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Bookends: Three books with magical tales April 16, 2018

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Bookends: Three books with magical tales

By Dan Davidson

December 20, 2017

– 665 words –


Classic Storybook Fables

Classic Fables

Retold and Illustrated by Scott Gustafson


84 pages




This beautifully illustrated book is much larger that the average picture book and ha s much more complex text. In a note at the end, Gustafson cites the original sources for all eight of the tales he has chosen for this book, his fourth foray into this anthology style territory. In this case he read many versions of the stories and then retold them in his own style.

“The Ugly Duckling” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” were originally told by Hans Christian Andersen.

“Beauty and the Beast” was written by Gabrielle-Susanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

“The Crow and the Pitcher”, “The boy who Cried Wolf” and “The Mice in Council” are attributed to the storyteller we know as Aesop.

“The Little Red Hen” is said to be Russian in origin.

“The Boy Who Went to the North Wind” is from Scandinavia.

The fashion in children’s books these days is to be quire cartoony, and there’s nothing wring with that, but it’s nice to see a really well painted version once in awhile. Gustafson works in oils.


Magic in a Year

The Magic in a Year

Written by Frank Boylan

Illustrated by Sally Garland

Flowerpot Press

32 pages



“Every year has months and seasons.

I love each for different reasons.

Turn the page and you will see

What makes each month special to me.”

Rhyming books are particularly fun for the 4 to 8 year olds that this book was written for, but can be fun for older kids as well.


Boylan’s rhymes take us through the year, with each double-page highlighting a new month. Garland’s illustrations, dome in a combination of acrylic paint and pencil, tweaked with a variety of digital tools, are lively and colourful, suited to the poems.

On the cover, Boylan credits Sara Coleridge for inspiration and her 1834 poe

m “The Garden Year” is reproduced on the final pages. Boylan has used the idea and the meter of the original poem in creating his text.

Ther author lives in Canada, though he was born in Ireland. The illustrator lives in Glasgow, making this book a very international creation.


Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the MuseumMr. Owliver copy

Written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken

Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

32 pages


Carolyn Bracken is perhaps best known for her artwork on the books in The Magic Schoolbus series of educational adventure books. Here, she undertakes the task of providing a children’s primer in art history.

Mr. Owliver is the night watchman at the Animaltown Art Museum and each night he wanders through the rooms, reacquainting himself with his “friends” the paintings. The fun of this is that all the paintings are animalized versions of real works, such as the “Mona Lizard” by Leonardo Da Vinci, “American Gothic” by Grant Woodchuck, and so on.

Sometimes it’s the name of the painting that has changed; sometimes it’s the name of the artist. At any rate, the person who used to be in the frame is now a different species.

The mystery in this little tale is that one night – the night of Mr. Owl’s birthday – all the characters in the paintings have vanished, and there is nothing left but their backdrops and settings.

I’ll leave it to you to learn where they eventually turn up, because I wasn’t to focus on the last four pages of the book, This is where Bracken credits all the works she has altered for her book, gives their names, who actually created them, and where they might be found. They are all staples in any standard art history book and, of course, could easily be found these days by typing their right names into a search engine.

Finally, the last two pages provide a basic art history timeline, from the 1500s to just before World War I.

It’s a great idea and it’s really well executed.







Bookends: A Tale of Difficult Childhoods April 16, 2018

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Bookends: A Tale of Difficult ChildhoodsMeadowlark

By Dan Davidson

December 6, 2017

– 685 words –


by Wendi Stewart

250 pages

NeWest Press


Childhood isn’t always easy; sometimes it’s nearly impossible. Even the best of families have their problems. The three families in this coming of age novel are worse than most, in so many ways.

Wendi Stewart’s first published novel – shortlisted for the KOBO Emerging Writer Prize – follows the growth of three children who live in difficult circumstances.

We begin with Rebecca, who starts out with an almost perfect family: a mother she adores, a father who loves his family, and a baby brother she’s not quite sure about yet, maybe a bit jealous of. She loses all of them when the family car goes through the lake ice on their way home from their wilderness cabin.

She is the only one her father, with her mother’s help, manages to save, and he is horribly damaged, both physically and emotionally, by the experience. Rebecca has to begin to run the family almost before she starts elementary school, and her responsibilities simply increase as she gets older.

