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Promising Winnipeg YA author delivers

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/4/2015 (1867 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jodi Carmichael is a local writer of young-adult fiction whose first book, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons, written from the viewpoint of a young boy with Asperger syndrome, gained considerable success when it was released in 2013. Her latest novel, Forever Julia (Great Plains, 262 pages, $15, softcover), is set in Winnipeg, with an attractive and spunky main character.

Julia Collins is still reeling from the death of her father from cancer several months earlier. When her grandmother also takes ill, she feels angry and depressed; only her best friend Annika can still make her laugh. But when Julia begins a relationship with a handsome senior, Jeremy, she neglects Annika, especially after Annika warns her that Jeremy may not be everything he seems. Jeremy is passionate about his feelings for Julia, but is also dangerously obsessive.

Carmichael's writing is vivid and her depiction of Julia's feelings and actions feels authentic and contemporary. This is a young writer to watch.

-- -- --

The seven teachings of the Anishinabe -- love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty and truth -- form the basis for a series of first picture books by local Métis writer Katherena Vermette.

Aimed at preschoolers or beginning readers, these little softcover books (Highwater Press, 24 pages, $10 each) are deceptively simple. The First Day: A Story of Courage, for example, follows a little boy, Makwa, on his first day of school. Makwa is scared and his mother doesn't ignore his feelings. She helps him see that coming to a new school is like coming to the city for the first time, telling him that facing challenges is a sign of being brave.

Other books in this series are The Just Right Gift, Singing Sisters, Kode's Quest(ion), Amik Loves School, Masaabe's Stories, and What is Truth, Betsy?, each illustrating one of the seven teachings. Illustrations by University of Manitoba graduate Irene Kuziw are in soft pencil crayons, showing indigenous children in homey, familiar settings. Vermette's books will fill a void in many homes and classrooms.

-- -- --

For a new twist on friendship look for Me, Too! by Toronto author Annika Dunklee (Kids Can Press, 32 pages, $19, hardcover). Annie and Lillemor have a lot in common: they are both seven, they both like pink and purple, and they can both speak two languages, even if Annie's is made up. Their friendship is threatened when a new girl, Lillianne, arrives from France. Annie is jealous until she realizes perhaps Lillianne has a lot in common with both Lillemor and herself.

Charlottetown artist Lori Joy Smith has added plenty of large, joy-filled illustrations done in pencil and coloured by Photoshop that make this a fun picture book for early readers.

-- -- --

Vancouver author Sarah Ellis is well-known for her books for young adults and intermediate readers. In A+ for Big Ben (Pajama Press, $10, board book) she has written a delightful story for youngest readers (ages 2-5).

Ben longs to get a real report card -- like his sister Robin in Grade 5, who gets As and Bs, or his brother Joe in Grade 3, who gets comments. When Robin and Joe realize how Ben feels left out, they make a special report card for him, marking him highly for his own talents: tying his shoes, feeding the cat, whistling, and making them laugh. He feels content when his dad calls him "a big goof."

B.C. artist Kim La Fave has added large, colourful illustrations that help make this a book that will be a favourite with any child who wants to be "like the big guys."


Helen Norrie's column on children's books appears on the third Saturday of the month.


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