Music to Read By

EvaandSuzanneAlthough we make very good books around here at Anansi and Groundwood, we also spend a lot of time thinking and talking about music. Several members of our staff are musicians, and others have headphones plugged at their desks around the clock.

Stemming from a conversation on Twitter, Eva O’Brien (Sales Assistant) and Suzanne Sutherland (Editorial Assistant) decided it was time for some Anansi and Groundwood-themed playlists to emerge.

These books are some in-house favourites and these songs are what we think the characters might have listened to (ignoring time, location and access to technology almost entirely). We hope you enjoy!

978-1-77089-259-0The Outlander by Gil Adamson

In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand. Two vengeful brothers and a pack of bloodhounds track her across the western wilderness.  Gil Adamson’s extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist — the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck young woman.

978-0-88784-234-4Holding Still for As Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall

What is it like to grow into adulthood with the war on terror as your defining political memory, with SARS and Hurricane Katrina as your backdrop? In this robust, elegantly plotted, and ultimately life-affirming novel, Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling portrait of a generation we’ve rarely seen in literature — the twenty-five-year olds who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text-messaging each other truncated emotional reactions, unsure of what’s public and what’s private.

978-0-88899-753-1Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth stuck in a private girls’ school in Toronto. When a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself because he was rumoured to be gay, the school goes into mourning overdrive, each clique trying to find something to hold on to and something to believe in. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s high school, and that’s what happens to Skim when she starts to meet in secret with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer.

Is there a song that reminds you of your favourite book? Tell us about it and while you’re at it, find us on Twitter @houseofanansi, @sutherlandsuz & @evakmo.

Marie-Louise Gay on her first day of school

Marie-Louise Gay as a girlI was gripping my mother’s hand when we arrived at the door to the kindergarten. My baby sister held on to my mother’s other hand, sobbing loudly and dragging her feet. She had been scared to death by the smiling crossing guard who said hello to her. You would have thought he had bitten her.

We had walked all the way from the motel where we had been living for a month. We had moved from Montreal to Oakville, Ontario for my father’s new job, but my parents couldn’t find an affordable apartment. So we were living temporarily in a tiny white decrepit cabin, part of the Miracle Motel complex on the outskirts of Oakville. The miracle was that the four of us could live, sleep and eat in one small, unheated room with a kitchenette.  My sister and I slept on the couch, my parents on the foldout bed. All our toys and books were in storage so we mostly played on the stoop with rocks and twigs. We were the sole guests of the motel. The days were long and boring. I missed my friends in Montreal.

So, as you can imagine, I had been waiting impatiently for this first day of school. My mother kept telling me how wonderful it would be: I would make friends, sing songs, draw pictures and read books. There would be new games and new toys. There was a playground where I would play tag, jump rope and play hopscotch with all my new friends. We went shopping for a new dress, new shoes, a pink schoolbag and a Babar lunchbox. I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before.

We entered the kindergarten room. A big light-filled colorful room with children’s drawings taped all over the walls, shelves of books and mountains of toys. There were children playing, laughing, running. A tall smiling lady came over and talked with my mother, then bent down to talk to me. Meaningless sounds came out of her mouth. I strained to hear. More meaningless sounds. Puzzled, I looked at my mother, who laughed and said, “Voici ton professeur Madame Jennifer. Elle parle anglais.”

My mother had forgotten to mention one small thing: I would be starting school in English. I had never heard a word of English in my life. “Ne t’en fais pas, tu apprendras vite”— Don’t worry, you will learn English very quickly — said my mother as she kissed and hugged me tight. “Je reviens bientôt.” She left, pulling my sobbing sister after her.

I stood by the door. The colors drained out of the room. I felt cold. All the children seemed to stare at me. They knew that I couldn’t speak their language. This wasn’t going to be wonderful at all. I carefully put my new Babar lunchbox on the floor and stiffly turned my back to the class. Through the window I could see my mother walking quickly down the street with my sister in her arms. They got smaller and smaller, then disappeared into the distance.

