The Sea in Winter

Author: Christine Day

Publisher: Heartdrum

Release: January 5/21

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

I requested this eARC because I enjoyed the author’s first book, I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE, and the cover on this book totally sucked me in. I’m so glad I did, because this is a book I’ll be recommending for several reasons. It’s also from a new publisher, Heartdrum, that’s focus is Native creators and their stories. I’m excited to read other releases from them, including an anthology entitled ANCESTOR APPROVED which comes out in Feb, 2021.

All Maisie wants to do is recover from her ACL injury, and get back to dancing. She has dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer, and auditions are already taking place for summer intensives. But although she’s making strides, the injury is taking time to heal, and she’s frustrated, feeling alienated from the world that she feels is like a second home. Her mom and step-dad want to help her, but she has so many feelings inside that she starts directing them at the people she loves. A family hiking trip leads to emotions coming to a boil, just when Maisie is going to need her family the most.

I loved this story, partly because Maisie’s passion was so palpable, but also because the frustration, impatience, and longing to return to something she loved is so relatable. Many young athletes will face a setback at some point in their lives, and learning how to deal with the realities of it and looking outside the narrow path one has chosen is a valuable learning experience. I also really loved her relationship with her family, and how supportive her mom and step-dad try to be. There is a lot of love in this family, clearly visible even through the hurt and anger. I also really enjoyed Maisie connecting to her family heritage. Her mom is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her step-dad, Jack, is from the Elwha Klallam Tribe. Jack knows a great deal about the Pacific Northwest history, and through his stories, and the stories of her mom during their hiking trip to her area where she grew up, there is a lot of valuable Native history taught through this story.

I will definitely be adding this book to my collection in the new year, and look forward to reading more from this author.

Recommended: Gr. 5-8

From The Roots Up

Author: Tasha Spillett

Illustrator: Natasha Donovan

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release: October 27/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC of this book.

I was very excited to get a chance to read this YA graphic novel sequel to Surviving The City. The series is set in Winnipeg, and it’s an important book for readers not only for its insightful and honest depiction of what many Indigenous youth face, but for greater empathy and understanding about the Two-Spirit person experience.

In this story, Dez is living in a group home after the death of her kokum. She and Miikwan are still best friends, but they’re both exploring relationships with other people. Dez is discovering that she is a Two-Spirit person, but she isn’t sure how to tell Miikwan. Miikwan is attracted to a new boy at school named Riel, and invites him to take part in an after school program for Neechi students. When Dez wants to take part in the drumming that is traditionally a male-only activity, the Elders are faced with addressing change and expanding their understanding of the gender roles with which they were raised. Riel’s Auntie Alex, who is a Two-Spirit person, attends one of the group’s meetings and talks about their experience, and the fact that many nations have had individuals who have different genders or sexualities, but that it’s a part of their cultures that were also taken from them. As Dez begins to connect to a new identity, each person in the story is affected by it.

I think this story is so important because I have never read a story for young people that addresses Two Spirit people, and how they can feel like they belong just as they are. Not only does the author teach the reader, but she does so in a way that’s relatable and respectful of teens and their relationships. I loved the older and supportive female characters such as the group mom, Karen, and Elder Linda, who help Dez and accepted her period of self exploration. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and add so much depth to the story.

This book is an essential addition to classroom and libraries not only in Manitoba, but also across Canada and the US. Please make sure you also have the first book in the series, Surviving the City.


Author: David A. Robertson

Illustrators: Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release: Oct 27/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC of this book.

What an excellent YA graphic novel! I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book, as I LOVED The Reckoner trilogy by author. This book continues that series, but it’s now in graphic novel format, with incredible illustration by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk.

Cole has returned to Winnipeg, along with Eva, to figure out what’s going on with Mihko Laboratories, but the trauma that he experienced in Wounded Sky First Nation has come with him. He’s experiencing PTSD, and the panic attacks and hallucinations that go along with it. His mental health is also affecting how he feels about being a “superhero”. On the other hand, Eva is really coming into her own as a confident, empowered Indigenous female superhero. She supports Cole, but also realizes she can also go out on her own without needing him by her side. Together, they are trying to figure out what’s going on in Mihko’s building, but true to form, the author leaves us with a cliffhanger to wait and see what’s going to happen to the characters next.

