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Let’s talk about memes.  A meme (pronounced ‘meem’) is defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” and “an amusing or interesting item… or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.”  The word was coined in Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene but it wasn’t too well-known until the explosion of the internet.  In 1993, in the June issue of Wired, Mike Godwin proposed the concept of the Internet meme and a cultural phenomenon was born.

 

what do you meme board game / big block letters of text in shades of blue and purple on a pure white box.Memes are everywhere; you have to essentially live in the middle of nowhere, with no access to modern electronics or other people, to not have come across a meme recently.  They range from the original LOLcats (yes, you can has cheeseburger), to Britain’s 1939 Keep Calm and Carry On campaign brought back in the early 2000s, to completely surreal art like the Youtube Poop videos.  They pop up on every social media site, they’re used in commercials (usually long after the meme ceased to be relevant), and they can cause global crazes like planking and the ice bucket challenge. Heck, memes are so popular, recognizable, and adapatable, they are have been turned into a party game.

 

bart simpson standing in a classroom before a blackboard with a piece of chalk in his hand. the black board has the phrase "all your base are belong to us" repeated ten times Personally I’ve been online a long time, back to the days of All Your Base Are Belong to Us (20 years old this year!), Domo, Oogachaka Baby, and—sigh—The Hamster Dance.  I’ve been Rickrolled so many times I recognize the ‘XcQ’ in the Youtube URL, but I usually click it anyway because I actually like the song.  The songs ‘levan polkka’ and “Dragostea Din Tei” are better known to me as, respectively, Leekspin and Numa Numa.  However, memes outside the Internet have existed for even longer, though they might not have had as global a reach.  Folklore, clapping games, obscene graffiti, “Kilroy was here”, and that weird angular S that everyone draws in elementary school even though no one knows where it originally came from?  All memes.

 

20-minute or less meme hacks by Sheela Preuitt / a yellow tone stick figure and a photograph of five multi ethnic children frame with 8-bit frames against a purple backgroundSo what makes a meme, especially in the age of the internet?  Well… anything, really.  Take an image, slap some text on it of varying degrees of absurdity, and see if the internet likes it.  It can also be a saying, a reference to a movie, or a meme within a meme within a meme.  I’m sure plenty of people with specialized degrees have tried to explain memes, but I feel it’s somewhat hard to explain why I laughed until I wheezed at a self-portrait of 18th-century artist Joseph Ducreux with the text ‘Oh hot reservoir/This is my jelly’ over it.  Maybe it’s because I grew up with Monty Python and enjoy surreal humour; maybe it’s just because the first principle of comedy is surprise.  Either way, kids can try their hand at creating their own memes with a little help from 20-Minute (or Less) Meme Hacks by Sheela Preuitt.

 

two images stacked on top of one another. the top photo is of actor sean bean as boromir from the film The Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the Ring, captioned with "one does not simply walk into morder". the lower picture is of actor Hayden Christensen playing Anakin Skywalker in the film Star Wars The Revenge of the Sith, standing in front of a flowing lava field, with the caption "you underestimate my power." Memes concerning celebrities and pop culture are, naturally, quite popular.  Sean Bean - as Boromir from Lord of the Rings – telling the viewer that one does not simply walk into Mordor became so popular that Google put it into their map system as an Easter egg when trying to get walking directions to Mordor (sadly it doesn’t seem to work anymore).  Other examples include Woman Yelling at Cat (a combo meme featuring Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members juxtaposed with a puzzled-looking white cat called Smudge), Sad Keanu, Strutting Leo, and recently, Bernie Sanders and his inauguration mittens.  And fortunately, sometimes memes can be used for good: merchandise referencing the Sanders meme has helped to raise money for organizations for seniors, dogs, and LGBTQ+ youth.

 

Because he's jeff goldblum by Travis M. Andrews cover / a drawn caricature of actor jeff goldblum wearing an orange suit, in front of a blue fieldOne celebrity who often makes an appearance in memes is Jeff Goldblum, star of Jurassic Park and some other less important stuff. Jurassic Park spawned at least three memes featuring Jeff Goldblum: You Did It; Life, Uh, Finds a Way; and, of course, Shirtless Ian Malcolm.  There’s even a melodica version of the Jurassic Park theme song, played over the scene where they first see the dinosaurs, that was briefly viral and still makes me laugh helplessly before I even hit play… but back to Jeff Goldblum. In May, the book Because He’s Jeff Goldblum by Travis M. Andrews will be released, detailing Goldblum’s life and just why he’s so memeable.

