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Volume 12, no.5 - June 2007

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Picture Books

  • The Aunts Come Marching by Bill Richardson/p>

    Illustrated by Cynthia Nugent. Raincoast Books, 2007. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool - 3. 978-1-55192-990-3. Hdbk. $19.95

    Rating: E

  • Bill Richardson puts a new twist on the traditional song, The Ants Go Marching. Unlike the ants in the original song, in The Aunts Come Marching, aunts of the human kind invade the narrator's family home bringing along their varied musical instruments more suited for marching bands than living room entertainment. The text offers a range of sound effects to accompany the varied instruments, a trait that will encourage the audience to join in. Nugents's colorful artwork adds to the humour of the tale and implies the mayhem created by the boisterous visitors.

    This story would be most appreciated by younger readers, being very well suited as a read-a-loud. Reader's familiar with the original version and with homonyms should appreciate the humour in this book. The book would serve as a good model for readers to create their own version of a familiar song or verse and turn it into a story format.

    This book supports music curricula, as it introduces many different instruments and is based on a traditional song. The end flaps of the book provide a musical score for the text, a feature that is both aesthetically pleasing as well as practical. It would also be a fun addition to themes on family life, and could be used in the language arts as an introduction or extension to homonyms. I would highly recommend this book for both school and public libraries.

  • Thematic Links: Family; Music; Stories in Song.

  • Linda Berezowski
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Bubba Begonia, You'll Be Sorry! by Gerry O'Brien

    Illustrated by Brenda Jones. Acorn Press, 2006. 76p. Illus. Gr. 3-6. 978-1-894838-23-8. Pbk. $7.95

    Rating: E

  • Bubba is starting a new school and really wants to make a good impression on his new classmates. Bubba has an awful, gross habit, though, and it is really hard for him to control it when he is nervous. Guess what? Today he is NERVOUS. His mother warns him before he goes to school to keep his finger out of his nose or it will get stuck! Well, Bubba goes to school and Éhis finger goes up his nose andÉhe can't get it out! It gets stuck!

    In a hilarious book, written for grade three and up, Bubba discovers that he needs the help of others to get his finger out of his nose. He also learns that other people have individual quirks as well, including his teacher, Miss Pimple. His whole class consists of unusual characters, including Harold Haymow, who lives on a "cockadoodle farm" and "a rainbow of a girl" named Moonbaby Orbit. Wouldn't you know it? He needs the help of his pesky little sister, who is in Kindergarten, to get his finger unstuck!

    This book is laugh-out-loud funny. It would make a wonderful read-aloud for teachers and is an easy read for less able readers.

  • Thematic Links: Character Studies; Friendship; Personal Habits

  • Susan Miller
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • Dear Jo; The Story of Leah and Searching for Hope by Christina Kilbourne

    Lobster Press, 2007. 199p. Gr. 6 up. 978-1-897073-51-3. Pbk. $10.95(Reviewed from advance reading copy)

    Rating: E

  • In an era when internet sexual predation has unleashed countless stories which seem to accomplish little more than overreaching hysteria instead of serious attention, this perceptive story addresses the naivety which can lead children to become unwitting accomplices in the unspeakable malice sexual predation generates. The deceptively simple personal journal format of Christina Kilbourne's novel puts the reader right beside the young protagonist Maxine, and makes the reader privy to her 12 year-old view of the events surrounding the disappearance and subsequent murder of her best friend Leah.

    There are several levels of narrative at work here and they all mesh seamlessly with the story's main point: don't talk to strangers, especially on the internet. In the novel, Leah and Maxine enter an online chatroom, passing themselves of as one person; one person who is not 12 years old. Deception has a role to play here, and the fact that Leah goes online using another identity when Maxine is not there proves to be the making of her ugly demise. It also helps catch the predator.

    The story also realistically addresses the issue of parental supervision by having Maxine, whose parents are strict about internet use, simply go over to Leah's house to chat online because her parents are more lenient. The issue of random luck - good and bad - has an impact on a number of the story's characters and enriches the narrative.

    Kilbourne has skillfully made both Maxine and Leah's parents secondary characters in this story while resisting the urge to make them less than adult. The result is a believable sense of their responses to and through the actions of a 12 year-old. The one character of whom Maxine is less than fond is the psychiatrist who keeps encouraging her to write a personal journal. It makes for just enough tension to showcase just how well the journal works as a narrative vehicle.

