Mwâkwa - Talks to the Loon: A Cree Story for Children by Dale Auger
Heritage House Publishing, 2006. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-4. 1-894974-04-2. Hdbk. $24.95
Kayâs is a gifted hunter in the time of long ago. Not only does he know the ways of his prey, but he also knows how to speak the various languages of the animals. He always does well in carrying out his responsibility to provide food, shelter, and clothing for The People - until the praise and attention he receives becomes more important to him than using the talents with which he has been blessed. When The People complain about their hunger, Kayâs sets off to prove to them that he is still a great hunter. However, he quickly realizes that he neither understands the ways of the animals nor knows how to communicate with them; he has lost his gift! Only when he humbles himself before The Elders is he given an opportunity to regain his gift and to once again provide food for The People. He seeks to speak with Mwâkwa, The Loon; and when he does, he learns to honour and respect the talents he has been given, the laws of the community in which he lives, and the laws of all the creatures on the land and in the sea.
This marvellous book has already been named co-winner of the Aboriginal Children's Book of the Year for 2006 - and deservedly so! It is a beautiful, magical book, visually stunning with its acrylic paintings and with its poetic use of language, including its ability to embed many Cree words in the text. The illustrations and the text blend together in a unique way, instilling in readers a basic understanding of life in a Cree village, of the power of oral storytelling, and of the important, deep connectedness between Cree spirituality and the land and sea. Auger is a Sakaw Cree from the Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta and evidences a deep love and respect for the traditional teachings and spirituality of the Cree. In this book, Auger includes a glossary of Cree words and phrases as well as a pronunciation guide.
Thematic Links: Folklore - Aboriginal/Cree; Culture - Aboriginal/Cree; Spirituality; Environment; Social Responsibility
Witches in the Kitchen: A Year in the Life of a Junior Witch by Blair Drawson and Anne Marie
Puffin Canada, 2006. 48p. Illus. Gr. 4-6. 978-0-670-06482-3. Hdbk. $21.00
Children enjoy reading books that speak in their own voice and such is the case with Ivy, a junior witch, who takes the reader on an exciting and unique adventure. Ivy is writing in her "grimoire" which is, she explains "a witch's journal or book of shadows". The tone of this imaginatively illustrated book is set from the start with Ivy's pronouncement that "I will keep every witch idea that enters my mind. And may no one pry into my secrets, unless of course they have achieved the rank of Junior Witch!"
As the sub-title indicates the book covers a whole year in Ivy's life as she takes on the challenge of becoming a junior witch. We are taken on a truly magical ride which includes special times of the year such as, Beltaine (Mayday), Midsummer's Day (June 21), Samhain (Oct. 31) and Midwinter's Eve (Dec. 21-2). The narrator or diarist also tells us about her relationship with Aunties Nettle and Thistle as well as Granny Grackle. The aunts are Intermediate Witches but Granny is a "full-fledged Crone". It is absolutely delightful to read Ivy's meticulous description of her family.
Interestingly, Ivy demystifies the "witch" by telling us that witches have been misunderstood: "…in the bad old days witches were feared. Because of that, they were often deprived of their property ….drowned or burned at the stake even though they didn't do anything wrong….is it any wonder witches became secretive." e are educated about an entire array of herbs used in the witch's kitchen. For instance "eye of newt" is a day lily, the calf's snout is a snapdragon and dew of the sea is rosemary. Ivy charms the reader because she takes great delight in explanations such as the definition (and appreciation) of "familiars".
The book's humour continues as Ivy recounts her exploits with the two aunties and Granny. The descriptions are quaint and lovingly told as when Granny is discovered flying on her broomstick. The education continues with quite detailed information about the witch's broom, male witches and cooking soup. The short section about "Ivy's Do's and Don'ts" asserts that "witches don't eat children…at least vegetarian witches don't hee hee".
The dazzling "grimoire" is packed full of funny and short incidents that befall the aunts and granny. While the topic is sure to interest young people, the amount of sheer knowledge that it contains about the topic of witches is intriguing for adults as well as children.
It is not surprising that Blair Drawson was a 1997 nominee for the Governor General's Award in Illustration because this book is beautifully illustrated and captures Ivy's "witchy" spirit! Perhaps there will another installment of Ivy's journey as a junior witch.
Thematic Links: Folklore; Witchery; Diaries
The 25 Pains Of Kennedy Baines by Dede Crane
Raincoast Books, 2006. 240 p. Gr. 10 - 12. 978-1-55192-979-8. Pbk. $9.95
Kennedy Baines is in the midst of "psychoshift." Her life has been pretty good so far, but lately, it just seems to be one pain after another! As Kennedy goes through her list of 24 pains, we start to learn about her complicated life. As the novel opens, she is shoplifting with her friends Sarina, Chase and Jordan. Although her conscience bothers her, it does not stop her from stealing. Kennedy is annoyed that she is continually forced to babysit her little sister Tory and her 13-year old brother Liam because she is "almost" sixteen. She is haunted by the scene of her free-spirited actress mother with another man, and in fact, has doubts that Tory is actually her father's natural daughter. Has her mother had an affair? Is Tory the products of that affair?
