Nina Berkhout on the inspiration for The Mosaic

The inspiration for The Mosaic came from an article that appeared on my Yahoo! homepage one day — the weirdest stories show up there sometimes — about a man in Kansas who was living in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo with his wife. The silo had been active during the Cold War and he’d bought it from the US government in the 1980s for really cheap, during a time when the government was removing “old” rockets and auctioning off many of these obsolete sites that had taken billions of dollars to build. He transformed it into a cozy home (bonus being that he could survive a nuclear apocalypse in there), and it came with over thirty acres of land.

The article also mentioned that there were missiles currently active throughout the Great Plains, and that’s what really caught my attention. My research began there … For around a year I read about the weapons of mass destruction presently on high-alert status in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. I had no idea just how many of these nukes were actually hidden in plain sight, visible from highways, even. Imagine having to live in a town surrounded by all those killing machines, I thought. And so my story began …

My protagonist, Twyla, is a pacifist and she’s had to grow up in Halo, Montana, a community attached to Angstrom Air Force Base. Angstrom guards the missiles in the nearby fields, and its fighter jets also participate in bombings in the Middle East. Twyla hates everything that Halo represents and she wants out. But to graduate she has to fulfill volunteer hours. She gets stuck assisting Gabriel Finch, a Marine who spends all his time in the decommissioned silo on his property. Twyla thinks he’s gearing up for a shooting rampage or for Judgment Day, but as it turns out, Gabriel is working on a massive art installation – his way of coping with PTSD. Little by little, Twyla begins to realize that things aren’t as black-and-white as she assumed when it comes to warfare and those who participate in it.

You could say this story is about the looming threat of nuclear war and the impact of war on veterans, both of which it is, but more than this, to me The Mosaic is a love story. A love story between two young people living in an increasingly messed-up world. And of course, the novel is about the mosaic itself, and how art can be born from devastation.


The Mosaic

Written by Nina Berkhout

Twyla Jane Lee has one goal. To finish senior year so she can get out of her military hometown of Halo, Montana. But to graduate, she needs to complete forty hours of community service, and that means helping out a rude and reclusive former Marine named Gabriel Finch.

A young veteran of the conflicts in the Middle East, Gabriel spends his days holed up in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo on his family farm. Twyla assumes he’s just another doomsday prepper, readying his underground shelter for Armageddon. But soon she finds out the truth, and it takes her breath away.

Gradually the two misfits form a bond, and Twyla begins to unearth the secrets that have left the Marine battling ghosts. Her discoveries force her to question her views on the wars until she realizes that even if she gets out of Halo, she won’t ever be able to leave Gabriel Finch’s story behind her.

A beautifully written and thought-provoking novel about a teen facing the collision of love, ideals and uncertainty about her own future.

“Captain Canada” Ian Wallace reflects on forty years of storytelling

In my home stands a tall, finely crafted cabinet of curiosities. Its contents represent the four decades I have traveled Canada from sea to sea to sea, telling stories in words and pictures.

On those journeys, I flew over jagged Rocky Mountain peaks; crisscrossed golden prairies; traversed frozen tundra, boreal forests, pristine lakes and rivers; and swept over glistening icebergs. I visited cities and towns, villages and outports with arresting names like Come By Chance, Sheshatshit, Moose Jaw and Zeballos.

When not telling stories, I went salmon fishing off Vancouver Island and dogsledding with world-champion musher Eddy Streeper in northern British Columbia.

I was taken on a caribou hunt with Dene hunters in the Northwest Territories and stood on the Arctic Circle when the temperature hovered at -48 degrees Celsius (-54 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the shore of Pipestone Creek in northern Alberta, I encountered a cliff that held dinosaur bones, most likely of the Pachyrhinosaurus, in strata of dark sediment.

One November night I witnessed a rare sight, a solely red aurora borealis dancing in a wintery Whitehorse sky.

I ate things I’d never eaten before. Bannock and Arctic char, seal flipper pie and cod tongues, bear, elk, caribou and moose.

I met children, teens and adults from every walk of life, ethnicity and faith, and made new friends across the country.

One day I realized that this vast land was a nation of families and diverse neighborhoods, and that I had left a piece of myself in each one — and they in me. Always, I was welcomed with kindness, generous hospitality and good humor.

