New Fall Releases
Hot off the Press Before we go to Press!
What would you do if your dad got lost at the zoo? If your husband died and another wife claimed all his assets? If you had a cow in your swimming pool? Read on to find out!
In order to bring to readers' attention the latest releases, we are including a brief review of a selection of materials received just before deadline. The critique is organized in three categories: picture-books, juvenile and young adult fiction, and a grab-bag of drama and non-fiction for both younger and older readers. These particular volumes should not to be taken to represent the best of the fall season, however. To be sure of getting the full picture of the fall publishing season readers should consult the regular review sections in this issue, the October 1991 issue and the January 1992 issue.
Evaluating these materials are editorial board members Irene Aubrey, Dave Jenkinson and Pat Bolger. Full reviews of the materials covered in this feature will appear in the January 1992 issue.
by Irene Aubrey
The Seven Natural Wonders of the World by Celia King is an original and fascinating small pop-up book. The seven natural wonders are the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the caves of France and Spain in Europe, the harbour of Rio de Janiero in South America, the Paricutin Volcano in Mexico, the Grand Canyon in North America, Victoria Falls in Africa and Mount Everest in Asia. These wonders range in date from as far back as 18,000,000 years ago when the coral of the Great Barrier Reef began to create colonies to our own century, in 1943, when the Paricutin Volcano began to take shape.
Each "wonder" is succinctly described in an easy-to-read style, with enough information to whet one's appetite. The pop-ups are excellent. They are beautifully executed in collage, with a depth of colour and perspective that are truly eye catching.
A map on the inside of the front cover shows the location of the continents.
Waiting for the Whales (text by Sheryl McFarlane; illustrations by Ron Lightburn) is a quiet mood story set on the west coast. An old man, who lives by the sea, fills in his days by tending his garden and watching the whales when they return, each year, to swim in the strait in front of his cottage. But his life takes on new meaning when his daughter and her baby girl come to live with him. As the little girl grows and learns from her grandfather, a warm bond of love and companionship develops between them. And when the old man dies, mother and daughter continue the tradition of watching the whales.
In a style that is simple yet moving, McFarlane touches upon the themes of aging and loneliness, death and rebirth, and love and sharing between the elderly and the young.
The pictures are a beautiful enhancement to the text. They capture the poignancy and timelessness inherent in the text's message. Even the soft colours, sometimes dark, sometimes bright, sensitively reflect the various moods of the story.
One Prickly Porcupine by Odette and Bruce Johnson is a delightful, humorous counting book, from one to twenty. It features an array of zany animals who help an amiable giant celebrate his twentieth birthday. All the animals are intriguing (from the "one prickly porcupine peeking past a hair" to the "twenty little lightning bugs lighting up a cake") as they move and frolic from the top of the giant's head to the tip of his toes.
The text, full of alliteration, is lighthearted. Young children will marvel at the sound of the words and enjoy repeating them.
The illustrations, done in plasticine, are brimming with life. The detail is exquisite, and the colour, bright and bold.
There are various versions of the African Maasai tale retold by Tololwa Mollel in Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper! of a hare who attempts to have a peaceful nap in a cave but is frightened away by a booming voice who cries out, "I eat rhinos for lunch and elephants for supper." When her friends, the fox, the leopard, the rhinoceros and the elephant, are unsuccessful in their attempts to enter the cave, the hare accepts the help of a determined, pipe-smoking, cane-carrying female frog who succeeds where bigger animals have failed. The terrifying monster turns out to be a tiny caterpillar!
This is a good tale for reading aloud or telling. The repetitive, easy text has short sentences and snappy dialogue.
The colour illustrations nicely complement the text. One of their fortes is the representation of the humour and lively action taking place as the animals run to and from the cave. The range of emotions is captivating.
While they wait for their father in What If Dad Gets Lost at the Zoo? (text by Ginette Lamont Clarke and Florence Stevens; illustrations by Isabelle Langevin), Paul and Carol play a guessing game. They ask what they would do if their father got lost at the zoo, in the jungle, in the forest, in the desert, in a swamp or in the grasslands. The game is but a pretext to take readers on a trip to exotic places where they can learn interesting facts about various animals and their habitats.
