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Posts Tagged ‘newfoundland’

Nix Minus One is “complex and engaging” —Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on April 18th, 2013 by pajamapress

At 15, Nix Humbolt is taller and leaner than in his “Fatty Humbolt” days, but he still keeps a low profile at school. He finds refuge in his father’s workshop where he builds intricate boxes and tables – and avoids arguments with his older sister Roxy. When Roxy starts dating Bryan Sykes, Nix knows he’s bad news – but what can he do? The only battles he ever fights are on his Xbox – until the day he finds the nerve to fight for Swiff Dunphy’s neglected dog. When things start to spin out of control, this dog might just be the one who saves him.

Award-winning author Jill MacLean uses verse to tell an emotionally resonant story of an extremely introverted teenager. Nix still thinks of himself as the bullied fat boy, and he struggles to find his voice. He’s fiercely loyal and intelligent, and has a strong sense of justice, but when it comes to acting on it, he feels helpless. The one area where he can do something is to take care of the neglected and abused dog, whom he calls Twig.

While never explicitly stated, MacLean draws a subtle and effective connection between Roxy and Twig in Nix’s mind. The more out of control Roxy becomes, the more desperate Nix is to save Twig. Just when he thinks he’s failed at that, too, it’s Roxy who surprisingly gives him the strength he needs to fight for what matters to him. Nix Minus One is also a story about transformation, and MacLean skilfully parallels Twig’s transformation with Nix’s. As Twig transforms from a skittish, unhappy animal to a happy, healthy dog, Nix gradually is able to come out of his shell and emerge as a stronger, more confident boy.

MacLean’s books demand a lot from their readers, and Nix Minus One is no exception. Her characters are extremely authentic, and they will make the reader root for everything to turn out OK. The story is complex and engaging, and the deep themes make this an excellent novel for study and discussion.”
—Rachel Seigel is Selection Manager at S&B Books – a division of Whitehots.

 Click here to learn more about Canadian Children’s Book News.

MacLean’s book is “Beautifully descriptive”— The Calgary Herald

Posted on April 15th, 2013 by pajamapress

“Nix used to be ‘the fat kid’ and although he has lost the weight, he endures bullying every day.  Written in free verse, this sensitive story follows Nix as he deals with all life has to throw at him; his desire to help an abused dog, frustration in trying to protect an older sister heading for disaster, an old infatuation and a blossoming new friendship. Beautifully descriptive, with some mature content, this book is recommended for mature readers ages 12 to 16.”—Barbra Hesson

The Montreal Gazette praises free verse in Nix Minus One

Posted on April 1st, 2013 by pajamapress

“Poetry, at its best, has the power to evoke a maximum of emotion with a minimum number of words. As such, it’s a fitting tool for an author whose novel revolves around a teenage boy best described as tongue-tied and introverted — and whose life goes into overdrive when the usual changes that accompany puberty are added to those of a family with its share of secrets.

Nova Scotia’s Jill MacLean has set her most recent novel in Bullbirds Cove, a small town in Newfoundland that used to be home to 37 families but where, now that “the codfish are gone from the sea (and) groundfishing closed years ago,” only 23 families remain — including the Humboldt family. Fifteen-year-old Nixon (better known as Nix) and his 16-year-old sister, Roxy, are part of that family. In telling their story, MacLean uses free verse — which might sound off-putting to some, but actually turns out to be a great way to put into words what Nix thinks and has trouble saying. It also makes for a well-paced story that will leave readers thoroughly engaged with the characters, and probably reaching for a tissue or two before getting to the final page.”

—Bernie Goedhart

Nix Minus One is “an exceptional novel…not to be missed” —The Winnipeg Free Press

Posted on March 25th, 2013 by pajamapress

“JILL MACLEAN of Bedford, N.S., has written many young adult books, but her latest, Nix Minus One (Pajama Press, 296 pages, $15 paperback), is an exceptional novel that is not to be missed. Written in free verse, it explores the life and emotions of Newfoundlander Nixon Humbolt (Nix) between his 14th and 16th years.

