began to think of the other meaning of the word: new and original. Certainly it is like no other book I've ever read. Not quite magical realism, not quite stream-of-consciousness, it's quite difficult for me to describe. Poetic, yes, but not a novel in verse either.

"Happiness is a brilliant house tumbling through the dark."

What does one do with such phrases as these? This is not an easy read. Nor should it be, sometimes we readers like a challenge, but at this point, after a single reading, I'm not sure that I can say I enjoyed it. For an experimental book, I was grateful that it was short. I at least avoided the lab rat feeling that haunted me with Kenneth J Harvey's latest and massive Blackstrap Hawco. It's also more consistent than Harvey's who'd come up just short of writing a chapter in semaphore flags. But then again, perhaps Kenyon's is too consistent. Everyone talks in a crazy sort of hallucinogenic haze that I just wasn't able to connect with. They'd hover close to lucidity enough so that I got the gist of their plot, but I certainly didn't relate. And about the only emotion I felt throughout the whole book was revulsion. What is it with people using the word "beautiful" for ironic purposes? Sam Mendes' American Beauty. Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People." Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Good Lord, some of the ugliest imagery in the world comes from this collection. Now add Kenyon's book. Full of remorseless violence, drug addiction, and hopelessness, I don't think Kenyon will win the Stephen Leacock Award any time soon.

I needed a break, at least one character to come through for me. One that spoke in a voice that was normal. One that didn't see snakes in her veins and dream of chaos. One that wasn't stifling. One that I could embrace. Instead I got egg symbolism. Omelets thrown to a drowning man.

But here's why I think it's an important book. It is novel. I was reminded of a thought I had when I first encountered the poetry of bpNichol: if art is to evolve, we need mutations. If they prove beneficial, great. Plenty of mutations prove to be pointless, but we can't always know in the present day. Que serĂ¡ serĂ¡.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reader's Diary #564- Robert J Sawyer: Forever


Just a couple or so years ago, if you'd asked me to name some Canadian genre fiction authors, I'd have drawn a blank. It existed, of course, but I was out of the loop. But thanks to the miracle of blogging, I can now throw them out like candy at a Santa Claus parade (sorry, my holidays were too short): Linwood Barclay, Kelley Armstrong, Guy Gavriel Kay, Robert J Sawyer...

But naming them is just the first step. Now I have to read them. Thanks to Robert J Sawyer having the good sense to offer up a few short stories on his website, I'll start with him. If I like it, I'll bump Calculating God further up on my tbr pile (I have unread books by all the aforementioned authors sitting on my bookshelf).

I decided to go with a story called "Forever" about a species of humanly intelligent dinosaurs that has just discovered a meteor on its way to possibly destroy them all. It begins with a pseudo-quote from a scientist at a paleontologist meeting in 2018 who talks about the rather small sample of dinosaurs we're actually aware of. Even had we found all the fossils on Earth, we'd probably only know a fraction of what had actually lived as many parts of the Earth were not conducive to fossilization.

Why is it when anyone mentions that life probably exists elsewhere in the universe, most people assume it's intelligent life? And usually of human level intelligence or higher? Couldn't there be a planet full of bacteria and nothing more? How about one where the smartest animal is no brighter than a turkey? In any case, Sawyer seems to use the more popular line of thinking: if there were many other unknown dinosaurs on Earth, maybe they were intelligent! Yeah, well maybe. It is fun to consider though and if that's the sole reason for the story, it delivers.

However, try to fine something more profound, say for instance that this is a parable for modern man and how the drive for ego gratification might just save us from impending doom, and the story isn't anything special. Quite frankly, there are times when it feels like Sawyer's going through the sci-fi motions-- "I'm not completely thirty-six thirty-sixths certain, Your Highness," Cholo says at one point-- but though the story is all premise, it's at least short and entertaining while it lasts.

So does Calculating God get bumped up the tbr pile? No, at this point Barclay is in the lead. I will read a Sawyer novel eventually, but I'll be expecting more.

Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.

*In other exciting short story news, Kate has revived the A Curious Singularity website. For more details, click here.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday Word Play- The Rock Bottom Remainders Suggested Cover Tunes


So why let Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves, and Juliette Lewis have all the fun? Actors aren't the only ones doing what they have no business doing playing in a rock and roll band. Back in the early 90s a group of (mostly well known) writers got together to form a supergroup of sorts (super being used loosely-- one member is quoted as saying, "we play music as well as Metallica writes novels"). But, despite a lack of musical talent, they've raised a lot of money for charity over the years, gotten to play with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and... Frank McCourt. Perhaps you've heard of them: they're the Rock Bottom Remainders. But can you name some of the past and present members?

