Volume 14, no.4 - April 2009

Picture Books

  • Missuk's Snow Geese by Anne Renaud

    Illustrated by Geneviève Côté. Simply Read Books, 2008. 32p. Gr. K-3. 978-1-894965-82-8. Hdbk. $17.95

    Rating: G-E

  • Missuk longs to be a skilled soapstone carver like her father. As she awaits his return from the hunt, she puts her creative energy into making snow geese "angels" in the snow. During the night she dreams that her father is in danger. When she wakes up she finds her father safe in their igloo, having found his way home through a storm by following Missuk's snow goose shapes.

    This engaging northern family story would be an excellent compliment to studies of Inuit culture or arctic animals and habitat. Elements of northern culture and environment are conveyed through engaging storytelling. Geneviève Côté's warm black ink and blue watercolour illustrations are rich in both detail and feeling.

  • Thematic Links: Inuit Culture; Arctic; Artistic Development: Family
  • Lorie Battershill
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • www.walkwithapolarbear.com by Mercedes Montgomery

    Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2008.125p. Gr. 3-6. 978-1-894431-29-3. Pbk. $12.95

    Rating: E

  • A polar bear in Jasper! No one would believe it, not even Angela, who loved to imagine snow shapes in the form of animals and storybook characters as she skied down the powdery slopes. At least not until a real polar bear pulled her out of a snow bank and began to talk! Nanuq, the polar bear, had walked from the Arctic in search of a child, hoping for help to save the polar bear from the problems of global warming and environmental change. In a dream the polar bears were able to see the devastating future caused by the melting ice, and now they are searching for human assistance. Nanuq tells Angela his story, pleading for her and others to help.

    In this delightful and imaginative story, the author brings to life the current problems of global warming in the Arctic and the inevitable plight of the polar bear. As her story continues, Angela becomes actively involved in the Arctic Wildlife Kids' Club, studying climate change in the Arctic. In university she continues with environmental studies, wildlife and marine biology, studying polar bears and whales. Then following her doctorate degree she heads to Churchill to become involved in an important research project. And she is determined to look for Nanuq everywhere!

    Young readers will become thoroughly involved in Angela's adventures from the moment Nanuq asks her to meet him on the mountain.

    Combining fact and fantasy, this timely written novel sends an important message. Interesting and pertinent information regarding the Arctic polar bear is included in this suspense-filled tale. The story is told in a positive, upbeat style, but nevertheless conveys an emotional sense of urgency. This book should prove to be an excellent starting point for discussion and a stimulus for projects concerning the environment and global warming. It is highly recommended for an elementary school library as well as for classroom studies.

  • Thematic Links: Polar Bears; The Arctic; Global Warming; Environment
  • Carolyn Cutt
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • If You Live Like Me by Lori Weber

    Lobster Press, 2009. 331p. Gr. 7-10. 978-1-897550-12-0. Pbk. $14.95 (Reviewed from uncorrected proofs)

    Rating: G

  • This book is a strange mix of a satisfying romance, an interesting story of family dynamics, and an unsatisfying travelogue.Cheryl's father is an anthropologist collecting information about dying cultures, a project that involves moving his wife and daughter from one Canadian community to another over a period of several years. This story chronicles the stop in St. John's, Newfoundland, where Dad hopes to gather information about the death of the fishery and its associated rich culture. Dad seems to have a rather vague sense of research ethics, and Cheryl lives in constant fear that his professional curiosity will have a negative impact on her personal relations with new neighbours and potential friends. This fear is exacerbated when her new neighbour turns out to be Jim, a young man who has moved to the city from the isolated South Coast of Newfoundland in order to finish his schooling. Jim is fascinated by geology and cherishes hopes of some day finding a way to keep on studying rocks and rock formations. His friendly ways find a route through even the hardened carapace that Cheryl has created through years of regularly changing home and school. Jim is, in many ways, too good to be true, but his unsnubbable nature provides the main impetus for the plot.

