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Outside the Cave, January 8, 2017

Outside the Cave, January 8, 2017

Hey, those holidays were great, eh? But if you’re like most people, you were so busy that you missed out on some reading. We’re here to help with our weekly Outside the Cave — a review of things we’ve been reading on the internet this week.

First up, here’s something I didn’t know existed, and hadn’t even considered: kids’ books translated into Latin. Now, the first question that crosses most people’s minds is … “Why?” And the second question is, “No, really,  why?” The market for native Latin-reading kids has been a tad small for the last couple of millennia, and it’s not like grade one kids are getting Latin lessons at school. But the idea is to keep Latin alive as a language. Actually, if I were a kid I’d probably find these books a lot of fun, so I’ll pull back on my skepticism a little bit.

Keeping reading itself alive is also a noble goal, and Joyce Grant’s “Get Kids Reading” site is dedicated to promoting literacy among young people. Recently she posted this piece about why instruction books are great for literacy.

Unfortunately, there are some people who hate literacy, and even more unfortunate is that they’re in government in Newfoundland and Labrador and are able to slap an ill-conceived tax on books just for the hell of it. (This war on books was announced last year but came into effect January 1.) And it’s triple unfortunate because the geniuses who came up with this scheme clearly have no idea that the affected books won’t bring in all that much tax revenue anyway, so, great job guys! You’ve just done something that is of little benefit to you and only hurts other people. On the bright side, the tax will generate SOME revenue, and my guess is that the cash they bring in will be almost enough for the mop and bucket they’ll need to clean up the blood from all the knuckles that were dragging across the floor of the House of Assembly when they passed this bill.

And speaking of people who shouldn’t be in a position to draft legislation, some people who shouldn’t be in a position to draft legislation south of the border are drafting legislation. Let’s see how that is going. Oh look, in Virginia, they’re trying to make it easier to ban books that might tell young people sex exists. The term “sexually explicit” is so open to interpretation that pretty much any book that is about the real world we live in will be at risk of a school ban. The only bright side I can think of is that if I send them the books I’ve published with DCB over the years I might be able to get them to ban at least half, and I can spin that into some great “this book was banned” publicity! Wish me luck.

But why dwell on folks who were transported into our world from the seventeenth century? Let’s look at people who actually like and understand young readers.

Buzzfeed interviewed Patrick Ness, who has had a wee bit of a success. He shares his thoughts on writing for young people, including this: “In a way, there’s nothing that’s taboo. It’s about how you tell it. Teenagers certainly think about the most difficult things – all you have to do is read what teenagers write. Their own fiction is far darker than anything a YA author would be allowed to publish.” Kids can handle subjects tougher than most adults give them credit for — this is something I’ve maintained as long as I’ve been publishing — and Ness hits the nail on the head with this comment.

And finally, you know all that complaining we’ve been doing about the weather lately? Let’s take a look at this list from 49th Shelf. They’ve reminded us that, for kids, winter isn’t quite the unending misery-fest that we grownups sometimes think it is.

That’s it for this week’s look around the web. Some Bookcave-originated content is on its way in the coming days, so keep checking in, and watch our Twitter and Facebook pages, where we always announce new content.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Outside the Cave, December 11, 2016

Outside the Cave, December 11, 2016

Happy Sunday, and welcome to this week’s Outside the Cave!

As we do every Sunday, Bookcave has gathered some of what we’ve been reading on the web this week about kids’ books, and books in general, and put them all in one post for your link-clicking pleasure.

The folks at 49th Shelf are running their annual book giveaway — $500 in books up for grabs, but the deadline is tomorrow, so … get on it! This year they’re increasing their awesomeness by giving away $250 worth of books to a lucky winner, and an additional $250 worth of books to a school library in the winner’s community. School libraries are horrifically underfunded, and this contest hopes to draw attention for the need for good school libraries, and teacher-librarians.

Still with 49th Shelf, they’ve published their annual list of the best picture books of 2016.

