CM June 7, 1996. Vol II, Number 34

Table of Contents

Book Reviews

CDNToo Many Suns.
Julie Lawson. Illustrated by Martin Springett.
Review by Diane Fitzgerald.
Grades K - 6 / Ages 5 - 10.

CDNLong Long Ago.
Robin Skelton. Illustrated by Pamela Breeze Currie.
Review by Ian Stewart.
Grades 1 - 3 / Ages 5 - 8.

CDNTen Ways to Tighten Your Prose:
    A Systematic Approach to Improvement.
Susan Ioannou.
Review by T.S. Causabon.
Grades 10 and Up / Ages 14 to Adult.

    Resource-Based Units Cooperatively Planned by Teacher-Librarians and Teachers.
Edited by Linda Knight.
Review by Gail Lennon.

Video Reviews

    Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak.
Written and Directed by Joanne Culley.
Review by Gail Lennon.
All ages.


 The Great Canadian Trivia Contest

 The Little Math Puzzle


 SchoolNet Needs Your Help!

image Too Many Suns.

Julie Lawson. Illustrated by Martin Springett.
Toronto: Stoddart, 1996. 32pp, cloth, $19.95.
ISBN: 0-7737-2897-X.

Grades K - 6 / Ages 5 - 10.
Review by Diane Fitzgerald.



    Beyond the Eastern Ocean at the far end of the world, lived a different family, a family of ten suns. These ten suns, from Largest Sun to Smallest Sun, roosted in a giant mulberry tree whose branches scraped the heavens. Every morning, one sun would rise and sail across the sky to the Western Sea. There, he would paint a sunset, splash through the sea to renew his brightness, and return to his home in the East. The next day a different sun would light the world.

CHINESE MYTHOLOGY has more than one version of the "ten suns" story. Award-winning author Julie Lawson (The Dragon's Pearl and Kate's Castle) has combined aspects of different versions with a more earthly story of her own devising, about a farm with ten brothers. (One guesses the idea was suggested by son and sun being homonyms -- which makes the project interesting; a Chinese tale born from an English pun.)

Image    Both life on the farm and life in the heavens follow unchanging patterns. The youngest in both families yearn for change -- the earthly Youngest Brother because he wants to paint sunsets, the celestial Smallest Sun because he knows his light is more golden, his sunsets more beautiful than those of his brothers. But both restrain themselves. "Better to learn patience," the Smallest Sun sighs, "than to upset the way of things." As it turns out, it is the Largest Sun who breaks tradition:

    "Why do we have to take turns?" asked the Largest Sun. "I hate spending nine days roosting like a bird in a tree."

The older Suns decide that they will stop taking turns and all rise together. Only Smallest Sun is doubtful:

    . . . "I don't like taking turns either, but isn't that the way of things?"
    His brothers refused to answer.

    Of course the presence of ten suns at once is disastrous for Earth -- "Rice plants shrivelled, streams ran dry." Ultimately the Jade Emperor sends Li, the Immortal Archer, to shoot the suns from the sky. Li succeeds, and is at the point of shooting down the last sun (the Smallest Sun), when the Youngest Brother summons his courage and tugs at the Immortal Archer's robe to plea "Please! Leave us one sun."

    Lawson's blend of invention and mythology is seamless, and holds reverence for tradition and individual aspiration in a nice balance. We may lose the story of the farming brothers slightly in the excitement of the celestial drama, but by and large the parallels work and make a thematic whole. The story has the fascination of Chinese mythology and is both simple and intriguing. And children like stories where the smallest or youngest triumph.

    Governor General's Award-nominee Martin Springett (Mei Ming and the Dragon's Daughter and The Wise Old Woman) gives his illustrations a Chinese flavour, stylizing his figures and landscapes without denying them individuality.

