Volume 14, no.1 - October 2008

Picture Books

  • I Don't Want to Go by Addie Meyer Sanders

    Illustrated by Andrew Rowland. Lobster Press, 2008. 24p. Illus. Gr. Preschool - 1. Hdbk. 978-1-897073-75-9

    Rating: G

  • Joey always imagines the worst. He doesn't want to go grocery shopping because the bags will be too heavy to carry. He doesn't want to help in the kitchen because he might make a huge mess. Camping would involve sleeping outside amongst the spiders and bugs, and fishing would mean handling hooks and worms. It would be best to stay home. He doesn't want to go to a birthday party or the museum either. Joey thinks a birthday party is no safer place to be because the other kids might be cruel, and at the museum, the dinosaurs might be ready to chase him. Joey has a frown on his face and a still empty suitcase on his bed. He does not want to go visit grandma and grandpa or do any of the activities they suggest.

    Joey's initial misgivings about the trip to his grandparent's new house turn into an adventure full of positive experiences thanks to his supportive and attentive family. Joey didn't hate the train ride. He loved it - especially the view out the window. In the grocery store, the only things he had to carry were his choice of his five favorite foods. Grandpa used plastic lures instead of live bait when they went fishing, and at the museum, the exhibits stayed put. Nobody was chasing anyone! But perhaps the best part of his time away from home was making Super-Duper Secret Sauce in the kitchen with grandpa, and learning about the stars while camping in the backyard. After all the fun Joey has had at his grandparent's place, readers won't be surprised when they read what Joey says when it's time to go back home with his parents.

    For Joey, just the thought of new experiences brings about worry and fear. Young readers will relate to some of these same feelings but see, just as Joey does, that often what we imagine might happen doesn't occur. Participating in all he did during his trip bolstered Joey's self-confidence and he sounds ready for more adventure by the time his parents come to pick him up.

    Repetition of the phrase "I don't want to go" is used throughout this story as are illustrations of Joey imagining his fears in thought bubbles that appear above his head. After these initial words and thoughts, Joey is then illustrated enjoying himself at each new outing and event. He smiles when he sees his room at his grandparent's place. His room is furnished with a train and space motif just like his own room back home. When fishing with grandpa, Joey is up to his hips in the water, throwing out his hook trying to catch some fish. The closeness in Joey's family and the family's desire to make Joey feels secure and comfortable in all situations is reflected in this book in both the text and in the illustrations.

    Andrew Rowland's cartoon-like illustrations fit nicely with this story. When Joey is worried, he hides most of his face behind his stuffed bear or he curls himself up quite small. Although Joey's fears and worries are never written in the book, they are illustrated in Joey's thought bubbles. The pictures Andrew Rowland chose to draw for these thought bubbles exaggerate, but in a fun way, all Joey is feeling. But when Joey does go to the birthday party, the museum and the grocery store, Rowland draws Joey with a big smile on his face having fun, getting excited, and being more engaged in his surroundings.

    Addie Meyer Sanders is the author of the children's books Top Fin: Dolphin Divers and Alligators, Monsters and Cool School Poems. She has visited with thousands of school children through her writing workshops.

    This is a good book to use when children need reassurance before confronting new experiences they are apprehensive about trying. Joey's story can help children tackle their own fears and worries. Joey leaves his grandparent's place with new friends, and a more confident outlook on life. I Don't Want to Go leaves readers with a positive message… ..and a recipe card.

  • Thematic Links:Fears; Grandparents; New Experiences; Travelling Alone
  • Tanya Boudreau
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Days of Toil and Tears: The Child Labour Diary of Flora Rutherford (Dear Canada Series) by Sarah Ellis

    Scholastic Canada, 2008. 220p. Illus. Gr. 4-7. 978-0-439-95594-2. Hdbk. $14.99

    Rating: E

  • Days of Toil and Tears: The Child Labour Diary of Flora Rutherford is Sarah Ellis' second novel in the Dear Canada Series of historical diaries for young readers. Ellis is a well known Canadian children's author who has earned numerous awards for her books, including the 2007 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for Odd Man Out.

