Famous or Infamous

December 19, 2017


so many books

This is the most wonderful time of the year … like the song and in the bookstores!

Did you know, the Iceland Publishers Association distributes a free catalogue of books to every Icelandic home. And people go crazy with excitement.

According to an article on BBC News, there are more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, in Iceland than anywhere else in the world. One out of every 10 Icelanders will publish one book in their lifetime!

Jólabókaflóðið is Icelandic for “The book flood of Christmas”, say it with me: yo-la-bok-a-flot.

Every year since 2014 on The Morning Show I have tied my big red bow around a pile of books and said how easy books are to wrap because of great covers & also so fast to unwrap & start reading!!

This year, I have a dilemma. I have an embarassment of extraordinary books and I can’t decide which ones to talk about on-air so as a first step to making a decision, I am writing about ALL of them!

For the youngest in your family, I love this stocking stuffer. MY FIRST ANIMALS are Touch and Feel Picture Cards that promises to give your toddler a head start with 16 colourful cards with photographs and textures to engage children. There are prompts and word translations on the back of each card that will prompt a conversation. Additionally a parent guide includes creative learning games inside a sturdy Velcro closure box.

“These unique textured cards encourage children to learn key concepts as they look, play and talk.” – Geraldine Taylor, Educational Consultant

Furthermore, each card includes the name of the animal in four extra languages including: Spanish, French, German and Chinese.


Since I visited CELA (Centre for Equitable Library Access) in the summer of 2016 on a Cycling for Librairies tour, I’ve been tuned in to audiobooks and the books in DK Canada Braille series. COUNTING is for children 2-5 years old.


This is a series of high-quality, custom books with braille and tactile images for blind and partially sighted children, or sighted children with blind parents. DK Braille books combine uncontracted Unified English Braille and large type with high-contrast colors, embossed images, and tactile cutout shapes for children to feel with their fingers. The combination of text alongside the braille enables sighted parents to share the reading experience with visually impaired children, and for sighted children to share with their visually impaired parents.


This is a unique refugee story of a young boy. There is an innocence, loss, courage, resilience and hope that resonates within these pages.

TEACUP by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley is the most exquisite picture book. It has a lyrical text, stunning artwork and an inspiring tale of a boy who must leave his home to find another. In this times when so many have left their countries to find a new home in Canada, readers young and old are offered a picture book offering advice that they can weather the journeys of life.


TOKYO DIGS A GARDEN by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka reminds us that “gardens have to grow somewhere, after all.” Take the time to read this thoughtful and inspiring 21st century fable as you listen to the sounds of automobile or train traffic outside your window and consider what you’d do with three seeds.


There’s a new animated feature in the theatres but may I suggest, giving this adorable book & toy set for any occasion! THE STORY OF FERDINAND by Munro Leaf with drawings by Rober Lawson is a perfect combination of story and art. It’s a “little lesson’ that was written during the Spanish Civil War but is as true today. Ferdinand is more than a symbol of peace, but an icon for the outsider and bullied.

Did you know, the book’s first run by Viking Press in 1936 sold 14,000 copies at $1 each. The following year saw sales increase to 68,000 and by 1938, the book was selling at 3,000 per week. That year, it outsold Gone with the Wind to become the number one best seller in the United States!


13 ½ INCREDIBLE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EVERYTHING has more than 1,000 amazing facts! For booklovers, check out the Spread the Word section with 13 facts. The extra ½ is debunking or further explaining what we think we know.

“You might have heard that normal pens do not work in space, but astronauts don’t use pencils either. If the pencil lead broke it could be dangerous – floating into a piece of machinery or someone’s eye. Specially designed pens are used instead.”

I think this is a great family book and will engage any reluctant readers. It’ll launch young minds into space and explore new topics with ease!

Teachers also love it! Heidi from Vancouver says “There are so many facts in this book that will amaze me and my students - for instance astronauts don’t use normal pens in space. I can see this book sparking inquiries in my classroom. My students love DK books. The visuals are stunning. They become immersed when opening a cover & I hear lots of oohs & ahs.”


