Thursday, December 4, 2008

We're Dreaming of a "Green" Christmas

The holidays are a time for giving—we give presents, cards, food and our time to those we love. We at Lobster Press believe that it’s also important to give back to the planet during the holiday season! So in conjunction with our interview with author Tim O’Shei, we came up with three “eco-friendly” holiday crafts to add some cheer to your holiday season!
  1. Make your own holiday gift-wrap!
    Use newspaper or brown wrapping paper and decorate it with your own designs. For a cool twist, cut cookie cutter shapes out of sponges to dip in paint, or use old holiday cards as decoration. Pick your favourite holiday card shapes and glue them to your presents. For another cool “green” twist, use these holiday card shapes as gift tags for presents.
More tips:
  • Instead of buying wrapping paper this year, stick to gift boxes and gift bags (which can be reused)!
  • Buy string, yarn or fabric ribbon for presents. Reuse them next season!

  1. Make your own decorations!
    Start by cutting out pieces of cardboard from old boxes. Make them around four inches tall. Cover the cardboard in reused aluminium foil. Then, cut out your favourite images from old holiday greeting cards. Using these images, paste them onto the cut-outs. Punch a hole through the new ornament, put string through and voila: brand new ornaments for the tree or to hang along the fireplace
More tips:
  • Instead of buying traditional ornaments made from glass, stick to handmade ornaments… these are generally made from earth materials (which are biodegradable).

  • Buy a live tree… as crazy as it sounds, live trees are grown for this purpose. They’re also biodegradable whereas fake trees are not.

  1. Make Holiday Streamers
    Take a fabric ribbon and place your family’s favourite holiday greeting cards along the strip. This can be hung from doorframes, along the fireplace, or the windowsill. To add more flair to this new decoration, you can decorate the ribbon itself. Using the cookie cutter sponge shapes from the gift-wrapper idea, stamp the ribbon with these images.

More tips:
  • Buy the new LED holiday lights. These last longer and don’t use as much energy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Interview with "Our Powerful Planet" Author Tim O'Shei

Our Powerful Planet author Tim O'Shei has written over 40 kids' books. He published his first national magazine article at 16 and had his first book contract by the age of 20. An inspiration to all aspiring authors, he was nice enough to answer a few of our questions on the environment, what inspires him to write, and his favourite kids' book.

What inspired you to write Our Powerful Planet?

We all have to do more to help our Earth. Period. I'm absolutely convinced of that, and I have been for a long time. Writing this book is my chance to make a difference by teaching kids about our planet and inspiring them to treat it well.

What was your research process like? Were you familiar with the material prior to writing the book?

Ha! Ask my editor, Meghan Nolan, about the research process! It was long, hard, challenging, sometimes frustrating -- and incredibly rewarding. Why challenging? Well, Earth is a tough place to "understand." If scientists knew exactly how it worked, we'd be able to predict every bit of weather and cure climate change in a snap. Meghan and I really worked well as a team trying to dig up the vital information and the most interesting facts. Why frustrating? Frankly, it's difficult to convey some of these concepts in a children's book. That's where Meghan pushed and pushed me. She made suggestions, ordered rewrites, gave pointed feedback, and ultimately helped me craft a book that I'm proud to hold in my hands. She was like the coach; I was the athlete. She made me sweat -- and it was worth it. We've got a book that's loaded with crisp, clear and sometimes alarmingly information ... must-know stuff. It'll make kids think.

What was the most interesting fact you stumbled upon? What’s your favourite weather phenomena?

A large hurricane creates more energy than every human on the planet uses in an entire year. I wonder if someday we'll learn how to harness the energy of a hurricane and use it. If we could do that, our energy crisis would disappear as quickly as a bolt of lightning. Which leads me to my favorite phenomena -- ball lightning. This is a type of lightning that shows up as a fizzy, glowing, basketball-sized sphere. It hisses and pops for a few seconds, and then it's gone.

How much of a role do children play in impacting the future of this planet?

A very big role. Think of it this way: If every kid recycled, avoided wasting paper, and walked or biked whenever possible, this planet would be much healthier. (So would we, by the way, thanks to the extra physical activity.)

What are the little, everyday things we could do to have a greener lifestyle?

The goal is to stop putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Cars and fuel-burning machines put CO2 into the air. Trees absorb CO2, so when we cut them down, more of it gets trapped in the atmosphere. Little things make all the difference when everybody does them. Kids can cut down on how much fuel their family uses by walking, biking or riding a scooter. When you have to drive somewhere, see if your family can carpool with others. Cut down on paper by doing your assignments online, borrowing books from the library, and donating old books to the library. There are some side benefits to all of this: When you walk, ride or scoot, you burn calories and build muscle. When you do your homework on the computer, it turns out neater. And when you borrow books from the library, you save money.One more thought: Kids can also take a leadership role in their schools and communities by organizing programs like recycling drives and water-saving days.

Time for a hypothetical: would you rather ride a tornado or take a journey to the center of the Earth?

Whew, that's a tough one. Let's see ... Roller coasters are fun, so riding a tornado sounds cool. But then again, tornado winds can hit 200 miles/320 kilometers per hour. The world's fastest roller coasters are only a little more than half that fast. Sounds pretty dangerous -- not to mention a surefire way to mess up your hair -- so maybe I'll take a journey to the center of the Earth. Then again, the core of the planet consists of molten iron -- that'll melt your hair and skin off! I suppose what I'd do is build a heat-resistant traveling machine that spins as fast as a tornado to dig through the Earth's rocky crust on a whirlwind journey to the center of the planet. Since nobody has ever gone there, who knows what new phenomena we'd find!

And of course, what was your favourite book as a child?

Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Kuhanek, read my class this story of a lost dog and the boy who loved him. Something about that story captured my attention and I wanted badly to read it myself. The catch is this: Back then I struggled mightily with reading and writing. But Mrs. Kuhanek gave me the book at the end of the year, and I managed to read it over the summer. I fell in love with reading through that book, and my love for writing following quickly behind.

You can visit Tim O'Shei on his website by clicking here. For green holiday craft ideas, please click here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Perks of Interning at Lobster Press

Feature written by: Eric Lavigueur

One of the greatest things about being an intern at Lobster Press is getting the inside scoop on upcoming releases. Not only do we get excited at the prospect of getting to play our part with the work in progress, but we also become overly excited about the reaction once the book is actually released. Not to rub it in anyone’s face, but all the interns here have already read books that the world will only get to see come Spring 2009 (okay maybe that was intended to make you a bit jealous).

