Volume 15, no.4 - April 2010

Picture Books

  • Edànì Nôgèe Wegöö Degèe Adzà: How the Fox Got His Crossed Legs by Virginia Football

    Illustrated by James Wedzin. Dogrib Translation by Rosa Manta and Mary Siemens. Theytus Books, 2009. 32p. Illus. Gr. K-6. 978-1-894778-74-9. Hdbk. With CD-ROM $22.95

    Rating: E

  • This beautiful folktale is a traditional First Nation Tlicho, or Dogrib legend. The Tlicho First Nation, formally known as the Dogrib, live mainly in the Northwest Territories in Canada. This story, presented in both English and the Dogrib language, follows the misadventures of Fox, who loses his leg to Bear after an argument.

    The story is both a pourquoi tale and a trickster tale. When Bear takes Fox’s leg, it is up to Raven to trick Bear into returning the leg to its rightful owner. Fox, so anxious to get his leg back, puts it back in position too quickly, and thus imperfectly, which is the reason why, when they stand, Foxes have crossed legs to this day. The story is written in the parse voice of folktales, yet the tale is filled with drama and tension. As well, the luminous illustrations depict the characters and setting perfectly.

    It would be an ideal book to use in the classroom in connection with study of First Nations culture, or of folklore, and could be used in conjunction with the CD included with the book of a Dogrib Elder telling his version of this ancient legend in Dogrib. At the end of the book, there is an extensive Dogrib orthography and pronunciation guide.

  • Thematic Links: First Nations Cultures; Traditions; Folklore; Trickster Tales
  • Kallie George
  • Go to the Top

Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Grim Hill: The Family Secret by Linda Demeulmseester

    Lobster Press, 2010.188p. Gr. 3 - 6. 978-1-897550-65-6.Pbk.$10.95.(Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy)

    Rating: E

  • Grim Hill:The Family Secret is the fourth novel in the successful Grim Hill Series. In this latest volume, Cat and Sookie Peters, and the gang from Darkmont High return for an international adventure. Fans of DeMeulemeester’s books will not be disappointed by this latest instalment, and will look forward to the publication of a fifth Grim Hill novel!

    Cat and her classmates are offered the chance to go to Sweden on a student exchange. Cat is desperate to go, but she doubts she will be chosen because of her less than perfect attitude and her lower than average academic achievement. However, after showing her perseverance and her commitment to the program by helping with fundraising, she is accepted into the exchange, and is thrilled to be included. Her mom throws a spanner in the works, however, when she informs Cat that to save money, Cat will have to spend part of her trip with her ancient Aunt Hildegaard, who lives in Sweden, and, even worse, Sookie (Cat’s little sister) will be taking part in the trip too! Cat is dismayed, but vows to have fun, even if her annoying little sister is always hanging around. When Sookie and Cat finally meet up with Aunt Hildegaard, things start to get stranger and spookier. Will the sisters finally discover the truth about their family? And who or what is causing the mysterious goings-on?

    This fourth novel in the Grim Hill series is a must-read for all those who have read the earlier books, as well as all fans of fantasy and adventure fiction. This is an essential purchase for school libraries that hold the first three volumes; libraries not holding any volumes in the Grim Hill series should consider adding them to the collection.

  • Thematic Links: Magic; Sisters; School Exchange
  • Claire Hazzard
  • Go to the Top

Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • The Shadow Road (The Warlock of Talverdin Series, Book Four) by K.V. Johansen

    Orca Book Publishers, 2010. 240p. Gr. 7-12. 978-1-55469-165-4. Pbk. $12.95

    Rating: E

  • I feel like an ancient explorer: I have discovered a new land, and it is mine! This world was created by K. V. Johansen in the first book of her Warlocks of Talverdin Series, Nightwalker (Orca, 2007). The Shadow Road is the fourth in the series, and thus seems a little confusing at first, but the author manages to integrate sufficient reference to past events to help the new reader learn her world, without obviously re-telling the plot of previous books.

    In The Shadow Road, we are plunged into mystery in the opening pages, wherein young Nethin is trapped inside a coffin, his magical powers impotent. It is slowly and artfully revealed that Nethin is the son of Lord Romner and Lady Fuallia, minor protagonists of earlier tales, and a powerful warlock in his own right... usually. His powers overcome by potions, his enemies use him to open a gateway onto the mythical "shadow road" that connects their world with others. The adventures that ensue are complex and carefully constructed; Johansen is adept at presenting intricate political and social intrigue, supported by strong characterization. On her website, she admits having been influenced by Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - what author of high fantasy since the 1950s was not - but the influence lies more in Johansen's narrative craft than in any plot or character similarities. She has created a fascinating, original fantasy world, one which readers will want to enter in to dwell. As with Middle Earth, we imagine the shadowy spaces outside of the narrative, peopled by characters we have yet to meet, partaking of incidents that have yet to happen, and we fervently hope that K. V. Johansen will continue to tell their tales for years to come.

