Nimbus reviews: I Lost My Talk; I’m Finding My Talk

I rarely feel bad about sitting on a review for a while. They come when they come. This post I do feel a bit bad about leaving on a burner for two reasons: a) I think it’s very topical right now and has been for a while, b) Nimbus sent me these books some months ago, and I intended to review them quickly.

However, I’m done apologizing for one very important reason: This was not a post to rush. These are books regarding which I am far from expert, and I am the student here, not the teacher. To do them justice, I needed time to think and digest, and I needed time to read sensitively. My approach here is as a parent-reader and a lover of poetry and art. I can claim to have some authority when it comes to a reading of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, rooted in the literature of medieval Wales. I am not, nor have I ever been, an expert in Mi’kmaw history or literature, and I respond to these two books humbly, not authoritatively.

The books they sent are two companion books, so I’m reviewing them together: I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe, illustrated by Pauline Young and I’m Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, illustrated by Pauline Young. (Those link to Nimbus: if you’re in the USA, here are links to buy from the Children’s Book Shop’s online portal: I Lost My Talk and I’m Finding My Talk.)

First: Note the beauty of those two covers side by side. Nimbus deserves kudos, in my view, for the close attention to detail in their design process. These books were designed to work together, and they really, really do. It is, and it should be, impossible to get one without the other. Other notes: the design is lovely but a bit deliberately “rough” in the sense of “durable, useful.” They’re jacketless, the covers are matte rather than glossy, and the colours are a bit dusty and muted. There’s nothing gentle and ethereal here: the beauty is nuanced, evoking both pain and durability from the get-go. The Nimbus team deserves absolute respect for getting how to present these books from first meeting of book and reader.

Now, if you aren’t Canadian, the name “Rita Joe” might mean nothing to you. Sadly, even if you are Canadian, the name might be unfamiliar. That’s on us, I’m going to say, bluntly, for not respecting the authority and voice of one of our most extraordinary poets– and she was extraordinary, as you’ll find in the first of these books. I’m giving you this brief biography, but of course there’s always more. Relevant here is that Rita was taken to the Shubenacadie Residential School after she was orphaned at age 10. She was there for six years, enduring physical and mental abuse, forbidden to speak her own language.

How do you transform a story of so much pain into something that can be shared with children? Separation, isolation, trauma, abuse? Well, Rita Joe fought, grew, survived, and turned trauma into poetry. She’s direct in her poetry: “You snatched it away,” she says bluntly, and “I speak like you, I think like you” (your heart breaks at that, or it should), but she ultimately asks, “Let me find my talk so I can teach you about me,” and a child can, well-taught, understand that request.

The art to accompany this poem is hauntingly perfect: the drab muddy sameness of the residential school feels like a sepia toned photograph dropped in a puddle of grief. The emerging clarity towards the end merges nature and an urban environment on the other side of the school, as the poet comes forward to find her talk and share her story.

I want to talk about the backmatter to that volume, but first let’s talk about I’m Finding My Talk, by Rebecca Thomas, also illustrated by Mi’kmaw artist, Pauline Young.

This poem delicately continues the story in the first book, without overtaking it. The poet is still straightforward, but perhaps more vulnerable, uprooted: she’s looking for the talk the schools took away before she was even born, stolen from her father. “One word at a time,” she looks, citing words: “Kwe, Wela’lin, Nmultes.” She speaks to family and makes new friends, looking for that talk all the time: she seeks through her feet and stitches and beads, through ritual and community, through people young and old, and through her relationship with her father, “But I’m learning to speak in a language that’s mine.”

It’s that final line, the claim that it’s hers, that choked me up as a reader. That’s the story that resonated with me in Wales, as locals learned their historic language. Too many of us laugh at that: “Who needs that language? English has won.” Well, that’s an old story, isn’t it? I want to say to Rebecca Thomas: I hear you, that’s your talk, that’s your language. I’m glad she’s claiming it, and sharing her fight to do so.

The art in this book is, apart from the opening page reference back to her father’s residential school experience, brighter and more vibrant than in Rita Joe’s I Lost My Talk, which makes perfect sense and rounds out the journey from grimness to nuanced optimism. It has a dreamlike, aspirational quality: We’re not there yet, it says, but we’re working on it.

I promised a note on the backmatter. I Lost My Talk includes, at the end, backmatter on the history of residential schools. This is where I’m talking to parents, directly. If your kid is an avid reader, and young, you want to read this first and be very well prepared. It is, like the poem, straightforward, but being prose history, it’s going to be hard for a younger kid to handle (I know my 7-year-old couldn’t deal with it on her own): the backmatter references not only the forced assimilation and brutality but the deaths by disease, illness, and suicide. It hides nothing. It points out, accurately, the abuse and that those who emerged were not graduates, they were survivors, pushed out into the world with no support, no community, no family, no money– nothing but trauma and misery. I do not offer this as critique: this is history, and we need to face this. But you, as parent or teacher, have to figure out how to communicate this with honesty and age-appropriateness to your children and students, and I strongly suggest reading the backmatter carefully.

This is the time for these books. Well, no: it’s past time. I wish I’d seen them as a student, myself, but I’m glad they’re out there now, at a time Canadians are reckoning with our past and present– and choosing future directions. It’s time Rita Joe was allowed to speak directly to us, children and adults alike, and that Rebecca Thomas was given the chance to bring her sequel to us, too. I thank Nimbus for sending me these books. I encourage you, all of you, to get your own copies, examine them, read them, and think about what we’re being told.

5781: Reflections on Rosh Hashanah and RGB

I felt bad, going into Rosh Hashanah with no posts on books for the high holidays. But, I thought, it’s an unusual year. Taking a little time to reflect isn’t a bad thing. And, indeed, I went into the evening of the Jewish new year rather calmly. We didn’t have to fuss about guests or travel, so we decided to worry about other things: our house is an unqualified disaster tonight, just as it was on Friday night, but we spent Friday morning writing to friends and family and going apple picking.

Eventually we did cook. We had plenty of food, it was fine. And we knew our apples were fresh and we had something like three or four different honeys, I don’t even remember. (My husband is rather passionate about honeys. And even the Changeling tried honey this year! At age 7! Finally!) I put apples in some of our loaves of challah. It was good.

After we lit candles, we talked quietly and cheerfully about last year and next year. We talked about hopes and dreams. We talked a lot. That’s when my Changeling discovered she liked honey, so that was an enduring subject. Then on Saturday morning, Shabbat and the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we did something we haven’t done in six months: All three of us went to services together.

