TWO BY TWO: February 2018

The books listed below are listed in pairs, summarizing the poetry, picture books, novels, graphic texts I’ve read over the past months.


In this collection, poet Nikki Grimes finds inspiration of poets from the Harlem Renaissance by using a form called “Golden Shovel”. The idea of this form is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (a striking line) and create a new poem, using the words from the original. Clever, clever, clever, and a remarkable tribute to African American poets as well as contemporary African American artists.
Bilston has been descried as the “Poet Laureate of Twitter’.Thanks to my student, Jake who introduced me to this highly imaginative wordsmith with the staggering poem “Refugees” (check it out online). Every year or so I buy a ‘grown-up’ poetry anthology. I read the Brian Bilston poems chronologically and loved them (most all of them), especially the shorter one’s that appealed to my sense of humour.
Frisbee whizzing
through the air
above our heads,
over the sand,
into the water,
onto the waves,
out to sea.
You cried a lot that day.
Frisbee was a lovely dog.

AUTHOR: Jordan Tannahill

Biography or novel? Novel or biography? After reading a large chunk of Tannahill’s book, I came to realize that this is mostly fiction (Yes?) I was angry at myself (not the author) for not recognizing this earlier. This is yet another document of Tannahill’s virtuosity, and sharp, philosophical, daring, confounding observations of life, personal and/or otherwise.
Playwright (and wunderkind, often described as a Renaissance Man), Jordan Tannahill learned that his mother had been struck with cancer. On a plane ride home to reunite with his mother, Tannahill wrote and wrote a list of ‘declarations’ (1000?): This is a dirty rag/ This is a ghost town/This is a deck of cards/ This is the ace of spades. Declarations, the play, was recently performed at the Berkeley Street Theatre and I was totally fascinated, and absorbed by,the gestural  movement, and solo and choral presentation of each of the ‘declarations’.  Mr T, you are a smart smart man.

NOVELS: Middle Years



I totally believed in Obe’s discovery of a strange creature, strange, not only because of his wolf-like, hog-like, aardvark-like appearance but by his unique habit of only eating plastic. The eleven year old boy is extremely environmentally conscious and builds a relationship with this new animal, which he names Marvin Gardens. Obe feels that he needs to keep Marvin a secret but is still eager for others to know about Marvin, who may help  to keep the planet clean.

AUMA’S LONG RUN by Eucabeth Odhiambo

Auma is a young adolescent girl living in Kenya who has dreams of becoming a track star, attend high school on scholarship and perhaps one day be a doctor. AIDS is ravaging the community in which Auma lives  she is caught between a rock and hard place when faced with the decision decision to support her family or quit school.  An emotional story centred on hope and resilience.


HEARTWOOD HOTEL: Better Together by Kallie George, Illus. Stephanie Graegin


Heartwood Hotel is an animal residence in Fernwood Forest. In this third book in the series, the staff attempt to have things run smoothly when Mr. Heartwood heads off on vacation. Such contests as <em>The Cutest Egg, The Tiniest Talent and the Best Blossom</em> provide amusing adventures that help prove that this hotel is the most accommodating and festive place in the animal community.
HALIFAX EXPLODES: Frieda Wishinsky

This title is part of the terrific Canadian Flyer series describing the back- in-time transported adventures of Emily and Matt. In this story, set in 1917, the two children have travelled to Halifax where a terrible explosion has left the city in ruins.  One challenge they are faced with is finding the lost sister of a young soldier.



THE BREADWINNER by Deborah Ellis

adapted from the feature film directed by Nora Twomey, this graphic novel is based on the original novel by Deborah Ellis that tells the story of Parvana who must disguise herself as a boy in order to support her family during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

ESCAPE FROM SYRIA Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche, Mike Freiheit

According to the Government of Canada, 40 000 Syrain refugess had resettled int he country as of January 2017. This graphic story describes the collapse and destruction of Syria and the tragedies facing one family trying to escape the turmoil. A very informative – and heartbreaking – story that helps readers gain some understanding of the refugee crisis.



WOLF IN THE SNOW by Matthew Cordell

Don’t think I would have chosen this one if I were on the Caldecott committee, but I wasn’t and this wordless (almost wordless) book one the Medal honour. A story of a young girl in a red coat, and a wolf pup, both lost in the snowstorm. A story of bravery, friendship, trust. William Steig’s Brav

FROM THE HEART OF AFRICA collected by Eric Walters

Hoorah! for Eric Walters who founded and runs Creation of Hope, an organization dedicated to providing caring for orphans in the rural Mbooni district of Kenya. Hoorah! for all the novels you’ve written that have engaged readers young and old. Hoorah! for this fine new picture book where Mr. Walters has collected favourite sayings from various places in Africa and have them matched by illustrations from artists from countries around the world. A beautiful picture book creation. Hoorah!

I pointed out to you the stars, but all you saw was the tip of my finger.(Tanzania)

If you wish to go fast, go alone. If you wish to go far, go together. (Central Africa)



CHANNEL OF PEACE:Stranded in Gander on 9/11

by Kevin Tuerff
Thank you, Kevin for putting this book into my hands. Mr. Tuerff (and his partner) found himself, along with thousands of others, stranded  in the small town of Gander Newfoundland after the 9/11 attack. This book is an account of the kindness compassion of the Newfoundlanders who generously opened their arms to the ‘come from aways’.  The event has been transformed into an amazing theatre event, Come From Away, currently wowing audiences in New York and Toronto. An important story. A heartwarming book. A must-see musical!