Melville House’s fantastic blog took a look at the controversy surrounding the same book that Bookcave skewered last week. Melville House is decidedly more sympathetic and even defensive on “free speech” grounds, though they backed off their earlier headline that called people like me “idiots.” (They didn’t change the URL, though.) Their well-meaning blog post completely ignores the most offensive of the covers, and they refer to this as “book banning,” which it is not. (The book has not been “banned” anywhere. And I, personally, never called for it to be banned. On the contrary, I argued that Abrams had the right to publish it … but they shouldn’t, because of, ya know, that racism stuff.) These quibbles aside, I love Melville House and recommend getting their take on this matter.

Debbie Ohi has a guest post on Joyce Grant’s Get Kids Reading site in which she reviews the book and board game combo of Finding Gossamyr and Arcane Academy. This is a brilliant idea that I wish I’d thought of — a great way to get kids reading (provided you can get them to play board games, of course). It’s something to keep in mind if you happen to be celebrating any major gift-giving holidays this month, particularly if I’m on your list.

Speaking of gift-giving, if you’re looking for a gift for someone with an interest in LGBTQ genre YA, but have had trouble finding anything, Amy Rose Capetta has you covered with a guest post on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog.

Monica Friedman has an article on Book Riot about children’s books and their ability to teach compassion. Notable about her take is not that she talks about what the books can teach children and young adults, but what she, as an adult, takes from them.

That’s a wrap for this week. Enjoy your Sunday reading!

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Outside the Cave, December 4, 2016

Outside the Cave, December 4, 2016

Through the haze of a bad cold, I have managed to show up with this week’s Outside the Cave. And they say there are no heroes anymore.

Outside the Cave is our weekly look around the web to see what other sites and blogs are writing about kidlit, Canadian kidlit, or books in general. Bookcave encourages you to frequent as many of these sites as possible.

Over at Clockwise Press (one of my favourite presses, by the way), they’re still buzzing about Melanie Florence and François Thisdale’s big TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award win, and have posted a photographic journey through the evening. It includes a group photo of the Carlu reception, so attendees can look for themselves. (Sadly, I don’t appear to be anywhere in sight, so I must have already staggered out the door by this point. So much for having a “find Barry” contest.)

Publishers Weekly has an article highlighting some of the best transgender kidlit. The world is slowly getting better, one step at a time, and it was only a short while ago that transgender kidlit would be hard to find. It’s still not easy to find, but we’ve come a long way.

Of course, coming a long way doesn’t mean there aren’t a few knuckledraggers around, and the folks at Abrams, who have produced a lot of good books over the years including many good books for kids, dropped the ball in a huge way when they decided racism is funny. Abrams then doubled-down and played the victim card, accusing their critics of “censorship,” because the imprints at Abrams apparently do not publish dictionaries and were unable to look up what “censorship” actually means. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that this will be the subject of an upcoming column, so Abrams can look forward to seeing what my middle finger looks like in print.

Moving on from the clueless to people who I have a lot of respect for, Megan Crewe recently posted this outstanding primer, Writing with Sensitivity 101. I strongly recommend this link to anyone who writes, edits, or publishes books for young readers. Part of what I like about it is not just that it tackles one of the most important issues in writing today, but that it doesn’t “teach” so much as it encourages learning and understanding. Multiple points of view are given on many of the topics, and we are urged to “keep in mind that these issues are complex and so are the individual responses to them. There is rarely one absolute ‘right’ answer, only different opinions on what is right. Ultimately the best we can do is to listen widely to many different voices, and make our own decision about what feels right for us within that context.” That’s really the most important thing — listening to a variety of voices.

Continuing to wash the stink of the Abrams fiasco off of us, Open Book has posted about books that are actually funny in “Kid Lit Can: What’s So Funny About Kids’ Books?”

Last week I confessed that I have yet to read Martine Leavitt’s Calvin, and you’ll be happy to know that I’ve picked up a copy of the GG-winning YA novel and will read it in the near future. You’ll be even happier to know that 49th Shelf has a good interview with Leavitt.