…Maclean’s free verse is poetic and evocative, but compelling. Written for ages 13 and up, this is a powerful novel, hitting hard on contemporary life.”

—Helen Norrie

Click here to read the full review.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald reviews Nix Minus One

Posted on March 12th, 2013 by pajamapress

“MacLean, the award-winning author of The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy and Home Truths, has a serious track record for developing wonderfully drawn, multi-layered teen characters and this book is no exception. This is the Bedford author’s first book done in free verse, however, which seems to help give it an extra layer of emotional resonance.

…MacLean tackles many issues — bullying, family relationships, death, insecurity, animal cruelty, first romance, toxic relationships — in convincing fashion in this wonderful new novel, as finely crafted as the intricate boxes that Nix takes pride in making in his dad’s woodworking shop in their little Newfoundland village.”—Pam Sword

Click here and scroll down to see the full review.

If You Suspect Animal Abuse

Posted on February 21st, 2013 by pajamapress

In Jill MacLean’s YA novel Nix Minus One, protagonist Nixon Humbolt develops a relationship with his neighbour’s neglected dog, Twig. When Twig is sold to another owner who physically abuses her, Nix is determined to rescue her. But how?

Many of us have been in Nix’s situation. It can be daunting—how can you protect the animal without breaking the law yourself? Here is a good place to start:

Download the printer-friendly colour version
Download the printer-friendly black-and-white version

Infographic design by Sarfaraaz Alladin

Cross-posted at Pajama Party blog

For Those Who Know reviews Nix Minus One

Posted on February 19th, 2013 by pajamapress

“Beautiful verse, weirdly romantic, fantastic setting in Maritime Canada, violent, redemptive, sad, uplifting. I really loved this. I especially love the brilliantly simple cover and the woodworking motif that permeates the book. The cover is TEXTURED! Check it out!”

Click here to read the full post.

Sal’s Fiction Addiction praises Nix Minus One

Posted on February 19th, 2013 by pajamapress

“…In an interview Jill Maclean she said she writes character driven books. She hit the nail on the head with that statement, given the memorable characters she creates here…Nix, Roxy, Bryan, Twig, Chase, Loren and Blue, and Nix’s parents. Set in Newfoundland, this is his story about family, conflict, friendship, death, secrets, a dog and a budding romance. The characters who people the pages are expertly drawn: flawed, remarkable, and redemptive for the most part.

I love them for many reasons…their vulnerability, their strength, their unparalleled concern for others. Well, not Bryan…not at all, but there has to be a villain; or the men who own Twig and treat her so abominably. Sorrow, and an inability to deal with it, tears at the Humboldt family which is stoic, secretive, and who all have reasons for doing what they do…”

Click here to read the full post.

Nix Minus One writing is “strong and fluid but laced with vulnerability” —CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on February 12th, 2013 by pajamapress

“…Nix Minus One shows off Jill MacLean’s characteristic strong plotting that helped win countless awards and nominations for her other books: The Nine Lives of Travis Keating (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008), The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009) and Home Truths (Dancing Cat Books, 2010).  She creates characters who would be considered ordinary, i.e., less than perfect, and has them deal with troubling, even tragic circumstances.  Roxy, Nix, Blue, and even Mom and Dad, are more reflective of Jill MacLean’s readership than the sterile but beautiful people of popular shows and movies.  By making Nix Minus One‘s characters into “real” people who make some wise decisions, some incredibly poor choices and some that fortuitously leave no permanent scars, Jill MacLean fosters understanding and empathy.