 

There’s so many memes out there that a single blog can’t possibly do more than scratch the surface.  I could, in fact, write an entire blog just about loss.jpg and how the sequence of characters | || || |_  actually means something to me.  There are entire Tumblr essays about how memes can be combined and build on each other into a memeception that would make absolutely no sense to anyone not into that particular culture at that particular time.  Perhaps that’s what makes memes so enduring as a whole, even if the majority of individual memes explode and die in weeks or even days: the versatility of putting text on an image and seeing if it makes other people laugh.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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It’s been a long winter and an even longer year, spent mostly cooped up inside due to various lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.  But though we’re still battling the coronavirus, getting outside into the sunshine and fresh air is important, even if we have to do it spaced apart.  Unfortunately trips to take the garbage out don’t count, according to my mom, but I have a good excuse to get outside in an isolated area: my horse and his propensity to find every single burr in the field, get it in his mane and tail, and turn into a unicorn.

 

Getting kids outside is especially important for their health, both physical and mental.  Even a quick walk around the block can lower blood pressure, boost energy, and improve your state of mind.  With winter retreating, the sun is getting stronger and there’s nothing as invigorating as turning your face up to the spring sunshine (just make sure you wear sunscreen and don’t look directly at the ball of burning light).  Although kids have had to adjust how they play and who they can play with, getting them outside – with family, if possible – will benefit everyone.

 

outside you notice by erin alladin / a watercolour painting of a young girl with braids sitting in the branches of a treeTowards the end of April, Pyjama Press is publishing Outside, You Notice by Erin Alladin and illustrated by Andrea Blinick.  A combination of lyrical observations of nature and quick nonfiction facts, the book encourages kids to get outside and explore, from their own backyards to woods, fields, and public trails. Erin Alladin graciously did a presentation for LSC during our Children’s Display Day on the 18th.

 

Wild Outside by Les Stroud / an animated version of Les Stroud flanked by various wild animals from around the worldLes Stroud, Survivorman on OLN and Discovery, recently published Wild Outside a book for kids detailing some of his adventures in the wild, along with nature facts and tips for safely observing local wildlife.  These adventures include being stalked by a jaguar, traversing the desert in search of weaverbird eggs to eat, and even being chased by a moose!  While most kids won’t encounter anything that extreme, they can still respectfully check out their local birds, small animals, and plant life.

 

On the other hand, some kids aren’t very outdoorsy, and that’s okay.  As a kid and teen, I often took a beloved book and relaxed out on the back deck while I read, but I was never big on activities like camping, or sports that didn’t involve animals.  There’s nothing wrong with bringing traditionally indoor activities like painting, writing, or board games outside, to backyards or local parks.  And while most parents would like their kids to have less screen time, the portability of modern electronics means video games and TV can go just about anywhere.

 

Nature heals by Blue Owl / a young person sits on the edge of a rock in a mountain range with a wild sky stretching out before them After a year of disrupted schooling and isolation, parents are rightly worried about the mental health of their kids.  Many libraries have books on mindfulness, anxiety, and relaxation for kids.  Combining those topics with nature and the outdoors, Blue Owl Books published the Nature Heals series in January, featuring activities like camping, gardening, and simply listening and watching. 

 

 

slow down by rachel williams / an illustration of the various stages of a butterfly life cycleWe live in a fast-paced world and sometimes everyone – kids and adults – needs a reminder to slow down and take in the beauty of the natural world.  The book Slow Down: 50 Mindful Moments in Nature by Rachel Williams helps kids do just that.  Each spread illustrates a unique moment in time that we can appreciate by slowing down, whether that’s the appearance of a rainbow after the rain, or a shooting star flying across the night sky.

 

So if you’re feeling sluggish and everyone’s sick of looking at a screen, head outside on a nice sunny day.  Take a walk, get down in the dirt, or stretch out in the backyard with a good book and your favourite drink.  If anyone needs me, I’ll be at the farm, pulling endless burrs off my horse.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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There’s a common misconception (among those who don’t use them) that libraries are a product of a bygone era, good only for books and fairly useless in today’s high-tech age.  This isn’t true, as anyone who’s stepped foot in a library in the past decade can tell you.  Beyond print books, libraries offer audiobooks, AV like DVDs and video games, and even toys and games. 

 

They are community hubs where you can learn how to write a resume, how to use a computer, and how to create art ranging from knitting to 3D printing.  Libraries provide a space for anyone to use, no matter their income; offering study groups, tutoring lessons, children’s activities, or just a warm place out of a cold Canadian winter.