    The design of the book is extraordinarily good. Full-page illustrations face the text, which is set on pages with identical frames (a runner of stylized blue and orange clouds, and a great looming sun). The repeated design gives unity and suits the story, but the bottom of each text page also contains a narrow panel with another illustration, often balancing the facing full-page picture (if one is of celestial events, the other might show the farm, or vice versa) or showing a long action that draws the eye along to the larger illustration. The effect is rich and cinematic.


    Too Many Suns will be a popular book with young readers; it might also serve as a good springboard for units on cross-cultural issues.

Highly recommended.

Diane Fitzgerald is an elementary-school teacher in Saskatoon.

image Long Long Ago.

Robin Skelton. Illustrated by Pamela Breeze Currie.
Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 1996. 59pp, paper, $10.95.
ISBN: 0-921870-36-1.

Grades 1 - 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
Review by Ian Stewart.



    In the beginning of things the Ostrich was the greediest and most conceited of birds. He had big, strong wings of which he was very proud, and when there was any food to be had, he flew very quickly indeed and got there before anyone else, so that when all the birds arrived, they found there was nothing left for them.
    All the birds were very cross about this. . . . At last they decided something must be done, and met together in a quiet place in the forest to see what they could arrange.

ImageROBIN SKELTON'S LONG LONG AGO is a collection of seven fables which tell us how and why the ostrich, the bullfrog, the cat, and other animals came to be the way they are today. The answers are easy in Skelton's mythology: many animals are conceited and stupid, or simply stupid. It's an unpleasant world.

    As we all know, pride goes before the fall. Conceited animals were (and continue to be) punished for this flaw, becoming the butt of the animal winged and four-legged world. They are now funny looking, or their voices sound bad. Skelton really wants children to learn this lesson. Why else would he tell the same dreary tale so often?

    In other stories animals who are just stupid get tricked and bad things happen to them. We don't really learn or gain understanding from these "stupid animal stories," but I suppose that's okay. After all, they are just stupid animals.

Image Image     Pamela Breeze Currie's illustrations suit Skelton's truly unimaginative and remarkably inane fables. Her black-and-white drawings add no sparkle, zest, or excitement.

    Read the fables to a group of eight-year-olds and they'll justifiably riot. Read them to an adult and you'll cure insomnia (at least, they worked for me!).

Not recommended.

Ian Stewart works at a Winnipeg elementary school and the University of Winnipeg library.

Ten Ways to Tighten Your Prose:
    A Systematic Approach to Improvement.

Susan Ioannou.
Toronto: Wordwrights Canada, 1994. 15pp, paper, $4.95.
ISBN: 0-92835-05-8.

Grades 10 and Up / Ages 14 - Adult.
Review by T.S. Causabon.

*1/2 /4


    Consider how flat the following account sounds: "Harriet came to the clearing. She got out of her car and looked across the landscape. `It's too late. He went away,' she said."
    Such sentences reduce life to an outline. Instead, brick in the blanks with precise details. How did Harriet get out of her car and looked across the landscape. What make of a car was it? Where exactly did she look?
    Imagine rebuilding the passage: "Harriet swerved into the clearing. She slammed out of her Porsche, and glared across the bracken. `Too bloody late,' she hissed, `the blackguard slipped away.'"

ONE OF A SERIES of slim booklets Wordwrights Canada has put out to help writers, Ten Ways to Tighten Your Prose attempts to help the novice writer with a system. I shall declare myself now: I don't believe in systems, either for writing or global political organization.

    But Ioannou's system is for writers to hunt through their prose (she suggests using the search function on a word processor) for ten classes of "warning words." She points out that sometimes the words or syllables in her list are appropriate, but that they can alert you to areas that might benefit from re-writing.

    Some of Ioannou's suggestions are good ones for writers of any age -- replacing phrases involving the adverb "very" with a single strong word, for example, or using concrete Anglo-Saxon words to replace general Latinate terms. Often, Ioannou employs visual metaphors, advising writers to sharpen their descriptions as a photographer focusses a camera, or to put their images in motion like a movie.

