Volume 11, no.4 - April 2006

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Picture Books

  • Digger Donald by Blanche Smith

    Illustrated by Carmel Smith. Pennywell Books/ Flanker Press Ltd., 2005. 26p. Illus. Gr. Preschool - 2. 1-894463-49-8. Pbk. $9.95

    Rating: E

  • This book is truly a "The train runs right behind our house"? everyone had an observation to add as we read about Digger Donald's adventures.

    Carmel Smith lives on a farm, and it shows. Her illustrations capture the activities and animals with humour, colour and detail. As the reader joins Digger Donald as he moves through the country on the way to dig a well, we see flatbed trucks, front-end loaders, trains, transport trucks, and graders. Preschoolers are especially delighted to share their knowledge of the names of the machines, and the function of each one.

    The author obviously understands the importance of machines to young children. In Digger Donald, the author has created a story that is believable and interesting. Children are pleased that Digger Donald has a purpose, and is able to help the people and animals by digging a well for them. As soon as the book was finished, calls of "Read it again!" demonstrated the high level of interest.

    Digger Donald is a book that will be read over and over - it deserves a spot on your shelf.

  • Thematic Links: Transportation; Machines; Rural Life

  • Kathryn McNaughton
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • One on One by Don Aker

    HarperTrophy Canada, 2005. 199p. Gr. 4-8. 0-00-639531-7/978-0-00-639531-7. Pbk. $12.99

    Rating: G

  • The number one thing standing between eleven year old Jared St. George and the place on his middle school basketball team is his failing math mark. He knows that Mr. Jamieson seldom accepts grade six students to the team and what's more, is reluctant to accept weaker students because he is afraid that they will land on academic probation at a crucial moment and let the team down. After a meeting with Jared's mother, his math teacher Mr. Keaton suggests that Jared be tutored by his geeky classmate Ellie Brejovic, in whom Jared finds a surprise friend. Unfortunately, Jared's cool, sophisticated, rich classmate Rafe is upset that he did not make the basketball team and gets his revenge on Jared by tormenting him about his poor marks. When Rafe accuses Jared of cheating in math, rather than admit that he is being tutored by "Smelly" Ellie, Jared answers in the affirmative. In the aftermath of this incident, he learns an important lesson on loyalty and giving people a second chance.

    Filled with rich, dynamic dialogue Aker's sports story touches on a number of important issues, from difficulty in school to bullying to changing family situations. Readers who are having difficulty in math will sympathise with Jared and find Ellie's math tips helpful. The relationship that develops between Jared's mother and Mr. Keaton is a sensitive rendering of a divorced parent's first serious forays into a second romance. Unfortunately Jared's nemesis Rafe is little more than a caricature of a self-centered rich boy and so the issues of social class that Aker raises in the story ring hollow. Nevertheless, One on One is a pleasant read that should appeal to middle school boys who are interested in sports and to anyone who is finding math a challenge.

  • Thematic Links: Basketball; Sports; Friendship; Bullying; Math; Families

  • Meredith Snyder
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • The Dream Where Losers Go by Beth Goobie

    Orca Book Publishers, 2006. 204p. Gr. 10-12. 1-55143-455-5. Pbk. $9.95

    Rating: E

  • Wow! Wow! Wow! Beth Goobie has written an amazingly hard hitting story that will shake you to your core. Skey is in "lock-up" for, we gradually learn, hurting herself by slicing her arms. Skey doesn't remember why she did it, either, but dreams similar dreams night after night, always to the same place. She is in a pitch black tunnel - labyrinth-like - and she must feel her way along blindly. She finds pictures carved into the stone walls and traces them to discover the designs they portray.

    Goobie has done a masterful job of creating Skey's emotional world - we not only know what is happening to her physically but we are with her as she slowly works towards confronting the issues she doesn't want to face.

    During the day, Skey is back at school and is torn between her "gang" (the Dragons) and the expectations of the workers at her home and the teachers at school. The members of the gang, including her boyfriend, expect her to fit right back into gang life along with drugs, sex and obedience. The new bully she is in lock-up with expects her to bring drugs back from school every day. The other adults in her life have expectations as well - that she study and make new friends. The pressures mount in all areas of her life.

    Suddenly, she meets another presence in her night-time dreams. She can hear him breathing and begins to follow him. They gradually intersect both in her dreams and in real-life and are able to help each other in quite remarkable ways.

