Volume 9, no.3 - February 2005

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Picture Books

  • Under the Spell of the Moon: Art for Children from the World' s Great Illustrators by Patricia (Ed.) Aldana King

    Forward by Katherine Paterson. Groundwood Books, 2004. 80p. Illus. Gr. K-4. 0-88899-559-8. Hdbk. $25.00

    Rating: E

  • The title and the cover of this book alone makes one yearn to turn the pages to discover what joys are held within. There is no disappointment. This book, with the subtitle, "Art for Children from the World' s Great Illustrator's" is truly a gem. Thirty-three renowned artists from around the world exhibit their work on a double spread. (There is a short biography of each artist in back of book). The rich variation of style, colours and the variety in texts the artists chose to illustrate makes this book a treasure. Fifteen percent of the sale of each book is being donated to the International Board on Books for Young People ( IBBY), whose goal is to promote the highest quality of children's books to children in all countries of the world. Many of the illustrators in this edition have been winners of Hans Christian Anderson Award given out by this organization.

    The art in this book would be well suited for using in art appreciation lessons. Many of the texts the artists chose to illustrate are children' s song and nursery rhymes but others have created original texts reflecting their own worlds. The text is written in both the original language and in English. They offer us tiny glimpses of distant lands and distant cultures. What a great introduction!

    This book would be appropriate for read aloud sharing. It would suit a poetry theme collectively and individually be a complement to many other themes. This book would support studies of different cultures. Finally it would be a great book for children and adults to curl up in a corner with and simply enjoy.

  • Thematic Links: Artists; Artwork; Multiculturalism; Nursery Rhymes; Traditional Songs and Poems; Poetry
  • Linda Berezowski
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Broken Circle by Christopher Dinsdale

    Napoleon, 2004. 98p. Gr. 4 up. 1-894917-15-4. Pbk. $8.95

    Rating: E

  • Jesse's adventure camping with his Uncle Matthew proves to be more enlightening and adventurous than Jesse could have ever imagined. Dinsdale has produced a story that will capture the imagination of young people because of its easy to read and inviting style. Jesse is like any other teenager; he would rather play video games than spend days outside in the wilderness. He will be spending time with his Uncle Matthew and cousin Jason, family members he hardly knows and he is quite bitter and resentful about the whole situation. He imagines that in the wilderness he will have "a bark and worm sandwich for dinner". The environment he is immersed in is totally foreign to him and this becomes one of the key themes of the book.

    When Jesse was a very young child his father died but he wanted Jesse to experience life in the wilderness and to appreciate his native culture and understand it. His cousin Jason is supposed to experience his vision quest, a sort of "right of passage" in which the transition from childhood to adulthood is made. The process involves being isolated in the forest of Six Islands and waiting for a vision to come, usually in the form of an animal. A message is supposed to be transmitted in this process and the meaning only understood by the individual undergoing the vision quest. Remarkably, each boy has a vision quest and the quests relate to each other and tell the history of the Wendat.

    Dinsdale takes a major risk in chapter three when we begin to understand that Jesse's dream occurs and the vision comes to life with Jesse turning into a deer. The shift in focus from Jesse's real life and his vision quest is accomplished with flair and believability. The rest of the book flip flops between the wilderness experience with his uncle and cousin and Jesse's visions. The visions tell the history of the Wendat, their triumphs and their difficulties. The author has brought history to life in a fascinating and compelling manner that young children will enjoy. The excitement and action makes the book a real page turner. The short note at the end titled, Ste. Marie Among the Hurons is useful and provides the historical reference points for the story.

    The book is a triumph of combinations; it teaches and it entertains and this is a feat that librarians and teachers adore. The publishers indicate that a teacher's guide will be available, based on the Ontario EQAO format and Bloom's taxonomy, including multiple choice, vocabulary building and grammar.

  • Thematic Links: Native Culture; Maturity; Growing Up; Hurons; Ste. Marie Among the Hurons; Wendak; Wilderness Appreciation
  • Maria Forte
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • Susanna's Quill by Julie Johnston

    Tundra Books, 2004. 332p. Gr. 7 up. 0-88776-706-0. Hdbk. $24.99 (Reviewed from prepublication copy)

    Rating: E

  • Canlit icon Susanna Moodie has inspired a number of subsequent authors to interpret her life in their own writing, including the acclaimed poetry collection The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood and the award-winning biography of Moodie and her sister Catharine Parr Traill, Sisters in the Wilderness, by Charlotte Gray. Now young adult novelist Julie Johnston, author of Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me and In Spite of Killer Bees, has had a go at the backwoods pioneer's life in her new novel, Susanna's Quill.