This, by the way, is what I thought I’d be posting about tonight. The experience, after extreme cautiousness, of going to services together for the first time in half a year. So much has been written in so many places about various religious groups being overly ambitious in reopening doors, I wanted to write a piece about how incredibly grateful I am to my congregation for their, slow, thoughtful, methodical process in reopening services. I wanted to write about how, even as cautious as I am, I felt safe there. I wanted to tell you about how privileged I feel to be a member of a small congregation with a lot of space so that they could make indoor AND outdoor services available, both to reduce crowding and make options available. The indoor services were shorter (to reduce the amount of time a group spent together in one space, even spread out carefully), and the outdoors services were a bit longer, but in the open air with only a tent overhead. I wanted to tell you about how impressed I was by the very generous approach to the 6 feet of space they took (biggest 6 feet I’ve ever seen) and how, in the outdoor section (which is where I was) they thoughtfully labelled every seat clearly so there would be no confusion about who was seated where, and no one was permitted to shift their seats– and I was unsurprised but reassured that they ensured that those who were less mobile (the elderly and those with disabilities) had the best seats and were on the smoothest, most accessible ground. It was very well done, and I felt that nothing had been overlooked.

I went in this morning cheerfully for the second day of services. The morning services went smoothly. I’m trying to think what I was thinking about– I remember thinking of how much I enjoyed praying outside under a big tent with fresh air instead of stuffiness, but that might have been earlier. Then I felt, with that instinct you get when your kid is with your spouse, that I was being looked at earnestly, so I glanced over. Sure enough, my husband was flicking his eyes to a convenient spot. I walked over, asked about my daughter. “She’s fine,” he said, “I wanted to tell you she’s fine, but also…” I froze, and not because it was cold (I’m Canadian, it was about 60 F, so 16 C, meaning everyone else was at services in puffy coats and I was in a wool sweater wondering what the fuss was about). I just had a feeling something was happening, because my husband doesn’t bring “but also” to the table if something hasn’t happened.

“Someone died.” He looked at me. “It’s not going to be good.” I managed, “Who was it?” He said, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

I have a fairly good memory in general, I never am at a loss for words, and I’m not the sort to blank out on details. But even now I’m not entirely clear on what happened next. I know I felt a blackness in my head, so maybe my vision went funny for a second. I don’t remember whether I was silent? Maybe I swore? I sort of hope I didn’t swear at services, but I could have. I know that when my head came together I said, “Baruch dayan haemet.” Then, “That’s not going to be good.” My husband nodded. He said, “Just keep it in mind as you daven.” I nodded. I walked away and sat down in my chair. I prayed.

My daughter came up to me, strangely, just as we were beginning the Unetaneh Tokef prayer. If you don’t know it, the themes, while complex, are of judgment and the little power we humans have over our own fates, though we can alter the outcome by tefilah (prayer), tshuvah (repentance), and tzedakah (charity). It seemed important, so although I could see she was ready to go, I told her I’d take her home at the end of the prayer. Then we walked home together. We read quietly until my husband came home. Then I pulled out the one book I had in the house that included anything about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This brand new book by Sophie Blackall, If You Come to Earth, is lovely and inspiring. I just bought it last week, on Thursday. Rosh Hashanah was Friday. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday night. And it is the only kids’ book in my house with one, tiny picture of her.

Thank heavens for Sophie Blackall. It’s a beautiful portrait, and captures her fierce intellect and dedication to her work. I pointed to the picture and told my girl about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her career, her ferocious mind and will, and the devastating loss. I told her it was going to be a messy few months, having lost someone of her stature. I said if she was interested in learning more about her, I’d be happy to get one of the many beautiful books available for kids about her life and work.

“Of course we need one! But why don’t we have one already?”

I didn’t have a great answer. I thought of Unetaneh Tokef. I sighed. “I guess I just… didn’t really believe that she could leave right now,” I thought, maybe I also said, “but human mortality doesn’t work that way.” I’m not sure what I said. I’m not sure about much. I’m not really sure how I was so unprepared, in myself, as a parent, or as a citizen.

This isn’t going to have a tidy ending. I’m not even going to give you a reading list. The books are out there– they’re easy to find, you know where to look, and I’m going to do my own research before I recommend any to you.

I’m just going to ask you: Do some thinking and reflecting, but do it with an eye towards action, please. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, whatever else she was, active. She was fierce, and determined, and active. Think about what you can do for the sake of truth and justice– and I will think about what I can do, too.

Three Little Kittens + Cards!

Well, I figured, after a long silence like that (sorry– I had a deadline to meet at the same time as I was looking after the Changeling during this fascinating time, but I met my deadline, so here I am again) everyone deserves a treat. Don’t you think that’s right? So here’s a trip to my childhood– and maybe yours– with an extra-special treat on offer at the end! (I won’t blame you if you skip to the end and then go up to check the review, the words aren’t going anywhere while you scan around.)

One of the books that came out during the most miserable point in the pandemic (which is to say, the point during which I couldn’t visit inside book shops or even get curbside pickup– and I was glad not to do so since I wanted to help keep everyone safe, but it was miserable, no denying it) was Three Little Kittens by Barbara McClintock.

Now, this appealed to me for two deeply personal reasons in addition to the obvious “that sounds cute!” reason: a) I remember hearing my mother sing me the Three Little Kittens on an extremely regular basis all my childhood– my mother, who is allergic to cats, singing to me, the cat-obsessed child she never should have had to put up with but has dealt with anyway (I have two cats now, sorry about that); b) Barbara McClintock, the author and illustrator, is deservedly well-known for all of her incredible work, but to me she will always be the illustrator of Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, a favourite poet of mine since childhood. That link between nursery song and beloved illustrator and lovely poetry right there struck me, right in the part of me that wanted “something new” but also “something comforting.” Sort of like wanting mac and cheese, but maybe with fresh garden thyme to give it a bit of a still-comforting twist.

Well, as I said, I couldn’t go into a book shop in April, and therefore the lovely new book, released in April, fell victim to that situation where I would run across a mention online that a book had been released and think “I should get that!” But then because I wasn’t in a book shop the next day, it would slip my mind. Incredibly frustrating. (Don’t worry: since my local book shops have reopened, I seem to be making up for lost time!) But I got the loveliest reminder when Barbara McClintock posted a quick picture of these cute Three Little Kittens cards online.

Do you see the little card in the bottom right corner of the book? HOW CUTE IS THAT?

