Canada Day Book Giveaway!

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed.

It’s Canada Day on July 1, and along with a host of other Canada-based  bloggers, I’m giving away a Canada-themed book to mark the day. Huzzah!

I’m giving away the acclaimed YA novel Karma (2011), by Calgary-based author Cathy Ostlere. Karma is a 2012 Canadian Library Honour book, a 2012 Booklist Editor’s Choice, a 2012 South Asia Book Award, Highly Commended Book, and is shortlisted for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award.

About the book: Fifteen-year-old Maya and her father Amar arrive from their home in Canada into a seething moment in India’s history.  On October 31, 1984, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards, and the assassination leads to Sikh families being killed in retribution; Amar and Maya are Sikh. “Karma is the story of how a young woman, straddling two cultures and enduring personal loss, learns forgiveness, acceptance and love.”

Reviews: “With its sweeping, even soaring reach, this novel contains a range of earthly experiences and emotions as well: love and death, hatred and evil, joy and engulfing sorrow as perceived and experienced by its two beautifully drawn teen protagonists…” (from The Globe and Mail)

“In her YA debut, acclaimed adult author Ostlere offers a riveting, historically accurate coming-of age tale of gutsy survival, self-sacrifice, and love. Set during a six-week period, the novel in verse makes the most of its lyrical form with lines of dialogue that bounce back and forth in columns across the page and singularly beautiful metaphors and similes that convey potent detail and emotion.” (from Booklist)

If you’d like a spanking new copy of Karma–let me know in the comments! This giveaway runs from June 28 to July 1, and is open to US and Canadian residents. I’ll pick a winner on July 2 using Random Number Generator.

Do check out the other giveaways too! This Blog Hop is hosted by Aislynn of Stitch Read Cook, Chrystal of Snow Drop Dreams and Carmel of Rabid Reads. Please click on the linky to see the full list of participating blogs–I don’t know how to post the list here.

(All book-related information in this post is from the author’s website.)

Update: Thank you to all who entered this giveaway. The winner as picked by was #15 — Shannon of Giraffe Days.


Giveaway: A ticket to hear Rohinton Mistry, Wayne Johnston, James Bartleman in Toronto

I am SO THRILLED to offer readers of this blog a chance to witness three literary superheroes in action. In association with World Literacy Canada, I’m giving one person a $60 ticket to see Rohinton Mistry, Wayne Johnston, and James Bartleman read at the Kama Benefit Reading Series.

World Literacy Canada is a Toronto-based NGO supporting women and children’s literacy through non-formal education programs in South Asia.  Their initiatives include adult literacy programs, community libraries, skills training (such as tailoring), and much more.  The Kama Reading Series is WLC’s flagship fundraising event. The first Kama reading featured writers such as Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood; 2012 marks the twentieth anniversary of this  event. This giveaway is for the last event in the series, and will be held at 6:30 at the Park Hyatt Toronto on May 30.

(You may remember that I’d done a blog giveaway earlier this year for the January event. )


Please leave a comment letting me know you’d like to win a ticket, along with your email address.

This giveaway is about promoting WLC’s work, so we’ll all be very happy if you like WLC on Facebook ( ) and  follow them on Twitter (@worldlit). And if you’d share news about this event and giveaway on your blogs and on social media, well, more good karma will flow your way.

Earlier this year, WLC announced to widespread dismay that their CIDA funding had been cut. So, please do check out how you can help WLC continue their important work–you can donate, volunteer, or choose to help in some other way. (Contact them here.)

Small print:

1.  This giveaway closes on May 18, 2012.

2. One winner will be picked by random number generator. If you have left a comment but are not in the Toronto area, or do not wish to enter the draw for any other reason,  please mention this information in your comment.

3. World Literacy will mail the winner’s ticket to a Canadian mailing address, or will hand it over at the venue, depending on the winner’s preference.

4. I have no professional or personal involvement with World Literacy, and am running this giveaway in order to promote a cause I support.  For all legalese, please contact World Literacy Canada.

Here’s a  brief note about each of the featured authors

Rohinton Mistry: India-born, Canada-based Mistry is the author of Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987), Such a Long Journey (1991), A Fine Balance (1995), Family Matters (2002), and The Scream (2006). He’s received too many honors to note here.

