CM February 16, 1996. Vol II, Number 18

Table of Contents

From the Editor

starSome Stars Are Born

Book Reviews

CDNHow A Book Is Published.
Bobbie Kalman.
Review by Jane Robinson.
Grades 1 - 6 / Ages 5 - 11.

CDNMooch Forever
Gilles Gauthier. Illustrated by Pierre-Andre Derome.
Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Review by A. Edwardsson.
Grades 2 - 5 / Ages 7 - 10.

INTLittle Vampire's Diary.
Sonia Holleyman.
Review by A. Edwardsson.
Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 10.

CDNMystery of the Missing Will
Jeni Mayer
Review by Joanne Robertson.
Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 -13.

CDNAttack on Montreal.
Pierre Berton.
Review by Catherine Cox.
Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 14.

CDN worn thresholds.
Julie Berry.
Review by Liam C. Rodrigues.
Grades 10 and Up / Ages 14 and Up.

CDN Active Living: The Miracle Medicine for a Long and Healthy Life.
Gordon W. Stewart.
Review by Marsha Kaiserman.
All ages.


 An Interview with Jeni Mayer

 Notable Web Sites


 Newswave 96: Call for Participation

 Freedom to Read Week

From the Editor

This week we've begun adding starred ratings to our reviews. This is not because we have been brainwashed by Leonard Maltin, but because a our "Recommendations" scale is really a purchase recommendation, rather than an evaluation of quality.

Sometimes that prevents us from doing a title justice. There might be, for example, a book a reviewer couldn't in good conscience recommend a school or library purchase because of price, or perhaps particularly controversial subject matter, but which is still of high quality. There might also be a title that you really should have on the shelf, even though instrinsically, it isn't that great.

So the purchase recommendations will remain at the bottom of the reviews, just like always, but from now on up at the top you'll see a starred rating for overall quality: *** /4, say.

If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch with me at the address beneath my name.

-- Duncan Thornton

Book Review

How A Book Is Published.

Bobbie Kalman.
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON: Crabtree, 1995. 32 pages. CIP.
Library binding, $20.95, ISBN 0-86505-618-8.
Paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-86505-718-4.

Grades 1 - 6 / Ages 5 - 11.
Review by Jane Robinson.

*** /4



Bobbie Kalman's books are very popular with children because of one magic ingredient -- Bobbie and her writing team "live" their books. Whether it is researching clothing of the past or studying rainforest birds, the team gets totally involved . . . When you put your feelings and opinions into a story or book, people will enjoy reading your creation. Your writing will be special if your love shines through!

As the author of more than one hundred children's books, and as a publisher, Bobbie Kalman seems to follow her own advice. Well known to elementary teachers and children's librarians for her wide range of non-fiction titles, Kalman takes the opportunity in this new addition to her "Crabapples" series to show us her team's behind-the-scenes magic.

The result is a highly appealing, attractive, informative look at the creation of a book. Each step is explained and complemented by full-colour photographs -- from the brainstorming of an idea to the researching, writing, editing, illustrating, designing, and printing of the book.

The text and style are simple and concise. Each topic is explained on a two-page spread. Section headings, a table of contents, and an index keep the reader organized. A glossary defines and explains technical jargon (each word defined in the glossary appears in boldface type in the body of the text).

The polished and professional approach of the book perhaps over-simplifies the laborious, painstaking, and picky process of publishing a book, but it's hard not to be motivated by all the happy faces in the photographs. Always mindful of the audience, Bobbie frequently relates the ideas back to the school-aged author through the text or the photographs.

At a time when schools are continuing to encourage children's authorship and book-writing skills, this book would be useful in any elementary classroom, school or public library.


Jane Robinson is a teacher in Winnipeg.

Book Review

Mooch Forever

Gilles Gauthier. Illustrated by Pierre-Andre Derome.
Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax: Formac Publishing, 1995. 60pp, paper. $5.95.
ISBN: 0-88780-308-3 (paper), 0-88780-309-1 (boards).

Grades 2 - 5 / Ages 7 - 10.
Review by A. Edwardsson

**1/2 /4


Nothing seems to interest me, ever since Mooch died. Nothing at all. School is a disaster. I wasn't that fond of school to begin with. Now I think it stinks. I don't want to have anything to do with anyone. I don't care if I flunk! I wish I could just give up the whole thing. And I wish Gary would just go away, him and his stupid little dog. DUMPLING! Is that name dorky enough for you? And the worst of it is, the name fits the dog perfectly. Gary's dad probably got him really cheap. I know that when you've just come out of prison you don't have a lot of money, but still, I think he might have tried a little harder. Ever since Mooch died, Gary is always asking me to go play at his house. It's no use. I don't feel like playing. And anyway, I can't stand his stupid Dumpling! I would rather think about Mooch.

> Gilles Gauthier has written a series of first novels starring Carl and his dog Mooch. His book Mooch and Me previously won Best Children's Book of the Year in Quebec. Mooch Forever was originally published in French in 1990 as Ma Babouche pour toujours.