At school she meets Chuck, the youngest (and not really wanted) son of a terribly dysfunctional family. He has an abusive father, and an emotionally absent mother. When his much older sisters still lived at home, they treated him badly. Only his Gran, who actually owns the farm they live on, is really there for him in terms of support and nurture.

He and Rebecca, both outsiders at school, form a strong bond. They like the woods; they like horses; they defend each other. Of the two, Rebecca is stronger and has the ability to stand up to and repel bullies.

Into their lives comes Lizzie, the adopted aboriginal daughter of a very white, prim and proper lady named Charlotte. There doesn’t seem to be any question about her love for Elizabeth (she refuses to use the nickname) but she is an oddly reclusive woman and, as the book moves on, it becomes clear that there is something wrong with her mind.

Lizzie has diabetes and Charlotte tends to overprotect her as a result of this, at least until her Alzheimer’s reduces her capabilities as a parent, and Lizzie has to deal with a reversal in their positions as she becomes a teenager.

We follow the kids from Rebecca’s pre-school years until they graduate high school. The early part of the book is almost entirely from Rebecca’s point of view. When the other two are introduced, we begin with a focus on each of them, but Rebecca comes into their lives and the focus moves back and forth.

It’s interesting to see her from their perspectives. She is the solid rock of their little trio, and yet their presence strengthens and changes her in many ways. Her father becomes less and less capable as the years advance, and she has to grow up so fast it’s almost painful to watch. Yet she succeeds, and it becomes clear that her friends are her real family.

Stewart comes to this book from a farming background in Ontario, and now owns a farm in rural Nova Scotia, so her use of the setting rings very true. When she was young she wanted to be a farmer, but her family insisted that she get an education and she ended up with a career in accounting, returning to her first desire later in life.

Some of the people in her life have had the problems she has grafted on to her characters.

The book comes to a natural conclusion, with the three of them surviving high school and making a plan their immediate future together. Stewart says that was all she originally intended to write about them, but many of her readers have pointed out that there’s lots of space for a sequel. She likes her three children a lot, and actually hated to finish writing the book, so she is giving it some thought.

Wendi Stewart is the current writer-in-residence at Berton House and will had home at the end of December.



Bookends: Little Books about Feelings March 17, 2018

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Bookends: Little Books about Feelings

By Dan Davidson

October 18, 2017

– 676 words –


Snow Friends 

Snow Friends

Story by M. Christina Butler


Illustrations by Tina Macnaughton

Skyhorse Publishing

18 pages



As the first snow comes down to stay, it seems an appropriate time for this little board book.

Little Bear wakes up to find the world has been blanketed in snow. He plays in it for a while, doing all sorts of fun things you can do my yourself, but then he gets lonely, so he decides to make himself a friend, a snowman.

While he is making his snowman, he is joined by a young Otter and a Rabbit. Together they make the “best snowman ever” and then they spend the rest of the day playing together.

As evening comes on, they suddenly realize that once they go home their snowman will be all alone, so they make him a smaller snowman to be his friend.

They watch as the two snowmen turn silver in the moonlight and decide that it’s a good thing to have friends.


This is a clever little story with friendly feeling illustrations.


I Am (Not) Scared

I Am (Not) Scared

Story by Anna King

Illustrations by Christopher Weyant

Two Lions

32 pages


I’m not quite sure what the two fuzzy looking critters in this book are. One is small and purple; the other is large and orange. The question that puzzles them both is whether or not they are scared. Just why they might be becomes clearer as you turn the pages. They are trying to decide if they will ride the Loop of Doom at the fair.

The topic of scaredness leads them to a discussion of things that are probably scarier than the rollercoaster: snakes, hairy spiders, hot lava, fried ants and green aliens. Just then, the roller coaster comes to a stop with a frazzled looking snake in one of the cars.

“Let’s be scared together,” says the orange critter, and so all three of them ride the loop, are well and truly scared, but come through it safely and decide to do it again.

They must have better inner ear balance and stronger stomachs than I have. I haven’t been on any rides like than since my kids were young, and don’t have any plans to. Still, the book is fun, and you can see why things might work out that way.

The creators of this book are a husband and wife team. There have been two other (Not) books with the same characters, and the first one received the Theodore Seuss Geisel Award.


