The Queen’s Feet by Sarah Ellis
llustrated by Du?an Petri i . Northern Lights Books for Children/Red Deer Press, 2006. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-2. 0-88995-320-1. Hdbk. $19.95
In The Queen’s Feet, Sarah Ellis explores the idea of rebellion in an interesting way. Whenever Queen Daisy doesn’t want to behave in a particularly royal way, her feet “cut up, act out, and carry on”. Watch out, boring ladies in big hats or kingly bullies visiting from an adjoining principality - you might find that the queen has something in store that will surprise you.
Of course, being royalty carries with it some expectations, and the unpredictable actions of uncooperative feet must be addressed. As queens have done down the ages, advice is sought from wise ones summoned from throughout the land. The advice of sages, wise women and footmen leads to a thoroughly satisfactory conclusion.
Sarah Ellis is well-known for her award-winning novels and short stories (for example, the Governor General’s Award for Pick-Up Sticks, and the Mr. Christie’s Book Award for Out of the Blue) and this collaboration with talented, award-winning illustrator Du?an Petri i is a lively contribution to picture book collections. Young children, whose stature gives them an authority on shoes and feet, will be amused by the antics of Queen Daisy’s wayward tootsies. The book is full of visual treats - my favourites are the socks emblazoned with crowns, the red and purple nail polish, and the affectionate goldfish.
Adult readers may also want to indulge in a lemon popsicle and a foot rub after sharing the adventures of Queen Daisy and her supportive consort, Prince Fred.
Arams Choice (New Beginnings) by Marsha Forchuk Skyrpuch
Fitzhenry&Whiteside, 2006. 81p. Illus. Gr. 5-7. 1-55041-354-6. Pbk. $10.95
Arams Choice is a historical chapter book in which it’s main character, Aram, is exiled to Greece as a survivor of the Armenian genocide in Turkey. Living in an orphanage among many other boys, Aram is one of several selected to a new life in a place called Canada. With no war and the promise of plenty to eat, Aram is excited about the opportunity, but anxious about leaving his grandmother behind; his one remaining living relative.
In the first two chapters we meet Aram and the other boys in the orphanage, and we are gently taught of the Armenian genocide, and some of its atrocities. Chapters three through eleven give us a detailed look at the trip to Canada by boat and train, the problems encountered by the boys and their chaperone, and finally their arrival at Georgetown Boys Farm, July 1923.
Based on historical facts, complete with a glossary, index, biographical information, illustrations, and suggested further readings, Aram’s Choice is superbly written to appeal to young audiences while informing them of the history of the world in which we live. Students studying history of the world, or specifically of Canada or Armenia, will enjoy reading of the safe arrival or the Armenian boys in Canada at the Georgetown Boys Farm. he vocabulary is age appropriate, paragraphs and chapters not too long, and the overall content easily understood without the need for too many explanations. There are countless opportunities for discussion and further studies. Arams Choice is an affordable, comprehensive asset to the social studies classroom.
Johnny Kellock Died Today by Hadley Dyer
Harper Collins, 2006. 152p. Gr. 7-10. 978-0-00-639533-1/0-00-639533-3. Pbk. $12.99
Johnny Kellock Died Today is a fast paced story about family, friendship, and love. Rosalie Norman is the youngest of six children and, according to her, has “the oldest mother in the whole world. She was born in 1899. Norman’s old, too, but he was born in 1901. Mama’s from the last century. She was coming up on fifty when I came along. I tell people that’s a world record. The truth is I never looked it up. Having a mother who holds a world record, that’s better than having a mother who’s just really old” (p. 4-5).
When her mother falls down the stairs after slipping on the pencil crayons Rosalie left out, Rosalie’s summer is forever changed. Her mother’s broken ankle forces Rosalie’s family to hire David, the strange new boy from next door to help out around the house. Known as the “Gravedigger” for his after school job at the cemetery, David and Rosalie begin a tentative friendship. At the same time, Rosalie and her family are stunned by the news that her cousin, Johnny Kellock, has disappeared. While David and Rosalie work together to try and find her cousin, scouring Halifax’s historic North End, Rosalie also discovers some surprising things about her family and herself.
Hadley Dyer has written a rich, eloquent novel that will resonate with readers long after the book is over. Rosalie Norman is a memorable narrator, full of charm and curiosity and a keen sense of observation. The descriptions of Halifax in 1959 are detailed and realistic and readers will get a real sense of place by reading the book. Dyer’s descriptions of both setting and characters are reminiscent of Brian Doyle’s historical fiction, where the locations are as important as the people for the movement of the plot.
Johnny Kellock Died Today is a delightful and important new addition to Canadian children’s literature circles. Highly recommended.
Hiding Edith: A True Story by Kathy Kacer
Annick Press, 2006. 48p. Illus. Gr. 3-7. 978-1-55451-046-7. Hdbk. $19.95.
Rating: G - E
During World War II in the French town of Moissac, the Jewish Scouts of France funded a house which successfully hid more than 500 Jewish children during the Nazi occupation. Perhaps most amazing of all was the conspiracy of silence on the part of the entire town, who knew the purpose of the house and kept the secret, even warning the school when a raid was imminent so that the children could camp out in the woods until the danger was over. They did not do this for money, but simply because it was right.
