I think Diakiw's reflections will strike a chord with many CM readers; they did with me, despite the difference in our age and background.
But "Reflections" is meant to be a reader's space. If you'd like to share your thoughts on any topic that relates to our audience, please send a note to the address beneath my name.
-- Duncan Thornton firstname.lastname@example.org
Edith Newlin Chase. Illustrated by Yolaine Lefebvre.
Richmond Hill, ON: North Winds Press, 1996. 32pp, cloth, $15.99.
Preschool - Grade 3 / Ages 4 - 8.
Review by Janice Foster.
When the first thin light comes creeping
Up the early edge of day,
And the household is still sleeping,
Then I dress and slip away
To the place that I am keeping
For my secret hideaway.
SECRET DAWN is Edith Newlin Chase's third poem published as a picture book. It joins her much-loved picture books The New Baby Calf and Waters. The appealing verse vividly describes a child's secret place -- a special hideaway -- where, in the tranquillity of the early morning, she can think and write in peace. Canadian illustrator Yolaine Lefebvre captures the beauty of the dawn, with its shadows and mystery, in her watercolour illustrations.
The subject of Secret Dawn is near and dear to any child: a private to dream and delight. Awakening as dawn breaks, a young girl slips outside to her secret hideaway, the willow tree. In the stillness of the morning, she experiences the mystery of her "shadowy shrine." Exploring her box of treasures, she finds her notebook and a pencil stub to record: "The secret thoughts and secret rhymes/That I think to myself and write sometimes."
Secret Dawn is a book that encourages children to dream and adults to reminisce. Chase's lyrical verse conjures magic and will introduce children to the use of words for painting visual and mental images: "Like a leafy mammoth pillow/In the dim delight of dawn"
The double-page spread illustrations also effectively evoke the ethereal atmosphere of a child's secret place. Lefebvre's "wet-on-wet" technique and wonderful choice of colour provide a dreamy effect and nestle the reader within the privacy of the willow's branches. Even the end papers help set the mood. (An explanation of Lefebvre's technique provides valuable information for readers interested in learning more about illustration.)
Secret Dawn introduces the young reader to the magic of poetry. The text and illustrations cohesively convey a secret hideaway and the dreaminess of the early dawn. Together, they invite readers to stop and dream about a special place and a secret pastime.
Recommended for personal and library collections.
Janice Foster is currently a teacher-librarian/enrichment coordinator
in the Fort Garry School Division in Winnipeg.
Sylvia McNicoll. Illustrated by Susan Gardos.
Richmond Hill: Scholastic Canada, 1996. 96pp, paper, $4.50.
Grades 2 - 4 / Ages 7 - 9.
Review by A. Edwardsson.
Over behind first base, I saw Robin standing on her hands as easily as if they were her feet. She grinned upside down. She thought I was an easy out.
"Oh, yeah, you stupid Rotten Apple? Just for that, I'm going to line drive the ball right past your nose," I yelled.
Marc gave me a thumbs-up sign. He pitched and I kept my eye on the ball. All my angry feelings went into my swing. CRACK! The ball turned into a bullet heading straight for Robin.
"Don't catch it, don't catch it," I said with each step as I ran. First base -- I didn't dare look Robin's way, just in case. Second base, third base.
Nobody cheered as I dashed across home plate. Maybe Robin had caught the ball after all. I kept my head down because I didn't want to know.
But no one cheered for her, either. Our class was never this quiet! Robin must have missed the ball for once in her life. I looked up."What happened?" I asked. But in a squishy place inside, I knew.
POOR NEIL. Robin Apple is his grade-three rival, and she always seems to come out on top. He can't wait for baseball to start in gym class, since that's his specialty. When Robin's up at bat, Neil instructs his team to move in since "girls can't hit that far." Unfortunately for him, Rotten Apple (as he nicknames her) is also great out on the field. The ball sails over his head and Robin makes a home run. She also catches Neil's high fly hit later in the same game.
The teacher groups Neil and his friend Marc with Robin for a science project. They're each given a snail which they house together in an altered pop bottle. The three decide to race their new pets on a desk, and again Robin wins.
The next time the class plays ball, Neil breaks Robin's nose with his line drive. The teacher instructs the students to go back to the room and work on their snail project while she takes Robin off the field to call the girl's mother. Marc convinces Neil to race the three snails again, but Robin's pet falls off the desk when the boys are momentarily distracted: "In a panic, I made a quick grab for him. It was a quick HARD grab. I felt Curly's shell crack between my fingers." Marc convinces Neil to just put the snail back in the bottle, where it remains motionless.
Neil is racked with guilt, and on his mom's suggestion goes to Robin's house to visit her and take her some batting tokens. However, at the batting cages with Neil, and on the field with the class, Robin has become too afraid of the ball to play well.
Author Sylvia McNicoll (Bringing up Beauty) has created believable characters and an engaging story. Neil is no saint, but we watch him grow. He uses his allowance to buy five tokens, but plans to give only three to Robin. After he sees how terrible she looks and how unhappy she is, "I fingered the three tokens in my hand as I stretched out my arm to give them to her. They didn't seem enough." He digs out the other two.
The book sensitively addresses stereotyping and the issue of competitiveness. The subtle humour and school setting should appeal to young readers of either gender. The print is clear and easy to read, and the realistic pencil illustrations by Susan Gardos greatly enhance the story. The colour cover artwork is particularly catchy.
In the end, Curly the snail survives, and (after the two practice together), Neil is as elated as Robin is when she overcomes her fear:
CLUP! I love the sound of a softball hitting a glove. It's smooth and soft and makes you feel powerful. Especially when the ball's in YOUR glove. Or your friend's.
This title in Scholastic's "Shooting Star" series would be an excellent addition for school, public or home libraries.
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.
James Willard Schultz.
Saskatoon, SK: Fifth House, 1995. 136pp, paper, $6.95.
Grades 4 - 6 / Ages 8 - 12.
Review by Alison Mews.
The men who surrounded us were tall and powerfully built. For what seemed to me an endless time, they sat silently staring, and noting every detail of our outfit. There was something ominous in their behavior; there came to me an almost uncontrollable impulse to make a move of some kind. It was their leader who broke the suspense, "In-is-saht!" (Dismount!) he commanded, in Blackfoot, and we reluctantly obeyed.
At that they all got off their horses, and then at word from the chief, each crowding and pushing to be first, they stripped us of everything we had. One man got my rifle; another the ammunition; another snatched off my belt, with its knife, and the little pouch containing flint, steel, and punk, while the chief and another, who seemed to be a great warrior, seized the ropes of our horses. And there we were, stripped of everything that we possessed except the clothes we stood in.
At that the chief broke out laughing, and so did the rest. Finally, commanding silence, he said to us, in very poor Blackfoot:-
"As you are only boys, we will not kill you. Return to your chief, and tell him that we keep our beaver for ourselves, just as the plains people keep the buffalo for themselves. Now go."
There was nothing to do but obey him, and we started. One man followed us a few steps, and struck Pitamakan several blows across the back with his whip. At that my friend broke out crying; not because of the pain, but because of the terrible humiliation. To be struck by any one was the greatest of all insults; and my friend was powerless to resist it.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1912, this story is set in the American mid-west during pioneer times. In 1856, when Thomas was thirteen, his parents died of smallpox, and he left St. Louis for the Missouri wilderness to live with his fur-trading uncle. He befriended a Blackfoot boy named Pitamakan and was allowed to go hunting with him and his band. One day, when they were trapping beaver, Thomas and Pitamakan veered off into Kootenay territory and were surprised by hostile Kootenays, who stole their horses, furs, and survival gear and left them with just the clothes on their backs (see excerpt above). This is the basis for the rest of this endurance tale as the two boys, armed only with Pitamakan's Indian know-how, fend for themselves through the winter and make their way back home.
Although they have many harrowing escapes, the sheer wordiness of the telling distances the reader and brings the excitement level down. Based on actual experiences of the author's youth, the story reads more like a reminiscence for adults than a piece of fiction for young people. The detailed explanations of hunting techniques, skinning and tanning hides, constructing shelter, and so on seem like a how-to on wilderness survival rather than an integral part of the story. This is especially true when Schultz interrupts the descriptions with asides such as: "It is commonly believed that the Indians used the leg tendons of animals for bow-cords . . . , but this is a mistake, the only ones they took were the back sinews." And further, on the same page: ". . . those of a buffalo bull, for instance, are nearly three feet long, three or four inches wide . . ."
