Volume 16, no.4 - April 2011

Picture Books

  • Highway of Heroes by Kathy Stinson

    Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010. 32p. Illus. Gr. 4 up. 978-1-55455-182-8. Hdbk. $21.95

    Rating: E

  • In this picture book for all ages, Kathy Stinson tells the story of a young boy who is travelling along the Highway of Heroes with his mother in a procession carrying his dead father - who was killed in overseas military action - from the repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton to the coroner's office in Toronto. Told from the perspective of the young boy who does not fully understand all that is going on around him, this book brings home the tragic loss which many families in Canada have endured in recent years. As the boy travels the Highway of Heroes we are given insight into his feelings of loss and sadness, yet as he sees all the people who have come out to pay tribute to his dad, he realizes that "he is proud to know that his dad was a hero" (p.18) even though he will miss him forever.

    In addition to this story, Stinson has added a factual section entitled "The Story of the Highway". Here she gives explanations for why people started to gather along the highway, how the stretch of highway got its name, why the heroes are brought along this particular highway, and who constitutes the heroes who are transported here. She also gives a brief explanation of Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

    This is a wonderful book for readers of all ages. The brief text and full colour photographs bring the reader into the sombre journey that many families are forced to make each year as their loved ones are killed in fighting to protect their country or the lives of civilians in foreign countries. Although we may not be directly involved, this book helps us understand what these families go through and how our attention and concern may in some small way help to alleviate their sorrow. As General W. J. Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff says in his introduction "This book will serve as a reminder of the respect and dignity paid by everyday Canadians who lined the routes and bridges during the repatriation of our fallen comrades. Its powerful images will demonstrate how Canadians share the pain of grief with the families." (p.3) In her author's note Kathy Stinson says "This book is my way of standing alongside those on the bridges over the highway. It's my way of saying thank you to soldiers, journalists, and other for doing what they can to make a positive difference in the world. It's my way of paying respect to families who have lost and will lose loved ones - whenever and wherever they may serve." (p. 31) By sharing this book with others we too will be doing our part.

    A share of the proceeds from this book goes to UNICEF and to WoundedWarriors.ca, a charity offering support to wounded soldiers and their families.

    Highly Recommended.

  • Thematic Links: War; Heroes
  • Victoria Pennell
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Fiction Grades 3-6

  • Ghosts of the Titanic by Julie Lawson

    Scholastic Canada, 2011. 193p. Gr. 5-7. 978-1-4431-0041-0. Pbk. $8.99

    Rating: G

  • "No way I'm going to Halifax!" Kevin Messenger can't believe that his parents are taking him away from all his friends in Grade Seven. His father has inherited a home from mysterious Angus Seaton in Nova Scotia.Kevin can't face the idea of spending the entire summer with his parents and his older sister Courtney at remote Shearwater Point on the south shore of Nova Scotia. However, perhaps he can to do some research there about his favourite topic - the sinking of the Titanic. After settling in, Kevin finds a mysterious box with a picture of Annie and Michael McConnel. Soon afterwards, he starts hearing voices and seeing the ghost of a mysterious woman. Why is she haunting him? How is Angus Seaton connected to all of this?

    Kevin desperately wants to find out why he is being haunted. He discovers that Angus Seaton was one of the sailors who worked on the Mackay-Bennett, a ship sent to recover bodies from the Titanic disaster site. Through careful research, Kevin uncovers the secret that Angus has kept all these years, and his own connection to the mysterious ghost.

    Julie Lawson has written an interesting novel about the sinking of the famous Titanic. The narrative jumps back and forth from Kevin's point of view in the present to the story of teenage sailor Angus Seaton and the recovery of the victims of the Titanic in 1912. The descriptions of the wreckage of the Titanic are shocking, "Bodies rolling on the blue-black sea, face up in the drift ice, nudging and bobbing against the wreckage, against the cutters of the men sent out to recover them." (p. 2) The Titanic connection to Nova Scotia is a little known historical fact. Many unidentified casualties were buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax. As well, an important scientific method for identifying bodies was developed by John Henry Barnstead, the Deputy Registrar of Deaths in Halifax, specifically to deal with the victims of the Titanic. In recent years, this method has allowed researchers to identify some previously unidentified victims of the Titanic disaster.

