Kids & YA

"An interesting and distinctive story that successfully brings the plight of the Cathars to life for a young audience ... unique and engaging."


"Recommended" by CM: Canadian Review of Materials (CM Association).

What if the past suddenly invaded your present?
Fifteen-year-old Lesley Graham starts having nightmares when she accompanies her family to a remote village in the South of France. Her first job, first crush and a series of unsettling events challenge Lesley in ways she never expected – and force her to reconsider the role that history plays in our lives.
“Romance, danger, evil, and bravery are brought vividly and sensitively to life in a tale that will not only thrill young readers but also reveals the strength of the human spirit.” — Lawrence Feuchtwanger, poet and author

“Amidst the adventure and romance, history never stops. What happened in the Age of the Troubadours becomes relevant to our own Troubled Times.” — Phyllis Reeve, magazine reviewer

"Think of a terrible event that happened hundreds of years ago. Then imagine that you are forced to spend an extended time in a village near where it happened. Add to this that you suddenly start seeing flashes of that tragedy, both in your dreams and when awake. That’s what happens to 15-year-old Lesley Graham from Vancouver. Lesley’s flashes lead her on a series of adventures … and to the realization that the past, even the long ago past, has something to teach us." – Naomi Beth Wakan, essayist and poet
Book review by Phyllis Reeve, Gabriola Arts Council newsletter, April 14, 2021:
"What's your father's book about again?" Megan asks.

"It's about a crusade and inquisition in the South of France that happened hundreds of years ago. People called Cathars were stuffed into churches and burned alive because of their beliefs. I don't know why he is even interested in such horrible events. What happened way back then was awful, but it has nothing to do with today. It's totally irrelevant"
But of course, Lesley, the narrator, is mistaken. The horrible events of long ago are relevant. In fact, long ago is still happening. Long ago is today.

When Charlotte Cameron told me she was writing a book about the Cathars, she may have been surprised by my excitement. Cathars! The connected stories rushed to mind: Crusades, Troubadours, Knights Templar, Courtly Love, the Holy Grail from Thomas Malory to Monty Python, and my favourite novelist Lawrence Durrell, whose final series The Avignon Quintet was all about Cathars and the presentness of the past. So this novel aimed at readers age 10 and up (our kids are getting a lot of good books these days!) offers all of us much to think about and much to enjoy.

Lesley grumbles because she must accompany her parents on sabbatical in the south of France, while all the real excitement in her 15-year-old life goes on without her in her home neighbourhood of Kitsilano. But as soon as they reach Paris strange things begin to happen; there is a beautiful but anxious young woman named Clara and a creepy stalker. When they settle in the village of Minerve, the strangeness deepens. Lesley is drawn into the village's tragic past, encountering Clara, her stalker, and most intensely Clara's doppelganger, a shepherdess also named Clara who has been missing for 800 years. The book has everything - a kidnapping, a trans-border car chase, caves and cliffs, friendships and jealousy, several love stories (including Lesley's own), and some deliberately unresolved mysteries to keep our heads spinning. The reader might learn some history, but it is all part of the fun.

Even the history we thought we knew is enhanced. There is a nasty villain named Simon de Montfort. In my version of English history, he was a hero, and an inventor of parliamentary democracy. Turns out there were several Simon de Montforts, same family, different generations, swashbuckling about the Middle Ages. That's another story, but you see how one thing leads to another. That's the mystery of history.

Charlotte could not have foreseen how current events would catch up with her work-in-progress, how the ending, in Spring of 2020, would have to accommodate a Pandemic and her heroine would have to rush home to Kitsilano before the world went into quarantine. The year 1210 was not a plague year in France, but 2020 was. As artist Sun Xum comments in a recent post from the Vancouver Art Gallery: "We are used to creating a boundary between the present and the past. But actually history has no such boundary."