“How long does it take to learn a new language?” I asked myself. I knew that if I didn’t move I would be invisible. But someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned slowly. A fat girl in a pink dress wearing sparkly blue glasses smiled at me and took my hand. She gently pulled me to the carpet where all the children sat in a circle. I sat down next to her. The children started singing a song in the language I did not understand. After a while I hummed along. The fat girl with the sparkly blue glasses smiled at me.

I hummed louder.

978-1-55498-216-5Marie-Louise Gay is a world-renowned author and illustrator of children’s books. She has won many prestigious awards, including the Governor General’s Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Her books have been translated into more than fifteen languages. Visit Marie-Louise Gay’s website.

Browse our blog for back-to-school blog posts from Groundwood authors running from August 15th. Everyone at Groundwood hopes that this school year will bring someone to take your hand.

The big unveil: our Girls with Grit contest cover

Groundwood Books’ Girls With Grit novels share real girls’ voices, and their stories, from North America and around the world. In these books, ordinary girls overcome obstacles, make their voices heard, and stand up for what they believe in.

In 2012, Groundwood partnered  with Figment, an online community for people who love to share their writing, connect with others who like to read, and discover new stories and authors. This partnership was driven by the desire to seek out stories written by teens that reflected their view of the world — demonstrating that every girl is capable of amazing feats of grit.

Figment and Groundwood received hundreds of entries to their Girls with Grit contest, but one stood out from the rest. Told from the point of view of a young woman at odds with her own mind, Phoebe demonstrates how friendship and personal strength can be harnessed to allow a person to overcome great obstacles.

Groundwood is proud to present the cover for Maya Lannen’s Phoebe. Watch our blog for a special e-book edition of Maya’s story, available next week.

Phoebe by Maya Lannen

On safari suits and true friends – the first day of sixth grade by Fanny Britt

Fanny Britt as a girlOf all my first days of school, the one in sixth grade is probably the one I remember most vividly. I had been busy that summer, swimming and eating corn on the cob, slathering clay on my face that we had dug from the lake up at our cabin north of Ottawa, walking to the village in the blistering sun to buy a tiny pack of gum — and all of this in the greatest of company: my newfound friends. You see, I had spent a good part of the fifth grade by myself, with none of my old friends interested in looking at me, let alone sharing their secrets with me. I had been shunned as fat and ugly, and I was bummed. But I was also about to get extremely lucky. During a school trip, I met a girl who would become my best friend in the whole world, even to this day. She was sweet and loyal and had the kindest of all the hearts ever molded into a human body. Soon after we met, another lonely girl found her way to us. This one was feisty and funny and always up for an adventure. Together, we became invincible. No more loneliness, no more rejection, no more bullies — because you can’t be bullied when you’re not afraid. And these two made me less afraid of the world with each passing day. In the middle of summer, we all piled up in my dad’s old Volvo, and headed for the cabin at Blue Sea Lake. It was arguably the best summer of my life. There was no room for body issues in the canoe; no time for self-hatred on the diving board. There was only unabashed fun, and a new sense of trust that everything painful could be healed again.

My mother has always been a wonderful seamstress. Over the years, she has made countless outfits for me to wear on special occasions (this summer, she even made my wedding dress!). For my first day of school in sixth grade, it was a lovely skirt-suit, made of tweedy houndstooth fabric (it was the eighties, after all), but with a retro safari feel to the pattern, like something Katharine Hepburn would have worn in a movie. It was belted and I felt quite grown-up in it. It was also very different from the jeans and converse sneakers that everybody else wore. Before, I would have been self-conscious about this, and would have wanted to blend in with the crowd, but that year, flanked by my two new friends, I felt like a million dollars. We were laughing and talking, remembering our summer at the lake, and giddily anticipating the future. And when I crossed paths with my old tormentors from the fifth grade, instead of melting in a pool of shame and fear in front of them, I flashed a smile and strutted away. I was neither sad nor vengeful. I was free.

I will never forget the summer of ’88 at Blue Sea Lake with Alexia and Nadia.

978-1-55498-360-5Fanny Britt is a Quebec playwright, author and translator. In Jane, the Fox and Me, her first graphic novel, Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Watch for back-to-school blog posts from Groundwood authors running from August 15th – September 15th. Everyone at Groundwood hopes that this school year will bring you confidence.

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