Wayne Johnston is the author of eight celebrated novels. Johnston’s fiction deals primarily with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, often in a historical setting. His breakthrough novel, 1998’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, was acclaimed for its historical portrayal of Newfoundland politician Joey Smallwood, and was chosen for the 2003 edition of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads competition.

James Bartleman is a Canadian diplomat and author who was Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario from 2002 to 2007. He initiated the Lieutenant-Governor’s Book Program in 2004, and has collected over 1.2 million books, donated from all corners of the province from both institutions and individuals, to stock school libraries in First Nations communities.

(All writer bios from Wikipedia.)

Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping.


Update: The winner is entrant #5, Mayank Bhatt, chosen by Congratulations, Mayank! And thanks to all those who entered!

Multicultural Kidlit Giveaway: A Lion’s Mane by Navjot Kaur

Update: Please scroll to the end for the giveaway winner’s details.

“As I went to pick up my son at the end of his second day in Kindergarten, he appeared at the exit door with his patka [turban] almost off his head. I thought to myself, they probably had Gym class. But that wasn’t the case. I was quickly informed that another Kindergartener had pulled my son’s patka off his head while he sat on the carpet in class. […] I questioned whether it had been an action of curiosity? I hoped that the response would be positive but it was not. Bullying, in Kindergarten.

We came home and I held it together the whole way. Once we cuddled and I reassured him when he asked, “You going to tell [boy’s name] to say sorry to me?” I went into another room and cried. I’m not sure why I felt so defeated for that tiny moment but I did. But […] I gained my strength and prepared next steps.”

Vancouver-based mother/teacher/writer Navjot Kaur’s next step was to write a picture book that explained the visible symbols of her Sikh culture, so children would understand why her son looked different. A Lion’s Mane  (Saffron Press, 2009) tells children about the significance of the dastaar (turban, likened to a lion’s mane in this book), the name Singh (lion), langar (the Sikh community kitchen that serves food to all) and other central tenets of Sikhism. Founded in 15th century India, Sikhism emphasizes service and justice, and abjures its followers from cutting their hair–hence the turban for males. (Post 9/11, Sikhs faced escalating hatred as they were often mistaken for Muslims. Nasty every way you look at it.)

Kaur’s book is notable for the intelligence of her approach; rather than merely explaining/extolling her faith, she has her young protagonist show us how Sikhism’s emphasis on the lion is echoed in other cultures. The book thus affirms the importance of preserving cultural identity while denying exceptionalism, and that’s winning strategy for those of us experiencing multiculturalism in our daily lives. (My son’s kindergarten class of 15 made-in-Canada kids includes four East Asians, one Egyptian, one Australian and one South Asian (him), so you can see why I think this book is important and urgent.) Reading about Richard the Lionheart, the Chinese Lion Dance and even lion rugs in ancient Iran, children learn that across cultures, lions have many  (positive) associations–regality, strength, courage, and really awesome roars. Show me a child who wouldn’t want to identify with that? And if one’s faith happens to require a mane-like length of cloth wound to create a turban, well, that’s a great way to mark an affiliation with Sikhism–and with other cultures around the world. What a positive, inclusive message.

The book is also visually lovely, with illustrations drenched in rich color.

The red turban waves across each page, unfolding different qualities associated with lions. The above illustration (click to enlarge) explains the significance of the mountain lion in Hopi culture, and the turban says “nobility” and “guidance”.

And one more, because it’s so cheerful.

Others thought the book was pretty great too–A Lion’s Mane won a Skipping Stones Honor Award in 2010.  The suggested reading age for this book is six, but the illustrations will appeal to the very young, while the text, which is fairly abstract, will suit nine and ten-year-olds. Those in multicultural surroundings will identify, while those in more homogenous environments will learn; I can’t decide which is the more important. In sum: this book ought to be read by kids of all spots and stripes.

You can buy this book for $18.50 here; a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Seva Canada, a charity that helps restore sight to blind children. The book is  eco-friendly, printed on kinder gentler recycled paper. And it’s  a hardback, so it’s handy to bop haters on their heads. I’m also giving away a copy of the book to readers of this blog; to enter, please leave a comment telling me you’d like a copy. The giveaway ends March 21,  is open to those with Canadian/US mailing addresses, and the winning comment will be picked by the reliably whimsical Random Number Generator.

