Category Archives: Children’s Literature

Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop! by Roald Dahl

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‘Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
On everything he wanted to?
Great Scott! It simply wouldn’t do!
However long this pig might live,
We’re positive he’d never give
Even the smallest bit of fun
Or happiness to anyone.
So what we do in cases such
As this, we use the gentle touch,
And carefully we take the brat
And turn him into something that
Will give great pleasure to us all–
A doll, for instance, or a ball,
Or marbles or a rocking horse.
But this revolting boy, of course,
Was so unutterably vile,
So greedy, foul, and infantile
He left a most disgusting taste
Inside our mouths, and so in haste
We chose a thing that, come what may,
Would take the nasty taste away.
‘Come on!’ we cried, ‘The time is ripe
To send him shooting up the pipe!
He has to go! It has to be!’
And very soon, he’s going to see
Inside the room to which he’s gone
Some funny things are going on.
But don’t, dear children, be alarmed;
Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
Although, of course, we must admit
He will be altered quite a bit.
He’ll be quite changed from what he’s been,
When he goes through the fudge machine:
Slowly, the wheels go round and round,
The cogs begin to grind and pound;
A hundred knives go slice, slice, slice;
We add some sugar, cream, and spice;
We boil him for a minute more,
Until we’re absolutely sure
That all the greed and all the gall
Is boiled away for once and all.
Then out he comes! And now! By grace!
A miracle has taken place!
This boy, who only just before
Was loathed by men from shore to shore,
This greedy brute, this louse’s ear,
Is loved by people everywhere!
For who could hate or bear a grudge
Against a luscious bit of fudge?’

Along with Dr. Suess, Roald Dahl had a huge impact on my imagination growing up.  While both engaged in wonderful word play and literary gymnastics, the dark undercurrent of Dahl’s characters was and is fascinating. I frequently purchase a copy of his “Revolting Rhymes” for children. Watching a child react to the ridiculousness and audacity of the actions of the characters and seeing their faces range from shock to laughter is like sharing a guilty secret.

Roald_Dahl

Solomon Grundy by Unknown

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The_Tales_of_Mother_Goose_-_coverSolomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday:
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy.

Charles Perrault published the first edition of his Tales of Mother Goose in France in 1695, which contained the first stories which we would consider “fairy tales”. The edition was translated into English and published in 1729, to immediate success. John Newberry collected the original set of nursery rhymes in English around 1760 but it was his successor, Thomas Carnan who first printed the collection of rhymes in either 1780 or 1781 under the title, Mother Goose’s Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle.  The origin of the phrase or personage of Mother Goose is widely debated and as yet unknown.

Interview with Karen Autio

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Karen-Autio-Author Karen Autio grew up in Nipigon, Ontario.  She began writing and illustrating stories as a child.  Her love of words continued as she grew up; along with being an author, she is also an editor and calligrapher.  Karen likes to collect objects with stories; it is this love that inspired Karen to write her historical trilogy which began with Second Watch.  You can come and meet Karen at the Waverley Library on October 9th; she will be sharing the final book of her trilogy, Sabotage, with us there.

Shauna Kosoris: Second Watch, the first book in your trilogy, was inspired by your grandmother giving you a silver spoon.  Her friend claimed that spoon had been on the Titanic.  How did that story lead to a trilogy of books?

Karen Autio: I wrote Second Watch thinking it was a standalone book. Shortly before it was released, my publisher asked me what other book ideas I had. That’s when I first realized I wasn’t ready to stop writing my characters’ stories. My grandmother, while quarantined in a tuberculosis sanatorium, wrote letters to her baby, my mother. This personal family story inspired the continuation of the Mäki family’s journey in my second book, Saara’s Passage. Then in my research for writing Saara’s Passage, I discovered that what I thought was a tall tale I’d heard growing up in Nipigon was actually true. There really were German spies at work in my hometown in 1915 plotting to destroy the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge. This was irresistible fodder for more research and then writing the third book in the trilogy, Sabotage.

SK: Have you found out the spoon’s actual history?  

KA: Yes—and it’s completely different from what I expected! Come to one of my presentations and I’ll explain.