As the decades passed, the number of kilometers I traveled clicked into the tens of thousands, the number of provinces and territories climbed, the number of young people I read to approached one million and counting, causing a close friend to nickname me “Captain Canada.”

Often, teachers and librarians shared intimate stories of the impact my books had had on their students and readers. In elementary schools, my stories enabled two sensitive young girls, both select mutes, to speak for the first time in several years. One university student told me how my author/ illustrator visit had impacted him so profoundly that he decided that day to become an artist. Each story left me deeply touched and gratified.

I was given countless thanks-for-coming gifts: mugs, thermoses, pens, T-shirts, handwritten notes and notepads, student writing and art, and occasionally, something handcrafted by a town artisan to remind me of the community.

In one Winnipeg elementary school I found the greatest gift of my life — a teacher/librarian who became my wife.

Each of these gifts and experiences has become part of my curiosity cabinet. Most are not priceless treasures to anyone but me, yet they remind me of the extraordinary adventures I have had and the people who have enriched my life all across this land. As a child, I never could have imagined the wondrous life I would lead.

Come and take a look inside.


The Curiosity Cabinet
Written by Ian Wallace

Ian Wallace, one of Canada’s best-known children’s book creators, invites us to look inside his cabinet of curiosities, which contains treasures from his decades of traveling the country from sea to sea to sea, sharing stories with young readers.

Over the past forty years, Ian Wallace has made thousands of school and library visits in tiny communities, towns and huge cities all across this land. Some of these visits have inspired young readers to become artists themselves; others have moved children to speak or act in new ways; others have simply given rise to the laughter and sheer delight that come from a good book. In return, Ian has been the recipient of many gifts himself, from the wide range of experiences he has had to the mementos made by young children or artists in the communities he has visited. All these gifts come together in his cabinet of curiosities — an eclectic and personal collection that nonetheless represents and appreciates our rich and varied land.

Each double-page illustration shows a shelf in the cabinet dedicated to a province or territory with the gifts or special memories Ian has from that place — tamarack geese made by Cree artists in northern Ontario, a fishing-stage facade from Newfoundland, the Douglas fir trees in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, and much more.

Canoeing on Pickerel Lake with Jean E. Pendziwol

There’s nothing quite like waking up to the haunting laugh of a loon and the wind whispering through the pine trees, then slipping out of a warm sleeping bag to peek through the tent screen and watch the sun rise.

We’ve canoed as a family since our children were young, paddling the Boundary Waters along the Canada / US border, Quetico Provincial Park, and once, into an isolated and somewhat mysterious wooden castle built on White Otter Lake. We fell in love with being on the water, the scent of pine needles under our bare feet, swimming off the rocks, watching wildlife, cooking over the campfire and, of course, fishing.

I wrote Me and You and the Red Canoe to capture the magical moment of early morning on a lake, of that special time when the world is just waking up and the fish are, hopefully, biting. It was inspired by our many canoe trips, and is as much about simply slowing down, looking around and appreciating the amazing world around us as it is about the beauty of the Canadian landscape.

The stunning illustrations by Phil capture the scenery of my Northwestern Ontario paddling adventures and the Algonquin Park area that he is more familiar with. This August, I was able to take a short trip into Quetico Provincial Park’s Pickerel Lake and I snapped a few pictures of our time there.

Here’s hoping you get the chance to slip away to a quiet lake and trail a lure through the blue-green depths, spinning, twirling, dancing.

Our campsite this year was on a small island close to several other islands. On the one adjacent to us was an aerie, and the eaglet called continuously for its mother. Only the mature birds have white heads and tails.

My daughter, Erin, who is now grown and living in BC, came along on this trip. I’m paddling in the helmsman position, steering the canoe, and she’s in the bow, the avant in voyageur terms.

Not an early-morning paddle, but this captures some of the Quetico scenery.

There are sandy beaches as well as lovely rocky areas, perfect for camping on.

We had a loon or two visit us every day, and we could hear them calling, especially in the evenings.

The root system of this pine almost seemed to be gripping the rocks.

Our campsite had the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset.

Sometimes we cast a line right from shore. You never know!

And sure enough! There was a smallmouth bass lurking in the rocks just off the point.

The best breakfast ever: fresh pickerel (walleye) cooked over the open fire.

This brigade passed by our campsite just as the sun was setting.


