Volume 6, no.4 - April 2001

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Picture Books

  • Wild Girl and Gran by Nan Gregory

    Illustrated by Ron Lightburn. Red Deer Press, 2000. 32p. Illus. Gr.3-5. 0-88995-221-3. Hdbk. $18.95.

    Rating: E

  • Hiding in a haystack, a treehouse or a big tree you watch others walk by below. You feel you have power over the others as they do not know you are there. They do not know they are being watched. From your perch you can become a pirate, a castle princess, a "cowboy on the lone prairie" or a wild girl in her "stouthearted tree". Such is the power of a young girl in an ancient oak tree.

    Nan Gregory writes in the first person from the young girl's point of view. Grandmother comes to stay with the family. Ron Lightburn depicts Gran as somewhat of a wild girl herself with her long, loose gray hair and tattoos - a star on her cheek and a rose on her ankle. Right away Gran senses the wild girl trying to be an acorn in her tree. Gran "finds" the wild girl when she knows the words to a game. They pretend they are wild horses and practise whistling during dessert. They spend many days at the tree - Gran knitting while the wild girl climbs. As time passes, however, Gran becomes more and more feeble until she has to be hospitalized. The wild girl tries to help but she doesn't know how. In the winter Gran dies and the girl misses her "old pal". She has Gran's knitted patches but they do not cheer her. "Spring comes anyhow" and the dispirited girl and her mother walk along the path to the tree sharing yarns about Gran and sprinkling Gran's ashes among the wildflowers. The wild girl realizes that her mother also misses Gran and they share the beauty and power of the tree and of their love.

    Nan Gregory is a professional storyteller and author of another powerful story How Smudge Came (Raincoast, 1995). She uses poetic language, contrasts and repetition to create a story of exhilaration and uncomfortable reality and to illustrate the healing and empowering qualities of both nature and imagination. This book would be perfect for reading aloud to large or small groups and for dramatizing. It could be used for therapy and when studying feelings or families. The large amount of motion depicted could be interpreted through creative dance. Students could try out Nan Gregory's style when writing about their own imaginations and feelings.

    Gran and the wild girl are keen observers of nature. Plants and animals are important to them. They give names from nature to the colour patches that Gran knits such as "Shooting Star" for pink and green and "Cricket's Chirp" for a sandy colour. Students could learn to knit, observe nature and name the colours of their squares. On the inside back cover is a list of the plants referred to in the story and information about Garry oak meadows of Southwestern British Columbia.

    Award winning illustrator of Waiting for the Whales (Orca, 1999), Ron Lightburn, uses an unusual technique for this book, covering photocopies of pencil drawings with clear acrylic, then colouring them with oil paint. He uses colours for emphasis and effect leaving parts of the pictures in monochrome. He also uses a variety of perspectives for emphasis and effect, such as extreme closeups and long depth of field views. Art students could discuss the illustrator's interpretations.

    For a gentle, expressive story about death, this book is highly recommended.

  • Thematic Links:Love; Death; Feelings; Family; Trees; Flowers; Birds; Nature Study
  • Heather Farmer
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Danger in Disguise (On Time's Wing Series) by Mary Alice Downie & John Downie

    Rousan Publishers, 2000. 170p. Gr. 5 up. 1-896184-72-3. Pbk. $8.95

    Rating: G

  • Veteran Canadian children's author, Mary Alice Downie and her husband John Downie have collaborated on this work of historical fiction, their third novel together. We are taken back to the year 1759 when Jamie Macpherson and his father, Duncan, are living in a small village in France. They have been on the run for most of Jamie's life, constantly moving in an attempt to evade their pursuer, a man named Sleath who has vowed to find and kill Duncan because he captured and married the woman Sleath was about to marry years before. As Sleath finds their hiding place in France, Jamie and his father separate and agree to meet in the spring in Scotland. Due to an unexpected turn of events, Jamie and some friends are captured by a press-gang and sent off to Quebec to fight against the French in the British navy. On his way up the St. Lawrence River, Jamie is mistaken for an enemy spy because of his perfect French, and is taken on to Quebec where he becomes involved in the struggle between the French and the British. But whose side is Jamie on? Is it the English or the French? How is he going to prove that he is not an enemy spy?

