Canadian Books for “I Read Canadian Day” 2020

So what are you going to be reading for the first annual “I Read Canadian Day”?

What’s that? You haven’t heard about it? And what exactly is it anyway?

“I Read Canadian Day” is “a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people.” The first one is this coming Wednesday, February 19.

Here’s some suggestions of books I have recently read.

Picture Books

“Albert’s Quiet Quest” by Isabelle Arsenault 

I won this fantastic book in an Isabelle Arsenault prize pack from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Albert goes on a quest for a quiet place to read his book, but he is soon joined by his less than quiet neighbourhood friends.

“Up! How Families Around the World Carry their Little Ones” Written by Susan Hughes and Illustrated by Ashley Barron 

Babies around the world are carried by various family members in different ways. My favourite pages are the one where the baby is nestled in grandmother’s parka and the one where the twins are seeing the world in uncle’s baskets.

“An Inukshuk Means Welcome” by Mary Wallace 

Wallace takes each letter of the word Inukshuk, which are stone towers, and represents it by an Inuktitut word. My favourite part is the other types of stone towers that Wallace inserts throughout the book and explains at the back of the book.

“Go Show the World: a Celebration of Indigenous Heroes” by Wab Kinew; pictures by Joe Morse

Kinew celebrates Canadian and American indigenous heroes, some famous and some not, through a rap song. There is great back matter with the biographies of the heroes mentioned.

Kinew is also an accomplished musician. Check out “Heroes” in the following video.

“The Grizzlies of Grouse Mountain: The True Adventures of Coola and Grinder by Shelley Hrdlitschka and Rae Schidlo, illustrated by Linda Sharp

The story of how the grizzly bears came to live on Grouse Mountain, but also facts about grizzly bears, such as how they “cork” themselves during winter. I particularly enjoyed this book, because I visited them when I was in Vancouver a couple of years ago.

Here’s me, a little wet, in front of the grizzly bear enclosure

Middle Grade

“Nikki Tesla and the Fellowship of the Bling” by Jess Keating

Admittedly I haven’t read this book, which is number 2 in a series, because it’s been released so recently, but if it’s anything like the first book, I am in for a treat. It’s likely the book that I will be reading on Wednesday.

Graphic Novels

“Friends with Boys” by Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks is a Canadian writer and illustrator, and she is incredibly talented. “Friends with Boys” is her 2012 graphic novel, which is semi-autobiographical, about a ninth grade girl entering public school for the first time, after being homeschooled. There are several threads in this story: her relationships with her three older brothers, her coping with her mom leaving, even a ghost!

Adult Books

Because I think everyone should be encouraged to read Canadian, not just young people, I have included a couple of adult books. Or if you want to read at the same time as a young person in your life, but they decline to be read to, pick up a book like one of the following.

“Season of Fury and Wonder” by Sharon Butala

In this series of short stories the season of fury and wonder is the old age of women. The stories contain some hard truths and there are many shocking twists. Every story is inspired by a classic work that has influenced Butala’s writing.

“Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End” by Liz Levine

Levine writes about the death of her childhood love from cancer, as well as her younger sister by suicide. The format is uniquely made up of short stories using the alphabet as a structure. According to Levine, “My Alphabet isn’t a history of death. It’s a collection of things that make up death.”

If you are short for time, read this personal essay by Liz Levine’s mom, Carol Cowan-Levine, on how the fragmented health care system failed her daughter.

Here’s another list of Canadian books I have enjoyed reading that I prepared for the end of last year.

Click here for some lists of Canadian books that have been nominated for or won an award.

Are you planning on participating? I’d love to know what you are going to read.

3 Books that Soothe my Soul

February is traditionally the hardest month of the year for me. So I have been reaching for some books that soothe my soul. Here are three that have made a difference for me:

  1. “Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations” by Richard Wagamese

I got this out of the library, but I love it so much that I am going to purchase a copy, so I can reread it whenever I am feeling a need to lift myself up. There are so many times when I reread a passage, making sure it sinks into my soul.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

“I’ve been referred to as odd before. Nowadays, I prefer to refer to myself as ‘awed’. I want awe to be the greatest ongoing relationship in my life…Peace, friends. Be awed today.”