The ownvoices mental health representation in this series is one of my favorite aspects of it. Cole is a character whose struggle with anxiety and the trauma from his past is honest, raw, and extremely relatable to many. To see a character that’s powerful even though he has mental health issues is inspiring, and I love how complex and real he becomes when he’s seen as imperfect. There are scenes where Cole meets with his therapist, and discusses his problems and the need for him to go back on antidepressants. This open discussion of needing support is extremely positive.

Watching Eva develop in this book is also a highlight, as she becomes a real role model with her compassion and strength. Although I certainly missed Choch from the original series, I did enjoy revisiting other characters, too, and Brady’s relationship with Dylan provides Two Spirit representation that adds to the book’s appeal.

I highly recommend this book for young adult collections, and suggest you check out The Reckoner trilogy if you haven’t read it yet.

The Great Outdoors

Although I missed the #pb10for10, for our newly created blog, I thought I would add a post about some great picture books featuring the great outdoors, some new, some perhaps you have forgotten or some who do not know. Here they are in alphabetical order by title

At the Pond by Geraldo ValĂ©rio

A wordless books where a young boy with his dog visits a pond on a grey dull day and befriends a swan. The swan invites the two to ride on his back and they enjoy a colourful afternoon and the boy takes the dog off the leash allowing him to play with the other animals. The boy and the swan continue to enjoy the beautiful afternoon together until the boy places the dog’s lease around the neck of the swan. The sky becomes dark and the other swans and wildlife disappear. The boy finally realizes to be a true friend he must allow the swan to be free.

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

Ernestine is about to go on her very first camping trip with her cousin Samantha and her aunt Jackie. Ernestine finds out there is a lot of gear that one must take and that camping is not as easy as it looks. From setting up the tent, to swimming with fish to eating tofu hotdogs, will this trip be memorable or a nightmare. Wonderful illustrations, with a variety of textures and tones that will keep readers looking for the details. A great story to discuss mindset and how being open minded may bring along some wonderful surprises and memories.

Goodnight Veggies by Diana Murray, Illustrated by Zachariah OHora 

A delightful look at various vegetables in a rooftop garden getting ready to rest for the night. Full of alliterations and rhyming couplets, readers will be taken on a tour with an earthworm through the garden visiting tuckered-out tomatoes, droopy pods of peas and even cranky corn. OHora’s illustrations are captivating and colourful as the sky darkens into the dead of night. A great addition to add for garden, plant and veggie enthusiasts.

The Hike by Alison Farrell

Oh my how I enjoyed reading this book by @alisondraws. A perfect blend of nature, science and the arts. Three friends venture off on a hike encountering various struggles and joys. What sets this book apart from others is the labels throughout the book of all the things the friends can see and enjoy. Each have a sketchbook and add their own ideas and at the end is a glossary and also additional information about various topics such as invasive species. This is a must add for libraries and classrooms – there is so many ways to read this book from the simple story to learning about the various animals and plants. There is so much to see and learn this is a book that will be enjoyed with more than one reading.

If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever,  

Illustrated by Matthew Trueman 

Another gorgeous book for young conservationists and a mentor text to look at cause and effect. In this informational book, author Susanah Buhrman-Deever introduces readers to another forest that is found beneath the sea – the kelp forest. We learn how the kelp forest grows and as a result is a natural habitat for many other plants and animals including the sea otter. We then learn a bit about how when the Europeans began over hunting the sea otters for their pelts to the point of extinction things in the ocean changed not only below the water but above as well. With no otters, the major hunters within the kelp forest, sea urchins began to take over = destroying the kelp forest, effectively removing a key component to the habitat which had a domino effect below and above the water. When humans finally recognized that the near extinction of the otter impacted more than just the otter, laws were put in place and slowly the habitat returned to its natural balance. Matthew Trueman’s  majestic and colourful hues of blue in this book truly add to the beauty, drawing readers in and give the feeling of being in the water. The narrative texts also includes small captions of additional information that can be read as part of the narrative or alone.