  • Thematic Links: Alternate Worlds; High Fantasy; Alchemy; Herb Lore
  • Karyn Huenemann
  • Go to the Top

Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • The Secret of Your Name /Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen by David Bouchard

    Illustrated by Dennis J. Weber. Red Deer Press. 2010. 32p. Illus. Gr. 1-4. 978-0-88995-439-7. Hdbk. With CD (Music by John Arcand; David Bouchard on flute, John Arcand on fiddle) $24.95

    Rating: E

  • The author laments that as a child he “somehow sensed [he] had the blood/of people who were just like” those who first lived in the land now known as Canada. As years went by, the clues to his heritage slowly faded away; people close to him chose not to tell him because of extremely difficult choices that they themselves had had to make. When he finally learns of his Métis heritage after a long time, the author apologizes to his ancestors for not knowing the songs or the stories that had traditionally been passed down from one generation to the next. But he promises to seek these out and not only “claim them as [his] very own” but also to teach them to his own family and share them with others - both to honour his ancestors and to show how proud he is to be Métis.

    The use of language is beautiful and poetic, drawing in the reader with its rhythms and patterns into a very intimate and moving story. There is something very haunting throughout, a sense of longing and awakening that eventually gives rise to understanding, transformation of self, and the embracing of that new self. Though the story may be challenging to some younger readers, the text is simple and the illustrations provide fabulous details. Weber’s oil paintings are gorgeous, reflecting the sense of loss, longing, and searching that the author experiences. Perhaps the best of these paintings is also the book’s cover - the author peers into a hollowed-out log in which water has collected and sees the reflection of an ancestor he’d never before known. Bouchard appears in some of the paintings and two prominent Métis - Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont - have their pictures included.

    The book is written in both English and Michif, and the CD also includes readings in both languages.

  • Thematic Links: Michif Language; Métis - History, Heritage, Culture; Canada - History; Self-understanding; Self-acceptance
  • Ken Kilback
  • Go to the Top

Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • Memories from the Abyss and But I Had a Happy Childhood (The Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memories) by William and Renate Krakauer Tannenzapf

    Illustrated by Jeff Kulak. Owlkids Books Inc., 2009. 96p. Illus. Gr. 5-9. 978-1-897349-65-6. Pbk. $19.95

    Rating: E

  • The amazing family survival story presented in this superb volume is difficult and heart-wrenching to read. William Tannenzapf not only shares his family’s personal and arduous Holocaust story in meticulous detail, but also provides a thorough political and historical background regarding his experience. Tannenzapf also openly shares how people of all backgrounds can behave both admirably and despicably towards their fellow man - in his case this included friends, family and colleagues.

    There are a number of additional teachings in this volume that may be especially interesting to educators:

    i) While Renate Krakauer has no memories of the horrors of the Holcaust, her early childhood experiences are told by her father, William Tannenzapf. Renate Krakauer shares her memories of a “happy childhood” in wartime (she lived in hiding with a Christian family) and her memories of coming to Canada as a young child. William Tannenzapf tells his story from the perspective of an adult enduring incomprehensible hardship during the Holocaust. His efforts and struggles to protect his family will impact any reader. However, his daughter’s story of a “happy childhood” during the same period as her father’s terrible years is a fascinating dichotomy. To have two members of the same family provide such different accounts and experiences of the same time period is thought provoking and compelling.

    ii) The Tannenzapf family’s immigrant experience travelling to and living in Canada would certainly have classroom application. Much of Renate Krakauer’s memoir focuses on her memories of coming to Canada as a young child. Because these memoirs provide insight into the Jewish-Canadian immigrant experience, I feel they would be a useful complement to classroom study of books such as Hana’s Suitcase and Eva Wiseman’s Holocaust novels.

    This volume is most suitable for teen and adult readers who are prepared to read the horrific accounts of murder, torture and rape that are presented here. Educators will want to explore the Azrieli Foundation’s excellent website at http://www.azrielifoundation.org, where this volume and many others like it can be downloaded and/or ordered for free.