    All in all, this novel will appeal to young readers who are interested in exploring the history of the Titanic disaster. They will be intrigued by the details of the shipwreck. They will also be fascinated by the ghostly appearances of one of the unidentified victims. After all, who can resist a ghostly mystery with, "Bodies, bodies everywhere..." (p. 3)

  • Thematic Links: Titanic; Nova Scotia; Shipwrecks; Ghosts; Mystery
  • Myra Junyk
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Fiction Grades 7 - 12

  • Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

    Candlewick Press, 2011. 352p. Gr. 9 up. 978-0-7636-3983-9. Hdbk. $19.00

    Rating: E

  • The ever talented and versatile Tim Wynne-Jones does not disappoint with his newest YA title, Blink and Caution.

    In this crime noir mystery, sixteen year olds Blink (Brent Conboy) and Caution (Kitty Pettigrew) are each caught up in lives of personal purgatory, and each is going nowhere at the speed of light. Blink has become a homeless petty thief as the consequence of his terrible relationship with his stepfather. Kitty holds a deep dark personal secret and has run away from her small hometown to hide from her demons in Toronto. She has made some really unfortunate choices for herself with a good for nothing drug dealer boyfriend who is only bad news. Both Blink and Caution find themselves in impossibly dangerous circumstances and in their desperate fleeing from their own independent predicaments, they collide with each other. The shared situation they find themselves in is terrifying and authentic, as well as deeply moving. The reader constantly roots for both of them to find both hope and redemption in their lives as they are inherently good kids.

    Blink and Caution is a compelling page-turner right from the get-go. Blink has learned the ways of the street. He has stolen the "right" clothing from various lockers at Jarvis High in an upscale part of Toronto. In his preppy disguise, he goes to different high-end hotels just after the business crowd leaves, and scavenges breakfast from the leftovers on the room service trays relegated to the halls for the cleaners. It is in these halls that Blink observes a fake kidnapping that he shouldn't have witnessed. Caution is equally inventive when she finally decides to seek revenge on Merlin, her boyfriend who is abusive and controlling. She finds herself on the run but cannot understand why she can't physically escape Merlin. Ultimately, these two stories come together and the ultimate action filled conclusion is rivetting.

    Wynne-Jones' punchy prose is reminiscent of Annie Proulx with a kind of tense staccato pace that works very well to maintain the suspense. Sometimes, what is not said is as important as what it said, and the background questions of how Blink and Caution got to the point of their lives intersecting are very carefully revealed over the course of the book and dovetail beautifully into the end of the story.

    There are two voices in this story, that of Blink and that of Caution. Caution's voice is told the third person while Blink's is in the second person, which is unusual, but works well here to reinforce the urgency of the problem and Blink's own intensity. Some readers might experience some confusion at first.

    Tim Wynne-Jones has won many accolades and awards for his previous work for children and young adults. It would be very surprising if Blink and Caution were not the latest addition to the awards list.

  • Thematic Links: Runaways, Crime Fiction
  • Anne Letain
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Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

  • The Caribou Feed our Soul (The Land is our Storybook Series) by Pete Enzoe and Mindy Willett

    Photography by Tessa Macintosh. Fifth House/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010. 32p. Illus. Gr. 4-8. 978-1-897252-67-3. Hdbk. $16.95

    Rating: E

  • The Caribou Feed our Soul is the sixth book in The Land is our Storybook Series. In this book, Pete Enzoe welcomes us to his home in _utsël K'él;, Northwest Territories. He acquaints us with this northern Chipewyan community by providing information about the population (320), the social services in the area, and historical details dating back to 1821. Pete and his family become the focus of the book when he talks about his nephew, his grandfather, and his auntie. Many memories and activities tie into hunting caribou or fishing with family members. Information is presented visually through colour photographs of the town and a labeled map of Canada. Sidebars contain traditional stories important to the community, background information about the formation of the Indian Brotherhood, and a small glossary entitled Our Words.