In this story, Carl is grieving the loss of his aged dog, after she's put to sleep. He refuses to accept that Mooch was suffering, and his mother's reasoning falls on deaf ears:

"Carl, the vet explained it all to you. Mooch's heart gave out."
"Mooch's heart was better that any vet's heart! I'll never believe her heart gave out. She died because that ignorant vet poisoned her with his horrible medicine."

When his anger cools, Carl becomes apathetic, rejecting the overtures of his Mom (whom he usually calls Judy) and his friend Gary. He knows they're concerned, but he's too self-absorbed to try alleviating their fears:

Mom doesn't know what to do with me. I'm always sad and I've lost my appetite. I know that Mom is unhappy. Every so often she tries to talk to me, but I won't listen. I already know what she's going to say. Anyway, she can't give me the one and only thing I want -- my dog.

Carl is still talking about Mooch in the present tense when he realizes what's really bothering him. "I love Mooch as much as I love Mom. And as much as I loved Dad, when he was alive. But now I'm afraid. First Dad. Now Mooch. I'm afraid there is another name on the list. I don't want to be left all alone in the world. Without Mom." Children may relate to Carl's fear of abandonment.

Gary finally breaks through the barriers by generously offering his own dog to Carl. "He said that he had thought it over very carefully and he was certain I needed a dog more than he did . . . Two minutes earlier, I couldn't stand Dumpling, even though I'd never seen him up close. Now I wasn't so sure." Sensing Carl's indecision, Gary tells him to keep the pup overnight and then decide. He runs off before Carl responds, leaving Dumpling behind.

This is another example of Carl's self-absorbtion. Rather than returning the dog immediately, he keeps it overnight. Readers may wonder if Carl thinks dogs are possessions that can be given away. What about Gary's inner emotions? And don't Dumpling's feelings count? But having the dog overnight changes Carl's outlook on life:

Dumpling is quite the fellow! He's a real clown! First of all, Sir Dumpling will drink only milk. Judy and I found that out pretty quick...When it comes to food, he's no champion either. He has trouble eating the dry dog food we bought him. He practically needs a nutcracker before he can chew it.

(Readers may also wonder how they figured out the dog would only drink milk, and why they went out and bought dog food for Dumpling since he's just there on a one-day trial basis. Didn't they have leftover kibble from Mooch? Why didn't Gary leave food and a set of instructions for them? And don't changes in diet give dogs the runs?)

Fortunately, after spending time with Dumpling, Gary comes to the right conclusion:

Dogs are very faithful. Much more than Gary thinks. A dog isn't a toy that can belong to you one day and to someone else the next. Even if you have a good reason. Dumpling is already very attached to Gary . . . He belongs with Gary, the greatest friend I've ever had. Except for Mooch, of course.

Gary is grateful for the return of his pup. Carl says he would be willing to help train the dog and Gary [unbelievably] says "he would love to have the full benefit of my experience. He wants me to teach Dumpling everything I can." While trying to teach Dumpling a trick, the boys feed him two entire boxes of chocolate-chip cookies. Hmmm . . .

For her part, Judy helps Carl with "closure." She explains to her son that "life is a bit like a play . . . Some of the actors are on stage for a long time, others not so long. But every one had a part to play, and every part is an important one." Judy and Carl reminisce about the good old days, and plan a summer trip to the Island that includes Gary and Dumpling. Carl decides to write a "real" book about Mooch.

Though not all of the story makes sense, and Carl can be an unsympathetic protagonist, Gilles Gauthier deserves credit for tackling a sensitive topic that young readers can identify with.

The larger print, and format of the story are approachable, with only one or two sentences to a paragraph, and chapters approximately seven pages long. The many black-and-white illustrations are cartoony and not particularly appealing, but they are well placed, complementing the text. Mooch Forever is an acceptable purchase for schools or libraries in need of chapter books/first novels. With a reading level of 2.5, it might work for reluctant readers or for children dealing with loss of a loved one.


A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

Book Review

Little Vampire's Diary.

Sonia Holleyman.
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1995. Distributed in Canada by Raincoast. 18pp, board book, $15.95.
ISBN: 0-8118-1010-0.

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 10.
Review by A. Edwardsson.

* / 4


This is the secret diary of the Little Vampire HANDS OFF

In it I am going to write all about my cool adventures with Fang (my special vampire cat)

September 36th [lunch time]

Just had my Vampire Beans in blood I am having such a wonderful day -- Vampires have so much fun! We have received an invitation for Jack's costume party. What shall we go as?

Author Sonia Holleyman had a good idea for a novelty book. Packaged to resemble a real diary, Little Vampire's Diary "locks" with a velcro tab hidden under a keyhole illustration. Some sentences or words are in secret code, the printed entries are scattered and realistically hand-written, and many have accompanying doodles.

There are several extras, such as a pair of "earrings" (bright poster-board snakes that hook over your lobes), a bat mobile, a board game similar to snakes and ladders, and vampire-vision glasses. The latter are incorporated into a monster-like mask with a space to insert your nose, and fake fangs at the bottom. Wearing them should enable the reader to see hidden messages, but I couldn't find any. On one page readers are invited to reach in to a bag to feel caterpillar guts. However, instead of something believably slimy, you touch sandpaper.

