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Ah Easter, that most transitory of holidays.  It zig-zags its way through early spring like the bunny that is its most prominent symbol.  Brightly-coloured eggs, cheerful bunnies, and little yellow fluffball chicks all remind us of a fresh new beginning, as winter fades and the new season begins.  And frankly it can’t come soon enough, even if Easter is late this year.

Easter’s date is determined by a lunisolar calendar rather than a strictly solar one, meaning that it falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon of spring.  Depending on the cycles of the moon, that means Easter can be any Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th.

 

What’s the significance of the moon?  Like Christmas, Easter was originally a pagan celebration named for a Germanic goddess called Ēostre or Ostara.  Feasts were held in her honour during the Old English month that corresponds to April, welcoming in spring.  Germanic traditions have remained attached to the celebration as it moved through the years, such as decorating eggs and the Osterhase (Easter hare) bringing treats to well-behaved children.  Other celebrations, like sword dancing and “heathen pastries” (as Jacob Grimm called them), have not, at least here in North America.

 

Easter is also an important modern religious holiday.  In Christianity, Easter Sunday is celebrated as the Day of the Resurrection, and for centuries it was the most important observance within that faith.  For books on the Christian exploration of Easter, check out The Story of Easter by Helen Dardik, The Berenstain Bears: Easter Sunday by Mike and Jan Berenstain, and God Gave Us Easter by Tawn Bergeren.

 

In the Jewish traditions, Easter and Passover fall within the same general timeframe, though they aren’t related.  Passover by Grace Jones offers a factual breakdown meant for young readers, and Around the Passover Table by Tracy Newman and Pippa’s Passover Plate by Vivian Kirkfield convey the meaning of the holiday through fictional stories.

 

Of course we can’t forget the classics when it comes to Easter books.  Happy Easter, Little Critter by Mercer Mayer was published when I was already in my teens, but I still have fond memories of the series.  Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog also have their own books celebrating the holiday.  No Easter collection is complete, however, without It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz, a book surpassed (only slightly) by the TV special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t great new books coming out that celebrate Easter.  We’re Going on an Egg Hunt, illustrated by Laura Hughes, promotes deduction and hand-eye skills for our littlest readers, even as it thrills them with beautiful illustrations.  Bill Cotter’s Don’t Push the Button: an Easter Surprise is an interactive story that introduces children to the concept of antici…pation with each turn of the page.  And for something with a Canadian flavor, look for Tiny the Toronto Easter Bunny by Eric James.  When the Easter bunny becomes stuck, Tiny must deliver treats to Toronto, but discovers than an elephant trying to fill a bunny’s shoes is a little harder than it seems.

 

In Australia, given that rabbits are an invasive species, there’s been a push to make the Easter bunny an Easter bilby, one of the few native Australian animals that probably doesn’t want to destroy humans.  Probably.  Those interested in learning more about the bilby can check out Bilby: Secrets of an Australian Marsupial by Edel Wignell.

 

Back to rabbits, many people get a little caught up in the bunny craze around Easter and start thinking they should get one for their kids as a pet.  However, rabbits – like all creatures – should be bought or adopted as a family decision, not as an impulse purchase.  Rabbits can live a decade or more and need social interaction, exercise, and a healthy diet to stay as happy as possible.  Capstone’s Caring for Rabbits can help children understand how to take care of their new pet, and for adults there’s Skyhorse’s Raising Happy Rabbits.  For bunnies and their humans who might need to learn how to relax a little, there’s the delightful, mindful Yoga Bunny by Brian Russo.

 

For those who don’t want the actual responsibility of owning a rabbit, many places open their petting zoos around Easter, where you can not only interact with rabbits, but sheep, goats, ponies, and even llamas or alpacas.  Many cities and communities offer Easter egg hunts, and for those of us without children, there’s the traditional Tuesday hunt for half-price chocolate.  Whether taking the kids out or getting together with the family for a feast (lamb is traditional), Easter is a season for new beginnings and new plans.

 

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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There is little Canadians like to talk about more than the weather. And for good reason: those of us in Ontario have seen snow squalls with 50km/h winds, +10 degree weather and everything melting, showers, and a freezing rain system that shut down universities, major roads and even some libraries. All within the past two weeks! Of course we want to talk about this craziness!

 

According to a 2014 report from Influence Communications, news stories in Canada were 229% more likely to focus on the weather than anywhere else in the world.  The biggest reason behind this is that we are an enormous country with varying climates; where the Maritimes might get a blizzard, southern Ontario might be completely clear and Vancouver probably has rain.