 

One way that libraries are changing to meet current technical needs is by offering kits that can be borrowed just like a book.  These kits can contain a multitude of things, including educational toys, STEAM activity books, and technological gadgetry like the Raspberry Pi and solar robots.  Kits can also be more party-based, like with green screen props; focused on music like the ukulele; or even a collection of family games like a kid-friendly magnetic darts board.

 

Discovery kits are a good way for libraries to help support the school curriculum in their community.  Kits can cover a wide range of subjects, from chemistry to astronomy to minerals, crystals, and rocks.  You can even go on a dinosaur dig in the comfort of your own home!  The hands-on aspects of these kits help kids learn by doing, but for those that are more reader-inclined, discovery kits also include print books.

 

Steve Spangler's Super Cool Science Experiments for Kids / pictures of simple science experiments engulfed in lightningFortunately, science and art are perennial topics, with books published each season for both kids and adults.  In Steve Spangler’s Super Cool Science Experiments for Kids, children 8-12 can find dozens of experiments ranging from the world’s simplest motor to an artificial lung to eggshell geodes.  Instructions are simple to follow, cleanup is easy, and each project includes an explanation of how it works and a fun Did You Know? factoid.

 

For those with mathematical minds, DK is publishing Math Maker Lab in July. Suitable for ages 10 and up, the book offers 25 creative projects and experiments designed to make learning about math fun. Projects include a times-table dreamcatcher, a multiplication machine, and the ability to draw impossible objects.

 

Crayola Create it Yourself / two children displaying home made craftsArtier kids may be interested in Crayola’s Create It Yourself, with a colourful project for every week of the year organized by the seasons.  Projects include a DIY fish tank using moldable air-drying clay for the fish, a puffy paint rainbow, and melted crayon ornaments.

Adults can get in on the fun by working on projects with their kids (or by themselves; no judgement, says the woman with a 2-foot cardboard T. rex on her side table) or by looking for kits geared towards adults at their local library.  These kits can include textile art like quilting or cross-stitch; gardening complete with seed packets; or even tool kits for DIY home repairs.

 

Libraries are a vital part of the community.  They provide safe spaces, community outreach, and, yes, books.  Libraries are ever-evolving and working to support their communities, so if you haven’t been to one in a while, take a trip there and see what they have to offer. 

 

For clients looking to supplement their kits, LSC offers SLIST 44667: 82 titles on science, math, textile art, and more!  Kits themselves can be created by special request; please contact our new ARP Coordinator Julie Kummu, or Selection and Customer Service Manager Jamie Quinn.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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Between the ages of 13 and 23, I worked in horse barns, first as a volunteer and then as a full time job. This gave me a mouth like a sailor, because there’s nothing quite as appropriate as ‘!@$%’ when a thousand-pound animal hip checks you into a wall. These days I work in an office and the only horse I see regularly is my own - whose interests lie mostly in how he’s never been fed, ever, in his entire life – but I still tend to pepper my sentences with cursing.

 

Swearing is Good for YouOf course, there’s a time and a place for swearing. I control myself around customers, children, upper management, and my mother. If someone indicates that they don’t like listening to profanity as punctuation, it’s only appropriate to stop. However, science has shown there are multiple benefits to a good curse, as laid out by Dr. Emma Byrne in her 2017 book Swearing is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language. Dr. Byrne argues that swearing is essential to both social and emotional health. It allows stroke victims to regain their language skills, fosters relationships between team members, and even reduces pain, as proven in the Mythbusters episode No Pain, No Gain or illustrated by Stephen Fry and Brian Blessed in Planet Word.

 

Bon Cop, Bad CopProfanity has a long history, though it’s obviously changed since the Romans insulted each other by implying their target was submissive to another man – or worse, a woman.  In Biblical times, swearing was to make an oath to the Abrahamic God, an acknowledgment of omniscience and omnipotence. The Bible forbade ‘vain swearing,’ which in the Middle Ages became such shocking phrases as ‘by the blood of Jesus Christ.’  This kind of swearing has actually lasted into modern times in Quebec, which has a unique type of cursing slang that involves the Roman Catholic church. For a great example of how to swear in Quebec, check out Bon Cop, Bad Cop (and then watch its sequel, just because). Famously swear-heavy TV show Deadwood uses modern, scatological swearing; when they filmed the first pilot, they used period appropriate swear words, which ended up making all the characters sound like Yosemite Sam. 