    This book is an ambitious project, tracking as it does Susanna Moodie's life from her early days in England, through her first literary undertakings, to the many challenges she and her family faced as settlers of Canada' s unforgiving wilderness. On the whole, it does make for a good read. The young Susanna's imagination and rebellious streak make her a familiar character: the endearingly boisterous heroine (a la Anne Shirley). The anxieties, thrills, and heartaches of her initiation into the London literary scene and of her romance with Lieutenant John Dunbar Moodie come to life through Johnston's concise and elegant style, which is inspired by highly crafted 19th century prose without being ponderous.

    Of course, Susanna Moodie is renowned for her chronicles of backwoods living, Roughing it in the Bush, and its sequel, Life in the Clearings, and so any book about her life will draw on her writings. The bulk of Susanna's Quill is taken up with the material covered in Moodie's first volume: the years she and Lieutenant Moodie established themselves in Canada, first on a small farm that had already been cleared of trees, then on a homestead in the backwoods proper. The Moodies endured Canadian winters, conflicts with neighbours, birth in the backwoods, and hardships including fire, outbreaks of debilitating illness, and ongoing financial difficulties compounded by their incompetence at farming. Johnston deals with these episodes proficiently. After a while, however, Susanna's Quill suffers from too much misadventure. No matter that the events are based in reality; by the end they no longer come alive in a way that propels the narrative. The novel might have been more effective, if less comprehensive, had Johnston kept a tighter focus on fewer episodes.

    Another tricky matter for anyone writing about Susanna Moodie is her snobbishness. Though she slowly changed her attitude over the course of the time she spent in her new country, Moodie came to Canada with all the ideas of a proper English gentlewoman about class, culture, and education. Johnston does not shy away from this aspect of Moodie's character, even if it does make her a rather difficult subject at times. Instead, she invents the servant Jenny to provide an unsophisticated but practical assessment of some of the gentility's impracticality. This means that the second half of the novel unfolds with two different points of view, but Johnston pulls it off in an ultimately entertaining and enlightening work of fiction.

  • Thematic Links:Susanna Moodie; Frontier and Pioneer Life in Canada; Emigration
  • Nadine d'Entremont
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • A Bloom of Friendship: The Story of the Canadian Tulip Festival (My Canada Series) by Anne Renaud

    Illustrated by Ashley Spires. Lobster Press, 2004. 24p. Illus. Gr. 3-9. 1-89422289-X. Hdbk. $19.95

    Rating:E

  • "The Canadian Tulip Festival, the largest in the world, is celebrated every year in Ottawa. Visitors come from around the globe to see more than three million tulips paint a kaleidoscope of colour on the Capital's grounds. The beauty of the floral gift that began in 1945 is a reminder of the safe haven we provided so long ago and a tribute to the thousands of Canadians who fought and died during the dreadful months of conflict that gave way to the liberation of Holland."

    In this wonderful little book dedicated to her uncle Thomas Delaney, "who, alongside thousands of other brave souls, fought to restore light and freedom in a time of obscurity and oppression", Anne Renard relates the story behind the Canadian Tulip Festival which officially began in Ottawa in 1953. During World War II, Princess Juliana of Holland and her two daughters sought refuge from the Nazis in Canada. During the time she was living in Canada another daughter was born and the Canadian government declared the place of birth as extraterritorial - or outside of Canadian territory - so that the baby could be born a Dutch citizen. During World War II as well, Canadian troops played a major role in the liberation of Holland - 7,600 Canadians died liberating the Netherlands and when the surviving soldiers returned home to Canada more than 1,800 war brides and 400 children came to Canad with them. Shortly after her return home in 1945 Princess Juliana presented Canada with 100,000 tulip bulbs and every year since Canada receives 20,000 tulip bulbs which are planted in and around the capital of Ottawa. Malak Karsh, one of Canada's greatest photographers was particularly fond of the tulips that bloomed every spring on Parliament Hill and was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Ottawa's Canadian Tulip Festival.

    In addition to the factual text organized into 2-page spreads, this book contains sidebars containing "Instant History Facts" (linked to the text by different coloured tulips, these facts further explain terms, events, etc. which are mentioned in the text), time lines, historical and present day photos, artifacts and newspaper clippings. Interspersed with this are, Ashley Spires colourful collage style illustrations, which younger readers will enjoy. A lot of information is packed into the book's 24 pages and while at first glance it appears to be a picture book for younger children, this book is really aimed more at the elementary to junior high reader. It will be a great supplement for students studying Canada's role in World War II and the symbols and festivals which are part of our Canadian heritage.

