Kevin Sylvester on Technology

Kevin Sylvester, author of Super-Duper Monster Viewer, thanks technology — and gives us a glimpse as to where some of the illustrations in Super-Duper Monster Viewer might have been inspired from.

Super Duper Monster Viewer by Kevin Sylvester

Imagine that you are holding a device that will allow you to see the monsters that live invisibly all around us. All you have to do is follow the simple instructions and…total chaos!

Technology isn’t always easy, and this monster viewer disguised as a book is no exception. If you hold the viewer too high, all you see are the tops of the monsters’ heads. Too low, and all you see are their feet. And things don’t get any better when the monsters themselves try to help out.

Full of puns and visual jokes, Super Duper Monster Viewer pokes gentle fun at our obsession with technology and the next cool thing. And while the two monsters we meet in this book might be terrible at tech support, they make pretty fun companions just the same.

Written and illustrated by the irrepressibly funny and highly acclaimed children’s author Kevin Sylvester, Super-Duper Monster Viewer is sure to bring laughter — and maybe a little mayhem — into your day.

Swim along with Gary Clement


Drawing on his own memories of the best days of summer in the city, Gary Clement brings us an illustrated version of the beloved classic song “Swimming, Swimming,” full of fun and humor.

The illustrations show a young boy and his friends spending a carefree day at the neighborhood pool. We see them walk to the pool together, change into their trunks and then spend hours swimming, cavorting, splashing and diving. The pool is full of moms, dads, other kids and babies, all enjoying a chance to cool off on a hot summer day. The boy returns home, tired but happy, and falls asleep holding onto his goggles in anticipation of another delightful day at the pool.

Watch this video to learn the melody and hand gestures for the song!



Glen Huser’s Top 5 Halloween Movies for Kids

The Elevator Ghost

My novel The Elevator Ghost is a story that begins and ends on Halloween, and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around just what it is about the day that enchanted me as a youngster and has continued to do so. The key I think is in that word ‘enchanted’. Halloween pulls itself away from its commonplace siblings by the very way it spurs us to view the world around us as a place of wonder and danger, where things — like nature itself — are not always what they seem. I would add another word to wrap around the appeal of Halloween for me: humour. The best Halloween moments are scary or awesome … or funny.

A tradition for me over many years has been to watch a movie after the calls of “Halloween apples” have faded away and my doorbell has quit ringing. I’m fond of the animated films of Tim Burton and Henry Selick and staples such as Joe Dante’s Gremlins, but more often than not I’m apt to slip one of these old favourites into my DVD player:

Meet Me in St. Louis

Vincente Minelli, 1944

In brilliant technicolor, we follow the Smith family in St. Louis over the year (1903) that Dad considers and then decides against a move to New York. A fall sequence features Totie (6-year-old Margaret O’Brien) in her tramp costume volunteering to visit the scariest house on the street to “kill” (throw flour in the face of) Mr. Braukoff. Among the other treats, of course, is Judy Garland — never more beautiful or in finer voice. (For viewers of all ages.)


Steven Spielberg, 1982

This picture remains a spellbinding sci-fi/fantasy. No matter what age you are, it’s impossible not to identify with the lost and frightened extraterrestrial. I love that it applauds the empathy and powerful spirit of children. A key scene has them bicycling through the sky (shades of Peter Pan) on Halloween with E.T. garbed as a ghost. (For viewers 8 and up.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Robert Mulligan, 1962

There’s a very scary house (complete with a bogeyman) on the street where 6-year-old Scout (Mary Badham) and her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford) live. We follow the two over a summer and fall in a sleepy southern town in the 1930s that is riled to life by the trial of an African-American man for rape. A knuckle-biting scene near the end has Scout, costumed as a Thanksgiving ham, being pursued through the woods by a madman. (For viewers 11 and up)

Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, 1955

After a bank robbery which leads to their father’s imprisonment and execution, two children — John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) — are on the run from a murderous, demented preacher (chillingly portrayed by Robert Mitchum) intent on getting the money stashed in Pearl’s doll. Terrible circumstances lead them on a downriver journey to sanctuary in the hands of an old woman (Lillian Gish) who collects and protects abandoned children. (For viewers 11 and up.)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Charles Barton, 1948

I’m not a huge fan of Abbott and Costello, but this one is a Halloween treat as the comedy team, baggage handlers for a house of horrors, meet not only Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) but Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.). An enjoyable introduction to some of Universal Studio’s pantheon of horror stars. (For viewers 8 and up.)

You’ll simply love A Simple Case of Angels


Nicola’s adorable little dog, June Bug, keeps getting into trouble. She steals the neighbor’s turkey, yanks down the Christmas tree and destroys Mum’s almost-finished giant crossword. Everyone is mad, and it looks as though June Bug’s days are numbered.

Will doing a good deed make up for June Bug’s bad behavior?