Well, I enthused, and mentioned I’d love to buy some. Then I got a lovely note from her saying that she could help me get some through her. So I rapidly formulated a plan. (The plan comes up later in the post, don’t worry.) I got a copy of the book very quickly (it does help to have incentive– not to mention an open book shop), and Barbara McClintock arranged for the cards (I have 50) equally quickly.

I’m going to tell you first about the book—then about the cards. (That might have to do with the treat, but I don’t like to spoil surprises, so who knows, right?)

Is the book cute? Yes, but you knew that already. You know the song, saw the cover, and trust the illustrator as much as I could do, we all know that. But, since I know you know the song as well as I do, and PROBABLY you sing it with your own kids, and if you don’t, I’d like to know why you don’t, because YOU SHOULD—well. You also know that there are fun ways to play with the song and build the story. How many verses do you sing? (Only the first??? What kind of slacker are you?) What’s the backstory? Are the kittens messy kittens? How and why do they soil their mittens, then? Are they playful? Does each kitten have a different personality, or are they a Little Greek Chorus of Like-Minded Kittens?

Well, you see, after you’ve, perhaps, heard this song every evening of your childhood and then go on to sing it on a regular basis as a parent– hypothetically speaking– you might start to muse on these questions and more. And then you get a book proving that Barbara McClintock does, too, so you feel less alone…

The book begins in prose with playful kittens smelling a delectable scent wafting through the window… and become a chorus of kitties. At this point, our kittens do seem to be rather Greek Chorus-like. But wait!

When the pie proves to be hot, the kittens might diversify in their views, even if they still unite in action. The song becomes the BIG BOLD TEXT while the kittens debate in balloons under the rhyme. We even get to the previously unheard-of (but deeply appropriate to the cat-personality) line: “Told you so!” (Note to my parents: Yes, I know you don’t think cats say “Told you so!” because you say that cats can’t talk, and I shouldn’t anthropomorphize my cats– well, ask any cat owner. Ask Barbara McClintock, all right? Cats convey their thoughts and sentiments without the limitations of mere words. If you can accept Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words? Believe me, cats talk without words.)

Well, the good news is, these kittens learn from their mistakes, resolve the problems they’ve caused, and take responsibility for their actions– and are rewarded with… [SPOILER ALERT!!!] hey, is that a mouse close by…? Oh, good, the little mouse is another friend to share some pie! Which, this time, they eat with their forks!

As you can tell, this is a narrative stage beyond the song itself. This is the story you read after you’ve sung this song to your kid, and with your kid. This is the book that captures your kid and shows just what you can do when you think into and beyond the lyrics of a song. Personally, I think if you have a little 3- or 4-year-old who loves music and stories, this is a great one for taking it one tiny notch up, an easy step to manage without overwhelming the kid.

Real talk to real parents: if you, for example, are looking for something to do to use time in a constructive way during, as it might be, a global pandemic…? Think about it! You sing the song, read the book, discuss the story and pictures with play-acting and lots of giggles, and then set your kid up with crayons and paper to make their OWN Three Little Kittens story! You might… you might even get to SIT DOWN for 5 minutes? Not guaranteed, but I’m dreaming here– what about… what about having a cup of tea or coffee while it’s still warm???

Now for the treat:

Remember when I told you about impulse-buying 80 Snowy Day stamps?

Yes I have a lot, no I don’t regret this.

I offered at the time to match you with a book recommendation and mail it to you with a Snowy Day stamp, and I will also, happily, research good indie book shops which are local to you and/or will ship to you at the same time. The offer stands, and– while supplies of cards last, you’ll get it on one of these awesome Three Little Kittens cards!

Write to me at deborah@childrensbookroom.com with the following:

a) Your literary interests

b) Your name

c) Your mailing address

I will write you a recommendation on a Three Little Kittens card, with a Snowy Day stamp! That’s it! Easy as that.

Enjoy your books, enjoy your reading, and enjoy the art!

The Little Kitten and a little surprise, just for you, or anyone else!

Thanks to the kind, lovely folks at Simon and Schuster, I’m getting to do something I don’t often manage: a review on book release day! This book comes with a little personal story. An absolutely charming lady at Simon and Schuster sent me a note to ask if I’d be interested in seeing a review copy of this book. I gave her my usual story about how I handle review copies from publishers, but I admit that I added, “Given that the title is The Little Kitten— I’m quite certain I’m into this.”

Well, my review copy arrived on the very day my poor girl had a nasty doctor’s appointment and got drenched in the rain on the way home. When we arrived home she swiftly pulled on dry pyjamas, I ripped open my package, and dropped this book on her lap. She was completely charmed, all was well in the world, and I’ve never been more grateful for a book in my life. (I can’t guarantee that your book will be as beautifully timed as mine was, but I have my suspicions about the spookily appropriate arrangements here?)

This book is: The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen, and it is gorgeous. For once I get a REALLY nice cover art image for you, too, because they sent me one!

Even a nice image doesn’t get across the gorgeous autumnal haze and coppery-pumpkiny-orange foil details, though…

Let me put it this way: I’ve already written to the parents of my little buddy who always get a new Hallowe’en book from me every year begging them NOT to buy this because “I NEED TO SEND IT TO HIM!” I sent a few images and the parents are charmed. They don’t realize how much more charmed they’re going to be when they experience the quality of paper, the die-cuts, and the metallic detailing in person. This is one of those books simultaneously written and designed for the child-audience (here, ages 4-8) and for the adult reader. NB: I worded that carefully; not all adult readers are reading aloud to a child, though in this case I highly suggest finding a suitable audience since it’s fun to read out loud!

The story is relatively simple. Ollie, our young protagonist, goes outside to play in the leaves one autumn morning, accompanied by her cat, Pumpkin. (Side-note: great name for a cat, don’t you think?) The leaves shiver, and out pops a kitten! The three play together, but eventually Ollie sees signs looking for the lost kitten in the woods, and she takes the kitten home on a winding path through the woods… (first die-cut!) and it takes them to the kitten’s house! But where is it? And where’s Pumpkin? Uh oh! But it’s OK, because Pumpkin is a most excellent cat and comes for Ollie, and brings her home (another die-cut). In the end, the next morning, Ollie opens her door to find a gift from… presumably the kitten, right? A beautiful pumpkin carved to look like a cat!

To me, the story is perfectly charming, combining a love of autumn with the special connections between kids and kitties (something I witness every day in my house). It’s got fun, it’s got the eensiest, weensiest bit of spooky tension (which you just know is going to be OK), and it feels right for any day when the golden light of autumn hits the leaves just so.