 

Holy Shit: a brief history of swearingThe big swear words these days are short, sharp, and generally shocking, but a lot of them were simply descriptors in the Middle Ages. More information (including some hilarious place names) can be found in this article by the Irish Times, which took its information from Holy Sh*t: a Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr. These days the effectiveness of profanity derives mostly from how inappropriate it is; I could say ‘daisies’ when I stub my toe, but society at large has no problem with flowers so it doesn’t mean much. In his episode of Inside the Actor's Studio, Alan Alda said his favourite swear word was "horse". It’s also why children tend to repeat any profanity they hear over and over (and over): because most of the time they get a reaction from the people around them, whether anger, laughter – because honestly, is there anything funnier than the sweet, innocent voice of a child dropping an F-bomb? – or any other type of attention.

 

How to Swear: an illustrated guideAs we move into the 2020s, it seems that actual curse words are becoming more mainstream, but epithets are becoming the new swear words.  Epithets are descriptive words or phrases used to sum up a person, from ‘the redhead/brunette/other man’ in fiction (a personal pet peeve), to racial and sexual slurs designed to insult. There’s a general idea that swearing means a lower vocabulary and intellectual level, especially if you’re female; nice girls don’t swear, after all.  However, Professor Timothy Jay at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts co-authored a study in 2015 that found people who were fluent in swearing were also more fluent in other aspects of language. A different study, from 2017 found a positive relationship between profanity and honesty; individuals who swear a lot are perceived as less likely to lie or deceive. This doesn’t, however, give anyone carte blanche to fling curses and slurs at anyone they see; context is the difference between venting frustration and actively insulting another person.

 

A pocket dictionary of the vulgar tongueSo now that you know the benefits of some good profanity, how do you go about improving your obscene vocabulary? Stephen Wildish has some ideas in his book How To Swear: An Illustrated Guide. For the curser on the go, there’s A Pocket Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally published in 1785 but brought back to life in April 2020 so the next generation can swear like an 18th-century London dockworker. Or if you want to know more about how and why we swear, check out What the F by Benjamin K. Bergen.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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Back in January 2020, COVID-19 was just something on the news, happening in a far-away country.  We knew about it, we sympathized with Wuhan, but it seemed like just another flu-type illness.  By February, it was hitting closer to home: a coworker’s sister, who lives in Italy, was under lockdown and the WHO had declared the outbreak a global public health emergency.  Mass cancellations of public events and the closure of schools followed, and by mid-March COVID-19 was officially a global pandemic, sparking lockdowns all over the world.  Even as we head into summer now, restrictions remain in place for many people, including social distancing measures and the requirement of face coverings.

 

So what exactly is COVID-19?  In broadest terms, it’s a coronavirus, part of a large family of viruses named for their spiky appearance.  According to the CDC, there are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses – alpha, beta, gamma, and delta – and seven types that affect humans.  229E and NL63, both alpha coronaviruses, and OC43 and HKU1, beta coronaviruses, are the most common and usually cause mild respiratory symptoms.  The three remaining coronaviruses, however, are the dangerous ones, evolving from infecting animals to infecting humans.  These three are MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2, aka COVID-19.

 

Which is a lot of science to try to explain to kids who haven’t been in school, or seen friends and family, since the lockdown began. Add to this a number of new terms that have been introduced to our lexicon, including social distancing and flattening the curve, and it’s a glut of information to take in even for an adult.  To help kids understand these terms, and COVID-19 as a whole, ABDO Kids is releasing two series: The Coronavirus, aimed at grades 2 and under, and Core Library Guide to COVID-19, for kids in grades 4-8.  The Coronavirus series includes information on the virus itself as well as information on staying connected, maintaining healthy habits, and distance learning.

 

The Core Library Guide series goes more in-depth for older kids.  Understanding COVID-19 examines why the virus is so dangerous, and what steps scientists and medical professionals have been taking to combat it.  Flattening the Curve explains this and other measures people can take to help stop the spread of the disease, or at least slow it down to help keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.  Other books in the series include Front-Line Heroes and The Economic Impact of COVID-19.

 

Beyond avoiding social activities and large groups, some ways that everyone can help slow the spread include proper hygiene and face coverings.  COVID-19 is destroyed by the simple act of washing your hands with soap and water.  Teaching kids hygiene has always been important, but especially so now.  To aid in this, check out How Does Soap Clean Your Hands? by Madeline J. Hayes and Srimalie Bassani.  For more of an overview of germs and diseases, The Germ Lab by Richard Platt and John Kelly offers plenty of fun facts and great illustrations.