Among those great titles being released very soon, I am particularly proud of, and anxious for, the third book in the Penelope series. Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party, written by Sheri Radford and illustrated by Christine Tripp, is sure to please all fans of colorful and zany picture books. Sheri Radford once again brings the reader along for one of Penelope’s misadventures, and considering how much fun it was to follow along with her Humongous Burp and her encounter with the Monsters, I cannot wait to see the final version of this book. I am going to try to not give away any spoilers but let’s just say that when Penelope throws a party you can never be sure of who or what is going to show up with a present in hand.

Part of my excitement for this book stems from the memories it brings me of reading my favorite books as a child. Penelope’s crazy antics along with Christine Tripp’s wonderful illustrations remind me of my favorite Robert Munsch books, and that is certainly the highest compliment I can give to Sheri and Christine.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2009 Red Maple Award: Lobster Title Shortlisted!

Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île by Anne Renaud has been shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association's 2009 Red Maple Award!

We are very excited by this news. We posted a review of Island of Hope and Sorrow, knowing that Renaud's non-fiction book for children was too finely told to overlook. This recognition by the Ontario Library Association has only confirmed our belief in the importance of sharing a chapter of Canada's history with a new generation!

More about Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île:

From 1832 to 1937 more than four million people sailed across the Atlantic to the port of Quebec with the dream of creating better lives for themselves in the New World. During this period, a tiny island called Grosse Île, located fifty kilometres downstream from the port, served as a quarantine station. Its mission was to prevent ship passengers from spreading diseases to the mainland.

Award-winning Montreal children's author, Anne Renaud, tells the story of the island, which served both as gateway and graveyard for the thousands of people who landed on its shores, and of the caring island workers who welcomed them.

Anne Renaud is the author of three books for children. Her first book, A Bloom of Friendship: The Story of the Canadian Tulip Festival, was shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award, the Hackmatack Children's Choice Award, and the Red Cedar Book Award. In mid-October, she appeared at Pier 21, as well as at nearby schools and libraries, in conjunction with Canada's Citizenship Week to speak about her latest book for children, Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Reviews Coming This Month

Two Lobster Press titles were recently reviewed by ForeWord magazine.

ForeWord magazine (which focuses on independent book publishers and has a readership of approximately 20'000 librarians and booksellers) will feature reviews on Lobster Press' Emily's Rebellion (part of the Not Just Proms and Parties series) and They Called Me Red. The reviews will be featured in the November/December issue of the magazine.

The review for Emily's Rebellion is highlighted in a section titled "Beyond Sex Ed" which noted that books like the ones from the NJPP series "can all help girls make it through those years of hormones and painful learning experiences" and states that while the NJPP series is aimed at reluctant readers and ESL students, the books are "suitable for any teenage girl with a busy schedule."

They Called Me Red was also reviewed. In the review, author Christina Kilbourne was complimented for her tact in dealing with a sensitive topic such as human trafficking. The reviewer noted that "Kilbourne gets the dread across [and] the sex necessary to advance the storyline is handled tactfully; fear and circumstances of imprisonment are the main focuses."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Praise for Lobster Press YA Novels!

Posing as Ashley, They Called Me Red, and Tin Angel. Critics agree, these three outstanding novels for teen readers are worthy of praise! Here's the latest buzz...

Posing as Ashley - Kimberly Joy Peters
A positive review of Posing as Ashley will appear in the November issue of School Library Journal. The review hails Peters' realistic depiction of various contemporary issues that many teens face today. It goes on to say, "with the same sincerity as Painting Caitlyn, Peters captures the fragility of the teenage soul and creates an honest character in Ashley. Situations such as her parents' divorce, her mom's illness, and a broken heart will resonate with many teens."

Posing as Ashley was also recently reviewed in CM: Canadian Review of Materials, and asserts that "not unlike her companion novel, Painting Caitlyn, [Peters' latest work] is destined to be a popular pick amongst teen girls and will likely hold great appeal for reluctant readers with its focus on modeling." The main character, Ashley, is seen as "an immediately likable protagonist... [who] will resonate with many readers." For the full review, click here.

They Called Me Red - Christina Kilbourne
The October issue of Quill & Quire includes a rave review of They Called Me Red. Reviewer, Sarah Jessop, notes that the plot "...although fictional, could easily have been plucked from today's headlines. Told with compassion and delicacy, the novel centres on a boy who is changed forever after he's sold into the global sex trade." Regarding the novel's subject matter, Jessop clarifies that "Kilbourne artfully depicts the horrors of forced child prostitution without resorting to disturbing specifics. The plot moves at a heart-pounding pace sure to appeal to young adult readers, and yet Kilbourne manages to imbue her characters with both depth and humanity."

CM: Canadian Review of Materials gave They Called Me Red four out of four stars. The review says that "...the best books deal not just with entertainment, but also education, and this is where Kilbourne stands apart from others... she enlightens her readers on facts of life that, while they could be ignored, are important to deal with in terms of our global community... This is a message of both determination and hope which teens need to hear." For the full review, click here.

Tin Angel - Shannon Cowan
Named one of the "Best Books of the Year" by Quill & Quire in 2007, Tin Angel continues receiving praise! This groundbreaking YA novel has been Shortlisted for the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. This award, established in memory of the respected historian and children's author, Geoffrey Bilson, is given annually to the Canadian author of an outstanding work of historical fiction for young people. The winner will be chosen on November 9, 2008.

Tin Angel's nomination received mentions in the Vancouver Sun, the Montreal Gazette, and the Parksville Qualicum Beach News (one of B.C.'s daily community newspapers).

Please join us in congratulating these incredibly talented YA authors!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pier 21 Nominated for First QWF Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature

Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far has been nominated for the Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature! This is the first year that this category has been included. We wish author Anne Renaud the best of luck!

Winners will be announced on Nov. 19 at the QWF Literary Gala at the Lion d'Or cabaret in Montreal. A complete list of nominees can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grim Hill Author Appearing at Vancouver's VCON - Sci Fi, Fantasy and Gaming Convention

Good news for fantasy book fans!!

Linda DeMeulemeester, the author of award-winning Lobster Press book, The Secret of Grim Hill, will be appearing at Vancouver's VCON this Friday, October 3 for their multi-author book launch. Organizers of the event will be auctioning signed copies of both Grim Hill novels.

Linda DeMeulemeester is a resident of Burnaby, B.C. and has credited her success as an author to her knowledge that danger makes good suspense.

You can visit the Grim Hill website at this link.

Cat Peters just transferred to Darkmont High and hates it. Learning that Grimoire, the private school nearby, is offering scholarships to the winners of a Halloween soccer match, Cat jumps at the chance. When she discovers that an entire soccer team disappeared many years ago, she investigates. This leads Cat to a book about ancient Celtic myth and fairy lore, and she soon realizes that there is something truly wicked at work inside the walls of Grimoire.

