Bean's Big Day by Karen Ackerman
Illustrated by Paul Mombourquette. Kids Can Press, 2004. 28p. Illus. Gr. Pre-K - 2. 1-55337-444-4. Hdbk. $17.95
As I write this, every issue of the Globe and Mail's review section features something about the Oscars. The glamour, excitement and celebration of film will keep many people at home to see both elation and disappointment. Karen Ackerman's story has a flavour of the Emperor's New Clothes and Cinderella combined - people who let themselves be taken in by something new and exciting, and one formerly unnoticed individual who finally has a chance to shine.
Paul Mombourquette's illustrations are detailed, emotive and convey the idiosyncrasies of the residents of Bean, Pennsylvania. We come to know the community hierarchy, values and approach to decision-making through the lively, rather tart text and colourful illustrations.
A book to encourage thinking about change, appearances and what's important. Children and adults alike will enjoy the story with it's fascinating characters and look back in time.
The Mariner's Curse by John Lunn
Tundra Books, 2004. 205p. Gr. 3-6. 0-88776-672-2. Pbk. $12.99
When his mother remarried, twelve-year-old Rory Duggan was to stay with his father while the newlyweds honeymooned in England. But, Rory's father's job called him overseas and it seemed like a dream come true when his mom and her new husband agreed to take Rory with them to England. They were taking a cruise after they left England and Rory's biggest wish had always been to cross the ocean aboard an ocean liner.
However, Rory's enthusiasm evaporated quickly when he collided with a strange old man within minutes of boarding the ship. The angry altercation with the mysterious old sailor left Rory apprehensive. His investigations on board convinced him that there was something sinister about the old man. Rory became suspicious that the old sailor might have been aboard the Titanic!
This adventure is sure to win the hearts of mystery/adventure readers and would be an excellent addition to classroom, school libraries and public young readers' sections.
This is John Lunn's first novel. The son of famous writer, Janet Lunn, John is also an accomplished flute maker, musician, activist and writer.
Nobody's Child by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Dundurn Press, 2003. 244p. Gr. 8-12. 1-55002-442-6. Pbk. $12.99
In this heart wrenching sequel to the highly successful The Hunger, Nobody's Child poignantly exposes a twentieth century genocide, the Armenian massacre in Adena. This tragedy and its aftermath are told through the eyes of Mariam, a 10 year old girl, as she copes with the brutal massacre of her parents, uncle and numerous friends as they worked in the fields gathering grain. She details the emotional turmoil experienced by her surviving family as she tries to thread together a meagre existence in a world that seems exceedingly unjust and uncaring. Mariam and her siblings, together with their friend Kevork and his aunt, travel home to Marash hoping to find their remaining family still alive and begin to rebuild a future. Unfortunately, in order to survive the children have to enter an orphanage.
Six years later, in 1915, they once again face the depravity of humanity as they and countless other Armenians are forcibly deportation from Turkey and marched into the desert to die. The family is once again torn apart despite their desperate attempts to stay together. Rescued by her Turkish friend Rustem, Mariam narrowly escapes being sold as a slave. She is compelled to accept his invitation to be a guest in his family's home despite the vehement opposition by his mother. Kevork, separated from Marta, is shot and left for dead in a mass grave in the desert, but is rescued by nomadic Arabs and nurtured back to health. Both teens must choose between the security of an adopted home or risk death to search for the remaining members of their family once again. They are left hoping that one day they will be united.
Skrypuch weaves an extremely realistic depiction of a cruel and injustice historical time without resorting to sensationalism. The audience is left reeling from the tragic and intense emotions experienced by the characters. The sounds and scents of Turkish and Armenian cultures are vividly brought to life, as the audience is implored to join this perilous journey. We are left pondering the cruelty of humans and the baseness for human life felt by so many, juxtaposed against the unwavering sense of family and hope that sustains the main characters. We are left wishing for their survival and reunion - perhaps in the sequel.
The book includes a resource list of additional books, web sites and movies linked to the Armenian massacre.
A Day at the Sugar Bush: Making Maple Syrup by Megan Faulkner
Photographs by Wally Randall. Scholastic Canada Ltd., 2004. 29p. Illus. Gr. 2-4. 0-7791-1411-6. Pbk. $6.99
This book accompanies a young class on a visit to a real "sugar bush". We will find out how tree sap is made into maple syrup and maple sugar. Every step of the process is simply explained and complemented by fabulous photographs. The photographs effectively involve the reader with the depicted action or scene. The book appropriately concludes with pancakes and ??maple syrup. A timely book as the maple syrup "industry" is currently being scrutinized by the Federal Government.
The historical note at the end of the action is well laid out and contains valuable information. The concluding page of notes provides enriched information for those readers seeking more detail.
Every Canadian school and public library should have at least one copy of this little jewel.
