CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 8 . . . . December 9, 2005
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.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.