The text, written for beginning readers, is made up of dialogue whereby the two protagonists exchange information. The publisher suggests that the text could also be dramatized at home or at school.
The full-page, full-colour illustrations are a nice enhancement to the text. The portrayal of the animals is particularly effective. The picture showing the tigers hiding in the tall grass, for instance, is compelling.
Also available in French under the title Et si papa se perd au zoo?
Jennifer's two hobbies are collecting junk (hence the title Junk-Pile Jennifer, the newest book by John Green; illustrated by Maryann Kovalski) and watching Captain Astroblast on TV. When she and her father quarrel over the amount of junk in her bedroom, she moves out, with all her junk, into the backyard. While watching TV, she imagines that her favourite hero crashes his space cruiser but that she is able to repair the cruiser with all her junk and is thus instrumental in saving Astroblast's planet from the invader. As a reward, her hero gives her a piece of junk!
This is a fun-packed fantasy, and the heroine is appealing. All the junk-pile addicts will identify with Jennifer. The text is clever and lively.
The pictures (most of them are double-page spreads in attractive, bright colours) extend the text. They capture the ambience and sheer boisterousness of the story perfectly. The detail is interesting, in the depiction not only of the masses of junk but also of the different characters.
The idea of writing about a child who likes to play in the mud is not new, but in Rosette and the Muddy River (text by Diane Carmel Leger; illustrations by Pamela Cambiazo), it is given a new twist.
The setting is in New Brunswick. Rosette is a very neat, proper little girl who likes to wear fancy dresses. When her father takes her fishing, in the muddy Petitcodiac river, she discovers, through a series of misadventures, the pleasures of playing in the mud and of making mud desserts. On any future fishing trips, however, Rosette still insists on looking her best, but now prefers wearing pants to dresses.
The average text contains short descriptive passages (the ones describing the making of the mud desserts should appeal to children!) and plenty of dialogue. Water-colours complement the text.
Like many children, Dexter grows restless on long car trips. (You guessed it. The title of this one is Are We There Yet? (text by Nancy Crystal; illustrations by Vladyana Krykorka)). One hot summer day, when his parents take him and his dog, Sherlock, to the beach, Dexter has all his favourite things with him to keep him occupied. But he refuses to settle down and wears himself out by playing pranks, with the co-operation of Sherlock. Both boy and dog are fast asleep when they finally arrive at the beach.
The story is described in simple language and with infectious humour. The repetition of the words "Are we there yet?" will have a familiar ring.
The illustrations, in gorgeous shades of colour, extend the text. Dexter is a mischievous but appealing character, with his shock of red hair and big blue eyes.
The great appeal of The Sailor's Book by Charlotte Agell lies in its simplicity and naivete. The author/illustrator lived for a few years in Montréal but is now a resident of the United States.
In this picture-book fantasy, two children, each captain of his and her own boat, imagine that the sea is a dragon and happily go sailing on his back. When a storm brews, they sail to a quiet cove where they rest and drink lemonade until the storm passes.
The text is sparse and is written in the present tense. It has a lyrical tone that lends itself well to reading aloud.
The illustrations, in predominant shades of green, purple and red, are childlike in their interpretation and enhance the text.