    Goobie's portrayal of this girl's life is realistic, brutal and unflinching. She deals with life in "lock up" and the weird rituals people have to protect their real selves. She also deals with drugs, bullying, rape, orgasms, sexual abuse and mental illness. This book is powerful but I would urge you to read it before you put it on your shelves. Not every student would be able to handle Skey's memories of the appalling event that placed her in the secure treatment centre.

    This book is a future award winner and a gripping read. Goobie is to be congratulated on the way she takes us into Skey's world. We may not applaud Skey's choices but we certainly begin to understand them.

  • Thematic Links:Adolescence; Drugs; Bullying; mental Illnes

  • Susan Miller
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • Who Likes the Wind? by Etta Kaner

    Illustrated by Marie LaFrance. Kids Can Press, 2006. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-2. 978-1-55337-839-6. Hdbk. $14.95

    Rating:E

  • The wind - we feel it on our skin, we hear it whistle and we watch it shape the clouds in the sky. Who Likes the Wind? is a colourful, informative non-fiction book for young readers. This book will grab and keep the readers attention. Each double page has a flap to lift. Underneath each flap the reader will find answers about the wind using simple scientific concepts.

    A valuable purchase for home, classroom, school libraries and public libraries.

  • Thematic Links:Weather; Wind

  • Suzanne Finkelstein
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • Just Ask Us: A Conversation with First Nations Teenage Moms by Sylvia Olson

    Sono Nis Press, 2005. 165p. Gr. 10-12. 1-55039-152-6/978-1-55039-152-7. Pbk. $19.95

    Rating: G

  • It's difficult to say whether just teenage girl/women or the adult females in their lives should read this book. Whatever the decision, lives could well be changed. Sylvia Olson is a First Nations outreach worker on Vancouver Island. Her background is white, middle-class Canada. Her biracial daughter became pregnant at fourteen and kept her baby. The response from each side of the family was dumbfounded shock; the middle-class side figured that was what native girls did, and the First Nations side didn't think someone almost white would have this happen to her. After both sides recovered from their flirtation with stereotypes, they got down to the business of dealing with what was before them.

    Olsen went one step further. Armed with her personal experience and her position as an outreach worker, she set up a discussion group of First Nations teenage mothers so they could talk about everything from how they became pregnant to how they were coping with raising children when they themselves were barely past childhood.

    The conversations in this book are not only enlightening, but at times downright startling, and often humbling. When dealing with cultural, religious, social, financial and racial conflict, it is surprising that as many of these young mothers survive - and they do - not always unscathed, but still willing to keep trying.

    The style of this book gives an interesting perspective to both its subject and process. Olsen has availed herself of much in the way of hard facts and then tempers this with observations and anecdotes by teenage mothers and other outreach workers. The result is book that can be read more than one way, much like life itself.

    The bottom line here? First Nations girls are at crossroads and caught in the middle. Old First Nations values sometime clash with modern realities, and uncertainty in dealing with modern life can lead to harmful decisions. Community and Reserve life often clash and poverty plays a major role in how these youngsters deal with their "They all say the project helped them put their lives into perspective. They don't want people to feel sorry for them. They want people to understand that they are working hard against the odds. They also want people to become involved in making children and families a priority."( p. 160)

    Out of the mouth of babes?

  • Thematic Links:Teenage Pregnancy; Teenage Mothers

  • Lesley Little
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Professional Resources

  • Brain Friendly School Libraries by Judith Anne Skykes

    Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 109p. 1-59158-246-6. Pbk. $46.20

    Rating: G

  • What can a teacher-librarian learn from studying brain research? It is a question important to ask anyone in the field of education; however, owing to the vital leadership role of the twenty-first-century teacher-librarian, it is more important than ever to be aware of what scientists know about how learners learn so that the teacher-librarian can provide the resources and curriculum planning support that are key to having a successful and "in demand" brain friendly school library program. (p. xiii)

    It is on this premise that Judith Sykes has based her most recent book dealing with teacher-librarians and the school library. Sykes feels that "many educators are keen on what brain research is telling us, but are unsure of how to approach or engage in it at the school level, including the school library" and states that "the purpose of this book is to present ways to link brain research to innovative, proven educational methods and principles." (p.xiii).