Unfortunately, as with many novelty books, this one lacks a plausible engaging plot. The sixteen entries fail to properly introduce us to the main characters. The entry on the first page has a picture of Plaxie Wishbone (a.k.a. the Little Vampire) and her cat Fang, with arrows and labels identifying Plaxie's vampire hair, spooky eyes and cloak. Underneath is the caption, "This is a photograph of the new me." But we have no idea what the old me, looked like.

The focus of most pages is Plaxie's infatuation with Jack, the new boy in her class. We're not told why he's so great, or if he's a vampire also. Her rival for Jack's affections is the teacher's pet, whom Plaxie nicknames Tinsel Trudy.

Attempts to gross us out alternate with diary entries covering the events leading up to Jack's Halloween party. There are several arrows identifying illustrations of bug blood, ant brains, crusty scabs, maggot juice, and so on. Many of the dates in the diary are imaginary -- like Sept. 36th. The post-party entry reads:

October 31 3/4 (late in bed)

1] Mega News -- I have been to the best party EVER!
2] Mega Brilliant news! Tinsel Trudy was sick. She drank too much party punch and she had to go home early.
3] Mega Stupendous News -- I came first in the costume contest!
Jack kissed me

Beside this, one "photo" shows Trudy throwing up, and another, Jack's chaste kiss. Neither of these characters seem to be in Halloween costume.

It's hard to guess who the target market is for this book. The love story angle would suggest an older group, the earrings, glasses, and codes would suggest a younger audience. Also, the frequency of the cryptic messages was annoying. The reader has to flip back to the decoder page at the beginning to translate them. Most weren't worth the effort.
The copyright info on the back jacket warns that this book is not suitable for children under three years -- contains small parts. Actually, this toy/movable book isn't suitable for most school or library collections, although it may capture the attention of some reluctant readers. The zany colour illustrations, in the style of Babette Cole (The Trouble with Mom), are the most appealing part of the book.

Not recommended.

A. Edwardsson works at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library, where she is in charge on the Children's dept. She has a Bachelor of Education degree, Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors Association.

Book Review

Special Reprint:
The Mystery of the Missing Will.

Jeni Mayer.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1992. 158pp, paper, $7.00.
ISBN 0-920633-90-0. CIP.

Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 -13.
Review by Joanne Robertson.

Review orignally published in CM, May 1992.

The deserted St. Vincent mansion on the Saskatchewan prairie attracts the explorations of Samantha and Meredith during their summer holidays. What begins as a diversion grows into an absorbing mystery that captures the girls' imaginations and places them in real physical danger.

Is the house haunted? Did Meredith really hear a ghost whisper the words, "Find my will"? And what do those words mean? Curious, the girls delve into the past of the people who lived in the old mansion. Events follow each other quickly in this fast-paced tale. Jeni Mayer blends the eerie atmosphere of ghostly happenings with real-life events very effectively.

The characters of Meredith and Samantha are the most fully developed. Their relationships with their families are woven throughout the story of their search to solve the mystery. Meredith lives with her mother, who holds down two jobs in order to make ends meet. Samantha's parents "were always going to glamorous parties or jetting off to some wonderful place." Meredith, sometimes jealous of Samantha, learns a lesson about being rich and being poor.

The Mystery of the Missing Will, Mayer's second book, follows The Mystery of the Turtle Lake Monster, and is sure to win her even more fans.

Joanne Robertson, Winnipeg, MB.

Book Review

Attack on Montreal.

Pierre Berton.
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995. 128pp, cloth/paper, $4.99.
ISBN 0-7710-1419-8.

Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 14.
Review by Catherine Cox.

** /4

Aimed at children aged eleven to fourteen, Pierre Berton's "Adventures in Canadian History" series is reminiscent of the sort of adventure books Berton might have read growing up. Illustrated with black-and-white drawings by Paul McCusker, this series does little to attract the reader (or non-reader) who is growing up on interactive CD-ROM.

However, the descriptions of life in an army camp in 1813 might be disgusting enough to hook a young reader who does find the book -- the latrines, for example, were so close to the water supply that the bread had human excrement in it; soldiers died of related diseases.

The Battle of Chrysler's Farm in 1813 is not one of my favourite stories from Canadian history, but if you are interested in battle-by-battle detail of the War of 1812 (Attack on Montreal is the seventh volume in the series) these "Adventures in Canadian History" are readable and serves their purpose. But I doubt that the intended audience will read it.

Not recommended.

Catherine Cox is a Teacher-Librarian in Moncton High School in New Brunswick.

Book Review

worn thresholds.

Julie Berry.
London, ON: Brick Books, 1995. 106pp, paper, $11.95.
ISBN 0-919626-75-0.

Grades 10 and Up / Ages 14 and Up.
Review by Liam C. Rodrigues.

*** / 4

margaret's madhouse

demons hang from doorknobs
devils lurk in the dark of keyholes
bite the meat of her hand
doors have undone her
once she loved a man

touching him her hands turned to wings feathered white

having the baby was the worst blood follows her now down all the shining hallways

In the persona of a poor poet reflecting on the evolution of his craft, Czeslaw Milosz wrote that "The first movement is singing,/ A free voice, filling mountains and valleys./ The first movement is joy,/ But it is taken away." Milosz wrote The Poor Poet in Warsaw in 1944 -- a particularly devastated city in a worn-out, war-torn world. Eastern Europe was on the threshold of change, and the veneer of hope had worn thin. Milosz knew what gave birth to the spirit of poetry -- but, in a landscape politically ransomed, "a cynical hope" was at best what lingered of the poet's lyrical voice.

