Volume 14, no.1 - October 2008

Picture Books

  • The Terrible Horrible Smelly Pirate by Carrie Muller and Jacqueline Halsey

    Illustrated by Eric Orchard. Nimbus Publishing, 2008. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-4. 978-1-55109-655-1. Pbk. $10.95

    Rating: E

  • Harrrr, Matey! If ye be interested in pirates, then this treasure-seeking adventure is for you!

    Delightful pirate lingo and expressive language, accompanied by colorful and humorous illustrations, will captivate readers as they spend time in Halifax Harbour with a terrible, horrible, smelly pirate and his anosmic sidekick Parrot Polly.

    As the fog clears, the treasure-seeking duo spot a mermaid reading a book on the island of Big Thrumcap. They approach, certain that she will lead them to treasure. The mischievous mermaid presents them with a riddle and promises to lead them to treasure if they can solve the stumper - one guess each!

    Excitement builds as the terrible, horrible, smelly pirate and Parrot Polly work through the riddle. The mermaid delivers on her promise, but the treasure is more valuable than one can imagine! X marks the spot!

    The Terrible, Horrible, Smelly Pirate is a merrymaking read-aloud created by library assistant and first-time author Carrie Muller, and Jacqueline Halsey, author of the acclaimed junior novel, Peggy's Letters. Educators will revel in the pirate spirit and Language Arts lessons abound!

  • Thematic Links:Pirates/Treasure: Health: Hygiene; Map Skills; Imagination
  • Dwila Nixon
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Mr. Karp's Last Glass by Gary Fagan

    Illustrated by Selcuk Demeril. Groundwood Books, 2008. 94p. Illus. Gr. 2-6. 978-0-88899-79006. Hdbk. $15.95

    Rating: E

  • When Randolph's father is fired from his job at PriLo for stealing a DVD collection of I Love Lucy shows, a Barbie camper van, five bags of red licorice, a pink imitation Christmas tree and other various and assorted items, the family is forced to take in a lodger to help make ends meet. And so Mr. Karp arrives to take over the third floor of the family house. A collector himself of beer-bottle caps, writing instruments, and words, Randolph is intrigued by the curious crates marked Perishable and Fragile that hold Mr. Karp's own collection - of water. Mr. Karp's obsession in pursuing the ultimate water sample for his collection offers Randolph insights into the nature of obsession, and what happens when it is thwarted. Together, this award-winning author's carefully-crafted language and the illustrator's whimsical drawings create a compelling tale, almost timeless in its theme, setting and era. This gentle story will appeal to children who don't need high drama or frantic action, but prefer to follow the extraordinary outcomes of the behaviour of children and adults.

    There's lots to engage in this charmer of a story - not least of which is Mr. Karp's arcane water collection which includes samples from the 'Gulf of Oman, Cha Bahar, Iran, 1993' and 'Bathwater of Sarah Bernhardt after a performance of Cleopatra, 1891'. These may well send the more literal reader off to learn more about the noted people, places and events. And Randolph's own interest in words adds another layer to this intriguing tale.

  • Thematic Links:Hobbies; Lodgers; Water
  • Lois Peterson
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • They Called me Red by Christina Kilbourne

    Lobster Press, 2008. 191p. Gr. 9 up. 978-1-897073-88-9. Pbk. $10.95 (reviewed from advance reading copy)

    Rating: E

  • Kilbourne opens her latest novel with this quote from the United States Department of State (June 2007): “Each year more than two million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade”. This is the story of 13 year old Devon living with his single father and the drastic turn his life takes after Lily, a single mother from Vietnam, comes into their lives.

    Devon does not like or trust Lily but his father is in love with her and Lily eventually moves into their apartment, bringing her two teenage sons over from Vietnam. Gradually Devon's father becomes ill with an undiagnosed and incurable liver ailment. As his condition worsens, Lily convinces him to seek treatment from her uncle, a traditional doctor in Vietnam and the three leave for an extended stay. Once in Vietnam, as his condition deteriorates rapidly, Devon becomes very suspicious of Lily and the special teas she constantly gives his father. Devon's father dies in Vietnam and Lily, using trickery and drugs, sells Devon to a brothel in Cambodia and returns to the U. S. Devon is imprisoned in the brothel with three Vietnamese boys and six girls and, because of his red hair, fetches a high price. Badly beaten and frightened he can find no means of escape. Eventually he and the others are rescued by Vietnamese undercover police. Devon returns to live with a foster family in his hometown and begins a long and painful recovery process.