 

Regular weather doesn’t usually get that much attention, but we do love reading and talking about extreme weather and natural disasters.  With the advent of social media, we’re able to get weather updates in real time from both professional meteorologists and storm hunters, and from people all over the country.  Of course, this also means every time Toronto gets a snowstorm, someone brings up the army digging them out (dear rest of the country: get over it).

 

Personally I love a good storm, though as a nervous driver I prefer a summer thunderstorm over ice and snow.  There’s something almost energizing about stormy weather and seeing the power of nature.  This has also led to watching a number of terrible disaster movies (Geostorm, I’m looking at you) but I don’t hold it against the weather.

 

Of course, bad weather brings with it dangerous conditions and storm safety is important to know, especially for kids.  In July, Beech Street Books will release a series of books on disasters and storm safety, focused specifically on Canada.  Books in the series include Snow and Ice Storms, Tornadoes, and Floods.  Although spring is approaching (allegedly…) natural disasters can occur at any time of year.

 

We get help from man’s best friend when dealing with some disasters and nasty weather.  In the mountains of British Columbia, dogs are trained to help first responders rescue people trapped in avalanches.  One of these dogs is Henry the Border Collie, who works with a team based in Whistler.  When not searching for avalanche victims, he also helps clear both black bears and Canada geese away from inhabited areas.

 

Although our winter weather gets a lot of attention, our summer weather can bring both thunderstorms and tornadoes, mostly in the stretch between Saskatchewan and Quebec.  Manitoba has the distinction of Canada’s first (and so far, only) F5 tornado, Elie in 2007.  I was in Toronto during the 2009 tornado outbreak that saw two tornadoes touch down in Vaughan; although I was safely in North York at the time, I still remember just how black the sky was and how strong the lightning and winds. And last year, Ottawa was surprised by a disastrous tornado that they are still feeling the effects of.

 

We all saw Twister and, bellowing tornadoes and flying cows aside, the movie had some decent storm science in it.  DOROTHY was based off the 1980s TOTO project, and storm chasers really do exist (and run tours).  Tornado science has continued to improve, and in 2003 scientists in South Dakota were able to deploy instruments to study the interior of a tornado for the first time.  This increased knowledge can help meteorologists and weather scientists predict dangerous storms sooner, potentially saving lives.

 

One of these scientists is Robin Tanamachi, featured in the book Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms. Tanamachi and her team spend their summers driving around the United States heartland in a Doppler radar truck, chasing tornadoes.  The data she and other storm chasers collect is modelled on computers, improving our collective knowledge of how, when, and where tornadoes happen.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t talk about the weather and natural disasters without also touching on climate change.  Climate change brings unpredictable weather, which means an increase in extreme conditions.  Recent evidence indicates that our trouble with the dreaded polar vortex over the past few years can be attributed to climate change; specifically that the increasing warmth in the Arctic is upsetting the jet stream, causing it to kink – and bring that cold Arctic air down to the rest of us.

 

Kids (or adults; no judgment) can learn more about climate change with PowerKids Press’s Climate Change, part of the Spotlight on Weather and Natural Disasters series.  Staying informed is the best way to combat any issue, whether it affects our entire world or just how many layers one should put on when leaving in the morning.

 

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 few months ago, I decided to learn how to cook.  Although I grew up with a mother who went to culinary school, my family is both British and (according to my mother) peasants.  This meant a lot of simple meals without a lot of seasoning beyond salt.  I’m not blaming my mom (especially since she’s probably reading this); both my parents worked and myself and my brother were, shall we say, a touch picky.  It just means that most of my meals growing up were the basics.

 

When I moved out at 19, I still didn’t have much interest in cooking.  It took time and dirtied dishes and what the heck was a shallot anyway.  The list of foods I didn’t like was also much longer than the list of foods I did, and included most vegetables.  This was fine in my twenties, sort of, but now I’m getting older and fast food is not only expensive but doesn’t seem all that satisfying anymore.

 

I started cooking using a food delivery service, which sends me the ingredients for recipes I’ve chosen from their list.  It means I actually have to use my dishes (and then wash them) but the food comes pre-portioned and all I really have to do is chop it and throw it in a pan or oven tray.  Which is usually about the point that I remember I have no sense of timing and run back and forth in my kitchen trying to keep things from burning.