In all, the dated writing style will mean this adventure story will appeal to a limited audience among today's readers.
Recommended with reservations.
Alison Mews is Coordinator at the Centre for Instructional Services at the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 1995. Unpaginated, boards, $24.95.
Grades 4 and Up / Ages 8 to Adult.
Review by Lorraine Douglas.
Filippo's plan for the dome was in fact two domes: one inside the other. Both domes were built with interlocking brickwork called herringbone. This type of brickwork made the domes self-supporting so that there was no need for centering.
POP-UP ENTHUSIASTS will love this three-dimensional look at the life of a man who charged the history of architecture. Brunelleschi lived in Florence as an apprentice goldsmith and sculptor. In 1401 he entered the famous competition to design the Baptistry doors. Brunelleschi and Ghiberti were chosen as the winners. But Filippo turned the commission and decided to work in architecture.
Michael Bender's text relates Brunelleschi's accomplishments in a casual and readable style, accompanied by many black-and-white and colour illustrations.
Bender explains Brunelleschi's development of a theory of perspective, and even young readers could easily follow the rules for one-point perspective and draw their own buildings. Brunelleschi's major feat -- the design for the dome of the Cathedral of Florence -- is explained through a lift-the-flap structure that reveals the ribs and wooden beams that held the dome together. The pop-ups are beautifully designed and executed, especially the two most dramatic: a theatre, and a citadel that towers above the page.
An informative and entertaining book with an appealing approach.
Lorraine Douglas is Youth Services Coordinator for the Winnipeg Public Library.
Toronto: Second Story Press, 1995. 191pp, paper, $6.95.
Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
Review by Sara Brodie.
"What did you get for Christmas, Mollie?" Betty shouts through the cold moist air floating from her mouth in a lingering, puffy cloud.
THAT question again. My heart sinks.
"I didn't get anything," I answer in a voice meant to curry sympathy and at the same time to ward off further questions.
"Remember? I explained this last year. We don't believe in Jesus. Don't you remember?" I can't stand the thought of reviewing it again. Why are some differences so difficult to grasp?
THIS COMING-OF-AGE novel by Sharon Kirsh takes place in the sixties, the setting a small coastal city one assumes is Halifax (due to the descriptions of the ice-free harbour, the small Jewish community, and the city's two synagogues, one Orthodox and one Conservative.)
The story's main character, Mollie, is forced to examine what it means to be Jewish. A friend announces that Mollie, unlike herself, is lucky because she doesn't "look very Jewish," and this brings Mollie to consider, for the first time it seems, how different she is from most people in her community. She also realizes that many associate being different with being strange. But it's a different event that really forces Mollie to reexamine the cultural differences that exist around her: Mollie attends a youth group meeting at the synagogue where they show a film about the Holocaust.
Apparently Mollie has been sheltered from knowledge of the horrors associated with the Second World War. When she learns that millions of Jews were killed, she reacts with shock and disbelief. Her family provides only a few words of comfort, and Mollie is left feeling alone, confused, and alienated. And just when Mollie needs support and reassurance, her best friend Naomi has suddenly become preoccupied with events in her own life and has neither time nor words of consolation. Mollie does have the support of another friend, Elizabeth Ann (Mollie's "link to the Christian world"), who insists that though there are cultural differences, those differences will never affect their friendship. But other neighbourhood children think differently, and plague Mollie's family with anti-Semitic name-calling and acts of vandalism.
Kirsh's novel is occasionally too wordy for a young adult audience, and not written in an adolescent vernacular. And Mollie's naivete is sometimes unbelievable. At times she appears childlike and unaware of what goes on around her; at others she seems mature beyond her years. But that may just be a symptom of growing up -- Mollie herself admits that she sometimes feels "like a stranger" in her own body, one day feeling all grown up, and the next acting like an innocent child.