The striking cover, like the novel, is a palimpsest: a fantasy portrait "Medieval Dream" by Enrigue Meseguer depicting a mysterious girl (one of the Claras? Lesley herself?) hovering over layered images from a photograph "Cityscape of modern Minerve, France" by the author`s partner Thomas Fraser Cameron, and a diorama of Crusaders from the Musée Hurepel de Minerve.
Print copies also available at Page's Marina Bookstore on Gabriola Island, BC.


A Short, Snappy, Fast-paced Thriller with a Paranormal Twist
After the shocking murder of her husband, Ros and her baby relocate to her childhood home to live with her parents. Palm Springs, California—full of sunlight, small and safe—should be the perfect place to bring up a child. But things are not always as they appear.

Soon, an unexpected tragedy sets a dangerous series of events into motion. Someone, it seems, is out to get Ros. As she struggles to uncover the identity of her mysterious enemy, Ros finds herself looking for answers in the most unusual places. Could the attacks have something to do with her increasingly disturbing dreams? And how many people close to her need to get hurt before she figures it out?

Order the 2023 author edition in Kindle or print.

"In Past Crimes Carol Matas also gives us more: in a world where past and present blend, her characters must learn to confront and struggle against cruelty and intolerance, which return like bad dreams and take many forms." Read the full review by mystery writer Anna Dowdall

"GRIPPING! Carol Matas's Past Crimes is a real page-turner, the kind of book you can't put down. Suspense, romance, murder, and mayhem, but so much more than that. It's a whodunit with a twist, with past lives, reincarnation, the Spanish Inquisition, and Fate added to the mix. It's a wild ride, thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended." Manuel Matas, author of The Borders of Normal: A Clinical Psychiatrist De-Stigmatizes Paranormal Phenomena


A Suspenseful Sci-Fi Thriller for Middle Grades 

Fourteen-year-old Miranda has it all: beauty, brains, talent, perfect health. Until the day her vision goes blurry – the first symptom of a fatal disease. As she and her parents fight to save her, she makes the shocking discovery that everything she thought she knew about her life is a lie.

Suddenly Miranda is facing some troubling questions: What makes us human? Is it our DNA, our upbringing or the choices we make? The answers will force Miranda to deal with the biggest challenges of her life.

"Suspenseful YA novel … taut story, which features girl-power heroines confronting bad guys and the nature of the self. … Hitchcock-ian fun, full of deep questions to ponder.”Kirkus Reviews

"A suspense-filled mystery that starts off with exploring Miranda’s middle school life, then morphs into a science fiction bombshell!”— Erika Lewis, TV producer/writer and author of Game Of Shadows, Tor Books

“Full of twists and turns that will leave you guessing and gasping until the end!” — Eric Walters, award-winning author of over 100 books for children

“A carefully crafted and suspenseful tale, as thought-provoking, as it is engaging.”— Perry Nodelman, children’s book author and recipient of the 2015 International Brothers Grimm Award for research in children’s literature

Order the 2023 author edition Cloning Miranda in Kindle or print.

in the Children's and Young Adult Literature category

(The Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids & Teens 2015, Spring Edition)

2015 McNally Robinson Book for Young People Awards Finalist

"This fast-paced story has plenty of action.
The language is fitting for the historical era...Jo is a likable charaacter and her fearless attitude is inspiring...The women’s rights issue delivers a strong message and would make for great discussions in the classroom." Louise Sidley, Resource Links, Dec. 2014

“Papa is a tyrant; that’s what he is — a tyrant! And I will always be subject to his whims!”

When her father decides to run for mayor of Tucson in 1882, fourteen-year-old Josephine Fiedler is reluctant to support his bid. “I could be sealing my fate, helping to elect someone who wants nothing more than my docility.” With a mind of her own, Jo is in constant conflict with her father and doesn’t know how to back down when she feels she is in the right. “Without law, without order, there is no freedom,” states her father, but Jo wants nothing less than the freedom he promised her when he uprooted the family from “civilized” Boston to the Wild West of the Territory of Arizona because of his health. When violence erupts during the election campaign and her father’s opponent attacks him for being an Israelite, Jo has to reconsider her position and even what it means to be a Jew.