    In her drive for active prose, however, Ioannou encourages writers to begin sentences with gerund phrases ("Twisting her handkerchief, she. . . "). This is dangerous advice for novice writers; sentences that use that structure to describe action tend to be trite and confusing, if not actually impossible. In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner says this is such a common and tiresome problem that any sentence begining that way should be presumed guilty.

    At other times, the life Ioannou wants to see in a writer's prose sounds decidedly artificial. In the excerpt above, for example, her "bad example" is flat -- but often people's emotions are too, at times of great stress. The "bad example" might be understated, but Ioannou's rewrite sounds like something from a cheesy romance novel (blackguard?). And using almost any word (much less "hissed") instead of "said" would go in my list of ten "warning words."

    There are other places where one could quibble about Ioannou's advice, but a final reservation about using this slim volume in the classroom is that she relies on a level of knowledge about formal grammar that many high-school students simply won't have. Ioannou uses "active voice" and "passive voice" without defining the terms, for example, and uses "pluperfect" as though everyone knows what it means. The novice writers most likely to benefit from Ioannou's advice probably don't.

    This short volume is economical, but it's an even bet whether it will make students' writing better or worse.

Not recommended.

T.S. Causabon is a freelance writer in Winnipeg.

image Winners:
    Resource-Based Units Cooperatively Planned by Teacher-Librarians and Teachers.

Edited by Linda Knight.
Vancouver: The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada, 1996. 121pp, paper (coil bound), $29.95.
ISBN: 0-896366-02-3.

Professional (teachers/teacher-librarians).
Review by Gail Lennon.


THIS TIMELY VOLUME is the latest of several publications from the Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada. With financial hardships hitting schools in Ontario and several other provinces, Ministries of Education are looking for places to cut costs. Hiring library technicians at half the cost of teacher-librarians has certainly been part of their budget discussions.

    Those of us who have worked in unit planning with competent teacher-librarians know the value of a teacher-trained professional in our school libraries. Projects like Winners should help convince other teachers, librarians, and tax payers that partnership is an important part of a quality education.

    Winners presents some excellent themes, unit materials, and curriculum ideas. Its coil-bound format makes it easy to use. A clearly laid out table of contents provides unit topics, suggested grade levels, and core subject areas. Teacher/librarians from all across Canada are represented in this book

    The units are arranged in ascending age/grade order from K-12. Of special note are the unit ideas on "Peace and Freedom," "Conflict," and "Databases." The quality of the units varies from inspired to mundane, but all include a rich array of background print materials.

    Several flaws permeate the units, however. Some topics or activities aren't appropriate for the grade level indicated. All depend on the availability of specific texts that may not be readily available to all teachers. Many of the book's teacher/contributors miss opportunities for integration of mathematics or science activities into the theme. Most units contain very brief outlines and almost none of them discuss evaluation strategies or culminating activities. No attempt is made to provide application to other subjects or situations.

    But Winners does win by providing interesting, meaningful activities with strong ties to print resources. In the introduction, Liz Austrom, past president of the ATLC, cautions that these units have been designed to meet specific goals for specific groups of students, and that it is unlikely that "any unit could or should be replicated in its entirety."

    But teachers and teacher-librarians looking for inspiration are certain to find some excellent ideas in the thirty-seven themes Winners provides. For creative teachers it will be a springboard to adding their own activities and to creating their own themes. For the teacher-librarian who is anxious to move beyond being a "keeper of books" there are outstanding suggestions. And for the beginning teacher, Winners will be a source of curriculum ideas and confidence builders.

    This book should be a part of the professional library of every school, and as assigned reading in pre-service and in-service teacher education courses.

Highly recommended.

Gail Lennon is a secondary resource teacher with the Bruce County Board of Education. In her thirty years of teaching in both rural and urban settings, she has taught every grade from JK to Adult Education in elementary, secondary and university academic locations. She has specialist qualifications in Library, ESL, Primary, Junior, Intermediate, Senior, and Special Education. Ms. Lennon is a keynote speaker, author, and workshop leader who has reviewed for CM for the past seven years.

image Storyteller:
    Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak

Written and Directed by Joanne Culley.
Toronto: School Services of Canada, 1995. VHS, 27 minutes, $69.95.