If you are invested in kids, kidlit, and/or multiculturalism, do consider spreading the love about this book and giveaway. For the rest of Navjot Kaur’s story, and to read more about the genesis of the book, please visit her site here.

Update: Random number generator picked a commenter #5 as the winner; that’s Nupur! I’ll be emailing you shortly, Nupur, for your mailing address. Thank you to all those who entered–I read your comments with much admiration, and  I wish each of you could win a copy.

Giveaway: A ticket for the Kama Benefit Reading Series, to help literacy efforts in South Asia

Update: This giveaway is now closed. If I don’t hear back from the winner by Jan. 7, I’ll pick a new person.

Would you like to attend a reading in Toronto featuring three celebrated authors? And even if you’re not in the Toronto area, could you please take a minute to read this post to see how you can further literacy programs in South Asia?

World Literacy Canada is a Toronto-based NGO supporting women and children’s literacy through non-formal education programs in South Asia (their Indian operations are based in Varanasi).  Their initiatives include adult literacy programs, community libraries, skills training (such as tailoring), and much more. Please do click through to their site. And here’s a video.


In the 1990s World Literacy Canada’s fundraising efforts were concerned with “linking a love of literature to the cause of literacy”, and the Kama Reading Series was born.  The first Kama series featured writers such as Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood; 2012 marks the twentieth anniversary of this  event.

In association with World Literacy Canada, I’m giving away a ticket (worth $60) for a Kama Reading to be held at The Park Hyatt Toronto on January 25, 2012. The reading features Marina Nemat (Prisoner of Tehran), Ava Homa (Echoes from the Other Land), and James Loney (Captivity). 

“Marina Nemat was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, she was arrested at the age of sixteen and spent more than two years in Evin, a political prison in Tehran, where she was tortured and came very close to execution. She came to Canada in 1991 and has called it home ever since. Her memoir of her life in Iran,  Prisoner of Tehran, was published in Canada by Penguin Canada in April 2007, has been published in 28 other countries, and has been an international bestseller. MacLean’s Magazine has called it “…one of the finest (memoirs) ever written by a Canadian.” Prisoner of Tehran has been short listed for many literary awards, including the Young Minds Award in the UK and the Borders Original Voices Award in the US.”

“Ava Homa is the author of Echoes from the Other Land  which was nominated for the the world’s largest short story award: 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Echoes from the Other Land was also placed 6th in the top ten winners of the CBC Reader’s Choice Contest for Giller Prize. Ava is a Kurdish-Canadian writer-in-exile, with two Masters’ degrees one in English and Creative Writing, another in English Language and Literature. Echoes from the Other Land has a running theme of resistance by modern Iranian women under an oppressive regime.”

“James Loney  is a Canadian peace activist who has worked for several years with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq and Palestine. On November 26, 2005, he was kidnapped in Baghdad along with three others: Harmeet Singh Sooden (Canadian) and Norman Kember (British), both members of the delegation he was leading; and Tom Fox (American), a full-time member of CPT who had been working in Iraq since September 2004. The widely publicized hostage crisis (see 2005-2006 Christian Peacemaker hostage crisis) ended on March 23, 2006 when Loney, Kember and Sooden were rescued in a clandestine military operation led by British Special Forces.  Tom Fox was killed on March 9, two weeks before the release of other men. Captivity is the story of what Jim described upon his return to Toronto and reunion with his partner Dan Hunt as ‘a terrifying, profound, transformative and excruciatingly boring experience’.”

Here’s the full line-up for the series, which also features one of my favorite authors ever–Rohinton Mistry!  I may do giveaways for other readings too–please come back and check this blog if you are interested.

It’s a truly wonderful line-up of authors, isn’t it? And there are cocktails…



Please leave a comment letting me know you’d like to win a ticket, along with your email address.  That’s it!

But seeing as it’s a charitable cause, could you please spread the word about this event and this organization? For instance, you might:

1. Like World Literacy Canada on Facebook:  (you’ll find Kama in the events section), and follow them on Twitter @worldlit.