Below I've given you 10 lists of songs that the Rock Bottom Remainders haven't covered (as far as I know), but might as well try (another quote from the band: "We know about 3 or 4 songs. But we play about 50"). Each list will give you a clue as to one of the authors. One word in each song in the list is also part of a book title. Figure out the title, then identify the author. For instance, if I gave you this list:

Eli, the Barrow Boy- the Decemberists
Church of the Poison Mind- Culture Club
Knock on Wood- Amii Stewart
Neon Bible- Arcade Fire

You could pick the, poison, wood, Bible from the song titles and know that I'm looking for Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and once a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders.

As always feel free to do all ten at home, but only answer one in the comment section. That way nine more people will have a chance to play along.

1.
The End- the Doors
Joy to the World- Three Dog Night
Hard Luck Woman- Kiss
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band- the Beatles

2.
The Sign- Ace of Base
Five Feet High and Rising- Johnny Cash
People are People- Depeche Mode
Don't You (Forget About Me)- Simple Minds
We'll Meet Again- Vera Lynn
Once in a Lifetime- Talking Heads
Stairway to Heaven- Led Zeppelin

3.
War Pigs- Black Sabbath
Back in Black- AC/DC
Monkey Gone to Heaven- the Pixies

4.
Papa's Got A Brand New Bag- James Brown
Can't Get You Out of My Head- Kylie Minogue
Little Bones- the Tragically Hip

5.
Ordinary Day- Great Big Sea
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys- Willie Nelson

6.
Everyday I Write the Book- Elvis Costello
One of Us- Abba
Bad Moon Rising- Creedence Clearwater Revival
The Songs That We Sing- Charlotte Gainsbourg

7.
After the Gold Rush- Neil Young
Big Bottom- Spinal Tap
Open Book- the Rakes
Sisters of Mercy- Leonard Cohen
Straight to Hell- the Clash

8.
Black Boys on Mopeds- Sinead O'Connor
Many Rivers to Cross- Jimmy Cliff

9.
Color Me Impressed- the Replacements
Jigsaw Puzzle of Life- Kate and Anna McGarrigle
Don't Drink the Water- Dave Matthews Band

10.
Alphabet St.- Prince
Gin & Juice- Snoop Dogg

Too hard? Then maybe you can just figure out one of the titles and add that to the comment section. Someone else might recognize the author.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Reader's Diary #563- Neil Christopher and illustrated by Larry MacDougall: Stories of the Amautalik

I was pretty excited to learn recently of a new Inuit-owned publishing company out of Iqaluit, Nunavut known as Inhabit Media. As those Canadian Book Challenge participants who have tried to read a book from each province and territory can tell you, the selections from Nunavut are slim pickins.

Hopefully Inhabit Media will help change that. Right now they have a limited number of books in their catalogue, but they were nice enough to send me three of them to review. The first of these is Stories of the Amautalik, researched and written by Neil Christopher and illustrated by Larry MacDougall. A translator, Louise Flaherty, is also mentioned on the cover of my book but I think she must have done the Inuktitut version of the book as according to the Inhabit website, Neil Christopher is English.

Reading Christopher's author bio brought back memories for me. Like him, I moved to Nunavut to teach, fresh out of teachers' college. Also like him, my first introduction to Inuit mythology was a student telling me of Mahaha, the tickle monster. No, not Elmo. This one tickles you to death.

I wanted to learn more and more about the myths and legends, but admittedly didn't try as hard as I should have. I've since learned of the qallupilluit, through the Robert Munsch/ Michael Kusugak collaboration; the Ijiraq, again through Michael Kusugak's Hide and Sneak; and of course Sedna the sea-goddess who goes by different names across the Arctic with slightly different stories attached.

The amautaliit I haven't heard of. These are described as ogresses who travel the tundra looking for people, usually children, to eat. Once kidnapping her victims, she usually transports them back to her lair in a basket on her back or in the back pouch of her amauti (a type of parka). Like most ogres and ogresses she's also dirty, foul-smelling and full of bugs. But she also has rancid seaweed with her, which is a nice touch for an arctic ogre, don't you think? Fortunately, most stories show her to be a little on the not-so-bright side, so escape is at hand.

In Stories of the Amautalik Christopher shares two legends. The first, and longer of the two, deals with two boys, Alliq and Makpalu, who are teasing a younger girl named Kunaju, when the three of them are taken by surprise by a hungry amautalik. Kunaju saves the day by staying brave and using a magical amulet that had been passed down to her. However, since they stink so bad and are covered in bugs from their ride in the nasty basket, they have to remain out of the community until they have freshened up. It gives the boys time to reflect upon the value of this little girl whom they'd treated so poorly and they wind up, to Kunaju's surprise, apologizing.

In the second story a quick thinking orphan named Aviuq wiggles a toe through his shoddy kamik and pretends it is a sleeping monster to scare away a cowardly amautalik.