 

The biggest benefit of learning how to cook is that I’m trying new foods.  I used to hate onions, but honestly, they’re not that bad mixed in with other stuff.  I’ve discovered jicama, pilafs, spinach-ricotta meatballs, and learned that a shallot is a type of onion related to my favourite herb, garlic.  I still find mushrooms mildly horrifying and tomatoes give me heartburn, but I’m willing to try almost anything that isn’t too spicy.

 

I’m also incorporating what I’ve learned via the food delivery recipes into buying my own groceries.  Fortunately cooking is more forgiving than baking (I’m not entirely sure that food created using math can be trusted) and I’m not subjecting anyone else to my creations.  This means that I might actually have to look at some cookbooks, especially those with quick and easy recipes.

 

Although I live alone, I like to make big meals so that I have plenty of leftovers for lunches at work and those evenings where I haven’t actually washed the dishes yet and just want to stick something in the microwave.  Cookbooks with family recipes, like The Super Big Book of Easy, Delicious, & Healthy Recipes the Whole Family Will Love!: 500+ Recipes You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less, are usually geared towards making enough food for 3-4 people so I don’t have to do any math to expand a recipe only meant for one person.

 

Even better, there’s been a trend lately towards meals cooked using a minimum amount of dishes, which is perfect for someone who likes to pretend her kitchen sink doesn’t exist.  Canadian Living offers a cookbook called Essential One-Dish Favourites, which has the added bonus of shopping tips for when I realize that jicama is available at approximately one store 20 minutes out of my way.

 

I might be in my thirties now, but there’s still some benefit to looking at cookbooks geared towards the college and university market.  They don’t get too fancy and they assume you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, so you don’t have to go ask Google what it means to ‘mince’ something.  How to Feed Yourself from Spoon University has recipes that are simple, low-budget, and include a giant PB&J cup.

 

It’s fine with me if I never become a great cook with the ability to wow dinner guests.  I’m just happy to make some food that I look forward to eating, even if my mom complains that I use too much garlic (no such thing).  I’ve even asked for some cooking tools for Christmas, which I think might make me an actual real adult now (also no such thing).  I’m expanding my horizons, eating way more veggies, and discovering spices, and that’s good enough for me.

 

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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I’ve been riding horses since I was thirteen. By the time I was seventeen, I had convinced my mom to go halves on a horse. I had visions of a trained show pony, preferably black as coal, who never spooked and did everything I asked. Instead, I got Riff Raff. 

 

While he’s actually (mostly) named for the Rocky Horror Picture Show character, the name also fit him as an unwanted baby from Alberta, brought to Ontario to be sold to the African Lion Safari for food. At first, I didn’t want him either.  He was unbroke, spooky, and somewhat ugly with his big heavy head and giant donkey ears.  I wanted a horse I could get on and ride, not an uncut stallion terrified of the little white Shetland pony he shared a field with.  I remember bringing him into the stall the first time (after spending 20 minutes catching him) and being really angry at him for his antsy behaviour.

 

To see him, Riff looks similar to the horse featured on the cover of Scholastic’s upcoming Horses: the Definitive Catalog of Horse and Pony Breeds.  Inside are some horse breeds that even I’m not that familiar with, despite spending the past 20 years around horses in some capacity.  Everyone remotely interested in horses (which I’m pretty sure is all of us, at least those of us who were once little girls) knows about the Chincoteague, but there are plenty of other wild island ponies, including the Eriskay from Scotland, the Padang from Indonesia, and the Skyros from Greece.

 

Canada also has its own horse, called – shockingly – the Canadian (or French Canadian) Horse.  Before their popularity waned in the 1970s, there were three types of Canadian Horses: the Canadian Heavy Draft or St. Lawrence; the Frencher (also sometimes called the St. Lawrence for maximum confusion); and the Canadian Pacer.  The Pacer was known for being able to race on ice, which probably means it should replace the beaver as our national animal.

 

The Canadian Pacer is thought to have influenced a number of breeds in the United States, including the Tennessee Walker, a horse well-known for its unique gaited walk; the American Saddlebred; and the Standardbred.  Riff currently lives in a small herd with a Standardbred mare named Elly and Elly’s daughter, Raina. 

 

Standardbreds are best known for their harness racing, and Elly was in a few races in her youth, meaning she’s trained to pull a sulky or buggy.  She didn’t do very well, possibly because she’s somewhat bad-tempered and uncoordinated.  When leading Elly somewhere, watch your toes; she tends to fling her feet off to the sides.  She and Riff are both approaching 20 years old, so she’s mellowed somewhat.