Lucy Loves Sherman

Lucy Loves Sherman

Written by Catherine Bailey

Illustrated by Meg Waters

Sky Pony Press

32 pages


Lucy and her Nana are visiting Flotsam’s Fish Market when Lucy met Sherman the Lobster, waiting to be sold in the big tank. Lucy falls in love immediately and begs Nana to buy him as a pet. Nothing doing, Nana says, no way.

It’s a little bit later when Lucy finds out that Sherman is destined to become a lobster dinner at a local restaurant. She is horrified and starts a one girl campaign to save his life. After all Sherman was an eighty year old specimen, weighing in at 18 pounds.

Her campaign becomes front page news and people flock to the store to see the famous lobster, which actually works out so well for Mr. Flotsam’s business that he gives in and lets Lucy take the lobster home.

She has a still better idea, and sets Sherman free in the ocean.

Apparently this story was inspired by some real life lobster rescue operation along the Atlantic coast of the USA. The book ends with a page of lobster facts, except for one rather crucial one.

.Sherman is depicted throughout the book as being red, which we all know is what happens to green, orange, blue, grey or yellow lobsters after they have been cooked. Apparently live red lobsters are one in thirty million. Maybe that was another reason Sherman was special, but the book doesn’t say that.




Bookends: A trio of animal stories about good habits March 17, 2018

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Bookends: A trio of animal stories about good habits

By Dan Davidson

October 11, 2017

– 670 words –


Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite

Mr. Fuzzbuster

Story by Stacy McAnulty

Illustrations by Edward Hemingway

Two Lions

38 pages



Mr. Fuzzbuster, the cat, was quite sure he was Lily’s favorite. She had told him so many times and “they’d been together since he fit in a teacup and she


fit in diapers.” They did many things together and their life together was perfect – until, with the passage of time, four more pets joined the household.

Now, Mr. Fuzzbuster had to share her with a goldfish, a bird, and a lizard, which wasn’t too bad, because they all lived in their habitats and couldn’t do they things he could. But there was also a puppy. And, each of the other animals claimed to be Lily’s favorite.

Mr. Fuzzbuster was so upset not to be her ABSOLUTE favorite that he almost ran away, but them he reconsidered and came to the conclusion that as long as he was her favorite cat it would be alright.

This is a clever little story about sharing; nicely told and humorously illustrated.


Gus’s Garage

Gus's Garage


By Leo Timmers

Gecko Press

28 pages



Gus the Pig has a lot of things in his garage. You’d almost be tempted to call him a hoarder. But the difference is that Gus finds ways to help others with the things he has salvaged, and by the end of the book his garage is just about empty.

Various animals come to see Gus at his garage: a rhino on a motorcycle with a seat that’s too small; a giraffe in a convertible that needs an enclosed he


ating system; a walrus that needs some way to drive while being moisturized; a penguin whose car is just too hot; a rabbit whose truck is just too slow.

To each of them – and I have to say that while this repetition is a bit boring for adult readers, kids will probably like it – Gus chants the same refrain.

“Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job.”

And he swiftly solves each problem, leaving only the need to design a way to clean himself up after all that dirty mechanical work. Of course, he solves that one too.

This book is all big, colourful double page spreads with just a bit of text along the bottom, What I quoted takes up two pages.

This is a translation of a book originally written in Flemish.


Benny Shark Goes to Friend School

Benny Shark


Story by Lynn Rowe Reed

Illustrations by Rhode Montijo

Two Lions

32 pages



Benn Shark is a bully, the result of which is that he has no friends. He can’t even bully the other fish into having anything to do with him. Janice Jellyfish takes pity on him and tells him he needs to go to Friend School.

The following pages are about the lessons the school teaches, the five important rules.

Rule #1. A friend is a good listener.

Rule #2. A friend always tells the truth.

Rule #3. A friends shares.

Rule #4. A friend takes turns.

Rule #5. A friend is a good sport.

Each of the rules has a short little example to illustrate it, but the real payoff of the lessons comes during a race the young fish have at the end of the day. Benny has to chose between winning the race or helping Janice, who had, after all, helped him earlier.

Benny makes the right decision, losing the race, but winning the bigger prize. And in the end, he does something kind of embarrassing for a bull shark to do, but he had promised, and …

Rule #6: A friend always keeps a promise.

This is a clever little story, with some good teaching points for younger kids, though you do have to get past the idea that an actual shark would simply have eaten his classmates.