It is now November and things have finally gotten back to normal for Cat. Now the big drama in her life isn't a battle against diabolical fairies, but a battle of the sexes on the soccer field. Meanwhile, her little sister Sookie has only been interested in magic since she escaped the fairies on Halloween night. When Sookie takes her discoveries too far, it is up to Cat to set things straight. Can Cat really bear to return to the dreaded Grim Hill for a final confrontation with the powerful beings that dwell there?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lobster Author Visits Pier 21 for Canadian Citizenship Week

Award-winning children's author, Anne Renaud, will appear at Pier 21, and at schools and libraries in Halifax, as part of the Canadian Citizenship Week Festivities (from October 13th-19th). Renaud will speak about her research for Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far.

About Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far:
From 1928 to 1971, a cavernous shed-like building stood in Halifax harbour, welcoming more than one million newcomers to Canada. It was also the last view of home seen by close to 500,000 Canadian service personnel, as they sailed off to battle during World War II. Across its threshold came the ebb and flow of home children and guest children, soldiers and war brides, refugees and displaced persons, carried to and from its doors by ocean liners, military ships and small sailing vessels. This is a chronicle of Pier 21 and of those who passed through, some on their way to foreign lands to fight for freedom, and others on their way to becoming part of the growing nation of Canada.

Who: Anne Renaud, author of Pier 21: Stories from Near and Far
What: Book signing at the historic Pier 21 Building
Where: Pier 21 Museum Gift Shop
1055 Marginal Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia
(902) 423-4045
When: Saturday, October 18th from 11:00-11:45 AM

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lobster Blog Nominated for the Brilliante Weblog Promio Award!

Anastasia Suen of the Picture Book of the Day blog nominated the Lobster Press blog for the Brillante Weblog Premio Award!

Thanks so much Anastasia!

There's a lot of blogs that we think are awesome and deserve attention. We nominate the following blogs for the Brillante Weblog Premio Award 2008:

The Literary Word
Cheryl Rainfield
3 Evil Cousins
My Readable Feast
A Peek at my Bookshelf
Reading with Becky

Rules for next recipients of the Brillante Weblog Premio are as follows:

1. The award may be displayed on a winner’s blog.
2. Add a link to the person you received the award from.
3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.
4. Add their links to your blog.
5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In addition to the positive reviews from bloggers, we have more great news!

Kimberly Joy Peters' debut novel, Painting Caitlyn, has been shortlisted for the British Columbia Teen Readers' Choice Award (2008/2009), the Stellar Award!

About Painting Caitlyn:

It's been a difficult year for Caitlyn. She feels ignored by her mother and step-father who are obsessed with having a baby, her best friend is always blowing her off for a boyfriend, and she's struggling in art, her favorite subject. Caitlyn is completely depressed until Tyler enters her life and seems to make her problems disappear.

Older, gorgeous, and totally into Caitlyn, he makes Caitlyn feel important, needed, and special. But just as things get serious, Caitlyn discovers Tyler’s jealous side. Once she realizes her "perfect" boyfriend is as controlling as he is caring, she is faced with a choice: she can either let this relationship define her, or find the courage to break away.

Teens throughout B.C. will read and discuss Painting Caitlyn; the winner of the Stellar Award will be announced in May 2009. For more information, visit The spin-off of Painting Caitlyn, Posing as Ashley, will be released next month.

Dave Stubbs' Our Game: The History of Hockey in Canada has been shortlisted for the British Columbia Young Readers' Choice Award (2008/2009), the Red Cedar Award!

About Our Game:

Our Game: The History of Hockey in Canada is the most comprehensive book ever written for young readers about the history of hockey, specifically from a Canadian perspective. The author provides a play-by-play of our national sport’s evolution over three centuries, from the first publicly played game through the recent NHL lock-out. Along with essential information about rules, gear, and stats, readers will learn about hockey’s most unforgettable moments and most talented stars. Little-known facts, amazing photographs (many of which have never been published in a book before), and expertly researched history make this a must-have for every Canadian hockey fan!

Students in grades 4 - 7 throughout B.C. will read and discuss Our Game; the winner of the Red Cedar Award will be announced in May 2009. For more information, visit

Monday, August 25, 2008

REVIEWS & NEWS: Blog Review Round-Up

At Lobster Press, we are dedicated to every book we publish. Months and months of hard work are spent making sure each book receives the attention it deserves. So we get really excited when we see other people enjoying the end results! Thank you to all the bloggers who have taken the time to read and review Lobster Press books - fantastic feedback from readers makes our day.

The latest Reviews & News:

Hooked! Books for Kids: Review of Famous Firsts by Natalie Rompella

A Patchwork of Books: Review of Famous Firsts by Natalie Rompella

My Backyard: Review of Lemon the Duck by Laura Backman and Illustrator Laurence Cleyet-Merle

Mom Central: Review of Oliver Has Something to Say by Pamela Edwards and Illustrator Louis Pilon

Mom Central: Review of I Don't Want to Go by Addie Meyer Sanders and Illustrator Andrew Rowland

Sanctuary for Offbeat and Quirky Children's Lit: Review of Penelope and the Humongous Burp by Sheri Radford and Illustrator Christine Tripp

Picture Book of the Day: Review of The Months: Fun with Friends All Year 'Round by Sara Coleridge and Illustrator Kathy Weller

Friday, August 22, 2008


Managing more than ten books at different stages of development at once is difficult. But we were lucky enough to carve some time out of Meghan Nolan's busy schedule. In this interview, Nolan shares her thoughts on writing children's books and the kind of manuscripts and characters that excite her. Authors interested in submitting manuscripts to Lobster Press can find more information on the Lobster web-site.

What motivated you to devote your time to literature for young readers?

When I was in high school, I remember my English teacher Mrs. Baletsa telling us she had studied English literature in university, and I thought “Wow, can you really do that?” Books had always been such a luxury to me and such a passion of mine, so once I learned that literature was something legitimate to study and devote a career to, I never looked back. I went on to complete a BA and MA in English literature and always hoped to work in publishing.

I love being a children’s book editor at Lobster Press – it’s a dream come true, as trite as that sounds. I fondly remember many books I read as a child and as a teen and I hope that our books leave the same lasting impressions on today’s young readers. I am a firm believer that good children’s books bring children and their families together and provide a sense of nostalgia long after the books are closed. If I can spend my days being a small part of that experience and help deliver strong contributions to the world of children’s lit, then wow – I feel very lucky.

How do you think writing for children is different from writing for adults?

Writing for both audiences presents distinct challenges. I’ve heard some people say that writing for kids must be really easy, but I definitely don’t think that’s the case – with children’s books, every word matters and it’s crucial that authors draw readers in on the very first page and then keep readers engaged throughout the whole book (picture books, middle-grade texts, nonfiction titles, and novels).

