The blue skies of childhood exist in the warmest of our memories, but what chases us all through the rest of our lives are the storm clouds. This is the premise of Children Shouldn’t Use Knives, a harrowing but exhilarating examination of life before adolescence by Canadian poet Shirley Camia. In a series of razor-sharp sketches, Camia’s piercing observations are offered as a perfectly balanced counter-weight to the sing-song melody of innocence. Camia and Vancouver illustrator Cindy Mochizuki offer an individual reckoning that unpacks the universal truth that fear and danger respect no age and ignore all boundaries.

Shirley Camia has produced a gorgeously sculptured work of poetry that is as beautiful as it is devastating.


Shortlist, ReLit Awards

Winner, Manitoba Book Awards, The Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Awards — Book Design

Honourable Mention, The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada — Poetry


If childhood were a room, Shirley Camia’s Children Shouldn’t Use Knives paces off the corners, fiddles with the light switch, and breaks the blinds. Camia writes ‘the dawn has a skeleton rattle,’ and we see all the moments of boredom and crisis, the lights and darks, all the joys and confusions of being young, of being alive.
– Ariel Gordon, author of Stowaways, winner of the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry


Camia peddles in subtle ambiances rather than ornate descriptions and so the slight poems tremble while casting long and enigmatic silhouettes — the collection is a shadow puppet show where small hand gestures become animated monsters.
– Adele Barclay, Room Magazine

(T)here are passages of imagistic brilliance that, as the poem “Through a Child’s Window” says, “poke violently through” like “stabs of sunlight.” One example, from this poem: clouds are “a parade of elephants/crossing an amber/traffic light/backwards.” Yes! Here the music of the lines, the freshness of the image, and the metaphor lift the poem into transcendence.
– Karen Hofmann, Prairie Fire

Disturbing but delightful, Camia’s sharp, stark poems unfold crumpled childhood memories and meditate on the beauty of their horror.
– Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press

A small, perfect, and perfectly searing book about childhood.
– Kate Sutherland, author of How to Draw a Rhinoceros