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!
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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”!
“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?
“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?
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…
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…”
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?
I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions—I just make them any time of the year—but I am hoping that by participating in the “Bookish Resolutions Challenge”, it will help me with achieving some of my goals. I will schedule my time based on these resolutions/goals.
According to the post, “Bookish Resolutions Challenge is about setting New Year’s Resolutions for Reading, book blogging or Writing”. Also, “Sign Up is between now to February 28th, the challenge starts January 1st and ends December 31st 2020”. You can read more about it by clicking here.
This fits in with my guiding word, which is “focus”. I didn’t realize how scattered I was until recently.
These are my resolutions:
-Besides participating in the Mount TBR challenge, where I plan to read 24 books from my TBR pile (2 per month), I am planning on reading 12 memoirs, (1 per month.) These memoirs will come from the library and will be new in 2020 or written in the last 5 years.
-I will write 250 words five days a week.
-Five days a week I will limit my social media: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.
-Read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.
-Read 5 picture books per week.
-Attend 12 writer’s events, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.
-Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.
The article also reminded me that I had wanted to write a special Christmas post about some of my Christmas ornaments. So without further adieu, I will open up my “Cabinet of Curiosities” one final time this year (and, yes, this decade.)
I’ll start with my mom’s straw stars. My mom made some of the stars that you see here many years ago. Actually I don’t remember any Christmases without them, so probably she made them before I was born. Recently my godmother told me that she made them with my mom. She also told me that hers had already disintegrated.
Well, a lot of my mom’s also have seen better days, but some of them still are in fairly good condition. They are now mixed up with some others I bought when I was in Germany a few Decembers ago, as well as some I bought at my grandmother’s former (German influenced) senior’s home.
Here’s the thing about my mom’s straw stars. As children we were never allowed to touch them. Only my mom was allowed to put them on the tree, and they would be the last thing she put on the tree. It was only the year before she passed away that I was allowed to decorate the tree with the stars, because she could no longer do it. I still follow her tradition: the stars are the last thing I put on the tree.
Now I am going to write about my father’s candle holders. But before you start freaking about having candles on the tree, I am going to write about candles and safety.
Candles on trees are safe—hear me out—so long as you know how to do it correctly!! We made sure we followed certain procedures to ensure our safety. Besides using the appropriate candle holders you see in the picture, we also:
Cut our own tree. This is very important! We always used the freshest tree we could and never bought a precut tree (those precut trees have sometimes been cut weeks or even months ahead.) We would cut it as late as we could, and we also would leave it outside as late as we could. My dad would check the tree’s water daily once it was inside.
Made sure the branches would appropriately support the candle holders. That meant we would spend a lot of time searching for a tree that had branches that spread out wide. My mom always insisted on spruce trees, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other varieties that are appropriate. We loved our spruce trees! The candle holders would be the last thing my dad put on the tree, and he would also make sure to relocate any ornaments he thought were too close to the candle holders.
Put a couple of buckets of water close by just in case, but we never used them. And we never left the candles unattended!
As children, we always thought that people who left their electric lights lit on their tree when they left their house were the ones who weren’t being very safe.
Anyway, I am not trying to convince you to do it yourself, but just to reassure you that I was never in any danger.
As I said, the candle holders were my dad’s (one and only) tree decorating job. He used to be very picky about it, adjusting and readjusting the candle holders if he thought they weren’t perfect. In the last few years before his death as his dementia worsened, I took over this job. The last time we had candles on the tree was the last year that he celebrated Christmas at the house. Since then I haven’t had the heart to put them on anymore; they remind me too much of my father.
My daughter said this year that she missed the tradition of burning the last candles down on New Year’s. We used to make a game out of it, each one picking the one that they thought would be the first to burn down. A warm memory for sure.
You wouldn’t think that this ornament is one of my favourites, but it is. Maybe to your eyes it doesn’t look very special, but it reminds me of my mother and how she did a very special thing for me. This is the ornament that I begged and begged my mom to buy. Now my mom didn’t ever really splurge on many things. She had four kids and had lived through WWII as a child, and so she tended to be very frugal. I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, and I still remember being in either Simpsons or Hudson’s Bay, and going to look at the ornament over and over. I also still remember the expression on her face when I asked her to buy it, which I knew normally meant “no”! What possessed her to indulge this wish I will never know, but I will always remember how I felt at her uncharacteristically buying this ornament for me.
Last year I thought I had lost it! I mean I’ll always have the memory, but the mouse ornament is a good reminder to me every year when I put it on the tree. This year, when I was rummaging through my reorganized boxes, I found it again!
When I travel I like to collect ornaments that remind me of my travels. The hat is from P.E.I. this year. The Russian doll is one of a set from our brief trip to Moscow several years ago. I love unpacking the ornaments and being reminded of our trips over the years.
I love to collect wooden ornaments, especially German ones, although I used to love to buy them at the now defunct store “White Rose” too. Now my daughter and I have a tradition of buying one wooden ornament each at one of my favourite festivals, the Christkindl Market in Kitchener.
Some of them come from the special Erzgebirge region in the east part of Germany, which is known for its handicrafts, such as wooden pyramids, nutcrackers, and incense smokers.
I have a lot of “favourites”, but the cuckoo clock is one of my all time favourites, perhaps because it reminds me of the cuckoo clock we had in our kitchen when I was a child. I also am crazy for nutcrackers. (So in other words I am cuckoo for cuckoo clocks and nuts for nutcrackers. Hee hee.)