Kathy Kacer chooses to dramatize this remarkable story through the life of one particular child. Edith Schwalb spent most of her childhood on the run, leaving Austria for Belgium in 1938, fleeing from Belgium to France and finally being separated from her parents and sister at age 11 and forced to hide from March 1943 until the end of the war. This highly personal narrative is an effective tool, allowing young readers to identify strongly with Edith and gain a deeper understanding of what her life was like. Kathy Kacer paints a powerful picture of Edith’s many losses - home, possessions, security, family life, and even her name when she is forced to pose as a Catholic orphan. But the book offers an equally strong impression of Edith’s courage, strong will to survive and determination to remember who she is.
Although it is a true story, this book reads more like a novel with its focus on the small details of one girl’s life and particularly its emphasis on the interior world of her emotions. Even in times of happiness, when Edith is surrounded by friends, she does not feel safe; she is afraid to give herself up to happiness only to have it taken away. At night she is plagued by nightmares of discovery by the Nazis and even in daylight she is sometimes assailed by moments of intense fear. The author also does a good job of exploring Edith’s struggle to be totally convincing in her false identity as a French Catholic without losing her culture, faith and identity as a Jew.
Occasionally the shifts between third-person narration of Edith’s personal story and expository passages about the larger events of the war are slightly awkward. The narrator takes a large step backwards to view events from a larger, more distant perspective and the reader may be aware of the shift. Is Edith’s understanding and sympathy of adult suffering realistic when she is blind to the jealousy of her classmates (when mother comes to visit?).
The author makes effective use of the contrasts between intense moments of peace and happiness - the enjoyment of a birthday treat or summer’s day - and the dark events that surround Edith and the other hidden children. The camping trip in the woods to avoid discovery during a German raid of the school in Moissac, for example, has a surreal quality.
One slight quibble: I think children would have liked to know (before the endnotes) how old Edith was. Although we can guess from the photos, kids want to establish the similarities and differences between themselves and the characters they read about. This helps them to identify with characters and get inside the story. Also the placement of map is a bit strange - why not at beginning or end of book?
Hiding Edith joins the growing ranks of Holocaust literature aimed specifically at children. Kathy Kacer has ventured successfully into this territory before with her novels, The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser and The Night Spies, as well as the more recent non-fiction work, The Underground Reporters. She makes a difficult topic manageable for young readers, avoiding graphic horrors without trivializing the events of the Holocaust. This very personal story of one child’s experience of loss, fear, hope and survival is an excellent way to move beyond the overwhelming facts to a stronger understanding of the Holocaust and its impact on survivors.
Strongly recommended for both school and public libraries.
Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador by Young Ron
Illustrated by Mel D’Souza. Downhome Publishing, 2006. 383p. Illus. Gr. 6 up. 1-89510922-1. Pbk. $19.95
Having watched a clip on the national news last evening concerning the Newfoundland expressions and dialect used in a recent ad for a Nissan vehicle named after “Bonavista”, Newfoundland, I feel that everyone really needs a copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador. In his introduction Ron young states “the language is comprised of a concoction - and contortion - of the English vocabulary garnished with insightful and humorous sayings, many of which are made up on the spur of the moment with a facility that is intrinsic to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This flair for creating their own descriptive words and colourful sayings has given a new dimension to the English language, and one that is in a constant state of growth.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s English colloquialisms have been a source of interest to linguists and great amusement to visitors to the province (including the descendants of Newfoundlanders seeking a connection to their roots.) Newfoundlanders speak with a flourish and their speech is not always readily understood” (p. 7)
In this book, Young seeks to give meaning to many of the words commonly used by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. More than half of the 383 pages of the book resembles a standard dictionary - this section is titled “Words and Meanings” - where words are listed in alphabetical order along with their “localized” meanings. Some words are accompanied by a pronunciation guide and some are also used in sentences to further explain their meaning. In addition to the dictionary portion of the book, Young has included other chapters which explain many of the customs and lore of the province. Chapters such as “How we all got here”; “Celebrations, Customs and Holidays”, “A Way of Life”, “Folklore, Cures and Omens”, “Weatherlore”, “Sayings and Expressions”, and “101 Colourful Place Names”, add to the explanation of the language and the way of life of Canada’s newest province (or Britain’s oldest colony).
This book is very well done. Mel D’Sousa’s black and white sketches scattered throughout the book assist in the explanation of some of the words and expressions. While the emphasis of the book is very localized, it does have a place in English and folklore courses and will also be very useful in the Grade 8 History of Newfoundland course offered in all schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. This book will also hold interest for the many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have settled in other parts of the country or other countries who are always looking for some connection with “back home”.
Fun with Composers: Ages 3 - 6 (0-9780360-0-X); Fun with Composers: Ages 7 - 12 (0-9780360-I-8) by Deborah Lyn Zioloski
Fun with Composers, 2006.Teachers Guide, music CD, DVD. $114.95 ea.