“I no longer want to be resilient. I don’t want to simply bounce back from things that hurt me or cause me pain. Bouncing back means returning to where I stood before. Instead, I want to go beyond the hurts and the darkness…”

Sadly, Wagamese passed away in 2017.

2. “Succulent Wild Woman: Dancing with your Wonder-full Self” by SARK

Have you ever read any of SARK’s books? Their layout is one of the best parts, but they are also chock full of soul candy. I love little bits of wisdom such as this one:

“Being positive does not mean being accepting of the negative, or ignorant of the issues, or the world situation, or anything else. It means seeing the grace in as much as you can see. 

Like cloud watching…the shapes we see are created by our vision.”

I was fortunate enough to come across this book in a little library a couple of years ago. I put it on my 2020 TBR list, and I knew that now was the time to wrap myself up in its wisdom.

I have also been enjoying some of the music SARK recommends in the book, including the following piece.

3. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach

This was another gem of a find in one of my local little libraries. Though originally printed in 1995, the comfort and joy provided is not at all outdated.

I discovered the book last September, and I started reading the daily essays then. Immediately the book grabbed me, and it continues to do so. The daily reading is now one of the first rituals I do every morning.

Consider this excerpt from December 15:

“When a sentence in a book resonates within, it is the voice of your authentic self. Listen to what she’s trying to tell you.”

The author introduced the concepts of a “gratitude journal” and an “authentic self” to Americans.

What books have been soothing your soul lately?

Be awed today, friends, be awed today.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

January 2020 Wrapup

So how are you doing with your resolutions? I am proud that I have been able to keep up with mine.

Click here to read the results of my January 2020 Mount TBR Challenge.

Memoirs

Hey, hey, I read three memoirs this month, so I am already 1/4 of the way to the total number I wanted to read this year. I recommend all three, which are:

“The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me” by Cathie Borrie

Borrie intersperses stories of her growing up with her (then) current day of taking care of her mother with Alzheimer’s.

“Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA” by Amaryllis Fox

Fox writes about her life from her childhood through her life in the CIA through her resignation and her life after. I wouldn’t normally read a memoir like this, but I am glad that I did. It gave me a peek into a life that I could never imagine living.

“The Unwinding of the Miracle: a Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After” by Julie Yip-Williams

Yip-Williams had stage 4 colon cancer when she started writing this book. She writes about living and dying with cancer, as well as her childhood in Vietnam where she was born blind. Especially touching is her letter to her children in chapter 2.

Writing 250 words five days a week

I far surpassed my word count, even on the week that I had tendonitis in my left arm, although that meant that I had to type one handed on some days. I got one story idea out of my writing, which I need to flesh out.

Five days a week I will limit my social media: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

I achieved this goal, and I found it to be very beneficial, although at times hard, because on the days that I was really tired, I found myself at first wanting to distract myself with social media. I have managed to break the habit, and now instead I look for something that really needs to be done, such as organizing my photo albums.

According to this article, you need down time to be creative anyway.

Read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.

I found this to be particularly eye opening. You really need to think about the creative part of your nonfiction essay, as magazines and editors are always looking for new ways a subject is tackled. 

I particularly enjoyed the first three winning pieces in WOW’s 2020 Q1 Contest. Click here to access the following essays:

“Bugs: When I knew it was time to leave him” by Meghan Beaudry 

Beaudry describes her marriage before and after her illness, and how being able to get rid of a bug meant independence.

“The Hole” by Kelley Allen 

The twist at the end shocked me.

“Zucchini Bread Keeps Away the Dead” by Julide J Kroeker

Kroeker describes various ways she could kill herself and then ultimately why she would not.

Read 2 picture books per week.