Although, Julie Berry crafts her poems out of a different context, worn thresholds is an odd combination of Milosz's poor poets: boisterous and lyric, but also reflective and political. One cannot escape the gender politic that forms Julie Berry's world picture: there are children, and then there are men and women. In innocence we are together, but while being in the world, we become estranged, men from women, women from men. Berry is a woman who laments, is even somewhat angered by, the estrangement. In this respect, there is much of the later poor poet in Julie Berry. She is truthful, but I am not sure that I always like it.

Published in May of 1995, worn thresholds is Julie Berry's first collection. As her brief bio tells us, however, her work may be familiar: her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in such journals as Room of One's Own, Quarry, and Canadian Forum.

A formidable first volume, worn thresholds is divided into five sections, containing close to sixty poems. Often lucid, yet simple, most of the poems benefit from Berry's skilful use of the short line and clipped rhythms. In "the dissection kit," for example, the juxtaposition of varied line lengths, the broken rhythms, and the stark absence of adjectives create a vision of the world that permeates the book:

the case is empty now
i threw it out
afraid to think
where all those instruments have gone
but a woman needs to know such things
a woman must keep house better than that

Although I am still deliberating exactly how to feel about Julie Berry's take on things, worn thresholds is an interesting collection of poems for this very reason. It conveys a tangible persona. Whether the author is present here or not, there is a great sense of a narrative character: one who looks out and sees a landscape unadorned and a humanity simplified.


Liam C. Rodrigues is a Toronto-area writer interested in art, architecture, poetry, and all that liberal arts stuff.

Book Review

Active Living: The Miracle Medicine for a Long and Healthy Life.

Gordon W. Stewart.
Windsor, Ont; Human Kinetics, 1995. 136pp, paper, $19.50.
ISBN 0-87322-678-X.

All ages
Review by Marsha Kaiserman

*** /4


Active living means taking things in stride - doing what comes naturally. It's gardening and golfing, dancing and dodgeball. It's squash and swimming, walking and wheeling. It's playing in the park with the kids, even washing the car or mowing the lawn!

Baby Boomers have, for the most part, been concerned about their health and that of their children. Yet, considering recent reports from Statistics Canada, we haven't really been doing a good job about it. Now, as Baby Boomers move into middle age, fitness experts have developed a new way to stay healthy -- active living.

This time, I think that they finally got it right. I don't know about you, but I've felt a little guilty that all I can do after putting in a full day at work, battling the traffic home and putting in another five hours of housework is to collapse into bed without exercising. I just don't have any energy left. In addition, nobody ever told me that the things that I did have time for, such as gardening and walking, were actually good for me.

Gordon Stewart has come up with the one program that I can buy into. In this book, he presents a lifestyle program that any child or adult can follow. The secret is that it is tailored to your life, and you can do as much or as little as you want. The secret is to do what you can -- but to do it. I can handle that.

Stewart has an accessible style, neither preachy nor condescending. With illustrations by Keith Blomberg, Stewart provides guidance, encouragement and advice in just eight chapters. Topics range from indoor and outdoor exercises to eating right to quitting smoking and drugs to being happy. In addition, there is a bibliography of suggested reading and organizations to contact for further information.

A fine book for anyone, including children, looking to improve their lifestyle.

Highly recommended.

Marsha Kaiserman is Head of Conferences Cataloguing at Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) in Ottawa.



Jeni Mayer

author of The Mystery of the Missing Will

CM interviewed Jeni Mayer February 12, the week she came to Winnipeg to accept the 1995 Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award for The Mystery of the Missing Will.

CM: How did you get started writing?

Mayer: Well, it was out of necessity when I was growing up, because I was in this town of 150 people and there was literally nothing to do. I used to hang out in this group of seven kids and we used to get together and tell each other stories -- you know monster stories, vampires, anything scary. And then afterwards we used to explore abandoned houses . . . And over the years it became a competition to outdo one another in your storytelling. So that's how the storytelling started, or at least the interest in stories.

But I think I was twelve years old before I discovered that Canadians could write. Literally. Because our library had no Canadian titles in it that I could find, just American things -- the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, that was what our library was full of. It was my belief that either Canadians weren't smart enough to write books or our lives were so boring that we had nothing to write about.

Then I read "The Cremation of Sam McGee." And when I got to the bottom of the poem, where it said that Robert Service was a Canadian writer, that just -- wow, you know, that was really something for me. It changed the way I looked at writing and I thought, "yeah, I have stories that I want to tell . . ."

So I started writing stories, mostly vengeful little pieces about being the youngest in the family. I'd have stories about my brother being eaten by monsters or my sisters being stolen by gypsies. . . .

CM: How very satisfying.

Mayer: It was, it was nice and vengeful. . . .

