Volume 8, no.1 - October 2002

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Picture Books

  • Jasper's Day by Marjorie Blain Parker

    Illustrated by Janet Wilson. Kids Can Press, 2002. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool - 5. 1-55074-957-9. Hdbk. $16.95

    Rating: E

  • Jasper's Day is a beautifully told and illustrated story about a family who are about to lose their faithful dog Jasper to cancer. The story is told from the point of view of the little boy, Riley, in clear and simple language. It avoids melodrama in this way, yet it is much more than a simply factual account. It is a bittersweet day because Jasper's family are planning to take Jasper to all his favourite places to do his favourite things, and then in the afternoon Jasper will be taken to the vet's to be euthanized, thus ending his suffering.

    The family give the old dog a super breakfast, and then take him for a car ride to a special picnic spot. Jasper drinks from his favourite stream (in which he used to swim) and then they get ice creams from a favourite take-out joint. Finally, they visit Grandma and her dog Nikki. Then it is time to say goodbye. Later, Dad returns with Jasper in a blanket, and the family bury him in the backyard. Finally, Riley goes to sleep thinking about the day, and all the pictures they took. The final illustration spread is a collage of pictures from Jasper's life, without words.

    Janet Wilson's chalk pastel pictures fit perfectly with the story. She is a very accomplished illustrator whose most recent works for children include The Biggest Fish in the Lake by Margaret Carney and No Two Snowflakes by Sheree Fitch. Each illustration is brightly coloured and impressionistic. The pictures have lots of sunlight in them, and a good balance between warm and cool tones. Jasper is perfectly depicted as a beautiful but old dog. Each illustration of him with his family is heart-wrenching, because it is so obvious that he is suffering, but loves his family and the attention he's getting so much.

    This is Parker's first picture book, but she has written others including a title released in May 2002 and a non-fiction collaboration in 2000 with Wilson.

  • Thematic Links:Dogs; Families; Death
  • Heather Hamilton
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Flood by James Heneghan

    Douglas & McIntyre/Groundwood Books), 2002. 188p. Gr. 4 up. 0-88899-466-4. Pbk. $12.95

    Rating: E

  • James Heneghan's newest work Flood tells the story of eleven year old Andy Flynn. Andy has lost his mother and stepfather in a flood and suddenly his world is turned upside down. Aunt Mona, whom he has never met, takes him to live with her in Halifax, on the opposite side of the country from his Vancouver upbringing. During the trip Aunt Mona tells Andy that his father is still alive and living in Halifax. Andy grew up thinking that his father had died and is stunned to learn otherwise. As soon as they get to Halifax Andy ditches his aunt and goes searching for his father. And while Vincent Flynn may not be the perfect father, Andy wants to stay with him rather than his aunt. Vincent is fun; he's promised Andy that he will get a real job so that they can get another place to move into, someplace nicer than the apartment he has now. But even with the help of the Sheehogue (called Little People or faeries who protect children, such as by saving Andy from the flood, and yet cause mischief on occasion) Andy's father has a hard time keeping his word.

    Flood is a great read as we learn about Andy's search for a real home. The story has action, humour and mischief. The Sheehogue are a delight to learn about and see how they act in the world. For instance, they have been known to crash disk drives, jam revolving doors, play with traffic lights, and just exerting exuberance with harmless pranks. And we see how they watch over Andy as he settles into his life in Halifax. Flood is filled with the anxieties and questions an eleven-year-old boy has about learning and struggling to make a new home. It also deals with the belief of seeing the best in people and not understanding why people disappoint each other. It is heartfelt and the story is made stronger by it. Be sure to check it out.

  • Thematic Links:Fathers; Sons; Family Life
  • Connie Forst
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • No Missing Parts and Other Stories about Real Princesses by Anne Laurel Carter

    Red Deer Press, Calgary, 2002. 135p. Gr. 7 up. 0-88995-235-1. Pbk. $12.95

    Rating: G/E

  • The theme of this interesting and thought-provoking short story collection is the emergence of young girls into womanhood. The author begins her collection by pointing out that she, like many girls, started her journey into womanhood by expecting that a handsome prince would come along and sweep her up and they would live happily ever after. This collection of twelve short stories deals with what she terms as "real princesses". It is her wish that, instead of being fed the fairy tale stories replete with the notion of being saved, girls will come to realize that they are the potential real princesses: "independent young women who throughout the ages, took leadership, defied social conformity and were smart enough to banish evil from their home."

