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.


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


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