2. Share news about the Kama Reading Series on social media venues (please use #WLCKama) or on your blog.

3. Blog about this giveaway, post it on social media venues of your choice, and let friends and family in the Toronto area know about the event.

4. And you could donate directly to World Literacy Canada here:  90 cents of every dollar directly funds the programs, and all donations are tax-deductible.

Small print:

1.  This giveaway closes on Dec 31, 2011

2. One winner will be picked by random number generator. If you have left a comment but are not in the Toronto area, or do not wish to enter the draw for any other reason,  please mention this in your comment.

3. World Literacy will mail the winner’s ticket to a Canadian mailing address, or will hand it over at the venue, depending on the winner’s preference.

4. I have no professional or personal involvement with World Literacy, and am running this giveaway in order to promote a cause I support.  For all legalese, please contact World Literacy Canada.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping!



The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami (and a giveaway!)

Update: this giveaway is now closed.

When eleven-year-old Dini Kumaran learns that her family must move from Maryland to a small town in South India (her doctor mom got a grant), she’s pretty upset. But upon reaching Swapnagiri (which translates to “Dream Mountain”), Dini hears that her favorite Bollywood star, the beautiful and intelligent and courageous Dolly Singh, is currently staying in the same town. Dini knows that their meeting is ordained; she just has to figure out the minor details. And if grown-up problems plague Dolly, well, Dini has a plan to sort that out too.

It’s my turn today for the blog tour for acclaimed children’s writer Uma Krishnaswami’s gentle, funny, and very wise MG novel The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (Simon & Schuster, 2011). Here’s the thing: I fell in love with this book, and like most instances of love, it was hard for me to explain exactly why. I drafted and redrafted my review, thought of structure and metaphor and language (all superb), but I had to look deeper, till I realized that this book zinged to the heart of my memories of growing up in India. So, review-schmeview;  instead, here’s The Grand List of Everything Specially Indian about The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.

The Sound Thing. Indian sounds aren’t the same as North American sounds. Cars don’t honk but go bebeep, bebeep (and never stop). A Canadian machine would probably cough to a standstill; Indian thingamajigs breakdown with a KREER! KOOCH! KRAAR! And have you heard certain Indian men sneeze? They don’t atishoo, they go oh-aah-bushku. Uma is a genius at Sunno-sunnoing the noises of India, and you’re going to have so much fun sounding them out, especially when riding on public transport.

The Name Thing. The protagonist, Nandini, is called Nandu by her parents, when she’d rather go by Dini. “In her parents’ time, in the last century, that was how you shortened […] Nandini.” So, until I read this book, I thought I was the only one who had analyzed Indian names and concluded that the default shortening mechanism was to tack a “u” to the first three or four letters. So a Sonia becomes Sonu, a Deepak becomes Deepu, and, um, Niranjana becomes Niru. If you grew up in India, you’ve fought hard and lost this battle before you were eight. And somehow, the name followed you through university and across continents, and now, your spouse calls you that when he’s feeling uppish.

The Shoes (or lack thereof) Thing. When I saw the illustration of Dolly Singh dancing in flip-flops, my heart did a little authenticity leap. Yes! In a climate and culture which renders footwear mostly optional, slippers are de rigueur, and I cannot count the number of South Indian weddings I’ve attended where women clad in silk saris with (real) gold embroidery, with diamonds and emeralds erupting all over their bodies, wear flip-flops styled by Dollarama (aka the Bata Hawaii chappal) on their feet.

Say hello to Bollywood star Dolly Singh, charmingly illustrated by Abigail Halpin.

The Bollywood in Context Thing.  I’d probably watched all of five Bollywood films when I turned thirteen, but growing up in India, it was impossible to avoid the songs. Indian music was divided into classical and film, with nothing betwixt or between, and film songs were either Sad or Happy. When Dini criticizes Dolly’s latest film for having only sad songs, well, it could have been me speaking twenty years ago.  And Dini’s parents’ uncomprehending but cheerful acceptance of their daughter’s fondness for Bollywood is pretty much where I am now. Finally! a book where Bollywood evokes nuanced reactions that go beyond the distaste/fascination duality.