I Came As A Stranger by Bryan Prince
Tundra Books, 2004. 160p. Illus. Gr. 7-12. 0-88776-667-6. Pbk. $22.99
In this book, Bryan Prince, a sixth generation descendant of slaves who escaped to Canada, brings us an in-depth look at the Underground Railroad and some of the people involved with its operation as well as details of many of the escaped slaves who made their way to Canada during the 1800s. Prince begins his book with a look at the beginnings of the slave trade between Africa and the New World which began in the 1500s. He then gives a short overview of slavery in Canada in the early days of settlement. He then goes on to describe the conditions under which slaves were living and working on the southern plantations and their struggles to escape to freedom in the northern states and Canada. Through first-hand stories, letters, excerpts from diaries and historical photographs, Prince focuses on the workings of the Underground Railroad and the many "conductors" who helped over 40,000 men, women and children make the perilous trip from slavery in the United States to freedom in Canada. Prince also gives accounts of what life was like for these people once they arrived in a "free" country and how in many cases they were still subjected to prejudice and isolation. He tells of how they established various communities in parts of Upper and Lower Canada and how many became prominent citizens in those communities.
The book is well researched as Prince has the cooperation of several regional museums in south-western Ontario and had access to a great deal of material about this period in Canadian history. He has included quite a number of well captioned historical photographs which greatly enhance the text. He has also included a time line, suggested reading list, source notes and a comprehensive index. The last chapter entitled "Tracing Their Footsteps Today" gives a description of historic sites in Ontario which are dedicated to preserving the black history of the province.
Prince's book is a major contribution to some of those recently written about the Underground Railroad and the history of backs in Canada, topics which have become more prominent in recent years and are included in many of the school curricula throughout the country. It will certainly be a great supplement for Canadian social studies programs at the junior and senior high levels. (The book has been promoted as suitable for ages 10+, however it is much more appropriate for a slightly older audience, thus the recommendation for junior and senior high levels.)
The Spelling Teacher's Book of Lists: Words to Illustrate Spelling Patterns and Tips for Teaching Them - 2nd ed. by Jo Phenix
Pembroke Publishers, 2003. 128p. 1-55138-167-2. Pbk. $18.95
Jo Phenix is the author of several teacher handbooks on reading, writing, and spelling. Like her other works, The Spelling Teacher's Book of Lists is designed as a practical resource for classroom teachers. Her point is that we simply cannot memorize all the words we need to spell, however, we can learn word patterns. Essentially, this handbook is exactly what the title suggests - a collection of lists of words categorized in a variety of ways (e.g. "words ending in ic", "drop the final e"). Phenix divides these lists into six groupings: Consonants, Vowels, Confusable Spellings, Word Building, Spelling Rules, and The Evolution of Language, and includes lots of notes and tips.
Phenix makes it quite clear that The Spelling Teacher's Book of Lists is a resource for teachers, not a collection of blackline masters for distribution to students. She provides suggestions for creating class and student word lists.
The Spelling Teacher's Book of Lists will be of interest to elementary teachers. High school ESL teachers, and perhaps resource class teachers, will also find this book a useful resource.
Sing Out Summer Fun by Mary Lambert (and Guests)
Mary Lambert Productions, 2003. CD. (Pull out has words to the songs and illustrations of the vocalists). Gr. K-3. MLPCD 1027. $15.99
Sing Out Summer Fun is a wonderful CD compilation of previously recorded songs as well as Mary Lambert originals. The theme is very upbeat and the music has a jazzy rhythm. It is different from many of the kids CD's I have listened to in that the lyrics and sound of the singer/song is not as childish. The songs are appealing because they have incorporated the voices of children throughout them, but are not in a silly song way. The harmonization of the singers throughout the CD's is soothing to listen to.
Consisting of 18 songs in total, this CD can be enjoyed by all members of the family as well as in the elementary classroom. I would recommend this CD to any one that has young children, teaches in a pre-school or needs a great musical gift for a child.
Il était une fois: le petit frére du chaperon rouge by Marc Tremblay
La courte echelle,2004. 20p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 2-89021-698-5. Pbk. $7.95
Il était une fois: le petit frére du chaperon rouge is a marvellous retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story, with all the necessary characters. However, there's a twist!! Little Red Riding Hood prefers not to return to Grandma's house after her recent encounter with the Big Bad Wolf, so her little brother Le Petit Parka violet, offers to go in her place.
En route he meets not the Big Bad Wolf, but the wolf's little brother who is doing his best to be frightening........but failing miserably!! Eventually Le Petit Parka violet actually has to rescue the wolf from where he's fallen in the snow and make snowshoes for him so he can continue on to Grandma's house and finish the story!
Once there, the unlikely villain dresses up in Grandma's clothes in order to trap Le Petit Parka violet. However, he doesn't choose well and can't hear through her earmuffs and can't see through her glasses. The intended nastiness dissolves into play, fun, laughter and eventual friendship.
The illustrations are done in unusual colours - oranges, mauves and yellows - and their humour and detail add immensely to the reader's enjoyment.
Children will enjoy this comic twist on a well-known story and might even be inspired to re-write another fairy tale with which they are familiar. The book would be a valuable addition to any library, classroom or home.