SK: I’ll have to stop by when you’re at Waverley this October!  Second Watch deals with the Empress of Ireland tragedy.  What was the most interesting fact you discovered about the ship while researching for the book?

KA: The first passengers I learned about who were on the final voyage of the Empress of Ireland were Hilma Kivistö and her two children, from Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay). They were relatives of my grandmother’s friend from whom she’d received the silver spoon. Hilma was Finnish, and as I researched the Empress, I learned of several other Finnish passengers from Port Arthur and Fort William. Eventually I discovered a website listing 91 passengers involved in the shipwreck who were destined for Finland—all of whom were travelling in Third Class.

What amazed me was their survival rate. Of the 91, 21 were rescued—23%. This was a higher percentage than all of Third Class, and even all of Second Class (both were 19%). I attribute this to their Finnish sisu— strength, drive, and perseverance.

SK: Wow, that’s quite amazing.  So the second book in the trilogy, Saara’s Passage, deals with growing up during difficult times: Saara must deal with tuberculosis in her family, the growing threat of WW1, and her Post-Traumatic Stress from the Empress of Ireland.  Was it difficult to weave all three of these issues together into your narrative?

KA: Yes, there was definitely a lot to hold in my mind and consistently apply in the writing. As I researched, I immersed myself in the time period and imagined myself as Saara dealing with all of these challenges. The most difficult part of writing Saara’s Passage was the personal connection, thinking about my grandmother experiencing being quarantined in the Toronto sanatorium for months on end, and then in a separate building at home in Nipigon. To imagine the reality of her being able to see her infant (my mother) from a distance, but have no contact with her, was heart wrenching.

SK: What can you tell me about the third book, Sabotage, which came out last fall?

KA: Sabotage deals with spies, sabotage, enemy aliens, and internment in Canada during the First World War. My trilogy tells the adventures and mishaps of the Finnish-immigrant Sabotage coverMäki family living in Port Arthur in 1914-15. Readers discover both how much has changed since the early 1900s and what remains timeless, such as fickle friends, new-immigrant experiences, the struggle to do the right thing, and family dynamics.

Finding out that the plot to destroy the Nipigon River railway bridge was actually true inspired me to hunt for more information about wartime sabotage in Canada. What I learned astounded me. I turned my research into this adventure novel in which the courage and wits of siblings Saara and John Mäki are put to the test. Sabotage is suitable for any age of reader from grade 4 up and is of equal interest to boys and girls. Partly that’s due to the story being told by both Saara and her younger brother John, in alternating chapters.

Sabotage was:

  •         a 2014 Arthur Ellis Award finalist for Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book Finalist
  •         shortlisted for the 2015 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award
  •         listed by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre as a “Best Book for Children”

SK: How much time did you spend researching the books of your trilogy?

KA: Years! Several years! I never have the freedom to research solidly, so it’s piecemeal and therefore difficult to tally the time.

SK: What are you working on now that your trilogy is finished?

KA: When I’m not busy copy editing fiction or non-fiction manuscripts for other writers as a freelance editor, I’m working on my next books. I’m excited that my first picture book, called Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon, has been accepted for publication by Sono Nis Press. It explores the history of where I live in the Okanagan Valley, B.C., in a unique way. I have the incredible opportunity to collaborate on this project with the illustrator, Loraine Kemp, of Kelowna. I’m also in the process of researching local history for a novel set in early Kelowna.

SK: Congratulations, that’s very exciting!  Thinking of history, you’ve said that you like collecting objects with stories.  What’s your favourite object that you’ve collected so far?

KA: One of my favourites is the Finnish-style wooden rocking chair that my great-grandfather built in 1939. He made it as a gift for his daughter, my grandmother who gave me the silver spoon. The rocking chair then belonged to my mother for several years before she passed it on to me. Its extra-long runners make for an exciting ride! As a child, I loved to rock it to its limits at Mummu’s house (which always made her nervous, despite trusting her father’s craftsmanship).

SK: How did growing up in Nipigon affect you?

KA: In Nipigon, I was surrounded by Finlanders! My grandparents shared their Finnish heritage with me by teaching me to bake coffee bread (pulla) and making sure we had plenty of pickerel and a hot sauna during summers at the lake. Growing up on the northern shore of Lake Superior instilled in me a love of water and now my favourite activities are walking or cycling along Mission Creek and getting out on Okanagan Lake in our canoe.