Her current boyfriend, Jordan, is leaving for a summer holiday, just as her mother announces that her former college roommate is arriving to visit with her 18-year old son, Colin. "Speaking of adorable, he truly is, and she's trying not to stare. He hasn't said much, looks bored - jet-lagged, no doubt - but he is even more gorgeous than the boy of her imaginings. (p. 93) Kennedy is smitten. Colin introduces her to his old friend Elliot, a brilliant but compassionate computer nerd, who helps Kennedy cope when her sister Tory breaks her leg. Meanwhile, Colin is constantly "testing the limits" by experimenting with cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and sex. Will Kennedy continue to be drawn to Colin after she finds out why he is in Canada with his mother?
Kennedy is a very complex character. She loves her family, but is haunted by her doubts about Tory's parentage. Her mother's candid and often embarrassing discussions about sexuality shock her. But at the same time, she is relieved that she can talk to her mother about anything and know that her mother will understand. Throughout all her trials and tribulations, Kennedy escapes by reading her favourite novel Pride and Prejudice for the third time! Colin's appearance in her life only makes her life more "painful" when he pushes her into mature situations she may not be ready to experience.
Dede Crane has managed to capture complex teenage issues in a very readable way. Kennedy is a heroine who will appeal to teenage readers. They will definitely be able to relate to her "pains."
Thematic Links:Relationships; Sexuality; Jane Austen; Internet Safety; Music; Movies; Love; Loyalty; Ethics; Friendship; Drugs; Alcohol; Parent and Child Relationships
Well-Schooled Fish and Feathered Bandits. The Wondrous Way Animals Learn from Animals by Peter Christie
Annick Press, 2006. 48p. Illus. Gr. 3-7. 978-1-55451-046-7. Hdbk. $19.95.
In his first book for children, author Peter Christie has written an engaging and informative non-fiction book sure to capture the imagination of both keen readers and reluctant readers alike. He has combined many unusual facts and details with amazing colour photographs as he describes how animals learn from one another.
The chapters include Food, Mating, Tool Making, Communication and Sophisticated Habits. In each one the author focuses on social learning through social contact. He describes animal behaviour and observations made by scientists. There are photographs on nearly every page. In addition, each page has a short fact-filled sentence that is highlighted to draw in readers who won't or can't read their way through a longer paragraph.
This book comes with two bibliographies for further reading as well as an index.
This book is a good choice for public, school and classroom libraries and for any family libraries with budding animal scientists.
Thematic Links:Animal Behaviour; Learning in Animals
Being a girl: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Teen Life by Kim Cattrall
Key Porter Books, 2006. 127p. Gr. 7 up. 1-55263-784-0. Hdbk. $24.95
The author, Kim Cattrall, is better known to young people as Samantha Jones on the hit sitcom Sex in the City. Initial reactions were of disbelief that another actor has published a self-help book by cashing in on their fame. This idea quickly dissipated with a look inside this great book. Cattrall dispels many of the myths that young girls may have about famous people.
She present a sensitive and highly personal portrayal of the teenage angsts she endured as she journeyed through her life. The public image she now possesses has been based on the life time of accomplishments, failures, mistakes and much learning that she sensitively shared with her readers.
Cattrall deals with many complex topics such as testing the boundaries of parental rules, eating disorders, jealously, break-ups, and sexuality. Her advice for young people is given without a preachy moralistic tone but rather in the voice of a wise older friend.
Home photos of her childhood and family, publicity shots, and cartoons all add to the message of encouragement that is communicate to the audience. This book would act like a comforting blanket for many young girls; a source of comfort and information as they are presented with challenges as they mature.
Thematic Links: Health - Adolescence; Biography
Real Life Literacy by Katy Paterson
Pembroke Publishers, 2006. 128p. 978-1-55138-204-3. Pbk. $24.95
Real Life Literacy is a tremendous compilation of useful and practical real-world literacy based lessons that can be adapted for students in grades 5-12. Each lesson is organized into three parts: preparing, presenting, and practising and comes with black-line masters that enhance each lesson.
Peterson includes lessons for many cross-curricular applications: reading clothing labels, medical labels, and transportation and entertainment schedules. She recognizes that teachers will have their own ideas and offers her lessons as suggestions and she also clearly states that the black-line masters are a general starting point. Teachers should feel free to adapt and substitute local or community examples that would be more immediately recognizable to their students. Of particular note for teachers is the final chapter of the book, "Approaches to Authentic Everyday Teaching".
