#IMWAYR – August 29, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Wow, it’s almost September, can you believe it? Where did the summer go?

This past week…


I talked about a new-to-me picture book that’s toddler time GOLD. If you haven’t seen Tiptoe Joe yet, definitely pick it up and take a look, it’s simple and sweet and very fun.

I shared a very pretty rhyming picture book that looks like one of those adult colouring books that’s been coloured in by an actual artist. Some Birds is pretty, pretty, pretty, and I think it could inspire some fun artistic classroom activities.


My Reading Staycation project continued with one of my all-time favourite illustrators, the wonderful Julie Flett. Her bilingual alphabet book Owls See Clearly At Night is a loving celebration of the critically endangered Metis language Michif. If you only take a look at one book from this post, I highly, highly suggest that it be this one. Elegant, heartfelt, beautiful and powerful.

mr. huff

Australia month is coming to an end on The Book Wars, and I shared a lovely little picture book called Mr. Huff. Mr. Huff is all about a little boy whose sadness follows him around like a giant cloud, getting in the way and just ruining everything. It’s a sensitive exploration of childhood emotions, and a great means of introducing discussions on mental health and emotional wellness.


I may have also sneaked a Kiwi picture book into Australia month…shhhh….Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy is a bestselling New Zealand picture book that has become a treasured bedtime story for countless Antipodean kiddies. This classic story has recently been translated into Maori, allowing even more children to join Hairy Maclary on his silly adventures.


I recently finished The Gold Eaters, a sweeping historical epic set in the New World of  Francisco Pizarro. Our protagonist Waman is a young Inca boy who is kidnapped by the Spanish and forced into servitude as a translator. The longer Waman spends as a prisoner of the Spanish the more out of touch he becomes with his traditions and his culture, and the more he becomes a spiritual wanderer, torn between cultures, feeling like he belongs to neither.

The back copy write up for this one is a bit misleading – it talks about our hero Waman seeking to be reunited with his “true love”, when in reality the romantic story line is perhaps the weakest aspect of the story. Still, it’s set in a period in history I’m not that familiar with, and I did enjoy being able to explore a different world. I did wish the story had focused more on the Inca culture and characters than the Spanish, though – I feel like the Inca characters would been far more interesting than their Spanish counterparts.


Being on a bit of a historical fiction kick, I also read Blood and Beauty : The Borgias, which recounts some juicy periods in history that perhaps not surprisingly were glossed over in my Catholic high school history classes. Unfortunately, this novel takes fascinating historical figures and salacious actual events and makes them…well…pretty meh. The book is long, and you feel every page. It just kind of drags, which isn’t something you’d expect from a book recounting the lives of the scheming, scandalous Borgias. Not a terrible book by any means, and obviously thoroughly researched, but unfortunately a bit too dry for my liking.

Interestingly enough, both stories were told in the third person present tense (James goes to the door. He pauses. He opens the door. He is eaten by a dinosaur.”), which I can never quite seem to get into.

So, how has your reading week been?


Owls See Clearly At Night : A Reading Staycation

If you’ve followed my blog for a little while you’ll likely have already heard me rave about the works of Cree-Metis author/illustrator Julie Flett. Originally from Toronto, Flett has been based on the West Coast for over twenty years. She is an activist as well as an author/illustrator, and is an active campaigner for indigenous rights and education, language preservation, and women’s issues, particularly with regard to Aboriginal women in Vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside.


Flett’s commitment to supporting language acquisition and preserving indigenous languages can be seen in her stunning Michif alphabet book, Owls See Clearly At Night, which was nominated for a Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature.

Michif is the traditional language of the Metis people, who are one of three Aboriginal populations as defined by the Canadian constitution, and who are traditionally based in the prairie provinces, primary Manitoba. Their culture and language are a blend of Aboriginal and European roots, with a particularly strong French influence. Michif is a complex language that evolved from a merging of Cree, French, English, and other Aboriginal languages, including Ojibwa and Assiniboine. It is also unfortunately a critically endangered language, with only about 1000 fluent Michif speakers still remaining.

Owls See Clearly At Night is indicative of growing movement dedicated to revitalizing threatened indigenous languages. As an alphabet book it serves as a means of introducing both Metis and non-Metis readers to the basic fundamentals of the language, as well as important cultural elements. Significantly, Owls See Clearly At Night is a Michif-English alphabet book, with the Michif text given the most emphasis, turning the traditional linguistic power dynamic on its head.

Elegant, beautiful and power, Owls See Clearly At Night is an ode to a powerful language that might be dying, but which can still be saved. The Metis language is only one of thousands of threatened languages around the world. According to the BBC,

Over the past century alone, around 400 languages – about one every three months – have gone extinct, and most linguists estimate that 50% of the world’s remaining 6,500 languages will be gone by the end of this century (some put that figure as high as 90%, however).

Languages “are conduits of human heritage…Languages also convey unique cultures. Without the language, the culture itself might teeter, or even disappear.” Language shapes the way we see the world and our place within it, and influences every aspect of our culture. In many indigenous communities language has played a critical role in cultural transmission, as knowledge was traditionally passed down through generations orally, and not transcribed. Cut off from their traditional languages, minority communities in countries around the globe can be dangerously  weakened and entire cultures may be lost. By preserving their  languages and supporting their growth and development, indigenous communities can strengthen their bonds both within their communities and with their ancestors, linking themselves with their past and building a strong foundation for the future.