With all of the competition for kids’ attention these days, it’s so important that books engage, entertain, and inspire. To reach these ends, it’s key for the author to always keep the young protagonist’s perspective in mind. How does the character feel about what’s happening? What does the character think? And most importantly, what does the character want? I find that it’s sometimes easy to overlook such details of the child’s perspective – and of course, these details are what help keep readers engaged.

What kinds of characters appeal to you?

Quirky, unapologetic characters with an interesting perspective and an endearing quality that makes them unforgettable. When the story is over, I want to miss the character – I know it’s always a good sign when I’m thinking about the character long after I’ve finished reading a manuscript. I have to be honest, too, and say that I adore funny characters. If something a character thinks, says, or does makes me laugh out loud, I’m hooked.

What kinds of stories are you looking for?

At the moment, we are looking for original fiction for young adults, and nonfiction titles for all ages. Specifically, we are looking for yoga manuscripts (for ages 4-8), cookbook manuscripts (ages 9-12), manuscripts related to the environment and green living (all ages), and hockey manuscripts (fiction and nonfiction, all ages). Please visit the Submissions page on our web site for all of the details.

What gets you excited about a manuscript?

I am apt to embrace a manuscript that surprises me or speaks to a universal truth in an unexpected way. I also get really excited about manuscripts that take risks and force me out of any kind of comfort zone. And of course, I also love a carefully constructed plot, complete with twists and turns. Nonfiction manuscripts filled with lots of little-known “gems” (as we like to call them) also spark my interest in a big way – I’d like to see more of these manuscripts.

Do you have any tips and suggestions for writers thinking about submitting their manuscript?

Know your audience, don’t rely on adjectives, write with strong intention, and over all, surprise, entertain, and inspire us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008



Based on the inspirational true story of the Pekin duck born in an elementary school classroom.

Ms. Lake and her class conduct an egg-hatching project in school and on the big day, welcome four little ducklings into the world. The students soon realize that the soft yellow one they named Lemon looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but can’t stand up and walk like a duck. They worry that Lemon won't be happy if she can't do all the things ducks love to do, and work together to help Lemon thrive. Through caring for Lemon, the students share in her victories and learn that acceptance, love, and extra special care can go a long way. They also come to understand that her difference doesn’t make Lemon any less special.

Author Laura Backman and the real Lemon live in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Learn more at

What drove you to adopt Lemon?

Shortly after Lemon hatched, I had her assessed by several veterinarians. They agreed that Lemon’s condition was permanent. The good news was that she was not in any pain and she really seemed to be a happy little girl, despite her challenges.

I searched out Sanctuaries that could care for her properly…I quickly realized that they were not prepared to care for an animal that needed such extensive care. That just wouldn’t do for this wonderful animal with such a zest for life. With the guidance of Kim Link at the Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary, I was able to provide Lemon with the proper nutrition and care that she needed.

Why did you choose to share Lemon’s story with others?

First, I think Lemon is an inspiration. She is a spunky, loveable creature who never lets her challenges get her down.

I also wanted people to see that all life is precious, and one’s quality of life is so important. I wanted children to know that they can make a difference in someone’s life. Lemon’s story is a “safe” way to talk about disabilities, to ask questions, and brainstorm ways to make a difference in someone else’s life. Lemon provides those teachable moments for kids.

Finally, I also wanted to honor my dad who recently passed away from MS. He was a wonderful man, father, and inspiration. Lemon’s story is dedicated to him.

How did Lemon’s presence help after your father’s death?

I feel that by giving Lemon the best life she can have, I am continuing to honor him. I know he would be very proud of how I am caring for Lemon. He and Lemon share some of the same symptoms, and I know that helping my dad has made me a better caregiver for Lemon.

When I was younger, and long before my dad was diagnosed with MS, we had 21 pet ducks. I remember my dad taking me to get our first two ducks – Diana and Daffy. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood “ducky days”. Lemon reminds me of him and those times.

How do you bring Lemon to school?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have administrators that see the value in having Lemon interact with the students. Lemon comes to school with me in her basket and she gets to visit the students in some of the classrooms and at recess.

How do the students react to Lemon?

They are always excited to see Lemon. She’s happy to see them too. The students come to greet her and give her some love. Sometimes I put her in her scooter and they crouch down and encourage her to walk around the blacktop with them.

In the classroom some of the children give her “massages” or read her stories. They are always looking for the latest update on Lemon. One of our favorite classrooms to visit is the intensive special needs classrooms. The children enjoy her visits and I think she helps provide an opportunity for them to practice social interactions.

Has adopting Lemon changed your life in other ways?

Oh boy has it! I never would have believed that a duck could rule the house until Lemon. I’ve even learned to understand “duck language”. Lemon has different quacks for different commands she gives me. And, believe me, I follow them!

For the most part I’ve always been a pretty shy person, but you can’t get away with that with a duck by your side. Wherever Lemon is, there’s usually a crowd. I’ve become her spokesperson.

I’ve definitely come to have an appreciation of the amount of time, caring, and emotion that it takes to care for a handicapped animal.

Does Lemon have any idiosyncratic habits?

My favorite one is when Lemon wakes me in the middle of the night for kisses on her bill. And she loves to be cuddled and petted. You would normally think a duck would avoid people. Not Lemon – she loves people. She especially enjoys swimming with children. When Lemon sees other birds and ducks, she is interested in them, but prefers her “people” friends.

What are Lemon’s favorite hobbies?

Swimming, swimming, swimming, preening, preening, preening!
How old is Lemon now?
Lemon was born on April 11th, 2006, so she is about 2 ½ years old.
Do you have any other interesting stories you'd like to share about Lemon?

I do, but you’ll have to wait to read about them in Lemon’s next book!

Friday, July 25, 2008

REVIEW & INTERVIEW: 3 Evil Cousins on Fakie by Tony Varrato

3 Evil Cousins, "book reviews 4 and by teens," posted an in-depth entry on their blog yesterday about Tony Varrato and his latest novel, Fakie, a 2009 YALSA pick that has tongues lolling for more. 3 Evil Cousins interviewed Varrato on his thoughts on pink faeries, zombies, unicorns, as well as his favorite books, his inspiration for writing Fakie, and what he's working on now. Gobble up the full details and read the review now! To learn more about Tony Varrato and Fakie, read this interview we conducted with the author a few weeks back.