Agell, Charlotte. The Sailor's Book. Willowdale (Ont.), Firefly Books, 1991. 32pp, paper, $4.95, ISBN 0-920668-91-7. CIY Pre-school
Clarke, Cinctte Lamont and Florence Stevens. Et si papa se perd au zoo? Illustrated by Isabelle Langevin. Montréal, Tundra Books, 1991. 24pp, library binding, ISBN 0-88776-266-2 (library binding) $12.95, ISBN 0-88776-273-5 (paper) $6.95. CIP Kindergarten to Grade 3/ Ages 5 to 8
Clarke, Ginette Lamont and Florence Stevens. What If Dad Gets Lost at the Zoo? Illustrated by Isabella Langevin. Montréal, Tundra Books, 1991. 24pp, library binding, ISBN ()-88776-265-4 (library binding) $12.95, ISBN 0-88776272-7 (paper) $6.95. CIP Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 5 to 8
Crystal, Nancy. Are We There Yet? Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 32pp, cloth, $12.95, ISBN 0-590-73646-9. CIP Pre-school to Grade 2/Ages 3 to 7
Green, John F. Junk-Pile Jennifer. Illustrated by Maryann Kovalski. Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 32pp, cloth, $12.95, ISBN 0-590-73873-9. CIP. Pre-school to Grade 2/Ages 3 to 7
Johnson, Odette and Bruce Johnson. One Prickly Porcupine. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1991. 32pp, galley, $14.95, ISBN 019540834-9. CIP Pre-school to Grade 1 /Ages 3 to 6
King, Celia. The Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Vancouver, Raincoast Books, 1991. 24pp, paper, $10.95, ISBN 0-920417 26-4. CIP Grades 4 to 7/Ages 9 to 12
Leger, Diane Carmel. Rosette and the Muddy River. Illustrated by Pamela Cambiazo. Victoria (B.C.), Orca Book Publishers, 1991. 32pp, galley, $8.95, ISBN 0-920501-56-6. CIP Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 4 to
McFarlane, Sheryl. Waiting for the Whales. Illustrated by Ron Lightburn. Victoria (B.C.), Orca Book Publishers, 1991. 32pp, galley, $16.95, ISBN 0-929501-66-4. CIP Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 5 to 8
Mollel, Tololwa M. Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper! Illustrated by Barbara Spurll. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1991. 32pp, galley, $14.95, ISBN 0-19540832-2. CIP Pre-school to Grade 2/Ages 2 to 7
Irene Aubrey is chief of the Children's Literature Service at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.
JUVENILE & YOUNG ADULT FICTION
by Dave Jenkinson
Families in fun, fantasy and fiction are found among the juvenile and young adult fall releases. Kevin Major's sixth novel again demonstrates his stylistic range. In Eating Between the Lines, Major successfully navigates writing humour. Readers in their midteens and older will be most amused by sixteen-year-old Jackson's attempts to keep his parents' marriage together while trying to separate Sara, the girl of his dreams/fantasies, from her boyfriend. Unlike Gordon Korman and Martyn Godfrey, whose humour tends to depend on action and incident, Major layers his wit in language and structure. Librarians and English teachers will especially appreciate the fact that Jackson solves his problems through "insights" into literature. A must read!
Susan Lynn Reynold's first novel Strandia is a treat for middle school fantasy lovers. Strandia is an island on which the inhabitants are divided into two groups based on the ability of women to "call" dolphins to herd fish into family nets. Those families whose wives and daughters possess the talent have become the shoreline-owning ruling class. The remaining families, the Midislanders, pay rent to fish off the beaches. Sand, a teenage girl of the elite, has, against her wishes, been promised in marriage. By hiding her talent, she avoids marriage, but the family disgrace leads her to living among the Midislanders. The vengeful husband-to-be has Sand tracked down by the religious authorities, who cast her adrift in a boat. With the help of M'ridan, a dolphin, Sand survives her sea ordeal and ultimately returns with knowledge that saves the island's people from a natural disaster. Theme, plot and character are all strong in this reader-involving story.
Martyn Godfrey and Frank O'Keefe are two authors middle school readers will readily associate with humour, and a book entitled There's a Cow in My Swimming Pool suggests more fun to come. The book does offer its moments of laughter, but its theme is serious-- coping with death. Four years previously Nicole Peter's father died in an auto accident, and now the mother of this seventh grader is about to remarry.
Nicole likes Barry Manning, her stepfather-to-be, but discovers she wants to do things to hurt him. Against his "orders," Nicole holds a party while the newlyweds are honeymooning. Though the party culminates in the title's happening, Nicole comes to understand the motivation for her behaviour towards Barry as she listens to a friend explain his reactions to his stepmother. An acceptable read, the story's "lesson" is somewhat weakened by how quickly both Nicole arrives at an understanding and her parents are willing to forgive.