    The collection contains stories of feminine courage to overcome adversities such as domineering males, unwanted pregnancy, fear of AIDS and abuse. The common thread is girls who make tough decisions and emerge from their childhood with a better understanding of who they are and what they can become.

    Included in No Missing Parts and Other Stories about Real Princesses are such stories as "Leaving the Iron Lung" in which a teenage girl afflicted with polio learns the joy and satisfaction of taking first steps towards independence. In "Saying Good-bye to Princess Di" a young girl discovers how stifling her relationship is with her narcissistic boyfriend, at the same time exploring loss and learning that other boys offer a more egalitarian relationship. "The Piano Lesson" explores AIDS, teenage pregnancy and decision-making. In the legend, "Princess Sheila NaGeira" the title character finds herself stranded with her lover on a rocky crag in Newfoundland in the late nineteenth century. In "Badlands" Sybil finds love in Drumheller, Alberta. Set in World War II, Ruthie retrieves a ring that her dead brother gave his unfaithful girl friend before he left for war in the title short story.

    While the stories in No Missing Parts and Other Stories about Real Princesses will be of specific interest to young teenage girls, the topics explored and lessons learned in this short story collection are applicable to boys as well. Readers of puberty to adult age will find challenging topics, writing style and symbolism in No Missing Parts and Other Stories about Real Princesses. The uniquely Canadian settings of the stories range from British Columbia through to Newfoundland. Story times vary from early nineteenth century to the present. The creative style of author Anne Laurel Carter make No Missing Parts and Other Stories about Real Princesses a must-have book for all secondary school library and adult public library collections.

    Anne Laurel Carter is the author of such novels as In the Clear, The Girl on Evangeline Beach and Our Canadian Girl. Two of the stories from No Missing Parts and Other Stories about Real Princesses, "Leaving the Iron Lung" and "The Piano Lesson" have won awards in young adult short story contests.

  • Thematic Links:Growing Up; Friendship; Relationships; Sex Education; Decision Making; Critical Thinking
  • Gail Lennon
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine

    Second Story Press, 2002. 111p. Illus. Gr. 4-8. 1-896764-55-X. Pbk. $12.95

    Rating: E

  • Hana's Suitcase is the touching story of how the young Japanese director of the Tokyo Holocaust Center, Fumiko Ishioka, worked to discover information about Hana Brady, a Jewish Czech girl whose suitcase had been sent to the Center by the Auschwitz Museum. The suitcase was labelled in large letters with Hana's name, date of birth (May 16, 1931) and the German word for "orphan". The Auschwitz Museum had been able to tell Fumiko that Hana had arrived there from Theresienstadt (formerly Terezin). The museum in Terezin was able to send Fumiko four of Hana's drawings. Visiting this museum, Fumiko found both Hana's name and that of her older brother, George on a list of prisoners. A tick mark indicated that Hana had died at Auschwitz. However, they found the name of George's bunkmate for Fumiko and she traced him to Prague. From him she received George's address in Toronto, Canada, where he had married, is a successful business owner and even has grandchildren.

    George told Fumiko the story of his happy childhood. From George, Fumiko also received the stunning family photographs (kept safe for him by an aunt and uncle) that grace the pages of this moving book. Hana skating and skiing. Hana hanging laundry with her mother. Hana and George building a snow fort. Hana in costume for a school play. These personal photographs are heart breaking and will crystallize for younger children the vicious reality of the Holocaust. Placed judiciously in the text, the photographs bring the story to life.

    The text is simple, yet compelling reading, very accessible to younger students and still detailed enough to hold the attention of older students. The actual story of Hana's life is interspersed with the suspenseful account of Fumiko's search for information so that her group of children who call themselves "Small Wings" would understand more about the Holocaust and work more diligently for world peace.

    Hana's Suitcase is a well-designed, attractive book with a large font and many pictures that break up the text. Each chapter begins with the date of the events it contains. The cover's chilling use of red for Hana's name and yellow for the Star of David superimposed on a black and white formal portrait of Hana will draw people of all ages to pick up this book.