And I started publishing poetry, you know, sending it away, when I was about twenty-six. That was when my kids were little and I was writing a lot of poetry. But I never really thought of myself as a writer, never thought of it as a career, until The Mystery of the Turtle Lake Monster came out.

CM: That was your first book --

Mayer: Yeah, and it did really well. I wrote it for my kids -- we had spent the summer at Turtle Lake, looking for the monster, couldn't find it, so at the end of the summer my kids said, "Well, write us a story and pretend it's real."

So I wrote and wrote and ended up with a novel, and Thistledown was interested, and it outsold a lot of books that they'd had in the line for years. So that was great, and they asked if I wanted to write another one, and by the time they asked I already had one ready, so I handed it over.

CM: That was The Mystery of the Missing Will.

Mayer: Right.

CM: That book seems to reflect some of those childhood experiences exploring abandoned houses. . . .

Mayer: A lot of my childhood is in that book, the spooky part of it. . . .

CM: The Mystery of the Missing Will definitely has a mystery, and a touch of the supernatural, but it seems that thematically you were more interested in the lives of the girls who are your protagonists than in issues relating to crime, or spirits. It's their relationships with one another and with their parents that seem to be at the heart of the book.

Mayer: Yeah, the characters in that book kind of dictated that. Especially in a mystery, you sort of block out in your mind all the things that are going to happen and how you're going to get to the end of it. But the characters always sort of grow and they have these personalities and these problems that enter into it. And I think that's particularly true of The Mystery of the Missing Will.

The characters ended up dictating that these were the issues that they were dealing with in their lives. All this mysterious stuff is going on, but the mystery that runs through the novel is also about their lives. And the characters seemed to tell me that that's what had to be dealt with, along with the ghosts and everything else. But I didn't intentionally try to find those issues with my characters -- they just developed.

CM: The cover says "A Mayer Mystery," and when I started the book, I assumed that it would be at least be setting up continuing characters -- like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books you read as a kid. But by the end, it would be difficult to bring those characters back for a sequel. I was impressed that you cared enough for the realism of what was going on in their lives to not return them to a point of stasis so that you could plunge them into another adventure next time. . . .

Mayer: I never have any intention when I'm writing a book of doing a second one. And that's one of the good things about working with Thistledown, because they've given me the freedom to do that. They said, "Do you want to write a series of mysteries?"

And I said "Yeah," but I didn't want to be held by the structure, to feel that I had to manipulate the story in this book so that they'll be available for the next book.

That's definitely been one of the reasons I've stuck with Thistledown throughout, and always think of them as my first publisher, because they allow me that freedom.

CM: They've done a good job promoting your books too. . . .

Mayer: They've done a wonderful job. It's a good gang of people to work with; they're very open to new ideas. I've done a lot of tours; I've probably spoken at three hundred schools in the last few years. They really promote authors not just titles.

In some houses you're just another book and you're never able to get your name out there. But because Thistledown promotes authors, it's sort of opened up another career for me of doing readings and teaching.

CM: You've written other things beyond these Young Adult mysteries; I'm wondering which you're more attached to, the Young Adult part, or the supernatural mystery part?

Mayer: Like a lot of Young Adult authors, it's not that I write specifically for that age group, it just sort of happens . . . Though when I'm writing I understand that those are the people my work is going to appeal to.

And I certainly have an interest in the supernatural. When I was growing up witchcraft and all of those things were really important to the storytelling process; that was the material, and I can't separate myself from that background. Ideally, every mystery I ever write will have some facet of that, whether it's psychic ability or whatever, because that to me is exciting. I like to explore that, I like doing research about it and talking to people about how they feel about those different phenomena, and I like to talk to people who are on both sides of the fence.

So from a research point of view, when I'm working on a novel, that makes it interesting, but it's also something I'm really firmly grounded in from my childhood. You know, when we were kids we had seances, and we really believed we were calling up spirits; it's something that every kid experiences, I think. Certainly growing up in rural Saskatchewan, going through old houses, you're totally convinced that these shadows that you see, that these things that might have moved a quarter of an inch when you turned your back are being moved by a spirit.

And then as an adult, you just put it down to being kids, but I don't allow myself to do that; I say, "Oh, yeah, wasn't that a neat experience," and don't lose the wonder of childhood.

CM: So these things aren't divisible for you. You wouldn't want to write an adult Steven King or Anne Rice horror novel; it's that childhood experience of what might be supernatural that --

Mayer: -- That fascinates me. Absolutely. I've never had any plans of writing a supernatural novel for adults. I write what I write and I don't look beyond that and say "What should I be writing?"

CM: You also seem to be happy to write about the real places you've been. There's no ambiguity about you're setting in The Mystery of the Missing Will: it's a rural community outside of Saskatoon; it's not some place that could be in middle America. . . .

Mayer: Yeah, that's really important to me. As I was saying, I grew up believing that nothing could ever happen here, and it's important to me that when kids pick up books that they recognize their own home place, that they recognize those things that are Canadian.

It's getting better, but we have had a problem in this country in recognising that our own lifestyle, our own settings have value. And when we don't have our stories in our schools we're continuing that little nightmare of telling our kids that they're not worthy either. So I don't have any doubts about putting my stories in very specifically Canadian places, and I'm happy to do it.

