Coyote's New Suit by Thomas King
Illustrated by Johnny Wales Key Porter Books, 2004. 40p. Illus. Gr. 2-6. 1-55263-497-3. Hdbk. $19.95
Coyote's New Suit is a hilarious and entertaining story about the consequences of wanting more than you really need. Coyote believed that he was the best dressed creature in the forest, in fact, he thought that he had "the finest suit" of any of the animals. That was until Raven decided to cause a little trouble (or entertainment depending on who you were)!
Raven tells Coyote that he has a pretty ordinary and boring coat. Bear has a marvelous suit. Soon, Coyote is admiring Bear's suit and Porcupine's and Skunk's and Racoon's and Beaver's and Moose's... As each animal is taking a dip in the water, Coyote takes their furs left lying on the rocks. Soon, the forest is in a state of confusion because all their suits have gone missing! Raven comes to the rescue (or does she?) when she tells them about the humans at the camp at the edge of the forest and the free clothes hanging on the line. Now, the humans are running around in their underwear and Raven is once again offering her advice. She sends them to see Coyote who is, believe it or not, having a yard sale. Now the humans are in animal suits and the animals are wearing clothes. They meet and the mayhem erupts! The unhappy animals and the just as unhappy humans meet each other in their unsuitable new clothes and the arguing begins. Who's fault is it anyway?!
The watercolour illustrations are just as witty, wild, and entertaining as the text. Children just love the silliness. Johnny Wales, a native of Toronto, has illustrated several books for children. Thomas King is an award-winning author of four novels and he was the 2003 Massey Lecturer. He teaches at the University of Guelph. A Coyote Columbus Story and Coyote Sings to the Moon are two Coyote books previously written by Mr. King.
Discovering Emily by Jacqueline Pearce
Orca Books, 2004. 144p. Gr. 3-7. 1-55143-295-1. Pbk. $7.95
Rating: G - E
It is always exciting to see significant characters in our nation's history come to life again on the pages of stories. Emily Carr is a character to be celebrated. Recently, I picked up a copy of, Four Pictures by Emily Carr (2003) written and illustrated by Nicolas Debon. It took only a moment to see the curricular possibilities when I put Jacqueline Pearce's new novel, Discovering Emily, beside it.
Pearce's writing is at first deceiving: a simple prose discussing a complex, extraordinary person. And yet, with each chapter, the layers of Emily Carr develop, and the person we have come to know as the artist, appears in the child. The story does not delve into her adult life, a decision I found quite refreshing, but rather focuses on her pre-teen years in anticipation of a sequel. Rightly so. Emily Carr's impact on Canadian artists is immeasurable and her story deserves more than 144 pages. It is also clear that Pearce grew close to Emily's character during her research of the book. Emily's relationship with her father in particular, as well as her sister Dede, rings true with public knowledge of the artist.
I was not drawn to the book immediately. It took a few minutes to see past its simplicity and students may need encouragement to keep going. There is much to be learned in Discovering Emily and it is suitably named. This book provides a researched peek inside the life of Canada's best known, female artists. Discovering Emily will fit well into Social Studies, Art, or Language Arts units.
God and I Broke Up by Katarina Mazetti
Translated by Maria Lundin. Groundwood Books, 2004. 127p. Gr. 9-11. 0-88899-617-9. Pbk. $9.95
God and I Broke Up is one of the best young adult novels that I have ever read. Its writing is so smooth that you forget that you are reading and its characters so alive that you forget they aren't breathing. And this is exactly what this novel is about: death, grieving and a well-lived life. Linnea is a gangly, extremely tall 16 year old lacking in confidence. Always a bit of a social misfit until she meets Pia - confident, self-assured, fiery, and bold. Chapter by chapter, Mazetti generously gives us the quirky, funny, and endearing details of their short but powerful friendship. God and I Broke Up chronicles their eleventh grade year together and their transition from strangers to intimate confidantes.
Many times I laughed out loud and felt proud of these two conscious and gutsy young women. This is a novel as much about life as it is about death. All along we are aware that Pia dies. This information is recorded on the back cover. So, it is not meant to shock. However, her death raises questions about the grieving process, the depth of female friendship, and the importance of seizing the moment.
Major themes of the novel include friendships, peer pressure, school, and family. Mazetti's novel is a fantastic addition to any library collection. It is a light yet deep inquiry into being alive for both the young and old.
