The other day I was thinking about telling stories to a mixed group of children. Many stories are aimed at either girls or boys, but how about a story which appeals to both? Although there are many non-gender specific options, I found two fun books which intentionally mix the common gender stereotypes of boys’ and girls’ stories. These books are great stories in their own right, as well as interesting comments on mixed-up storytelling and gender stereotyping.
Daddy’s Zigzagging Bedtime Story by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
How can Daddy keep both his daughter and son interested in their bedtime story? By creating a princess who drives a monster truck, and a unicorn who defeats space aliens with cupcakes. The energetic illustrations compliment the enthusiastic storytelling, both of the father and of the author.
Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O’Malley
Aimed at a slightly older audience, in this story a preteen girl and boy take turns narrating their story. The princess turns out to rock, and the cool motorcycle dude resigns himself to becoming a prince as they save the world together. The disparate illustration styles mirror the different storytelling voices, and the ending will bring a smile to everyone’s face. (Submitted by Rebecca).
For those who like mysteries, but not the blood, guts, gore and guns type, this book is for you. Set in an “almost” ghost town, comprised of one knitting shop, a garage and a grocery store/café; 1 accidental death plus 1 murder equals many many secrets held in this small town. Josie arrives in town to care for her crotchety great-uncle who needs an extra hand with farm chores until he is back on his feet again. Josie is definitely NOT the country girl as she hails from New York, and is taking a leave from a fashion designer job. Her uncle recently lost his wife Cora, in an accident and she was the sole proprietor of the knitting shop – aptly named Miss Marple Knits. The remaining members of the Charity Knitters Association seem to be tying knots in every murder theory Josie has. Told from a knitter’s perspective, (includes several knitting patterns), this cozy mystery shows that when you band together, you can get things done, including solving a murder or two! First in a series called “ A Tangled Web Mystery”. (Submitted by Jamie).
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Today will be Different by Maria Semple is a fast-paced, adventurous, fun read. It is full of strong characters, edgy humour, crazy plot twists and delightfully descriptive text that immerse you in Seattle, New Orleans, and Aspen. In the story, Eleanor Flood, a middle-aged animator and mom of a precocious eight-year-old boy living in Seattle wakes up one day deciding that today is the day she will get out of her rut and insists that today will be different. In fact, it turns into one misadventure after another as she tries to solve the mystery of her absent husband and in the search reflects on her life and her troubled relationship with her estranged sister. Although a quick, fast paced read, Semple is able to explore the relationships between this flawed, yet immensely likeable character and her significant others to a satisfying depth. (Submitted by Michelle).
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A friend recommended The Silent Wife after I enjoyed reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
The story is told in alternating voices of main characters, Todd, and his common-law wife Jodi. The couple’s seemingly perfect relationship, which includes flourishing careers and a luxury waterfront condo, unravels in the aftermath of Todd’s adulterous lifestyle.
Both characters are unlikeable. But the author’s meticulous account of Jodi’s unspoken turmoil, set against the picture perfect view from the calm of her tony surroundings, kept me turning the pages.
It is unfortunate that this Canadian author passed away from cancer just months before her first novel was published. (Submitted by TS).
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Jia by Hyejin Kim was one of the most fascinating books I ever read about North Korea. It tells a story of a little girl, whose mother came from a very prominent family, but her father did not. As a result, the whole family was sent to a Gulag in the mountains. The father disappears and the mother dies during Jia’s birth. Jia’s paternal grandparents are given jobs at the gulag, courtesy of the maternal grandparents, and take care of their two little granddaughters. After a chance meeting with a South Korean soldier, they manage to smuggle little Jia to the capital city of Pyongyang, in hopes she can find her maternal grandparents and have a chance to live a better life. She does find them but they want nothing to do with her, so she ends up staying in the orphanage. She becomes a dancer and eventually moves to a very good job at an international hotel, joining a famous dancing ensemble. She becomes a beautiful dancer herself, just like her mother, whose name is not even mentioned in the book, and she falls in love with a young soldier. But when she shares with him where she came from, and that she’s not who he thinks she is, he is shocked and plans to report her. So, in order to avoid prosecution, Jia has to escape Pyongyang and cross over to China, where she falls into the hands of women traffickers and only a lucky meeting with a kind-hearted stranger makes it possible for her to survive. This book was very different from other books I have read on North Korea, because it is about living in Pyongyang and leading a somewhat prominent life. It was a very heartbreaking read, and I recommend that you have tissues handy. (Submitted by Monika).
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Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline. Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.
The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:
- we are not alone,
- having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
- in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.
(Submitted by KS).
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Posted in Biography, Health, Humour, Memoir, Non-fiction
Tagged Book Reviews, Books, Grief, humour, Library, Memoir, Public Library
Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence, winner of the 2016 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, is a lovely picture book for anyone’s collection. However, it is especially relevant for teachers looking for First Nations materials for the new BC Ministry of Education requirements, or for anyone who has read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and wants to dig deeper into the stories of Canada’s First Nations. It introduces the topic of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in a format that is accessible to young children.
The story of a young girl growing up is told in the voices of the girl and her missing mother. The lovely, wistful illustrations reflect the emotions of the daughter who is missing her mother, and the mother who can no longer raise her daughter. The sweet and touching relationship between the girl and the grandmother who raises her prevents the story from becoming too overwhelmingly sad. An interesting addition to the text is a Cree glossary of words which are both included in the text and hidden in the illustrations. More information and statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada are included at the end of the book for those who want to go a bit deeper. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Canada’s relationship to its indigenous people. (Submitted by Rebecca).
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