 

I’ve had Riff for 14 years now.  Once he was gelded and given some attention, he blossomed into one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever known.  When he's feeling good, he plays keepaway in the field: he waits until I get almost close enough to put his halter on, then trots off a good distance before turning back to watch me try to approach him again. He’s good-natured and patient, though that doesn’t mean he won’t buck me off if I deserve it.  And he did, finally, grow into his ears.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. 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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I would jump at the chance to have a pet dinosaur.  Despite five movies (and counting) focused on just why this would be a terrible idea, there’s still something appealing about it.  I already share my space with a miniature panther; a chicken-sized dinosaur would probably be just as happy to sleep under a pile of blankets on the couch.  Whether it and my easily offended cat would get along is a different concern.

 

Dinosaurs capture the imaginations of people of all ages.  Whether these creatures are searching for the Great Valley, solving crimes with Whoopi Goldberg, or just a pile of bones in a museum, there’s something incredibly appealing about these ‘terrible lizards.’  Especially those large enough to tower over people.

 

Of course, I could have a pet dinosaur.  They just go by a different name now: birds.  Anyone who’s dealt with swans, geese, or particularly aggressive roosters would likely spot the similarities to their ancestors.  Swans and geese are large enough to cause a person damage; just ask the Cambridge University rowers in the UK who had run-ins with Mr. Asbo and his descendants, Asboy and Asbaby.  Chickens may be smaller, but I can personally attest that those beaks are sharp and the spurs on a rooster’s legs can cut skin when they attack you from behind - like the bane of my farm existence, my parents’ Polish rooster, Tolliver.

 

Still, the idea of owning a bird is different from the idea of owning a creature ten, twenty, thirty times bigger, with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth and claws to match.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still want a pet dinosaur; I just reluctantly acknowledge a pet T. rex would probably be dangerous.  No matter how much I might want to sic it on the pickups tailgating me on my daily commute.  T. rex has always been my favourite and the history of its fossils is fascinating to dive into.

 

The largest, best preserved T. rex fossil found to date is FMNH PR 2081, commonly known as SUE.  Discovered in August 1990 by Sue Hendrickson, SUE the T. rex spent most of the 1990s at the center of a legal dispute over ownership of their bones.  SUE was eventually purchased for $8.3 million by the Field Museum in Chicago, and still resides there.  SUE can be followed on Twitter @SUEtheTrex (where they declare not only their nonbinary status but also that they’re a LARGE M U R D E R B I R D and who hasn’t felt that way every now and then) and had a documentary made about them in 2014 called Dinosaur 13, available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Although possibly the most famous of the fossils under ownership dispute, SUE isn’t the only one.  In 2012, a fossil collector named Eric Prokopi brought a tarbosaurus skeleton from Mongolia to the UK.  It was later sold in New York for $1 million, but the Mongolian government halted the sale with the complaint that their Constitution declared all dinosaur fossils to be culturally significant and illegal to remove without government permission.

 

Prokopi was charged and convicted - via a guilty plea - of multiple counts of felonious smuggling.  This not only caused the return of the disputed tarbosaurus skeleton, but also the return of more than 18 other fossils; enough that Mongolia was able to open a new dinosaur museum in Ulaanbaatar.  The case was the subject of a 2014 article written by Paige Williams for The New Yorker: “The Black Market for Dinosaurs.”

 

Four years later, Williams has published a book diving more deeply into both the case and the world surrounding it.  The Dinosaur Artist is a combination of paleontology and true crime, exploring the fine line between the advancement of our scientific knowledge and the private collectors’ market.  These collectors pay high prices to claim these bones, in part as a status symbol, but maybe also driven by the same desire I have: to keep a dinosaur as a pet.  By doing so, however, collectors prevent the fossils from being studied and hinder our knowledge about these ancient, magnificent animals.

 

I know that I’ll never have a pet dinosaur.  Even if we were able to bring them back, it’s unlikely that dinosaurs would ever be classified as pets, easily adoptable from the local Humane Society.  Regular lizards – geckos, iguanas, bearded dragons – require specialized care as it is.  And despite the increasing population of urban chickens, city councils would probably draw the line at urban dinosaurs.  Even the small ones.  The idea is still fun to fantasize about, however, and as long as there are books, movies, and novelty T-shirts keeping dinosaurs alive, I’ll be waiting in line.

 

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter.  To keep up to date with all of our services and other information, we encourage you to subscribe to our Green Memo, sent weekly.  And finally, come back to this site each and every week for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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