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Cave Notes, January 27, 2017

Cave Notes, January 27, 2017

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last Cave Notes, and that’s because we’ve been a little light on content lately.

Two reasons for this: first and foremost, my day job has been very busy in the new year as I’ve been getting books to print, and that has meant a lot of day-job work has been done from home, where I usually do my night-job stuff, my night-job stuff being, well, this. And the second reason is that I read three books that I didn’t feel comfortable reviewing. My policy is that I only review books I can give a thumbs-up to — my job is to connect readers with books, not tell people what not to read. So, rather than hurt an author’s sales, I keep my negative reviews to myself. (No worries, anyone who has sent me a book for review — your book wasn’t among these misses.)

But there has been content! Wonderful, glorious content! So, let’s look at what you might have missed since our last Cave Notes …

It should surprise no one that I was not terribly impressed with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, who followed through with their silly plan to put a tax on books. This war on literacy makes no sense whatsoever as it won’t stuff much money into the provincial loot bag — it will only punish people for reading and writing.

I changed out of my grouchy pants for a bit so I could talk about TED-Ed’s World Required Reading List. It’s a column in which I solve all of Canada’s problems by altering the educational system. You can thank me later.

Wednesday was Bell Let’s Talk day, on which people are asked to go online to encourage people to talk about mental health issues. I took the opportunity to review Wesley King’s OCDaniel, which is a very good look at a young person with OCD. (In the review, I also talk about my own anxiety disorder.) As it turns out, I reviewed another book about mental health not long ago, so check out this piece on Martine Leavitt’s Calvin.

If you’ve been following Bookcave on Twitter (like all the cool people), you’ve likely seen me mention that a podcast is in the works. For those of you who haven’t been following on Twitter, a podcast is in the works. I’m just waiting on a couple of pieces of audio equipment and I’ll be ready to start putting together some actual podcasts. I’ve been doing some test podcasts to establish that I can, in fact, figure out how to use ridiculously simple, idiot-proof audio software, so if all goes well, there might be a podcast starting in (fingers crossed) February. But maybe March.

Check in with us on Sunday for our weekly Outside the Cave, in which we tell you about some things we’ve been reading around the web.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Cave Notes, January 6, 2017

Cave Notes, January 6, 2017

Happy New Year from Bookcave!

Keen observers will have noted that Bookcave took a break for most of the holidays. It turns out that all that travelling and getting-together wasn’t terribly conducive to providing content for the site, but we re-emerged this week.

A little bit of news: we’re working towards launching a podcast in the spring. (March, April, or May, depending on how the learning-the-ropes phase goes.) It will be a weekly podcast and will feature interviews with authors, booksellers, and other members of the Canadian kidlit community. We haven’t begun lining up guests yet, but the equipment shopping list has been made and we’re digging into our pockets to pay for it all.

But while we’re still in the text-only era of Bookcave, let’s review what has transpired this week on the site.

On Tuesday, we made our triumphant return from the holidays with a take on the controversy surrounding a book being published in the US. While Bookcave strongly condemns the signing of this book, we will not boycott works from the parent company of the imprint that is publishing the offending title. As I say in the column, boycotting that company would punish authors who have nothing to do with that book’s acquisition, and Bookcave is, first and foremost, about supporting authors.

And speaking of the authors, a point I made in the column was that many of those authors are upset about the publisher’s decision. Here are the thoughts of one such author, and his views are shared by many. I don’t believe this author, or others like him, should be punished for something they are clearly opposed to.

On Thursday, we posted a review of Martine Leavitt’s award-winning book Calvin. This is one of my three or four favourite books I’ve read in the past year. It’s a bit of an older title — it was published in 2015 — so I hadn’t planned on reviewing it. I loved it so much, though, that I wanted to review it. It’s great stuff; I wish I’d read it before posting our pre-holiday book recommendations. But what the heck — buy it for yourself and you’ll love it so much you’ll want to buy it for friends and family, too.