Elephant Rescue: Changing the Future for Endangered Wildlife (Firefly Animal Rescue Series) by Jody Morgan
Firefly Books Ltd, 2004. 64p. Illus. Gr. 4 up. 1-55297-594-0. Pbk. $9.95
This book is part of a series, titled Firefly Animal Rescue. The objective is to focus on a particular endangered species and explain what is being done to protect them. Elephants are certainly majestic animals that have captured the imaginations of children as well as adults. Their mammoth size, intelligence and rarity have possibly contributed to their popularity.
Morgan's book is divided into 25 sections of about two pages each. The sections include interestingly titled chapters such as, "What big brains you have", "Have trunk, will travel", "Tusk, tusk" and "Should elephants be kept in zoos?" These sections contain information about elephants: their behaviours, communication, reproduction, physical bodies, habitats, and eating habits. Interspersed with these are sections titled "On the Front Lines" and "At Work" which delve into the people who are working directly with elephants and who are involved in projects that focus on protecting and studying elephants. The sections compliment each other. For instance, the facts about elephants such as their habitats is enhanced with information about the research occurring which permits researchers and zoologists to "relocate" herds of elephants. This combination is refreshing and would certainly provide the reader with up to date knowledge about the topic.
Interestingly, a section on the African Lion Safari is included that mentions the birth of 8 elephants since 1985. The inclusion of short profiles of people working with elephants, such as Charlie Gray at the African Lion Safari, serves as an inspiration for young readers. The theme of the book is a simple one; both scientists and conservationists are working on creative ways in which elephants can be protected so that they do not become extinct.
The book is exceptionally packaged with wonderful colour photographs and supplemental information in the form of a two page information "Fast Facts" about elephants, and a "How You Can Help" section which lists the names of organizations, web sites and addresses for further information.
Sun and Storms: Canadian Summer Weather is highly recommended for school and public libraries.
The Underground Reporters by Kathy Kacer
Second Story Press, 2004, 155p. Gr. 8 up. 1-896764-85-1. Pbk. $15.95
Kacer is a well-known Canadian author whose books include The Secret of Gabi's Dresser, and Clara's War. Her works are about the Holocaust and her audience is young readers. Her latest story takes place in the year 1940, in the Nazi occupied Czech republic. The Underground Reporters tells the story of a group of ingenious Jewish children who create a newspaper called "Klepy" (Czech for gossip), for their friends who regularly visit a local swimming hole. The swimming hole is a haven to the children whose freedoms are increasingly restricted by the Nazi occupiers. Over the course of two years 22 issues of "Klepy" were created. The originator of the newspaper was Ruda Stadler, a 15 year old boy who despised the restrictions imposed on Jews by the Nazis and sought to strengthen the bond between the young Jews of his city so that they could stay connected. John Freund also contributed to the newspaper and much of the story is told through his perspective since he survived the war years and was the inspiration for Kacer's book.
The book's three sections chronicle the creation of the newspaper, the Nazi occupation and the children's terrifying experiences at the concentration camp in Theresienstadt. The book not only represents how the human spirit can triumph in adversity but also how human creativity is used time and time again to surmount what is cruel, inhumane and insupportable.
This story can be incorporated for educational purposes so that history does not just become a set of dates, events and consequences. Instead, readers will gain knowledge of the events that occurred during the beginning of World War II through the eyes of ordinary people who were immersed in the historical events.
The original copies of "Klepy" are held at the Jewish Museum in Prague. Kacer's work will certainly be a real contribution to the education of readers interested in the holocaust.
The Arts Go To School by David Booth and Masayuki Hachiya
Pembroke Publishing Company, 2004. 160p. 1-55138-175-3. Pbk. $24.95
The Arts Go to School is a wonderful resource guide from authors David Booth and Masayuki Hachiya providing a comprehensive guide to educational arts activities in visual arts, music, drama, dance and media. The guide is an exploration of the five art forms, encompassing a holistic education approach. A variety of art activities are explored, with added depth provided by classroom experience models. The goal of the book is to help classroom teachers who are not arts specialists construct a variety of art experiences in their classroom that enrich the lives of their students. The authors have also included a template that any school may use to create a school-wide arts initiative. What makes this resource particularly informative is that the authors are specialists in their areas of expertise at the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute of Education.