I read more than 2 picture books per week. These are my favourites:

“Ping” by Ani Castillo

This is a very philosophical book in which a ping represents you and a pong the other.

“Nine Months Before a Baby is Born” by Miranda Paul and Jason Chin

I especially recommend this to parents who are expecting a second child.

“It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way” by Kyo Maclear

How a Japanese girl who felt invisible in America introduced diversity in children’s books. “Babies”, published in 1963, became one of the first children’s books to introduce multiracial characters.

Attend 12 writer’s events, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.

WriteOnCon currently has free Showcase webinars, and I watched the one on critiques, which was presented by Olivia Hinebaugh.

Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

This was one of the most difficult goals to achieve, and I usually left it until the end of the week, but I did do it. My favourite journal was:

Blog one time a week except if I am on holidays.

Feel free to read my previous entries to confirm this.

Write about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary per month.

This also was a challenge, and I left it until later in the month.

One fascinating thing I learned about while doing my research was the former East German company Expertic, which I have some pieces from.

How did you do? If you are having troubles meeting your goals, it may be because you are having difficulty changing your habits, and this article explains why.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

CANSCAIP PYI 2019

One of the big advantages of having access to PYI (CANSCAIP’s conference for children’s authors, illustrators and performers), via recordings is that you can listen to them at any time in the comfort of your own home. The unfortunate part is usually I put it off, so I find myself with the deadline to watching the videos looming. Having that pressure though meant that I had to get them done, so I have spent the last couple of days catching up on some really thought provoking talks.

I have attended CANSCAIP’s conference live before, and there are advantages to that too. You can network with other writers, and it is always uplifting to meet with other people who have the same sort of successes and failures you do. Writing can be a lonely profession, so it helps to connect with others. On the other hand, I find it to be exhausting to spend an entire day at a conference, and often by the afternoon I don’t listen as well as I could. So recently I have chosen the recorded versions.

Here are some highlights that resonated with me from three of the workshops.

Heather Smith, “Writing, Plain and Simple”

I love Heather Smith’s books “Ebb & Flow” and “The Agony of Bun O’Keefe”.

Smith suggested that if you are stuck in a scene or feeling muddled, you use the “six word trick”. That is, you pare down the message into a six word story like rumour has it Ernest Hemingway was the first to do. Then you can flesh out the writing again.

Gillian Chan, “You Can’t Change History—Or Can You?”

I have never read any of her books before, which is surprising, because I do love history, and she writes a lot of historical fiction. I think in recent years I have spent a lot of time reading memoirs, and that’s because I have been thinking about writing a memoir, but perhaps it is time to switch it up a bit. I would like to write about my parents’ stories—my mother as a German girl and then an immigrant to Canada, and my father as a British protectorate in Africa and then an immigrant to first Germany and then Canada. The thing is that I’m not sure that I will ever be able to write their stories as creative nonfiction, so I think that I should also start exploring the world of historical fiction again.

Chan talked about political correctedness, and this is a subject I struggle with. It can be difficult to be politically correct when you are writing about a historical topic, because, as Chan mentioned, the attitudes and speech from the past may be abhorrent now. Chan suggested that we think carefully about what we want to include and be prepared to defend ourselves about our choices. She said that some of the offensive terminology of the day could be used only once or scattered sparingly throughout the text.

Chan like me is a Caucasian woman married to a Chinese man. She ended up writing some of her historical fiction books with his help. My husband and I wrote five books about communication together, but they are mainly in Chinese, and perhaps we should think about collaborating on other books too. Hmmmm…

Chan’s books include some from the series “I am Canada” and “Dear Canada”.

Marthe Jocelyn, “Eleven Elevating Questions”

I won one of Marthe Jocelyn’s books called “Sneaky Art” one year, which my daughter and I had a lot of fun with, but Jocelyn has more than 40 other books.

One of the questions Jocelyn suggested you ask is “Am I confusing anyone?” Jocelyn recommended that you get yourself a critique group or partner and you ask questions like 

-“Do you understand?”

-“What are you curious about?”