It's interesting to note that since these two legends came from two regions of the Arctic, MacDougall has chosen to draw them differently. It was either well planned or just fortunate that they matched the amautalik characters up the way they did. The first is definitely the scarier story of the two (no more than the witch in Hansel and Gretal, mind you), but the edge is taken off somewhat by the more buffoonish-looking ogress. On the other hand, the skull-faced amautalik in the second story could be down right terrifying were it not for the rather comical story she finds herself in. The way it is, I think the book has a much better balance. My only complaint is that I'd have liked more illustrations. 16 illustrations in a 48 page picture book doesn't seem like a lot, especially when they're so well done.

I'm looking forward to reading more from Inhabit Media.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Ann-Marie MacDonald VERSUS Bernice Morgan



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Dennis Lee Vs Ann-Marie MacDonald), with a final score of 3-1, was Ann-Marie MacDonald!

Saying goodbye to Dennis Lee this week, I would like to encourage those of you who haven't read his adult poetry to do so. I know you're probably all sick of eating "Alligator Pie," but you know that his alligator is also his cash cow and so it pops up in just about every Canadian anthology of children's poems. I'd withhold the pie just to see if that 2nd line is true, just about now. (By the way, I ate alligator on New Year's Eve, and it ain't that special.) Read his adult poetry, it shows that he's much, much more.

Moving on to this week's new contender, I feel a little explanation is in order. No doubt many among you (actually, with my readers, I shouldn't assume anything), are much more familiar with Ann-Marie MacDonald. Both of her novels have been shortlisted for a Giller, while the first, Fall on Your Knees, won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel and was an Oprah pick. It's also a contender for Canada Reads 2010. And there's the rub. It and Generation X, in particular, seem to have alienated some faithful Canada Reads contenders for being too well known already. Whether they also felt cheated out of new and exciting books, or whether capitalizing on those that truly felt that way, the National Post enters the scene promising to come to the disenchanted rescue. But will this be a case of the Weakest Link versus Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? (And in case that's too subtle, I mean to ask that next year, will we not care about either competition?) Time will tell. In the meantime, their longlist is certainly compelling. For the most part there are some exciting choices on there (go Steve Zipp!) but did the person who nominated Alice Munro not get it? She's even had a book on Canada Reads for cripes sake! Let's see, how can we make this competition better and more exciting than the original? By championing the same authors? Fail! Anyway, that's officially my 100th Alice Munro rant so I should move on to the other contender this week: Bernice Morgan. Who? If you've read her, you've probably enjoyed her. If not, I guess she has her work cut out for her this week. She can also be found on the Canada Also Reads longlist. Canada Reads versus Canada Also Reads? Nah. That'd be getting carried away. But if Alice Munro (gripe #101) makes the shortlist, you might just see my own version: Canada Also Reads, Too.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Jan 12, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Reader's Diary #562- Jeff Smith: The Great Cow Race & Eyes of the Storm

Last year, just as I was discovering my love for graphic novels, my son was showing an interest in comics. I missed out on the comics as a kid, so it's a world I'm totally in support of him exploring as long as he takes me along for the ride. However, finding appropriate comics for a four year old isn't always easy, especially since Marvel Super Hero Squad doesn't publish nearly often enough:And besides, I'm more of an alternative comics guy (I am still a literary snob, n'est pas?) so the Bone books make us both happy.

The Great Cow Race didn't impress me as much as the first in the series. But I think I had the same thing happen as when I read the 2nd in the Harry Potter series. Once the thrill of meeting the new world for the first time had passed, expectations ran a bit a too high. Not that there is anything drastically wrong with the Great Cow Race, it has Smith's wonderful mix of adventure and comedy going for it after all, but I was a little impatient for the overall story to pick up.

Thankfully Eyes of the Storm delivered. There's genuine thrills in this book (some that I was concerned would be a little too scary for my son, but when he offered to make the thunder noises, I knew he'd be okay), and finally we get a little more character development and clues about what it is those nasty rat creatures are after, still holding back enough of the mystery to get us excited about the fourth installment.

Again, I love Smith's eclectic style. The Bones themselves seem cartoonishly oversimplified, looking like a cross between the Smurfs and Steamboat Willie, Thorn and the other human figures could come from any modern mainstream superhero comic, and the rat creatures look like they come from a Manga version of hell (I'd say they look like one of the scarier Pokemon characters, but unless you're a father of a four year old boy, that probably means even less to you).

It's quite an enchanting world and I can see why so many people are visiting.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Reader's Diary #561- T. C. Boyle: Chicxulub

Last week I compiled a list of short stories that I'd found online, read, and reviewed in 2009.When fellow blogger and Short Story Monday participant JoAnn wrote to tell me she had compiled a similar list, I just had to check it out. I'm a sucker for lists. Quickly scanning hers over, T.C. Boyle's "Chicxulub" caught my eye, probably because of its unfriendly-to-English-readers title. How do you pronounce that? Chicks-you-lub?

