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Q+A with award-winning author Sylvia McNicoll

May 1st, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

sylvia

Q: Crush. Candy. Corpse. is your thirtieth book for kids and teens. You've written about everything from basketball, puppies, and robots to eating disorders and image. Why did you choose to write about the issues in this book? Why now?

A: Five years ago my mother started showing the first signs of Alzheimer's Disease when she tried to pay for our lunch with a plumber’s business card instead of her VISA, much like Cole’s grandmother in the story. It struck such a discordant note, as she was an avid shopper who wielded her credit card like a light sabre. I didn’t know anything about Alzheimer’s at the time, but I felt so angry and frustrated along the painful journey we were forced into taking that I needed to write about it. I know I would have been better off if I had read about someone else’s experiences before it happened to us. For readers today, it’s even more important to understand Alzheimer’s because they are in closer contact with their grandparents, “grandboomers,” who have helped with their upbringing. My readers will be more affected than any other generation. 

 

Q: You've written books from the point of view of girl main characters and boy main characters, but mostly girls. Why?

A: When I was younger and lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I’d play movies on the insides of my eyelids of adventures starring...ME! I’d be a soldier, a fireman, or a police officer. I never wanted to be anything other than a girl, but in these movies I always imagined myself a boy. It might have been the decade I was growing up in. It wasn't as common for girls to be these things then, like it is now. Now I write girls as stars in their own stories, sometimes in less than expected ways, like Sunny on trial for manslaughter. Currently in Canada I feel an unintentionally anti-feminist movement that pushes male protagonist books into the school curriculum and library so that boys will read since “girls read anything.” Instead, girls are being told subliminally that they don’t matter. Well, girls do matter and they shouldn’t have to imagine themselves as a boy to see themselves as a star in an adventure (or a protagonist in a book).

 

Q: Librarians often tell stories about the feeling they get when they have had success putting the right book in the hands of a reluctant reader at the right time. Have you had this experience with any of your novels?

A: I’ve enjoyed this experience many times right from the beginning of my career. My first book dealt with a girl whose mom was dying of cancer. My purpose had been to show readers suffering through ordinary painful adolescence a character who goes through something worse...and gets through it with humour and grace. I heard from a social worker that a girl whose mother was a crack addict came to every session carrying that book with her because it offered her comfort. 

It’s not only the problem novels that turn reluctant readers to fans either. On tour in northern Ontario, a waitress recognized me as the author who had stopped at her daughter’s school the day before. (I was wearing a t-shirt with the cover of the book a mystery thriller.) She insisted on giving me a hug because her daughter had stayed up all night reading her first novel, one the teacher/librarian had loaned her the money to buy, and that she had followed me to the car to have autographed. Teachers and librarians are often the unsung hero in these stories.

Another rewarding experience was when I met a guide dog named for the canine character in one of my books. The dog's foster owner, Samantha Hobbs, was 19 and had raised several guide dogs as a result of reading this book (her favourite) when she was nine. She came to launches of the subsequent books in the series with her foster dogs. With Crush. Candy. Corpse., I’ve already had this kind of success. Many girls have emailed to say they’ve stayed up nights and read under desks at school to gallop through the story. I’ve heard from a physician’s wife how her daughter trailed behind her reading interesting bits from the novel, exclaiming how she was learning so much about Alzheimer’s.

 

Q: You're careful in the book to leave the judgement of whether or not Sunny is guilty of a moral crime up to the reader. In your mind, is Sunny is guilty or not?

A: Sunny is actually my alter ego, Sonja and Sunny being names my mother had considered when I was born, Ehret being my maiden name. In many ways, I allow Sunny to do and say all the things I maybe thought about doing or said inside my head when my mother was ill. She questions the value of telling the truth. I’ve always prided myself on being honest, but I regret not lying to my mother at the beginning of the illness especially. I told my mom, who was German, “No, you’ll never visit Germany again.” I shouldn’t have answered her question that way. It was my anger and frustration speaking, not kindness or compassion. Sunny is more courageous than I ever could be. She is definitely Not Guilty. 