Me and You and the Red Canoe
Written by Jean E. Pendziwol
Illustrated by Phil

In the stillness of a summer dawn, two siblings leave their campsite with fishing rods, tackle and bait, and push a red canoe into the lake. A perfect morning on the water unfolds, with thrilling glimpses of wildlife along the way.

Now Available: Only In My Hometown

The northern lights shine, women gather to eat raw caribou meat and everyone could be family in this ode to small-town life in Nunavut, written in English and Inuktitut.

Sisters Angnakuluk Friesen and Ippiksaut Friesen collaborate on this story about what it’s like to grow up in an Inuit community in Nunavut. Every line about the hometown in this book will have readers thinking about what makes their own hometowns unique. With strong social studies curriculum connections, Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani / ᑭᓯᒥ ᑕᐃᒪᐃᑉᐸᒃᑐᑦ ᐊᖏᕐᕋᕆᔭᕋᓂ / Only in My Hometown introduces young readers to life in the Canadian North, as well as the Inuit language and culture.

Angnakuluk’s simple text, translated into Inuktitut and written out in syllabics and transliterated roman characters, is complemented by Ippiksaut’s warm paintings of their shared hometown.

Learn More

Recipe: Yarrow Tea

Written in Cree and English, Caitlin Dale Nicholson’s nipêhon / I Wait is a sweet story about a little girl who picks wild yarrow with her mother and grandmother. The book includes a recipe for yarrow tea, which is known for its refreshing, soothing effects. We’ve included the recipe here.

 

Yarrow Tea

4 cups water
4 tablespoons yarrow flowers and leaves, fresh or dried

Bring water to a boil, then add yarrow.
Steep for five minutes, strain and enjoy.
Drink hot or cold — hot to relieve a fever.

 

wâpanêwask nihtiy

nêwo minihkwâcikana nipiy
nêwo êmihkwânisak wâpanêwask wâpikwaniya, oski-nîpiya ahpô ê-pâstêki.

kisâkamisa nipiy; ohtêki, êkota wâpanêwask ka-takonên.
pêho niyânan cipahikanisa, sîkopwâtina êkwa minihkwê.
kika-kî-minihkwân ê-kisâkamitêk ahpô ê-tahkâkamik — ê-kisâkamitêyik ka-miyoskâkow awiyak ê-kisisot.

 

ᐋᐧᐸᓀᐊᐧᐢᐠ ᓂᐦᑎᕀ

ᓀᐅᐧ  ᒥᓂᐦᑳᐧᒋᑲᓇ   ᓂᐱᕀ
ᓀᐅᐧ  ᐁᒥᐦᑳᐧᓂᓴᐠ  ᐋᐧᐸᓀᐊᐧᐢᐠ  ᐋᐧᐱᑲᐧᓂᔭ, ᐅᐢᑭ  ᓃᐱᔭ  ᐊᐦᐴ  ᐁ  ᐹᐢᑌᑭ᙮

ᑭᓵᑲᒥᓴ  ᓂᐱᕀ;  ᐅᐦᑌᑭ,  ᐁᑯᑕ ᐋᐧᐸᓀᐊᐧᐢᐠ  ᑲ  ᑕᑯᓀᐣ᙮
ᐯᐦᐅ  ᓂᔮᓇᐣ  ᒋᐸᐦᐃᑲᓂᓴ,  ᓰᑯᐹᐧᑎᓇ  ᐁᑲᐧ  ᒥᓂᐦᑫᐧ᙮
ᑭᑲ  ᑮ  ᒥᓂᐦᑳᐧᐣ  ᐁ  ᑭᓵᑲᒥᑌᐠ  ᐊᐦᐴ  ᐁ  ᑕᐦᑳᑲᒥᐠ  —  ᐁ  ᑭᓵᑲᒥᑌᔨᐠ  ᑲ  ᒥᔪᐢᑳᑯᐤ  ᐊᐃᐧᔭᐠ  ᐁ  ᑭᓯᓱᐟ᙮


nipêhon / I Wait
Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin-Nelson

A young child, her grandmother and mother are going out to pick wild yarrow. As Grandmother gets ready, the child and her mom wait. Grandmother leads the way to the field of blossoms, where they can finally start to pick … only now they have to wait for Mom!

The simple story, written in Cree and English and accompanied by rich acrylic illustrations, shows the patience, love and humor involved as three generations accommodate one another on a family outing. nipêhon / ᓂᐯᐦᐅᐣ / I Wait was translated by Leona Morin-Neilson, who was the inspiration for the book.