CM: It seems that we deprive our kids when we don't invest the landscape they live in with the possibilities of romance and adventure.

Mayer: And adventure is there; I tell my kids about my childhood and I tell them about going through old houses, and going through graveyards at midnight, and they say, "Wow, I could neveranything exciting, and yet I look at their lives and I see the exciting things they're doing -- because they're living in a rural setting -- and they don't realize it yet, but I think they'll appreciate it more when they think back. . . .

CM: There's some question whether there's too much horror and supernatural fiction being published for kids these days; what are your thoughts?

Mayer: Well, there's a lot of well-written stuff out there --

But the problem isn't so much that there's an overload of the subject matter, as there is a corporate machine that's producing this mass of literature on supernatural themes. I don't think we have a problem of too many writers dealing with these subjects; we have a problem with too many corporations selling product disguised as books. . . .

CM: This might be a touchy subject, but you were living in Martensville, writing supernatural mysteries, at the same time the town was going through a nightmarish legal case relating to Satanic cults and who knows what else. Did that impinge on your imagination? Was it something that you ignored, or something that affected your writing?

Mayer: It didn't affect my writing, and I didn't have time to spend a lot of time on it, because I had two small children who were growing up in this insane series of events. And as a parent, I really had to focus so much attention on their not being damaged by what was happening, that my writing was irrelevant.

And maybe that was lucky, because I wonder if I'd given it any thought when I was living in the midst of that, if it wouldn't have made me nervous writing about the subjects. If it wouldn't have given me a block about what I was writing, and made me very cautious not to get lumped into all of that craziness.

But simply because I was a mother, that was my primary role; being a writer was so secondary that there wasn't time to get caught up thinking about it. There were so many issues to deal with the kids, and so many talks that needed to happen. The parents only heard what was in the newspapers, but the kids heard a lot more. So every day you had to deal with something else. . . .

It was very traumatic, I think for the whole country. In a one-year period, I travelled to Toronto, P.E.I., Manitoba, and all over Saskatchewan and Alberta. And it didn't matter where I went, when I was introduced as someone from Martensville, you could see a ripple go through the crowd. . . .

CM: In general, do you like the business of going around and doing your readings and promoting your books or is it just a necessary chore?

Mayer: Oh, absolutely not. I love telling stories, and the bigger the audience, the happier I am. I love telling ghost stories. I like the audience response to that. Doing a reading is sort of like sitting around the campfire with a bunch of your friends and their kids and trying to scare everybody.

That's what it is for me, and then I get that feedback from the kids about my books -- they have a lot of questions about how I write, or why, or what they really liked about the book. And that gives me the things I need to look at as a writer, and I go home and keep those things in mind while I'm writing. I love that part of it. I wouldn't want to do it month after month, but I love it.

CM: That sounds tremendously rewarding.

Mayer: Yeah, it is. It's the best part.

CM: Tell me about your job with the Saskatchewan Writer's Guild.

Mayer: I work as the Education Officer. It's actually close to what I'm doing right now as a writer; my job is to promote Saskatchewan and Canadian Literature. Our biggest challenge in Saskatchewan is encouraging the use of Saskatchewan books in the curriculum list. The schools are really supportive of the guild program as far as having readings and workshops -- there's about 250 sponsored through the guild, and then of course there are other writers doing it independently. We look at different ways of promoting the literature in the schools, whether it's by giving them information about the writers so they can do novel studies, or even information about how to get the books -- giving ISBN numbers, anything we can do to make it easy for them to use the literature.

CM: Have you written other mysteries since The Mystery of the Missing Will?

Mayer: The third mystery was Suspicion Island. I have written other novels -- one's set in Egypt, one's set down in the 'States. I was interested in the stories while I was writing them, but I don't really have an interest in publishing them, so I've sort of left them on the shelf. And now I'm concentrating strictly on When Eagles Dance.

CM: Would you talk about that project a little?

Mayer: I met the man who's now my husband three years ago at an elders' gathering. And at that time we just started telling each stories -- we're both real storytellers. And over a period of about six months, just as friends, we started talking about writing a short-story collection.

I grew up in this small town in Saskatchewan, and he grew up in Red Pheasant reserve by North Battleford, so there were only a hundred miles between us, and yet our lives and the way we grew up were so totally different.

We decided to write back-to-back stories -- I would write a story about my first day at school, what it was like my first date, you know all of those experiences of childhood, and he was going to write them about his, and we'd just put them together that way. But we did it through fictionalized characters, and the main character of his stories became so powerful that it just whited out the stories that I was telling. So we decided to switch tracks and work on a novel. The whole process has taken two years, but now we're down to the final edit.

It's been really fascinating. And then we got married in the middle of the book, in April of last year.

CM: What a great way to get to know someone. . . .

Mayer: It's been interesting. And I've learned an awful lot about his culture, not only through the exchange of stories, but we've spent a lot of time on the reserve, and I've learned a lot about his spirituality.

Even sweat-lodges: I didn't know what they were, I'd never heard of them, and then to suddenly be in one and experiencing that -- it's been really great. To have grown up so close to it and have no awareness, it's sort of startling when I think about it. . . .