Another title that pushes middle school readers' credulity is Frances Henderson's Invisible Horse. Though the book has some good ingredients, the final product falls somewhat short. When teenager Kate Linbert loses her eyesight in an accident, her father Dennis cannot accept the new reality and leaves the family. Kate, younger brother Sam, and their mother move from Ottawa to a cabin in the Canadian Shield to begin a new life, but Kate hopes that she and Sam can reunite their parents. The children create an opportunity for marital reconciliation by means of a camping trip. The desired outcome is not immediately achieved, but, when Sam is captured by burglars and Kate rides for help on the title's horse, the crisis causes sudden parental contrition and forgiveness.
Scholastic has brought back two of Lyn Cook's golden oldies via its "Gold Leaf" imprint, and, while one still shines brightly, the other's lustre has dulled. Samantha's Secret Room remains a warm family story that only occasionally and unobtrusively betrays its age, while The Bells of Finland Street's style will constantly remind those readers who persevere that the book is from an earlier period. Samantha a.k.a. Sam Wiggins, twelve, is a delightful character, and eight-to eleven-year-old readers will enjoy the episodic events on the Wiggins family's Penetanguishene, Ontario, farm. While Sam has her own hidden place of retreat from family members, the book's continuing storyline focuses on Sam's finding the secret room belonging to her nineteenth century namesake.
Stripped of all its clutter, The Bells of Finland Street tells the story of Sudbury, Ontario's, poor but good-hearted Elin Laukka, nine, who wants to take figure-skating lessons like her financially better off friends. Elin industriously earns the required money only to surrender it to the family's greater needs when her miner father is injured and family savings are exhausted. All ends perhaps too well when Grandfather, a former figure skating champion, arrives from Finland and provides for all of Elin's needs. Unfortunately, the story is frequently interrupted by "lessons" about the community of Sudbury, nickel, its mining, etc., which may cause less committed readers to abandon Elin.
Cook, Lyn. The Bells of Finland Street. Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 183pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-590-74032-6. CIP Grades 3 to 5/Ages 8 to 10
Cook, Lyn. Samantha's Secret Room. Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 210pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-590-73837-2. CIP Grades 3 to 6/Ages 8 to 11
Godfrey, Martyn and Frank O'Keefe. There's a Cow in My Swimming Pool. Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 134pp, paper, $3.95, ISBN 0-590-74045-8. CIP Grades 4 to 7/Ages 9 to 12
Henderson, Frances. The Invisible Horse. Toronto, Stoddard, 1991. 156pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-7737-5426-1. CIP Grades 5 to 8/Ages 10 to 13
Major, Kevin. Eating Between the Lines. Toronto, Doubleday Canada, 1991. 136pp, paper, $13.50, ISBN 0-385-252935. CIP Grades 9 and up/Ages 13 and up
Reynolds, Susan Lynn. Strandia. Toronto, HarperCollins, 1991. 277pp, cloth, $16.95, ISBN 0-00-223590-0. CIP Grades 6 and up/Ages 11 and up
Dave Jenkinson is a professor of children's and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
POLITICS EXTINCTIONS & MUSICALS
by Pat Bolger
Although Ontarians flocked to "touch the border of (David Peterson's) Roots sweatshirt" during the 1987 election in Ontario, they rejected him decisively just three years later.
In their meticulously researched study, Not Without Cause: David Peterson's Fall from Grace, Georgette Gagnon and Dan Rath (both Liberal insiders) examine events before and during the campaign to account for the stunning defeat suffered by the party. They discuss voter resentment of Meech Lake, Mulroney, and an unnecessary election, political scandals, and a campaign organization crippled by bungling and internal dissension.
Few teenagers will have acquired the background knowledge of politics required to handle the masses of detail in Not Without Cause. Limited recommendation to high schools where politics receive emphasis.
Thirty years as a repressed wife did not prepare Rowena, in A Serious Widow by Constance Beresford-Howe, to manage on her own after Edwin's sudden death--especially when another wife claims all his assets. Various people attempt to organize her life for her: Cuthbert, the mousy lawyer; "dear old Canon Tom" (whose pastoral visits astonishingly develop into unrestrained sexual encounters); and Rowena's bossy daughter, Marion. More comforting to her are her imaginary conversations with Prince Charles and Ethel Wilson, her favourite author. Although she envisions herself with "all her worldly goods in a paper bag, drinking vanilla in doorways," she succeeds at last in her search for independence.
