The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland

I knew Susan Vreeland as the author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which I really enjoyed. So when I saw this title, I grabbed it.
I took the book with me on a trip to Haida Gwaii in northern BC, which turned out to be the perfect place to read it since The Forest Lover is the story of Emily Carr.

I did not know much about Emily Carr besides a few commonly known facts and her paintings.
I can't imagine the amount and time and research the author must have spent to find so many little personal details. The book is historical fiction since it gives the characters dialogue, but it does read like nonfiction since it is so closely based on a real life.
You get to know Emily's family, her parents and sisters. You travel along on her physical and her psychological journey as she grows both as a person and as an artist. In an era where women artists were not common, Emily travels throughout BC but also to England and France. She learns about life and about painting techniques. We see struggles in her personal life and in her strong, defiant character.
At first I had a little bit of trouble getting into the story but soon I was caught up in the person that was Emily Carr. Through the story I also learned much about aboriginal life on Canada's West Coast (she was one of the few white people whom First Nations people embraced as a close friend). I learned about First Nations villages and homes, about potlatches and totems, food, fishing and much more.
All in all, I found this a fascinating book and admire the incredible amount of research done to bring Emily Carr to life on the pages.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai


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June 20 is World Refugee Day.
If you have read my book Stepping Stones (illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr and published by Orca Book Publishers), you might enjoy a novel with a similar theme.

Inside Out & Back Again is a beautifully written free verse novel. I love free verse, if it is well done. And this Newbery Honor Book is lovely crafted, a tender tale told from the inside out. Much of the story is autobiographical. In her Q & A pages in the back of the novel, the author explains her own story and how she struggled with finding the right tone for this book. Free verse turned out to be the perfect voice.

Told in the voice of ten year old Há, this is a refugee story from Vietnam.
But it is more than that. It is the story of a close knit family, of loss and love. It is a story of the importance of brothers and how strong a mother can be. It is also the story of how resilient a child can be and how many obstacles for people face in life.

Treat yourself to this fascinating, beautiful read and share it with students to discuss refugees - now and in the past. This book is also winner of the National Book Award.
Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-196279-0





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