    This book, which reads and looks like a personalized scrapbook, took the authors several years to create. The photographs are explained, the information is presented in small blocks of text, and the top of the pages are decorated to resemble a border of fringe. Working closely with Pete in his community enabled the author and photographer to create a memorable and meaningful experience for the reader.

    Students studying northern Native communities will find these books a rich source of information. Pete's respect for nature and his dedication to preserving his communities' way of life is evident in this book. This is a recommended non-fiction series for every Canadian library.

  • Thematic Links: Caribou Hunting; Northwest Territories; Chipewyan Dene
  • Tanya Boudreau
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Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

  • Superstar Cars Series

    Crabtree Publishing, 2011. 64p. Illus. Gr. 5 up. Hdbk. $22.36 ea.

    Rating: E

  • Superstar cars is a high interest low vocabulary set of texts containing detailed coloured photos and diagrams that provides an in-depth look at the history, design, and performance of some of the world's most popular automobiles. This series is tremendously appealing for car enthusiasts and racing fans. The following six volumes in this series are packed with information on their particular component of the car phenomenon. They contain black and white primary source photos, supplemented by vivid modern day images, a glossary of related terms, additional books, Internet sites for further reading and an easy to use index. These aspects all work together to make these texts user friendly for the audience. Large headline fonts, detailed captions and action shots are also very visually enticing.

    ALOIAN, M olly. Ferrari (978-0-7787-2142-0). This installment explores the Ferrari considered to the reflection of the Italian culture and the most recognized symbol of that country. The company is still located in Italy and produces its signature brand that can cost up to $300,000. This labels the Ferrari as one of the most expensive and exotic sports cars in the world today. Included in this text are interesting facts, for example did you know that Ferrari only made three cars in 1947 - one model took part in 12 races. Other interesting topics explored are the Ferrari logo, the most recognizable in the world, the marketing of these cars in movies and the high worldwide demand.

    BOW, James. Mustang (978-0-7787-2144-4). This make of car is aptly named after the wild horse who freely roamed untamed American soil. Their influence can also be seen in the car's logo detailing the spirited mustang horse. Ford mass produced the Mustang line, also known as the pony car, in 1964 and since that time this car has become a favorite with car lovers. More people own the Mustang than any other pony car, and the Mustang is still one of the top selling sport cars in America. This car has also been featured in many Hollywood blockbusters and been the subject of several top hit songs. Other topics explored are the evolution of the mustang, the production of specialty mustangs, and the future of this car line.

    Johnson, Robin. Jaguar (978-0-7787-2143-7). The Jaguar, made in England, has been around for 75 years and has developed the reputation of being a sleek and stylish automobile. This line can be seen both on the racetracks and traversing through the city streets. This iconic car regained its tremendous popularity through Hollywood especially when featured in the blockbuster Austin Powers and other popular feature films. Other topics explored are the use and production of this line during World War Two, its uses during the war effort, the post war influences on the car production, and the modern customer demands for this popular line.

    Peppas, Lynn. Corvette (978-0-7787-2141-3). The Corvette has reached 60 years old and despite its rocky start is still viewed by car enthusiasts and sport car drivers as the best car ever. This line has the honour of being the oldest production line sport car and one of the most affordable high end cars. This text also presents interesting facts, for example, each state in the United States has unique laws about gas emissions and this means people in California could not own a Corvette. This car is still a popular item and is featured in many movies and is the subject of many hit songs.