Anyway. Recently my wife and I were discussing our six year old daughter watching the first two Harry Potter movies. While we agreed there were parts she'd no doubt be scared over, I'd already read the books to her and we both felt that the experience served as a good buffer. Movies, we said, are typically scarier. Do you feel the same way? I think I find movies generally more emotional all the way around, yet for all that I prefer books. With books I can turn away, I can pace myself when the going gets rough.

JoAnn refered to Boyle's story as "one of the most powerful short stories I've ever read." I'd have to say that I'd agree, though I was thankful of the distractions around me: the cat, the phone, and especially the sounds of my kids playing. I'm glad I didn't read it alone at night in a silent house. It's not scary, at least not in the way that you think, but I was very early in when my heart nestled down into my throat and remained there until the end.

It's a brilliantly written story. Chicxulub, for those of you that don't know and clearly have not read Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, is one of a few sites mentioned by Boyle that meteors have wreaked destruction on Earth. Boyle intersperses this scary science with a tale of family tragedy to discuss fate and futility. Such comparisons could be heavy handed, overwrought, or down right clumsy. Boyle pulls it off beautifully by making you care. I love this story.

It seems that yet another blogger was responsible for bringing it to JoAnn's attention; from Nymeth, to JoAnn, to me, and next hopefully to one of you. It's really, really good. It deserves a online chain to keep it going.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Reader's Diary #560- William Shakespeare: King Henry the Fifth

In my very slow quest to read all the plays of Shakespeare, I've not really gone about it systematically. Basically I try to balance the plays I'm actually interested in reading against the history plays, hoping not to get stuck with a whole bunch of King Whoever plays at the end. It's not that I'm anti-history per se, but I've never had an interest in war; not movies, not books, nothing. I realize of course that learning about war is important, but I'm usually bored to tears with it. And that's what most of Shakespeare's king plays seem to be about.

So I've trudged through the three parts of King Henry VI and King Richard III. Not that there weren't parts or characters that I enjoyed (Queen Margaret was a pretty awesome villain), but not enough to get me excited about my next history play. So, I simply picked randomly from what was left and read King Henry V. In hindsight, and after doing (albeit minimal) research, King Henry V is the last of a tetralogy, after Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and Henry IV part 2. Reading those first might have increased my understanding and enjoyment.

I'm not quite sure why King Henry the Fifth was invading France and I certainly didn't care a whole lot (nothing against the French mind you, but Shakespeare's play didn't really rouse my emotions in anyone's favour). Nor did I care for King Henry's crazily rushed wooing of the king of France's daughter, Katharine at the end. The courtship wasn't amusing, wasn't angering, wasn't beautiful, wasn't much of anything except unbelievable. Katharine did, of course, end up marrying King Henry but I'm not so sure that Shakespeare adequately explains how or why it happened.

It wasn't a total waste of time though. I did enjoy Shakespeare's focus on languages in this play. First there was Fluellen, a Welsh captain in Henry's army. It was interesting to see Shakespeare's take on the accent, in particular replacing all his bs with ps as in pridges. Though he'd written other plays with characters of different cultures, I don't recall him ever writing to mimic the various accents. Imagine hearing Lady Macbeth saying "Oooot damn sput!" I assume this was done somewhat for comedy at the expense of the Welsh, though Fluellen does prove to be honorable and intelligent. There's also Katharine's attempts to learn English. Again, this was most likely for comedic purposes, especially as her attendant Alice gives her vocabulary lessons on English body parts. Yes, parts of that scene were amusing. I was also very surprised with the amount of French in the play and wondered what portion of his original audience would have understood-- not that it would have mattered too much. I didn't understand a lot and I still got the gist.

On a trivial note, I was surprised to see a reference to tennis in the play. I had no idea it had existed for so long. Thanks to Google, I've since learned that it has indeed but the version King Henry the Fifth would have played was much different than the game mastered by Venus and Serena today.

So there you have it. Not my favourite Shakespeare play but not my least either. And hey, I learned something.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Reader's Diary #559- Brian Selznick: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I don't like to throw words like wonderful, amazing and marvelous around lightly.

Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret is wonderful. Winner of the Caldecott Medal in 2008, I wasn't sufficiently impressed at that point. I was almost guaranteed there'd be decent illustrations, but as it's an award for illustrations, I've learned that that doesn't always mean I'd like the book as a whole; sometimes the stories accompanying those Caldecott winners have been read duds. I've always felt that the relationship between text and illustrations needs more consideration.