This chapter includes sections on creating authentic resources, making worksheets meaningful, being a teaching colleague in authentic ways, and acting as an authentic school advocate.
Kathy Peterson begins Real Life Literacy with the following quotation: "Dedicated teachers are constantly seeking ways to…… "turn kids on" to learning. They want to help students appreciate the value of learning and to realize that what happens in the classroom can and should be transferred to the rest of their lives" (5). This is the premise on which Real Life Literacy is based and that is just one of the reasons that this book would be a valuable addition to any professional collection.
Thematic Links: Literacy Instruction; Life-skill Building
Boogie Child by Chris Hamilton
Amazing Christophan Music, 2006. CD. 15 songs. Gr. Preschool - 3. $13.97
Chris Hamilton had a hit with his earlier CD (2004) entitled Sticky Situations and it would seem that he now has another one on his hands! In his own words - this collection of songs is specifically intended to get kids (& grown-ups) dancing and being silly. Hamilton is able to achieve that.....and more! He uses all kinds of musical genres from rock to jazz, blues, and country, and presents songs with which you simply have to sing along! The tunes and rhythms are up-beat and catchy and the lyrics are creative and fun. Children will relate to many of the situations: for example The Dentist, or The Worst Haircut or Middle Child Blues. Parents will enjoy the songs too and might have a particular understanding of Mammas in the Minivan !
This a collection that both parents and children will love to listen to over and over again. It is well-recorded with a variety of instruments and vocalists and vocal effects to back up Hamilton's voice and guitar. The tunes are great for singing or dancing and, in some cases, lend themselves to actions as well. There is enough repetition that small children will catch on quickly, yet not so much that the songs become boring. Themes of co-operation and self-esteem are built in, especially in such songs as Kids are kids around the world but Hamilton is content to let this happen naturally with the lyrics. There seems to be no intention of teaching or preaching.
In class, at home, or even with Mom in the Minivan this CD is sure to please!
Thematic Links: Music
Au fond de l'océan (Original title: Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef ) by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jeanette Canyon. Translated by Caroline Ricard. éditions Scholastic, 2006. 32p. Illus. Gr. 3-8. 978-0-439-94098-6. Pbk.$8.99
A beautiful picture book full of fascinating illustrations of polymer clay creations of octopus, parrotfish, clownfish, stingrays, pufferfish, dolphins, angelfish, needlefish, gruntfish, and seahorses. Counting verses from 1 to 10 will delight children as they can be sung to a melody included at the back of the book. In the eleventh verse, the reader has to find all 55 young animals in the 2-page spread (1 octopus, 2 parrotfish, 3 clownfish and so on), similar to the I Spy books. The back of the book offers facts about the sea creatures and information from the author and the illustrator.
Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef has won six awards since its release: The 2005 PMA Benjamin Franklin Silver Award; Marion Ridgeway Honor Book Award; 2005 National Parenting Publications Gold Award; Learning Magazine's 2006 Teachers' Choice Award, Bank Street College of Education Best Books for 2005, and most recently the "Blue Hen Award," for best picture book. The French version boasts the same characteristics and features that make it such an award-winner. A great way to increase French vocabulary as well.
Thematic Links: Sea Creatures; Coral Reefs; Ocean Life; Counting; Clay Art
KNOW: The Science Magazine for Curious Kids
Peter Piper Publishing Inc. 6 issues per year. Gr. 1-4. $22.00 per subscription
Yes Mag now has a younger sibling - KNOW: The Science Magazine for Curious Kids. This bi-monthly magazine which began at the beginning of 2006 is aimed at children from six-nine years of age. Managing Editor Adrienne Mason states that "our aim is to answer the how, what, why questions that all young children seem to ask as we present science, math, and technology in a fun and engaging manner."
Each issue of the magazine has an overall theme - the three which I examined were: Jan/Feb 2006 - The Science of Ice and Snow; Mar/Apr 2006 - Exploring our Solar System; and May/June 2006 - The Science of Balloons. Each issue has regular departments - Know News; Know It, Know You, Know Them; Poetry Place; Know it Alls; Sky Spies; Digging Dinos; Reviewed by You; Comic Captions; and Know and Tell - which carry the theme of each issue as well as other topics. There are also feature articles reflecting the theme. Glossy pages full of interesting photographs and illustrations will grab the attention of the intended audience. There is lots of interesting information in theses issues along with questions to be answered and activities to be pursued. If her reputation as an author of many great science books for kids is any indication, having Adrienne Mason as Managing Editor of this magazine means the information presented will be of high quality and appropriate to the intended audience.
This magazine will be a great addition to the periodical section of elementary school and children's public libraries. It will also be a great personal subscription for 6-9 year olds. I'm sure they will look forward with anticipation to each issue arriving in their mailbox.
Thematic Links: Science; Mathematics; Technology