For those interested, 3 Evil Cousins also recently began their sister site, Toad Hill Reviews, "book reviews 4 & by tweens". We look forward to their thoughts on great books!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TOP TEN: Fun Family Activities for Summer in New Orleans

Today we are taking you south with suggestions for exciting family activities in New Orleans!

by Barri Bronston
, author of the Lobster Kids' Guide to Exploring New Orleans

  1. Aquarium of the Americas – Visitors are invited to journey to the Caribbean Reef, the Amazon Rainforest and the Mississippi River, where they will be greeted by a host of deep-sea creatures, sea otters sting rays, sharks and penguins.

  2. Audubon Insectarium – Open for less than three months, this long-awaited museum invites children (and adults) to enjoy up-close encounters with termites, butterflies, crickets, ants and dozens of other insects. Offerings include an animated insect film and samplings of exotic – yes, even tasty -- insect cuisine.

  3. Audubon Zoo – Besides its exotic animals, natural habitats and lush gardens, this highly acclaimed zoo features a Louisiana swamp exhibit, live animal presentations along with the Endangered Species Carousel, the Safari Simulator Ride and the Swamp Train.

  4. City Park – One of the largest urban parks in the United States, City Park was practically wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. But thanks to the thousands of volunteers who have helped resurrect it, the park is buzzing once again. Among its attractions are Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, Storyland, the Botanical Garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

  5. French Quarter – Except for Bourbon Street, there are few places in the Quarter where families can’t wander. Check out the flea market, the Farmer’s Market, the Wax Museum, Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. When you need a break, grab a table at Café du Monde and enjoy some sugar-laden beignets.

  6. Louisiana Children’s Museum – Explore and experience 30,000 square feet of hands-on fun. Among other things, kids can pilot a towboat down the Mighty Mississippi, create stunning works of arts and hoist themselves up a wall.

  7. Mardi Gras World – If you can’t make it to New Orleans for Fat Tuesday, take a trek across the Mississippi River for a behind-the-scenes look at the magic of Mardi Gras. The tour includes gigantic props, colorful floats and samples of king cake. After the tour, you’re invited to dress up in ornate carnival costumes.

  8. National World War II Museum – The 70,000-square-foot museum highlights the American experience during the WWII era with moving personal stories, historic artifacts and powerful interactive displays. At personal account stations, visitors can listen to the stories of war veterans. Check the calendar for band performances, war reenactments and children’s programs.

  9. Riverboat ride – Climb aboard an authentic 19th century riverboat and enjoy the sites and sounds of the Crescent City as you cruise up and down the Mississippi. You can choose between a two-hour harbor cruise or a jazz and dinner cruise.

  10. Streetcar ride – Three years post-Katrina, the St. Charles Avenue streetcar is finally back. During a ride from the Riverbend neighborhood to the Central Business District, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Uptown New Orleans, including Tulane and Loyola universities, Audubon Park and some of the country’s most exquisite mansions.

Monday, July 7, 2008

TOP TEN: Fun Family Activities for Summer in Montreal

As promised, here are top ten nine suggestions for fun activities that families can enjoy during a Montreal summer. Recommended by John Symon and Annika Melanson, this diverse group of activities is sure to captivate families and promises to provide an enthralling summer experience!

  1. The annual Just for Laughs festival (July 10 to 20) will be hosting children’s activities at the Just for Kids space, located next to the UQAM church bell tower on St. Denis St. (between St. Catherine St. E. and de Maisonneuve Blvd.). Non-stop entertainment will be available for children, including puppet shows, clown workshops and treasure hunts. These activities will be offered from Monday to Friday, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and weekends from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 514.845.2322 or visit the Just for Laughs web-site.

  2. La Fête des enfants (August 15-17) celebrates its 10th annual edition in 2008. This event is designed for the 12 years and under crowd. The venue will be Parc Jean Drapeau and many of the activities will take place at the Biodome, the Stewart Museum and at the Aquatic Complex of Ile Ste Helene. Fireworks, workshops, performers, inflatable toys, miniature trains, and emergency vehicles will all be there. Also to celebrate the event, there will be free admission to the Botanical Gardens, Biodôme and Insectarium on Saturday August 16 and Sunday August 17. The site is easily accessible by public transit (Jean Drapeau metro) and by bicycle from Montreal. For more information, call 514 872-0060 or email

  3. Going down the Lachine Rapids has long been described as “the best tourist attraction around Montreal.” Not only do participants get a thrilling ride through the waves (plan to get wet, even under raincoats) but they also get a brand new perspective on the city including unusual and breathtaking skylines. Two companies presently offer such trips, these being Sauté moutons, which leaves in jet boats from the Clock Tower Pier in Montreal’s Old Port, and Descentes sur le Saint-Laurent which primarily uses rafts to go down the rapids from its put in on LaSalle. Blvd. Reservations are required for both.

  4. Tree top obstacle courses are becoming increasingly popular around Montreal. Minimum ages vary, but participants must usually be able to lift their arms up at least six feet (1.8 metres). Youths under 16 years must generally be accompanied by an adult. A certain degree of coordination and athletic ability are required for these tree-top obstacle courses. My 10 and 12 year-old had a blast doing the Drummondville course in 2007. The various companies involved include: Acrobranche; Arbre en Arbre; Arbraska; and Arbre Aventure. Reservations are required and these sites are difficult to access without a car.

  5. The two big zoos near Montreal, Granby Zoo and Parc Safari both offer good summer fun. Here you can view exotic animals, including many from Africa. Granby is a more rational style zoo whereas Parc Safari lets you drive your car through the animals’ habitat where my kids enjoy feeding the animals. Parc Safari sometimes even offers the chance to ride the elephants. Afterwards, you can jump in the aquatic park at either site. The water parks are typically shut down in the event of thunderstorms, however. Car access is essential for both sites.

  6. The Biodome is a good rainy day destination. This large indoor zoo features bioclimatic zones from the Amazon rainforest, the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the world’s Polar Regions. Nearby are the Botanical Gardens, which incorporates the Insectarium—a bug museum almost unique in the world. While the Botanical Garden is popular with all ages, some programming is also offered for younger children (generally in French only). The stadium used for the 1976 Olympics is also adjacent. Access is by car (pay parking), by public transit (Viau metro) or by bike.

  7. The Quays of the Old Port remain one of the most popular tourist destinations for all ages in the Montreal area. (Montreal Science Centre, Pointe a Calliere Museum, quadricycle rental, Shed 16 Labyrinth, step aboard a three-masted barque from the last 19th century, look at the ships, or just go for an ice cream... This site is best accessed by public transit (Champs de Mars metro) or by bicycle.

  8. Mount Royal Park covers the mountain that gave Montreal its name. This popular park has long been a favourite destination of Montrealers and today features a large playground, woodland trails, paddle boating, nature watching and views of the downtown. Bring a picnic or eat in the restaurants there. Access is by car (pay parking) or by public transit (bus 11 from Mont Royal metro) or by bike.