Young women will sympathize with Rowena's situation and find her efforts to cope with it both suspenseful and funny. The humour in the novel is often rather acid, especially in the portrayals of the late Edwin and in Cuthbert and Tom's attempts to look after "Edwin's wife."
Students doing extra reading assignments in Canadian literature will be delighted with a novel that is short and easily read. A Serious Widow is also a very good one.
Fred Bodsworth's classic story of one of the last of a dying species, Last of the Curlews, first published in 1955 and reprinted in an New Canadian Library edition in 1963, has been reissued with a new afterword by Graeme Gibson.
It is brief, easily read, and beautifully complemented by Terry Shortt's illustrations. Excerpts from scientific reports, documenting the decline of the Eskimo curlew over nearly two centuries, show clearly that human greed and thoughtlessness led to its extinction.
This poignant illustration that we are living, as Graeme Gibson writes, in an "Age of Extinctions" does occasionally slip into anthropomorphism, but perhaps that is what is needed. A must for children's collections in public libraries and school libraries--both elementary and secondary.
A successful entrepreneur and founder of Century 21 Canada, Peter Thomas had to fight for financial survival in the aftermath of his associate Nelson Skalbania's bankruptcy in 1982. In Never Fight with a Pig: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs he draws on that experience, his years with Donald Cormi's Principal Group, and his attempt to buy Heritage USA from Jim Bakker's bankrupt PTL Ministry. The insider information is fascinating, but the advice he offers is repetitious: Peter Thomas's Ten Inspirational Motivators, Seven Pillars of Entrepreneurial Wisdom, Six Lessons I Learned the Hard Way, and so on.
Teenagers who are interested in a career in business or sales could benefit from Thomas' cautionary tale. Librarians who are planning to add it to the Canadian business section may, for reasons of economy, prefer to wait for the paperback.
In the author's forward (sic) to Where Is Kabuki?, a new play by Don Druick, Druick comments, "My intense involvement with Japanese theatre becomes my central metaphor... (which) ... enables the writing of a passion play in the masculine voice."
Readers who lack Druick's knowledge of Kabuki and its traditions will not be much involved by this static discussion among the members of a theatre, some determined to preserve tradition, others scheming to turn a profit.
Usefulness in a high school library would be limited to its possible value as a resource for senior students of theatre arts.
The Dreamland, a big production, uses twenty speaking roles, singers and a band in its portrayal of the end of a Muskoka dance pavilion in 1966. Flashbacks to its glory days introduce the music and dance of the 1930s and also l reveal a tragic and violent event. Girls in the Gang concentrates on four women and the members of Toronto's notorious Boyd gang with whom they were connected.
Both plays present challenges to the reader: Dreamland has younger and older versions of major characters on stage together, and it can be confusing keeping track of who's with whom in the Boyd gang. Reading the lyrics is less satisfactory than hearing the songs, although their effectiveness as counterpoint to the action is clear.
Young adults will enjoy both Girls in the Gang with its wit and gangster movie atmosphere and The Dreamland and what it reveals about human relationships. These two musicals are highly recommended.
Beresford-Howe, Constance. A Serious Widow. Toronto, Macmillan, 1991. 283pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7715-9147-0. CIP Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Bodsworth, Fred. Last of the Curlews. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1991. 132pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-7710-9874-X. CIP Grades 7 and up/Ages 12 and up
Druick, Don. Where is Kabuki? Toronto, Playwrights Canada Press, 1991. 63pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-8875s504-1. CIP Grades 11 and up/ Ages 16 and up
Gagnon, Georgette and Dan Rath. Not Without Cause: David Peterson's Fall from Grace. Toronto, HarperCollins, 1991. 408pp, cloth, $27.95, ISBN 0-00-215842-6. CIP Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Storey, Raymond and John Roby. The Dreamland & Girls in the Gang. Toronto, Playwrights Canada Press, 1991. 250pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 048764-463-0. CIP Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up.
Thomas, Peter. Never Fight with a Pig: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs. Toronto, Macmillan, 1991. 204pp, cloth, $27.95, ISBN 0-7715-9139-X. CIP Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Pat Bolger is a retired high school librarian. She lives in Renfrew, Ontario.
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