But what raises it to the next level is, of course, the art and design. This is hard to convey without showing you the physical book, so I do suggest you acquire your own copy quickly so you can see what I’m talking about. The paper quality is excellent, and those die-cut pages I keep mentioning are going to hold up well. But the real thing here is not simply the pretty die-cuts but the use of colour. The colour palette is limited and muted: the black is more charcoal than black, there are various shades of grey and tannish grey forming the forested background and tree trunks, the leaves are saturated with orange and red, but then dimmed by a touch of grey to feel rustier than many jewel-toned autumn leaf illustrations. But those rusty leaves, every so often enhanced by a surprising pop of pumpkin-coppery-orange foil, absolutely glow against the shades of grey and tan forming the regular foresty background of this autumn scene.

It is visually stunning at a level that will appeal to every reader’s senses, child or adult, while the two cats and Ollie are so cute they will pull at every kid’s heart.

Now, I had one question when I first heard of The Little Kitten, and I’m pleased to tell you it was resolved satisfactorily. Autumn books are nice, and Hallowe’en books are better, but for this age group, a good Hallowe’en book needs one element: a spooky but non-scary mystery twist. Would this book have one?

Yes, dear reader, it DOES!

You see, those little die-cuts? Where do they go? Just to the next page, is that it? Hmmm. Whose house is that, where the little black kitten lives? Why can’t Ollie find her way home until Pumpkin comes to guide her? And who leaves that lovely kitty-pumpkin on Ollie’s doorstep that night…?

Who left this badly-photographed image here? You should write to the editor to complain!

It pains me to tell you I’m not going to spoil any mysteries for you. You’ll just have to buy your own copy– or watch this space when Hallowe’en rolls around… You do know how I love a good giveaway, especially when someone is nice enough to give me a free book, right? So… hm. Maybe we’ll do something nice in October!

Here’s a link to my local book shop’s online portal for The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen! (If you live somewhere else and don’t know where to get your own copy, but do want to support an indie book shop? One of my less-well-known talents is locating indie book shops worldwide. Write to me.)

Now, a little surprise! A book-related offer for you all. It comes with a story, so read to the end:

Last week, I got very sulky about something so silly I can’t even remember what it was. Well, we all have our forms of retail therapy. All I remember is that when I was at the post office mailing a birthday gift to a friend, and the lovely fellow at the desk asked me if I needed any stamps, I blurted out, “Do you have any Snowy Day stamps, you know, the ones in tribute to Ezra Jack Keats?” (Please note, a quick Google tells me those were released in 2017. It is now 2020. A dear, lovely friend sent me some back when they were released, and I have 18 of that original sheet of 20 left. Ask me no more questions.) He stared at me, “I… I might. Let me go check.” I said a quick, “Thank you! I’m sorry, I’m just running out of them.” (Yes, I did just say I had 18 of them, and yes, I knew that while I was standing there, lying through my teeth.) He came back with four sheets, and said, “I have four sheets left here.” (4×20=80) “I thought it sounded like you enjoyed these, so you can have as many as you like. Do you want all four?” I said, a little too quickly, “Yes, thank you!”

The outcome is, I have (wait– 80+18) 98 (NINETY-EIGHT) Snowy Day stamps in my house. I feel compelled to admit that I use these only for book-related business: the Changeling’s fan-letters to authors she loves, or birthday cards to book-lovers, for example.

So: my offer!

Given that many book shops are still closed for Covid-19 (although you often can and should write to them or call them for help or to make purchases), I want to offer my services as a book-match-maker.

Write to me at deborah@childrensbookroom.com with the following:

a) Your literary interests

b) Your name

c) Your mailing address

I will write you a postcard or notecard (with a Snowy Day stamp!) recommending a few titles. If you need a suggestion of a local-to-you book shop or other indie book shop which will ship to you, I will happily recommend a good one! That’s it! Easy as that.

Julieta and the Diamond Enigma

PREPARE YOURSELVES! I am about to review a book! I know, I know it’s been a while.

But, look, we all know times have been hard. How do you find a book which gives you respite from the urgency of our times without minimizing real issues?

Well, I found one. I didn’t mean to. I’ll be honest: I read Julieta and the Diamond Enigma for one simple reason– the author, Luisana Duarte Armendáriz, is a book shop friend. (And if you are buying in Brookline, call The Children’s Book Shop to arrange pickup, and ask if they have any signed bookplates left! They’re adorable, and it was sweet of Luisana to send them to the shop.)

So, when I heard she had a book coming out, I was very keen to see what she wrote, and my buddies at the book shop kindly saved me a copy (WITH a signed bookplate, since Luisana couldn’t come back to sign for us, thanks to Covid) and I read it this past weekend.

It was one of those bizarre situations where someone wrote exactly what I needed now, but, of course, how could Luisana have anticipated this moment when she was writing?

I want to travel to Paris now. But I can’t. So she wrote a book about a girl’s first trip to Paris. I miss museums now. But they’re closed. Luisana wrote about museums. I’m thinking about issues of provenance and appropriation right now, but I honestly can’t cope with even one more serious, thoughtful article. Luisana shows her young protagonist, Julieta, encountering those issues in a quiet but nuanced way appropriate to a young kid. It’s exactly, spot-on right for this moment. And, additionally, it’s all couched in the story of a happy, loving family with an amazing relationship between parents and their daughter as they expect a new little one.

You’re probably patiently waiting for me to give you some sense of what goes on in the book? Julieta (it “sounds like the hooting of an owl. Like whoooo-lieta“) gets to go with her dad, who works for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to the Louvre in Paris to inspect and bring back objects for an exhibit to take place at the MFA. She’s excited to travel, and she loves museums and new experiences, but she’s also excited to get home in time for the birth of her new baby brother. Their carefully formulated plans are upset, however, when the Regent Diamond is stolen on her father’s watch– and he might have to take the blame. (Note: because this book is full of art pieces and history, the novel is followed by excellent, reader-friendly materials on every piece of art and every museum mentioned. It also includes a glossary at the back and a language guide at the beginning, to terms in both Spanish and French. This is a very carefully designed book.)

It’s a story of art theft and adventure, with a lovable, impulsive, cheerful character in Julieta. Reading through her eyes, I got the joy of visiting Paris for the first time again: the bustle and crowds, the food (Julieta decides to call her pain au chocolat a “chocolate-stuffed delight,” a feeling with which every child and many adults will sympathize!), and, of course, the museums. I felt a bit wistful that poor Julieta never got to my absolute, bar-none favourite museum in the whole world: Cluny. I’m sure she would have loved the tapestries! (Luisana, please see to it that on a future trip she gets there, OK?)