A review of The Mystery of the Missing Will is reprinted in this issue of CM


Notable Web Sites

Every week, CM presents a brief collection of noteworthy, useful, or just interesting sites
we've turned up and actually checked.

Please send us URLs and evaluations of any web-sites you think deserve the exposure.

WARNING: Many web sites have annoying blinking text.

The Castles of Wales

Wales has more cool castles than anywhere else in the world (just one benefit of centuries of medieval oppression). This site is a little slow because of the plethora of great pictures, but it covers the history and background of the castles and their builders in some depth. A great resource for units in history, geography, or archaeology. Plus, where else will you find The Castle of the Month? (For February, it's Criccieth Castle).

Canadian Hockey

All right, we've lost the Nordiques and the Jets, and legions of talented young players are now condemned to wearing a duck on their jerseys. But Canadian Hockey is here to preserve and promote our national game at all levels. A great resource for anyone interested in coaching. If all you care about is the big leagues, try The NHL OPEN NET at

Welcome to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I'm confused as to why so many museum sites use a map interface . . . you see a building plan, and little letters, and then you have to look up in the key what clicking on the letters will do... On the other hand, this does give you an introduction and some attractive images from the Met's collection:

"The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest and finest art museums in the world. Its collections include more than two million works of art -- several hundred thousand of which are on view at any given time -- spanning more than 5,000 years of world culture..."

The WebMuseum

An excellent virtual museum, light on the dopey interface and heavy on actual information and images. Currently they have special exhibitions of Cézanne and medieval art...

A Gallery of Interactive On-Line Geometry

A serious but fun interactive site. Here's a sample project:

"How are rainbows formed? Why do they only occur when the sun is behind the observer? If the sun is low on the horizon, at what angle in the sky should we expect to see a rainbow? This laboratory, developed as part of the University of Minnesota Calculus Initiative, helps to answer these and other questions by examining a mathematical model of light passing through a water droplet."


NewsWave Canada Spring 1996
Call for Participation

You are invited to participate in our international, multidisciplinary, student telecommunications project! JOIN US on the Internet at St. Elizabeth School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada as we celebrate Earth Day, April 22, 1996 with schools in every province and territory, through our very own, student-run national news service!


NewsWave Canada (Spring 1996) :a forum for students of all ages across Canada and the world

through online dialogue and the publishing of student-created news letters and news magazines both in print and on the World Wide Web.

THEME (Spring 1996):

Greening the 90's: Environmental Issues and You

Anytime two or more people disagree, you have an issue. If everyone agreed on how to treat our earth, we would not have any environmental issues. However, different people have different uses, dependencies, and needs for the earth. These needs and values are often a source of disagreement.

What is the biggest environmental problem facing your community, country, world? What are the environmental issues people are most concerned about?
  • Air pollution?
  • Water pollution?
  • Population growth?
  • Hazardous waste?
  • Solid Waste/ recycling?
  • Land use?
  • Preserving open space?
  • Global warming?
  • Endangered species?
  • Acid rain?
  • Rain forest loss?
  • Energy consumption?

What are we as individuals doing about it? How are schools contributing? What environmental action are youth around the world undertaking to make a difference for the future of the planet? How are governments trying to face these issues especially in these lean times?

Research an issue either locally or globally. Make an action plan. Make a pledge. Share your findings through news articles, poetry, pictures, word games or puzzles. Be creative !


March 15, 1996 - June 5, 1996
(Registration deadline: Monday, March 15, 1996)

Modes of Participation


All classes participating in this project MUST have access to e-mail. E-mail will be the main means of communication among the participants.


Schools having access to Gopher and WWW will have more resources available to them to use the Internet as a research tool. Our home page will provide many links to environmental sites.


The administration of NewsWave Canada will initially be in English, but French-language participation and articles are welcomed.


Writing, Language, Research Skills, Science, Geography, Media Literacy, Social Sciences, Environmental Studies, the Arts


Grades 4 to 12 . Inter-grade participation is encouraged as material will appeal to all age levels.


10-30 classes ( minimum 10)


To develop and apply students' skills in information technology, research and writing, through the medium of Internet communications and publishing on contemporary, real-world topics

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  1. use a variety of technologies to develop skills in information
    retrieval and analysis, word processing and desktop publishing
  2. develop skills in research, problem solving, planning, time management,
    interviewing, writing, editing, revising, proofreading and publishing
  3. work cooperatively and effectively with others
  4. use telecommunications: e-mail, terminal software commands, uploading,
    downloading, Gopher, netiquette and WWW
  5. learn how geography and cultural forces lead to diverse perspectives


In order to participate you must agree to do the following:
  1. Register by completing the form below and e-mailing it to the coordinator ( by the registration deadline.
  2. Keep to the time line in sending HELLO LETTER and 5 NEWS ARTICLES (other classes are counting on you)
  3. Participate in online discussions (YOUTHSPEAK)
  4. Send a hard copy of your newspaper/newsletter to each participating class and to the Coordinator by snail mail.