Booth and Hachiya's book offers an overview of arts education and gives numerous practical suggestions for implementing arts-based approaches to learning. Accompanying the practical classroom lessons are numerous examples of how teachers have implemented the arts in their classroom practice, and how schools have benefitted from using arts education in their programs.
The final chapter of the guide provides a selection of voices from the Arts and Education communities voicing the benefits for students when arts are infused in everyday teaching practices. The appendices include a framework for developing a school-based Arts Policy, and a section on the Impact of the Arts on Student Academic and Socio-Cultural Development. The author also provides an extensive checklist for assessing student development in the arts, as well as an annotated resource list outlining the theoretical and practical underpinnings of each author's chapter. This is an extensive practical survey of the bounty of activities that may be used in any classroom to enrich a child's world through the Arts.
I Belong by Bob King
Armchair Publishing/NFB, 2001. CD with 40p. instructional guide. Gr. 2-7. $29.95
All teachers strive to create a positive, pleasant and warm atmosphere in their classrooms and music can be a method of achieving this. The I Belong kit is a creative way to encourage participation and good attitudes using the positive reinforcement of music with students.
The kit includes a CD of 14 songs and 9 music tracks. The melodies are original, catchy and easy to learn and they vary in style - some ballads and also country, jazz and big band songs and even a waltz! The voices also change from track to track - sometimes King himself and sometimes a group of children. Instruments include brasses and reeds as well as guitar, piano and accordion. There truly is something for every musical taste and the CD introduces children to a wide variety of musical possibilities.
Just as impressive as the CD is the spiral-bound guide which is intended for use by parents or teachers. It includes lyrics for all songs, with copyright permission. The messages are sometimes funny, sometimes soothing, always instructional. The lyrics are comprised of simple words which young students could learn easily. Whether we use the term 'values education' or 'character education', the lyrics would be useful in a classroom to discuss issues such as bullying, teamwork, good manners, making an effort. Some of these issues might be difficult to address, but the music and accompanying lyrics are a good way to open up discussion. With each set of lyrics, the guide includes excellent ideas for activities and discussions as well as interesting quotes which relate to the theme of the song. Many of the questions are open-ended and could be quite easily adapted for children as young as grade 2 or as old as grade 7. They are very versatile.
Bob King has been nominated for a Western Canada Music Award and that's not surprising when you hear not only the musical quality but also the warmth and enthusiasm in his songs. This is a kit which will serve teachers or parents well for years to come, since the good values presented will never go out of style. More information is available at King's website: www.thenewpaths.com
Canadians and Their Government: A Resource Guide
Department of Canadian Heritage, n.d. CD. Gr. 8-12. 0-662-2370 -8 (English) 0-662-88556-2 (French). Free
Canadians and Their Government: A Resource Guide is a comprehensive collection of ready to use activities focussed on the development of the Canadian democratic system. The CD contains three main sections: Building Canada: A Work In Progress, Who's In Charge Here? The Roles and Responsibilities of Government and Institutions and Government At Large. Each section is divided into ready to use activities and information boxes. All activities are focussed towards making the user more knowledgeable and informed on our system of government and its development.
This CD is an excellent resource. With activity sheets and friendly user options, all users will be impressed. All contents are also offered in French. Just click on the option when loading and enjoy. A glossary is also included. As well, links to useful web-sites provide the user with options to increase their understanding of our system of government.
Les abeilles by Deborah Hodge
éditions Scholastic, 2004. 32p. illus. Gr. Pre-school - 2. 0-439-96609-4. Pbk. $8.99
Les abeilles is part of a larger series for primary students entitled Decouvrons les insectes. The book contains a table of contents, a glossary and an index - all useful tools to teach the basics of research to young students.
The close-up colour photo of a bee on the cover immediately attracts the reader's attention and the rest of the book doesn't disappoint. Former teacher and award-winning author Deborah Hodge has included all kinds of information in a format that is visually pleasing and easy to read. Everything you want to know about bees is discussed: appearance, food, home, life cycle, and habits in general. A large double-page spread shows the body of a bee and, like all the other illustrations, it is precisely drawn and well-labelled. Interesting trivia facts are included on almost every page. This small book is packed with information and also includes activities such as an experiment, a craft project and a recipe. More than enough to justify the very reasonable price in your classroom or library budget!