  9. Jean Drapeau Park is situated on two islands in the St. Lawrence River. Here you can find la Ronde (a major amusement park with roller coasters), a swimming beach on Ile Notre Dame, the Stewart Museum (a 19th century fort built to protect Montreal from an American invasion), the Biodome (a museum dedicated to water and housed in the former American pavilion from Expo ‘67), beautiful gardens, swimming pools, playgrounds, boat rentals and more. Despite its close proximity to downtown, parts of the park remain remarkably quiet, making this a great spot for a picnic. The park is easily accessible by public transit (Jean Drapeau metro) and by bicycle from Montreal.

  10. La Petite Ferme at Angrignon Park (514-280-3744) is a perennial favourite for families with young children. Kids will be thrilled to get up close to chickens, cows, donkeys, ducks and sheep. The farm also has emus, llamas, peacocks, pheasants, and pigeons. There are coin-operated machines let you feed the goats and sheep. Animators are on hand to present different farm themes, mainly in French, to young children every week. This destination also features a great playground. The site is located within easy walking distance of the Angrignon metro station, pay parking is also available. A bike path along the aqueduct is nearby. Unfortunately, Le Petite Ferme is "fermé " (closed!) until 2010. But there's enough delicious attractions in this list to keep families busy for the summer!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

TOP TEN: Fun Family Activites for Summer in Toronto

Is it just me or do the long days make weekends seem even longer? Like a lot of busy, working moms, I try to make the most of the season by cramming Saturdays and Sundays with fun activities for the kids: there is nothing worse than seeing my guys camped out on the couch when it's gorgeous outside. The challenge, however, is finding family-friendly attractions and events that we'll all enjoy, that aren't hours away, and that won't break the bank!

Luckily for me, John Symon wrote an excellent family guide for Montreal, Quebec. Take a look at John's book Exploring Montreal with Kids and keep checking our blog to read his top suggestions for summer fun in Montreal!

But why stop at Montreal? We checked in with the authors of our family travel guide series and asked them what the top ten summer activities in each of their cities would be. We'll post a new top ten list every few days, including the best family attractions in San Francisco, New Orleans, Halifax, and more - great for residents and for visitors! Let's kick off the summer fun with Toronto, Ontario!

-Stephanie Hindley, Director of Marketing

by Natalie Anne Comeau, author of the Lobster Kids' Guide to Exploring Toronto

  1. Toronto Zoo – One of the world’s largest zoos, the Toronto Zoo boasts more than 5,000 animals displayed in indoor tropical pavilions and outdoor naturalistic environments. Must-sees include the award winning African Savannah and Gorilla Rainforest, the new Great Barrier Reef, and Stingray Bay where visitors can reach out and touch the stingrays. For younger guests, the Zellers Discovery Zone features a Kids’ Zoo, Waterside Theatre and Splash Island.

  2. Canada’s Wonderland – Featuring over 200 attractions and more than 65 rides, including Canada’s only flying coaster, Canada’s longest wooden coaster, and the brand new Behemoth – Canada’s biggest, tallest, and fastest rollercoaster. Lots of rides for the little ones, as well as daily live shows, dining and shopping. Be sure to pack your swimsuits for a visit to SplashWorks, the 20-acre water park.

  3. Toronto Island – Accessible only via ferry from the docks at the foot of Bay Street, Toronto Island is actually a series of small islands connected by pedestrian bridges. The automobile-free islands feature bicycle trails, bike and boat rentals, wading pools, a playground, tennis courts, volleyball courts, beaches, a disc golf course, and the old-fashioned Centreville amusement park ( Pack a picnic and stay for the day.

  4. Royal Ontario Museum – Housing one of Canada’s largest permanent collections of dinosaurs, the ROM has a wealth of family-friendly programs. Friday nights offer half-price admission, and weekends feature free programming, music and special events. There is also a summer day camp, the popular Saturday Morning Club, and ROMkids - a series of ongoing educational programs designed for kids up to 16-years of age.

  5. Rouge Park – One of the world’s largest urban parks, Rouge Park offers hiking, fishing, swimming and picnicking – or bring your own canoe and enjoy a leisurely paddle. Also features the only campground in the city of Toronto – just a transit stop away.

  6. Ontario Science Centre – Having recently undergone a major renovation, the Ontario Science Centre offers live demonstrations and hands-on activities that make science fun. The multi-level centre has nine exhibition halls, including the new Weston Family Innovation Centre and the IMAX Dome Theatre. A special Mars exhibit will be running throughout the month of July. The OSC also offers a summer day camp and ‘Sci-Fri’ Friday Nights especially for teens.

  7. Black Creek Pioneer Village immerses visitors in the lifestyles and customs of 1800’s – A living history museum, Black Creek Pioneer VillageOntario. Interpreters and trades people in authentic period dress welcome guests to the many historical buildings and farmyards on the 30-acre property. At the Hands on History Centre, kids can experience traditional trades and pioneer survival skills like building a log cabin, making a bucket, or weaving cloth.

  8. Ontario Place – This internationally acclaimed cultural and leisure park, located on three man-made islands on the shores of Lake Ontario, features Canada’s largest outdoor soft-play climbing structure, midway rides, mini-golf, pedal boats, hoops, an arcade, bumper boats, the F/X Adventure Theatre motion simulator, and Soak City - Toronto’s only downtown water park.

  9. High Park – This 161-hectare park features a petting zoo, an adventure playground, cycling and nature trails, a trackless train, tennis courts, a swimming pool and plenty of spots to stop for a picnic. Sign up for the Eco day camp, or take part in the many drop-in programs offered by The Children’s Garden and Exploring Toronto, including hands-on gardening and nature exploration, cooking, nature crafts and eco games. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, drop into Colborne Lodge historic house and museum.

  10. Canadian National Exhibition – Toronto’s traditional end-of-summer celebration (August 15 – September 1), the Ex features agricultural exhibitions, a daily parade, midway rides and games. Thrilling shows include the RCMP Musical Ride, the Iams SuperDogs, and the Canadian International Air Show. The Horse Show runs from July 22-August 14.

Do you have more ideas for fun family activities in Toronto? In your home city? Leave us a comment with your suggestions or e-mail them to so we can share them on our blog!

Be on the look-out for more Top Ten Fun Family Activities in Montreal ...Vancouver ...and more!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Feature: Delicious Summers with Healthy Meals

Delicious Summers with Healthy Meals
by Brynn Smith-Raska
Editorial Assistant

It is an indisputable fact that every season has a distinct smell. Fall is imbued with the rich aroma of falling leaves. Winter is bitter and harsh with the its essence of snow. Spring time tantalizes the nose with flowers and freshly cut grass. All these wonderful smells of nature permeate the world around us for 8 months out of the year. Then summer rolls around and the scents that waft through the air become strangely less natural and much more – delicious!