The relationship between text and illustrations (and photographs) in Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret is amazing. It's not that one simply enhances the other, it's that one is vital to the other. At 511 pages, it has gotten credit for being the first novel to win the Caldecott. But is it a novel? According to Selznick himself, "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things." It's true, and it's that inventive approach to writing that makes this book so wildly exciting. It's a marvelous homage to imagination and wonder and, and, and... clearly I get giddy when talking about books this great.

Set in 1930s Paris, it is the tale of Hugo Cabret a twelve year old boy who lives and works at a train station. Hugo's life isn't easy but the hope of repairing a mysterious automaton (mechanical man) first discovered by Hugo's now deceased father keeps him going. But it's so much more than that. It's about time, clocks, magic and machinery. It's also a mystery and a tribute to the imaginative and innovative French director Georges Melies whose silent films of the turn of the century astounded audiences.

Even the production of the book itself is a treat. With its black framed pages, black and white movie stills, and sketches it captures the time brilliantly. Do modern readers need vibrantly coloured illustrations to hold their attention? My kids and I finished the book in two afternoons. Even if you don't have kids, you need to read this book.

A masterpiece.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Canadian Book Challenge 3- 6th Roundup



Happy New Year!!!

Because I care, I'll not insert annoying noise maker sounds. But I do know how, and the thought had crossed my mind, so be good in 2010.

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve and have no headaches today and are looking forward to the next year, the next decade-- that last one was a bit of a roller coaster, don't you think?

In the meantime, I've rounded up all the books we've read so far and I'll edit today's post to add in your December reads. It is the halfway point, don't you know? It was quite interesting to compile. Looks like Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood was quite the popular book last half. Other popular books include Linwood Barclay's Fear The Worst, and with authors such as Stephanie Meyers being quite well represented, I'd say genre fiction is alive and well in Canada. Plus, I'd say there's a quite healthy mix of contemporary and classic, well known and obscure. I'm also interested in seeing the number of people that reviewed the very same book. Check out those that you've read. Has someone else reviewed it? It could make for an interesting comparison. By the way, please check that your reviews are all there and the links are accurate. I've not spent a lot of time editing (it's the holidays, cut me some slack!) and I imagine the errors are rampant. There are somewhere between 250-300 book read and reviewed so far, but I can't get the numbers on the sidebar to match the numbers below (meaning I've screwed up somewhere-- help!!!)

I'll also congratulate Scrat, Raidergirl, Pooker, Nicola and myself for joining Kailana in reaching 13 books in December-- though I haven't quite reached my personal goal yet, which was to reach 13 books from each province or territory. My 13 so far includes the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. That leaves a whopping 7 to go-- ouch. But there's still time! I just need to choose more carefully.

Anyway, enjoy your day today. And please, since this is a roundup post, leave links to the books you'd read in December for the Canadian Book Challenge. Happy reading!!!