Inspired by Tucson’s first Jewish mayor, Tucson Jo is packed with action and deeds of derring-do, shootouts and holdups, while dealing with serious moral issues like right and wrong, law and order, and women’s rights.

Order the 2023 author edition in Kindle or print.

Praise for Tucson Jo

"Rich with historical details, this wonderful novel delivers a fast-paced story sure to appeal to teens who love to transport themselves to a time long ago in a faraway place. The characters are so perfectly drawn that readers will find it easy to climb inside their skins. To their amazement, they will probably discover that people haven't changed much in the last hundred and thirty years.
Young people who are struggling to find their own places in the world and wondering how to overcome issues they are having with their parents may find much comfort and insight in Josephine's and Connie's methods of dealing with their own family problems. The challenges of youth and the wisdom of age are beautifully handled in this exciting story, which is sure to become a favorite of many young readers. I hope it will find its way beneath many Christmas trees and onto countless library shelves, because it deserves to be applauded, savored, and enjoyed."
 — Elle Maxwell, author of 24-Carat Murder (A Mack Dearling Mystery)

The Story Behind the Story

Carol Matas reveals the story behind Tucson Jo. She also discusses the moral issues raised in her middle-grades historical novel, issues that are just as relevant and important today. A fascinasting and wide-ranging interview with Tucson Tales, a children's literature publication showcasing new and established writers.

Carol Matas' 2015 blog tour

Get the inside scoop, the story behind the story of Tucson Jo, with these fascinating interviews with Carol Matas:
Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb
Jewish Books for Kids with author/blogger Barbara Bietz
The Whole Megillah by author/historian Barbara Krasner

A Way for Children to Think about Death

Are you looking for a way to talk about death to your child or grandchild? Are you grappling with the issue of your own mortality? When I Die, a meditation on death, can give you a safe place to start the discussion.

Carol Matas is an award-winning author of  more than 45 books for children and young adults. When I Die is sure to resonate with parents and children of all ages.

Carol Matas explains how she came to write When I Die

"The entire manuscript came to me all at once while I was meditating. I have changed it a little but it is almost exactly as I 'heard' it originally. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, my mind was rather blank, so I can’t explain why I thought of it or how it came to be. But I feel comforted by it in some strange way.

"The circle of life will go on with or without me. Some people tend to think they are the centre of the universe and all important. Others think they don’t matter at all and no one would care if they lived or if they died. I tend to think that there is a balance in almost everything. We are all the most important things in the universe- after all, Jewish thought says that if you save one life you have saved the world. And it is also true that the world will go on without us and that is a good thing. Everything is important or nothing is important. I believe everything is."


Magic and enchantment in a Quebec village. 
For young readers 8 to 12 years of age.

P.J. le Pooch & the Magic Sketchbook - Book 1


"HIGHLY RECOMMENDED." 4/4 STARS (CM: Canadian Review of Materials)

When 11-year-old Millie McTwitter defies her mother’s strict pet prohibition and adopts P.J. le Pooch while her mother is away, something magical begins to happen in Millie’s lonely life. Millie’s drawings in her sketchbook—the last gift from her late father—start to animate on the page, and new people enter her life in unexpected ways. Millie’s mother, vexed by her daughter’s disobedience, threatens to return P.J. to the shelter, refusing to make a final decision about keeping him until his 60-day return guarantee is up. Millie desperately tries to keep P.J. in line ... but dogs will be dogs.

"The story is a good lesson in friendship. Millie wants a dog and will do anything to achieve that goal. ... The story is simple and to the point. There is a Victorian Dog Pageant and Games complete with Victorian costumes, a thief who is uncovered by P.J., two cats named Oedipus and Pussicles who belong to Cassandre and help when a bat moves into Millie’s kitchen. At first, Marc does not want to have P.J. in his yard, but everything works out. The sketchbook adds a bit of mystery as does the thief who steals from the Victorian Dog Pageant and Games. ... Although the characters are female, this book would be enjoyed by both girls and boy and would be an excellent choice for school, public and personal libraries."CM: Canadian Review of Materials, April 14, 2017, Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.