But I think, in everything, in the whirl of adventure and new ideas and thoughts, what I loved best was the rock-hard reliance on loving family. Julieta knows that her parents love her. Yes, she’s impulsive, yes, she worries about what they will feel when she thinks she’s let them down, but it’s all because she loves them so much– and she knows they love her, too. It’s a bit like Ramona, but a Ramona who’s obsessed with mythology and art, so I totally identify with Julieta. I found it deeply meaningful to find a book in quarantine that represented the kind of family relationship I strive for: where everyone is wholly their own person, but we can all lean on each other for support at every moment of the way through life.

I really, truly enjoyed sinking into this novel for a few hours on Shabbat. It was fun, it felt light and easy (a sure-fire sign that it must have taken a lot of work, in my experience), but at the same time it was replete with thought and nuance. The only bad bit was that it made me want to grab my own girl and hop on a plane to Paris right away! Instead, I think I’ll casually drop this book on her bed before she goes to bed at night… and just face the fact that in the morning she’ll still be reading. And then we’ll browse museum websites together and plan our journey!

Representation Matters

This is going to be another non-review post, but it’s been on my mind, so I’m afraid it’s what you get.

You see, I think that many of us (maybe like me up until recently) hear the words, “representation matters,” and get a little confused: well, of course it does, but… why do we even need to say that? So I’m going to tell you the truth: I didn’t really get it myself until fairly recently, but I think I get it better now, as a mother, and I want to tell you how and why.

This is a picture of the bottom of my beautiful ketubah (Jewish wedding contract). Here it is in the full context:

I feel terrible that my image quality is so bad, but I just snapped these from the wall. My husband and I designed this with our artist, Laya Crust, who perfectly understood our taste, and also the importance of music in our lives. Yes, the first image shows musical notation at the bottom: that’s the music of Salamone Rossi (sorry, that’s a wikipedia link, but if you have access you can find out more on the Grove), an Italian Jewish violinist and composer. He composed music to the psalms (tehilim, in Hebrew) and we chose a quote along with his music to put into our ketubah.

Why is this relevant? Well, this hangs prominently on the wall of our home. It’s one of the first things when you come in: a testament to our love of each other, of family– and of music and art. And my daughter has been growing up in a house where this is fundamentally what we care about. She knows music well. During quarantine, my husband has been teaching her to play the violin. The other day we put on La Fille du régiment and I mentioned that, “Hey, we’re watching an opera! It’s La Fille du régiment, by Donizetti!” She sighed in exasperation as only a nearly 7-year-old girl can and said, “I know that, Mummy!” She knows music, and we’re happy because we love music and want to share that with her.

The other day, in the car, we were listening to Classical New England and they put on some Aaron Copeland (I admit, not my favourite composer) and I was surprised to hear my Changeling chime in, delighted, “I love Aaron Copeland, he’s JEWISH!”

Folks– representation matters.

To me, I didn’t grow up with Aaron Copeland. Maybe, in fact, I don’t care for him since he wasn’t in my music books and we didn’t listen to him often. He was a later discovery, not part of my early music enjoyment. But Ludovic Halévy was. And I was very proud he was Jewish, though I can’t say I really thought about it as much as my daughter clearly has. So I started that conversation. When we got home I showed her the ketubah. I told her about Salamone Rossi. Then we cuddled and talked about all the music– so much music!– by composers of Jewish origins. I told her my sadness that so many converted.

Maybe you don’t know their names? Felix Mendelssohn was my first total shock as a young teenager, honestly. He was converted to Christianity at age (I think) six or seven. But he was the grandson of Moses Mendelssohn and I remember my bitterness when I learned who he was and that he’d been converted.

But there were so many! Meyerbeer, who was an early champion of Wagner (yes, Wagner) was Jewish. I mentioned Halévy. But there was Jacques Offenbach, whose music you’ve heard even if you don’t know his name: the can-can from Orphée aux enfers is now heard everywhere. He was born Jewish, and though he converted (why is slightly obscure) his entire background was imbued in a Jewish world– his father was a cantor. What about Mahler? Poor Mahler, an unbelievable, terrible genius. I could go on, and when talking to my daughter I did go on, and the words poured into her.

Today we were out walking and to my absolute astonishment (I thought I’d bored her to bits) she brought it up to me again. She ran through the composers she knew, the ones she didn’t know, the names familiar and unfamiliar. “I think Offenbach is my favourite because his music is so much fun and I like the stories.” (I have a feeling my partiality to Offenbach might have influenced that statement, sorry.)

And I felt, again, bitter. Really, really bitter.

I love music, passionately. But I’m going to criticize the classical music world for a moment– with love, all love, but I do have to say this.

I think that the classical music world closes its eyes and listens. Pretends to be neutral: “Yes, Wagner was… problematic… but such genius!” Look, he was a terrible, horrible human being on every level. I just listened to Jessye Norman (oh, what a voice!) singing Sieglinde and I felt fire and fury the whole time. What did she think as she sang that bigot’s music, I wondered? What I felt, listening, was a desperate hope that Wagner’s soul was in torment at the knowledge she had taken his music and elevated it to such heights.

The classical music world is not confronting its history. To be clear: I seek out music I love– including Wagner’s, even though he would love for me never to have been born. I have zero objection to listening to Handel’s Messiah even though his notion of the Messiah and mine are undoubtedly different. My favourite Requiem is by Verdi.

I’m Jewish. A lot of my favourite music is white and Christian.

But I am absolutely sick of the lack of knowledge and thought that goes into our cultural history, literary and musical.

I see people online right now objecting to recommendations of old books to new, young kids: “New books, fresh books!” they call out. I agree, I disagree.

My home library is, I think it’s fair to say, eclectic. I have a huge variety of new, fresh books and I like them there. I also have a wide variety of old, weird books and I like them there. We read new bright ideas, classics of enormous beauty, and weird stuff that, well. I have and many others don’t. Out of print books. I think they all belong.

But with reflection, please. Because if you don’t think about what you’re reading and listening to and looking at– frankly, WHAT’S THE POINT?

So, what does representation mean, and why does it matter?

Representation means that kids (and older folks!) see themselves and it’s a lightbulb: “If it’s been done, it can be done.”

Music is not and never has been pure and neutral (translation: “actually it’s white and Christian, but I don’t want to say that, so we’ll just tell you to close your eyes and listen, OK?”). It is fighting and fire and suppression and revolution, and in all of that there’s EVERYONE. To my daughter that meant the discovery of Jewishness.