    Sykes begins her book with the current theory and key concepts on brain-based learning and educational practice. In chapter one she introduces key concepts and gives a brief overview of how they relate to the work of the teacher-librarian. She includes a number of references and web sites which will assist in further exploration into the whole area of brain research. Chapters 2-4 briefly describe the work of three experts in the field of brain-based learning research - Ellen Langer, Bob Sylwester and Pat Wolfe, and chapter 5 focuses on creating a " brain friendly school library plan".

    The second part of the book consists of three divisions focussing on brain-based learning and different aspects of the role of the teacher-librarian. Under the section "Enriched Environments - Teacher-Librarian as Staff Developer" she examines the topics of brain friendly space, developing a resource-based learning collection and the concept of memory as a learning style. The next section "Intellectual Environments - Teacher-Librarian as Information Literacy Agent" looks at inquiry and action research, information literacy and projects. The final section "Emotional Environments - Teacher Librarian as Cultural Emissary" covers sensory learning in literature and the arts, cooperative learning and cooperative planning and teaching, and reflective learning. In all these chapters Sykes gives examples of learning activities which exemplify the particular aspects of brain research being examined.

    This book brings some new perspectives on how teacher-librarians and classroom teachers can collaborate to ensure that students are active, involved learners - one of the key attributes of brain-based learning. Teachers and teacher-librarians will also appreciate the identification of pertinent web sites in chapter 1 where they can find additional theoretical and practical information to help them in designing effective learning experiences. This book will find a place in teacher-librarian training programs as well as in professional collections at the school level.

  • Thematic Links: Brain-Based Learning; Teacher-Librarians

  • Victoria Pennell
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Audio-Visual Resources

  • 10 Crunchy Carrots by Charlotte Diamond

    Hug Bug Music, 1996, 2006. DVD. 30 min. 10 interactive songs. Gr. Pre-School - 4. $15.00

    Rating: G

  • Production Somewhat Dated But Content Timeless

    With a copyright date of 1996 (reissued in 2006 in DVD format), this DVD is based on a CBC TV Co-Production with Hug Bug Music Inc., 10 Carrot Diamond. While not familiar with its origins, given Diamond's wardrobe, I would expect that the program was produced during the 1980s. As such, I had some initial reservations about its current appeal.

    After considering the varied lyrics and musical styles, as well as the quality of Diamond's voice, however, I was convinced that this was not a significant concern. While some songs are for singing along, others are meant for listening. Filmed in Vancouver, both in a studio and outdoors, the footage includes some interesting close-ups of plant and animal life. Some scenes make use of puppets and nature clips, while others include the participation of audiences, young and old. Despite this breadth, the production is well structured, cohesive and fun.

  • Thematic Links: Animals; Food; Plant Life; Spiders; Counting; Subtraction; Music; Rhythm; Tempo; Songs

  • Lori Lavallee
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French Resources

  • Ainsi font les Oursons by Sharon Jennings

    Illustrated by Mélanie Watt. éditions Scholastic, 2005. Unp. Illus. Gr. K-3. 0-439-95803-2. Pbk. $8.99

    Rating: G

  • The deep and heartfelt relationship that exists between mother and child is unbreakable and transcends through even the most bitter instances of turmoil and strife. This special bond is captured within the pages of Ainsi font les Oursons by Sharon Jennings. The story envelops the love expressed between mother bear and little bear as they pass through the seasons delighting in the small miracles of nature. When little bear becomes lost in the woods it is these small wonders and lessons learned from mother bear that keeps him safe and protected during a treacherous winter storm.

    The simple yet effective text coupled with the illustrations draws the reader into the story and helps them experience the urgency felt by little bear when he is separated from his mother. It is the same use of description that encourages the reader to feel relief when little bear and his mother are finally reunited.

    The creative illustrations by Melanie Watt beautifully portray the changing seasons in contrasting light and dark colors. The soft and subtle blend of these colors provide the illustrations with a dreamlike quality, further exemplifying the tenderness of this devoted and caring relationship.

    As a curricular resource, the story lends itself to discussions about the importance of relationships and can foster various opportunities for creative writing and literary expression. Students may wish to write about lessons which they have learned from their parents or loved ones and teachers may also use the book as an introductory resource to descriptive writing, and element that is prevalent throughout the text.

    Readers of all ages will be touched and enthralled by this heartwarming tale of togetherness.

  • Thematic Links: Family Relationships

  • Stephanie Snow
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