Nicola certainly hopes so. And when she and June Bug come across a new nursing home in the neighborhood, it feels like a Sign. They volunteer to become regular visitors at Shady Oaks, certain that June Bug’s cute tricks will cheer up the elderly residents.


Stella is coming to a stage near you!

Stella and Sam fans will be very happy to hear that The Mermaid Theatre Comany (motto: Have Puppets Will Travel!) is preparing Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella, Queen of the Snow for the stage. The show will premier at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Halifax on June 21, 2014, and then will tour the US and Canada in the fall.

Rehearsals are now underway, but Mermaid Theatre has prepared a little behind-the-scenes video that shows the making of the gorgeous stage and puppets for the production. Check it out!


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Stella, Queen of the Snow
Written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

In this book in the Stella and Sam series, Sam is experiencing his first snowstorm. Older and bolder, Stella knows all the answers, and she delights in showing Sam the many pleasures of a beautiful winter’s day.



Read Mermaid Theatre’s blog post about the show

National Day to End Bullying — Guest post by Christine Baldacchino

Little Christine BaldacchinoWhen I was about four or five, an aunt told me that if I wasn’t careful when I was eating fruit, if I somehow accidentally swallowed a seed, it would grow in the pit of my stomach into a tree. For years I was terrified it would happen — a seed would somehow get past my teeth and I’d swallow it. The tree’s branches would grow every which way for as long as it took to find a source of light, even if that meant shredding me to ribbons from the inside out in the process. And it would be all my fault. I shouldn’t have swallowed that seed. I deserved what I got. So I started tearing into every little piece of fruit that would eventually pass my lips with my fingernails, just to be one hundred percent sure my stomach stayed tree-free.

My experiences being bullied were very similar, and have had similarly lasting effects. The words and actions of bullies have stayed with me. Once the seed was planted in the pit of my stomach, something ugly grew from it. It slowly made its best attempts to destroy me from the inside out, and, like swallowing the apple seed, I thought it was my fault. Maybe it was because I cut my hair too short, or because I wore no-name sneakers and sweatshirts. Maybe I read too many books, or didn’t listen to the right music. Whatever it was, it was my fault. It just had to be. The girls didn’t make fun of everyone at our school, after all.

For years, I was afraid to be me outside of my own bedroom. It was the only place I felt safe. Even then, though, I would lie in bed at night and stare at my bedside clock, counting down the hours until my mum would wake me up for school. My stomach would start to ache as I thought about what I could wear that would allow me to blend in with all the other kids in the hopes that the bullies would give me a day off from their cutting remarks or cruel pranks, not that it ever worked. Sometimes I would pretend I was sick so I could stay home. I got very good at that. Eventually I turned an emotional survival tactic into an art form.

Whenever it came to letting people into my life, I would tear them open and look for seeds before letting them get too close to me. I had grown up with a lot of the girls that bullied me. They weren’t always bullies. I don’t know what changed, what made them suddenly turn on me, but it made me distrustful of anyone who approached me with an offer of real friendship. One day they could turn on me just like the other girls, I thought. Best to keep them at arm’s length.

The universe kept expanding, but my world, my room, stayed the same size. I was safe in there, but I was alone with my thoughts, and they weren’t always altogether pleasant ones

I wish I could tell you what changed. The clouds didn’t break apart one day to reveal clear blue skies behind them. One day I just decided that instead of hiding in my room, I needed to make a picnic of some of my favourite things, pack them up and take them out with me. Just like Morris, I drank my apple juice, did some puzzles, sang a song and put on my tangerine dress. I had put enough effort into trying to make everyone around me happy in the hopes that they’d leave me alone, when I should have been putting that effort into making myself happy. I stopped looking for seeds, and concentrated on enjoying the fruit.

If you’re being bullied, what they say is true — it gets better. It really does. Do what makes you happy. Wear your heart on the sleeve of your favourite tangerine dress and enjoy the fruit. Share it with the people who love you, and never doubt that you are loved.

If you suspect that you might be a bully, I hope you’ll one day open yourself up to the experience of seeing a seed that you’ve planted and nurtured in someone’s heart with kindness bear a sweet fruit that will eventually bear more like it, rather than a barren, thorny plant in the same place a special soul not unlike your own once dwelled.

Learn more about the National Day to End Bullying

Looking at Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011, an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book, and finalist for the Governor General's Award: Children's Illustration and Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards: Picture Book  <i>Migrant</i> by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011 ∙ Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book ∙ Finalist for the Governor General’s Award (Illustration) ∙ Finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

In a good world, I will be on vacation when you read this post. We rent a cottage near Point Pelee National Park, which is a gorgeous part of Canada. We are able to buy the most incredible produce there because of all the farms nearby, but not until I saw Migrant, written by Maxine Trottier and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, did I really think about the Mexican temporary workers who make this bounty possible. It’s something we should all think about.

— Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

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