All ages.
Review by Gail Lennon.


ImageMICHAEL ARVAARLUK KUSUGAK is an Inuit author and storyteller who first become well known for A Promise is a Promise, co-written with Robert Munsch. In this videotape, he presents three stories -- "Hide and Seek," "Baseball Bats for Christmas," and "Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails." Kusugak includes personal anecdotes of living in the Canadian arctic and incorporates traditional spirit creatures into his stories of modern life.

    Kusugak is a natural storyteller who has an easy rapport with audiences. His stories and style are equally appropriate for primary children and senior students. His manner and stories will expand understanding of the Inuit beyond stereotypes of igloos, nose-rubbing, and whale blubber.

Image    "Hide and Seek" tells of Allashu, a child who likes to observe insects and fish. "Baseball Bats for Christmas" is Kusugak's own memory of a time when a bush pilot, the only link to the outside world, arrived at Christmas with baseball bats. "Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails" tells the story of Kataujaq, a girl, and her relationship with her mother.

    The accompanying twelve-page teacher's guide provides a brief biography of the author. It also includes a book list, a vocabulary list, and suggested activities for each story.

Image    Whether Storyteller is used as an introduction to storytelling, a look at the work of Kusugak, or simply a collection of stories to be enjoyed, it will be a valuable teaching aid. Use of this video when teaching a units on multiculturalism, stereotyping, racism, or Inuit culture and life would do much to move these topics into the 90s. Storyteller might also be used effectively as part of a Young Authors theme, or a study of Canadian authors at any level.

    Storyteller would be an excellent purchase for a Board of Education's media library. Its wide utility makes it effective teaching support material.


Highly recommended.

Gail Lennon is a secondary resource teacher with the Bruce County Board of Education. In her thirty years of teaching in both rural and urban settings, she has taught every grade from JK to Adult Education in elementary, secondary and university academic locations. She has specialist qualifications in Library, ESL, Primary, Junior, Intermediate, Senior, and Special Education. Ms. Lennon is a keynote speaker, author, and workshop leader who has reviewed for CM for the past seven years.

The Great Canadian Trivia Contest

When a list of students is sent in could you please indicate if these students answered the question:

a) independently
b) as a team or group
c) as a team or group representing a class or school


Fiddler Ashley McIssac is the latest in a long line of entertainers to come from this Canadian island. Others include the Bara McNeils, The Rankin Family, and Rita McNeil.

What is the name of this Canadian island?



Remember, don't post your answers to CM. Instead, send your answers to Steve Caldwell at one of the following e-mail addresses: or

May 17th's Question:

The Olympic Games being held in Atlanta this summer mark the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics. The most gold medals won by a single Canadian athlete in the the Summer Olympics is two.

Name the Canadian Olympians who have won two gold medals in the Summer Olympics.


Again there is a slight chance of a misunderstanding due to wording. The word in question is single. It could be interpreted that "single" refers to athletes who won gold medals as individuals rather than being part of teams. On the other hand "single" could be interpreted to mean individual athletes as winners rather than simply the team they were on. I am willing to take either interpretation. Here are the answers. The first interpretation would include only the first three. The second interpretation would include all 10 athletes.


  1. Maricris P. Ramos, St. Ann School: Toronto, Ontario
  2. Claudia Urbina, St. Ann School: Toronto, Ontario

General information about the Great Canadian Trivia Contest.

 The Little Math Puzzle Contest

The Little Math Puzzle Contest

Man seeks order and pattern in all things
Be ready to change your paradigm.

Archives of past puzzles and winners lists are available at:

Answers are available in the Schoolnet Gopher Grass roots project.

This is the last posting from The Little Math Puzzle for the year.

Thank you to everyone who participated. You all contributed to the project. We have shared an experience along the road of getting used to Internet.