I want the world today to open up and discover Blackness in music, too. I want to point you to the work of Dr. Kira Thurman, for example, who has pointed to many musicians and composers including George Bridgetower, a Black violinist of enormous skill for whom Beethoven composed a sonata so difficult few others could play it. I want a children’s picture book about him. I want it yesterday.

While we insist that music and literature and the arts are pure and neutral– they remain static. We need to dig. We need to break it open. We need to release the passions of the past so that we can disturb the serenity of the present.

And for that? Let’s get more representation. It matters.

Black Lives Matter (reading and resources)

Hi, I’m angry, not pretending I’m not angry, and I warn you that this will be long and probably messy, especially if you’re white (and I’m talking primarily to my fellow white readers, here, and coming from a deep, uncomfortable acknowledgment that my view is limited and personal). It will have good resources for you, lots of reading lists, and you also might not like reading everything in here. Welcome to the club. I’ve done a lot of reading that hurt me, too.

It’s about ten years since I’ve moved to the USA. I came for my PhD program. I came as a US citizen, from Canada, where I’m a Canadian citizen. I’m lucky to have dual-citizenship, and I know it. Not a year of my life has passed without flitting back and forth across that easygoing border as though it didn’t exist to me. So it was easy for me to move to Cambridge, MA, a town I’ve always known and loved, from Toronto, right?

That’s what I thought. I thought it was going to be a breeze.

I was very, very wrong. And I was also very, very right.

I was right because I had everything on my side: citizenship, good fortune, a good PhD advisor and department, a wonderful roommate (WITH A CAT) (the cat’s name was Pandora and she was beautiful) and so on.

I also had the good fortune to have good healthcare!

“Wait, what?” I thought, when I was told that. “Of course I have healthcare.” That was my Canadian upbringing thinking. “Of course I have healthcare.” Wake up, Deborah, you’re in the USA now. I thought it was funny, at first.

Folks, I did not have easy access to healthcare throughout my entire PhD. I had a very specific number of years allocated for healthcare. But I had a baby and things dragged on– guess what? The USA does not have universal healthcare. (NB: This was not my department’s fault. I will NEVER say a nasty word about ANYONE at my department, especially my advisor who backed me up and helped me out and got me through everything.) But it was a nasty thing to wake up to with a child, no time, expensive childcare… and no universal healthcare.

What I had was a wonderful husband and a wonderful family and a wonderful background and I fervently and sincerely wonder, sick in my heart, what people without that high level of privilege did.

Because, yes, you might not like that word but: I AM PRIVILEGED. I WAS privileged, I always HAVE BEEN privileged.

And even with all my privilege? I came to the USA, as a citizen of the USA, from Canada– and people, I tell no lie, gave me hell for it. Not Canadians. Americans. Please read this remembering that I’m a white woman from Canada. Then try to think over to everyone in the USA who is not a white woman from Canada, because that’s where I’m headed. These are all pretty close to verbatim, I’m 99.9% sure, because they’re seared in my memory because hearing these things was painful. Some were said by friends of mine or friends of my husband.

“In a war between Canada and the USA, which side would you pick?”

“Are you really loyal to the USA?”

“You’re from Canada? Oh, I’m so sorry.”

My favourite: “A Canadian? Oh, a communist.” (After which he walked away.)

So I got the message early: You’re not one of us.

Then 2016 came along. (That’s right. All of that was BEFORE 2016, so… anyone thinking that America went bad after 2016? Sorry to break it to you: there have been problems here for a while.)

You might remember my posts after November 2016. There aren’t too many, but they highlighted Bryan Collier’s I, Too, Am America , for example. I was pretty upset.

That’s when I started to realize: they might be saying I’m not “one of us,” but… maybe this is my problem, too? I began to think: well, I am “one of us.” I got married in Maryland. To an American. I vote in the USA. I get to live here without fighting to be allowed to… maybe I really am American, and, if so, maybe I need to fight its battles, too. Maybe (this was uncomfortable) maybe I’m… not to blame, but nevertheless responsible for some of these deep, systemic problems.

My husband and I took our daughter to her first protest (against the Muslim ban, remember that…?) and I was proud to do so and bitterly upset that it felt necessary. I’m skipping a lot, but when my daughter was frightened about family separation at the border I sat with her, talked, and we donated to RAICES, wrote cards to welcome families to the border, and I helped her write a letter to our senator. We read The Wall.

There’s something missing. A big something. And I began to feel it, deep and uncomfortable, after COVID-19 struck and the killing of George Floyd ignited protests in all 50 states and beyond.

I did read a lot of books by Black creators, both by myself and with her. I read a lot of articles that challenged me. I did private thinking, and shared actions with her.

But I never said the word “racist” to my daughter. Ever.

As I said, then the protests started. At first I thought, cowardly, “It’s good we’re at home during this pandemic. My daughter won’t be scared!” Then I remembered something, or was reminded, or both: Martin Luther King stood up to including kids in protests. And I was seeing children on their parents’ shoulders in photos of peaceful protesters at these protests. I remember, vividly, closing a tab quickly when a police officer was pointing a weapon at a tall Black man with a girl on his shoulders who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, I estimate. I don’t have the link to show you because, shamefully, I closed it and didn’t save it. You can disbelieve me if you like.

Personal reasons I don’t choose to share prevented me from going to any protest in Boston. But I was ashamed to think that I was too cowardly to shake my daughter’s worldview, to let her think, maybe, that Martin Luther King’s fight was over and he’d won?

So one day I sat down with her and started the conversation. (I want to thank the many friends who encouraged me to “just be direct”– I needed the encouragement, and I offer you the same encouragement.) I’m not going to go into what I said and how I said it– it worked, that’s all you need to know.

She wrote this on our wall. (If you’re really a white parent or educator looking to figure out how to talk to your kid about racism for the first time, read the resources below or email me at deborah@childrensbookroom.com but I don’t want to derail this post here. Above all: DO NOT ask Black authors or educators to do that work for you when they’re already doing so much and facing so much right now. Bother me, read freely available resources, but do not bother them.)

She might only be 6 years old, but she was ready. I was proud of her, upset with myself for being too afraid to upset her. She has since restarted the conversation with me, or I’ve offered further stories. On Breonna Taylor’s birthday I told her a bit about Breonna Taylor’s life, and said I was going to sign a petition to demand justice. She knew what I was talking about.

I have not done enough. I have benefited, all my life, from privilege. That doesn’t mean I ever hated Black people, or knowingly oppressed anyone. But I have benefited and I didn’t even have the courage to tell my daughter that racism was a thing, what it meant, or that it was still prevalent, while Black neighbours were being killed? Yes, I might still spell “neighbours” with a “u” but– I’ve lived in Boston for ten years now. It was time to take ownership of my responsibility.