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

Llewellyn, a quiet rabbit likes to collect things – buttercups, feathers and heart shaped stones and place them in a jar where he could look at them and remember what he had seen. One day he meets another rabbit Evelyn and they become friends and collect things together that you think could not be placed in a jar like rainbows and the wind just before it snows. And together they create these memory jars until Evelyn moves away. Llewellyn figures out he still can collect new memories and send them to Evelyn to share with her creating different memories just as she sends memories to Llewellyn. A beautiful magical story about friendship and the way we can collect memories no matter the distance. .

The Keeper of the Wild Words by Brooke Smith,

Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

A beautiful book about a grandmother who is worried about the loss of the important natural words she grew up with disappearing from everyday language. Grandmother Mimi takes her granddaughter Brook on a walk to discover and find the words that are slowly disappearing, fearful they will be forgotten. As they walk they see a variety of these words that include, insects, plants and even animals. By instilling the love of these natural words, with her granddaughter, Mimi knows they will live on. Inspired by real life events, the author read an article where natural words were removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary for Children as it was felt they were no longer relevant to children. Takin matters into her own hands, Brooke wrote this book to ensure that children can experience nature and the vocabulary associated with it. A great way to talk about language and how it changes, and who determines if it is important or not.

The Not So Great Outdoors by Madeline Kloepper

A young city girl is reluctantly dragged out of the city to the great outdoors with her family. As they set up camp and take in the beauty of the campsite, the girl complains about all the things the outdoors does not have, no electricity or sculptures, playgrounds or city lights. Each page shows what this girl is missing – campfires, waterfalls, all kinds of natural things to play on, the northern light and the many animals that live in the forest. Then she begins to compare the things her family does like catching a fish to catching a bus, comparing the different types of contractions workers in nature (beavers) to the city and how food around a campfire is pretty tasty and realizes the outdoors is not such a bad place to spend time after all.

The Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

I loved @brendan_wenzel They All Saw a Cat but this book resonates with me even more. Billed as a companion book to its predecessor, A Stone Sat Still again tackles perspective – but I found this book more introspective making me think of the stone and my potential relationship. The stone is still, but depending upon what or who the stone can be loud and quiet, used as a kitchen, smooth or rough. This book could spark lots of discussion about nature, not only our perspective of the stone, but also our place in nature.

We Are the Water Protectors by by Carole Lindstrom,

Illustrated by  Michaela Goade 

This book is a must have for classrooms and libraries and takes an Indigenous view to only of water but the responsibilities we have as people to protect the water on Mother Earth. In this stunning picture book, Carole Lindstrom, explains the importance of water and how water connects us to Mother Earth and to all living things. Lindstom then talks about the “black snake” that is coming and will destroy the water, the land, the animals and anything in its path. From here we shift from information to activism and how coming together they can stand against the black snake. She speaks about how it will take courage and not be easy to speak for those who cannot, the rivers, the animals, the earth to speak for them. The illustrations by Micheal Goade are incredibly beautiful and flows like water. The analogy of the black snake in contrast to the other illustrations is very dark, rigid and symmetrical and resembles the pipeline. At the back is further information about the Dakota pipeline, where to find more information and a pledge to become a Water Protector.

I am always on the look out for new authors and illustrators with a passion for nature. What books would you add to the list?

The Barren Grounds

Author: David A. Robertson

Publisher: Puffin Books

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

This is the type of book I’ve been waiting to read. It’s an ownvoices story by a Canadian Indigenous writer that’s inspired by Narnia but based on traditional stories. It’s humorous while still dealing with issues such as the foster system, identity, and the consequences of taking something that doesn’t belong to you. It’s a deep and meaningful story but doesn’t come across as overly heavy. Writing this story as a fantasy is a unique way to communicate the racism and colonialism that Indigenous people face in Canada, and I think using it in a classroom would be extremely valuable.

I will definitely be adding this book to my collection, and I look forward to reading the next in the Misewa Saga. David also has a number of other published books. He has several YA graphic novels, his picture book is the Governor General winning WHEN WE WERE ALONE, and my personal favorites are YA books from The Reckoner trilogy. THE RECKONER RISES, which comes out on October 20th, is a graphic novel which continues this series.

David will also be the guest for the MG Lit Online Book Club on October 29th at 6PM CST; everyone is welcome to attend.

Recommended: Gr. 5-8