Ziolkoski is a British Columbia elementary school music specialist who has chosen to share her ORFF approach to storytelling, drama, song, movement and instrumental play with her colleagues. The package for ages 3 - 6 includes Mozart, Strauss, Saint-Saens, Dvorak, Bach and Haydn. The package for ages 7 - 12 includes Brahms, Grieg, Strauss, Mozart, Saint-Saens and Bizet. In her own words, Ziolkoski’s goal is that every child participates, feels successful and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoys the music.
The teachers guide provides step-by-step instructions re implementing Ziolkoski’s ideas in the classroom. A typical section includes a music map, the musical score (soprano notes only), suggested themes to tie to the particular piece of music, props needed and musical concepts to be taught. Two or three actual lessons follow, the first of which is often telling a story or other background for the music. The other lesson(s) make use of the music maps, suggest how percussive instrumentation might be used, give ideas for movement/dance for the children, and present lots of suggestions which will enhance children’s excitement and their appreciation for classical music. Ziolkoski stresses the need for participation and enjoyment and approaches children on an appropriate level for their age group. Within the guide are reproducible pages, including composers images and biographies, activity pages, and the music maps which are a visual representation of what happens in the music and what actions/instruments are needed at certain points.
The accompanying CD has versions of all musical selections in the book and includes both vocal and instrumental versions. The vocal versions will be helpful when teaching the children; once the music and moves are learned, the instrumental versions would be great when the class performed. Certainly the CD could be used at home or in a car as well as at school, giving children a chance to practice with a copy of the music map and the CD as well.
The DVD shows Ziolkoski in action in a classroom with students. The lessons are somewhat condensed but her methodology is clear and her creativity and enjoyment are evident. The children obviously enjoy their participation. For each selection of music the DVD illustrates the teaching process and then shows the children in the final outcome of the unit.
The technique varies little from the younger age group to the older, but, as one would expect, in the older group Ziolkoski uses more sophisticated language and musical terminology and the movements are more complicated. Two musical selections are repeated from the first book to the second, but the other seven selections are new to that book.
More information about the products can be obtained from Ziolkoski’s website: www.funwithcomposers.com. For instance, there is also a Just for Kids guide and CD which is a take-home version of the teachers guide.
Musicians love nothing more than sharing the gift of music with others. Ziolkoski’s books are a user-friendly, imaginative and fun way to do just that and to involve even very young children in an appreciation of music which will last a lifetime.
Kids Talkin’ About Death
Written and Directed by Sue Huff. Produced by Graydon McGrea. National Film Board of Canada, 2005. DVD. 19min. 51 sec. Closed Caption. Gr. 3-7. $49.95
This DVD is a video collage of childrens’s responses to questions relating to their experiences with death. Very infrequently are the interview questions heard, but the responses are organized in a meaningful sequence from defining death, describing the causes and process and discussing the afterlife. The responses are woven together with the children’s illustrations and tasteful/appropriate animations to provide a very touching and useful conversation starter for children who have experienced the death of a loved one or know a peer who is going through the experience of death in their family. The simplicity and wisdom in the children’s belief and questions are sure to strike a chord with both children and adults, providing a level of comfort for voicing their own opinions. References to God and heaven are made but religious beliefs are not the focus of the video - rather the natural questions and beliefs that children would experience from their own points of view.
An excellent resource for initiating group discussions in intermediate children around the topic of death. Or for counselling at a time when a child or children have experienced a loss.
Le mauvais coup du samedi (La vie avec Julien Potvin series) by Danielle Simard
Soulières éditeur, 2006. 80p. Illus. Gr. 4-6. 2-89607-032-X. Pbk. $7.95
First day at summer camp…A frightening situation for many. Julien Potvin is no different. The prospect of spending two weeks in this place terrifies him. Luckily, his roommate, Cédric is a pro at navigating summer camp. Julien is thrilled to be his friend, especially when he learns that Cédric likes to play pranks. Julien hangs out with Cédric and the fun ensues. The pranks come fast and furious. Cédric releases hundred of spiders in the girls’ cabin and the boys revel in the shrieking that follows. Cédric loosens all the saltshakers in the cafeteria and the boys gleefully watch everyone dump salt in their soups. Calling themselves, les crabes aux pinces d’or, Cédric and Julien pinch girls’ legs under the water…When Cédric steals Antonin’s precious locket, Julien doesn’t laugh so heartily. He has to decide what kind of person he really is. Is he the kind that could play such a mean trick? What does Julien decide? Does he redeem himself?
Sixth in the series La vie avec Julien Potvin, Le mauvais coup du samedi is appealing and fun to read. Julien encounters every day events and situations common to most children - being away from your parents for the first time, going to an unknown place, making new friends, making the right decisions. Julien learns that playing pranks is not always funny. Sometimes, people get hurt... The book also points out that a prankster’s tough hide may act as a mask for a wounded and hurt person. The characters are charming and captivating. The black and white illustrations are expressive and kid-friendly. A sure-fire way to start class discussions.