    Walker, Robert. Porsche (978-0-7787-2146-8). The first Porsche arrived on the scene in 1948 and still maintains a tremendous popularity. An interesting fact about the inventor, Ferdinand Porsche Sr., is his design of a car that ran on both electricity and gasoline. This first hybrid car was almost 100 years ahead of its time. This text also explores the negative impact World War Two had on the Porsche production line, the introduction of the Porsche line to the American market, the subsequent generations of the Porsche automobile and the future plans for this popular car.

  • Thematic Links: Automobiles
  • Anne Hatcher
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Audio-Visual Materials

  • The Difference Makers with Rick Hansen by Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium

    McIntyre Media. 2010. DVD. 17 parts, Length 59:38. Gr. 4-12. $149.00 (Includes PPR)

    Rating: E

  • Hosted by Rick Hansen, of "The Man in Motion" tour, and par-athlete, this 17 part series of interviews with Canadian Winter Olympic athletes and par-athletes, introduces the special people in their individual lives and experiences who provided guidance, mentorship, support, and strength to them in their journeys to participate in the Olympic and Par-Olympic games. The stories are heart-warming, emotive, and uplifting. The special relationships that were forged live on in each Olympian's life and their sharing inspires hope and encouragement in their audiences, while reminding each viewer of the importance of setting goals, realizing dreams, striving to overcome adversity, resolving to believe in self and others, work ethic and positive attitude. The life lessons abound.

    This DVD provides an excellent resource for character education curriculum, as well as short biographies of Famous Canadians. From figure skating to hockey, snowboarding to alpine racing, moguls and cross-country events, biathlon to skeleton, speed skating and more, the snapshots of these Olympians and Par-Olympians make viewers proud of their successes as talented athletes and as noteworthy Canadians.

  • Thematic Links:Sports and Sports Figures; Relationships; Family; Community; Life Styles; Work Ethic; Winter Olympic Games; Winter Par-Olympic Games; Athlete Training; Character Education; Goal Setting and Achievement
  • Sharon Armstrong
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French Resources

  • Le début de la colonie: BANTING, Erinn. La Gendarmerie Royale du Canada (978-1-77071-379-6); WATSON, Galadriel. Le Chemin de Fer (978-1-77071-378-9); WEBSTER, Christine. La Banque (978-1-77071-380-2); Le Bureau de poste (978-1-77071-377-2)

    Weigl Educational Publishers, 2010. 24p. Illus. Gr. 2-4. Hdbk. $25.95 ea.

    Rating: E

  • This is an excellent series to help young students understand Canadian history and get a look at life for pioneers in this country. Many aspects of everyday life are covered and the descriptions and photos in the books take readers to the post office and the bank and on a rail journey in early Canada, all protected by the North-West Mounted Police, of course. Students will appreciate the cost of sending a simple letter for a pioneer family or what first class carriages on a train were like. They will understand the long hours put in by a postmaster or a banker. The forerunners of our modern RCMP faced not just criminals but many other obstacles as they helped pioneers settle much of the west of Canada. These small books explain this and more.

    Each book is set up in a similar manner with many period photographs, good descriptions, a glossary and an index. There are sidebars on each double-page spread or chapter which present interesting facts such as the fact that in pioneer days people paid to receive a letter rather than paying to send one. Each book shows some of the ''tools of the trade'' for the people involved in that particular profession. There is also a section which compares, for example the banks or post offices of yesteryear with those of today. Students may be surprised that they still have many characteristics in common. Lastly, each book has a map of Canada showing where some original banks, for example, may be found or where one could visit a train museum or the various forts and camps of the RCMP which are still in existence today.

    Whether as information for a research project or just for general interest in history these books have something for every young reader. They are factual, interesting, and filled with photographs which help modern readers get a better sense of just what life was like for Canadian pioneers. These are a great asset to your school classroom or library!

  • Thematic Links: Canadian History; Pioneer Life; GRC/RCMP; Railroad; Banks and Banking; Post Office
  • Ann Ketcheson
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