 

All these sudden changes and dire warnings can cause anxiety even in kids (and adults) not prone to worry.  This is understandable, but parents will likely want to help their kids feel more confident and reassured.  In October, Vancouver author-illustrator Scot Ritchie will release Follow Your Breath!: a First Look at Mindfulness.  An introduction to mindfulness, the book will help kids learn how best to manage stress and remain calm even when upset.  Other upcoming books to help kids manage their feelings include The Worry (Less) Book by Rachel Brian, Mindfulness For Children by Sarah Rudell Beach, and Puppy In My Head by Canadian author Elise Gravel.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel,  and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Stay safe!

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When I was 16, a friend of mine asked me if I’d heard of NaNoWriMo.  It turned out that there was this event going into its second year called National Novel Writing Month, where the goal was to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  Both of us were writers and at 16, my only real time concern was being in my last year of high school, so we decided we would both sign up and attempt this challenge.

 

NaNo (as it’s known to us Wrimos) was small back then, at least compared to today; its inaugural year in July 1999 featured a whole 21 participants.  By the time I heard of it, I was one of 5000, and the event was being reported in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post.  I won that year with a terrible novel about vampires, a talking cabbage, and a hellhound named Fluffy, because when you need to write 50,000 words in a month, reality is the least of your concerns.  I’ve participated every year since, in both the original NaNo and in the spinoff Camp NaNoWriMo, which began in 2011 and allows me to choose my own wordcount goal rather than sticking to the 50K.  I’ve also won every year, sometimes legitimately, sometimes by cheating... I mean, rebelling.

 

In 2003, NaNo’s founder, Chris Baty, wrote No Plot? No Problem (updated and revised in 2016), a guide to writing a novel, whether in 30 days or not.  My copy hangs out on my overburdened bookcase along with Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Dreyer’s English. NaNo taught me a lot about writing a first draft quickly, including the fact that it will suck and that’s okay.  As King says, you write your first draft with the door closed.  And preferably locked, when you live with your parents or roommates who inevitably want to know what you’re doing (writing), why (because I want to), and if they can be characters in your story (no).

 

In past years, there’s usually been one or two news articles or blog posts questioning NaNo and whether it’s ruining the sanctity of the written word.  They usually point out that a novel written in 30 days probably isn’t very good, and also such a singleminded focus on length won’t improve that.  This is true.  A novel written in 30 days will be awkward and ungainly, full of run-on sentences, illogical actions, and plotholes you can drive a truck through.  Characters change names, appearances, and occasionally gender.  Authors forget how to English (or whatever their language is), as proved by the hilarious NaNoisms thread that pops up every year for participants to chronicle their worst typos and brainfarts.  At the end of the month, you have a novel that is certainly not in any state to be published, or even shopped around to agents.

 

That’s not the point.  The point of NaNo is to get yourself writing.  It’s to train yourself to sit down in your chair, put your hands on the keyboard, and write some words.  Sometimes that’s only a sentence.  Sometimes you drag out the first few (hundred) words and your muse finally engages and you’re off flying, words spilling out so fast your fingers can’t even keep up.  Either way, you’re doing something many people say they’ll do but never carve out the time to actually do it.

 

Of course, there are plenty of novels out there that started as NaNovels and were beaten into submission, polished, and published by real live publishers.  They include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wool by Hugh Howey, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and many more.  And this year, though I haven’t actively been searching for any, I haven’t seen any handwringing about how NaNo is destroying writing as an art.  I have seen news articles, pep talks from famous authors, and library programs in areas like Burnaby, Montreal, and Cambridge’s Idea Exchange.  I’ve seen another official NaNoWriMo handbook in Brave the Page, a juvenile nonfiction guide and inspiration for middle graders.

 

In the 18 years I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ve written almost 1 million words.  I’ve written halves of novels, full novels, short stories, novellas, 104K in a month, 50K in 6 days (Surgeon General’s Warning: not recommended unless you like uncontrollable tremors).  Whether I finish a full novel or rebel by rewriting older stories (or by writing blog posts), NaNo has taught me to just put my head down, stop complaining, and get it done.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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If you’ve turned on the news lately, you may have heard of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who’s been making waves with her passionate speeches.  In August 2018, Greta began to protest climate change by sitting outside of Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag, with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).  Her protests have inspired countless similar protests throughout the world, and Greta herself has been invited to speak on many global stages, including here in Canada.