    The most dramatic part of the novel is also deftly dealt with: Maxine offers to be bait for the predator in order to catch him attempting to kidnap her. This she does, but not without some tense moments during the initial contact, when the predator poses as the father of the supposed boy Maxine has arranged to meet.

    A recent article in Maclean's (Maclean's Magazine, Apr. 23, 2007) described how a piece of completely serendipitous information overheard at a children's soccer game lead to significant arrests in a highly organized international child pornography ring. This little book goes a long way towards showing how real is the danger that internet predators pose and how easily one can become ensnared in their horrific machinations.

  • Thematic Links: Internet Safety; Child Sexual Predators; Murder; Parent/Child Relationships

  • Lesley Little
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs by Charis Cotter

    Annick Press, 2006. 120p. Gr. 4 up. 978-1-55451-062-7. Hdbk. $24.95

    Rating: E

  • A great addition to the biography library collection.

    Kids Who Rule is an illustrated biography about five children who ruled kingdoms. A chapter covers each ruler: Tutankhamun of Egypt; Mary, Queen of Scots; Queen Christina of Sweden; Emperor Pyui of China; and The Dalai Lama of Tibet. The chapters each begin with a fictional narrative done in italics, which shows some dramatic point in the child's life. Further historical information is then developed with illustrations and some sidebars.

    Each of the child rulers featured in Kids Who Rule comes from a different country, so the book provides a global perspective. The different eras covered show readers how similar the challenges of becoming a leader in childhood are, irregardless of time period. Many supplementary details are packed into the narrative, from "The Mummy's Curse" of the Egyptian tombs, to the Dalai Lama and reincarnation, to the Imperial Dragon of Chinese mythology. A sources and further reading section is included, as well as a comprehensive index with headings and subheadings.

    Sure to appeal to readers who enjoy biographies, this book, with its focus on the lives of young people who ruled, will also draw a new group of readers to history. The writing style is active and the format, with illustrations and sidebars, adds another dimension for the reader. Recommend this one to reluctant readers who enjoy making discoveries.

    Kids Who Rule takes modern time travellers around the world, showing them how young people, just like them, have ruled kingdoms.

  • Thematic Links:Biography; Child Kings and Rulers; Child Queens

  • Linda Aksomitis
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How-to Guide for Young Artists by Hal Niedzviecki

    Illustrated by Marc Ngui. Annick Press, 2007. 183p. Illus. Gr. 8up. 978-1-55451-056-6. Hdbk. $24.95

    Rating: E

  • An autobiography of growing up in 1970s Communist Russia

    Having just completed a master's degree that dealt with media literacy and poplar culture, I was excited to see such a reader friendly text tracing the history of popular culture and providing some helpful advice about how to create your own. I had come across the author, Hal Niedzviecki, and his mega-zine Broken Pencil several months ago when researching this alternative media genre. Being on the cutting edge of independent popular media makes Niedzviecki a credible source and this text a solid introduction to a 'popular' and important topic. As a student resource, it would be particularly valuable. Visually, I was disappointed with the lack of colour as the pages are somewhat bland but perhaps this was a decision made to keep the book from becoming too quickly dated.

    The first three chapters provide what Niedzviecki calls, "Everything You Need to Know Before You Make Your Own Pop Culture". Chapter one handily explains what poplar culture is and how it sprung naturally from folk culture ("Folk culture sounds kinda dull, and hey, let's face it - anyone who has ever been stuck listening to their relatives wail away on the piano knows there is something to be said for having more choice in how you spend your evenings"). The Industrial Revolution, it says, meant people had fewer reasons to get together and tell stories and could afford to buy their entertainment. Chapter two outlines the explosion of popular culture everywhere ("Attack of the Blob!") and chapter three points out how important it is to create your own. The last four chapters give tips and advice as well as suggest further reading for creating your own pop culture texts including zines, comic books, movies, music, radio and TV broadcasts or shows and various web based texts.