Send a separate registration for each class participating. This information will be forwarded to all participants at the start of the project.
E-mail address -
with Subject: Register- NewsWave
Name of contact:_____________________ 
e-mail address:________________________
School: ____________________________
School address:_________________________
School phone:_______________________
Grade(s) :_____________________  
Subject(s): _________________________ 
Access to gopher:  YES_____   NO____
Access to WWW:  YES_____   NO___
URL of homepage if applicable
Description of type of school/community ( in 5 lines or less)



Register for the project by filling out provided form and mailing it to:

( DEADLINE for registration is FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 1996)

The students compose a HELLO LETTER introducing themselves to the other participants.
Do not send the HELLO LETTER before MARCH 25th.
The HELLO LETTER should include:
  • Name of School:
  • Location: (town, city, country)
  • Grade/Age of students:
  • Description: (in 200 words or less describe your community/class )
Teachers introduce the newspaper unit, plan and organize curricular topics to be covered.


Official list of participants is sent out. Locate NewsWave participants by using latitude and longitude provided
E-mail your HELLO LETTER to the list.


Research and write your articles.
Choose the 5 BEST articles that will be uploaded to the NewsWave list by MAY 3 AT THE LASTEST
Use the WWW (if available) to access resources.
Plan your newspaper, organize work teams, collect graphics.

APRIL 22-26 EARTH DAY in the Schools

During this week participants will celebrate "EARTH DAY" by participating in online dialogue (YOUTHSPEAK) via the NewsWave listserver. A series of discussion topics for students, covering environmental issues, will be posted to focus participants' thinking and analysis. Actual topics to be decided as the project unfolds.


DEADLINE for uploading newspaper articles to the list.
Send each article in a separate message with the NAME of the school and ARTICLE NUMBER in the subject line, eg. ST. ELIZABETH #1. Make sure that each article is identified with:
Name of author, age, school, city, province and teacher.

APRIL 26 - MAY 31

Create your newspaper by incorporating articles written by your class and those from participating schools. Try to include at least one article from each participating school. Publish your newspaper.
The students at St. Elizabeth's School will use the uploaded articles to create NewsWave Canada on the WWW.


Last day to mail (snail) a copy of your printed newspaper to each participating class as well as the coordinator.
Celebrate World Environment Day


In NewsWave Canada students across the country write news articles and upload them to the NewsWave listserver mounted on Canada's SchoolNet to create their own electronic "wire service". Each participating class then chooses what materials to download in order to publish its own news magazine or newsletter. Hard copies of publications are shared among the participating classes by snail mail.

World Wide Web

The students at St. Elizabeth School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada use the uploaded articles to create, manage and publish NewsWave Canada electronically on the WWW for the whole world to see.

YOUTHSPEAK: Online Student Discussions

In all Special Editions of NewsWave, registered participants engage in online discussions via the NewsWave listserver (provided through Canada's SchoolNet). During the week of April 22-26, 1996, classes will celebrate "Earth Day" by participating in online dialogue via the NewsWave listserver. A series of discussion topics for students, dealing with environmental issues, will be posted to focus participants' thinking and analysis. (We call this discussion area YOUTHSPEAK).
Students participating in this multidimensional project not only become researchers and analysts, but also writers and publishers. Students develop skills needed in the information age. Through the use of technology they gather, analyze, process and communicate information dealing with contemporary issues in the real world.

Project Coordinator:

Dalia Naujokaitis
St. Elizabeth Catholic School
893 Admiral Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario CANADA K1Z 6L6
Telephone: (613) 728-4744
E-mail (personal):
Class e-mail:


Freedom to Read Week

In announcing the 12th annual Freedom to Read Week, February 26 - March 3, 1996, the members of the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee reaffirmed their support for intellectual freedom, guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Freedom of Expressions Committee acknowledged the ongoing commitment of Canadian writers, publishers, librarians, educators, and booksellers to support intellectual freedom, and committed themselves to vigilance.

Books and magazines are banned at the border. Books are removed from the shelves in Canadian libraries, schools, and bookstores every day. Few of these stories make headlines, but they affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read.

The Freedom of Expression Committee produces the Freedom to Read Week Kit. The 1996 Kit contains all new material, activities for school, library, and a new Freedom to read Week poster.


Freedom to Read Kit Order Form (ISBN 0-9692164-6-7)

Kits may be ordered directly from the Bookand Periodical Council, prepaid, at $10.00 plus $2.00 postage and handling, plus $.84 GST. Total $12.84. Orders for ten kits or more, shipped to a single address, receive a 20% discount and may be accompanied by a purchase order. Mail your completed form to:

Freedom to Read Kit
Book and Periodical Council
35 Spadina Road
Toronto, ON M5R 2S9
Phone (416) 975-9366
Fax (416) 975-1839



City:______________________Province:_________Postal Code:_______

Please send me_____Kit(s) at $10.00 plus $2.00 postage and handling plus $.84 GST (total $12.84) each. My cheque/money order is enclosed.

Please send me 10 or ____kits at $8.00 each plus $10.00 postage and handling plus GST.
Purchase Order #________________

Please make cheques or money orders payable to the Book and Periodical Council.
GST No. R106801889

Duncan Thornton

Executive Assistant
Peter Tittenberger

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

Book Reviews by Author
Book Reviews by Title
Audio/Video/CD-ROM Reviews by Title
Volume 2 Index