    This book should be in every school and public library.

  • Thematic Links:World War II; Holland - World War II; Princess Juliana of Holland; Canadian Tulip Festival.
  • Victoria Pennell
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • Red Land, Yellow River: A Story From the Cultural Revolution. by Ange Zhang

    Groundwood Books, 2004. 59p. Illus. Gr. 7 up. 0-88899-489-3. Hdbk. $18.95

    Rating: E

  • This Governor General Award nomination for text (English) is Ange Zhang's autobiography of his childhood in China, when Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution violently swept through. Ange's life was drastically changed. His family was torn apart, friendships were destroyed; survival and outward displays of dedication to Mao and the Red Guard became the obsession. Ange's pride in his family - especially his father, a renowned poet - was challenged when his father was publicly humiliated and labelled a counter-revolutionary.

    As a result, the family's possessions were destroyed, their books locked away and their freedom of thought and expression forbidden. Ange's parents, and later his brother and sister, were sent way to labour camps. His aunt, a teacher, was unable to cope with the anger and hatred exhibited towards her by her students and committed suicide. Ange in his desperation to escape his alienation and become a member of the Red Guard shaved his head and changed his name. He then faced the harsh reality of the violent side of revolution.

    At 15 Zhang was sent to the countryside to learn farming. Academics continued to be forgotten, as service to the good of the country was the priority and blind obedience to the cause of communism was necessary. There Ange toiled for years until a chance encounter with a friend's forbidden art supplies inspired his journey to become a visual artist - an artist like his father. Ange's wonderful illustrations accentuate and extend the text.

    This is a fantastic book filled with emotionally poignant artwork, family photos, and narrative and non-fiction text. The audience is compelled to become immersed in the story.

    Ange brings to life the Cultural Revolution and gives a human voice to this bleak time in China's history. He realistically presents his experiences through the eyes of a child - as he experienced them. The presentation of his desperation to fit in with peers - at times at odds with his family's ideas - will appeal to and resonate with the teenage audience. This book would make a wonderful addition to a library collection.

  • Thematic Links:Viewing; Autobiography; World History - Oppression - Communism; Art
  • Anne Hatcher
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Professional Resources

  • Literacy Techniques for Building Successful Readers and Writers (2nd edition) by David Booth and Larry Swartz

    Pembroke Publishers, 2004. 144p. 1-55138-173-7. Pbk. $24.95

    Rating: E

  • David Booth and Larry Swartz are well-known for the work they have done in the area of literacy. A quote from the Canadian Education Association website provides a thumbnail sketch of Dr. Booth's interests and research passions:

    "My research and my writing are now driven by the differences I see between what and how young people read outside school contrasted with inside the classroom. How can we bridge the two (or more) literacy communities, and support readers who will have the strategies to make the most meaning possible from the different text they will want to and will need to read? What resources (both paper and technological) will help teachers deepen and expand student experiences with texts, and how will we recognize literacy progress and competency, while continuing to support and encourage meaningful and satisfying interaction with printed and visual texts?"

    Larry Swartz has been a classroom teacher, language arts resource teacher and drama consultant for more than a decade. Other work includes Dramathemes: A Practical Guide to Teaching Drama (1995) and The New Dramathemes (2002).

    Together, they bring a sensitivity to the changing landscape of literacy learning, and the ways in which teachers can take advantage of an environment which includes more visual and kinaesthetic elements related to meaning making. Booth and Swartz remind us that "text" has taken on a new look, feel and impact as computer technology plays a larger role in children's lives.

    All teachers, regardless of experience level or teaching context, will find this resource clear, useful and well-researched. The book is divided into eight sections, which provide a coherent exploration of critical literacy-related topics: Supporting Literacy Learners, What's in a Word, Meaning-making with Texts, Responding to Texts, The Reading Workshop, The Writing Workshop, The Conventions of Language, and Organizing a Literacy Classroom. The authors include information on working with parents, including a sample letter to parents, and suggest twenty ways to support ESL learners. Booth and Swartz are knowledgeable about children's needs for a rich array of reading materials, understand the various literacy "worlds" that children experience, and want teachers to be successful in their work with learners.

    Many readers will appreciate the authors' focus in the second section, "What's in a Word". In this chapter, emphasis is placed on the importance of creating a rich literacy environment for children, including the importance of alphabet activities, the role of phonics and suggestions for phonics instruction. The suggestions for word walls and word banks are clear and provide strong rationale for the importance of both public, visible displays (word walls) as well as personal, learner-specific word banks which "enable students to independently read texts of increased complexityâ?" (p. 19).