 

 

 

Catty, Chatty Girls

May 1st, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

The movie Mean Girls struck a chord for a reason — exaggerated though it was, it happens. Having to deal with peer conflict is something that all girls (and boys) are going to experience at one time or another — and learning early can only help, ‘cause it’s a fact of life for young or old.

But it’s not easy. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the role one’s own actions may have in a conflict and what one can do to avoid a repeat problem in the future.

Much has been said about the dangers of gossiping, teasing, and bullying; some shrug it off as just a part of growing up, kids "finding their way," but the experience can be very damaging. It’s not simply a part of growing up.

What knowledge could be gained, and damage avoided, if the problems arising from gossiping and bullying etc. were discovered early? How many situations would not escalate further? Do you need help in addressing the issues? How exactly can you address these "secret" issues?

gossipteasingcliquescyberbullying

These titles and others in the Deal With It series are aimed at kids ages 9–12. They are best used in small, interactive groups to help kids recognize and learn effective ways of changing their behaviour. To accomplish this, the books are divided into different roles — for example, in Gossip: Deal with it before word gets around we have the roles of "The Gossiper," "The Subject," and "The Witness." Quizzes, scenarios, and comics promote starting-off points for discussion from the point of view of each role.

My Body

May 1st, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

The award-winning Dove Real Beauty Campaign, older and fuller-figured Cover Girl models — when it comes to healthy body image, there's slow change taking shape in the beauty industry. Unfortunately, for every campaign that promotes healthy body image, there are hundreds and thousands (and then some) at work against it. For many girls, thinking about body image is unavoidable and, sadly, it's happening at increasingly younger ages.

Pretty Bones cover

Two recent hi-lo books for teens explore the issue of eating disorders. In Pretty Bones (SideStreets series), 17-year-old Raine's desire to be thin becomes an obsession, which leads her on a path of self-destruction. As her eating disorder spirals out of control, her relationships become strained. In her desire to escape the pressure she feels from her boyfriend and friends, Raine runs into the arms of an older boy who is as messed up as she is. Only after she sees the destruction that his drug addiction causes in his life does she draw parallels to her own obsession with her body weight and seek out the help she needs.

You may know our SideStreets series offers the reluctant reader a fast-paced read, incorporating real world themes that teens relate to.

"The quality of writing is excellent, and this book should be in every junior and senior- high school library...highly recommended." 

Canadian Book Review Annual on SideStreets.

Vegas Tryout

Vegas Tryout, a new book by seasoned sports author Lorna Schultz Nicholson, looks at the issue of body image from a sport perspective. Carrie Munroe is a synchro swimmer who feels she doesn't have a typical swimmer's body. She's shorter, heavier, and fuller-figured than the other girls on her team. Add to that the weekly poolside weigh-ins and the stress of an upcoming audition, and Carrie's desire to lose just a few pounds becomes unmanageable, her goals unrealistic. For many girls involved in sports like swimming, gymnastics, and skating, the issues and feelings raised here will be all too familiar.

“Podium Sports Academy gives readers a look into the life of a student-athlete. Through Lorna's books, we have an opportunity to develop an appreciation for the commitment and dedication necessary to maintain the delicate balance associated with being a teenager, athlete and student.”

                                               —Ken Weipert, Principal, National Sport School

Check out our new Podium Sports Academy series!

http://www.podiumsportsacademy.com/

The Athlete

May 1st, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

What does this time of year mean to you?

What does it mean to the sports fanatic? Of course, it's hockey playoff season again (which happens as spring is warming, as the mind shifts to all sorts of sports, indoor and outdoor — and we have those covered too!).

Regardless of the sport, girls and boys face many of the same problems — rivalry, competition, bullying — and they learn the importance of teamwork. But all things are not equal and gender discrimination can be a reality that girls have to deal with.

Being a girl in a "guy’s world," shifting from an all-girls team to a mixed gender team or vice versa can bring on big challenges. In some circles, the age-old argument of women being the weaker sex is still prevalent, at times used quite openly.

These four sports fiction books deal with gender in sport. Click on the cover to read a story summary.

delaying the gameslam dunkhat tricksoccer showdown

The Smart Girl

May 1st, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

crush candy corpse

Vampires? Werewolves? Historical fiction? Romance? Mean girls and their cliques?