Adamson, Gil
- The Outlander (Kate, Kailana)
Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri (Editor)
- Without Reservation (John)
Alexis, Andre
- Asylum (Scrat)
Allan, Von
- the road to god knows... (Nicola)
Anderson-Dargatz, Gail
- Turtle Valley (Tara, Scrat)
Armstrong, Kelley
- The Awakening (Becky, Kailana)
- Bitten (Nathan)
- Haunted (Kailana)
- Living With The Dead (Kailana)
- The Summoning (Linda)
Armstrong, Sally
- The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor (Raidergirl)
Atwood, Margaret
- Alias Grace (Eva)
- Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda illustrated by Dusan Petricic (Chris)
- The Handmaid's Tale (Lahni)
- Moral Disorder (Pooker)
- Oryx and Crake (Nicola)
- Year of the Flood (Corey, JK, Kate, Nicola, Lahni, Scrat, Chris, Charlotte, Kailana, Remi, Gavin, B. Kienapple)
Aubert, Rosemary
- The Ferryman Will Be There (Gypsysmom)
Babiak, Todd
- The Garneau Block (Lynn)
Barclay, Isabel
- O Canada (Nicola)
Barclay, Linwood
- Fear the Worst (Nicola, Luanne, Kerri, Teena)
- No Time For Goodbye (Raidergirl)
Bemrose, John
- The Last Woman (Pooker, Sandra)
Benham, Leslie and Lois
- The Heroine of Long Point illustrated by Vernon Mould (Nicola)
Bergen, David
- Sitting Opposite My Brother (Pooker)
Bezmozgis, David
- Natasha and Other Stories (Pooker)
Biscott, Lynn
- The Boomers Retire (Teena)
Blanchet, Pascal
- White Rapids (Gavin)
Blunt, Giles
- No Such Creature (Sandra)
Bowen, Gail
- Verdict in Blood (Gypsysmom)
Boyden, Joseph
- Through Black Spruce (Patricia, Kerri)
Bradley, Alan
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Nathan, Eva)
Brett, Brian
- Trauma Farm (Luanne)
Brown, Chester
- Louis Riel (Chris)
Brunt, Stephen
- Searching for Bobby Orr (Raidergirl)
Buchanan, Cathy Marie
- The Day the Falls Stood Still (Nicola, Kailana)
Burns, Cliff
- The Reality Machine (Corey)
Butala, Sharon
- Lunaby (Melanie)
- The Perfection of the Morning (B. Kienapple)
Capponi, Pat
- Last Stop Sunnyside (Lynn)
Carpenter, David
- Niceman Cometh (Melanie)
Chercover, Sean
- Trigger City (Teena)
Choy, Wayson
- All That Matters (Scrat)
- The Jade Peony (Scrat, Raidergirl)
- Not Yet (Ariel)
Clarke, George Elliot
- Whylah Falls (Steve)
Coady, Lynn
- Saints of Big Harbour (Steve)
Colapinto, John
- As Nature Made Him (Kailana)
Cole, Trevor
- Fearsome Particles (Tara)
Connolly, Karen
- The Lizard Cage (Raidergirl)
Cooper, Afua
- Hanging of Angelique (Charlotte)
Cohen, Bruce and Brian Fitzgerald
- The Pension Puzzle (Teena)
Coren, Stanley
- The Intelligence of Dogs (Jacki)
Coupland, Douglas
- Generation A (Corey, Remi)
- Souvenir of Canada (Raidergirl)
Craig, Alisa
- Murder Goes Mumming (Gypsysmom)
Crummey, Michael
- Galore (John, Luanne)
Crymble, Lynn
- It Can Happen to You (Luanne)
Davidge, Bud
- The Mummer's Song illustrated by Ian Wallace (Wanda)
Davidson, Andrew
- The Gargoyle (Scrat, Heather, Raidergirl)
Davies, Robertson
- Fifth Business (Raidergirl)
- Rebel Angels (Ariel, Steve)
- Tempest Tost (August)
Dawson, David Laing
- Don't Look Down (Heather)
Defeede, Jeff
- The Day The World Came to Town (Eva)
De La Roche, Mazo
- White Oaks of Jalna (Steve)
De Lint, Charles
- Forests of the Heart (Kailana)
- Memory and Dream (Eva)
- Wild Wood (Pussreboots)
Drummond, Robbie Newton
- Arctic Circle Songs (John)
Echlin, Kim
- The Disappeared (Kate)
Endicott, Marina
- Good to a Fault (Scrat, Raidergirl)
Evans, Polly
- Mad Dogs and an English Woman (Jacki)
Falcone, L.M.
- The Mysterious Mummer (John)
Ferguson, Will
- Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw (Kerri)
Finch, Robert
- The Iambics of Newfoundland (Kailana)
Findley, Timothy
- Not Wanted on the Voyage (Chris)
Fraser, Ivan
- Peggy of the Cove (Wanda)
Gabriele, Lisa
- Tempting Fate DiNapoli (Leya)
Galchen, Rivka
- Atmospheric Disturbances (B. Kienapple, Ariel)
Galloway, Stephen
- The Cellist of Sarajevo (Ariel)
Gibb, Camilla
- Sweetness in the Belly (Kailana)
Giles, W. Mark
- Knucklehead and Other Stories (Patricia)
Goldstein, Jonathan
- Ladies and Gentlemen The Bible! (Ariel)
Grant, Jessica
- Come, Thou Tortoise (Scrat)
Greenwood, Barbara
- A Pioneer Story (Nicola)
- A Pioneer Thanksgiving (Nicola)