"Morri Mostow has written a charming book for young readers about a girl and her dog. A story about friendship and family, it is set lovingly in the beautifully rendered Eastern Townships of Quebec. Its gentle tone will delight readers of all ages." – Carol Matas, author of Cloning Miranda, a sci-fi thriller for YA and middle grades, and Tucson Jo, a 2014 National Jewish Books Awards Finalist

"Lively, modern, quick paced and gently laced with French words. Also, bits of magic appear in just the right places. A charmer." – Nancy Beal, author of The Art of Teaching Art to Children

“A charming ‘girl-meets-dog-and-the-fun-begins’ story set in a delightful town in Quebec. Who wouldn't fall in love with Millie—with her compassion, friendliness, and drive to create an idyllic world in her small town?” – Elle Maxell, author of 24-Carat Murder

P.J. le Pooch & the Haunted Inn- Book 2



In this second instalment of the P.J. le Pooch series, it is now autumn in the charming Quebec village of Brine Lake, a season of mists and magic in which the mysterious Lola Lamour continues to cast her spell. P.J. le Pooch, now a trusted “store dog” at Coin Héritage, helps 12-year-old Millie McTwitter and her best friend, Cassandre Bédard, solve a crime and discover something surprising when a ghost at the inn asks for their help.

Order P.J. le Pooch & the Haunted Inn in your favourite format:
Trade paperback (5" x 8", 154 pages) or ePub

"In this sequel to P. J. le Pooch & the Magic Sketchbook, readers are reacquainted with 12-year-old Millie, her friend Cassandre and loveable canine P.J., the latter endowed with vast quantities of doggy kindness, intelligence and understanding ... Set in the Eastern townships of Quebec, and with a text, peppered with French phrases, the background to P.J. le Pooch & the Haunted Inn is appealing and authentic. The story moves at a feverish pace with various subplots. ... P.J is also a dog extraordinaire as he ‘works’ at the store comforting the lonely or drawing the girls’ attention to important clues. However, they all focus on doing the right thing and are resourceful with plenty of initiative. The story goes along at a fast clip and is hard to put down. P.J. le Pooch & the Haunted Inn will be a popular read and is recommended for public, school and individual libraries." CM:Review of Materials Volume XXV, Issues 6, October 12, 2018 


A nostalgic tale for middle grades

Lisa and her little brother Jon enjoy collecting stamps. But when their father holds a contest to decide which child will get a new large stamp album, Lisa has to solve a difficult problem.

This chapter book for ages 8 to 12 (grades 3 to 6) takes place around 1960 and portrays a Jewish family celebrating Sabbath and Passover. It also includes details about the experiences of American soldiers during World War II and the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.

The book contains a handy Glossary of the Hebrew words and difficult terms used in the text, as well as a Discussion Guide to help parents and teachers explore the issues raised by this book with their children and students: sibling rivalry, bullying, discrimination, and Jewish traditions.


"A sweet period-piece that weaves the longing for a coveted prize, sibling rivalry, and a firm foundation in Jewish traditions and faith into an appealing and morally uplifting tale."—Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of The Doll Shop Downstairs and The Cats in the Doll Shop

"A good look at a loving family dealing with the issues of fairness and sexism."—Shutta Crum, author of Thomas and the Dragon Queen, Dozens of Cousins, Spitting Image, and Thunder-Boomer!