    And how is he going to find his father again?

    Downie has written a fairly fast paced novel which is sure to appeal to middle readers who are looking for adventure stories. There is lots of action with a hint of mystery. While the story of Jamie and his father is fiction, the reality of the press-gang, the conditions aboard the ships, and the struggle between the English and French in Quebec are historically correct. Jamie is a strong character who is not afraid to express his views and do what has to be done. Jeanne, the young girl who befriends Jamie in Quebec, is also a very strong character and while she is French and Jamie is British, they find that they have many things in common and they work together to help the wounded after the Battle on the Plains of Abraham.

    This novel provides an interesting read as well as information about a little know era of Canadian history. It could certainly be used to supplement studies in Canadian history in the upper elementary and junior high grades.

  • Thematic Links:Quebec - History; Canada - History
  • Victoria Pennell
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • The Light-Bearer's Daughter (Book Three in the Chronicles of Faerie) by O.R. Melling

    Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 2001. 208 p. Gr. 4-8. 1-4100-459-2. Pbk. $16.99

    Rating: G

  • Living in Ireland, O. R. Melling must've absorbed some of the magic of fairy storytelling. The Light-Bearer's Daughter tells the tale of the faery world's fight against diminishment in a modern world. The book also tells of 11-year-old Dana's struggles with the prospect of moving from Ireland to Canada and the mysterious, long-ago loss of her mother. Seemingly disparate, these tales converge in a plot that deftly and aptly illustrates how intricately meshed are the worlds of faerie and humankind. In return for her heart's dearest wish, Dana must deliver an urgent fairy message. Boggles, faeries and others of Irish folkloric ilk lend her help - and cause her trouble - as she plays her fated part in both a personal fairy saga and the larger battle against extinction. The immensely satisfying ending isn't quite the fairy-tale ending Dana wanted, but is, she senses, the right one.

    Melling brings Faerie into startling being with vivid, descriptive detail. The same richness in rendering captures the charming Irish countryside. What makes the book more than just an escape into a whimsical other-world, however, is its relevance to our own world. Anybody who has moved--be it to a new neighbourhood or a new country--can relate to Dana's despair over leaving old friends and familiar places and her dread of starting anew. Dana's secret fear, that she was responsible for her mother's flight, will resonate with other readers dealing with parental death or divorce. Still others will identify with the book's pro-environment theme. The last run of the last wolf of Wicklow and the mass felling of trees, with its manifold implications for nature and Faerie, send a strong message about the consequences of indiscriminate progress. The impulsive defence of the trees by passers-by is an equally effective call-to-arms, and leaves readers with much hope for humanity.

  • Thematic Links:Environment; Moving/Emigration; Ireland, Irish History; Irish Folklore; Family
  • Cora Lee
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • Animals Eating: How Animals Chomp, Chew, Slurp, and Swallow by Pamela Hickman

    Illustrated by Pat Stephens. Kids Can Press, 2001. 40p. Illus. Gr. 1-5. 1-55074-577-8. Hdbk. $14.95

    Rating: E

  • Did you know the bison is the largest land animal in North America? Did you know the Australian koala eats only eucalyptus leaves? Did you know that the longtail weasel eats half its body weight in food each day?