    Orphaned Flora Rutherford comes to life immediately in the pages of the journal she writes to her parents, who died of pleurisy years earlier. Things are changing for Flora, as she leaves the orphanage to join Auntie Janet and her husband, Uncle James, where they work in the Almonte Woollen Mill in Ontario. Flora is just twelve, but the mill owner ignores the law that says children under fourteen are not allowed to work, and gives her a job as a doffer girl filling the bobbins on the machines.

    The rhythms of discovering a new life as a family fill the pages of Flora's journal. She makes friends with a boy named Murdo, whose family lives in the same building. They go to work each day along with the adults, while Flora imagines attending school like the girls from richer families she sees around the town. The circus arrives and everyone gets to go. Canada celebrates its 20th birthday. Winter comes and Flora sleds down the hills with her new family and friends. Inevitably too, disaster happens in the Mill and things change again for Flora.

    Ellis takes us inside the workings of the Mill with concise details and a rich writing style. We hear the great bangs and clattering of the machines, see the workers, their clothes and hair covered with bits of wool, so that "if you stayed there long enough you would start to look like a sheep." Throughout the diary, the text is enriched with observations that make child labour painfully real.

    Days of Toil and Tears: The Child Labour Diary of Flora Rutherford is a great addition to the growing wealth of historical novels for young readers. Canada in 1887 comes vividly to life in this intimate journal of a twelve-year-old child labourer. Flora's hopes and dreams are just like those of any other child her age today, while her circumstances provide modern young people with insights into the hardships of yesterday. This novel has a place on all library shelves. Teachers will find it useful in the classroom for discussions on child labour, families, and Ontario history in the late 1800s.

  • Thematic Links:Families; Almonte, Ontario; Child Labour - Almonte Woollen Mill
  • Linda Aksomitis
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • The Law of Three by Caroline Rennie Pattison

    Dundurn Press, 2007.228p. Gr. 7 up. 978-1-55002-733-4. Pbk. $12.99

    Rating: E

  • This book is the second one in the Sarah Martin Mystery Series.

    Sarah, a 9th grader, fancies herself to be a detective. She is curious, funny, and has a determined streak that leads her into trouble! After accidentally tripping into a "goth" girl, Garnet, and being cursed in front of everyone in the hallway, Sarah discovers that this girl has been accused of murder and decides to get to the bottom of the rumours once and for all. She maneuvers herself into working with Garnet's brother on a school project and is slowly able to unravel the lies and accusations and determine what really happened to the boy that died. Along the way, she has to work through lies, assumptions, and find out who the real victims are.

    We meet Sarah's interesting and real family - a mom who is thrilled she finally has a potbellied pig as a pet, a dad who as an OPP detective is involved in real crime and spends a lot of time sighing at his daughter's thinking, and a brother who teases and protects Sarah at varying times.

    I enjoyed this book. The characters are interesting and layered, the conversation seems real and is often funny, and Sarah has a wonderful perspective on life. She is sometimes melodramatic yet intelligent, a teenager and yet wise beyond her years, determined but kind.

    The author, Caroline Pattison, has a knack for writing real-sounding conversations that pull us into this teenager's mind. There is just enough danger in this book to intrigue even those students who want to be a little scarier.

    This book will be a hit with your readers grade seven through twelve.

  • Thematic Links:Mystery; Peer Relationships; Wicca; Bullying; The Danger of Spreading Gossip
  • Susan Miller
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • Creatures Yesterday and Today by Karen Patkau

    Tundra Books, 2008. 29p. Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-0-88776-833-0 Hdbk. $22.99

    Rating: G/E

  • Creatures Yesterday and Today follows a similar format to Patkau's previous book, Creatures Great and Small, presenting the reader with pairs of creatures from the same taxonomic classification. While her previous book featured animals of different sizes, this book juxtaposes an extinct creature with a living one. The tiny blue-ringed octopus shares a double-paged spread with Cameroceras, a mighty mollusk from the Paleozoic Era. The skylark, perhaps a modern day descendent of the dinosaur, is featured with Diplodocus, whose massive body stretches across four full pages from head to tail. Each creature tells a bit about itself in a descriptive passage that details a few interesting facts. For example, Smilodon tells us, "I was a fierce saber-toothed cat, known for my enormous front fangs. A sly hunter, I lay in wait in the tall grass to ambush quarry. If you made me angry, I would ROARRR!".

