Sunday 28 February 2021

Good-bye Freedom to Read Week and Black History Month...

It’s the last day of February, which is also the last day of Black History Month, and yesterday was the final day of Freedom to Read Week (I’m breaking the rules by using my Banned Book mug again this morning!).  It’s difficult to keep up with the themes and events and recognitions that all happen in the shortest month of the year, but I think I’ve got all the bases covered with the last book I read and with my current book.

Last week I read Jay Asher’s debut YA novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, which I chose because it was challenged after the release of the Netflix series in 2017, as well as being banned from an elementary school in Florida.  After reading it, I can see why it was deemed inappropriate for elementary-aged children, but I think the issue with some banned books is the fact that they were banned without following proper procedure for the reconsideration of materials.  I would certainly think twice about having this book in my school library, but in a high school setting, it would be perfectly suitable.  This novel is told in the form of thirteen recordings by Hannah Baker, a high school student who has recently committed suicide.  As the novel opens, these cassette tapes have arrived on the doorstep of Clay, a fellow student who had a secret crush on Hannah.  These tapes give Hannah an opportunity to explain how each of these thirteen people played a part in her decision to kill herself, and after listening to them, each person is required to repackage them and send them off to the next person on the list.  Clay is horrified to be included on this list, and can’t figure out what he’s done to add to the reasons for her choice.  Clay’s personal commentary and internal monologues are interspersed with Hannah’s narratives, and we experience his rage, anguish, guilt, longing and regret along with him as her life is revealed, tape by tape, person by person, to a final, heart-wrenching, but all-to-real conclusion.  I thought this was a fabulous book, one that every teen should read in order to understand how their actions could affect others.  I think that these days everyone, including children and teens, is becoming more aware of and educated about the prevalence and validity of mental health issues.  It is my hope that we’re also becoming more sensitive, and that’s why a book like Thirteen Reasons Why is so important in this education; through this book, readers become privy to the thoughts, feelings and experiences of both Hannah and Clay, and may learn to be more empathetic towards them (  And although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was also a great book to read last week because we celebrated Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday ( in support of bullying awareness initiatives.  All in all, it was the perfect book to read and I’m glad to have found this on my shelf.  

That’s all for today.  I better get outside for a walk before it starts raining.  Then it’s back to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a fabulous read that is both appropriate for Black History Month and Freedom to Read Week.  WOW, I’m really ticking all the boxes!

Bye for now…

Sunday 21 February 2021

I read banned books…

I couldn’t resist that title for today’s post, as this is the first day of Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (  I have a button at work that I will wear this week that says “I read banned books”, I’ve been using my Banned Books mug all month, and I’m considering reading a banned or challenged book this week, although I just picked up two books from the library that I’m also interested in reading...  

I just went to look at my bookshelves to see if I had any books that have been banned or challenged that I might be interested in reading, and I found a copy of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, a Young Adult novel that was released as a Netflix series in 2017.  It was challenged after the release of the series, which is supposedly more graphic than the book, and banned at an elementary school in Florida (  I know that at my school, we were made aware of the series and were given training on identifying mental health issues in children and teens.  I’d forgotten that I had a copy, so hopefully it will be an interesting read that I can tell you about next week.  

Last week I read a short children’s novel that my grade 5/6 book club is reading at school.  They were all so far ahead of me that I decided to bring it home and finish it so I could lead an informed discussion at our next meeting.  Among the Hidden, the first book in the “Shadow Children” series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is told from the point of view of Luke Garner, a twelve-year-old boy living on a farm with his two older brothers, Matthew and Mark.  At the start of the novel, the woods beyond the family farm are being cut down in order to build houses for elite government officials, and this changes Luke’s life irreparably.  You see, Luke is a third child in a world where families are only allowed to have two children.  The government, fearing overpopulation and food shortage, have instigated laws in order to control population growth, laws that are enforced by the Population Police, whose sole purpose is to find these thirds and/or fourths and have them and possibly their families punished or even killed.  Now that the woods are gone, Luke has no protection against the prying eyes of the neighbours or the Population Police, so he must stay not just inside but also hidden for fear of discovery.  One day, while taking a chance peek outside, he sees a face in a window where there should be no one home.  He discovers that another third lives in a neighbouring house, and risks everything to make contact with her.  Jen is the third daughter of a government official, but unlike Luke, she refuses to follow the rules.  She would rather fight for the right to be recognized and to live freely than stay hidden.  As their friendship grows, Jen tries to convince Luke to sneak out to attend a rally of hidden children in front of the President’s house, a move that could change their lives forever.  This was a really interesting dystopian novel that certainly left me wanting more, so I may read the next in the series, Among the Imposters, just to find out what happens next.  It was an easy read with an interesting plot, just the type of book I enjoy.  It reminded me very much of The Giver by Lois Lowry, but with a less detailed and complex plot.  I think Among the Hidden could be read by younger kids, while The Giver, another banned or challenged book, is definitely meant for older children.  

That’s all I’ve got for you today.  Get outside and enjoy the sunshine, but bundle up because it’s cold out there.  Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a banned or challenged book!

Bye for now…

PS Thanks to my friend for continuing to make this blog possible - you know who you are! :-)

Monday 15 February 2021

Post on a holiday Monday morning...

It’s a long weekend, and I’ve been using this extra morning to do a rigorous main-level cleaning… whew!  I’ve earned this cup of chai and delicious Date Bar today!  