- A Pioneer Christmas (Nicola)
Greer, Darren
- Still Life With June (B. Kienapple)
Grescoe, Taras
- The Devil's Picnic (Eva)
Gruen, Sara
- Water for Elephants (Patricia)
Gunn, Carla
- Amphibian (Corey)
Harvey, Kenneth J.
- Blackstrap Hawco (John)
Haworth-Attard, Barbara
- Haunted (Nicola)
Hay, Elizabeth
- Late Nights on Air (Geranium Cat, Wanda)
- A Student of Weather (Gavin)
Heidbreder, Robert
- Drumheller Dinosaur Dance illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo (John)
Helm, Michael
- In the Place of Last Things (Rosalynn)
Heti, Sheila
- Ticknor (Sandra)
Hicks, Faith Erin
- The War at Ellsmere (Nicola)
Highway, Tomson
- The Rez Sisters (Eva)
- Fox on the Ice (Teddy Rose)
- Dragonfly Kites (Teddy Rose)
- Caribou Song (Teddy Rose)
Hill, Lawrence
- The Book of Negroes (Lahni, Ariel, John, Eva)
Hitzer, Rolf
- Hoodoo Sea (Nicola, Gautami)
Humphreys, Helen
- the Lost Garden (Geranium Cat, Kailana)
Ilsley, George K
- ManBug (Corey)
Itani, Frances
- Leaning, Leaning Over Water (Pooker)
- Remembering the Bones (Nathan, Lesley, Raidergirl)
Jameson, Anna Brownell
- Winter Studies and Summer Ramblings (Susan)
Janes, Percy
- House of Hate (Steve)
Jarman, Mark Antony
- 19 Knives (Pooker)
Jarratt, Melynda
- War Brides (Kailana)
Jewison, Cathy
- The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Stories (John)
Johnson, P.J.
- Rhymes of the Raven Lady (John)
Johnston, Basil
- By Canoe & Moccasin (Heather)
- Crazy Dave (Heather)
Joyce, Ron
- Always Fresh (Teena)
Jumbo, Sheyenne and Mindy Willett
- Come and Learn With Me photograohy by Tessa Macintosh (John)
Kaslik, Ibi
- Skinny (Kerri)
Kaufman, Andrew
- All My Friends Are Superheroes (Remi)
Kennedy, Ellen
- Silent Watch (Linda)
Kidd, Monica
- Beatrice (Pooker)
King, Thomas
- Green Grass Running Water (Eva, Rosalynn)
Kirkby, Mary-Ann
- I Am Hutterite (Patricia)
Knowles, Mike
- Darwin's Nightmare (Corey)
Kogawa, Joy
- Obasan (Eva)
Kusugak, Michael
- The Littlest Sled Dog illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka (Debbie)
Lam, Vincent
- Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (Barbara, Leya)
Lane, Dawn Beaumont
- Fairy Glade (Pussreboots)
Lane, Patrick
- Red Dog Red Dog (Ariel, Kerri)
Lansens, Lori
- The Wife's Tale (Nathan, Luanne)
Lau, Evelyn
- Runaway (Debbie)
Laurence, Margaret
- A Bird in the House (Gautami)
Lawson, Mary
- Crow Lake (Patricia)
Leacock, Stephen
- Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (Steve)
Lee, Dennis
- Alligator Stew: Favourite Poems (Nicola)
Lemire, Jeff
- The Nobody (John)
- Tales from the Farm (John, Debbie, Wanda)
Lester, David
- The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Debbie)
London, Jack
- Call of the Wild (Jacki)
Ludwig, Sidura
- Holding My Breath (Melanie)
Lunn, Janet
- Larger Than Life (Nicola)
Lyon, Annabel
- The Golden Mean (Kate)
MacDonald, Ann-Marie
- Fall on Your Knees (Sandra)
MacGregor, Roy
- The Dog and I (Jacki)
MacIntyre, Linden
- The Bishop's Man (Raidergirl, Kate)
MacLean, Stuart
- Vinyl Cafe Diaries (Raidergirl)
MacLennan, Hugh
- The Watch That Ends The Night (Remi)
Macleod, Alison
- Wave Theory of Angels (Ariel)
Maffini, Mary Jane
- Death Loves a Messy Desk (Nathan)
Malone, Stephens Gerard
- I Still Have A Suitcase in Berlin (Wanda)
- Miss Elva (Scrat)
Mayor, Chandra
- Cherry (Pooker)
McAdam, Colin
- Fall (Kate)
McNaughton, Janet
- Dragon Seer (Heather)
Metcalf, John
- Shooting the Stars (Pooker)
Michaels, Anne
- the Winter Vault (Scrat, Kate)
Millar, Margaret
- How Like and Angel (Heather)
Mitchell, Shandi
- Under This Unbroken Sky (Melanie, B. Kienapple)
Mitchell, W.O.
- Jake and The Kid (Corey)
Montgomery, L. M.
- Kilmeny of the Orchard (Becky)
- The Blythes are Quoted (Charlotte)
Moore, Lisa
- February (Heather)
Morrissey, Donna
- What They Wanted (Barbara)
Morton, Alexandra
- In The Company of Whales (Gavin)
Moss, John
- Still Waters (Geranium Cat)
Mowat, Farley
- The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (Jacki, Geranium Cat)
- Grey Seas Under (Pussreboots)
- Never Cry Wolf (Geranium Cat)
Munday, Evan
- Quarter Life Crisis (B. Kienapple)
Munce, Alayna
- When I Was Young and In My Prime (Remi)
Munro, Alice
- Too Much Happiness (Kate, Rosalynn)