I only recently came across Deborah Kalb’s Book Q&A’s, and it’s a site I recommend bookmarking. Bookcave’s focus is Canadian kidlit, so I’ll direct you to a couple of recent Canadian interviewees, Kari-Lynn Winters and David Skuy.

If you live in Toronto and were able to attend the Santa Claus Parade a couple of weeks ago, you may have spotted a modern-day classic children’s book on the Indigo float. Helaine Becker has a photo of the giant version of Porcupine in a Pine Tree on her blog.

School Library Journal is preaching to the converted (and so am I by linking it here), but it bears repeating that school librarians are not just valuable, but can make a major difference in student achievement.

Finally, we’ll stick with School Library Journal because they’ve got an article on a program that has elementary and middle school students read fiction and develop engineering projects based on what they’ve read, and now I want to go back to elementary or middle school because I kinda love this.

Those are this week’s Sunday reads. I hope to have a column up tomorrow (gee, I wonder what it will be about?), but I am struggling with this cold and am about to down some Neo-Citran, so might be delayed. Bear with me! I’ll have that, plus a review, coming up this week.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson

Outside the Cave, November 27, 2016

Outside the Cave, November 27, 2016

People seem to like the Outside the Cave feature, so let’s keep this going.

For those of you who are new to Bookcave, Outside the Cave is where we share some of the things we’ve been reading on other websites. Please frequent those sites and give them some love, and come back here too.

The folks over at Book Riot must have read our optimistic post about how we’re too strong to be beaten by the US election, and they were having none of it. They came up with this list of reasons why post-election US is like a dystopian YA novel. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell anyone who frequents Bookcave that dystopian YA novels don’t make the future out to be an unending episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. If you read or write dystopian YA, give this piece a look because it’s not just a doom-and-gloom article; it also points to some problems with dystopian YA that we should be paying attention to.

Now, after you read that you’re going to feel a bit down, so go back and read our optimistic piece in which I tell you the future will be okay because of you. Thanks, you.

But even better than that, read this fantastic post on Lori Weber’s blog, in which she talks about writing for kids as a form of activism. It’s passionate and inspiring. If you read nothing else today, read this.

Elsewhere, Buzzfeed shocked the world by posting something with a clickbaity title about Harry Potter fans being at a crossroads. And I took the bait. But it’s an interesting read for fans of Harry and of kids’ books in general. My very simplistic summary is that many ultra-hardcore Potter fans (those who can drop the names of obscure characters I can’t remember) are content with the original series and aren’t always comfortable with the additions that have been made in the nearly ten years since The Deathly Hallows was published.

Take a moment to let it sink in that The Deathly Hallows will be ten years old in July 2017. Now, deep breath in, deep breath out. Everyone okay? Let’s continue.

I don’t have a lot in common with those who rail against the way the new entries change what they know about the Harry Potter universe, but they make some good points. And they address the concerns many fans have had over the way Rowling stepped in it with some unsettling cultural appropriation in The History of Magic in North America. The entire discussion around that book is relevant for those of us in the Canadian kidlit community, where there have been efforts to provide greater opportunities for Indigenous authors.

Speaking of which, one of the superb indie presses trying to provide these opportunities is Second Story Press, and they have recently released two books about Canada’s residential schools. These books are on my list for review in the coming weeks, but Lisa Day gives a few thoughts in her Book Time blog, and talks about deciding whether to read one of the books to her son.

Finally, a review from Bella’s Bookshelves. Am I the only one who hasn’t yet read Martine Leavitt’s Calvin? Probably. And I should get around to it as soon as possible. How’s this for praise: “Calvin is the best YA book I’ve read in eons. A 17-year old kid has a schizophrenic episode and thinks he’s Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes.” So … it’s pretty darn good, right? And that’s just how she starts the review. This is someone who knows her YA, too. So, what the heck is taking me so long? I’m on it.