Bookends: Books about Bees, Barbarians and Bullies February 15, 2018

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Bookends: Books about Bees, Barbarians and Bullies

By Dan Davidson

June 12, 2017

– 821 words –

Please, Please the Bees

Please Please the Bees 

By Gerald Kelley

Albert Whitman & Company

32 pages


Benedict Bear led a simple, ordered life, a life in which honey played a very large part. The bees from his hive left him three jars every morning, and between his toast, tea and honey breakfast, baking honey cake, and a bedtime cup o

f tea with honey, he managed to live a sweet life. During the day he practiced his music, knitted, baked, and ran errands.

It all came apart in a hurry the day that the bees’ morning delivery did not arrive. Outside his front door there were bees flying around carrying tiny signs that read “On Strike!”

Benedict found that his whole routine just didn’t work at all when it was not sweetly lubricated. He just didn’t understand what had gone awry with his life. Fortunately, a spokesbee clued him in, took him on a tour of his unkempt yard, showed him the shabby condition of the hive and made it pretty clear that for over a thousand jars of honey every year, Benedict was going to have to make some kind


of contribution to the operation.

This was something to which Benedict had never given any serious thought, but he was a smart enough bruin to take the hint.

“I’ve never thought about what the bees need,” he said to himself. “But how am I going to make things right?”

So, he did some research, did some shopping, and did quite a bit of yard work and building. He even learned about how to harvest honey, so that he would be more involved in the process if he could entice the bees to come back.

Well, they did, and as a result, Benedict found that his ordered life was even sweeter than it had been before – for both him and the bees.

Gerald Kelley has illustrated a number of children’s books for other writers, but this appears to be his first solo effort. He has a pleasing artistic style that can almost make you believe a bear could be playing a fiddle and that bees might need umbrellas in their decrepit hive.




By Lindsay Ward

Two Lions

40 pages


Lindsay Ward says that she came up with the idea for this book one night after having watched the movie “Conan the Barbarian”. She doesn’t say whether it was the 1982 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger or the 2011 version with Jason Momoa, but the result might very well have been about the same.

“IN the beginning, a great warrior laid claim to the land, Feared by all, his reign was steadfast. But soon another arrived, and his influence spread quickly. This fierce rival challenged the great warrior. Two seekers of high adventure, their strength and courage became that of legend.”

Otto the Big Brobarian was the first to rule the backyard, but his supremacy is challenged by Iggy the Brobarian, who seems to be taking over.


There is a struggle, a confrontation, an epic battle brought to a conclusion only by the intervention of a higher power: Mamabarian.

Ward has produced a very colourful, action filled book contrasting the imagination of the brothers’ conflict with the reality around them. The baby barbarians are truly enthusiastic warriors and make the most of the materials around them to stage this game.

The art is splendidly child-like and the text is over the top, tongue-in-cheek.


Raech for the Moon

Reach for the Moon, Little Lion 

By Hildegard Muller

Holiday House

32 pages



This cute little story emphasizes the idea that size is just a matter of perspective. Little Lion was very little, so little that he was the butt of a lot of size jokes from the larger creatures. The leopard, the hippopotamus and the crocodile were particularly hard on him, constantly chanting “Are you a lion or a mouse?” whenever they saw him.

He was depressed, and it didn’t help when they challenged him to prove he was really a lion by doing something they said a real lion could do.

“Lions are so very big that they can touch the moon with a paw,” they said.

Little Lion knew he could not do that, but the raven knew of a way to make it seem to happen, and he didn’t like how those larger animals had been bullying Little Lion, so he decided to help him.

So Raven set up the time and the place and announced to all the other animals that something important was going to happen, He led them to a place where they could see Little Lion on top of a hill, could see him reach up, and from that angle, appear to touch the moon.

“The next day, the leopard, the hippopotamus and the crocodile were very quiet.” And Little Lion walked away from them with a smile on his face.




Bookends: Picture Books for the K to Gr. 4 crowd February 10, 2018

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Bookends: Picture Books for the K to Gr. 4 crowd

By Dan Davidson

May 2, 2017

– 576 words –




Written by Campbell Manning

Illustrated by Nadia Ronnquillo

Flowerpot Press

34 pages



The nameless rhyming narrator of this bright and cheerful story has a yen to travel in outer space. Eventually, he wants to leap off of a star, but something tells him this is too ambitious for his first attempt, so he decides to limit himself to leaping off of the moon.

His classmates think he’s berserk, but he remains determined.