This companion volume to niwîcihâw / I Help includes a recipe for yarrow tea, known for its refreshing and soothing effects. The recipe is reproduced here.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi on the inspiration for Prince of Pot

“Could the tale of a grow op guarded by bears get any weirder? Yes.”

That was the headline of a Maclean’s article in 2013. It seems that while dismantling an outdoor marijuana farm near Grand Forks, BC, police found two dozen habituated black bears. They suggested the animals might have helped the pot farmer protect his grow.

Most people who read the story probably thought about the legalization of pot, or the protection of wildlife, or about the explosives found on the property.

Me? I thought: What if that was your dad?

And so my novel Prince of Pot was born. It’s the story of Isaac, a teen struggling to decide between following in his dad’s footsteps or pursuing his dreams of art school.

I grew up in a small town where my parents ran their own business, so I know what it’s like to feel torn between family and future. There’s only one teensy difference between my story and Isaac’s …

My parents ran a restaurant. His run a grow op guarded by bears.


Prince of Pot
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Isaac loves art class, drives an old pickup, argues with his father and hangs out with his best buddy, Hazel. But his life is anything but normal. His parents operate an illegal marijuana grow-op, Hazel is a bear that guards the property, and his family’s livelihood is a deep secret.

It’s no time to fall in love with the daughter of a cop.

Isaac’s girlfriend Sam is unpredictable, ambitious and needy. And as his final year of high school comes to an end, she makes him consider a new kind of life pursuing his interest in art, even if that means leaving behind his beloved home in the Rockies and severing all ties with his family.

For a while he hopes he can have it all, until a disastrous graduation night, when Sam’s desperate grab for her father’s attention suddenly puts his entire family at risk.

 

 

 

The Breadwinner to Premiere at TIFF

Animated Film Adaptation of Deborah Ellis’s Bestselling The Breadwinner to Debut at Toronto International Film Festival

We are proud to announce that the full-length animated adaptation of The Breadwinner will be making its world premiere on September 10th at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is based on Deborah Ellis’s internationally bestselling novel of the same name.

The Breadwinner tells the story of eleven-year-old Parvana, who lives in Kabul. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must disguise herself as a boy and become the breadwinner for her family. First published in 2000, The Breadwinner is the first book in the four-part award-winning Breadwinner series about loyalty, survival, family and friendship under extraordinary circumstances during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. The series has sold over two million copies worldwide and has been published in twenty-five languages. A movie tie-in edition of The Breadwinner in now available. Watch for a graphic-novel adaptation in January 2018.

The Breadwinner film was directed by Nora Twomey of Cartoon Saloon. It was produced by Aircraft Pictures, Cartoon Saloon and Melusine Productions, with producers Tomm Moore and Paul Young of Cartoon Saloon, Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen of Aircraft Pictures, and Stephan Roelants of Melusine Productions. The film was executive produced by Angelina Jolie’s Jolie Pas Productions.

Farewell, Jan Andrews

We at Groundwood were sad to learn of the loss of beloved children’s author Jan Andrews on September 2nd. Jan was a consummate storyteller and a recipient of the Order of Canada.

On learning of her death, I remembered the sweetly melancholy themes of her 1990 picture book The Auction, illustrated by Karen Reczuch.

The Auction tells the story of Todd’s final visit to his grandfather’s farm. The contents of the farm — from the combine to the kitchen utensils  — are soon to be sold, and the property will move into the hands of new owners. Already the farm is eerily quiet with the cows, pigs and chickens gone.

Together Todd and his grandfather walk the fields, and Todd’s grandfather reminisces about the life he built there with Gran — their children and grandchildren and the changing seasons. Together they eat the last of Gran’s preserves from her garden. Gran is gone too.

It’s a rare thing, such a poignant and nuanced book about loss written for children. All things pass away, and in this quiet moment we witness the last view of Todd’s grandparents’ life together before the pieces scatter and join other stories.

We are sorry to say goodbye to Jan, but we will find solace in the books she left behind. It’s not all sadness, after all. Even The Auction ends in a burst of silliness. Todd and his grandfather construct scarecrows and place them in joyful tableaux all over the farm. Todd is still young, and he will have a life and a story all of his own.

Jan Andrews Obituary, CBC

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