I would like to recognize Nix Minus One as Jill MacLean’s first foray into the novels-in-verse genre, heralding a new achievement in writing for her.  While her writing is strong and fluid but laced with vulnerability, Nix Minus One demonstrates the one-two punch nature of novels in verse:  the author’s word choice and sentence structure are now enhanced with the form of the writing.  The structure of the verse can intensify the text, or suggest confusion, weakness or apathy, though Jill MacLean always chooses wisely, never overworking her form or content.  So, while the title suggests a subtraction or loss, I believe Nix Minus One demonstrates that Jill MacLean has found the literary means, i.e., free verse, to add to the total experience of one of her stories.  As an equation, that would read,

Nix – 1 =  Jill MacLean2

Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the full review.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Newfoundland

Posted on February 8th, 2013 by pajamapress

Jill MacLean, whose YA novel Nix Minus One is set in small-town Newfoundland, has always passion for that province. Today she shares with us:


If you choose to canoe in Newfoundland in June, July, or August, you’d better be wearing a bug jacket and you’d better be prepared to view the lake through a mesh of small squares crawling with several hundred black flies thirsty for your blood.

The Tableland - picture by Windnerdpix

The Tableland – picture by Windnerdpix


If you climb Gros Morne Mountain in the national park on the west coast, you’re not just climbing up (and, believe me, it’s steep), you’re also, metaphorically, travelling northon the plateau on top of the mountain, Arctic flowers bloom and Arctic hares roam (and the view makes every drop of sweat worthwhile).

The Tableland, also in the park, is your chance to see a part of the earth’s mantle that was thrust to the surface. The orange-hued rocks of the gulch look like they belong in Utah, not Newfoundland.


Newfoundland didn’t become part of Canada until 1949, and to this day, perhaps because of its isolation, has always maintained its distinct culture.


Burnt Cape, on the Strait of Belle Isle, is made of limestone, has the shortest growing season in all of Newfoundland, and is home to a host of arctic-alpine plants, one of which grows nowhere else in the world. The plants nestle among polygons of rock shattered by fierce freeze-thaw cycles, characteristic of conditions much further north.


The “Northern Ranger” is the passenger-freight boat which travels the Labrador coast from Goose Bay to Nain, via Black Tickle, Rigolet, Makkovick, and Natuashish. Small boats appear from the little communities along the shore; babies, washing machines, flour, snowmobiles, flats of plants, are transferred back and forth. Along the way, you get “screeched-in”—a ceremony that involves, among other things, kissing a dead codfish.


You can watch thousands of gannets nesting on the cliffs of Cape St. Mary’s Ecological reserve, and from a boat, see puffins with their wildly striped bills at Bay Bulls and Witless Bay.

Check whether this is a year for icebergs, and if it is, head for a boat tour out of St. Anthony at the tip of the northern peninsula. At the end of June, if you’re lucky (as I was, once), you’ll not only see huge white and turquoise bergs, you’ll see humpbacks in a feeding frenzy against the rocky shoreline. 

Visit the restaurant at Lighthouse Point, where you’re almost guaranteed a whale sighting in summer.

Want to sleep next door to a light

house? Go to Quirpon Island (rhymes with “harpoon”)whales and icebergs there, too.

St. Anthony - picture by David P. Lewis

St. Anthony – picture by David P. Lewis


The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was the only North American regiment to fight at Gallipoli in 1915; and at Beaumont-Hamel, on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, ninety percent of the regiment was killed in twenty minutes when the men advanced across No Man’s Land toward the German dugouts.

You can read about it in David MacFarlane’s The Danger Tree.

Since that day, July 1 has been named Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.


The moratorium on the cod fishery, imposed in 1992 by the Canadian government for an indefinite period of time, ended almost five centuries of fishing off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and put 30,000 people out of work. It changed a way of life irrevocably.

Picture by Jill MacLean

Picture by Jill MacLean


In the abandoned outport of Parsons Harbour, on the south coast of Newfoundland, I remember old planks that once were houses and a church; a door with flaked blue paint; and white, wind-scoured gravestones. Sea-glass had washed up on the beach, along with fragments of china patterned with blue willow leaves and dark pink roses.


For hospitality, humour, and a heritage of physical and spiritual toughness, you can’t beat the Newfoundland people. And if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a kitchen party – enjoy!