- The View from Castle Rock (Raidergirl, 3M)
Munsch, Robert
- From Far Away with Saoussan Askar and illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Teddy Rose)
- The Paperbag Princess illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Teddy Rose)
- Stephanie's Ponytail illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Teddy Rose)
- Where is Gah-Ning? illustrated by Helene Desputeaux (Teddy Rose)
Nadir, Leilah
- The Orange Trees of Baghdad (Kate)
Newfeld, Frank
- Drawing on Type (Charlotte)
Nielsen, Susin
- Word Nerd (JK)
North, Dick
- The Lost Patrol (John)
Novik, Mary
- Conceit (Sandra)
Obamsawim, Diane
- Kaspar (Chris)
Oppel, Kenneth
- Airborn (Lahni, Charlotte)
- Skybreaker (Lahni)
O'Reilly, Terry
- The Age of Persuasion (Barbara)
Patterson, Kevin
- Consumption (Wanda)
Pattison, Brad
- Synergy and Training Between Man and Dog (Jacki)
Pelley, Chad
- Away From Everywhere (Wanda)
Penny, Louise
- The Brutal Telling (Gautami)
- Still Life (Raidergirl, Gavin, Eva)
Phelan, Susan
- The Cure (Heather)
Poliquin, Daniel
- A Secret Between Us (Ariel)
Powning, Beth
- The Sea Captain's Wife (Scrat)
Preston, Allison
- Cherry Bites (Gypsysmom)
Pynn, Susan
- The Colours of My Home illustrated by Nancy Keating (Wanda)
Pyper, Andrew
- The Wildfire Season (Wanda)
Quarrington, Paul
- Galveston (Kerri)
Raddall, Thomas H.
- Halifax: Warden of the North (Steve)
- The Nymph and the Lamp (B. Kienapple)
Rayner, Mark A.
- Marvellous Hairy (Corey)
Redekop, Corey
- Shelf Monkey (Scrat)
Reichs, Kathy
- 206 Bones (Kate)
Remington, Robert and Sherri Zickefoose
- Runaway Devil (Debbie)
Ritter, Erika
- The Secret Life of Humans (Jacki)
Robinson, Peter
- The Price of Love and Other Stories (Luanne)
Rothman, Claire Holden
- The Heart Specialist (Ariel, Linda)
Salamon, Daria
- the Prairie Bridesmaid (Pooker)
Sandham, James
- The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt (Sandra)
Schultz, Emily
- Heaven is Small (Heather)
Shatner, William
- Up Till Now (Nicola)
Shields, Carol
- Unless (3M)
Shrier, Howard
- Buffalo Jump (Teena)
- High Chicago (Teena)
Shubin, Neil
- Your Inner Fish (Pussreboots)
Simpson, Anne
- Falling (Raidergirl)
Slade, Arthur
- The Hunchback Assignments (Kailana, Nicola)
Smith, Russell
- Muriella Pent (Rosalynn)
Spires, Ashley
- Binky the Space Cat (Nicola)
Stegner, Wallace
- Wolf Willow (Pussreboots)
Steltzer, Ulli
- The Spirit of Haida Gwaii (John)
Stephens, Jay
- Monsters! Draw Your Own Mutants, Freaks & Creeps (Pussreboots)
Strube, Cordelia
- Lemon (B. Kienapple)
Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian
- Skim (Pussreboots, Eva)
Tardif, Cheryl Kaye
- The River (Gypsysmom)
Theis, Leona
- The Art of Salvage (Melanie)
Thomas, Joan
- Reading by Lightning (B. Kienapple, Pooker)
Toews, Miriam
- a complicated kindness (Kerri)
- The Flying Troutmans (Rosalynn, Scrat)
Tremblay, Michel
- The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant (Tanabata)
- Therese and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel (Charlotte)
Trofimuk, Thomas
- Waiting for Columbus (Luanne)
Turner, Max
- Night Runner (Becky)
Vanier, Jean
- Our Life Together (Kate)
Van Rooy, Michael
- An Ordinary Decent Criminal (Teena)
Vassanji, M.G.
- The Book of Secrets (Gavin)
Viswanathan, Padma
- The Toss of a Lemon (B. Kienapple)
Von Kampen, Bettina
- Blue Becomes You (Melanie)
Vreeland, Susan
- The Forest Lover (Eva)
Wake, Val
- White Bird Black Bird (John)
Wales, Dirk
- Jack London's Dog (John)
Wallace, Frederick William
- Blue Water (Steve)
Wasserman, Bryna
- The Naked Island (Scrat)
West, Michelle
- Hunter's Oath (Charlotte)
Whittal, Zoe
- Holding Still for as Long as Possible (B. Kienapple)
Willis, Deborah
- Vanishing & Other Stories (Pooker)
Windley, Carol
- Home Schooling (Pooker)
Winter, Michael
- All This Happened (Remi)
With, Cathleen
- Having Faith in the Polar Girls' Prison (John)
Wolfe, Inger Ash
- The Calling (Nicola)
- The Taken (Luanne, Nicola)
Wright, Richard B
- Clara Callan (Raidergirl)
Young, Terence
- Rhymes With Useless (Pooker)
Zelinski, Ernie J.
- How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free (Teena)
Zipp, Steve
- Yellowknife (Gavin, Kerri)