SK: I’d like to finish up by asking you some questions about what you read.  Is there a book or author that inspired you to write?

KA: I can’t pick only one! Going way back, I have fond memories of the Dr. Seuss Beginner’s Dictionary that played an important role in turning me into a lover of words. Julie Lawson’s historical novel Goldstone about Swedish immigrants in the early 1900s in British Columbia was an inspirational model for me as I was writing Second Watch.

SK: Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?

KA: I’ve given this a lot of thought, but haven’t come up with a single book or author. Everyone is so diverse, with unique interests. The important thing is to read regularly and read Finnish Rocking Chairwidely. A book I would highly recommend for writers—one that I frequently reread—is Take Joy: A Book for Writers by Jane Yolen.

SK: Finally, what are you currently reading?

KA: In a recent online author interview, I was asked to think back to my childhood to recall a particular author who was a favourite. My answer was Rosemary Sutcliff. Her historical novels drew me into their time periods and brought history to life. As a result, I’m currently reading her book The Mark of the Horse Lord.

Interview with Jessica Young (Author of “My Blue is Happy”)

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IMG_6122Jessica Young grew up in Thunder Bay.  After she had her first child she became inspired to write picture books.  My Blue is Happy is her first book, with more coming in 2015.  Jessica will be visiting the Waverley Library on July 24th.  Children are invited to meet Jessica to explore how colours make them feel; they’re welcome to wear their favourite colour.

Shauna Kosoris: My Blue is Happy is such a cute book.  What inspired you to write it?

Jessica Young: The story took a while to evolve. But I think I started it around 2008 – at least that’s the earliest version I can find. I’ve always been really affected by colours. After I started teaching art, I remember looking at paintings from Picasso’s Blue Period and thinking about blues music and how things like that colour people’s perceptions of blue. I wondered how a child might react to finding out other people’s views of her favourite colour. I wish I could remember the moment the title came to me, because that was really the beginning of the story.

SK: Are the friends and family of the main character based off of your own family (and their thoughts about colours)?  

JY: The idea of blue being happy came to me first, and my blue is generally happy, although my ideas about colour change depending on the variation of the colour and what day it is! For the rest of the book, I wrote many versions of each colour, with different associations and images. Then I chose certain ones and revised to create a sequence that fit into the course of the main character’s day. I also tried to pick versions of each colour that would add variety and contrast to the text and provide an opportunity for interest in the images.

SK: What was the hardest part of writing My Blue is Happy?

JY: The theme of the book is so basic and conceptual, there were a lot of different directions I could have taken it — and did — before settling on the final structure. I got many suggestions about revising it, and they varied widely. It’s only three hundred and something words, but it took a long time to write and to revise. (I counted eighty-nine saved versions, but there were many more changes that I didn’t save.)

SK: The direction you chose seems to have really resonated with people.  I see that My Blue is Happy won the 2014 Marion Vannett Ridgway Award, which recognizes books by debut authors.  What was it like to win that award?

JY: I was thrilled and amazed to learn that My Blue won the Ridgway Award. It’s an incredible feeling to have your book recognized in such a way, to feel like someone noticed all your work even though it appears simple and almost inevitable in its final form. There have been some fantastic debut books this year and wonderful winners in previous years, and I was really honored to be in such company. It also made a number of lists, and that’s been fantastic as well.

MY BLUE cover final

SK: My Blue is Happy was illustrated by Catia Chien.  What was it like working with her?

JY: As in most cases with picture book writers and illustrators, I didn’t work directly with her, but it was really amazing to see the book come together, the images working in partnership with the text. She has a really ethereal, atmospheric quality to her work, which I love.

SK: Can you tell me anything about Spy Guy, which is due out in 2015?

JY: Spy Guy — the Not-So-Secret Agent is the story of a boy who’s not a very good spy but who doesn’t give up in his search for the secret to spying. I’ve recently seen the final illustrations by Charles Santoso, who lives in Australia, and I’m really excited about them.

SK: How do you choose or find your illustrators?