-“Where did you think it was going?”

-“When did you lose interest?”

I have been thinking about critique groups lately and wondering why I sometimes don’t have success with them. Sometimes they give me so many wide and varied suggestions that I become confused about what to do, especially if there are many people in my group. I think perhaps that I need to prepare questions like these ones so that I can get more out of my critiques.

The Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP also runs a conference yearly, and sometimes they post their workshops on the internet. If you want to get a taste of what it’s like to sit in on a CANSCAIP lecture, here’s an example below.

CANSCAIP’s Toronto conference is held every November, so if you are interested in attending it or joining their organization, click here.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

Dr. Seuss Experience

About a month ago, I got to go to the Dr. Seuss Experience in Mississauga. And I forgot to blog about it! What was I thinking?

I have always loved Dr. Seuss. I grew up on doses of “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham”, and I looked forward to our yearly viewing of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. When I had my own child, I expanded my repertoire to include “Yertle the Turtle”, “The Sneetches”, and “The Lorax”. 

So when I heard that the Dr. Seuss Experience was in the area, I just had to go. Forever a kid at heart, I guess!

The experience was divided into nine different sections, each representing a book that Seuss wrote. In the middle was a balloon maze that represented “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. Then eight rooms surrounded the middle section. In the Grinch room, you got to play a game to help save Christmas. In the “If I Had a Circus” room you rode a very very slow swing ride (I’m talking turtle speed here.) The Sneetches room provided a photo op with lots of mirrors.

My favourite rooms were the ones with the whimsical trees in them, the “Horton Hears a Who” room, and “The Lorax” room. I so wanted to take some of them home!

I love this quote. I am definitely a tree lover.

Dr. Seuss certainly is a complicated figure. He targeted racism in his stories and drawings, but also some of his writing was racist. Yet he did tried to make up for any racism in his books in later years.

If you are near Toronto and want to enjoy the Dr. Seuss Experience yourself, it has been extended into March 2020.

I am looking forward to my next young at heart adventure, the Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, which starts in March 2020.

What about you? Do you like Dr. Seuss? Do you have a favourite Dr. Seuss book?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

This Week in Canadian Reads (January 2020)

The inaugural “I Read Canadian Day” is just over a month away, on February 19, 2020. Are you planning on participating? Although this day is geared towards young Canadians reading Canadian books, I think Canadians of all ages should be encouraged to participate. What do you think?

Here are a few books for all ages I have read recently that you might like to read on that day.

Picture Books

Nonfiction

“Lines, Bars and Circles: how William Playfair Invented Graphs” by Helaine Becker; Illustrated by Marie-ève Tremblay

I never really thought about it, but I guess someone had to invent graphs. Becker does a good job of describing Playfair’s journey to the invention while interspersing it with historical goings on.

Fiction

“My Winter City” by James Gladstone; Pictures by Gary Clement

In this poem, a boy and his dad and dog have some winter fun.

This year we have had a really mild winter, so we haven’t got much “winter fun” in this year. Still, I can relate to many of the scenes in the book.

Middle Grade

“A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying” by Kelley Armstrong

You might not realize that Kelley Armstrong has a new middle grade series, and this one, the first book, debuted in 2019.

12 year old Rowan is set to be queen, and her twin brother Rhydd is supposed to be the Royal Monster Hunter. Neither twin, however, enjoys their role. When an accident switches things up, it is up to Rowan to prove herself. The book is full of imaginary creatures, such as jackalopes, gryphons, and pegasi. 

I am looking forward to book 2 of this series, set to be launched in June 2020, and am hoping it’s as good as the first.

You can take this quiz, if you are interested in Armstrong’s books, but not sure where to start.

Graphic Novels

“The Adventures of Superhero Girl” by Faith Erin Hicks; colours by Cris Peter

I have been a fan of Faith Erin Hicks ever since I read her middle grade trilogy “The Nameless City”. Though “The Adventures of Superhero Girl” is a little bit of an older read (first published in 2013), I highly recommend it. It’s laugh out loud funny, and I appreciate that it’s set in Canada. Check out “The League of Villainous Canadian Stereotypes”! 