    Karen Levine, the author, based Hana's Suitcase on a radio documentary she created for The Sunday Edition of CBC Radio One. This book takes its honourable place on the growing list of books that will successfully introduce the Holocaust to Canadian students. It would be a very effective read aloud. Its haunting pages will bring tears to the eyes and strengthen our resolve to sustain a peaceful world.

    Highly recommended.

  • Thematic Links:Holocaust; World War II
  • Joan Marshall
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • A Young Adult's Guide to the Canadian West by Don Brestler

    Bayeux Arts/Raincoast Books, 2002. 141 p. Illus. Gr. 6-8. 1-896209-72-6. Pbk. $19.95

    Rating: G

  • Mike Robinson, director of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, notes in his introduction to A Young Adult's Guide to the Canadian West that a "well-told history lays the foundation for understanding the present and the diversity of modern society." Highly readable, Don Brestler's work certainly qualifies as this type of historical document, giving readers a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era whose effects continue to be felt in the Canadian West to the present day.

    The author's passion for his subject is obvious as he relates stories of hardy pioneering societies, tough cowboys and ranchers, the achievements of Native populations and their eventual decline. Brestler manages to convey these stories in a conversational writing style, making it seem as if he is a friend who is telling the reader about the "old days." Although there is an occasional slip into sentimentality, the stories are interesting enough to hold the reader's attention throughout.

    Brestler's interest in the Canadian Northwest is also seen in the great care he has taken in creating the art that accompanies the stories. Readers looking carefully will notice, in these pen-and-ink drawings, minute details that characterize the clothing, housing, transportation and lifestyles of this period in Canadian history.

    This book would be useful as an introduction to a social studies unit for middle grades and early high school. Those with an interest in Canadian history or life in the Canadian West would also be interested in reading this book.

  • Thematic Links:North-West Canada - History
  • Evette Signarowski
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Professional Resources

  • Action Research: A Practical Guide for Transforming Your School Library by Judith Sykes

    Libraries Unlimited, 2002. 135p. Includes CD-ROM. 1-56308-875-4. Pbk. $31.00 US

    Rating: G

  • With recent declines in the number of school librarians and school library programs in Canada, this book touches on a timely topic. It was just this situation which inspired Judith Sykes to undertake the action research which she describes in this book, a product of her Master's Program at the University of Portland. Ms. Sykes states that "in speaking with individual teacher-librarians, teacher-librarian groups or associations, and school library and other educational personnel at district levels, I discovered a need - now more than ever - for teacher-librarians ... to reach out to their constituents to build shared understandings of the impact of school libraries on student learning. Many of these busy professionals ... can find the model of the action research process in this book beneficial by replicating the process." (p. six)

    In Part I, Sykes describes the process of action research while at the same time describing the study which she undertook to look at the future of school libraries. She describes how she established the context for her research; the issues involved; the exploration of current literature; the establishing of goals, outcomes and plans; the interaction with "experts', school board members, students, and the Calgary Board of Education Library Task Force; and the results and discussions which came out of the research. Part II is a PowerPoint Presentation on "School Libraries of the Future" which outlines the findings of Sykes research (A CD of this presentation is also included with the book).

    For educators interested in doing action research, particularly in the area of teacher-librarianship, this book is a valuable tool. It provides hands-on guidance for doing the research as well as some timely information on the future of school libraries which would be helpful to any teacher-librarian doing advocacy programs within his/her own school or district.

  • Thematic Links:Action Research; School Libraries; Teacher-Librarianship
  • Victoria Pennell
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  • TV & Me: Teaching Media and Life Skills at School and at Home

    Concerned Children's Advertisers, n.d. 1 CD-ROM (English and French), 1 Video. Free (Available from Concerned Children's Advertisers, 2300 Yonge St., Suite 804, Box 2432, Toronto, ON M4P 1E4.)

    Rating: E

  • TV & Me is a resource program produced in partnership by The Concerned Children's Advertisers, The Government of Canada and Corus Entertainment. The program consists of a series of commercials on videotape with accompanying lesson plans available on CD-ROM and on the website www.cca-kids.ca TV & Me is designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop media literacy skills while at the same time focus on important and relevant issues in their lives. The program attempts to provide children with tools and skills that will help them watch carefully, think critically and navigate safely as they interact with media.