Despite some flaws, Fitting In does a good job of examining the true meaning of friendship and the sensitive issues surrounding cultural and religious tolerance -- important themes for young people growing up in Canada's cultural mosaic to consider. I applaud Sharon Kirsh for bringing these difficult issues to light.
Sara Brodie presently works for Dalhousie University Libraries in Halifax. She has recently returned from New York where she worked for the Brooklyn Public Library.
Fitting In was reviewed by classes across Canada as part of the Collaborative Book Review Project. You can read the students' reviews at the Collaborative Book Review Project site.
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour, 1996. 275pp, paper, $17.95.
Grades 8 and Up / Ages 14 to Adult.
Review by Bob Haxton.
B.C.'S THIRD OUTLET to the sea, the Bella Coola/Chilcotin Road, traverses an area the size of Belgium and Holland put together. An area that even now is sparsely populated. There are still no supermarkets or fast-food chains west of William's Lake. This is the story of that road and the people who have lived along it.
These are people who deal with hardship with not only fortitude and ingenuity, but exuberance. Here are stories of gala balls that people drove fifty miles to attend; of a huge hotel with chandeliers hanging from its twelve-foot ceilings, but no indoor plumbing, built in order to get a liquor license. Stories of monkeywrenchers, mudpuppies, and polo players; of resourceful individualists and the impossible, almost impassable, mountain road that was their communication line. And here also are glimpses of the racism inherent in the government policy of the day.
In 1951, Diana French arrived in Chezacut, twenty miles off the Chilcotin Road, to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. She married Bob French, the son of Chilcotin pioneers, and moved to Williams Lake in 1970. She has worked as a reporter and editor, and is currently curator of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. This background is reflected in the book; she knows what she is writing about, and she writes about it well.
A map of the area is reproduced on the inside front and back covers, and the text is interspersed with interesting black-and-white photos gleaned from private collections and the provincial archives. The bibliography reflects the research that gives the book its authentic flavour; along with an extensive list of books and newspaper articles, it includes many interviews and several unpublished archival sources.
I was captivated by the world that French has re-created, but for high-school students to be similarly captivated the stories would have to be given to them piece-meal, in the context of a descriptive lesson about the area. The Road Runs West gives a human face to history -- an important part of understanding ourselves. Maybe, in the context of a creative cooperative teaching unit, this and a number of similar works would come into their own and breathe some life into Canadian history.
Recommended with reservations.
Bob Haxton is a teacher-librarian at Prince of Wales Secondary School in Vancouver.
I had arrived early in Toronto for a meeting in the east end of city. Although I had not planned it, I visited the Kew Beach Library to search out a magazine article. I had lived in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto in the 'forties and early 'fifties. The library had been an important part of my life. Through my visit I learned just how much it had shaped my world.
My Ukrainian parents never learned to read or write in English and there were never any books or newspapers in our home. As a young boy I spent hundreds of hours in the children's section of the Kew Beach Library with its beautiful old fireplace. It is a lovely tudor-style building covered in ivy, nestled on the edge of a wooded park of majestic old oaks. I don't recall how I discovered this quiet haven or the treasures that could be found there, but I frequented it weekly and I borrowed hundreds of books. I'm sure I read everything in the place.
I remember the pride I felt, like being a member of a select club, when the children's librarian made a visit to my class in nearby Williamson Road Public School to promote the use of the library. When she saw me she beamed and exclaimed to the class, resting her hand on my shoulder, "Now here is someone who is always in our library."
After I found the source of my article in the adult section I walked down the stairs to the children's library. Before I hit the bottom stair I began to feel a strange, overwhelming sensation. I took one look at this tiny room with its classical, oversized fireplace and broke uncontrollably into tears. I remember it as a cavernous room with row upon row of bookshelves. It was almost fifty years since my identity had been shaped by the children's books in that room. I was shocked by the emotional power of the experience and the eruption of memories of family and friends from that neighbourhood.
For most of my career as a high-school geography teacher, principal, and school superintendent, children's literature played no role in my life. But in the last decade or so I have returned to it with a passion. As a superintendent I became a strong advocate for a children's literature approach to curriculum. (I read a picture book aloud at nearly every principals' meeting.) I'm sure those memories of the captivating stories I read at the kitchen table after a return in the dark from the library, while my mother prepared dinner listening to Don Messer's Jubilee on CKEY radio, all had something to do with this renewed love of children's books.