THE BOOK OF DUST by bestselling author Philip Pullman. I have to recommend the beautiful hardcover edition for your bookshelf but also the audio version read by Michael Sheen.

In case you didn’t know, audio increases reading accuracy by 52% and improves comprehension by 76%. Additionally, children who are better listeners are also better learners.

Back to the book in whatever format you choose to read or listen to it, this has been a long anticipated book from Pullman as he returns to the world of Lyra Belacqua and his dark materials in a thrilling and epic novel.

Pullman was asked if this was a prequel, to which he gave the perfect answer, calling it an “equel” - not prequel or sequel – and is the first volume in a new trilogy starting with La Belle Sauvage.


WOMEN & POWER – A Manifesto by Mary Beard is a timely book for everyone to read. Beard has addressed in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over.

She presents in her most powerful statement yet, tracing the origins of misogyny to their ancient roots and uses examples as far back as Homer’s Odyssey.

With personal reflections on her own experiences with sexism, Beard asks: “If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power,is it power itself we need to redefine?” And how many more centuries should we be expected to wait?


THE INDISPUTABLE EXISTENCE OF SANTA CLAUS The Mathematics of Christmas by Dr. Hannah Fry & Dr. Thomas Oleron Evans is a festive journey through the pitfalls of a traditional holiday season. This equation is lighthearted and will brighten up a winter’s day with mathematical marvels.

Questions like:

Can you set up a mathematically perfect Secret Santa at the office holiday party?

How do you symmetrically trim your Christmas tree?

AND the best one …How to win at Monopoly.

Math has never been merrier.


Brimming with charm and humour, often at Dave’s expense, these twelve stories entertain on every page, with CHRISTMAS AT THE VINYL CAFE by Stuart McLean.

In his final months, Stuart had begun talking about “the next book. It made us so happy because we were reminded that Stuart didn’t want the little world he created, the Vinyl Cafe, to end when he did. Neither do we. For that reason, we couldn’t be happier to celebrate Stuart’s life and work with this book. And we hope you enjoy this collection as much as we do. – long suffering story editor Meg Master and Vinyl Cafe producer Jess Milton RIP Stuart McLean 1948-2017


Are you overwhelmed with book ideas? Need a respite under the hot sun with an umbrella? Look no further than BROLLIOGY which is a surprising history of the umbrella! Brolliology is an actual word meaning “the study of umbrellas” and Marion Rankine covers that and much more! Illustrations, inspired literature, philosophy and filmmaking … you’ll never look at an umbrella in the same way again! AND you’ll have such terrific trivia to use like … the umbrella appears over 120 times in Dickens’ work.

“The histories on the bookshelf are joined by social analyses, such as Dickens’s inquiry into the conditions of umbrella manufacture, and contemporary studies of sartorial sign language. And this is before we open the floodgates to painting, poetry and fiction.” review from The Guardian.

You only appreciate an umbrella when you don’t have one.



To finish the year, here’s some 2017 statistics I found interesting … did you know, 14% of all books purchased were bought as gifts.

Of those, 21% were purchased as Christmas gifts as per BookNet Canada.

Perennial bestsellers based on their findings included these titles that have sold consistently over the last five years in Canadian bookstores:

1491 by Charles C. Mann Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker … you know this is one of my favourites!! On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman ABC of Canada by Kim Bellefontaine How to Brew by John J Palmer Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

I’d love to know what books for gifts you purchased this year!

Happy holidays to you and yours,

Janet Joy

By the way, WHY did I call this blog Famous or Infamous?

BECAUSE a brilliant brooklyn book publisher, Melville House, wrote about me and a wee free book idea I had on their incomparable website leaving me gobsmacked and speechless for a couple of minutes!!

Will I become famous or infamous … the jury is out.

created by robertson mcclure