Anyone who has suffered through a long and sweltering summer knows the oppressive heat and glaring sun are all worth it because of what the warmth brings with it – outdoor dining. May through August have long been famous for being the seasonal hosts to barbecues, picnics and baseball games; hot dogs and ice cream cones and lemonade and potato salad are the star players of these warm month past-times.

Unfortunately, despite their scrumptiousness, these famous summer meals leave something to be desired in the nutrition department. Combine the unhealthy nature of the junk food which we often indulge in during the summer months, with the long and sometimes unregimented days that kids enjoy while out of school, and you have a recipe for disaster!

A recent study from Ohio State University has found that, contrary to what one might expect, kids often gain weight in the summer. When kids are no longer in school, under the watchful eye of teachers and coaches, their eating habits get off track and their lifestyles can become sedentary. Schools have made great strides in keeping junk food out of classrooms and hallways, but when kids are left to their own devices, apples and granola are quickly replaced with popsicles and soda.

In the study, researchers measured the increase in the BMI of students during the school year as compared to the summer months, and found the number rose more staggeringly during the summer break. The best way to reverse these findings is to eat healthfully and exercise. But everyone knows talking about living well is a lot easier than implementing healthy choices into a daily routine, especially without the vigilant eye of Mom, Dad, teacher or coach.

That's why YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition is such a fantastic tool for living well – aimed at kids, it puts the power in their hands. In addition from providing information about food (where it comes from, how it grows), author and registered dietitian – and mom – Daina Kalnins offers kids-friendly recipes for healthy snacks and alternatives to unhealthy favorites.

There are some really interesting facts about eating and hunger, too. Did you know that sometimes when you feel hungry, you might in reality just be thirsty? Especially in the summer when we all sweat from the sun's hot rays, it's easy to become dehydrated. So next time your child goes to grab a bag of chips, suggest that they take a drink of water and see if the hunger goes away. They may be surprised to find they don't want that snack anymore!

My favorite part of the book (and one kids are sure to love) is the “What Celebs Say” section: we learn from Zac Efron about his efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and the NBA's Tony Parrish's strategy of living well by avoiding a lot of sweets and working out. If busy celebs can find the time to stay fit through the summer months, why can't we all give it a go?

With recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with great ideas for working out and feeling good, YUM will seamlessly guide your child (and the whole family) through the delicious summer months. Here are five tips from Daina Kalnins and YUM to kick start a healthy lifestyle this summer:
  • When having a picnic or a barbecue, try using whole wheat bread and buns with your sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers.
  • Calcium is crucial for everyone, especially for growing bodies. Luckily, frozen yogurt is a great source of calcium, and deliciously refreshing, too.
  • Try something new! It's no secret that football players sometimes take ballet classes to improve their balance and agility. If you play basketball during the school year, why not try diving classes? And if you figure skate in the winter, maybe you could give tennis a swing. Your body will feel great, and who knows, maybe you'll discover you have a knack for kick-boxing!
  • I'm sure you've heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it's easy to forget about it when you don't have to wake up early for school. But that doesn't mean breakfast isn't just as important in the summer. Eating a healthy breakfast is a meal with two perks – it will make you more energetic and give you a healthy level of body fat.
  • Instead of firing up the grill and making hamburgers, try YUM's more nutritious – and delicious! - recipe for Lentil Burgers. They're sure to be a hit!
Now, your kids can submit their delicious summer recipes for a chance to win their own copy of YUM and four other Lobster Press books - check out the YUM Summer Snack Contest!

Bon Apetit!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Interview: Jeremy Vallerand Climbs Mountain to Combat Human Trafficking

Christina Kilbourne's powerful forthcoming novel They Called me Red* addresses issues of trafficking and the exploitation of children. Working with Christina's book has greatly increased our awareness of this devastating issue, so when we discovered Climb for Captive's innovative efforts to combat human trafficking, we knew we had to tell more people about it. On July 4th, a team of six climbers will set out for the summit of Mt. Rainier with the hope of earning $14,410 to combat human trafficking - a dollar for each vertical foot of the mountain. You can help Climb for Captives reach its goal by donating through their web-site.

We spoke to Jeremy Vallerand, who will make the steep climb up Mt. Rainier, to learn more about what motivated this group of six to celebrate United States' Independence Day on the top of a mountain.

1. What inspired you and your team to climb a mountain to combat human trafficking?

A few months ago I had the opportunity to spend some time in Mumbai/Bombay India with an organization that works in the Red Light District trying to rescue children out of the brothels. I saw first hand how terrible the suffering is for the victims and I realized that the ones who are affected the most by Human Trafficking are children. When I heard that a majority of the girls were kidnapped and forced into prostitution before the age of 13 my heart completely broke and I knew that when I got back home to Seattle, WA, I would have to do something about it.

I started talking to a group of my friends about the issue of human trafficking and we began brainstorming ways that we could make a difference. It seemed natural to do something on July 4th since that is the day our nation celebrates its independence and so Climb for Captives was born. What better way to celebrate our Independence Day, our freedom, than to fight for those who can't fight for themselves.

2. Can you tell us more about the current state of domestic and international human trafficking?

It's pretty overwhelming to look at the numbers related to human trafficking both domestically and abroad. To give you a brief snapshot, UNICEF estimates that there are 2 million children exploited in the commercial sex trade every year. I don't even know how to imagine that number… 2,000,000. I do know that there are only four cities in the US with a population over 2 million and only 2 cities in Canada. That means that every year the number of children that are forced into the sex trade is greater than the entire population of Seattle, or San Francisco, or Ottawa. In fact, you would have to add the total population of those three cities together just to equal 2 million.

The good news domestically is that people are starting to become aware of the issue. In Seattle, where I live, the police department has formed a Human Trafficking Task force to focus specifically on this issue and other cities are following suit. According to most estimates, there are over 100,000 children in the US that are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and 20,000 more are being trafficked in every year. Though the numbers seem overwhelming, I really believe that we can make a difference…in fact, I believe we already are.

3. How long will it take to climb Mt. Rainier?

Mt. Rainier is the most glaciated volcano in the contiguous United States. At 14,410 feet the mountain is full of challenges that force over 50% of all climbers to turn back before the summit. Our group of six is hoping to climb to the summit in two or three days depending on the weather and the snow conditions. Altitude sickness is also a major factor for a lot of climbers so there is no guarantee that we will all make it to the summit.