“But I’ll show them. / I know I can!/Soon they’ll all see / that I’M THE MAN!”

He goes on to explain his preparations, and there’s quite a contrast between what he says and what we see, but that’s okay. In his mind he imagines his takeoff, arriving at his destination, the wonders of space and his return, by leaping off the moon, falling to earth, opening his parachute and landing safely.

He plans to get started on all this glorious adventure right away, but there has to be a slight delay.

“Just one last thing:/I have a hunch/Mom makes me wait/’til after lunch.”

This one is aimed as to K to 2 crowd.


Martin FInds a WayMartin Finds a Way

Written by

Illustrated by Katarzyna

Flowerpot Press

34 pages



This story begins with a young boy named Martin, who, once day, set out to explore. It’s not certain that he knew he was exploring, or just what he was hoping to find, but what he did find was a “Way” to guide his travels.

“It felt good to find a Way.” He took it with him and shared it with other people that he met. “It felt good to share the Way.”

In time, Martin found other Ways. Some of them he found by himself; some he found with other people. He shared his findings and they shared theirs. He learned that there are many Ways, and that all of them are worthwhile, but that some of them fit some people better than they fit others.

“Each Way had its own unique characteristics, but the Ways were very similar as well. They were all very good Ways.”

There were some sad people for whom there was no Way, but Martin was not one of these. He came to realize that there was probably a Way that was just right for him, and decided to keep on journeying until he found it.

Which is just what he did.

This is a story that is deliberately vague about its subject, and should trigger a lot of discussions for the Grades 2 to 4 children the author and artist think they wrote it for.




Written by Uncle Ian Aurora

Illustrated by Natalia Moore

Flowerpot Press

34 pages


Here’s a counting book that has a bouncy rhyme and a bit of a story to it, and is also interactive. The young reader or listener is encouraged to clap through a progression of energetically coloured pages that suggest a number of activities and show everyone having a grand time.

Reach 10, stop for a rest and then follow the directions to do different kinds of clapping – loud, soft, happy, amused and so on until you reach the end of the book and applaud the entire performance.

This looks like good fun for ages 4 to 8, but it may be a bit noisy for a library.



Bookends: An Aspiring Young Writer Tries Desperate Measures February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Childen's, Stacey Matson, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: An Aspiring Young Writer Tries Desperate MeasuresA year in the Life

By Dan Davidson

April 11, 2017

– 790 words –


A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius

By Stacey Matson

Scholastic Books

272 pages



Arthur Bean is a genius, and destined to be the next great Canadian Author, at least in his own mind. His journal, as it begins in October of the school year, begins “The Next Great Canadian Novel (Title to be announced)”, under which he has written, and crossed out, nine opening sentences.

Arthur has been through some tough times lately, and moving into a new school, with many new challenges, beginning grade 7, just adds to the list of problems. His biggest problems stem from the recent death of his mother, which was a lingering, wasting death that has left his father traumatized, and Arthur over-compensating in ways that sometimes make him see a tad delusional.

For this and other reasons, he is what we call an unreliable narrator, not exactly a liar, but one who writes and believes his own press clippings. There’s been a lot of that going on the Big World lately, so it’s not as odd as it seems.

Arthur has some allies in life, if he will just use hem properly. His dad is trying to come out of his depression, but it’s a slow process. His next door neighbour, Nicole, who looks in on him after school when his father is still at work (don’t you dare consider her a babysitter) is a good source of support and advice.

For most of the year, he has an understanding homeroom teacher, who is also his English teacher. Ms. Whitehead has a skiing accident part way though the year, and the substitute, Mrs. Carrell, isn’t nearly so understanding. The staff advisor for the school newspaper is also a supportive soul, though he sometimes has to pull on Arthur’s reins a bit.

Arthur has a nemesis named Robbie Zack, so naturally Ms. Whitehead pairs them in a peer tutoring assignment that runs on through the entire year, and actually accomplishes exactly what she intended it too. The boys were equally at fault, but they eventually do learn something from each other.

Arthur’s writing partner for the year’s major short story assignment is Kennedy, a girl he is terribly sweet on, so naturally he has to suffer through ups and downs of her relationships with other boys.

This story is told to us is a very old-fashioned manner, with a bunch of new wrinkles. The epistolary style goes back to such classics as The Moonstone and Dracula where it manifested as a collection of letters and diary entries used to carry the story.