Here at Bookcave, there are some pieces in the pipeline for the coming week. I somehow work MC Hammer into a piece I’m posting on Monday, and I’m about to polish up a review of a recent award-winning novel. Look for the latter on Wednesday. We’ll have our usual Friday and Sunday features, of course, and I might slip in another article during the week if I get a chance. Keep coming back, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook — new postings are announced there.

A little off-topic, but important as people get to know Bookcave: while I don’t get any actual numbers for several days, I understand some have contributed to our Patreon campaign, which I greatly appreciate. (There’s a link in the top menu.) I want to reassert what I say on the campaign page, which is that every cent that comes in will go towards paying other writers to contribute articles, reviews, short fiction, and possibly other content. Bookcave will always cost me more money than it brings in — it’s set up to do so. If there’s a way for me to personally profit from this, I don’t know what it is and I haven’t been looking for it. If any Patreon supporters want to know how the money gets used, I’ll be more than happy to account for every bit of it. Bookcave exists to support the Canadian kidlit community.

For that matter, anyone who is interested in knowing the details of my plans for Bookcave is welcome to contact me at It’s a project that excites me, and I think that anyone in the community who hears my full vision for the site will be equally excited.

So, that’s Outside the Cave for this week. As always, keep reading Canadian kidlit, and keep bookmarking websites that talk about Canadian kidlit. And if you have a blog or site of your own that I haven’t given a shoutout to yet, send me a missive and I’ll try to post a link in an upcoming Outside the Cave. We’re confident you’re in this for all the right reasons and we want to support you.

Barry Jowett
Head Caveperson


Outside the Cave

Outside the Cave

Here’s our look at some of the things we’ve been reading around the web. We’ll try to make this a regular (weekly?) feature to share other great sites you will want to follow.

First up, this was a big week in the Canadian kidlit community, with the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards aka the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards being held on Thursday. While focused on Bacchanalian excess, Kerry Clare at 49th Shelf gathered comments from many of the nominated authors and illustrators about their inspirations.’s drunken live tweets turned out to be non-disastrous and I think I even managed to get them all out without spelling errors … though I did leave off one winning illustrator’s name, and for that I feel great shame.

Other things have been afoot lately. This is a bit older, but hey, it’s our first Outside the Cave, so we can go back as far as we want. Publishing Perspectives recently took in Neilsen’s Children’s Book Summit, and though it’s obviously US-focused, there are some interesting insights to be gained. It includes speculation that robot narratives might be the next big thing, so feel free to flood me at my day job with all your robot manuscripts. Plus, some interesting ebook numbers, as there has been a decline in ebook sales for juvenile books, so take that, paper-haters.

They also talk about millennials as book-buying parents, so some of us are going to need to take a deep breath and realize that millennials are now book-buying parents, which means not all of us are as young as we used to be.

Still in the US (which might be a depressing place to think of being these days, but hold off on that depression because I’m going to get rid of it with tomorrow’s column), Publishers Weekly has a preview of some spring 2017 titles. Yes, they posted this in July, but spring is still coming, so there.

And in an October column, PW took a look at YA authors as social activists.

Getting back to Canada …

I was recently tipped off to Joyce Grant’s website that focuses on literacy — Get Kids Reading. With the holidays coming up, you might want to check out her August column on some great toys and games that encourage literacy. Have a look, because these look pretty cool.

Finally, this isn’t an article, but the glorious people at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre have posted about their upcoming seminar on the business of writing. It’s coming up on November 26 at the Northern District Library in Toronto, and the panel includes Helaine Becker, Debbie Ohi, Felicia Quon, and Joel Sutherland, and presumably every author has now clicked away from my site because they’re all signing up for the event. It looks like a winner.

That’s it for this week. Keep checking the site or follow @bookcave2 on Twitter, as there is new content coming over the next seven days, including a column inspired by the CCBC Awards gala, and a review of a book by a favourite author.