The Spring 2014 Playlist (or, More Music to Read By)

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The Spring 2014 list from Anansi and Groundwood looks nothing short of fantastic. Editorial Assistant Suzanne and erstwhile Sales Assistant Eva have teamed up once again to choose a few of the books and put together a playlist full of songs that remind us of these fantastic stories. They can be enjoyed while you read, or can be experienced on their own. What other songs would you pick to go along with these amazing books?


El NiñoEl Niño by Nadia Bozak

Available May 2014

Inspired by J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, El Niño tracks the survival of one woman and a young, undocumented migrant as they journey through the no-man’s-land of a remote southwestern desert.

These are the songs we’d want to hear on a lone desert road.

  • Make it Rain by Tom Waits | 
  • Higgs Boson Blues by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds |  (shout-out to Neil Turok, author of Universe Within)
  • Woman King by Iron and Wine | 
  • The Desert is on Fire by Murder by Death | 

Birding with YeatsBirding with Yeats by Lynn Thomson

Available May, 2014

A delicately rendered memoir on motherhood, family, and the beauty of the natural world.

Check out a few of our favourite birdish tunes.

  • Rooster Moans by Iron and Wine | 
  • Fly by Nick Drake | 
  • Pulling our Weight by the Radio Dept. | 
  • Backyard by The Good Lovelies | 

Based on a True StoryBased on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti

Available June, 2014

Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti’s debut novel is a hilarious look at what happens when a washed-out celebrity and a tabloid reporter go on a wild trans-Atlantic road trip in search of revenge on a former boyfriend.

Serving up some sweet tunes with an ’80s twist and a generous shot of revenge.

  • Jump (For My Love) by the Pointer Sisters | 
  • Back to Black by Amy Winehouse | 
  • Bang Bang (My Baby Shot me Down) by Nancy Sinatra | 

This One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Available May, 2014

The highly anticipated following up to Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s award-winning graphic novel Skim is an investigation into the mysterious world of adults through the eyes of Rose and Windy, two summer friends at Awago Beach.

Everyone loves a summer song — here are a few of our favourites.

  • Animal Tracks by Mountain Man | 
  • Abducted by Cults | 
  • Boyfriend by Best Coast | 
  • Saturday Morning by Eels | 

The Tweedles Go ElectricThe Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Marie Lafrance

Available March, 2014

Meet the Tweedles: Papa, Mama, daughter Frances and her brother, Francis. It’s the dawn of a new century — the twentieth century! — and the Tweedles have decided to buy a car. But no gas-guzzler for this modern family. Only an electric car will do for them.

The Tweedles aren’t the only ones who’ve gone electric!

  • Odessa by Caribou | 
  • Boy from School by Hot Chip | 
  • Honey by Moby | 

Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Available February, 2014

Literature’s most endearing rabbits are back in this sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire! While the Bunnys’ human friend, Madeline, worries about saving money for college, Mrs. Bunny is more concerned about how to become a queen.

Here are some sweetly twee but driving hits for our favourite literary bunnies (though maybe we should have included more hip hop?).Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!

  • Paperback Writer by the Beatles | 
  • Don’t Stop me Now by Queen | 
  • Girls and Boys in Love by the Rumble Strips | 

New year, new look for Groundwood Books

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Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

I’m a big fan of new beginnings. I still buy all new pens and notebooks at back-to-school time; I look forward for months to the first day of summer; I celebrate all major (or not-so-major) birthdays; and, of course, I believe it’s important to pay attention to the start of a new year. And this year, Groundwood feels especially full of new things that are worth attention.

As always, we are publishing new books — from authors and illustrators we have been proud to work with over many years, and also from creators who are new to Groundwood. Another new thing — and it’s a big thing — is that this season we are launching a new logo for the company. It will appear on all our books and print materials, on our website (more about what’s new with that below!) and in all the digital spaces that we increasingly occupy.

It is no small thing to create a new identity for a company as well-known and well-regarded as Groundwood, and the process of arriving at our new look took many months and involved many people. Historically, only the word “Groundwood” has appeared on our books — in effect, we have been a company without a logo and without a fixed identity, and while there is an understated confidence behind that approach, I believe that for the new environments where books are found and talked about, we need a single logo, one that will work on picture books as well as young adult fiction, playful books as well as serious ones, slender book spines as well as large banners — and in Twitter feeds as well as on business cards. Our goal was to create a logo that reflects our publishing philosophy, one that is flexible, curious, intelligent, and not entirely mainstream. I believe this is what we have achieved with the help of designer David Gee.