    The program is organized for Educators into 3 levels - Primary K-3, Junior 4-6, and Intermediate 7-9. Lesson plans are further organized by issue. The issues for each age group include: Media Literacy, Substance Abuse Prevention, Self-Esteem, Peer Pressure, Active Living, Critical Thinking and Children and Bullying. Some issues have several lesson plans that are related while other issues have one lesson that applies.

    The lesson plans are designed to meet provincial learning outcomes. The plan for each commercial begins with a previewing activity to stimulate thought and discussion on the issue. Links are then identified with the commercial. The students watch the commercial together. Post-viewing activities as well as Extension activities are outlined. The suggested activities encourage students to engage in thoughtful and reflective dialog with their peers and teachers. The activities promote independent thinking and responsible decision making. The lessons focus on self-esteem, dreams and goals, role models, refusal skills, active living skills, conflict resolution skills, stereotypes, friendships, advocacy and media literacy skills.

    Strategies used in the lessons are student-centered. Students engage in positive and interactive learning experiences which focus on motivating and empowering students to become critical thinkers and independent decision-makers. The strategies used include: role playing, story boarding, interviewing, letter writing, designing, publishing, graphing, producing, creating, critical viewing, promoting, learning, teaching and analyzing.

    The lesson plans are very well designed and easy to use. The video is very appealing. Children are able to easily identify with the characters in the commercials. The issues are current and relevant for the intended audience. The most recent update, Children & Bullying is especially timely. This resource is an asset for any teacher.

  • Thematic Links:Language Arts, Health, Social Studies, Media Literacy
  • Brenda Power
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Audio Visual Resources

  • The Old Elephant's Christmas by Brenda Baker

    Songarden Records/Coteau Books, 2001. Audio CD. Gr. K-5. 1-55050-195-X. $17.00

    Rating: E

  • Prairie musician and writer Brenda Baker and her entourage of instrumentalists and vocalists have put together this unique CD which weaves the Old Elephant's story with a mixture of traditional Christmas carols and original music.

    The music is simply done, with minimal accompaniment. Tunes that aren't already well-known are catchy and words are provided to sing along. Styles vary from ballads to rock 'n roll. The tone varies from comic (Penelope, you're picky!) to the more serious (I've just gotta say thank you!) The music is interspersed with the story, but as well there is a section of the CD which presents only the original music, without the interruption of the narrative.

    Along with the music, then, is a delightful story about Penelope at Christmas. Since she is a girl who prefers perfection, the old elephant ornament on the tree has to be put away in a box in the closet. He just isn't 'good enough' and 'ruins' the effect of the whole Christmas tree. When the other ornaments discover him missing, they do a search and eventually find and liberate him. Then, the elephant is spruced up and goes back on the tree, assured of the love of his ornament family. Penelope learns from her Grandma on Christmas morning just where the elephant came from and why he is significant. She also comes to appreciate that the old adage about beauty being in the eye of the beholder is true.

    In many ways, the music and story present traditional Christmas ideas and values, yet in a refreshing new manner that will appeal to children and parents alike. Interesting note: a percentage of the proceeds from the CD goes to support Hemophilia Saskatchewan.

  • Thematic Links:Christmas
  • Ann Abel
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CD-ROM Resources

  • Spell Way for Grades 5 - 8 by Brenda Baker

    Courseware Solutions, 2002. Gd. 5-8. 1-894659-10-4 CD ROM with teacher kit $89; Home Edition $49;
    5 CD lab pack $189; Network Licence $699; 30 CD Site Pack $899

    Rating: E

  • Hardware Requirements: Windows PC: Intel Pentium or compatible, 12 MB RAM, Windows 95, 98 or NT 4 or later, SVGA 640x480, 256 colour monitor, CD-ROM drive, Windows-compatible sound card. Macintosh: Power PC, System 7.5.3 or later, 12 MB RAM, 640x480 colour monitor, CD-ROM drive.

    Spell Way is an interactive collection of language related learning activities. It is part of the Wordville Series of CD ROMS, which also includes Word Way and Write Way.