 

Greta and her family will be releasing their autobiography, Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, at the end of April 2020.  For those who can’t wait for more information, however, Jeannette Winter has published a nonfiction picture book with the same title.  Other books featuring Greta’s story include Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta herself.

 

Fortunately Greta isn’t the only one concerned with both the environment and our world as a whole.  Youth activism is on the rise, according to author and scholar Jessica Taft.  In the United States, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting have been campaigning for better gun control.  Malala Yousafzai has been working on behalf of girls and women since 2009, even surviving an assassination attempt.  Here in Canada, we have our own youth focusing on a range of topics, from Stella Bowles in Nova Scotia – whose juvenile nonfiction book My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River was recently nominated for the Forest of Reading – to Metis-Jamaican Larissa Crawford, and LGBTQ2+ activist Fae Johnstone.

 

Human impact on the environment and climate change have been big topics over the past few years.  In our recent election, climate change was second only to health care among Canadians polled by Ipsos.  The book world has seen a number of publications focused on the environment, climate change, and the plight of the natural world and its animals.  At the beginning of October, Kari Jones published Ours to Share: Co-Existing in a Crowded World as part of the Orca Footprints series.  The book focuses on the growth of the human population – from just a few hundred thousand people to our current population of nearly eight billion – and our impact on the world around us.  It’s a positive book, however, highlighting how we can share with our neighbours and what kids can do to help better the world.

 

One of the bigger issues in the climate change discussion is the issue of plastic.  Some steps have been taken to reduce our plastic waste – like encouraging reusable bags at the grocery store and charging for plastic ones – but there’s a glut of information out there that people may struggle to sort through.  The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt. Written by a producer for the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, the book breaks down the issues and lays out solutions.  For younger readers, there’s also Join the No-Plastic Challenge by Scot Ritchie, part of the Exploring Our Community series.

 

We’re headed into winter now and the forecast for the year is milder but stormier.  While I can’t say I’ll particularly miss the dreaded polar vortex, unpredictable and stormy weather is still a sign of climate change.  According to NASA, the rising ocean temperatures are likely to lead to an increase in extreme rainstorms.  In the winter, despite the colder temperatures, the increase in evaporated water can also lead to heavier snowfall.

 

All hope isn’t lost, though.  Many people all over the world, including youth activists like Greta Thunberg, are working towards reducing our carbon emissions, pollution, and plastic garbage.  This past spring and summer, the #trashtag challenge went viral, encouraging people to clean up an area near them and post before and after photos.  Much better than throwing slices of plastic cheese onto your baby.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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In February 2017, journalist Robyn Doolittle and the Globe and Mail published their Unfounded investigation.  The result of 20 months spent interviewing sexual assault survivors and gathering data, the series showed that, across Canada, 1 in 5 complaints of sexual assault were dismissed as ‘unfounded’ – an official police code that closed the case with no investigation.  In the wake of the report, over 37,000 cases were put under review, the Federal government pledged $100 million towards a national strategy to prevent gender-based violence, and the RCMP reviewed their unfounded policies.

 

This month, Robyn Doolittle publishes her follow-up book, Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo? Originally coined in 2006 by American social activist Tarana Burke, #MeToo became a global phenomenon in October 2017, spreading virally on Twitter and Facebook thanks to actress Alyssa Milano and the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.  The movement has helped change the view on sexual assault and enabled women to speak out about their experiences, resulting in a number of resignations across the world.

 

Also published this month is She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who originally broke the Harvey Weinstein story in the New York Times.  The book follows not only their Weinstein investigation, but looks at Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – and the results of her allegation.  Not only was Kavanaugh still confirmed to the Supreme Court, but Blasey Ford received death threats, has been forced to move multiple times, and has been unable to resume her teaching job.

 

These kinds of consequences are what keep many victims silent about sexual assault and harassment, but with the global spread of the #MeToo movement, this is beginning to change.  And it’s not just women speaking out; male victims, including actor Terry Crews, have shared their stories, and many men are looking at how they can be allies and shut down sexual harassment when they see it.  In the book world, we’ve had a number of books on how to raise boys to become men who value consent, including Raising Boys Who Respect Girls by Dave Willis, Decoding Boys by Cara Natterson, and Boys: What It Means to Become a Man by Rachel Giese.