Matson has cleverly undated the technique to include email correspondence, letters, a school writing journal, Arthur and Robbie’s peer tutoring reports, school assignments, the student’s responses to school assignments, report card notes, school newspaper articles and cartoons.

There are also drawings, as it turns out Robbie is a budding cartoonist.

Matson says the layout for this book drove her publishers to distraction. The average chapter has several different fonts, in a variety of sizes and styles as well as a sketch or two. These were all executed quite well in the KOBO e-book version that I read on my iPad, though the laptop version of the KOBO software was not able to handle the task as well.

Arthur creates most of his own problems, though mostly not by intention. He is pretty much black and white in his judgements about most people and speaks his mind even when it would be better if he didn’t.

While he is constantly writing things all through the months, when it comes to creative fiction he suffers from writer’s block. His goal is to launch himself to fame by winning the short story writing contest and getting published. He is so anxious to win the writing contest that he trades his chance to play Romeo opposite Kennedy’s Juliet in the school play so that he can “borrow” a story that Robbie has written, fix it up a bit (he has the makings of a great editor) and submit it as his own.

That, you may imagine, gets him into all sorts of trouble and none of the things he does to rectify his error – once he completely understands it – work out as well as he hopes they will.

Matson had great good fortune in launching her career, and this book led to a contract for a trilogy with the same characters. She’s moving on to new projects now ad has two completely different books on the go.

Stacey Matson concluded her three months at Berton House at the end of March, and greatly enjoyed her winter stay.




Bookends: Children’s Books Advocating for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Childen's, Margriet Ruurs, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Children’s Books Advocating for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech

By Dan Davidson

April 5, 2017

– 781 words –

Some children’s books also deserve to have adults pay attention to them. Here are two such books. One deals with the role of writers in an age when some powerful people see them as “enemies of the people”. The other tells a refugee story in an age when some nations are less welcoming than they used to be.



Stamp Collector

The Stamp Collector

Story by Jennifer Lanthier

Illustrations by Francois Thisdale

Fitzhenry & Whiteside

32 pages



The Stamp Collector is about the importance of stories and freedom of speech. It is the story of two boys, A country boy grows up to be a writer, and is imprisoned by the grey men who think his stories are dangerous, The city boy grows up with a love of stamps, in which he sees stories about other places.

Needing to support his family, the city boy grows up to become a prison guard, and ends up working in the prison where the country boy is incarcerated. The state has silenced him, but his story of hope has escaped their clutches and is spreading through the land. As a result of this, people who have read his story keep writing him letters, none of which he is allowed to receive.

The guard, who was the boy who loved stamps, sees the letter file and saves the stamps. For a long time he does not read the letters, but one day, prompted by a dream, he looks at the ones that he can read and realizes who they are for and why.

From that time, he begins giving the stamps, one at a time, to the writer. They do not speak, but the prisoner realizes what this much mean.

Time passes and the writer grows ill. The guard begins to pass him the complete letters, letters asking for another story. Eventually, over many days, the prisoner dictates a new story to the guard, and finishes it before he dies.

The guard tells no one what he has, but decides to leave his country and go to somewhere safe. In a library there, he begins to write a story: this story.

Thisdale’s illustrations are dark and realistic, although still expressive of the moods of the two characters.

This is not an actual story, but it is inspired by many such stories about imprisoned writers. An essay at the end of the book discusses this problem and explains that some of the proceeds from this book go to support PEN Canada. PEN is the acronym for “Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists” and advocates for free speech and for oppressed writers.


Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey

Story by Margriet RuursStepping Stones

Artwork by Nizar Ali Badr

Orca Book Publishers

28 pages



Former Yukoner Margriet Ruurs now lives on Salt Spring Island, where she continues to produce interesting books for children. The process by which this book was created is as interesting as the book itself.

Nizar Ali Badr is an artist from Pakistan who works entirely in stones and pebbles. He creates an image, photographs it, and then generally has to recycle the materials to create his next image.

Ruurs saw his work online and decided she wanted to try to have his images illustrate a book. The arrangements took a while to put together, and she ended up with a selection of images for which she then had to write a story.

Ruurs is used to collaborating with artists and photographers to create books, but the more general practice in publishing is that the story comes first. In this case, Nizar eventually had to create some additional pieces to make the book work.