  • Thematic Links: Jewish Holocaust (1939-1945); World War II; Survivor Memoirs; Poland; Jewish Children in the Holocaust; Immigration to Canada; Jewish-Canadians
  • Emily Springer
  • Go to the Top

Professional Resources

  • Whatever Happened to Language Arts? Its alive and well and part of successful literacy classrooms everywhere by David Booth

    Pembroke Publishers, 2009. 176p. 978-1-55138-245-6. Pbk. $24.95

    Rating: E

  • In this collaborative collection, the distinguished Canadian literacy education expert David Booth with practicing teachers discusses how literacy strategies used in both elementary and secondary classrooms are growing and changing. This collection of ten chapters, sees many notable literacy educators sharing their practical expertise in the teaching of language arts. From the changes brought by the Internet, to the challenges and dichotomies presented in the teaching classroom, the book grows out of Booth’s Language Arts experiences, which range from teaching in grade level classrooms to graduate schools. He provides a road map for how we can look at current language arts practice, with a view to seeing what needs to change. By looking into classrooms and discovering how changes are accommodated and supported, we can see how past theory and practice can still inform new ways to bring literacy instruction in our classrooms. The chapters share subheadings, such as looking in an “education rearview mirror”, which encourage a reconsideration of the constructs we use to teach reading and writing.

    Each of the chapters opens with a personal teaching moment. These voices capture the familiar ambience of the classroom space, with their accompanying challenges and successes. For example, educator Lynda Marshall shared her experiences with grade ten boys, helping these at-risk readers to understand that reading is a part of everyday life. Using graphic novels, she shows how to critically engage the minds and consciousness of these readers. Marshall utilizes this new literary genre, coupled with a real life inquiry into the Middle East, through Brian Vaughan’s graphic work “The Pride of Baghdad”. The chapter is rounded out with Booth’s commentary on her successful approach to gaining the trust of these challenged readers. He follows though with a discussion about Marshall’s literacy teaching practice, discussing how books and other resources have changed, and how new selection must occur. Thinking about the future, Booth offers advice on how the use of graphic novels may change how we see literature, but yet will continue to enrich our children’s lives. Other chapters look at guided reading, independent reading, literature circles, writer’s workshop, reader’s theatre, talking to learn, and assessment for teaching and learning. These chapters also contain a review of past practices, and literacy and language theories, plus suggestions for future directions. These in turn outline what it is we need to think about in order to change and move our ideas, theories and practices to embrace the world of electronic media. Booth presents glimpses into the modern classroom that are both inspiring and motivational, vignettes that show teachers finding interesting and intriguing ways to embrace the new literacy challenges.

    Ultimately, the discussion challenges educators to re-examine our own teaching, and seek ways to emulate the educators in this book.

  • Thematic Links: Language Arts - Study and Teaching; Literacy
  • Anne Burke
  • Go to the Top

French Resources

  • Rose Derrière le rideau de la folie by Elise Turcotte Australie (978-1-4431-0119-6); France (978-1-4431-0121-9) by Elaine Jackson États-Unis (978-1-4431-0118-9); Inde (978-0-545-98102-6) Éditions Scholastic, 2009. 32p. Illus. Gr. 3 up. Pbk. $9.99 ea.

    Rating: E

  • Rose allows readers into her innermost thoughts via her notes and poetry in this intimate journal. She is a psychiatric patient and vividly describes life in the hospital with its routines, its staff and its cafeteria food. She paints thumbnail sketches of the other patients and thereby the book touches on many themes of modern adolescence such as anorexia and sexual abuse. The book is never graphic but the inferences are there. In many ways, Rose seems like a normal 14-year-old who composes many lists: things I like, things I hate, things I’d like to eat, things that make me crazy. Readers will appreciate this in-depth look into the mind of a disturbed teen and perhaps begin to wonder by whose judgement any of us might be labelled as sane or not.

    The writing of Turcotte is filled with interesting images and illusions and is often in the form of poetry. Daniel Sylvestre has illustrated the text with an appealing mixture of doodles, scribbles, bits cut from photos and so on. The fonts and colours change from page to page. This seems to suggest that Rose is creative and sensitive, if somewhat out of control at times.

    Adolescents will find this book both enjoyable and thought-provoking as it takes a first-hand and intimate look at mental illness and will undoubtedly raise questions, emotions and comments from readers. For adults the book provides a thought-provoking and intense look at the world of today’s adolescents.

  • Thematic Links: Adolescence; Psychiatric Care
  • Ann Ketcheson
  • Go to the Top