The Happiness Thing. People who are mostly cheerful and obliging. Loving parents. Minor perils. Small but intense joys. A dash of surreality. The Grand Plan… is an unapologetic celebration of a happy Indian childhood, and I am so grateful that Uma has given us this reality amongst all the other (mostly dismal) realities of India that have populated my reading thus far. While the book is indeed filled with magical coincidences and fairy-tale resolutions, at its heart, I see it an affirmation of the ordinary child, who, powered by little other than good intentions and doughty resolution, can shape things positively. My own childhood reading was devoid of such Indian protagonists, and I am so delighted that my nine-year-old niece in Delhi, who loves Ramona Quimby and Judy Moody to bits, can now read about Dini Kumaran.

And…a giveaway! If you would like to get a copy of this book, please leave a comment on this post saying so, and one commenter will receive a copy. Please note that shipping is restricted to Canada/USA; the giveaway ends June 30.

Update: The two winners are

1. Sheryl McFarlane Tilley

2. Kamini @ Tales of South India

The Lasting Enchantment: Mary Stewart’s novels. And a giveaway!

Update: This giveaway is now CLOSED.

I’ve blogged at length about my fascination with romantic suspense pioneer Mary Stewart, whose books feature keen-eyed heroines, sophisticated plots, impressive scholarship (yes, still talking romantic suspense here), and addictive prose. I’ve hitherto found her work in libraries and used-book stores, and so I was delighted to learn that Hodder UK  has now reissued Stewart’s novels, with lovely new covers.  Look at these!

If, like me, you’ve been trying hard to convince yourself that those sepia stains on the library copy were Nothing But Tea,  you can finally get the book new. And perhaps even free! Hodder UK is offering two of this blog’s readers any Stewart novel of their choice.  Just leave a comment on this post about which Stewart you want and why, and the kind folks at Hodder will mail out the requested books to two winning comments. So, Madams, Will You Talk?

If you’ve never read Stewart, here are two of my faves for you to check out.

The Ivy Tree: “An English June in the Roman Wall countryside; the ruin of a beautiful old house standing cheek-by-jowl with the solid, sunlit prosperity of the manor farm – a lovely place, and a rich inheritance for one of the two remaining Winslow heirs. There had been a third, but Annabel Winslow had died four years ago – so when a young woman calling herself Annabel Winslow comes ‘home’ to Whitescar, Con Winslow and his half-sister Lisa must find out whether she really is who she says she is.”

Touch Not the Cat: “After the tragic death of her father, Bryony Ashley returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory. Ashley Court with its load of debt is no longer her worry. But there is something odd about her father’s sudden death…
Bryony has inherited the Ashley ‘Sight’ and so has one of the Ashleys. Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity. Now she is determined to find him. But danger as well as romance wait for her in the old moated house, with its tragic memories.”

A full list of the Stewart novels issued by Hodder is available here  (and yes, the Merlin series is included in the giveaway).  So, please do enter! Also, I cannot resist reproducing below a lovely message by Stewart from the Hodder site; no wonder she inspires such fondness  amongst her readers.

“I am well into my nineties now, and I am afraid I have almost forgotten how to write. But if a few vague memories will do, here they are. My first novel was called MURDER FOR CHARITY, and was sent off hopefully to publishers who now prefer to forget that they turned it down. But they were probably right, and their comments did me a power of good. I cut off the last third of the story, re-wrote it, re-named it MADAM, WILL YOU TALK? And sent it to Hodder and Stoughton. Some half century later I am still with my dear Hodder and Stoughton, and can only add that I love the new cover style, and I hope that it will attract a new generation to read my books. MS

The small print
1.This giveaway is restricted to the US, Canada, Europe and the UK, as per Hodder and Stoughton’s specifications.
2. Please leave your comment before June 30; winners will be announced shortly after.
3. If you want to enter for more than one book, please leave a separate comment for each choice.
4. This is my first giveaway of this sort, and is driven solely by my passion for Stewart’s books and my desire to spread the good stuff around. For any legalese, please contact Hodder UK.

Update: The winners are

1. Clair @Answer Girl Net, who picked Nine Coaches Waiting

2. Kate @Kate’s Bookcase, who picked The Moonspinners

3. Rhonda, who picked The Ivy Tree.