Novel revisits doomed ocean liner
THIS year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, in which 1,012 people died, more than on either the Titanic (832) or the Lusitania (791). In Unspeakable, her new young adult novel (Razorbill/Penguin, 288 pages, $16, paperback), Ottawa writer Caroline Pignat recounts this tragedy from the viewpoint of Ellie Ryan, a stewardess on the doomed ocean liner. By concentrating not on the sinking but on Ellie’s search for Jim, the young stoker she met onboard, we’re immediately drawn into the mystery of what really happened when the boat capsized. Both Ellie and Jim have past secrets they try to hide, and it’s only when a journalist from the New York Times approaches Ellie, offering to trade Jim’s journal for an account of her experiences, that we learn the truth. Pignat won the Governor General’s Award for young adult fiction in 2009 for Greener Grass. She shows her expertise in painting a dramatic picture in her description of the ramming and flooding of the Empress of Ireland. Good for ages 12 and up. What if you have written to an imaginary friend for years, and suddenly find she is a real person? This is the intriguing plot of Becky Citra’s latest juvenile novel, Finding Grace (Second Story Press, 176 pages, $10, paperback). Citra lives in B.C. and has written more than 18 books for children. Her novel After the Fire won the reader’s choice Red Cedar Award while a second book, Missing, was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Mystery Fiction prize. Hope is 10 years old and lives with her single mother and grandmother; they’ve had to move so often that Hope doesn’t try to fit in. When her grandmother dies, Hope wonders how they’ll survive, but when she follows up on an address on a parcel to her grandma, it takes them to the town of Harrison Hot Springs and an unexpected discovery. Is it possible that Grace, her imaginary friend, is not only real, but the twin that Hope always longed for? Set in the 1950s, Finding Grace is a story of a family without hope finding healing, faith and meaning. Including both danger and drama, it will appeal to readers ages 8-11, particularly young girls. Ted Harrison’s paintings have enlivened the pages of many picture books and graced the walls of art collectors all over the world. In A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison (Pajama Press, 40 pages, $23, hardcover), B.C. authors Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson not only tell the story of the artist’s life but provide a stunning sampling of his work. While Harrison was born in England and worked in Malaysia and New Zealand before emigrating to Canada, he found his true home in Canada’s North. A show in Whitehorse, Yukon, in 1971 displaying his unique style of bold colours, dramatic landscapes and playful depiction of northern living launched his fame as the “Yukon Artist.” His illustrated treatment of two of Robert Service’s famous poems, The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee, are among his most well-known books. Pink moose, red and blue dogs, sledding under a blood-red sky and strolling against a brilliant background of northern lights are all part of Harrison’s artwork. Gibson spent four years interviewing Harrison before co-authoring this book plus her adult biography, Ted Harrison: Painting Paradise. Ruurs, who runs a book lover’s bed and breakfast on Salt Spring Island, has written 26 books for children. This is a book that will be appreciated by art lovers of all ages. Helen Norrie has worked as a teacher/ librarian and an instructor in children’s literature at the University of Manitoba.