JY: Typically, with picture books, the publishing house buys the text then pairs it with an illustrator according to what they envision for the book. Sometimes the author is involved in that process, to varying degrees. For all of my books, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to share my vision as well as some input. I’ve also had amazing teams working on them, including the editors, who worked with me on the texts, and art directors, who found the illustrators and worked with them to bring the texts to life. The illustrators I’ve been paired with have really taken my texts to another level with their fantastic images. I have several more books coming up, and I can’t wait to see them in their final forms!

SK: So what are you working on now?

JY: Right now I’m working on a chapter book series called Finley Flowers, about a creative girl and her friends. The first two books, Finley Flowers — Original Recipe and Finley Flowers — Nature Calls, are also due out next spring, and the next two will come out in the fall of 2015.

SK:  Next year’s going to be a very exciting year for you!  I’d like to finish off with a couple of questions about what you read.  What book or author inspired you to write?

JY: I think that every book I’ve ever enjoyed or have been touched by has probably inspired me to write on some level. But some from my childhood that I particularly loved and that have stuck with me are: a Helen Oxenbury-illustrated version of The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear; Ferdinand; a lot of Sendak, especially the Nutshell Library stories; George and Martha; a lot of Shel Silverstein; Crictor; a Lisbeth Zwerger-illustrated version of The Gift of the Magi; Island of the Blue Dolphins; The Secret Garden; A Wrinkle in Time; Tuck Everlasting; and the Narnia series. A little more recently, after I had my first child, a book called On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier inspired me to try to put some ideas into a story. That was my first real attempt at writing.

SK: Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?

JY: Such a hard question! I think everyone should read the books they’re drawn to, and there are so many great ones to choose from. I know that sounds evasive, but I really think it’s true. There are a great number of quality books being published at all age levels, and certain ones will call to certain readers and will become personal “windows and mirrors” for them to view the world around them and reflect on themselves. Librarians, teachers, and booksellers are wonderful resources for getting the right books into the right hands.

SK: That’s very true.  Finally, what are you currently reading?

JY: I don’t get a chance to read many books for adults, but right now I’m partway through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. As far as books for young people, I recently read We Were Liars, a young adult novel by E. Lockhart, and I’m constantly reading picture books. Recent ones include My Teacher is a Monster — No, I Am Not by Peter Brown, Maple by Lori Nichols, Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio (and illustrated by the amazing Christian Robinson), and The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara.

 

TBPL Staff Poetry Favourites ” Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll

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JABBERWOCKY

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.
JABBERWOCK
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Lewis Carroll  1832–1898

I have a great fondness for the nonsense poem about the Jabberwock which was part of the Lewis Carroll book Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. The made-up language is so full and rich and fun that it made me wish I spoke that language and could meet a Jabberwock, or  a Bandersnatch or at least a beamish boy.
Angela

Yesterday’s Dead By Pat Bourke

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yesterdaydead“If all the adults are all sick, who’s in charge?”

This is the tag-line for an absorbing children’s novel by Canadian author Pat Bourke.It is set in Toronto in 1918 just as the first world war is ending and the deadly Spanish Flu hits the city. The first half depicts the challenges faced by Meredith, a 13 year old girl who left school in order to take a position as a maid in a manor in Rosedale. She must support her family after her father is killed oversees. Meredith’s tale is historically accurate in nature and her bravery comes from being determined to do her best despite difficult circumstances like a condescending butler, rude children and work that doesn’t end. The second half of the novel tells the gripping story about what happens when the flu comes to the household and the adults and children start to succumb. The father is a doctor quarantined at the hospital when the cook, the young boy, the butler and finally, the young man of the house, all take ill and suffer varying degrees of delirium and distress. No one is allowed in or out of the house so Meredith must wrestle with the responsibility of making life or death decisions. Before it died out, the Spanish flu killed an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 persons across Canada. The author is able to vividly describe what such an outbreak would have been like, down to including details like some of the bizarre folk remedies and “cures”. It is by no means a grim book as there is humour, character growth and redemption in this novel as well. The author’s obvious research and vividly rendered characters and scenes bring this historical novel to life for children and youth.

Angela Meady is the Head of Children’s & Youth Services at the Thunder Bay Public Library