"A nostalgic tale about a Passover past that evokes strong feelings of family and tradition. A warm, inviting read."—Tara Lazar, author of The Monstore, I Thought This Was a Bear Book, and Little Red Gliding Hood


Passover Surprise puts its stamp on unfair treatment 
"The Passover Surprise is a delightful historical fiction written by Dr. Janet Ruth Heller.
Children ages 8- to-12 will enjoy reading it and younger children will benefit from having
it read to them with subsequent discussion. This six chapter, 48-page book contains
nostalgic illustrations by Ronald Kauffman that immediately transport the reader to the
book’s 1960s setting. There is also a glossary and discussion guide at the back.
Set against a joyful Passover celebration shared with extended family, The Passover
Surprise emphasizes the importance of speaking up about unequal treatment wherever
it might occur. The book illustrates the strength of family ties based on Jewish traditions
and links generations together with holiday celebration and lessons drawn from Jewish

"Janet Ruth Heller’s The Passover Surprise is a nicely illustrated chapbook for young readers with clear print, great chapter titles, well-placed black-and-white illustrations, and a pleasing lesson well-told. The story’s set around 1960, when civil rights hit the schoolroom and the news, fathers might have served in the Second World War, and girls were still not supposed to like the same things as boys. It’s a deceptively simple tale in which life isn’t fair, but love and trust, with a measure of kind communication, might ease the pain. Readers will learn about sibling rivalry and parental mistakes, while absorbing the joys of stamp collecting, Jewish Sabbath and Passover, and family love. As Lisa learns of the world’s many faults, her own problems fall into pleasing perspective, and her mother’s advice proves wise and comforting. A great book to build good family relationships (complete with neat discussion guide), and an intriguing window into the world, The Passover Surprise is highly recommended." Sheila Deeth, author of Psalm Stories and other books

"In Janet Ruth Heller’s The Passover Surprise (illustrated by Ronald Kauffman; Fictive Press, 48 pp.), Jewish traditions, stamp collecting, sibling rivalry and familial affection are all part of the story of Lisa, who craves a “big blue stamp album” as a gift for finding the afikoman. Readers will root for Lisa and a happy holiday." —Gloria Goldreich, "Stories for Children to Celebrate and Commemorate,"

"Passover is just around the corner and author Janet Ruth Heller brings a timely story in The Passover Surprise. Calling on Heller’s own childhood experiences, The Passover Surprise tells the tale of a girl named Lisa as she competes with her brother Jon in a stamp collecting competition. Lisa’s father deems her brother the winner of the competition based partly on the ideas that stamp collecting is more of a boy’s hobby than a girl’s. As Lisa prepares to talk to her father about her feelings, she is also preparing for Passover. Set in the 1960s, the story touches on many different topics such as sibling rivalry and the stereotyping of girls all while weaving Jewish traditions and customs throughout. The Passover Surprise is well written. With short chapters and only 35 pages in length, The Passover Surprise is a good fit for upper elementary students with themes applicable to all kids, regardless of their background. Discussion questions as well as a glossary of Jewish terms is also included."Melissa Sweeney, Baltimore's Child, April 11, 2016

"A lot of ground is covered in this story for middle schoolers. It begins with a pre-teenage girl, Lisa, competing with her younger brother, Jon, to win a stamp album, and moves on to a discussion of World War II, the experiences of African American soldiers, and the nascent American Civil Rights Movement taking place as the story unfolds, circa 1960."Click here for the full review by Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish World

"The Passover Surprise is a middle grade chapter story that deals sensitively with complex issues like fairness, sexist thinking, working hard to sort out complex problems and issues within a family setting, relying on strong religious and cultural values within the framework of Judaism. Lisa is the heroine who is hurt by her father's decision to award a coveted stamp book to her younger brother Jon, perhaps because he is the younger son while she is the older daughter. Some wonderful pages describe first how Lisa felt, and then how she evaluates her options and strategies to attempt to explain her reaction to her father, whom she loves. The Passover Surprise tackles many difficult issues of prejudice, racism, misogyny, and fairness, even including bullying. All development is influenced by the strong Jewish faith and values of Lisa and her family. The story takes place in the 60's, and has a definite period flavor to it, which is underlined by the quietly charming black and white illustrations. The Passover Surprise is filled with wonder and hope, even in times of dreadful hardship and disappointment."Children's Bookwatch, October 2015 (Midwest Book Review)

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