I hope that you have enjoyed peeking into my Christmas “Cabinet of Curiosities”. Do you have a favourite ornament? I’d love if you left a comment or picture for me.
I don’t normally join reading challenges—I don’t need any motivation to read—but when I saw this challenge, I knew it was perfect for me. You see, although I read a lot, almost all the books that I read come from the library, which means that I have a bunch of books that I own that go largely ignored.
The books I own come from several different places. Some are gifts, some have come from a local little library (exchanging other books for them), some are purchases from the used book sale at the library. A few I bought myself but then put them on a shelf to be read later. Still others I won. I even have ones that belonged to my parents!
I had a lot of fun logging the titles. Better yet, now I know what I own! They are scattered among several book cases on two floors, which is probably one reason that I forget about them.
In the end, not including the books I know I am getting for Christmas (2), I have 118 books on my TBR pile! I own more nonfiction books than fiction books. A lot of them are writing craft books, and there are also a lot of memoirs.
As this is my first reading challenge, I have decided that I am going to climb Mount Blanc, which is reading 24 books from my TBR pile, roughly 2 per month. I am hoping to read even more, but reading this minimum amount will mean that I will climbed 1/5 of my TBR pile.
The challenge runs from January 1-December 31, 2020. You may sign up at any time in 2020. If you are interested in joining, then you can click here for more information.
I am really looking forward to this challenge. Feel free to check this page periodically, as I will post which books I did read.
Ah, it’s the end of the year, and it’s time for the “best of” lists. I decided that I would share mine with a focus on my Canadian favourites. Canadian books are amazing, but alas they often find themselves overshadowed.
So why aren’t Canadian books read more? This article sheds a bit more light on the reasons.
There are so many Canadian books that I have read that didn’t get a mention, as well as so many that I am wanting to read. However, these are a few that caught my eye this year:
Favourite Picture Book: “Small in the City” by Sydney Smith
There are few books that make me cry, although oddly enough, I am known to cry at happy endings instead of sad endings. Does anyone else do this? This book though, although the ending is ambivalent, did make me cry. I was happy to hear that it won the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature (illustration). It’s so subtle and complex!
Favourite Memoir/Autobiography: “To Speak for the Trees” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger
I love nature and in particular trees, and Beresford-Kroeger’s message that trees matter really resonates with me.
This book swept me away on its journey of nature and spirituality. The author takes us back to her childhood where what she learned about the ancient Celtic teachings informed her later scientific concepts. The second half is all about the Ogham alphabet, something I hadn’t even heard of before I read the book. I don’t reread books much, but I just might reread this one.
Favourite Graphic Novels: “Three Thieves” series by Scott Chantler
This series isn’t new—the last of the seven book series was published in 2016—but I didn’t discover it until recently. I loved the series so much I read them all in one great big gulp!
Dessa is on a mission to find her kidnapped twin brother. With the help of Topper and Fisk, she tries to find his kidnapper, Greyfalcon, while at the same time trying to outrun the Queen’s “Dragons’. There are so many twists and turns in this series by Waterloo writer Scott Chandler.
Favourite Middle Grade Book: “Stand on the Sky” by Erin Bow
I loved the movie “The Eagle Huntress”. So when I saw this book, I thought, “Wow, did she write it for me?” The book captivated me from beginning to end. No wonder it won a Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature (text).
I got to express my appreciation to the author—yelling it out of the window of my car—while she was crossing the street to do her introduction at Margaret Atwood’s talk at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener, where she recited some fantastic poetry. Bow certainly is multitalented!
Follow Erin Bow on Twitter (@erinbowbooks) for some fascinating peeks into her writing process and the Governor General’s award ceremony.
Favourite Drabbles Book: “donkey drabbles”
I would be rather amiss if I didn’t mention a book dear to my heart in which I had a drabble published. The book “donkey drabbles” is a fundraising initiative for one of my favourite places, “The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada”. You can read about the book here.
As well, I attended some fabulous talks and festivals this year:
These writers I never got a chance to blog about, but I enjoyed their talks just as much:
Margaret Atwood, the grand dame of Canadian literature
Tara Mondou, author of “Little Girl in the Mirror”
“Zwei Writers” Heather Wright and Lori Wolf-Heffner
Eric Walters at “Telling Tales” when he gave up the stage to the audience, so we could shelter from the rain while he stood out in the rain under his umbrella. You can view my picture here.
Jess Keating spelled my daughter’s name wrong when she signed her book. While she may be embarrassed by this, I was impressed that the quick thinking author turned the misspelled name into a doodle, and then wrote my daughter’s correctly spelled name after the doodle. My daughter loved it! I hope that I can remain this cool under pressure.
Favourite Bookish Journey: On the Trail of L.M. Montgomery, P.E.I.
Fantastic! I enjoyed every minute of discovering all the sites related to L.M. Montgomery and the books she wrote, such as “Anne of Green Gables”.
I am not sure how long this website has been around, but it’s one I recently discovered, and since then I have visited again and again. This is a place where you can “Find your next great Canadian read”. There are regular columns about indie picks, children’s favourites, and writer’s stories. Perhaps it appeals to me so much, because it has lots of lists. I do love lists…
I learned about this initiative when I was at the “Telling Tales Festival” in September. According to the website, “We challenge the nation to “Read Canadian” for 15 minutes and to share their experience at their library, in their school, with their families and friends, or on social media.” I hope that you participate on February 19, 2020, so we can spread the word about our Canadian books and authors.
How about you? Do you have any Canadian favourites you’d like to share?