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May 3, 2015

My bookselling dreams come true


Book City, Behind the Scenes

Was Authors for Indies Day just an elaborate ruse to make all my dreams come true? Because if it was, it worked. After a very fun morning of Jane’s Walking through our neighbourhood, I took to the subway over the East Side to Book City on the Danforth. I met up with friendly authors including Alissa York and Jessica Westhead, and we took to selling books. My best pitch was for Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which I’d read gleefully, staying up all night the night after Iris was born. I’d read it again recently, I’d assured customers, and still loved it just as much, so it wasn’t simply the effect of drugs. It turns out I have a talent for enthusing about books in public though—I sold copies of Ellen in PiecesOn Immunity and The Bookshop Book (though all I had to do was show them the pictures…). And I also sold Jessica Westhead’s And Also Sharks, Arguments With the Lake by Tanis Rideout, Mating for Life by Marisa Stapley, and Fauna by Alissa York. Plus, Everywhere Babies and Swimming. Swimming, for the picture book crowd. It was ridiculously fun and there was baked goods.


And then my family arrived, and my shift was up. And naturally I had to buy books of my own, and then we went out for Greek Food, and then gelato, and I really don’t know how you can’t say that Authors for Indies wasn’t the success to end all successes.

So many thanks to everyone who came and went shopping!

May 1, 2015

Authors for Indies: Tomorrow!

See you tomorrow at Book City on the Danforth between 2-4. I will be pushing these fine books, which will make many readers very happy.


April 25, 2015

One Week Until Authors for Indies Day!


We’ve just spent two weeks in England, mostly eating cake and touring indie bookshops, with more than a few of our stops inspired by Jen Campbell’s The Bookshop BookOur trip was splendid and a brilliant demonstration that great bookshops are remarkable destinations, magical spaces, possibly the spirit of any place. One of my favourite moments was when I was standing outside The Book Barge clutching an armful of books (because I like to hold them—a bag may be handy, but it’s just not the same) and a woman came up to me. “Sorry to be cheeky,” she said, “but is there a place to buy books around here?” I did my best to gesture, even with my burden. “Only an entire boat,” I said, and then she skipped away to her husband with glee—she’d found her destination and she hadn’t even been looking for it. It’s the very best kind of encounter. Independent bookshops are the rooms that make the world worth living in. They also have the best selection, shelves better curated than any chain bookshop, hands down.

201139-book-city-danforthAnd I am happy that even though we’re home again, I can continue to fly the indie bookshop banner with Authors for Indies Day on May 2. It’s a day I was always going to be a part of—do I ever need an excuse to visit a bookshop? But I am thrilled and honoured that Book City on the Danforth has asked me to be one of their visiting authors. I will be there from 2-4 ready to convince patrons to buy some of my favourite, can’t miss books—I’ve selected Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Ellen in Pieces, On Immunity, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and My Real Children. Perhaps I could even sell you a copy of The Bookshop Book?

the-bookshop-bookOther authors at Book City Danforth for Authors of Indies include Guy Gavriel Kay, Jessica Westhead, Elyse Friedman, Sarah Sheard, Tanis Rideout, Kate Hilton, Lilly Barnes, Ronna Bloom, Gail Benick, Alissa York, Michael Januska, Dave Bidini, Jill Jorgenson, and Evan Munday. And if the time and place don’t work for you, do check out the huge list of other stores (and authors!) participating across the country. There is sure to be something in your neighbourhood!

But I do hope to see you at Book City on the Danforth. Authors for Indies Day will be a great opportunity to celebrate your neighbourhood indie bookstore, to possibly rediscover what makes these spaces so special, to let your child (if you have one) wander around delighting in bookish wonders, and to do some delighting yourself. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

*A previous version of this post noted two weeks until Authors for Indies Day. This is because it was written by a blogger with jet lag. May 2 is, in fact, coming up quick!