    This is a good informational text because it's conversational and humorous style makes it very "accessible" to a ''wide audience" (to borrow the author's terms!). It also is authoritative and I especially liked it because it celebrated all that is great about popular culture rather than only warning against its 'sinister nature' and because it really encourages young people to get their voices out there. By featuring real young artists from just about every alternative genre (zine, novel and blog; indie movie and documentary; internet and pirate radio; podcast, etc.), the 'possible!' factor is enhanced. This book is all about empowerment and provides practical, sound advice about why and how you can get your voice heard! My only caution would be that some time be spent discussing internet safety and privacy issues with any young person interested in this topic.

  • Thematic Links: Popular Culture; The Empowerment of Youth

  • Leslie L. Kennedy
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Professional Resources

  • What'll I Do with the Baby-o? Nursery Rhymes, Songs, and Stories for Babies by Jane Cobb

    Black Sheep Press, 2007. 255p. (with audio CD). 978-0-9698666-1-9. Pbk. $39.95

    Rating: E

  • If you work with preschool aged children, chances are that you're more than familiar with Jane Cobb's fantastic resource I'm a Little Teapot: Presenting Preschool Storytime. Jane Cobb's new work, What'll I Do With the Baby-O? Nursery Rhymes, Songs and Stories for Babies is sure to become a similar staple for anyone providing early literacy programming.

    Cobb provides a thorough and quality selection of rhymes and songs for the baby and toddler set. The personal tips and resources from Cobb's own experience - what times to offer programs, to register or not, using recorded music, recordkeeping, parent response forms - make this handbook especially useful. The chapter called "Sprinkles: What to Say to Parents" is particularly handy as it provides tips and speaking ideas on explaining the rationale of providing early literacy programs and highlighting the ways in which rhyming, singing, storytelling and reading-aloud contribute to child development. Sample programs, oral story suggestions and a selection of rhymes in other languages (French, Spanish and more!) all enhance this wonderful book.

    This title comes with a CD of rhymes and songs with vocals provided by Natasha Neufeld, Paul Gitlitz and Jane Cobb. Most of the 36 tracks are vocals only and have the feel of what "real people" sound like! The CD is a great resource when trying to figure out the tune or cadence to an unfamiliar rhyme.

    What'll I Do With the Baby-O? is an excellent resource for both new and seasoned professionals providing programming for little ones and their caregivers!

  • Thematic Links: Early Literacy Programming; Programming for Babies; Toddlers and Caregivers; Songs; Nursery Rhymes; Child Development

  • Emily Springer
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Audio-Visual Resources

  • Even Kids go Country by Lp Camozzi

    Lp Creative, 2006. CD. 40 min. Gr. 4up. $14.99

    Rating: A

  • Even Kids go Country is a CD which contains 14 music tracks, 13 of which are original tunes. The anticipated audience is pre-teen boys since, as Lp puts it, "he'd like to give them something to call their own". The songs would undoubtedly appeal to this age group and include such titles as Gym Strippin' - what it's like to be in a male change room; My dog stinks - a song which says goodbye to a favourite pet; and Mouth Music - all about playing "Spin the Bottle" for the first time.

    Lp does the lead vocals himself but most songs also have simple vocal harmonies as well. Ski Yodel, as one would expect, features a yodeller. Back-up instruments include harmonica, spoons, mandolin and bass in simple, country-style arrangements. There are no lyrics included with the CD but an insert gives a brief suggestion as to the theme of each song.

  • Thematic Links: Country Music

  • Ann Ketcheson
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French Resources

  • Un Inukshuk solitaire by L'Ecole Inuglak

    éditions Scholastic, 2006. 24p. Illus. Gr. K-6. 978-0590-51652-5. Pbk. $7.99

    Rating: E

  • Inukshuk is lonely and wonders why he exists. He asks the various animals that live around him but they do not take the time to answer. Finally, he overhears a conversation between a father and his son and discovers what his purpose is.

    The story, presented in French and in Inuktituk, is the winner of the Scholastic Create-a-book contest for 1999. It is the collaborative effort of a group of 15 students from Whale Cove, Nunavut. It includes a glossary.

    This is a wonderful example of student writing and a good initiation to life in the North. I recommend stocking several copies so that teachers can use it in class and students can refer to it for the pleasure of discovery.

  • Thematic Links: First Nations; Writing and Publishing

  • Mary Moroska
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