The new Groundwood logo will appear prominently on our new website, which will launch in the spring. If you want access to our full catalogue, you can still visit houseofanansi.com, but if you want a sneak preview of what our new website will look like, as well as information about all our Spring 2014 books, please go to our new microsite, which can be found at groundwoodbooks.com. Groundwood blog posts can be found at groundwoodbooks.com/blog from now on. I very much hope that you will like what you find there!

Hold Fast: the story of a Canadian classic

The evolution of the cover of Hold Fast. On the left is the 1978 Clarke Irwin edition; followed by the 1995 edition published by Stoddart Kids; then the 25th anniversary Groundwood update; and on the right, the 35th anniversary movie tie-in edition.

The evolution of the cover of Hold Fast. On the left is the 1978 Clarke Irwin edition; followed by the 1995 edition published by Stoddart Kids; then the 25th anniversary Groundwood version; and on the right, the 35th anniversary movie tie-in edition.

Thirty-five years ago, I got my first real job, as an editorial assistant at a now-defunct publishing company called Clarke Irwin. The salary was $6,000 a year, and I worked in a little cubbyhole where I spent a lot of time wrestling with carbon paper and Wite-Out, typing address labels on an old manual typewriter, and rejecting manuscripts.

My biggest job perk was that I got to read the slush pile. Clarke Irwin was mainly an educational publisher, but it had started to get into trade books, including children’s books.

One of the manuscripts that came across my desk was a young adult novel written by a schoolteacher in Newfoundland. The novel was called Hold Fast. I was knocked out by it. I sent it on to the Powers That Be, and the decision was made to publish it.

That’s when I was assigned the best task in publishing. I got to tell the author that we wanted to publish his book.

I phoned Kevin Major. He was very nice. Very polite. We talked for a short while and both said goodbye. But in that second as I was putting down the receiver, I heard him on the other end of the line, shouting with joy just before he hung up the phone. I think he screamed “Wahoo!”

An illustration from Hold Fast

An illustration from the first edition of Hold Fast

That was the start. For Kevin it was the beginning of a stellar writing career, with fifteen books, a heap of awards and publication around the world.

For me? Hold Fast was my introduction to YA books, and it spoiled me for anything else. That book taught me everything I needed to know about voice and authenticity, about character-driven stories, about sense of place, about making readers feel something. After that, I knew I wanted to edit books for young readers, and I’ve spent the rest of my own career doing so, with Hold Fast setting the bar.

Kevin? Are you out there? Do you remember that Wahoo moment? It’s been thirty-five years. Can you believe it?

Shelley Tanaka is an award-winning author, editor and translator. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.


Now Hold Fast is a major motion picture produced by Rock Island Productions. The movie premiers in Canada on Friday, December 6th in St. John’s and Halifax. The national release will be in 2014. If you’re a lucky east-coaster, we hope you’ll check it out. The rest of us will have to make due with the trailer for now.

Music to Read By

EvaandSuzanneAlthough we make very good books around here at Anansi and Groundwood, we also spend a lot of time thinking and talking about music. Several members of our staff are musicians, and others have headphones plugged at their desks around the clock.

Stemming from a conversation on Twitter, Eva O’Brien (Sales Assistant) and Suzanne Sutherland (Editorial Assistant) decided it was time for some Anansi and Groundwood-themed playlists to emerge.

These books are some in-house favourites and these songs are what we think the characters might have listened to (ignoring time, location and access to technology almost entirely). We hope you enjoy!


978-1-77089-259-0The Outlander by Gil Adamson

In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand. Two vengeful brothers and a pack of bloodhounds track her across the western wilderness.  Gil Adamson’s extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist — the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck young woman.


978-0-88784-234-4Holding Still for As Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall

What is it like to grow into adulthood with the war on terror as your defining political memory, with SARS and Hurricane Katrina as your backdrop? In this robust, elegantly plotted, and ultimately life-affirming novel, Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling portrait of a generation we’ve rarely seen in literature — the twenty-five-year olds who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text-messaging each other truncated emotional reactions, unsure of what’s public and what’s private.


978-0-88899-753-1Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth stuck in a private girls’ school in Toronto. When a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself because he was rumoured to be gay, the school goes into mourning overdrive, each clique trying to find something to hold on to and something to believe in. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s high school, and that’s what happens to Skim when she starts to meet in secret with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer.


Is there a song that reminds you of your favourite book? Tell us about it and while you’re at it, find us on Twitter @houseofanansi, @sutherlandsuz & @evakmo.

Girls with Grit: read the winning story!

Phoebe by Maya LannenGroundwood Books’ Girls With Grit novels share real girls’ voices, and their stories, from North America and around the world. In these books, ordinary girls overcome obstacles, make their voices heard, and stand up for what they believe in.