That was my journey, these past ten years. I’m not saying it’s the end of a journey, I’m saying it’s the beginning of hard conversations, bitterly painful ones, and trying to do better, a little bit at a time. I have books I should have reviewed (about Indigenous experiences in Canada, about refugees, by Asian authors about Asian experiences in the USA, as well as books by Black creators) but I didn’t because I was busy or overwhelmed. I need to get to them, and I will, though not today.

Today I want to present resources to you, as a white parent or educator facing the task of talking to kids about race, racism, and anti-racism. I want to share book lists with you, not just about Black pain, but about joy and culture. Some books aren’t on the wonderful lists I’ve found, so I’ll add more links. Here goes:

Christian Robinson, in the midst of the pain of launching his picture book You Matter during a global pandemic and in the middle of this upsurge of protests and the backlash against those protests– he still sat down and helped put together a beautiful, thoughtful piece about talking to kids about racism. So with that in mind, please read it: Talking to Kids about Racism

I also want to point you to Christian Robinson’s beautiful tutorial on handling anger with kids, very relevant as they face the pain of racism: Anger

Maybe your kid needs support in understanding racism and anti-racism? There’s a reading list (on Twitter) over here. Note that the books cover a wide range of ages.

Support that reading not just by reading about racism or fighting it, but also just by introducing works from a range of Black creators (yes, and many others, but let’s stay on topic, please): This list is of 100 Black creators and their work. Let that number sink in and know that it’s not exhaustive, and it is diverse and covers a range of ages. No excuses.

One of my favourite literary agencies made a thread of new Black work, too: Some out now, some to pre-order.

I may be mistaken, but I think a few books I love are missing from those lists so I want to highlight them here:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a wonderful, joyful, serious book on African-American inventors: What Color Is My World? This is a book my daughter loves so much that I frequently find it in her bed or… well, on the bathroom floor. All the best books end up read in every room of the house!

Rozane Orgill wrote a beautiful account of the contribution of Black voices to American culture in Jazz Day

In my view, this is a hopeful as well as a painful time. It’s a time for listening, reading, and learning as well as acting and protesting. And we have started to see real change on the horizon already. I intend to do my bit to support that change, starting here, starting now.

The word of the day for me is: RESPECT. Respect Black voices, Black anger, and Black time. And read, listen, think, process, and change.

If you have any questions, email me: deborah@childrensbookroom.com

The Children’s Book Shop: A story, an appeal

I’m going to say it directly for all of us– for you, for me, and for authors and editors and publishers and booksellers everywhere:

Right now it’s all awful.

And knowing that I’m lucky doesn’t make it easier to contemplate the misfortunes of others– especially when those others are the people I lean on. And I’m going to be explicit about this one:

My local book shop, The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, is facing tough times and has launched a GoFundMe campaign. This blog wouldn’t be here without that shop. So I’m going to ask for help. Why me, why here, why now? That’s all in the rest of this post, so I’m asking you– don’t scan or move on, please. Read.

You want to know what’s hardest right here, right now, writing this? Keeping it together. If I try to stick to the plot in my head and explain things rationally– it comes out rote and mechanical and rigid. If I let go? Well, I get messy, tearful, and I swear a lot. So bear with me: I’m trying.

Having said thus much, let’s have a flashback to normal times. This spring, my daughter is almost 7 years old. That means that a few months back, sevenish years ago, I started coming regularly to Brookline from Somerville, where I lived at the time. 

Why? Because that’s when I switched obstetricians from someone whose name I don’t even remember to one in Brookline, recommended by a dear, lovely friend. I was newly pregnant, very excited, and very nervous. I was totally overwhelmed by everything and my friend knew I was sort of scared of my obstetrician, so she gently suggested I see someone else. I headed to the doctor in Brookline, although I was still feeling awkward and vulnerable, and on the way I passed by a shop: The Children’s Book Shop. Well, I knew I was on the point of fleeing Brookline, so I swore that if I went through with the appointment and felt OK afterwards, I’d get to visit the shop. As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried: the appointment was great, I loved my new doctor, and I basically floated into the shop.

This gives you a sense of who I was at the time: I was extraordinarily vulnerable and sensitive, and the prospect of “hurting my obstetrician’s feelings by switching to someone else” was agony. Finding a children’s book shop, which might be like my beloved Mabel’s Fables back in Toronto, was a sign of hope: it brought me back to my roots. Maybe I could find something nice for the new baby, I thought.

I still remember the first book I bought there: it was the book this blog is named after, The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. I managed not to cry, but I’m reasonably certain I blurted out my feelings regarding Eleanor Farjeon (a childhood hero of mine), which probably took a while since I have quite a lot of those feelings. I also got a Moomin book, the first of them, which I’d never read before, and the thought that there was a place which dug into my childhood favourites and made more of them (“More Eleanor Farjeon and Moomin books!”) brought stars to my eyes.

Naturally, it became a ritual: I went to Brookline, had my appointment, and got a new book “for the baby.” (Please note: I didn’t get clothes or diapers. I did get books. I’m not saying it made sense, but it was very typical of me.) It wasn’t long before I felt at home there, certainly they knew my taste intuitively, and so, shyly at first, I’d chat, and they’d cheerfully show me new stuff, not just classics. I learned to love Yuyi Morales and Liz Wong as well as Arthur Rackham and Joseph Jacobs.

After the baby came, it was hard to think I had no further reasons to go to Brookline or to the shop. So, feeling slightly awkward about it but also feeling lonely, I went back anyway. “The baby still needs books,” I thought. And after I started the blog, “I need to do research.”

Then something wonderful happened: My daughter grew and we moved to Brookline. Look now, we did not move to Brookline to be closer to the book shop. But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t walk that distance as soon as we moved in to prove that “I really am only a ten-minute walk from my favourite book shop!” And since then, I think barely a week’s gone by that I haven’t at least popped my head in.

Until, of course, Covid-19 and the shutdown, which brings us back to the present day.

Let’s be clear about this. Every shop is suffering. Every business is hard-hit. But for a small, independent book shop which caters specifically to kids’ books and has never had much of a web presence (although check out that new, revamped website with links to purchase a gift certificate or buy books through Bookshop!) this sort of closure is particularly terrible.