Here are the answers to Puzzle #36 and the Toughie #37. Here are the winners lists for Puzzle #36 and the Toughie #37.

It is possible that things will recommence in the fall -- just watch this space.



Puzzle #36 results

Question #36 asked:

What is the next letter pattern in the following set?


The answer is EE.

Each new letter pattern is another letter in the name "Mickey Mouse."

Winners -- Solvers of Puzzle #36

  1. Rich Schaffer Parkers Prairie High School - Parkers Prairie, MN
  2. Grade 3 McAdam Elementary School - McAdam, N.B.
  3. Blair Joseph Bass, Joshua Alban, Joseph LeBlanc - Mrs. L. Dodge's class Grade 6 Glen Falls School - Saint John, New Brunswick Canada
  4. Matthew Fabbri and Candace Desmarais General Vanier School - Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  6. Tina St. Godard and Carly Gallinger, Kelly Labelle, Kelsey Whyte, Jamie Pearce, Tina Goncalves, Erin Puttaert, Ainsley Swinn, Saxon Funk, Shantelle Rivard, Andrew Smallwood, Jesse Meyer, Dave Newbold - Mr. Walker's, grade 4/5 Hastings School - Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  7. Independent solutions by: Jeff Woolsey, Bobby Eckert, Terry Anderton - Grade 5 Piper Creek Elementary School - Red Deer AB
  8. Sara Tinteri, Grade 7 St. Benedict School - Sarnia, Ontario
  9. David Belanger, Age 10 St. Michael's School - Belleville, ON
  10. Dan Reiss, Sean Stroobandt, and Justin Farina Gregory A. Hogan School - Sarnia Ontario
  11. Gregory Vandenheuvel and Chris Brown - Gr.4/5 St.Margarets. - Sarnia Ont.
  12. Kurtis Kraemer Gr. 4/5 St. Margarets School - Sarnia Ont.
  13. Alex Ferreira and Darryl DeKeyser - Mrs. Harris grade 4/5 class St. Margaret's School - Sarnia, Ont.
  14. Computer Club St. Therese School - Sarnia Ontario
  16. Bruce Chung - T. Burnie's Grade 7/8 class St Ann School - Toronto, Ontario
  18. Brianne Kennedy - Grade 5, Ms. Laudonio Gregory Hogan School - Sarnia, Ontario
  19. Mike Aube, Jeffrey Miller, Julie Bjorndal, Sean Good, Kevin Nicol, Nathan Lawlor, Kateri Smith, Bryan Harn, Chasity Labillois, Joshua Barnaby, Courtney Fournier, Kevin Dejardin, Nathan Moore, Nicholas Gould. Miss Smollett's Grade 5 class the L.E.Reinsborough School - Dalhousie,New Brunswick.
  20. Hedges Grade 8 Math Class Hedges School - Winnipeg, Manitoba
  21. Mrs. K. Warner's Grade 5/6 class Brooklyn District School - Newport, N.S.
  22. Mr. Russell's grade 5 class Brooklyn District School - Newport, N.S.
  23. Brittany Hilker, Mark Zito, Jenna Rotz, Ashley Bowens, Erika Seelenbinder, Portia Newby, Tara O'Berry Fourth graders in Mrs. Selter's class Indian Lakes Elementary School - Virginia Beach, VA
  24. Madame Scaplen's grade 6 French Immersion class Sacred Heart Elementary - Marystown, Newfoundland
  25. "dunbatad@NBED.NB.CA"
  26. St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School - Whitby, Ontario, Canada
  27. Ashley, Alexis, Heather, Adam, Katherine, Melanie, Alexander, Nathan, 4 Lussier Ecole St. Avila - Wpg, MB
  28. Hilary Bohn, 5S Ecole St. Avila - Wpg., MB
  29. 3 Leoppky Ecole St. Avila - Wpg., MB
  30. Nathan 4 Lavoie Ecole St. Avila - Wpg., MB
  31. Lyndon Lemay, 5R Ecole St. Avila - Wpg. MB
  32. Nicole Lawrence, Grade 4 Piper Creek Elementary School - Red Deer AB
  33. Van Nguyen and Angela LaGamba in Grade 8 D'Arcy McGee Catholic School - Toronto, Ontario
  34. Steven Gratton, Mrs. King's Gr. 4/5 Sara Dillon, Mr. Willemse's Gr. 7/8 Adam Dillon, Mrs. Pachlarz' Gr. 8 Brent Kelders, Mrs. Bannon's Gr.6/7 Danielle Thomas, Luke George, Melissa Davies, Stratos Niatsikas - Mr. Fera's Gr. 5/6 St.John Fisher School - Forest, Ontario
  35. Jesse Lamb and Ming Yang, Edmond McRae - Mrs. HArris's Grade 4/5 class St. Margaret's School - Sarnia, Ontario
  36. Mikey mikey inkster,