Groundwood’s partnership with Figment was driven by the desire to seek out stories written by teens that reflected their view of the world — demonstrating that every girl is capable of amazing feats of grit.
Figment and Groundwood received hundreds of entries to their Girls with Grit contest, but one very unique story stood out from the rest. Phoebe is that unique story.

Told from the point of view of a young woman at odds with her own mind, Phoebe demonstrates the power of friendship and personal strength to overcome great obstacles.
Groundwood is proud to present this special e-book edition of Maya Lannen’s Phoebe.

Download it here!

Read more about the contests and our finalists.

Marie-Louise Gay on her first day of school

Marie-Louise Gay as a girlI was gripping my mother’s hand when we arrived at the door to the kindergarten. My baby sister held on to my mother’s other hand, sobbing loudly and dragging her feet. She had been scared to death by the smiling crossing guard who said hello to her. You would have thought he had bitten her.

We had walked all the way from the motel where we had been living for a month. We had moved from Montreal to Oakville, Ontario for my father’s new job, but my parents couldn’t find an affordable apartment. So we were living temporarily in a tiny white decrepit cabin, part of the Miracle Motel complex on the outskirts of Oakville. The miracle was that the four of us could live, sleep and eat in one small, unheated room with a kitchenette.  My sister and I slept on the couch, my parents on the foldout bed. All our toys and books were in storage so we mostly played on the stoop with rocks and twigs. We were the sole guests of the motel. The days were long and boring. I missed my friends in Montreal.

So, as you can imagine, I had been waiting impatiently for this first day of school. My mother kept telling me how wonderful it would be: I would make friends, sing songs, draw pictures and read books. There would be new games and new toys. There was a playground where I would play tag, jump rope and play hopscotch with all my new friends. We went shopping for a new dress, new shoes, a pink schoolbag and a Babar lunchbox. I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before.

We entered the kindergarten room. A big light-filled colorful room with children’s drawings taped all over the walls, shelves of books and mountains of toys. There were children playing, laughing, running. A tall smiling lady came over and talked with my mother, then bent down to talk to me. Meaningless sounds came out of her mouth. I strained to hear. More meaningless sounds. Puzzled, I looked at my mother, who laughed and said, “Voici ton professeur Madame Jennifer. Elle parle anglais.”

My mother had forgotten to mention one small thing: I would be starting school in English. I had never heard a word of English in my life. “Ne t’en fais pas, tu apprendras vite”— Don’t worry, you will learn English very quickly — said my mother as she kissed and hugged me tight. “Je reviens bientôt.” She left, pulling my sobbing sister after her.

I stood by the door. The colors drained out of the room. I felt cold. All the children seemed to stare at me. They knew that I couldn’t speak their language. This wasn’t going to be wonderful at all. I carefully put my new Babar lunchbox on the floor and stiffly turned my back to the class. Through the window I could see my mother walking quickly down the street with my sister in her arms. They got smaller and smaller, then disappeared into the distance.

“How long does it take to learn a new language?” I asked myself. I knew that if I didn’t move I would be invisible. But someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned slowly. A fat girl in a pink dress wearing sparkly blue glasses smiled at me and took my hand. She gently pulled me to the carpet where all the children sat in a circle. I sat down next to her. The children started singing a song in the language I did not understand. After a while I hummed along. The fat girl with the sparkly blue glasses smiled at me.

I hummed louder.


978-1-55498-216-5Marie-Louise Gay is a world-renowned author and illustrator of children’s books. She has won many prestigious awards, including the Governor General’s Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Her books have been translated into more than fifteen languages. Visit Marie-Louise Gay’s website.

Browse our blog for back-to-school blog posts from Groundwood authors running from August 15th. Everyone at Groundwood hopes that this school year will bring someone to take your hand.

The big unveil: our Girls with Grit contest cover

Groundwood Books’ Girls With Grit novels share real girls’ voices, and their stories, from North America and around the world. In these books, ordinary girls overcome obstacles, make their voices heard, and stand up for what they believe in.

In 2012, Groundwood partnered  with Figment, an online community for people who love to share their writing, connect with others who like to read, and discover new stories and authors. This partnership was driven by the desire to seek out stories written by teens that reflected their view of the world — demonstrating that every girl is capable of amazing feats of grit.

Figment and Groundwood received hundreds of entries to their Girls with Grit contest, but one stood out from the rest. Told from the point of view of a young woman at odds with her own mind, Phoebe demonstrates how friendship and personal strength can be harnessed to allow a person to overcome great obstacles.

Groundwood is proud to present the cover for Maya Lannen’s Phoebe. Watch our blog for a special e-book edition of Maya’s story, available next week.

Phoebe by Maya Lannen