    This is a powerful story, realistic and dramatic, with just enough tension to keep the pages turning. The reader is drawn into Devon's grief, fear and confusion. Upon his return to the U.S. we feel Devon's shame and anger as he adjusts to life without his father. In the end Devon makes a positive recovery and chooses happiness over letting the past ruin his life.

    This novel is highly recommended. Christina Kilbourne writes on a topic that receives little attention in Y. A. literature. Although she spares the reader the gruesome details of Devon's abuse, I would save this novel for a mature reader.

  • Thematic Links:Sex Trade; Human Trafficking; Child Abuse
  • Linda Irvine
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • Brave Deeds: How One Family Saved Many from the Nazis by Ann Alma

    Groundwood Books, 2008. 95p. Illus. Gr. 4-8. 978-0-88899-791-3. Hdbk. $17.95

    Rating: E

  • The year is 1944 and Holland is under Nazi control. Food is in short supply and the Dutch people are treated harshly. Many people, especially Jews, are forced to flee their homes and go into hiding. Frans Braal, leader of the Dutch Resistance Movement on the island of Voorne, has moved his wife and young family to a large house in the country where they are able to both hide and offer assistance to fugitives in need of help. This is a true story of this young couple's brave dedication and unselfish accomplishments, ignoring the impending danger to themselves. A Canadian Airman, Philip Pochailo, remained hidden at Het Buitenhaus (their country house) for 7 months. At one time 26 people were harboured together in one long dormitory, surrounded by trees and market gardens.

    Narrated by a fictitious child, this suspense- filled story should prove informative for readers of all ages. Young students will be intrigued as the child narrator relates the activities of the children, their daily tasks and very basic food. Included are black and white photographs, mainly of the children, and most from the Braal family archives. The text concludes with historical notes, a glossary and a short list for further reading.

    Simply written, this authentic text contains a wealth of information on the situation in the Netherlands during the last 2 years of World War II. It would be a worthwhile purchase for both an elementary and junior secondary school library.

  • Thematic Links:Social Studies; World War II; Bravery; Courage
  • Carolyn Cutt
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • The Betrayal of Africa (Groundwork Guides Series) by Gerald Caplan

    Groundwood Books, 2008. 142p. Gr. 7-12. 978-0-88899-824-8. Hdbk. $18.95

    Rating: E

  • The Betrayal of Africa is not leisure reading. When most people hear Africa mentioned in the news they immediately expect to hear stories about AIDS, poverty, civil unrest, third-world civilizations. In The Betrayal of Africa author Gerald Caplan takes an optimistic look at Africa's situation. He describes a country which he admits faces a daunting list of challenges. But rather than focus on these as most stories of Africa do, he describes a land where the vast majority of the continent's citizens live ordinary lives with hopes and dreams.

    There is a widespread assumption among rich countries that Africa is the problem and that we in the rich world are the solution. This book turns this complacent conventional wisdom on its head. It argues that the policies of rich countries, though couched in benevolent terms, are in fact responsible for many of the ills in Africa. Caplan notes that every year, contrary to what Western leaders and the media tell us, far more of Africa's riches flow out to the rich world than these countries infuse into the African economy. He describes this as a “systematic process of exploitation” in which “leaders of the rich world work in happy cooperation with most of the leaders of the African continent, who are ready accomplices in accepting the destructive policies demanded by the outside world.”

    For Africa to move forward, Caplan contends that the citizens of rich countries must be aware of the false premises on which their own leaders deal with Africa. He insists that only by reversing the policies that have done such grievous harm to Africa over the past decades can the continent's new leaders and activists have the chance of making serious progress.

    The Betrayal of Africa presents an organized, concise yet detailed overview of its subject. Author Gerald Caplan presents arguments that are passionate and compelling. The Betrayal of Africa would make an excellent additional reading text for any senior history/geography course. As well as a well-organized and well-researched text, Caplan includes clearly drawn line maps, charts of statistical content, timelines of dates and events, and short reports on such topics as AIDS in Africa and the Rwandan Genocide. These all add to the book's value by providing immediately accessible content to student readers. The Betrayal of Africa is a small book about a large continent with huge issues. Its reading requires thoughtful interaction with the text by the reader.