November 18, 2014

We meet Jon Klassen

B2wmq9ACcAASpfL.jpg-largeTonight we got to go see Newbery Winner/our hero Jon Klassen at Little Island Comics. He’s on tour promoting his new book with Mac Barnett, Sam and Dave Dig a HoleHe read us I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, plus my beloved Extra Yarn (and he pointed out that Little Louie was intended to be a baby. Also that Mr. Crabtree was originally naked and hanging out outside the liquor store). He drew a turtle and gave the drawing to Harriet. Then was kind enough to sign our big huge stack of all his books, drawing a picture inside every one, so if we thought these books were priceless before…

November 16, 2014



I didn’t know I needed a book fair. Truthfully, my taste for book events are limited because books are my whole life already, and when I go out, it only means less time to read them, and then yesterday I took the escalator up arriving at the Toronto International Book Fair, and I was instantly converted.

It was wonderful.

IMG_20141115_101748It was like 49th Shelf, but in real life. Our site, with it’s nearly 80,000 title listings, as I explained to passers-by today as they visited the 49th Shelf booth. These Canadian titles with their beautiful covers, and it’s my job to select which ones to feature on our main page every week, which to include on our lists. So many books, and I know the people who make them, publishers across the country whose good work makes my work so much easier and such a pleasure.

And all of a sudden, here the books were, with covers I know so well, but have never touched. My favourite parts of the fair included the Discovery Pavilion, with Ontario Presses like Biblioasis, Coach House, Mansfield Press, Second Story…so many more. Nearby was Breakwater Books, all the way from Newfoundland. And also the booth for All Lit Up, featuring books by independent Canadian publishers. Books by First Nations authors, a display of art by Canadian illustrators, and then I turn a corner and there’s Gordon Korman. Random House and Simon and Schuster had great booths too, and it was so much fun. So many books. I was in book heaven.

photo 1I had the most wonderful time yesterday, and left disbelieving that I’d really get to do it all again tomorrow. The fair was oh so good that I brought my kids and family this morning, quite sure that they’d enjoy the kids’ programming in store, and they did, as you can see in this photo of Iris helping out Debbie Ridpath Ohi with her presentation. The fair was well attended but not hugely so, this being the first year, which meant that we could browse without being crowded, and there was room enough for everyone, and room enough even for children to run amuck. It was an excellent atmosphere, and hugely cool presentations—we caught part of Jon Klassen today. I had the pleasure of introducing Catherine Gildiner yesterday, and there were also appearances by Anne Rice and Margaret Atwood, and so so many others. Truly something for everyone.

IMG_20141116_120348And then there were the books I bought. I couldn’t quit. Believe it or not, I’d intended to buy nothing. Because do I need books? I do not. But then I was there, and it was so good, and such a joy to see so many wonderful publishers being celebrated, to celebrate them myself. By buying their books, of course. The books I know from 49th Shelf, some of which are a little bit mythical, but there they were, and I had to have them. I bought Hot Wet and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex by Kaleigh Trace, because Harriet picked out the cover (and I have heard many good things about this book). Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome by Megan Gail Coles, because I’d featured it on our main page last week and everybody I saw today was walking around with a copy. Diane Schoemperlen‘s because it was reviewed in the newspaper yesterday. Catherine Gildiner’s Coming Ashore, because her presentation was oh so funny. And others still, just because because because. I had to leave finally because my book bag was stuffed and it was getting ridiculous.

(“You know, you don’t have to single-handed keep Canadian publishing afloat,” said my husband. Yes, but…)

IMG_20141116_111804So what fun, revelling in bookish things, meeting and re-meeting book people—my people. How rare in this day and age to have an event in the publishing industry so big and forward-looking and optimistic. A party instead of a funeral. The world as a bookstore. It was refreshing and so much fun to be celebrating reading, and readers, and writers and books (and booksellers too!). There was nothing tired about it, and being there was such a pleasure.