    The authors' include aspects of literacy learning that we might take for granted, such as a discussion of how books work. The section on responding to texts includes a number of strategies that are effective and engaging, such as choral reading, Readers Theatre and using art forms such as masks, puppets, quilts, posters or dolls.

    A number of readers will appreciate the inclusion of suggestions for working with troubled readers provided in this edition. One of the suggestions reminded me that, even if we are working with older learners, oral reading is an important strategy. "Read aloud to the student to increase vocabulary and comprehension, to introduce a range of author styles, and genres, and to model fluent reading. All children need to have books read to them, including those at the secondary level, where the experience can help clarify the meanings of challenging words and ideas" (p. 63).

    Although many teachers are familiar with writing and reading workshops, the handbook provides strong rationales for using these approaches. In addition, as well as offering ideas on how to make workshops even more interesting and appealing, the authors stress the importance of developing writing skills in conjunction with reading. While this seems self-evident, "reading" and "writing" sometimes become encapsulated and isolated from each other. The final section, "Organizing a Literacy Classroom", prompts teachers to think about issues such as timetabling, how to create effective learning centres, involving libraries, and setting up a portfolio program among other things. The book includes two appendices. The first one provides black-line masters (checklists, Dolch basic sight vocabulary words, graphic organizers and prompts to use in writing conferences) that teachers can copy and use in their own programs. The second appendix provides book lists for grades 1 - 8, including titles in each of the following categories: read aloud, shared reading, emergent readers (grades 1 - 3), struggling readers (grades 4 - 8), developing readers and independent readers. While these lists aren't comprehensive, they do provide suggestions for books that should be readily available to children.

    I hope this handbook will become part of every teacher's collection of well-read resources. May it become worn, underlined, highlighted, written on, and taken to the bookstore as a guide for what to buy next for the classroom collection!

  • Thematic Links:Reading and Writing; Classroom Activities; Resources to Support Literacy
  • Kathryn McNaughton
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Audio Visual Resources

  • Making a Living (Global Villagers Series)

    Villagers Media Productions/Magic Lantern , 2000. VHS. 25 min. $29.99 HV; $49.00 PPR

    Rating: E

  • Imagine working as a virtual slave in a crowded factory with bad lighting, no water and primitive toilet facilities, barely making enough to pay the rent, and being faced with the possibility of a forced pregnancy test and the danger of losing your job! This video introduces you to the life of the working poor in the maquitas (or factories) in the Dominican Republic's Free Zone. The Free Zone is a concessionary area designed to bring in foreign investment through cheap labor and tax-free status. These factories are known for their abuses, with restrictions against unions and appalling working conditions. This video introduces advocacy groups that are working with governments to stop the abuses and ensure that trade agreements do not favour corporations over the working people.

    An eye-opening and disturbing account that is sure to facilitate discussion.

  • Thematic Links: Free Trade; Poverty; Working Poor; Working Conditions; Dominican Republic; Canadian Council for International Cooperation
  • Heather Empey
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French Resources

  • Le carroussel: Un poème sur l'enfance. by Hazel Hutchins

    Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. éditions Scholastic, 2004. 29p. Illus. Gr. K-4. 0-439-97401-1. Pbk. $8.99

    Rating: G/E

  • This story uses time as a basis for thoughts. By beginning with the start of units of time, a second, continuing on to minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, many comparisons are made that are in real time for children. Many of the examples given are things that young children can relate to and are often difficult for them to understand. The measure of time seems immeasurable to one who is just learning how our world works and where their wants and needs fit into it. Each page offers a different measure of time and examples of things young children are familiar with doing, such as singing a song, making a sand castle, doing household chores, and the seasons changing.

    This story like poem would be a great one to begin a unit of study on time. The different pages beg to have others brainstorm more ideas of examples of things that happen in different moments of time. The very first page speaks of things that take a second: a kiss from mom, skipping, turning around, but you know students in your class would love to think of more things that take a second, or a minute, etc. The pages are colourful with more illustrations than words on most pages. The French is relatively easy for primary children to read and understand, especially if they are able to use the picture cues provided. I would use this book as a springboard for a discussion on time, or as a writing activity creating their own version of a similar style book, or as simply a fun activity to test out what the author says one can do in a certain amount of time and see if it is true.

    Overall I like this book and think that children would enjoy the story. I do however believe that it would work best as a read-aloud or a story that is shared with someone who will extend it. Children reading this book on their own may not appreciate the different directions and extensions that can be made with it. It is a good discussion book that children don't normally discuss without sharing time.

  • Thematic Links:Math - Time; Seasons; Cycle of Life - Growing Up
  • Christa Estabrook
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