 

The focus on women has also resulted in many books on forgotten female heroes, feminism, and women’s rights.  In October, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will publish The Book of Gutsy Women, focusing on stories of the female heroes who have inspired them.  These heroes include Malala Yousafzai, who published We Are Displaced at the beginning of 2019; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who published Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions in 2017; and LGBTQ pioneer Edie Windsor, whose posthumous book in also publishing in October: A Wild and Precious Life.

 

Here in Canada, #MeToo spawned AfterMeToo via a Globe and Mail symposium featuring, among others, actresses Mia Kirshner and Freya Ravensbergen, and film producer Aisling Chin-Yee.  AfterMeToo calls for change in the entertainment industry, including creating reform and improving current policies, in cooperation with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

 

In January, Lisa Dalrymple published Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, detailing the forgotten women from Canada’s history. In May, Orca Books published two entries in their Orca Issues series: I Am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times and My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights.  In August, Kelly S. Thompson published her memoir, Girls Need Not Apply, about her time serving in the Canadian Armed Forces – a traditionally masculine culture.  And at the end of this month, Jessica McDiarmid will publish her account of B.C.’s Highway 16, Highway of Tears, where for decades Indigenous women have vanished or been found murdered, with little done to protect them.

 

The publication of these books, and others, helps bring the focus onto women and our experiences, both positive and negative.  #MeToo and the other movements it’s helped spawn have created a global conversation around women’s rights and the sexual assault and harassment that happens to far too many people.  While we still have a way to go, I’m hopeful that society as a whole will continue to shift towards a world where both women and men feel safe, supported, and valued.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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A couple years ago, I was in Michaels looking for something that I could make my Nanny as a present for Christmas, as there’s only so many gift sets one woman needs.  Wandering through the aisles, I came across a small section containing cross-stitch kits and various supplies.  I figured, can’t be too hard to do a kit; everything is included and besides, I had a vague memory of doing one back when I was eight or so.  If a child could do it, surely a 30-something alleged adult could too.

 

So I bought a lovely little kit featuring goldfinches and lilacs, took it home, opened it up, and stared in horror at the graph.  There was a grid and a lot of symbols and apparently I needed to be able to count to do this arts and crafts project.  I put it on a nearby surface and that year, my Nanny got gift cards for gas and Tim Hortons.

 

This whole cross-stitch thing stayed in the back of my mind, however.  Sometime in the new year, I was back in Michaels and ended up in the cross-stitch aisle again.  This time, I chose a kit that said it was specifically for children, took it home, and promptly did it completely wrong because reading directions is for other people.  Two days later (after reading the directions this time), I’d redone it correctly and it actually looked pretty good.  More importantly, I’d gotten the bug and I got it bad. 

 

Fast forward to the end of 2019 and I know all the terms: Aida cloth versus linen, DMC versus Anchor, cross stitch and half stitch and quarter stitch and back stitch.  My apartment is covered in embroidery floss in piles and little baggies, and draped over my spare monitor.  I have an entire box full of kits, supplies, picture frames, and random related things my mother (bless her) picked up at garage sales and thrift stores.  I know that removing stitches when you make a mistake is called frogging... because you rip it, rip it.

 

Cross-stitch as represented in media and in the public consciousness is usually pastel flowers and religious sayings, done by 50s housewives and your local grandma.  Modern cross-stitch can certainly be that (and there’s nothing wrong with it), but it can also be subversive (2641425), feminist (3475227), and the poop emoji.  Anyone of any age can pick it up if they have the money for a little kit and the time (and patience) to repeatedly stab a needle through tiny holes. Personally, I like lots of bright and contrasting colours and basically any subject, though I prefer images over text.  Everyone in my life gets finished projects as presents now, and if they’re really lucky, I’ll even frame it for them.

 

In a fast-paced world with constant bombardment of everything that’s going wrong at any given time, I find cross-stitch to be soothing.  In the evenings after work, I put something on Netflix and I spend a couple of hours working on a project.  I even have a project at work that I can spend my breaks on when I need to stop looking at a computer screen for fifteen minutes.  I’m also one of those people who bounces around projects so I’ve got half a dozen on the go most of the time and switch depending on my mood.  I’ve been told that I’m (finally) becoming domestic, but really it’s just the pleasure of doing something with my hands and creating.

