________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 8 . . . . December 9, 2005


Friends in a New Land. (The Last Best West).

Elaine Essien.
Edmonton, AB: Tortoise Press (P.O. Box 1492, Station Main, Edmonton, AB T5J 2N7), 2004.
92 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-896081-56-8.

Subject Heading:
Frontier and pioneer life-Alberta-Juvenile fiction.
Friendship-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Ruth McMahon.

**½ /4


Friends in a New Land. Teacher’s Manual: A Novel Study in Language Arts and Social Studies.

Elaine Essien and Diahnn Wasuta.
Edmonton, AB: Tortoise Press, 2005.
75 pp., pbk., $22.95.
ISBN 1-896081-55-X.

Subject Headings:
English language-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Frontier and pioneer life-Alberta-Study and teaching (Elementary).


Review by Ruth McMahon.

**½ /4


At last the day had finally come when Joey would meet these new people. There were reasons for Joey's eagerness. He was proud to be included in men's work. But, that was not the only reason for Joey's eagerness. Mr. And Mrs. Kruger had three sons. Willie and Freddie were nearly grown up, but Hans was only eight years old. Joey had not had a friend his own age since moving to the Canadian West. The most wonderful thing Joey could think of was to have a boy as a friend. In fact, he could think of little else. But how would he make friends with someone who spoke a different language? Perhaps his father might have some ideas. (From Friends in a New Land.)

The story about the Wright family and their life homesteading in central Alberta in 1902 is simply told and chronicles the intensity of their new life, their struggles to make a living and build friendships.

     The first two pages following the title page contain a section called "Meet the Wrights" which provides basic biographical information about the family. This is followed by a Timeline 1867 to 1905, followed by information on how the west was divided for homesteading, followed by chapter 1. Between chapters 4 and 5, and again between chapters 8 and 9, there are two pages of recipes. The last four pages are a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to some students or words that are used in a unique way in the story. (Note: The Timeline contains one inaccuracy that may lead to confusion. The 1878 section states "Sir John A. Macdonald (Conservative) becomes Prime Minister." He was in fact re-elected at that time.)

     The publisher's mandate is to "advance early reading and research skills." The book, published in 2004, and the order form suggest a visit to the website for additional information. The site exists but - to date - only the front page; no additional information is currently available. The accompanying Teacher's Manual provides the educator with a step-by-step procedure for presenting this book to grades 3, 4 and/or 5. This guidebook includes: direction on how to read the book, task sheets, maps, crosswords, etc. I am not a teacher and, therefore, do not feel qualified to judge the content of the teacher's manual, but I would think that teachers would be grateful in their busy lives for such an in-depth teaching tool.

     Microsoft Word gave the above excerpt from the novel a Kincaid-Flesch score of 3.6. As a reader and children's librarian, I found this story confidently written, and it sustained my interest. It did not hold the dramatic appeal of award winning titles like Celia Barker Lottridge's Ticket to Curlew nor Jim McCugan's Josepha: A Prairie Boy's Story. As a child, I disliked reading books that had prologues or forwards, or interruptions in the middle - anything that got in the way of reading the story. I became a librarian rather than a teacher, because, as a child, I resented taking apart the stories that I loved reading. So, with my personal bias in mind, I think this is a good textbook but not necessarily a great pick for the public library. Those libraries that have extra money may choose to purchase it, particularly those on the prairies.

Recommended with reservations.

Ruth Scales McMahon is a professional children's librarian, the co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Book Award and the mother of two young children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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