Stay tuned this Sunday for the return of Outside the Cave, our weekly review of things we’ve read on other sites around the web that we think you’ll want to have a look at too.

Finally, our final Cave Notes item is always a reminder that there are two ways of supporting Bookcave. The first — and a much-appreciated one — is sharing. If you see a post you like, share it on social media (or share our tweets and Facebook posts). Shares increase our page views, and page views are valuable. The second way of supporting us is through our Patreon campaign.

That’s all for this week’s Notes. Have a great weekend!

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Cave Notes, December 16, 2016

Cave Notes, December 16, 2016

We’re getting deep into holiday season now, so I’m lining up some holiday-themed content for the coming days. For now, though, let’s take a look that the week that was.

On Monday I decided to take on an unnamed major literary award that recently updated its guidelines to exclude YA novels from eligibility. I countered their elitism with some elitism of my own, suggesting that they probably don’t know much about YA.

Holy snark!

Well, I happen to think it’s well-placed snark, and as I say in my article, the line between YA and adult fiction is often blurry, and many books that weren’t actually written as YA are categorized as such purely for marketing purposes. Thus, this award’s exclusion of YA unfairly gives the cold shoulder to authors who have created works of literary merit equal to those that are considered “eligible.”

And our weekly review was of a Second Story Press title — the second week in a row we’ve reviewed a book from Second Story. And while last week’s review was of a book with residential schools as a backdrop, this week’s review of I Am Not a Number took us deep into a residential school. The book is incredibly well done, and one I’d recommend for anyone looking to gain an understanding of this dark chapter in Canadian history.

A reminder: Bookcave is seeking writers for when we launch phase 2 of the site in the coming months. Our motto seems to have become “we can’t pay a lot, but we will pay.” If you write something, you deserve to get paid for it. I’m the only one who provides site content for free. So, contact me at if you have ideas for non-fiction articles that you think would be of interest to the Canadian kidlit community. (And see our call for writers for further details.)

Finally, want to support Bookcave without spending a penny? When you see an article you like, share it on social media. Page views are very important to us and the more page views we get, the easier it will be to grow the site.

I have a second “finally,” and that’s for anyone who wants to spend pennies to support the site. We have a Patreon campaign. As I promise every time I bring this up, all money Bookcave receives from Patreon will be used to pay outside contributors for their work. No Patreon money will go into my pocket. This site exists to serve the Canadian kidlit community.

Those are your Cave Notes for this week. Stop by on Sunday for Outside the Cave, in which we’ll do our weekly look at things we’ve read on other sites and blogs around the net.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Cave Notes, December 9, 2016

Cave Notes, December 9, 2016

It’s Friday! And that means we get to look back at the week that was on Bookcave.

Those of you who have yet to follow Bookcave on Twitter or Facebook missed my incessant whining about my cold. In my defence, it was a really bad cold. But somehow I managed to get all this week’s content in for the site.

On Monday I put on my grouchy pants and gave my thoughts on the Bad Little Children’s Books fiasco. And just so we’re clear, I have nothing against satire, but this book failed as satire and without the satire, the racist jokes were simply racist. About two hours after I posted the article, the publisher announced that they were ceasing publication of the book. (I’d take credit for changing their minds, except the press release actually went out before my article was posted. Dang.) Unfortunately, they continued blaming others and, as you can see in my updates at the bottom of the article, it turns out they didn’t really cease publication after all, or at least, not in the way they were trying to lead us to believe.

On Wednesday I posted nothing. Usually I post a review on Wednesdays, but this week’s initial draft of my review was written while I was in a Neo Citran haze and when I reviewed it prior to posting I decided I couldn’t foist it upon you. So, I rewrote it that night and I think the revised version does justice to a very good book.