There are so very many options out there for girls. We all know the well-documented bestsellers (are your girls Team Edward or Team Jacob?). Engaging a girl reluctant reader with a blockbuster novel does work for some girls, some of the time. But for many, popularity isn't a good enough hook to get them reading…especially when there’s a movie to watch instead.

We want girls, and boys, to read more; we also aim to publish books that help explore issues and initiate dialogue. Alzheimer’s Disease is an illness on the rise, one most of us, and them, will have to deal with, and the thorny issue of euthanasia is always heated. Adults themselves cannot decide where they stand. We continue to debate and we feel this book will encourage healthy dialogue on both fronts.

New this spring for girls ages 12 and up, we present award-winning Sylvia McNicoll and her new novel Crush. Candy. Corpse. On the surface, it can be read as a story about a love triangle between main character Sunny (with all her typical ‘teen-ness’ intact), her current boyfriend, and the new, nerdy boy (he's so not-her-type). The setting for the story is a courtroom where Sunny stands trial for manslaughter; the trial is interspersed with flashbacks to the seniors’ home where she volunteered the year before. Sunny is a convincing character whose version of the events leading to the death of one of the home's residents the reader will want to believe — that is, until she learns how other characters interpreted Sunny’s actions, raising doubt.

At the heart of the novel is the big, moral issue of euthanasia. Cleverly set up by the author, this issue is left unresolved in the story, making the book a great vehicle for initiating debate — right or wrong, it's up to the reader to pass their own judgement on Sunny.

We’ve offered specials on classroom sets in the past; typically these have been series, but we feel strongly that Crush. Candy. Corpse. offers an excellent opportunity to promote discussion of important issues while being, quite simply, a great read.

If interested in discussing the idea further please contact Brad Kalbfleisch at sales@lorimer.ca.

Our Special Offer

May 1st, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Our Sports Stories fiction series is all about engaging the girl with an interest in sports and maybe a bit less interest in reading.

queens

Which brings us to our offer: with the purchase of a six-book multi-sport set you receive a FREE copy of Queens of the Ice. It’s a fascinating non-fiction book looking at the trials, tribulations, and successes of a 1930s women’s hockey team, the Preston Rivulettes, from what is now Cambridge, Ontario. The challenges they faced head on — prejudice, criticism, lack of financial and fan support, ice time going to the men and boys, to name a few — are inspiring.

Buy the following new Sports Stories books — Just Run, Swim to Win, Fadeaway, Sidelined, Delaying the Game, and Rescue Rider — for $47.76 (20% off retail) and receive Queens of the Ice free, over $21.00 in savings.girls set

American Indian Youth Literature Award Winners!

May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

This year we are very proud to announce that two Lorimer authors received commendations from the American Indian Library Association. This puts authors Jacqueline Guest and Melanie Florence in very good company — previous years' winners have included Sherman Alexie and Thomas King. 

Jacqueline Guest

The winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award in the Middle Grade category was Jacqueline Guest's Sports Stories novels Free Throw and Triple Threat. Jacqueline Guest has written thirteen novels for Lorimer — each one featuring a Métis or aboriginal main character. Guest, who is Métis, lives in Bragg Creek, Alberta.

Free Throwtriple threat

Both novels share main character Matt Eagletail, an avid basketball player. The stories deal with family change when Matt's mom marries a non-native and he moves from the reserve where he grew up. To get through the tough times, Matt falls back on his love of basketball.

 Jordin Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo: The highs and lows in the journey of the first Inuit to play in the NHL by Cree writer Melanie Florence is an American Indian Youth Literature Award Honour Book. Last year we talked to Melanie about her reasons for writing this book, here is that interview.

Melanie Florence

 

Q: Why did you think the story of Jordin Tootoo was an important one to tell kids? 

A: My grandfather was a product of the Native residential school system and was taught to be ashamed of his culture and heritage. We’re lucky to live in a time and place of pride in ourselves and our culture. It’s people like Jordin who show kids that they can accomplish anything, no matter where they’re from or how much money they have.   

 

Q: Jordin Tootoo is a hero for many Inuit and Aboriginal youth, many of whom will be envious that you got to talk to him for this book. Can you tell us what Jordin is really like?

A: Jordin was amazingly helpful. He took the time out right after a hockey practice with the Preds to call me and was amazingly gracious and generous with his time and with his answers.  He not only agreed to be interviewed, he provided personal photos for the book.  He was so down to earth and he so enthusiastically talked about the kids he works with and being a role model. I found him so approachable and friendly.

I was pleased when Jordin's mother later sent an email to my publisher and was interested in getting copies of the book not only for herself but for their extended family as well.  I’ve also gotten so many emails from Preds fans asking questions about the book, asking if I’d be doing any signings in Nashville and just showing amazing support for the book and for Jordin.  Nashville fans are amazing!

 

Q: Recently, Tootoo has been reported to be in rehab for alcohol abuse. What effect do you think that will have on his place in the hearts of Aboriginal kids as a role model?

A: I actually don’t believe this will tarnish his image at all. This is a man who recognized a problem and got help. Substance abuse is pretty common in professional sports and it’s no secret that it’s incredibly common in Aboriginal communities as well. I think the important thing is that he recognized the problem and did what he had to do to overcome it. If anything, it’s just one more thing to look up to. Another thing that he had to fight and successfully overcome.

 

To celebrate Aboriginal Heritage month we’re offering a 35% discount (not to be used with any other promotional offer from Lorimer) on the three award-winners.

Our American Indian Youth Lit Award triple pack:

($9.95 ea x 3 = $29.85; our June price is $19.40, a $10 saving!)

You're Not Alone...

May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

 hook upfinal takedown

Many of us want to see ourselves or our situation reflected in a story, in a character. We relate to a character's life story, their beliefs, where they come from or the colour of their skin. Although the problems addressed in these teen novels for boys have nothing to do with ethnicity, it may help some reluctant readers to know that books about "kids like them" are out there.

Hook Up is a new book by Calgary author Kim Firmston. The main character is Tsuu T'ina teenager Cody Manywounds. Cody is quick to point out where his friends are messing up in life, but when it comes to his future, he's got big plans. Then Cody's girlfriend gets pregnant and he realizes that he wasn't nearly as in control of his future as he'd thought.

In Final Takedown, mixed-Maliseet teen Elias is in trouble with the law. The judge gives him an ultimatum: Either he stays out of trouble or he'll be sent to juvenile detention. The problem is that Elias's best friend, Jordon, isn't nearly as threatened by the idea of lock up. And because Elias spends most of his time at Jordon's, the temptation to go with the flow proves very challenging.

Try these two novels to get your teenage boys reading.

Lacrosse — The fastest game on two feet!

May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Aboriginal peoples across North America have long played some form of ball and stick game, each carried its own name for the game: The Ojibway played Baggataway; the Mohawk, Tewaarathon. The sport of Lacrosse comes from the Mohawk game played in the area around present-day Montreal. Originally lacrosse was played for spiritual reasons.

Today lacrosse's appeal extends to teens from all ethnic backgrounds, and youth enrolment has nearly doubled in the last decade. There are associations across Canada, it was an Olympic sport for a time (the push is on to reinstate it) and even a prime minister or two (Trudeau and Pearson for the curious) were active fans.

The play-by-play action of our two hi/lo lacrosse books for middle school will appeal to sports fans, at the same time both send a strong message about aboriginal people and racism.

man-to-manlacrosse warrior

In Bill Swan's Man-to-Man (from the Sports Stories fiction series), a youth lacrosse team from the Durham region faces off against a team from Six Nations at the Ontario Provincial Lacrosse Championships. The game is fierce, the competition between these teams tough. Between games there is an incident between the rival teams that officials are quick to interpret as racism. The players have to convince the officials otherwise — it's not race that was the cause of the conflict, but the competitive nature of their sport and the teams' passion for a championship win.

Lacrosse Warrior is a non-fiction book from our Recordbooks series. The setting for this book is fifty years earlier than Man-to-Man and, interestingly, this book features real players on a Durham lacrosse team and a single, great player from Six Nations — Gaylord Powless.

But unlike the fictional novel described above, racism was a factor in Powless's story. Gaylord Powless was born on the reserve and, like his father, Ross, was a star lacrosse player. At just sixteen, Gaylord left the shelter of his tightly-knit community and his twelve-sibling home to play for the Green Gaels lacrosse team in Oshawa. In his rise to become one of the game's greatest players and an aboriginal sports hero, he battled racism both on the court and in the media.

Bios of the Courageous

May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Some boys, like some adult men, prefer non-fiction to fiction. For these boys, stories of battles, bravery, and intrigue are just the ticket in movies, in video games, and, yes, in their books.

We have three stirring, short and readable biographies of aboriginal heroes to grab these readers. (And for you educators, the topics of these books coincide with grades 6-8 social studies curricula, depending on province.)

 last of the beothuk

The Last of the Beothuk is an accessible retelling of the first contact between the Beothuk of Newfoundland and the earliest Europeans who came to fish off the coast. The Beothuk moved further inland as the European fishers set up camp and took over the coasts. Tragically the Europeans kidnapped Beothuk, taking them back to Europe, where the Natives were paraded as curiosities or used as slaves. This story of contact, conflict, and misunderstanding between two cultures is not well known to many young people. With this background, this book tells the story of the last Beothuk, a woman named Shanawdithit, who died in 1829 of TB in St John's Newfoundland.

 

Tecumseh

This is the story of the greatest Native warrior, leader, and ally of the British and Canadians in the War of 1812. Tecumseh was a Shawnwee warrior who created an alliance of First Nations to fight with Sir Isaac Brock in the first period of the war. He lost his life in the Battle of Moriantown (near present-day Chatham, Ontario) in 1813.

Legend says that Tecumseh saw his first battle with the Long Knives (American Militiamen) when he was just twelve years old. That day he ran to hide at the first sound of enemy fire, but that battle affected him so deeply that he never turned his back on an enemy again until his death.

Readers will enjoy this true tale of courage and bravery, of battles between Americans and Aboriginal groups and their British allies, and learn a little more about the importance of the war for First Nations on both sides of the border.

 

Louis Riel

The Incredible Adventures of Louis Riel tells the story of Canada's most famous rebel and Métis hero. Riel was born in a log cabin in the isolated Métis settlement at Red River, in present-day Manitoba. He grew up in a religious household and left home at just thirteen to attend a Quebec seminary. Riel dropped out of his training to become a priest after his father died, and did not return home to his people until he was in his twenties. That year, 1868, was especially hard on the Métis people, who were suffering the effects of drought and dwindling game. When tensions rose between the Métis of the Red River Settlement and the Canadian government, Riel led a rebellion which sought self-government for the colony and respect for their rights.

After his later involvement in the 1885 rebellion in Saskatchewan Riel was hung for treason. But for many Manitobans and Canadians he is one of the true heroes of our history.

Adventure Calls!

May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

It’s 1876 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, newly settled by Europeans. Fourteen-year-old Jamie Bains and his younger sister Kate steal away at sunset to meet with their friend, a young Assiniboine named Black Eagle:

Black Eagle looked into the fire and then spoke slowly in halting English. "The Sioux have captured my mother, Spotted Bird, and hold her deep in Montana Territory. I will free her and bring her back to our people."

"What?" asked Jamie, more confused by what Black Eagle was proposing than uncertain of what he said.

Sioux Winter

So begins Sioux Winter, an amazing adventure story that takes three kids across the rugged northern plains of Canada and the United States at a turbulent time in aboriginal history — the way of the native peoples of the Great Plains is under threat with the decline of the buffalo and the arrival of European settlers. Native groups are losing their traditional lands and dealing with unsympathetic government troops sent to restore order ("order" would of course eventually lead to reservations.) Through the eyes of the child characters in this novel, award-winning author Bill Freeman crystallizes what life was like for both aboriginal and European settlers. But just as important as the information this historical novel imparts, is the appeal it holds for reluctant readers who crave big adventure in their stories.

This novel is part of Freeman's The Bains series, for which he won both a Vicky Metcalf Award and Governor General's Award. Bill Freeman's historical novels have been treasured by teachers (and their students) for use as novel studies in the classroom to coincide with the grades 6-8 social studies curriculum. Click here for a complete list of the award-winning historical novels in The Bains series.

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