    The artwork is impressive, bringing the creatures to life. The book contains a glossary, and a detailed "History of Life" which outlines when the extinct animals featured in the book lived. Additionally, the inside covers of the book contain a map showing where all of the creatures originated. Creatures Yesterday and Today is great for reading aloud and full of excellent information.

  • Thematic Links:Extinct Animals; Evolution
  • Susan Prior
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • Photographing Greatness: The Story of Karsh (Stories of Canada Series) by Lian Goodall

    Napoleon and Co., 2007. 97p. Illus. Gr. 5-8. 978-1-894917-34-6. Hdbk. $20.95

    Rating: A

  • This useful biography of the famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh employs many age-appropriate design elements that will attract middle school students who need information on famous Canadians for biography assignments.

    Born in 1908 to a Turkish Armenian family, and surviving the Turkish persecution, Yousuf was sent to Canada at 14 to his mother's brother, George Nakash in Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he began his training in photography in George's studio. Later he studied with John Garo in Boston and then returned to Ottawa where he set up his own studio and began his illustrious portrait career. He and his wife Solange built strong family ties by later arranging for Yousuf's parents and brothers to immigrate to North America. Karsh's work became world renowned as he photographed Governor General Bessborough, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister King and President Roosevelt. Karsh led a long and productive life in which he not only won world recognition in his career, but also supported immigrants and medical causes such as the fight to solve muscular dystrophy.

    Although this book has a useful index and timelines of both Karsh's life and his photographs, there is no table of contents to direct the reader, who will have to rely on large headings (some ambiguous and seemingly unrelated directly to Karsh's life) to find facts in this chronological biography. It's odd that the back endpapers are plain white while the front ones are negatives of one of the included drawings. A very critically necessary map will help readers to understand the Karsh family's exodus from Turkey. The drawing of how a camera lens works will also clarify Karsh's career. The text (in a large font) is broken up by many photos, drawings and Karsh's portraits themselves, which provide an excellent impression of the extent and quality of his work. Some of the side text goes well beyond the facts of Karsh's life, providing odd details about missionaries in Turkey, the Georgetown Boys, and the World Fairs, but most side text helps by providing background information that supports the text. The simple, somewhat fuzzy pencil drawings fill in where photos could not be found, but probably could have been eliminated. Of course it is the many Karsh portraits that enliven this book and that will inspire readers to learn more about this great Canadian.

  • Thematic Links:Photography; Immigration
  • Joan Marshall
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Professional Resources

  • The Math Plague - How to Survive School Mathematics by Sherry Mantyka

    MayT Consulting Corporation, 2006. 135p. 978-0-9781658-0-2. Pbk. $15.95

    Rating: A

  • Sherry Mantyka is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Director of the Mathematics Learning Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland. The title of her book, The Math Plague – How to Survive School Mathematics, suggests that she will be telling students, teachers and parents how to deal with the challenging issues of mathematics instruction in schools today. "Becoming a truly successful student of mathematics entails more than just taking a course and getting a good grade. A successful student of mathematics is open to a life-long learning experience of mathematics." (p. 9) She does briefly outline her successes with students enrolled in the Mathematics Learning Centre where, "almost all the students in attendance have just found out they failed the mathematics placement test." (p. 45) In order to proceed, they must upgrade their mathematical skills. She provides student testimonials as anecdotal evidence to illustrate the success of her work at the centre.