The story is about a rural Middle Eastern family whose village, oppressed by war and violence, slowly drifts away from them. Eventually it gets to the point where they have to leave too; the bombs are simply falling too close to the house.

Nizar’s wonderfully expressive stone illustrations chronicle their escape on foot, and in small boats. In time, they reach safety.

“On we walked. But now we walked across lands free from war, free from guns and bombs, free from fear. Now we walked in hope.”

Margriet and Nizar are both profiled at the end of the book, and she has provided a list of organizations that deal with the international refugee problem.

As with the first book in this column, a portion of the proceeds are going to resettlement organizations in Canada and elsewhere. Margriet writes to tell me that it has raised $30,000 for refugees as of this writing.




Bookends: Stories with Animals for Kids February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Childen's, fantasy, Uncategorized, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Stories with Animals for Kids

By Dan Davidson

March 8, 2017

Sleeping gypsy


– 802 words –

The Sleeping Gypsy

By Mordecai Gerstein

Holiday House’

32 pages



The Sleeping Gypsy is one of Henri Rousseu’s most famous paintings.

Mordecai Gerstein first saw a photograph of this painting when he was 8 or 9 years old, and it left him full of questions.

Who is the girl? Why is she sleeping under a full moon in the desert? What is that instrument lying next to her? Will she play it, or did she? What will the lion standing over her do?

He says this book is an attempt to answer these and other questions.

In his story, Rousseau falls asleep and is soon deep into a dream in which he follows the girl across the desert, watches her stop for lunch near a river, play and sing a song to the night and stars, and finally go to sleep.

The moon comes up and the animals come out to investigate this human who made the strange sounds. Then the painter, with his equipment in hand, enters the dream and begins to compose the painting, trying to get the snake, the ostrich, the baboon, the turtle, the rabbit and the lizard to be still and stop looking over his shoulder. Only the lion cooperates, and so only the lion gets to be in the dream sketch.


The dream comes to an end and, waking up in Paris, Rousseau completes the painting he has just dreamed.


One of the neat things about this little fantasy is that Gerstein has done it in an approximation of Rousseau’s style, which he writes about in a short author’s note at the end. It’s a delightful book.


I Am So Bored

I am so bored

By Henrike Wilson

Sky Pony Press

32 pages



If you’ve had kids, you’ve had bored kids, and this book is very much for them, only its main character is a bear, a soft focussed little bear in a somewhat soft focussed forest.

No one want to do anything with him, Everyone is busy doing things they want to do, none of which seems to catch his interest, so he wanders in the woods, feeling sorry for himself, and finally flops down in what starts out to be a determined sulk, “and did nothing, Absolutely nothing at all.”

And all around him, things start happening. The clouds make interesting shapes in the sky. A mole pops out of the ground. A bird flies by, and he decides to


pretend to be a bird and “flies” back to be with his family.

In the end he understands that there’s no need to be bored. If he simply does nothing, he can “just wait to see what happens, because something always will.”


The Lost Kitten

By Lee & Komako SakaiLost Kitten Gecko Press

32 pages




The writer’s full name is not given for this book, but the illustrator is apparently one of Japan’s most famous names in this field.

The story begins when a mother cat and two kittens arrive at the door of Hina’s house. When she and her mother see it there, the mother cat seems to be telling them to look after one of the kittens, and she walks off with the larger, less scruffy, one.

At first, Hina thinks it would be nicer to get a healthier looking kitten from the pet store, but after they have washed and brushed it, revealing its startlingly blue eyes, and after it has begun to purr when she strokes its fur, she begins to change her mind.

They make it a little box and comfy bed, and then mother goes out to get some cat food, leaving Hina in charge of the kitten. But when Hina goes to find the kitten, which had been sleeping under a cupboard, it’s gone, vanished; she can’t find it anywhere.

This reminds her of the time she got lost in a big store and couldn’t find her mother, and how frightened she had been. Did the kitten feel the same way?

Maybe it got out the door when mother left, so she pokes around outside. But it’s chilly, so she goes back in to get a coat – and that’s when she finds the kitten, snuggled under her sweater on the floor in the closet.

And that’s how the kitten came to be named Sleepy.




The only annoying thing about these books is the lack of technical information. The stories are clever and the artwork is enchanting in different ways, but something is missing.

It used to be standard practice to have some note about how the images were created. Three quite different media were used to make the illustrations in these books, but no information is provided, and the websites that connect to these names didn’t provide it either.