 

Crafts of all kinds are on the rise.  In the UK, Hobbycraft reports that craft sales are rising each year: jigsaws by 10%, paint-by-numbers by 80%, and crochet patterns by a whopping 179%.  I’m even seeing it in my work here at LSC, with requests from multiple libraries to increase and refresh their crafting collections, with a focus on quilting and knitting. To see our selection of unique and modern cross-stitching materials, click here

 

I’m not the only one who uses cross-stitch for mental health.  According to hobbyist site The Spruce Crafts, the benefits of cross-stitch include calmness, increased focus, and stress reduction.  I can confirm that when I’m cross-stitching, I don’t have time to focus on worries; I’m too busy trying to figure out how I managed to count 5 stitches instead of 6, throwing off my entire pattern.  Sometimes I can fix it and no one will ever know, unless they happen to be a cross-stitcher working on the same pattern.  Most times it needs to be frogged, but that’s okay; as long as I have the floss, I can redo it as many times as needed to get it right.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

 

*pictures of cross-stitched items by the author

 

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Over the past few years, true crime in a variety of formats has flourished.  Although there’s always been a fascination with heinous murders, daring bank robberies, and hilariously inept criminals, it seems that the genre has seen a renaissance lately.  Not only are there books to read, but anyone with access to the internet can explore true crime websites, listen to true crime podcasts, and watch true crime documentaries and docuseries.

 

True crime has always fascinated people.  William Roughhead, a Scottish lawyer and considered the father of the true crime genre, began writing about murder trials in 1889.  Before that, from 1550 to 1700, the British upper and middles classes could read murder pamphlets and were known to create ballads, many from the murderer’s point of view. Judith Flanders investigated this period in her book The Invention of Murder. Our more modern ‘novel’ style of true crime writing is thought to have originated with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, published in 1965.

 

TV, film, and especially podcasts centering on true crime are a more modern invention.  TV and film can include both documentaries – some with reenactments, some without – and dramatic films based on the crime.  One of the pioneers in TV true crime is Forensic Files, a half-hour series that began airing in 1996.  Each episode is presented as a mystery and involves both reenactments and interviews with the real detectives and scientists involved with the case.  For Canadian cases in a similar format, there’s 72 Hours, which has 3 seasons and a couple of familiar faces in the reenactments.

 

True crime podcasts rose to prominence in 2014 with Serial, which broke records by the speed with which it reached 5 million downloads (and opened the door for books on the topic of Adnan Syed to be written). This was followed by other podcasts, including Dirty John, which also has both a documentary and a fictionalized series on Netflix, and My Favorite Murder, whose presenters are coming out with the book Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered at the end of this month.  Canada also has its own true crime podcast in Canadian True Crime, narrated by Kristi Lee.

 

Of course, books have always been a great source for true crime tales.  One of the most famous authors of the genre was Ann Rule, who not only wrote about some of the biggest murders in the world, but also worked with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.  Published in 1980, The Stranger Beside Me focuses both on Rule’s relationship with Bundy – which began in 1971 at a Seattle crisis clinic – and on Bundy’s childhood, murders, and eventual trials.  Personally I’ve always enjoyed Rule’s Crime Files books, which focus on a collection of different cases rather than just one.

 

While Ann Rule is the queen of true crime, there are many other books and authors out there, including Canadians.  In 2018 we had two Jerry Langton books about bikers – The Secret Life of Bikers and The Hard Way Out, which Langton wrote with Dave Atwell – and a book about our most infamous bootlegger, The Whisky King by Trevor Cole.  Coming this year, we have The Golden Boy of Crime, about bank robber and proto-Kardashian Norman “Red” Ryan; Why Don’t You Ask Mrs. Small?, featuring a millionaire who vanished from Toronto in 1919; and Highway of Tears, an examination of the Indigenous women found murdered – or who vanished – on Highway 16 in British Columbia.  And for those who need a break from the gruesome, there’s always Jack Kirchhoff’s The World’s Dumbest Criminals, which is exactly what it says on the tin.

 

So why do we love true crime so much?  According to a Global News interview with Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at UTP, we’re ‘just drawn to extreme cases of violence.’  Part of this is that we’re naturally curious, but also crime grabs our attention by being exciting and entertaining.  We also, according to Lee, like to feel like we’re part of the story, especially when it comes to cold cases that we might have a hand in solving.

 

In 2018, the book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was published posthumously after its author’s, Michelle McNamara, death.  Roughly two months later, the book’s subject, the Golden State Killer, was finally arrested after 42 years.  McNamara’s colleague, investigative journalist Bill Jensen, credits McNamara with helping to keep the case alive when it had gone cold and the media attention on her book with putting pressure on the police to find the killer.

 

The true crime genre isn’t likely to go away any time soon.  There are always new crimes being committed, and the world will always be fascinated by them, especially in the current cynical, uncertain times.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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