    For a substantial early part of the book, that plot largely entails Jim showing Cheryl many interesting points in and around St. John's. St. John's is certainly an fascinating city, but this initial stage of the book reads a bit slowly even so. The action heats up about a hundred pages in when Jim takes on a heroic challenge as the two young people are visiting Cape Spear, the most eastern point in North America. The consequences of this gesture direct the rest of the book. The ups and downs of Cheryl and Jim's friendship and/or developing romance are convincing; Cheryl's troubled relationship with her parents is portrayed with some subtlety once the initial premises are accepted. The geographical and geological details of this story, however, are laid on with a heavy hand. The environment plays a significant role in the story but it would be a better story with a bit less relentlessness in the conveying of information about the locale. Nevertheless, this is a story that will appeal to many junior high girls - and they may well learn something about Newfoundland as they read it!

  • Thematic Links: Home; Family; Dying Cultures; Geology
  • Margaret Mackey
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Non-Fiction K - Grade 6

  • Inuksuk Journey; An Artist At The Top Of The World by Mary Wallace

    Maple Tree Press, 2008. 64p. Illus. Gr. 4-10. 978-1-897349-26-7. Hdbk. $24.95

    Rating: E

  • Insuksuk Journey captures the spirit of historical and present day life in the Arctic through the Inuit people. Mary Wallace's journey to learn about Inuit history, culture, life, and customs comes alive within the pages of this book through its journal format and the accompanying drawings, photographs and paintings which enrich the text and capture the imagination of the reader. The vivid descriptions of her experiences traveling across this vast and stark landscape with her Inuit guides, from home base to camp sites, and across Arctic waters, along with her passion for understanding Inuit history, culture and family life are lovingly related in the pages of this book. The reader learns about the mighty Insuksuk in its many forms, which Wallace connects through her personal paintings, photographs and sketches. Seeing the landscape with its towering Insuksuks through her eyes is riveting, as the colours, textures, shapes and messages come alive and hook the reader to create a personal relationship with the lure of the Arctic and the Inuit.

    This informational picture book serves students as both non-fiction recreational reading and research resources. The easy flowing writing style will appeal to both male and female readers in the junior/intermediate divisions. The rich inclusion of visual aids allows the book to be enjoyed by all readers. This book connects to Ontario Social Studies curriculum Canada and World Connections, Canada's Provinces and Territories Strand Grade 4; Grade 7 Geography, Natural Resources Strand; Grade 9 Geography, Geographic Space and Systems; Human-Environment Interactions Strands; Grade 9 Native Studies, Expressing Aboriginal Cultures, Identity and Relationships Strands. A Canadian treasure delighting audiences of all ages - not to be missed.

  • Thematic Links: Canadian Painters and Paintings; Insuksuk; Travel in the Far North.
  • Sharon P. Armstrong
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • WCourage and Compassion: Ten Canadians who Made a Difference by Rona Arato

    Maple Tree Press, 2008. 96p. Illus. Gr. 6 up. 978-1-897349-35-9. Pbk. $19.95

    Rating: E

  • For many years, Canada has played a pivotal role throughout the world as an innovator, peace keeper and humanitarian. Arato presents ten Canadian heroes in this book - people who have in some manner risked their lives, health and/or devoted their time to improve the world and situations of others.

    The ten featured Canadians range in age, occupation and economic status. The first entry is Jeanne Mance. Jeanne left her comfortable life of nobility in France during the seventeenth century to nurse people and help found the new settlement of Montreal. Second entry is Josiah Henson, the champion of freedom. Joseph was born a slave on June 15, 1789 and throughout his life suffered at the hands of his owners. In 1830, Joseph and his family escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad. Joseph was the real-life inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom‘s Cabin, a book that ignited a huge protest against slavery.