Puzzle #37 -- The Toughie -- results

Question #37 asked:

Find the logic and the next set of digits.

1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, 312211, 13112221, __________

The answer is 1113213211.

This was passed on by Alex Nazarov... a student worker on the puzzle.

Winners -- Solvers of The Toughie Puzzle #37 and their logic

  1. 1113213211
    Each number "describes" the previous in order.
    Ken Duisenberg,,Internet

  2. 1113213211
    rational --
    1=one 1 (11)
    11= Two 1's (21)
    21= One 2, one 1 (1211)
    1211= one 1, one 2, two 1's (111221)
    The Class of a colleague of Len Makoura College, Masterton, New Zealand

  3. Toughie-
    1, 11,21, 1211, 111221, 312211, 13112221, 1113213211
    Describe the previous number...
    one one
    two ones
    one two, one one
    one one, one two, two ones
    three ones, two twos, one one
    one three, one one, two twos, two ones,etc.
    Final number describes the previous number
    Solution provided by Portia Newby, a fourth grader in Mrs. Seltzer's class, Indian Lakes Elementary, Virginia Beach, VA USA

Royal West Academy: a public High School in Montreal Quebec...

Information about the Little Math Puzzle Contest.

News -- National

Help SchoolNet Design a New Treasure Chest of Teaching Ideas

MANY TEACHERS HAVE ASKED SchoolNet for more help in finding interesting new "lesson plans" and instructional units. They want more "Canadian" materials.

We need your help in designing such a Canadian treasure chest of teaching ideas. It will be available through SchoolNet.

The Treasure Chest of Teaching Ideas will be a Canadian file of English and French materials (and possibly in other languages as well) provided by Canadian teachers and distributed through SchoolNet to any teacher wishing to use its contents.


If you agree to comment on our draft design of the Treasure Chest -- the result of examining more than 60 such databases worldwide -- we will send you an EXPLANATION of the concept, PLUS a DESCRIPTION of the "model" of the system FOR YOUR COMMENTS through e-mail.

We think that you will find this to be an interesting and rewarding venture. We are aiming for a system that is defined by teachers themselves, culturally neutral and pedagogically universalistic.

Time Is of the Essence

We are pushing to get the Treasure Chest designed and ready to receive lesson materials by September 1996. So, if you are willing to help, please say so right away.

Beverley Powell
Project Manager

Duncan Thornton
Executive Assistant
Peter Tittenberger

About CM

We publish every week!
As of January 12, 1996, CM has implemented an unrestricted access policy: there will be no charge for either reading our web-site or receiving our e-mail version. We do ask regular readers, however, for an annual contribution of $42 to help defray costs (for the remainder of Volume 2, through June 7, 1996, Manitoba readers have had their donations paid courtesy of a Manitoba charitable foundation). Money sent to CM qualifies as a charitable donation.

How do you subscribe to the e-mail version?

Send e-mail to:
In the body of the email message type 'subscribe cmlist'

Postal address:
100 Arthur Street, Suite 208
Winnipeg, MB R3B 1H3

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