I’m a bit sorry that we can’t do it all again tomorrow again, but I’m excited to do it again next year.


November 12, 2014

Toronto International Book Fair


I’m excited to be attending the Toronto International Book Fair this weekend, an event that is packed with all the very best of bookish things. On Saturday and Sunday, I will be helping to work 49th Shelf’s booth (where we’ll be giving out kisses of the chocolate kind, and giving you great ways to get involved with our site and win prizes) and also hosting events by authors Catherine Gildiner and Lesley-Ann Scorgie. It’s going to be excellent. Do come and say hi!

November 6, 2014

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards

how-toSuch a wonderful celebration of books tonight at the Carlu in Toronto as we celebrated some of the best in Canadian children’s books. Obviously, I am thrilled because Julie Morstad’s How To won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, and I am a Julie Morstad disciple.As I wrote in my review last year, “The premise is unbelievably clever, but How To‘s genius lies in its simplicity. I love the substance behind its charm as well, that the text is posing and the illustrations are answering such fundamental questions. “How to be happy” is the book’s final statement, accompanied by a two-page spread of children dancing, moving and being together. It’s a lesson as perfect as it is profound.”

where-do-you-lookAnother contender for the Marilyn Baillie Prize was Where Do You Look? by Marthe Jocelyn and Nell Jocelyn, which we have out of the library at the moment and I just keep renewing. A fabulous puzzle of a book that is, as with any book by M. Jocelyn, a visual treat, but which also points towards the puzzles of language and the complexity of the world, which is the lesson I want to teach my children before almost any other. This book does the trick, and it’s also fun. I think we’re going to have to pick up our own copy…

man-with-the-violinAnother book we have out of the library that I’m not going to have to purchase is The Man With the Violin by Kathy Stinson and Dušan Petričić, because it took the top prize tonight and everybody in attendance received a copy to take home. And I’m thrilled, because I love this one, based on a true story about violin virtuoso Joshua Bell who played in a Washington DC subway one day, and nobody noticed. Stinson tells the story from the perspective of a small boy who longed to stop to listen, and the story’s amazing power lies in Petričić’s illustrations which really do draw sound, and also highlight the amazingly different ways that adults and children perceive the world. A most deserving winner for sure.

in-the-treehouseI was also pleased that my friend Andrew Larsen’s In the Tree House took the Readers’ Choice Award, in particular because I remember him once telling me how his son had told him that his books weren’t funny enough for kids to pick. And now Andrew can say, HA! I love In the Tree House, whose story touched me so much and continues to as I’ve read it over and over again. It’s a book for the ages. So wonderful to see it celebrated tonight. With so many others too—books by Isabelle Arsenault, Ruth Ohi, Erin Bow, and more! It was a really wonderful evening with triumph after triumph.

Canadian children’s publishing is a powerful force, and it’s an honour to be a small part of it.

Also see the nominees’ Seeds of a Story at 49th Shelf. 


September 7, 2014

Super Red Riding Hood

super-red-riding-hoodAs mother of a child who loves any hero in a cape (particularly if she is female, and sporting Wonder Woman-esque motifs), I knew that Claudia Dávila’s Super Red Riding Hood would be right up our street. Dávila is the former art director for Chirp and Chickadee magazines, a seasoned book designer and illustrator, plus author/illustrator of the The Future According to Luz graphic novels series, but Super Red Riding Hood is her first picture book. It’s about a little girl called Ruby who likes to fancy herself a defender of justice and imagine stories in which she gets to prove her super-hero mettle. While a trip through the woods to collect raspberries isn’t quite the mission she’s been fantasizing about, Ruby makes the most of it, rescuing small creatures and being brave in the face of weird woodland sounds. And so she’s totally ready when she stumbles into a situation requiring actual super-heroics, and has to stare down a ferocious wolf.