I read the third book in the “Rockton” series by Kelley Armstrong, This Fallen Prey, and wow, it was a page-turner.  I got interested in this series when I listened to the fifth book, Alone in the Wild, as an audiobook a couple of years ago, and I was so impressed that I took the first book out of the library.  City of the Lost provided all the details and backstories I needed to understand subsequent books, but I think they get better the further you read into the series.  All of the books are set in the town of Rockton, located in a remote northern region of the Yukon, but you won’t find it on any map; this off-the-grid town is populated by about 200 people, all adults, who are fleeing something, a murderous ex-lover, or a gang out for blood.  But not all residents are innocent victims; some are fleeing the law or retribution for crimes committed in their past lives, details concealed by the council and provided only on a need-to-know basis.  Homicide detective Casey Butler ended up in Rockton initially to help her friend who was fleeing an abusive ex-boyfriend, but she has demons of her own that would be better left un-faced.  There she meets Sheriff Eric Dalton and Deputy Will Anders, along with the motley crew that make up the town, and she struggles to accept the fact that no one is who they say they are, so no one can be trusted and nothing is really as it seems.  Still, she manages to settle in and become comfortable enough to call this place “home”, at least for now, something she’s been unable to do for years.  In This Fallen Prey, Casey and Eric are out for a hike when they hear a plane landing at their tiny airstrip.  No one knows about this town, so it’s unlikely that someone stumbled across it accidentally, and neither of them were expecting any arrivals.  What they discover is that the council, who manage the town but whose members are all outsiders, has approved a short-term stay for Oliver Brady, a serial killer whose mega-wealthy stepfather wanted him out of the way for a while.  Rockton is not equipped to house, guard and care for this dangerous criminal, but they’re given no choice and must make the best of this bad situation.  When Brady escapes custody, it appears that he has an accomplice in Rockton… but who?  There are so many people who could benefit from helping him, but who would actually do it?  As the danger for the town and those living in the forest increases, Casey and Eric must ramp up their efforts to find him and his accomplice before more people die.  This book was unputdownable - I loved it!  The first two books were good, but this one was great, as was the fifth, so I’m really excited to listen to the fourth one in audio format as soon as I finish my current audiobook.  Part wild west story, part wilderness survival tale, and a big part murder mystery... Armstrong manages to blend all of these various genres in exciting and all-too-convincing ways that will make you, the reader, care deeply about some characters and want to find out more about others.  I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys complex mysteries, especially those that take place in unusual settings.

That’s all for today.  Happy Family Day!  Do something special with your family, even if yours is of the furry, four-legged variety!

Bye for now…

Sunday 7 February 2021

Book club highlights on a snowy morning...

Winter has definitely arrived, and it looks like a fiercely shaken snow globe outside my windows this morning.  But I have a steaming cup of chai and a delicious date bar, as well as a small cup of steaming apple cider, to keep me warm and cozy as I write this week’s post.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, my kitty is fully recovered.

My Volunteer book club met virtually yesterday to discuss Beartown by Fredrik Backman, and it was a success.  The small forest town of Beartown is dying.  People are moving away, the factory is laying off more and more people, and the boys’ hockey teams have met with losses year after year.  You see, Beartown is a hockey town.  Hockey permeates every aspect of the town; it’s all anyone cares about, and now there is a rising star named Kevin who could put the town back on the map.  If the Juniors win the final against their biggest rival team in nearby Hed, Beartown could be chosen as the spot for the new hockey arena and training centre; maybe they will get the new conference centre that’s been promised for years; maybe they’ll even get a new shopping centre built, and new schools, and new families… well, it’s obvious that they are pinning all their hopes on this one team, and more specifically, this one player.  During a party at his house following the semi-final victory, Kevin rapes the GM’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Maya.  What can Maya do, knowing how strongly the town feels about Kevin and the team?  And what could be the fallout if she goes public with the accusation?  You’ll have to read the book to find out the answers to these questions and more!  This novel came to my attention while I was searching for a book to add to our list for Freedom to Read Week, which is scheduled for the last week of February this year (I'm using my Banned Books mug right now!).  I’d never heard of this book and wondered why it was banned or challenged.  Well, in 2018, this novel was banned by the North Carolina School District of Rockingham County.  A new English teacher chose this to be on the reading list for a grade 10 Advanced English course, and the school district voted to ban the book on the grounds that it was “vulgar” and “graphic”.  This issue with this decision was that the school district did not adhere to its own book challenge procedure (  There were four of us in the meeting yesterday: two listened to it as an audiobook and two of us read it in print.  One of the audio people found it difficult to follow, as there were so many characters to keep track of.  The other audio person loved it.  All of us thought it was too long and could have done with significant editing, but at least with the print copies, we could skim some of the less interesting parts.  The more we talked about it, though, the better we liked it.  The story was certainly interesting, with so many different themes to discuss:  the powerful men and nearly-invisible women;  family, community, team and loyalty;  the violence in hockey culture.  We all agreed that this book was not suitable for grade 10 students, but thought that it might be appropriate for grade 12  English students, or even, as one member suggested, for a course on Ethics or Social Justice.  We talked about our favourite characters (Ramona, Amat and Sune) and our favourite relationships (Maya and Ana, Benji and his sisters).  It was a long book that was overly repetitive, but the main theme of rape and its consequences is a story that needs to be told, and not just to adults, but to teens as well.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in novels about family and community, and you don’t need to know much about hockey to understand the story.  I’m going to wait awhile before requesting the sequel, Us Against You, from the library, but I will eventually read it.

That’s all for today.  Get outside, but bundle up… it’s cold out there!

Bye for now…