But more than that, it was in that little room that the roots of my literacy were grounded. As the son of "peasant" immigrant Ukrainian parents, it was in the library where I learned the power of story and the importance of reading and writing. It was through reading the adventure stories of early life in North America that I first became enthraled with the raw beauty and majesty of this country, excited by the Native Canadians, adventurers, and pioneers who forged this nation. These stories were certainly not accessible to me in the classroom. The curriculum of the day consisted primarily of British culture and literature. Boring skill and drill lessons prevailed and memorizing the kings and queens of England is one of my agonizing memories.
It was in the sanctuary of the Kew Beach Children's Library where I learned a love for literature, and in particular for children's literature, and it is where my emerging Canadian identity was crystallized.
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.
Of course, kids can submit their own questions.
There is information on all eight bear species including grizzlies, pandas, polar bears, black bears, asiatic black bears, sun bears, spectacled bears and sloth bears. It is a great resource for teachers and students doing projects related to bears and the conservation of animals.Ten facts about bears, Amazing facts about bears, etc. And he is " prepared to respond to e-mail questions from students in order to create an interactive experience." Worth it just for the roaring-bear sound-clip.
This virtual tour is very much a Vatican endeavour, but you don't to worry about viewing hours, or, in fact, being in Rome.
"Yo I just read sophies world has anyone else read this?"Sports, computers, entertainment, by and for youth. Clearly still sponsored by Apple, but not obnoxiously commercial.
Submitted by Mickey Lasky, this is a picture of Mickey's cat, Vree, attempting to play the Magic: The Gathering card game.A truly stupid photo. Readers can submit their own stupid photos. If selected, they will be eligible to add a "Proud owners of a certifiably STUPID PET!" icon to their own web pages.
Also includes a stupid pet screen-saver for windows...
Stories may be written in English or French, and can be submitted individually or as a class. Only one entry per person, please (up to five poems).
Be sure that all necessary information is included with each entry (name, age, telephone number, grade level, address, school name, etc.) and that entries are double spaced and legible.The deadline is June 30, 1996.
There will be up to eighty-five prizes given out to participants, and the winning entries will be printed in an anthology.
English entries are mailed to:
The Canadian Children's Book Centre
25 Spadina Road
Be sure that copies are made of the children's writing pieces as entries will not be returned.
Call 1 (800) 5-IWRITE for further information.
Applications for one-hour readings during Children's Book Week at schools and public libraries are now being accepted. Preference will be given to members of the Canadian Children's Book Centre, as well as on a first-come, first-served basis. Every attempt will be made to include as many areas of Manitoba as possible. Schools and libraries in rurul and northern Manitoba are encouraged to apply. Reading fees will likely be the same as in previous years ($50 per reading for schools; public libraries to share the cost of meals and accomodations on the day of their reading, no reading fee).
Book Week applications and further information may be obtained by phoning Cheryl Archer, Manitoba Officer for the CCBC, at 667-7032 (please leave mailing information on her answering service), or by faxing Cheryl at 668-1611, or by mail:
The Canadian Children's Book Centre
130 Oakview Ave.
Application deadline for Children's Book Week Readings is June 15, 1996.
Author/Illustrator Requested: ____________________________________ 2nd Choice: ____________________________________ Preferred number of readings: _____ Preferred date of reading: 1. ________ 2. ________ 3. ________ Preferred time of reading: 1. ________ 2. ________ 3. ________ Contact person/host: ______________________ Position: ____________ Name of Institution: _____________________________________________ Address: _________________________________________________________ Town/City: ____________________________ Postal Code: _____________ Telephone: ____________________________ Fax: _____________________ Outline of program in which author/illustrator will appear: __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ Number of children attending: ________ Grade Level: ________ What media coverage do you plan? _________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ Are you a member of the Canadian Children's Book Centre? _________
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
The Manitoba Library Association
WELCOME | BOOK REVIEWS BY AUTHOR | BOOK REVIEWS BY TITLE
AUDIO/VIDEO/CD-ROM REVIEWS | VOLUME II INDEX | SEARCH