IMG_20140906_121544Turns out all that Super-Hero practice has paid off—Ruby stands up for herself, and learns that all her Wolf prejudices aren’t exactly accurate. And the wolf’s impressions of little girls are transformed by his encounter in the woods with Ruby—indeed, little girls can be Super Heroes after all. Which is a lesson that Harriet was already well aware of, but it was awfully nice to have it affirmed.

IMG_20140906_120935We turned up at Claudia Dávila’s launch yesterday at Little Island Comics, because the store is around the corner from our house, and we were fans of Super Red Riding Hood already. Harriet brought her own red cape, because we assured her that this was a cape-friendly event, though she was apprehensive about its lack of hood.Turned out this was not a problem, and she had fun posing in the big dark woods (with not a big bad wolf in sight, thank goodness).

IMG_20140906_122458Harriet and Iris enjoyed colouring Super Red Riding Hood, and Harriet made her own Big Bad Wolf puppet, while Iris was chased around the store in circles. Later, we all settled down to listen to Dávila read to us from her book, and she was wonderful, and Harriet had a good time reading along to the parts she knew off by heart already.

IMG_20140906_124228We have two birthday parties to attend this weekend, and both friends will be receiving their own copy of Super Red. Dávila’s fantastic illustrations are matched by a fun and inspiring story that never gets too scary, and reminds boys and girls of all ages that caped crusaders come in all kinds of excellent packages.



September 3, 2014

Lottie Dolls and the Holiday Adventure Story Writing Competition

IMG_20140902_115452I have changed my mind about a lot of things I was quite sure when I first became a mother, but one principle I’ve been quite unbending about is the matter of my children’s toys. We don’t spend a lot of money; I like good, solid toys that last; we live in a small apartment; I don’t like crap that’s on the fast track to being landfill; I have strong feelings about the representation of women and girls in children’s play.

Another principle I’m pretty sure of: I don’t use my blog as a platform to flog commercial goods.

But when I received a PR pitch from Lottie dolls last week, I was really intrigued. Lottie is a doll made to look like a child, whose wardrobe doesn’t include fishnets and heels. The line from the promotional material that had me hooked was, “She can stand on her own two feet (always a useful life skill for all girls, big and small).” Lottie models include lighthouse keeper, karate student, pirate queen, robot scientist and butterfly protector, among others. She’s designed to stimulate creative play, to encourage girls not to grow up too fast. Her tagline is, “Be bold, be brave, be you.”

IMG_20140902_115739More than that, the pitch was about a Lottie story writing competition. Accompanying the competition is the Great Books for Girls list,  books with strong female role-models. The whole thing was right up my alley, but I’d never heard of Lottie. For the sake of research (!), I ordered two dolls from an online toy retailer (and another appealing aspect of Lottie is that she sells for $19.99, a reasonable price).

The dolls arrived, and my children were immediately hooked. At first glance, the dolls aren’t so revolutionary, though this helps them to fill that Barbie-shaped void in my children’s toy box—and pivotally, the dolls aren’t Barbie-shaped. The dolls are also available in hair colours other than yellow (with dark-skinned ones too). They don’t stand up quite as well as I’d hoped, but Harriet wasn’t interested in leaving them unattended anyway. She was excited to play with them immediately, her Snow Queen Lottie engaged with elaborate plots of Autumn Leaves Lottie (whom I selected because I liked her tights). My only complaint is that the doll clothes are bit fiddly for tiny fingers, and that the fastening bead on Snow Queen’s fur cape needs re-sewing already.

We’re already quite besotted with our Lotties, and I have no doubt that Harriet will be able to come up with exciting Lottie tale to enter in the story competition, which closes September 12. The prize is ten titles from the Great Books for Girls list, which sounds good to me!

Find out more about the contest at the Lottie Facebook Page.

IMG_20140902_161541 IMG_20140902_161545 IMG_20140902_161547 IMG_20140902_161549LitComp_wall image 2

June 18, 2014


The M Word at PArent Books

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