That book is The Mask That Sang by Susan Currie. In my review I talk about how Currie is able to educate without forcing information into the narrative, and the result is an excellent and thoughtful page-turner. It was published by the good people at Second Story Press, who do fantastic work in a number of areas, including diversity, and this book was one of two winners of their Aboriginal Writing Contest.

And I’ll remind everyone that last week we posted a call for writers, particularly those with ideas for articles they’d like to contribute as we launch phase 2 of Bookcave in February. Thank you to those who have been in touch so far. Bonus news: I’ve figured out how to set up my email properly on my home computer, so I can actually reply without having to fuss with my phone email. (This means I can reply more quickly!) You see, I haven’t actually set up my own email since 2008, so mistakes were made.

Coming up next week on Bookcave: On Sunday I’ll have our weekly Outside the Cave, in which I highlight some of our favourite articles and blog posts from around the web. During the week I’ll have a column about something else that annoyed me, and it has to do with how some people look down their noses at YA. And I’m deciding between reviews of a couple of books — one is a picture book, the other is the second in a series that I have reviewed before.

Finally, I’ll remind everyone that one of the best ways to support the site is to share our posts and reviews on Twitter and Facebook — when you read something you like, of course. Don’t share our crap content! When you share, we get more page views, and page views are a big deal to Bookcave as we gear up for phase 2 and phase 3 of the site’s growth.

There’s also another way to support us, and that brings us to “you can stop reading if you don’t like the money talk” time. We have a Patreon campaign, which is really a sort of subscription to our forthcoming e-journal. As I say on the campaign page, I promise that all money supported through Patreon will be used to pay outside contributors to write for the site. No Patreon dollars will go into my pocket. This site doesn’t exist for me to make money or even for my ego. This site exists to support the Canadian kidlit community.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Cave Notes, December 2, 2016

Cave Notes, December 2, 2016

Another week is in the books (pun!), so here’s a look at some of the things you’ve seen on Bookcave, along with some further thoughts.

On Sunday, Outside the Cave returned to make itself an official “regular feature.” I encourage you to look through these weekly Outsides, where I highlight some of the things I’ve read on other sites and blogs. There are a lot of people on the internet who blog about kids’ books purely because they love to do so, and it comes through in their writing … and that makes their sites fun to read. Check them out and bookmark them.

On Monday I figured I’d go light, since the previous week’s column was about a heavy topic, so I poked a little fun at those made-for-TV Christmas movies that I become addicted to every November/December, but I twisted it into a column about writing kidlit at the end. Stealth!

Here’s a secret: I only review books I like for this site. If I can’t give something a good review I won’t write about it. (I also won’t pretend I like something.) Bookcave is about connecting authors with readers and readers with authors, not building walls. So it’s a given that if I’ve posted a review it’s because I like the book. But I liked The Blackthorn Key, the subject of this week’s review, a lot, and I think that is obvious from what I’ve written about it.

Yesterday was a bit of a milestone. I made our first official call for writers, because Bookcave is now ready to move to the next phase of our evolution. What looks like a blog is going to look a lot more like an online journal in a couple of months, and we need writers. Did I mention that we pay writers? Because we pay writers. You’re not going to get rich writing for Bookcave, but you will be paid and we hope to increase how much we pay out down the road. We support writers.

We’re able to move to the next phase because of our readers, who have supported us on Patreon, and for that I am grateful.

Speaking of support, we love any support you can give us, and that includes the kind of support that is free. We benefit from site visits, so if you read something you like, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or one of those social media platforms I don’t know about because I haven’t figured out how to use them yet. (“Yet”! There’s optimism!) And if you see us Tweet or Facebook something good, please retweet or share. There’s always a chance your help will allow us to pick up followers, and more followers means more site visits and more site visits help us to grow. Don’t underestimate how much we value this kind of support. Every retweet or share gives me a warm feeling.