    The CD ROM is divided into 10 different activities. All 10 are in game show or contest format. The program draws from a word pool of 500+ words. Teachers can customize which words are used, and access student records. Seven of the activities focus on spelling and vocabulary skills related to spelling: Compounds, Consonants, Endings, Homophones, Prefixes and Suffixes, Roots, and Vowels. There are also three general activities that select words from all of the above categories: Millionaire, Fastest Fingers, Practices.

    The developers have also included the Spell Way Dictionary which has both definitions and pronunciations. This can be accessed during most of the activities. A unique spell check is also provided. The developers have ensured that incorrectly spelled words are never seen by allowing only the correctly typed words to be displayed. If a student types in an incorrect letter the program warns with an audible warning. The program will allow the correct letter to appear. This is a very nice addition to the program as teachers can be assured that whatever word the student is studying, they will only see the correct spelling.

    There are two different levels for each activity. The second level offers more difficult words and less clues to the correct word.

    The games and contest reward success by providing winnings ($). A word list is saved for each correctly spelled word. Students are also directed to copy all of their correctly spelled words onto paper for further reinforcement and teacher review. The program comes with Tracking Sheets for teacher review, and the CD ROM has the documents in PDF format. The teacher kit and CD ROM comes with follow up work sheets and templates for custom made work sheets. Finally there are instructions for supplementary activities to be done in the classroom: Spelling Bee, Millionaire Game, Concentration, Crosswords and Flashcards.

    Navigating the software is straight forward as there are buttons across the top of each screen. The Home Page has QUIT, HELP, CREDITS, and PRINT. Most of the activities have QUIT, HELP, HOME, DICTIONARY buttons. The Home Page has well displayed icons of each activity which just need to be clicked to activate.

    I was impressed with the contents of this CD ROM. The activities had very clear instructions and were not difficult to understand. I liked the hints the developers have included in the program. With the click of a button the student can be directed to the correct spelling, or be given the definition of the word, or even hear the word pronounced. Having 10 different activities for students has two benefits. The first is that teachers can be assured that there will be something productive for students to complete, and the second is that with such a variety of activities students will not become bored. I had some difficulty hearing the correct pronunciation of the words. Even after clicking the pronunciation button a number of times I was still not able to comprehend the word. When I put this problem into a lab situation, I think it would be solved by the use of headphones. Headphones for this program are a must, there is no way to use the program to it's fullest extent without a sound card and headphones. The developers suggest that each student could direct their speakers accurately towards themselves, but this would be problematic in a lab situation.

    I feel there would be some hesitation by some of the target audience for this product (grades 5-8) to fully engage in its use. The content of the program is suitably challenging for the age group, but the this program would probably pale in entertainment value when competing with the home gaming systems this age is used to, Regardless, the educational value of this program is great. The teacher customization options are very useful as teachers are able to add words and customize the program to suit individual or unit needs. Plus the fact that spelling would be taken out of the traditional paper pencil environment will be a welcome change for most students and teachers. This is a very useful tool to extend spelling abilities.

  • Thematic Links:Language Arts, Novel Studies,
  • John Dryden
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French Resources

  • Des idées fra”ches à l'école. Activités et projets pour contrer les changements climatiques by Tim Grant and Gail Little John

    éditions MultiMondes/Green Teacher. 2001. 77p. Illus. Professional. 2-89544-017-4. Pb. $15.95

    Rating: E

  • More than ever before, dealing with the climatic changes on our planet is becoming a priority. As teachers and parents, we can play a key role in developing responsible children and future leaders in our society.

    Des idées fra”ches à l'école is an anthology written by North-American educators on: global climatic changes, renewable resources, and the relationship between our means of transportation and greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a teacher's guide presenting activities and projects to understand how critical the situation is and to counteract the climatic changes.

    The activities are suitable and interesting for the designated age groups. The translator made a conscious effort to substitute the suggested literature with French titles and included several Web sites in French.

    Although the activities are designed for Grade 1 to Grade 12, most of them are more suitable for students at the secondary level.

  • Thematic Links:Global Climatic Changes; Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Renewable Resources.
  • Robert Corbeil
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