    All these (and many more) questions are answered in this fabulous new book by the author of Animals in Motion and Animal Senses. Animals Eating provides a glimpse into the interesting world of animal's eating habits. Readers learn about how different animals' mouths, jaws, and digestive systems are specially designed to accommodate the kinds of foods they eat. For example, all meat eaters are "well equipped with sharp teach for killing and tearing up their food". On the same page, there is a close up illustration of a crocodile's mouth and teeth as well as a text box with interesting facts about crocodiles. Similarly, children will learn that "animals that eat only plants are called herbivores. Many plant eaters have special adaptations that help them harvest and digest their food". The author goes on to explain how different herbivores are specially adapted to eat plants, including a giraffe, whose "tongue is covered by a natural sunscreen to protect it from the hot sun" while it is searching for plants. Each two page spread shows a different kind of animal and its unique method of eating and digesting its food. Full colour illustrations on each page work with the text to emphasize the animal's characteristics.

    In addition to the descriptive text and detailed illustrations, the author has included experiments that are designed to reinforce the ways different animals eat. For example, children can use simple materials to make a "Tongue Trapper" which simulates a frog's tongue. Children can also do an experiment to see how gizzards help birds grind up the seeds they eat or one to see how two different insects feed on liquids. This book will be useful for research projects as well as general information for elementary level children. With the experiments, interesting text, and facts to keep even the most knowledgeable animal lover reading, Animals Eating is an excellent addition to schools and libraries.

  • Thematic Links:Animals; Animal Habits; Digestive System; General Reference
  • Joanne de Groot
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • Encyclopedia of British Columbia by Daniel Francis, Editor

    Harbour Publishing, 2000. 850p. Illus. Includes CD-ROM. Gr. 7 up. 1-55017-200-X. Hdbk. $99.99

    Rating: E

  • The Encyclopedia of British Columbia is an encyclopedia in the classic sense of the word. "It touches every facet of British Columbia from the formation of the Coast Mountains to the evolution of aboriginal art to the development of the Ballard fuel cell." All major subject areas including history, geography, the economy, politics, climate, the arts, science and sports are covered.

    The book is organized in standard encyclopedia format with subjects listed alphabetically. Even with the huge number of articles (4000+), each one is very well covered, often with accompanying pictures and/or illustrations. It also contains some excellent quality photographs, illustrations, tables, and charts, which add to the depth of the coverage, especially on topics such as climatic conditions.

    The text is well written and in a size that is easy to read. All topic headings are bolded. Within articles, cross-referencing headings are also included for finding additional information. Some of these appear as See Also at the end of the article while others appear within the body of the text. Those within the body of the articles would be much easier to spot if they were in bold print. This would be especially useful for students using the encyclopedia.

    The book does have a subject index but only for subjects that do not have their own articles in the encyclopedia. The articles where information on these subjects can be found are shown in bold. However no page numbers are included for quick reference. A general index with page numbers would have been good.

    The accompanying CD-ROM is great! It can be installed on a computer or used from the CD-ROM drive of a machine without installing it. It is used through an internet browsers. It not only can be accessed through the latest versions of the browser but allows access through older browsers such as Netscape 3. It is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh systems.

    The CD-ROM incorporates all the articles from the print edition along with colour graphics, sounds, animation and video. There are over 40 minutes of video, hundreds of sound clips, and thousands of images and illustrations.

    The opening screen gives the user information on using the encyclopedia, what is included in it and information on the publisher, contributors, etc. It provides three ways of finding information: search the index, a keyword(s) search, or search through the articles that contain media such as video, sounds, charts, tables, pictures, etc. To save time in searching the index the user can click on the first letter of the subject. This index is far superior to that included in the print edition.

    When performing a key word search, the user need only click on an article for it to appear. The keyword(s) appear in red throughout the article while links to related articles appear in blue. Depending on the subject links to additional images, video, maps and charts may also appear. One really good feature is that at the end of each article is a list of related Internet links.

    Depending on the machine, and the program being used to view video and sound, these media clips can be slow loading and may on occasion cause some of the older machines to lock up.

    The CD-ROM also provides a link to the encyclopedia online, which provides updates, technical support, contact information, sample articles, and a quiz.

    This encyclopedia is a great resource in any resource centre.

  • Thematic Links:Canada; British Columbia; Social Studies
  • Janet Toope
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Professional Resources

  • The Learners' Way: Brain-Based Learning in Action. 2nd ed. by Anne D. Forester & Margaret Reinhard.

    Foreword by Renate N. Caine. Portage & Main Press, 2000. 339p. 1-894110-55-2. Pbk. $22.00..

    Rating: E

  • This revised and expanded version updates the 1989 original and is aimed at teachers, parents and administrators interested in the early school years. The authors are committed to using learner-sensitive approaches, and on making research "come alive" in classrooms. The Learners' Way: Brain-Based Learning in Action makes excellent use of the idea that teachers are researchers, and encourages teachers to observe how the children they work with use a variety of approaches to master new information and skills. Forester and Reinhard point out that "instruction that is too teacher-directed can undermine learning" (p. 10), and then give examples of how well-intentioned adults can actually stifle children's development as independent learners. For many early childhood educators, this book will be an affirmation of the principles that guide our practice "learning by doing and observing what happens".

    The book emphasizes literacy development using a theoretical framework based on brain research. The first chapter, "What does the Brain have to do with Education?" is easy to read, enlightening, and helps the reader make connections to the constructivist approach stressed by the authors. This chapter also includes a brief discussion of multiple intelligences, including emotional intelligence, and the role of teachers in enhancing children's learning by responding to their strengths.

    Forester and Reinhard are eloquent in their discussion of the need for developing a classroom climate that supports and extends learning. Their phrase "creating a climate of delight" will resonate with educators who know that children respond to beauty and order. The authors are focused on how to make the environment an inviting one for readers and writers, but we know that a place rich in sensory experiences will support all kinds of learning. The reminder that "the climate of delight is not one-sided but unites teachers and children as co-creators of learning" (p. 54) will be appreciated by many readers who are sometimes wary of taking the risk of expressing their own curiosity and wonder with young children.

    Teachers who are striving to be more learner-sensitive in their daily work will find the chapters on classroom management, assessing progress and teacher-child interactions interesting and directly applicable to their practice. Several chapters end with a section entitled "hints and particulars", which are frequently in the form of vignettes or miniature case studies which illustrate the authors' key points. Many readers will find these stories engaging and more useful than a "laundry list" of good ideas because the application of principles is clearly developed.

    Another useful aspect of the book is its discussion of multi-age classrooms. In many communities, multi-grade or split-grade situations have been the norm for decades. However, family grouping and multi-age teaching requires planning and a different mind-set than working in a split-grade environment. For teachers, parents and administrators who want to make this transition, Forester and Reinhard offer practical suggestions.

    The book's bibliography is useful for further reference, and a brief listing of the children's books mentioned in the text is also provided.

    While there are a vast number of resources available to early childhood educators about literacy, child-sensitive teaching, and the provision of stimulating learning environments, not all of them encourage teachers to marry research and practice in meaningful, realistic ways. The authors of The Learners' Way respect teachers, parents and administrators as competent consumers of research, and encourage adults to appreciate their own abilities to learn about children through observation and interaction. Forester and Reinhard provide teachers with a sound foundation for creating constructivist classrooms in which all participants are seen as creative and capable.

  • Thematic Links: Literacy; Research;
  • Kathryn McNaughton
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Audio Visual Resources

  • Envirocareers

    The Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry, 2001. Multimedia Kit. Gr. 8 up. (This kit is being provided free of charge to all high schools in Canada).

    Rating: E

  • The Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry, was established in 1993. It is a national, non-profit organization which works to ensure that the skills, knowledge of the environmental workforce match the needs of employers. The council communicates with 19,000 workers, employers, industry associations and educational institutions. Information gathered is used to inform government, industry and education about trends and labor market shortages. The Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry, is involved in providing information, internship programs and scholarships to Canadian youth in their first work experience. The Envirocareers kit is the result of investigations which pointed out that young people across Canada were unaware of the variety of opportunities in the environmental sector.

    This outstanding multimedia kit contains current information on careers related to the environment. The kit contains: a video tape, a CD-ROM, a Facilitator's Guide, a Student Handbook, a copy of "EnviroXchange" (a newsletter on the latest environmental employment trends), and a copy of "Enviro Careers" information sheet. All of the above information is compactly enclosed in a loose, cardboard box. The only negative thing that could be said about the entire package it its floppy construction and penchant for spewing its contents upon the novice handler. Otherwise, Envirocareers is an excellent resource for any guidance department, student employment centre, career centre or student intent upon investigating careers in the environment field.

    The short videotape provides a visual introduction to the kit and to careers in the environment. It captures careers in their work site and could be used alone to introduce the kit.

    The CD-ROM entitled "Envirocareers" provides an introduction and explanation of over thirty careers in the environment. Besides explaining the job, the CD-ROM provides information about post-secondary institutions, educational requirements, salary ranges, expected duties, responsibilities and other interesting facts. Like the video, the CD-ROM could be used as a stand-alone.

    The Facilitator's Guide offers teachers' lesson plans on the following topics:

    Conserving Our Wildlife and Conserving Our Wilderness Areas and Our Forests, Littering or Polluting, Pure Water, The Air We Breathe, Getting the Word Out, Electronic Senses, Exploring the World of Weather, Perils of the Workplace, Changing the Workplace, Be an Environmental Educator, Exploring Consumer Behaviour, Exploring Your Community, Houseboating. As with the video and CD-ROM, the resources of the Facilitator's Guide and the Student Guide might be used in combination with one another or as stand-alones.

    A 91-page Student Guide offers information on careers that protect the environment such as environmental biologist, air quality technologist; careers which converse such as agrologist and forester; careers which promote environment such as environmental communicator, educator, bimetrician; careers which explore the environment such as environmental chemist and climate scientist; careers involved in environmental management such as environmental lawyer and economist. In total thirty-one careers are investigated. As well the guide includes a career index, an extensive list of resources and a glossary.

    The newsletters/leaflets included in the kit provide ideas for further investigation and information worth examining.

    For more information, The Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry, provides an address The Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry, Suite 1450, 700-4th Avenue S.W. Calgary, Alberta, T2P 3J4, Voice (403) 233-0748, Fax (403) 269-9544, e-mail info@cchrei.ca, web site http://www.cchrei.ca.

    Envirocareers is a comprehensive, up-to-date, exciting career package which every secondary school guidance department and environmental science course should possess.

  • Thematic Links: Career Planning; Environmental Science
  • Gail Lennon
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CD-ROM Resources

  • Masks: Faces of the Pacific

    DNA Media Inc. Distributed by National Film Board of Canada, 1998. Gr. 4 up. 1-896631-37-1. $54.95

    Rating: E

  • Hardware Specifications: Windows requires Pentium 90 Processor, Windows 95,16 MB RAM. Macintosh requires PowerPC Processor, System 7.5, 10 MB Available RAM

    Masks is an example of CD-ROM technology at its best, able to place within the hands of the user access to an amazing variety of information and images. The theme is Masks, but the authors include coverage on many aspects of the cultures they highlight such as religion, food, architecture, mythology, tools, and clothing to name a few.

    The cultures are all located on the Pacific Rim which allows learners to make comparisons. The authors cover the Northwest First Nations, the Yupik of Alaska, the dance drama of Bali, the Noh theatre of Japan, and the Sepik and New Ireland cultures of Papua New Guinea. All of these different cultures use masks in particular ways and through the examination of the mask we come to understand many other sides to these cultures.

    The program is filled with video clips illustrating the land, showing interviews, maskmaking, and performances. We hear music, chanting, and stories on the many audio clips and we see a variety of 3D models, such as the 3D model of a traditional Noh theatre in Japan. There are also games where the user can test their comprehension and viewing skills. An educational companion booklet is also available to teachers.

    If there is any complaint about the program it is the main interface screen which can be quite confusing at times. Navigating about the program takes practice, some careful observation, and a little intuition. Luckily, there is a library which lists every topic and will take you directly there. This would be my major concern for younger users, who could easily stray away from the desired module.

    Each culture is covered separately, which allows one to avoid becoming entangled in a flood of information. The text is oriented more to upper intermediate students, but the audio-visual aspect of the program makes it accessible to lower intermediate students.

    Masks is ideal for art teachers contemplating making masks in their classroom and will provide students with ideas and inspiration. They'll realize that the masks featured on the program are the product of a lot of thought and reflect the culture in which they were made. The program will also be of benefit to socials teachers studying Northwest Coast First Nations and to those who are studying Japan. There is even a journal component to the disk where the authors recorded their impressions as they were researching and making the program. Language Arts teachers could use these journals as a springboard for activities in their own classrooms.

    This is a wonderful program and teachers would be well advised to find a way to integrate it into their curriculum. I would strongly recommend the purchase of this program by all British Columbia schools who teach First Nations curriculum. This is a great resource and it'd be a pity if it didn't find its way into the classroom.

  • Thematic Links: Art; First Nations; Social Studies; Language Arts; Drama
  • Michael Jung
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French Resources

  • Aventures dans l'égypte ancienne (0-439-98542-0) Aventures au moyen âge (0-439-98535-8) by Linda Bailey

    Illustrated by Bill Slavin. Les éditions Scholastic, 2000. 48p. Illus. Gr. 5-7. Pbk. $9.99 ea.

    Rating: G

  • The Thibodeau twins, Justin and Emma, are obliged to follow their younger sister Léa into the Prends Ton Temps travel agency one day. It is a dark and sinister looking shop, so they have never entered before. When the travel guide for ancient Egypt drops on Justin's head, he opens it up and... the twins and Léa find themselves sitting in the Nile - about 4500 years in the past! Emma, the sensible twin, takes charge of the travel guide and learns that in order to return home, they must read the entire guide. Justin is quickly hauled off by some palace officials to work on the latest pyramid, and Emma and Léa must spend time working for different families and trying to locate him. At last, they are reunited just as Emma is nearing the end of her reading, and after a mad chase through the streets of an Egyptian city, they read the final page and pouf! are back in the Agence Prends Ton Temps. Whew! Emma swears she will never even come back down that street again!

    So, why, in the next book, do we find Emma and Justin egging each other on to go back into the travel agency? It seems Justin has a hankering to try out being a knight. Emma can't let him go alone! This time, however, they have carefully left Léa at home - at least that's what they think! Soon they find themselves in the middle of a field being prepared for planting. Justin's dreams of knighthood are not exactly the first order of business, unfortunately, and they discover very much the hard way exactly how hard life was for peasants in the Middle Ages. Another series of adventures, and Justin finally gets his five minutes of glory and is knighted by the lady of the local castle. Once again, Emma finishes up the reading and once again they are transported back to the travel agency. Once again, Emma swears never to go back to the shop, but as M. Petitjean, the owner of the shop says, never is a very long time, even when you travel back in time!

    These lighthearted adventures are written in comic book format, which makes them very appealing to Grade 5-7 students. Many facts about the Middle Ages and Ancient Egypt can be discovered in the context of the story, but if you find extracting information from a storyline too challenging, the travel guide is conveniently drawn at the bottom of each page. This guide explains in detail some of the specifics of life in the time period and is clear and easy to understand. The guide contains interesting information, but is not so overloaded with facts as to make the students want to skip it. By the same token, nothing is lost from the storyline if the student wants to read the story only and skip the guide. There are many interesting and amusing details in the illustrations, which are reminiscent of the Where's Waldo series. Students who look carefully will be able to see dogs eating on the dining table, prisoners in chains in the dungeon, bear baiting, and of course, Léa getting into all kinds of trouble. All in all, interesting books that the students will enjoy.

  • Thematic Links:Ancient Civilizations; Time Travel; Knights and Chivalry; Castles
  • Valerie Pollock
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