Our Twitter handle is @bookcave2 (don’t forget the 2!), and our Facebook page is

There is another way of supporting us, of course, and it always comes at the end of Cave Notes because I’m sheepish about it and also because if you want to click away, at least you’ve already seen all the other stuff. Yes, it’s Patreon pitch time. For those who have stuck around to continue this paragraph, I hope you’ll consider supporting us on Patreon. My promise is as it always has been: all money received through Patreon will be used to pay content providers. (Writers for now, but there might be audio or video contributors down the road. Let’s see how things go!) And to be clear, I am excluded from those payments. No money from the Patreon campaign will go into my pockets. This site is not designed to earn me money. I know too much about blogs to kid myself about what a blog can do for me. This site was set up to support the Canadian kidlit community, and that’s what it will continue to do.

Thanks for visiting the site this week. I hope you’ll come back next week to see the pieces that are being worked on right now. And please check out Outside the Cave on Sunday for some suggestions on internet reading.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Cave Notes

Cave Notes

First of all, thank you to everyone who has visited I wasn’t sure how much attention it would get, but looking at the site statistics, we’ve had far more traffic than I would have imagined.

On to our Cave Notes …

Cave Notes is another new weekly feature that reviews what we’ve done on the site in the preceding week and adds additional comments or notes about things that didn’t seem like column-length material but might be interesting to readers.

After a crazy week 1, things have settled down to a more normal level of content in week 2. Long-term plans call for us to have daily content, but for now we’ll be offering material three or four days a week.

On Sunday we introduced a new feature: Outside the Cave. One of the goals of Bookcave is to help increased the online dialogue surrounding books for young readers, and Outside the Cave is where we tell you about what we’ve been reading on other sites around the web. We hope you’ll be a regular reader of all these websites (and Bookcave too, of course).

On Monday we got a bit political, but in a positive way, finding hope and optimism in the wake of an American election outcome that has upset many people in the kidlit community. I’ve received a lot of great feedback on this article and I thank everyone who has been in touch with me about it. I hope it’s made some of you feel a little bit better about things.

On Wednesday I reviewed Mahtab Narsimhan’s most recent book for middle-grade readers, Mission Mumbai. I hope people have found it to be an interesting take, given that the review was written by someone who has published the author in the past. It’s not a perspective we see very often in reviews.

It occurs to me if that my Bookcave boss (who happens to be me) weren’t such a darn-good guy, I wouldn’t have been allowed to review an author I’ve worked with. It would be a “conflict” and there would be a concern about “bias.” However, our Reviews Editor (again, me) was okay with it. And yes, there is a bias: the bias is that I like this author’s writing, and that’s why I published her twice. And frankly, if I didn’t like the book, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. (Inside scoop: I don’t review books I don’t like.) So, my hat’s off to my Bookcave boss and our Reviews Editor (me and me) for being such right-minded individuals. Individual. Whatever.

Finally, I will once again reassure people that I still have a day job as publisher of Dancing Cat Books. Bookcave is something I do on the side – I haven’t been headhunted. It seems adding Bookcave to my LinkedIn profile led many to think I’d moved from one place to another. Given that Bookcave pays me $0 (it’s run be a cheapskate, you know), it would not be a wise move.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s posts. If you would like to support the site, there are a few ways of doing so. One way is to retweet our @Bookcave2 tweets, particularly the ones that link articles. Another is to share our posts on Facebook. Retweets and shares help us to get the attention of other social media users and hopefully they can start following us and reading our articles.

If you hate being hit up for cash, click away now while you still like me, because I’m about to turn my hat upside down. Should you like to make a monetary show of support, you can do so on Patreon, where we have an active campaign. Any Patreon support we receive will be used to help grow the site by allowing us to hire writers to contribute articles, reviews, and perhaps even short fiction. Patreon support could also help us to launch a podcast and maybe even add video content. And I’ve come up with some rewards for supporters, too, so let’s take a moment to feel sorry for the people who clicked away at the beginning of this paragraph, because now they don’t know about the rewards. Okay, the moment has passed. Now let’s feel awesome for ourselves.


Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson