The Hamilton Public Library Summer Reading Club has voted for their favourite novel from a set of four options. We would like to congratulate Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer whose novel, Broken Strings, is the Junior Teen Top Novel Winner.
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266247 | Puffing Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.
Nancy Hartry will be signing at noon. Smokescreen
Written by Nancy Hartry
Hardcover | 208 Pages | Ages 12+
Nothing in Kerry’s life prepares her for her first summer job. Stationed as far north from Toronto as Florida is south, unqualified and inexperienced, she perceives hazards around every tree. What does she know about fieldwork? Or black bears? Or men? Absolutely nothing—all she’s done with her life so far is competitive dance. If her mother only knew what this job required! Smokescreen is an adrenalin pumping adventure, pitting two resourceful young women against nature and man at their most greedy. Truth and lies. Fire and darkness. Who will triumph when nothing is what it seems?
Monica Kulling will be signing at 12:30pm. Merci Mister Dash!
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Esperanca Melo
Hardcover | 32 Pages | Ages 3-7
“. . . Kulling, a poet as well as a children’s writer, knows how to create lively images in prose. The ironic contrast between unruly child and peace-loving dog is great entertainment and, coupled with Melo’s lovely illustrations, makes a joyful read.” – Quill & Quire
Nan Forler will be signing at 4:30pm. Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year
Written by Nan Forler
Illustrated by Peter Etril Snyder
Hardcover | 40 Pages | All Ages
“Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year is a beautiful book and one that makes a great gift. Waterloo author Nan Forler and artist Peter Etril Snyder capture the rhythms of the Old Order Mennonite way of life in this volume.” – Guelph Mercury
Nan Forler, author of Bird Child, was invited to participate in gritLIT 2010. Here, she recaps her adventures in Hamilton for the festival and a reading at a school she used to teach in. Sounds like she had a busy (but fun) week! Photos courtesy of Nan Forler.
Nan Forler: I have recently returned from two days of readings at inner-city schools: the first two as part of the Hamilton GritLit Literary Festival, and the second at a school Read-a-thon in Kitchener.
You can feel the spirit when you walk into these inner-city schools. There is a joy among the kids, a sense of belonging in a place where they are free to be themselves. The teachers seem to have a palpable love of the school and the sense of humour needed to get through each day.
I drive through the fog and rain to Earl Kitchener School, where Lindsay Hodder, the children’s event coordinator for GritLit, welcomes me at the door. She has everything meticulously arranged and ready to go. We wander up and down stairs and through old brick corridors, with a history and character you don’t find in the “leafy green schools,” as those of us who teach in poorer neighbourhoods refer to the fancy new buildings in suburbia. The audience is much larger than planned, but the students are wonderfully attentive and eager to participate, the teachers supportive and welcoming. Sincere thank yous as we pack up to leave.
That afternoon, I drive past Hess Street School twice, questioning my GPS that insists I have arrived at my destination. The school is tucked between factories and row houses, with no parking for me, my guitar, and my gear in the pouring rain.
Hess Street School is 75% ESL students, the literacy teacher tells us. “You’ll love these kids,” she adds. And who wouldn’t? The students file in, a United Nations of faces, the future of Canada in front of me. With every question, a hundred hands of varying shades shoot up, some students so eager to answer, they can barely hold it in. During the reading, there is complete silence, until the oohs and awes of the final image, the huge snow castle filling the wall of their gymnasium, then appreciative applause.
Afterwards, the students run towards me, wanting to strum my guitar, page through the book, talk to me. A little boy picks up a tiny feather left behind and looks up at me. “You can have that if you’d like,” I tell him. He clutches it in his hand and smiles. I sit down for a photo and the students fight to sit close to me, to hold the book, to put their arms around me. In the hall afterwards, they hug me as they pass, then continue walking. They shout thank you and clap and cheer from the school yard as we leave. One boy bolts towards us and says in careful English, “Thank you for reading your book, Bird Child, to our school, Nan Forler.”
The following morning I am off to my beloved St. Bernadette, a school close to downtown Kitchener, where I taught for 3 years. I am exhausted and fighting off a migraine and a cold but it feels like I am coming home. I know this school, these kids, this staff. I know the challenges that come from teaching here, that go far beyond curriculum, that have to do with helping to raise up children in spite of the life they have been handed. I understand when the principal tells me, her eyes filled with tears, that yesterday was a heart-breaking day.
Again, I feel the love of appreciative kids. “You the best story, Ms Forler,” one girl tells me, pointedly.
I hope these experiences pass on the love of literacy to these kids. I am thankful that the Hamilton GritLit Festival chose these schools as the audience for this story, that the teachers and parents at St. Bernadette chose a Read-a-thon for the school fundraiser.
Standing up for kids like these, being a voice for those who are voiceless, passing on a love of literacy, bringing about justice – this is the message of Bird Child. This is what it’s all about.