  • Thematic Links:World History; Africa; Discrimination; Current Affairs; Stereotyping; Economics; Geography
  • Gail Lennon
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Professional Resources

  • The Poetry Experience: Choosing and Using Poetry in the Classroom by Sheree Fitch & Larry Swartz

    Pembroke Publishers, 2008. 32p. 978-1-55138-223-4. Pbk. $12.95

    Rating: G

  • Aimed at both elementary and secondary teachers, this short flip-book explores all aspects of teaching and studying poetry with students. The unusual format of this book lends itself particularly well to this topic, and many educators will find that this short volume is a useful professional resource. The book is an excellent guide for teachers; it is full of fun activities to help bring poetry alive in elementary and middle-school classrooms. Sheree Fitch and Larry Swartz explore the power of poetry, and examine how an understanding of poetry can enhance a child's education. The authors help teachers investigate how poetry can be used in the classroom, and the book offers tips and hints on choosing poetry, poetic forms, writing poetry and responding to poetry. The authors place particular emphasis on the power of read aloud, and on the effectiveness of choral dramatization of poetry. Throughout the book are sidebars offering questions that can help challenge students, and at the back of the book are masters that teachers can use with their classes. Also included are two pages of 'Top-Ten Lists'; including the best poetry about animals and nature, the best collections for teens, and the best funny poems. All school librarians will find this list invaluable, and an excellent starting point for collection development.

  • Thematic Links: Poetry - Teaching & Study
  • Claire Hazzard
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Audio Visual Resources

  • enorita Sarita: Groovy Latin Tunes for Children by Sarita Baker

    Third Beach Publishing, 2008. Gr. Preschool - 2. (Audio CD). $15.00

    Rating: E

  • This music CD consists of 11 Latin-inspired tracks written and performed by Richmond-based Sarita Baker. They are sure to have youngsters dancing away a rainy day, as the first track, “Waiting for the Sun” suggests: “I'm waiting for the sun to shine, anticipating Summertime / I'm waiting for the sun to shine / Waiting for the Sun”. Other notable favourites include: “Underneath Sombrero”: “Underneath Sombrero / Somewhere in Tuscadero / Hot as the sun that scorches the desert sand”; and “Tuktoyaktuk”: “From Tuktoyaktuk to Tierra del Fuego / We'll drive down in your Daddy's Winnebago”. Production is excellent throughout and the energetic arrangements consist of complex layers of instruments including guitars, piano, assorted Latin percussion and Mariachi brass. A sure-fire hit for the pre-school and early Elementary crowd, and a pleasant enough listen for their adult caregivers too, especially as an antidote to the winter blues.

  • Thematic Links: Music; Latin America
  • Michelle Gowans
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French Resources

  • Brad - Le génie perd la boule by Johanne Mercier

    Illustrated by Christian Diagle. Éditions FouLire, 2008. 128p Illus. Gr. K-3. 978-2-89591-051-0. Pbk. $8.95

    Rating: E

  • In this third volume of the series, genie Bradoulboudour is at it again. Albert Pomerleau wants nothing more than to be rid of Brad once and for all and the simplest way to do this is to make a third wish, have it come true, and then put the genie back in the bottle. But Brad doesn't make it easy: he often comes in late at night without explaining where he's been; he becomes ill and ends up in hospital; the Pomerleau family has reason to believe he might even be mixed up in something not quite legal!

    The story is imaginative and zany and a wonderful, humorous adventure that is bound to please. Brad is crafty enough to try to outdo Albert at his own game. At one point, Albert and Huguette are in disguise as detectives, attempting to figure out where Brad is going and what he's hiding from them. The illustrations of Christian Daigle are the 'finishing touch' for the book, adding interest and detail as well as humour. Children will love seeing Brad in the hospital for instance, complete with IV pole and derriere sticking out of his hospital gown! For young readers, the print is large, the chapters are short and the comedy never stops! Whether or not they have read the other books in the series, Brad - Le génie perd la boule is sure to entertain them and, with its unusual ending, surprise them as well!

  • Thematic Links:Genies; Magic; Humour
  • Ann Ketcheson
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