Young Adult

“The Move” by Lori Wolf-Heffner is the first in the “Between Worlds” series.  According to an article on Wolf-Heffner’s website, “Between Worlds” is “…a series of books combining her family history in Europe after WWI and the life of a young dance student in Kitchener today…”

I met Wolf-Heffner at a workshop in December 2019, and I was intrigued when she talked about her family’s history. I am enjoying the dual storyline of one main character who is moving to present day Kitchener, a city I am very familiar with, and another who is living after WWI in a small town in Hungary that is about to be handed over to Romania. Can you imagine?

Adult (Memoir)

“My Father, Fortune-tellers, and Me” by Eufemia Fantetti

I first saw the author of this memoir talk at Wild Writers Literary Festival in November 2019, and I knew I wanted to read the book. Fantetti is the daughter of southern Italian immigrants, and her mother has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and her father clinical depression. Because of this, Fantetti has had to live with the effects of her adverse childhood experiences. The book is never too heavy though. It is as funny as it is heartbreaking.

Poetry (Young Adult, Adult)

“When You Ask Me Where I’m Going” by Jasmin Kaur

As the first poem about skin made me cry—this is something I would be excited about too—I knew it was going to be a book that resonated with me. Watch this video for an example of one of Kaur’s poems.

Do you have a Canadian book that you would like to add to my list?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Favourites (List 2)

It’s been a while since I have done one of my lists. Here we go, my five favourites of the week.

-Adult book: “Chop Suey Nation” by Ann Hui

I grew up loving Chinese food. My favourite Chinese restaurant was the now closed Tien Sun Inn. Two of my favourite dishes were egg rolls and Cantonese chow mein.

So imagine my surprise when I first went to China in 1996 where I discovered that the Chinese food I loved in Canada is not at all like the Chinese food in China. That food I ate as a child? Well, it was invented by Chinese people who lived in North America. 

I love the different flavours and foods in China. So much so, that I no longer eat at North American Chinese restaurants. I am grateful that with the influx of mainland Chinese people, many of the flavours I loved overseas can now be found here. 

Still I really enjoyed reading this book, in which the author talks about the history and current day situation of what she terms “chop suey” restaurants, which includes her own family’s history. Hui asked “Why is there a Chinese restaurant in just about every small town in North America?” and the result is this delicious book. It made me long for my childhood favourites again. What about you? Do you have any favourite Chinese food, North American or not?

-This gift of gnomes

I realized when I got this gift that I have a soft spot for gnomes. Not that I am going to set them up in my garden or anything…

This article about why it’s so hard to get rid of books. 

I love especially this observation: Books “are not impersonal units of knowledge, interchangeable and replaceable, but rather receptacles for the moments of our lives, whose pages have sopped up morning hopes and late-night sorrows, carried in honeymoon suitcases or clutched to broken hearts. They are mementos…”

-The wine, Cox Creek Cellars Inc.’s Back Home black currant wine

One of my neighbours kindly gifted me this black currant wine. It immediately brought back memories of my childhood, when my mom would make me my favourite jelly, yes, black currant jelly, from the fruit on our bushes in the backyard. I wasn’t too sure about this wine the first time I tasted it though, especially because I am not a big fan of red wines. However, it tasted much better the next day when I had another glass, and I am now a convert! It’s a local wine, and the winery uses local fruit, some of it grown on their own farm.

-The movie “Hugo”

A few years ago I read the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, and I loved it. I learned a lot that intrigued me, particularly the concept of the automaton

Though the main character Hugo is a fictional character, another character, Georges Méliès, is not. 

Normally I would say that a book is better than the movie, but in this case the movie was superior in one way: you were able to see some of Méliès’ work. Méliès’ was a filmmaker, and he made many films including the first science fiction movie, “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). Have you seen it?

Do you have any favourites to share this week?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler