book review: lost cat by caroline paul (illustrated by wendy macnaughton)

I have lived with cats my entire life. There was a brief stint when Mr and I were living in a little house near the university when I did not have a cat, but on the weekends I would drive to my mom’s house and pick up Twiggy, my childhood feline love. He would spend the weekend with us, purring into my chin and glowering at Mr, his usurper. Lost Cat by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton is part feline love letter, part adventure story. The protagonist (and sometimes antagonist, really) of the tale is Tibia. Skittish and falsely brave he reminded me so much of my own Twiggy.

And so I sat in an empty arena parking lot and devoured the book. A pet is a family member. My cat Rosa (otherwise known as Boule) is your cranky aunt who surprises you at birthdays with the most thoughtful gifts and snuggles when you are sick. Our other cat Albert is the perfect family cat, selfless in the face of the suffocating love of children. Lost Cat is about what happens when you lose a vital part of your family. Caroline’s obsession with learning what Tibia did his weeks away is all too real for a cat person. A cat-sized camera? Yes, please.

Lost Cat is more than just a story of a lost cat returned. It is about what happens to us, as human beings, when our world is turned upside down through injury and how we lean on the people (and animals) we love the most in the ensuing recovery. Because recovery isn’t a quick rebound from down to “yep, I’m good, let’s go”, it’s also knitting yourself back together into a new person, stronger from injury. It is about vulnerability in love – how could Tibia disappear if Caroline loves him so much? How does Wendy, a non-cat person deal with Caroline’s obsession? Though the focus remains squarely on Tibia and learning where he went for the five weeks he was gone, we see the growth of Wendy and Caroline’s own relationship. At 6 months, their relationship was still so new to go through the heartbreak of a lost Tibby and Caroline’s accident.

Lost Cat is full of emotion – I definitely cried in that arena parking lot, just in time for a cyclist to ride by and peer cautiously into my car at me; it is also hilarious. Wendy MacNaughton’s are beautiful and quirky. Tibby, whom I felt I knew through Paul’s careful telling, came alive to me with each sketch. Paul’s writing is clever  and self-aware – Of course it’s a little nutty to attach notes and GPS to a cat’s collar, but it had to be done.

Lost Cat will be released April 2013 and you should head to your local bookstore to get one. Lost Cat is a fascinating and lovely read and it has the added bonus of confusing strangers with your tears and giggles if you read it in public.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing the opportunity for me to read Lost Cat.

Hey Canada! (a blog tour and review)

A few months ago I received a bright and shiny edition of Hey Canada!, a quintessentially Canadian travel/adventure book for kids by Vivien Bowers. The premise of the book is that it is a blog written by cousins Alice and Cal as they travel across the country with their grandmother, hitting all the highlights Canada has to offer. The blog format translates only so well onto hard copy but the effect is that Hey Canada! is an incredibly fun and colourful adventure/reference book about Canada and the kids (Alice and Cal) certainly add a personal element.

Boy has recently discovered his daddy’s old comic books and he delighted in “Cal’s Historical U-Turn” comics that appear sporadically throughout the book. When our copy first arrived we immediately flipped through to Nova Scotia (of course) and then the scattered provinces that are home to family. I like the “reference” quality of Hey Canada!, the index and plethora of information is fantastic and came in handy when Miss N asked “What’s a Manitoba?” the other day.  Hey Canada! is not just a reference book filled with history and facts, though I have referred to it as such. It’s also an adventure book as the kids and Grandma keep losing Cal’s stowaway hamster and the cousins get into the usual kid-type shenanigans. The conversational tone lends itself really well to reading a chapter a day, each devoted to a province or territory, over the course of a week or two. Both Cal and Alice are well-drawn characters full of personality  and this comes through with the various “tweets” from Cal, his comics and Alice’s narration.

There is a really good mix of illustrations by Milan Pavlovic as well as bright photographs, some of which are instantly recognizable, such as the vivid Newfoundland jellybean houses set against the grey sky and Sudbury’s Big Nickel (which I saw on a road trip with my mom and brother when I was a child!). Hey Canada!  is a new way of exploring Canada on paper, it stirred memories for me and my kids were able to form connections to their country. The book would make a great addition to any classroom or home (I know a certain teacher who will be getting my copy).

Many, many thanks to Tundra Books for allowing me to participate in the blog tour (blogs acros Canada are taking part!). For a complete list of all the blogs taking part in the tour up until the big day on Sunday, go here. Also! There is a giveaway contest over at Goodreads that you should really check out! The contest ends in two days so in the words of Boy, “scoot, scoot skedaddle” over there and win yourself a copy.

library day: Fancy Nancy! Evolution! {kids’ book recommendations}

Wednesday morning is our official Library Day. It’s also the day we pick up our CSA and while that is a fun task for about five minutes as we pick through the box to see our favourites or make a note of what we’re googling later, we break up Wednesday with a trip to the library. Sometimes there is an activity, like the incredibly noisy Songs ‘n’ Stuff, which you’d think the musically inclined D would like but it’s really just 50 under 5s with jingle bells jumping around but other times it’s just D and I and a few other kids to play and poke through books.

Libraries are an invaluable resource. Boy (and Miss N) always want to take home all the books so we have a standard two book limit because otherwise it is impossible to find them all to return. I always feel guilty plucking a book off our shelf at home only to find the “Property of Halifax Public Libraries” stamp on the inside cover and knowing we borrowed it an embarrassing amount of time ago. I practically grew up in libraries. My Saturday afternoons with my dad were spent at the U of W’s Leddy, the downtown Windsor Public Library and during the week I wandered into the small library in the equally small town where I went to school. The hush and smell of books, thumbing through each page. It’s another world for quiet kids like me who have always read the book but never saw the movie based on the book, who have picked through all the books on the shelf and need to order books from the another library (remember the card catalogue?). I helped my dad set up the library in his church though I’ve now forgotten most of the codes. With his help I’d memorized most of the standard codes for the Dewey Decimal System. I was a different kind of cool as a kid.

And now, I share that love with my kids.

This week, we borrowed:

Born with a Bang: It’s told from the viewpoint of a very eager and earnest Universe and explains the birth of the Universe, from nothingness to now. It’s a bit advanced for Boy (who is 4). Miss N has flipped through it but I would recommend it for kids a bit older than these two. It’s interesting and the science seems sound but it’s very long and the mystical quality of the Universe “speaking to you” isn’t terribly interesting because I don’t really think the Universe is a puppy desirous of that much attention.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story: Gorgeous pictures and perfect for a child Miss N’s maturity. She was engaged immediately and the pictures that take the reader from single-celled organisms to now. There are constant parallels to what the organism had then that matches what we have now. An excellent beginning to talking about evolution with kids.

My Brother Charlie: So heartfelt and honest, it’s told from the perspective of Charlie’s twin sister who loves him and wants to protect him always, even if he is difficult because of his autism. Our immediate lives have not been touched by autism but that does not mean we have to ignore its presence in the great wide world.

Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique: Now Miss N wants her own Fabulous Fashion Boutique so she can earn some more money for her iPod. Such a cute story and Fancy Nancy is such a kind hearted little girl, she really does remind me of Miss N (who loves her too).

Curious George Plants a Tree: Precocious. Who can resist Curious George? Not D who wanted to borrow every single Curious George book they had. I’m sure it’s touted as an Earth Day book, but really? You can plant a tree anytime and value the environment any time of year.

Until our next trip. What’s your favourite kids’ book? What would you recommend we borrow next time we visit? What would your littles recommend to Miss N and D?

Poetry and the elusive word

Today marks the beginning of National Poetry month. This is where celebrate those elusive combinations of words that paint a story or crash down the wall’s of the master’s house. Love, death and seekers of endangered species soup (will trade green grass and the sky for said soup) find there soul in poetry, so why not a whole month devoted to it?

It is now nearing my bedtime where I will lay in bed reading until the eReader smacks me in the nose and Mr reaches over to put it and my glasses away for me. Each night he chooses a new perch because apparently he likes listening to frantic rustling at 7 each morning and panicked obscenities whispered in the dark. Before you go, check out the National Poetry month site (it’s the American one, I presume there is a Canadian version but I’m tired). There are a plethora of interesting activities that I’m looking forward to doing. I might just suck it up and post some of the results in this space or on the other space.

taking a break…

…because the assignments for school are piling up and I’m spending hours on schoolwork with little time left to play with my children, relax and devote the kind of time this blog deserves. I hate to do it but I also don’t like this feeling that I’m failing pretty well everything I’m doing and the obligations I’ve established for myself. The next two weeks are the worst two weeks of any semester, the weather is beautiful and I have approximately one zillion projects due and though I want to scrap them all and play in the sun, I can’t. It’s only two weeks and I’ll survive. I won’t be posting anything here for the next two weeks. I know I’m not the most diligent blogger but an unexplained absence, and each day that ticks by without putting something  in this space irks me. But, I will be back in two weeks. Until then, enjoy yourselves and these blogs for your own enjoyment, inspiration and thought-provoking articles.

Always Always Something local activist and she writes the student life, feminism and Allison is damn smart.

Maya*Made gorgeous photos and she is an incredible talented sewist and crafter.

Notes from the Cookie Jar because everyone needs to drool and find a great recipe.

But I Don’t Blog don’t let the title fool you, Alex writes very well about being a very caring mum and she really does blog. And it’s good.

And, the best video ever.


Until next time, kids. As an afterthought, since a hiatus should always be followed by some new interesting content, anything new you’d like to see around here, something old should come back? Let me know in the comments.

word filled wednesday: a writing prompt

Last night I wrote on the importance of using writing prompts to shake loose the cobwebs and fog. Before you go looking for it, you won’t find it on this blog. It’s over at my writing blog and you can find that post here. So, for all of that I have a goal. It’s not a big one, usually the goals that have the biggest impact are small and through perseverance they grow. I’m going to post a writing prompt here, each Wednesday morning, and in the evening I will post the writing that came out of it. And, since I just figured out the Mr. Linky widget, if you feel like participating in a word-filled Wednesday, link the resulting piece of writing in the widget, because all us writers can use the support, can’t we? Without further ado:

hush(ed)

If, like yours truly, you are a bit of a procrastinator or life is extra wrangy today, don’t feel limited by the Wednesday timeline. Link up anytime between now and Friday morning (I apologize for the new window opening for this linky thing, it appears to be my only option). Mr. Linky also has a permanent home at the bottom of this page and so you can link to your post whenever you feel like it, because if you know the rules, you know how to bend them.