    Ms Mantyka outlines the links between coaching and learning mathematics. "Learning to do mathematics is not unlike learning how to play football. To be a better football player who can meet Shula's winning standards, one must spend hours in repetitious practice of the mechanics." (p. 19) Every alternating page is a full page quotation from a famous person about motivation, coaching or psychology. These are excellent motivational quotations, but they do not help the reader to understand "how to survive school mathematics!" The title would suggest that readers will be given practical tips and specific strategies to help achieve success mathematics.

    Perhaps most problematic is the title of the book, The Math Plague. The most recent curriculum document in Ontario Mathematics Grades 1-8 (2005) specifically discusses promoting "positive attitudes towards Mathematics." (p. 26). Looking at issues in mathematics instruction as a "plague" does not seem to work toward this goal. As well, Ms. Mantyka spends an entire section discussing the poor image of mathematics instructors as "badly dressed, overweight, scruffy and friendless." (p. 12) Her answer to this was "to socialize outside my professional peers…I continue to enjoy fashions, I dress stylishly, and I have a lively social life." (p. 13) How does this information help students, teachers or parents struggling with mathematical issues?

    This book would be useful for teachers who are exploring the philosophy and psychology of mathematical instruction. The extensive discussion of cognitive psychology and coaching techniques will give them a new perspective on the issue.

  • Thematic Links: Mathematics Instruction; Coaching; Cognitive Psychology
  • Myra Junyk
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Audio Visual Resources

  • The Refugees of the Blue Planet

    National Film Board of Canada, 2007. DVD. 53 min. 8 sec. Gr. 7 up. $59.95

    Rating: E

  • This excellent video from writers and directors, Helene Choquette and Jean-Phillipe Duval reports on the plight of environmental refugees - people who have been forced from their homes by environmental factors like global warming or by the exploitation of natural resources. The most dramatic example of this is the country of the Maldives, an island nation that is predicted to disappear because of rising sea levels. Whole villages have been forced to flee to refugee camps as their homes have been destroyed. The film also highlights companies that exploit natural resources to the detriment of the people living on the land around them, such as the cellulose industry in Brazil or the oil and gas industry in Alberta. The U.N. has reported that in 2003, the number of environmental refugees (25 million people) was larger than the number of war and political refugees (23 million). This is a global problem that is starting to effect everyone, not just the poorest people anymore.

    This is an excellent video that should start a few discussions.

  • Thematic Links:Environmental Refugees; Global Warming; Natural Resources
  • Heather Empey
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French Resources

  • Un dĒner en fuite by Allan Ahlberg

    Illustrated by Bruce Ingman. Translated by Dominique Fortier. La courte échelle, 2007. 37p. Illus. Gr. K -3. 978-2-89021-927-4. Pbk. $19.95

    Rating: E

  • Dinner may never look the same again. One sunny, summer evening a boy by the name of Banjo Cannon is looking at his very ordinary, usual sausage dinner when suddenly his sausage, named Melvin, jumps up from the plate and runs out the door followed by the fork, the knife, the plate, the table, the chair, and the vegetables.

    Now wide-awake and alert, Banjo gives chase. It is a jaunty madcap race down the street, across the intersection, into the park, around the pond, and past the cricket pitch with unexpected traps and hurdles en route. Two French fries escape on a boat and cheerily wave goodbye. Two little girls catch the plate and use it as a frisbee. Exhausted by the chase, Melvin stops at last. He is certain to be eaten but he is saved by Banjo's mother. She forbids Banjo to eat a sausage left lying on the ground. Melvin seizes the opportunity to escape and hides in the grass. Weary and without dinner, Melvin returns home with his parents and sits down at the table to eat dessert. His dessert is named Joyce. Can you guess what happens next? Whoops - here we go again!

    Strong echoes of The Runaway Pancake and Hey Diddle Diddle resound through this energetic, joyous romp of a tale. Bright, fun illustrations by Bruce Ingman exuberantly extend the zany, spirited text by prolific and beloved British author Allan Ahlberg. Originally published in English and now translated into French, this picture book is sure to please.

  • Thematic Links:Food; Imagination
  • Gail Thomson
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