So here we are. Look, I’ve never been subtle about my feelings regarding independent book shops. I love them. I’ve always, always given full credit to the booksellers who’ve recommended books, and shops where I’ve found them. I love them, all of them, from the bottom of my heart. Nothing, ever, will replace the value of going into a community shop which judiciously selects new and classic books and lays them out for greedy eyes to scan and assess.

So when I got the news today that my lovely book shop was moving from “facing hard times” to “OK the time has come for a fundraiser” I, well. I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t just sad, I was… motivated, shall we say, politely.

Right, normally, you know the drill, this is the moment when I have a pretty scheme laid out with giveaways and proudly declare “I’ll ship the prize anywhere!”

I can’t do that now. I’m not going to risk anyone’s health by making an extra trip to the post office to mail a book out. I didn’t even send my dad the birthday present waiting upstairs for him (sorry, Dad) because now is not the time for additional trips unless it’s more important than a birthday (SORRY, I know it’s important, but I also feel sure you can wait). Right? You get it, I get it, let’s not dwell on it.

So instead, I’m just going to appeal to you like this:

a) Check in on YOUR local shop. OK? Do you want to read your way through this crisis? Try to buy locally, please.

b) If you don’t have a local shop but you’re in the USA, please do consider buying from my shop’s Bookshop page. If you’re in Brookline and don’t know which book you want, but want the book shop to be there when you’re buying again? Please get a gift certificate.

c) If you love this blog, care about me, or just want more reviews of fine children’s lit in this corner of the internet in future: I am asking you to donate here.

I’m going to think of incentives for the future. There will be more reviews and more giveaways, I’m positive. But for now I’m just asking you to give, please. Hang onto your receipt, for sure– if I offer an incentive in future, it may be useful! But for now, I’m just telling my story and asking you, if you can, to help in one of the ways I’ve outlined above.

Do I sound a bit grim today? It’s a grim time, I’m sorry. I’ll try to be back with more books and better cheer. But today– yes, it’s hard.

Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao

Each of us has a method while we’re stuck inside, is what I’ve noticed: some knit or sew, some read, some exercise, some bake– and many of us just run after our kids all day.

Side note: I have enormous admiration for those of you who are able to successfully work AND look after kids! And I don’t believe anyone who tells me they’re working AND looking after kids AND STILL starting up new hobbies. Sorry, that’s just not fair.

OK, I admit, I’ve been struggling to find my footing, but a package in the mail saved me.

Do you remember Quackers and The Goose Egg? By Liz Wong? Well, once upon a time, I had an extra copy of Small in the City in the house and offered it up for free delivery to someone– Liz Wong wrote and said she’d love to see the book, but could she send me a copy of her next book in return?

Well, yes was the answer, given that I’m interested in anything she wrote and/or illustrated, ever. It was an honour.

So there I was yesterday, sitting around, admittedly in a bit of a funk, struggling even to read in between the Changeling’s online lessons, when a parcel arrived. Liz Wong sent me a book she’d illustrated, written by Helaine Becker (always lovely to see a book by a Torontonian!), called Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao, and it is stunning.

Pirate Queen.jpg

Look at that cover. Fierce and beautiful and unrelenting– like the sea.

This is the startlingly unromantic story of a girl taken captive by pirates who, businesslike, agrees to marry the captain of the fleet only if she gets an equal share of the business. When her pirate husband dies (within six years), she takes sole command of the fleet, builds on her successes, and finally works and wins her way to wealthy freedom.

I’m not going to go into the details of the historicity or bother to retell Helaine Becker’s telling of the story– get the book for that. Her writing is clear, straightforward, and riveting. Meanwhile, the backmatter is very upfront about what the history is, and where she’s filled in the gaps with her best guesses to make a convincing narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and think it would make a great contribution to any school lesson on pirates: a true, eye-opening narrative.

What I’m going to do here is tell you that, for me, at least, this was the story I needed now, right now, during Covid-19 when everything is homebound and difficult.

You see, I’m like Bilbo Baggins (sorry, reading The Hobbit aloud to my daughter every night– it’s on the brain): I never thought I was adventurous and I always thought I wanted to be home with my family all the time. And, you know, I do love it! But I hate feeling confined. When I read this book, I realized I really wanted to go over The Water, as Bilbo would have it.

And Zheng Yi Sao is a new figure to me on the open sea of the imagination: she never did dream of the sea, but the sea took her, and she didn’t wail or slip into a funk. No. She lifted her chin and said, “If this is what’s to be, I’m going to make the best of it.” Helaine Becker’s text has her decide to write her own scroll, not be used up ink for the benefit of others. Liz Wong’s art (pencil on bristol board, coloured digitally) shows a face both sensitive and fierce, never backing down, but open to negotiation with fate. And she made her own way and looked out for the fortunes of those who worked beneath her. After finally facing a real storm in my own lifetime, good grief, do I respect that kind of resilience and strength!

We’re going through a storm now, and we’re huddling away from the raging waters. Reading this reminds me to look to my own resourcefulness and do what I can in these troubled times. I hope that you, too, will find a book to read that wakes you up as this one woke me.

I have a lot more books here in the house, including more from Nimbus!, to share with you, and I’m getting excited to do it. Let’s hope I’m back more often now.

Final note: the link I gave you above was to bookshop.org, through my local Children’s Book Shop in Brookline. It’s shut down now during Covid-19, and until it can open again, I’ll be linking to that bookshop.org page. It supports them during a difficult time. Please, please, please support your local book shops right now! This is a hard time for everyone– the best way you can contribute is to buy from book shops which do online ordering (many do!) or through bookshop.org.

Coronavirus Giveaway

Hi everyone! I really owe you a good, meaty review, but the fact is– our lives have all been turned upside-down, haven’t they? I won’t go into the news, except to say I hope you’re all staying safely at home.

The problem is, as I well know and you well know, that some of us have great libraries at home– and some don’t.

Well, let’s take a slight tangent: the lovely author-illustrator Steve Light (remember: Swap!) recently sent me a beautiful wombat he painted because the Changeling loves wombats and he’s the kindest man alive. When I asked what I could do in return (payment? a donation?) he said to share his books with those who need.

Well, I can do that! And what timing!

So I’ve made a commitment:

a) Teachers/librarians: if you have a class in need of reading (maybe storytime over Zoom?) I will send you a Steve Light book! (2 of you, first come, first served)

b) Parents and families: if you have a kid in need of reading I will send you a Steve Light book! (2 of you, first come, first served)

PLEASE EMAIL ME: deborah@childrensbookroom.com

I will be sending them through a local book shop (https://www.brooklinebooksmith-shop.com/) which is still doing online orders/delivery.

Any questions? Just email!