4. How will Climb for Captives donate the funds it collects?

Climb for Captives is donating 100% of the funds received to the Home Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking both domestically and abroad, and all of the donations are tax deductible. I recently met singer/songwriter Natalie Grant who started The Home Foundation and was very impressed by the work they are doing and by the way they use their resources. If people are interested in contributing to the Climb for Captives they can do so via our website at They can also email us any questions they have at

*Christine Kilbourne's They Called Me Red
will be released in Fall 2008. Her novel Dear Jo: The story of losing Leah...and searching for hope was shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Awards in 2007 and has received praiseworthy reviews from School Library Journal, Montreal Review of Books, and more. Read a review of Dear Jo by The Literary Word to learn more.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Contest: Win a Summer Reading Book Bundle!

Lobster Press and City Parent are giving away “Summer Reading Book Bundles” of Lobster's most popular kids' books.

Enter to win the “Summer Reading Book Bundles” for ages 3 – 7, for ages 8 – 12, and for ages 13 – 17,
by Sunday, July 20th.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Celebrating the City of Quebec's 400th with the story of Grosse Île, Island of Hope and Sorrow

by Mahak Jain
Marketing Assistant

I live in Montreal, Quebec and soon we'll be celebrating the City of Quebec's 400th anniversary. Coming from below the border as I do, it seems sort of superficial to enjoy the holiday without a brush-up on Quebec's history. Three jobs in tote, I don't have time to read lengthy history books, and the generic Wikipedia entry is a bit dry. Luckily, author Anne Renaud has made the process simpler for me - and much more interesting.

Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île is written for children, focusing on a crucial chapter of Quebec's history. From 1832 to 1937 more than four million people sailed across the Atlantic to the port of Quebec with the dream of starting a new life in the New World. The tiny island of Grosse Île, located fifty kilometers downstream from the port, served as a quarantine station for thousands of these newcomers and Renaud's Island of Hope and Sorrow carefully sketches out the ebbs and flows that make up the history of the island. Stocked with old photographs and etched drawings that re-create the hushed silence of a museum, the book includes brief "history notes" that kept teaching me new things. For example, did you know "doukhobors" are members of a Russian Christian movement or that they refuse to serve in the military because they believe war is wrong?

It's easy to overlook history in the wake of celebration. Renaud's book is most touching because it focuses on bridging the present and past, reminding us that several people ended their journey from Europe to the New World at Grosse Île - and some began a new chapter of their lives at the island. What drew Europeans to come to the New World? How did the island become a quarantine station, a stop-over with houses built for doctors and hospital sheds? Renaud writes how the island was both home and graveyard, both beginning and ending, an island sometimes thriving with people and other times waiting out cold winters for the next batch of immigrants like an animal in hibernation.

The blurbs and photos scattered around the main text were my favorite part of the book. Focusing on incidental memories, like the photograph of an old shoe, covered in dirt and discovered during an archaeological dig, the book returns us to the past, giving an unexpected gift to both children and adults. Children will especially love the miscellaneous facts the book shares - like the notice of rules posted in the cargo holds of ships that begins "STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!" or an image of Canada's first stamp sporting an askance-eyed beaver.

Anne Renaud ends her portrait of a chapter in Quebec's history with a look at Grosse Île in the present - from its transformation during World War II into a research station for biological warfare to the historical landmark it has now become. I am in full agreement with Declan Kelly, Ireland's Ambassador to Canada, when he said:
The story of Grosse Île is one which needs to be re-told to each new generation of children, Irish and Canadian, to enable them to understand where they have come from, and I can think of no better method than a book as interesting and as well written as this...
Even if I wasn't an immigrant myself, I would find it hard-pressed to remain untouched by the story of Grosse Île. Definitely a perfect addition to family reading lists for Canada Day and the upcoming Quebec City celebration.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feature: Mitigating the Reading Crisis One Book at a Time

Mitigating the Reading Crisis One Book at a Time
By Mahak Jain
Marketing Assistant

Much anxiety and biting of nails accompanied the news of a “reading crisis,” an industry illness as chronic as the cold. But librarians were not surprised by the the "Reading at Risk" report, which is available on the National Endowment for Arts's (NEA) web-site: "'It's something that librarians have known for decades,' said Ginger Bush, the director of patron services at the Minneapolis Public Library."

The report noted that a sharper rate of decline in reading occurred among individuals between the ages of 18-24 - young adults and future parents whose example may discourage their children from reading. Scholastic's 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report has reconfirmed this worrisome conclusion. The Scholastic study notes that "pleasure reading in children begins to decline at age eight and continues to do so into the teen years."

Why don't children read more? Do they hate reading? Do they find it boring?

Surprisingly, one of the top reasons children didn't read was that they found it difficult to find books they enjoyed. Other reasons include "too much homework" and "I would rather do other things." The first two reasons indicate that reading itself is not the problem - but it's not surprising that kids would rather do other things if we don't encourage them to read books they enjoy. Most importantly, our media-saturated society has not discouraged kids to read as much as we thought, so we need to turn our attention to discover what they do like to read.

Karen Louise Boothe, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Public Library, noted in the SLJ article that "the public needs to understand that the definition of literature has broadened beyond the standard classics to include other genres—even Japanese manga." Similarly, Claire Fripp, elementary and middle school English teacher and mother of three, recognizes that it is crucial that parents let their children choose the books they want to read:

Forget your own ideas about what constitutes a “classic” and let them choose their own books from the list, if one has been provided by a teacher. All the books on the list have some merit or they would not have made the list in the first place. If your child hasn't been given a summer reading list, create one by browsing online. Make sure your child has a say in a list you create together - the plain truth is that if your child doesn’t like the book they won’t read it—would you?
But parents need to be involved in the process even after a visit to the library or a bookstore:

Once the books are at home and you see that they are collecting dust, your best bet to a hassle free reading summer is to share the reading. Depending on age and ability parents can read the book to the child, alternate reading one page with each other, or listen to your child read aloud a few pages and you finish up the chapter. All ages love to have a story read to them—some just show their joy more readily than others.

Seem like a lot of work for you this summer? Studies show that children with parents who are actively involved in their schooling process do better at school. By showing your interest and taking the time to read with your child you are demonstrating that reading has value; that reading can be fun; that reading is something you also do—not just something you say your child has to do.

Claire's article offers more tips that parents (and teachers and librarians) can use, but most importantly, her suggestions indicate that we must not let reports of a "reading crisis" paralyze us, but teach us. Kids want to read. Kids like to read.

Claire concludes with an important reminder: "Above all show that you are enjoying the reading. You never know, you may discover some new authors that will give your “classics” a run for their money." Here at Lobster Press, we have always known that the first step to building a love for reading is a great book - so take a look at our suggestions for books that your kids and you are sure to enjoy.