    The third entry is of Nellie McClung, best known for working tirelessly to gain Canadian women the right to vote. This momentous feat came into law on January 27, 1916. Then featured is Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, Canada's only winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Furthermore, modern day humanitarian Craig Kielburger's Free the Children works to educate and reduce the incidence of child labour. The youngest person featured is Hannah Taylor who started the Ladybug Foundation to relieve homelessness. The other Canadians featured are Roger Obata who fought for justice, June Callwood who fought for the right to live with dignity, Judy Carr who led over 3000 Jewish people to safety, and finally Elijah Harper who fought for Indian rights.

    The text is easy to understand and is filled with information bringing the fantastic contributions of these people alive. Detailed photos further demonstrate these heroes throughout the various aspects of their lives. A Canadian history timeline is included, as well as photo credits to extend the research for those interested.

    This book will help the audience see how we all can make a difference in the lives of those around us. We each have the power in some way to help each other. Even the youngest person can help if they see a school mate being bullied in the school yard. We all have a role to play in ensuring human rights for all.

    This book would make a great additional to a classroom or school library.

  • Thematic Links: Canadian Biography; Social Justice
  • Anne Hatcher
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Professional Resources

  • Good Books Matter by Stagg Peterson, Shelley & Larry Swartz

    Pembroke Publishers, 2008. 160p. 978-1-55138-232-6. Pbk. $24.95

    Rating: E

  • Good Books Matters focuses on how teachers can enrich the lives of children with good quality literature. This resource book provides a large list of authors, poets and illustrators, while genres such as picture books, novels and non-fiction are addressed in detail. The extensive discussion of new book titles and classics in each chapter will aid teachers in reading and selecting quality literature for their classroom. The authors have provided information on reading strategies and ways to use literature as apart of the everyday classroom. Accompanied by sidebars with suggestions on book choices, best classroom practice and insights from notable authors and illustrators will be helpful to the educator who wishes to make children's literature as a focus in their classroom. Detailed annotated bibliographies of suggested books are drawn from award winning books, professional reading journals, all supplemented by choices from the extensive personal libraries of both authors. Topics such as how to organize your classroom library, specific teaching strategies when using books, and teaching practices which emulate children's literature, are helpful to all teachers. With its teaching assistance, extensive lists of children's literature, appendices on censorship and choice, and websites for award winning books, this comprehensive guide provides a great tool to encourage the use of children's literature in the classroom. It is truly a ‘must have' guide.

  • Thematic Links: Children's Literature; Reading
  • Anne Burke
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French Resources

  • J'étais Isabeau by d'Yvan Demuy

    Soulières Éditeur, 2009. 114p. Gr. 6-9. 978-2-89607-092-3. Pbk. $10.95

    Rating: E

  • Isabeau is a typical 15-year-old at the beginning of this novel. She is an adolescent in total revolt, rebelling against anyone and anything that might mean ‘authority' and trying to make sense of the various events and people in her life. Into this chaos comes Marie, a girl who understands Isabeau and her feelings and who instantly becomes her best friend and confidante. The story changes abruptly when Marie announces that she has an incurable disease and, despite hospitalization and treatment, will die fairly soon.

    This is De.Mmuy's 8th novel, but the first directed at an older, adolescent audience. The book is both touching and sentimental but never descends into maudlin. When Isabeau first learns of her friend's illness she panics and literally runs away from the situation, only later realizing that she has thought only of herself at the very time when her friend most needs her understanding, love and support. Isabeau learns the hard way to accept the friendship and love which life has to offer her and by the end of the novel we see a very different type of teenager.

    The novel is in part based on DeMuy's own experiences at the time of his mother's death when he was a teenager. The book is one of those that, although sad, is uplifting and would be enjoyed not only by intermediate students but quite likely by older students and even teachers and other adults. Death and the emotions surrounding it are universal and that is what makes this such an outstanding young adult novel.

  • Thematic Links: Illness; Death; Friendship; Coming-of-age
  • Ann Ketcheson
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