Table of Contents

 Book Reviews

 The White Stone in the Castle Wall.
Sheldon Oberman. Illustrated by Les Tate.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Kindergarten to Grade 3 / Ages 5- 8.

 My Homework Is in the Mail!
Becky Citra. Illustrations by Karen Harrison.
Review by Leslie Millar.
Grades 2 - 3 / Ages 7 - 9.

John Wilson.
Review by Caroline Thomson.
Grades 5 - 9 / Ages 9 - 14.

 Of Things Not Seen.
Don Aker.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.

 Tides of Change: Faces of the Northwest Coast.
Sheryl McFarlane. Illustrated by Ken Campbell..
Review by Lorraine Douglas.
All Ages.


 The Little Math Puzzle
 Cyberspace Scavenger Hunt


 An Invitation from the National Gallery of Canada
 Ho Ho Ho -- Santa's Address on the Internet

Duncan Thornton

Executive Assistant
Peter Tittenberger

Book Review

The White Stone in the Castle Wall

Sheldon Oberman. Illustrated by Les Tate.
Montreal: Tundra Books, 1995. 24pp, cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88776-333-2. CIP.

Kindergarten to Grade 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

Starting with a known fact, Oberman creates both an appealing young character and a believable story to explain how that fact might have come to be. Among the quarter million dark fieldstones used to construct the half-mile wall surrounding Toronto's Castle Loma, there is but one white stone. Since the wall was built under the direct supervision of the castle's owner, Sir Henry Pellatt, this odd rock could only have been used with Sir Henry's knowledge. Oberman suggests one scenario that might have led to Sir Henry's accepting such an unsuitable stone.

John Tommy Fiddich, a lad from Toronto's poorest area, vacillates between characterizing himself as the "luckiest" and "unluckiest boy of all." After hail destroys his flourishing vegetable garden, John is left with only a "dirty, worthless stone," but his fortune appears to change when he learns that Sir Henry is paying a silver dollar for every dull-coloured stone delivered to the building site. Loading the previously worthless rock aboard his cart, John makes the arduous trip to the castle's hilltop location. Along the way, however, rain washes the stone's surface exposing its bright white exterior. With his stone rejected, a disheartened John shares his tale of misfortune with the castle's gardener. John becomes "the luckiest boy of all" when the "gardener" reveals his true identity and purchases the stone because "your work has made it worth a lot to me."

Tate's realistic paintings, which principally portray John's trek, faithfully capture Toronto as it would have appeared in 1914, while the map on the book's endpapers allows readers to trace John's trip from River St. to the Castle Loma gate at the corner of Davenport and Walmer.

The final page provides factual information about Sir Henry and the building of Castle Loma.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and young-adult literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.

Book Review

My Homework Is in the Mail!

Becky Citra. Illustrations by Karen Harrison.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1995. 82pp, paper, $4.99.
ISBN 0-590-24446-9.

Grades 2 - 3 / Ages 7 - 9.
Review by Leslie Millar.


Dad said, "This hurricane is our daughter, Samantha. Sam, this is Caleb, our neighbour."
Caleb stood up. He was wearing a big brown hat. His boots had pointy toes. His legs looked like bent pipe cleaners.
Sam had seen pictures of cowboys in books before. But she had never seen a cowboy in her kitchen. She couldn't think of anything to say.
"Caleb's family were some of the first homesteaders in this area," said Mom happily. "He's been telling us some very interesting stories."

My Homework Is in the Mail! is Becky Citra's first book. No doubt her background as a primary school teacher, combined with her hobbies of horseback riding, hiking, and camping, guided her in writing for a young audience.

Samantha Higgins must cope with her parents' decision to take up a rural farm lifestyle. So rural, in fact, that Sam will have to pursue her school work by correspondence. She has to say goodbye to her friends and school in Vancouver and prepare to embrace isolation. It is just before Thanksgiving and Sam's mother wants her to find at least four things to be thankful for. She sincerely believes this will be impossible.

But Sam quickly learns there are things to be thankful for out on the farm. For example, she meets a real cowboy, a wild Canada Goose, some chickens and a horse. She even meets some other children, who after a few false starts, become her friends. By the end of the book she's met the teacher who marks her correspondence work, who is unlike any teacher Sam had ever met before. The number of human contacts is less in the country, but they are correspondingly richer in quality. It appears that Sam may even become one of those kids she's heard about, who love living on a farm.

There is much here to interest young readers. Apprehension about school, moving, and lots of contact with animals will be sure to strike a chord with most youngsters. And the setting will seem exotic for urban school children (if any are like me, they harbour a secret desire to live on a farm); while rurual children will enjoy recognizing aspects of home.

The vocabulary should not prove challenging to the average grade two student. The short sentences and simple metaphors make this an ideal story for independent reading. There are a few black-and-white illustrations interspersed throughout to help the reader's imagination.

My Homework Is in the Mail! is action oriented and flows smoothly and quickly. The tone is upbeat, enthusiastic and positive. Adult readers may find it a bit Pollyanna-ish in tone, but "perfect family'' stories tend to work well with young readers.


Leslie Millar is a substitute teacher and volunteer in Winnipeg schools.

Book Review


John Wilson.
Toronto: Napoleon Publishing, 1995. 152pp, paper, $8.95.
ISBN 0-929141-40-7.

Grades 5 - 9 / Ages 9 - 14.
Review by Caroline Thomson.


Weet turned again and slowly led them into trees.
As they walked, Eric found comfort in talking. "You know, l think I've seen Weet before."
"How could you?" Rose was doubtful. "We've never been here before. Was he in one of your dreams?"
"No, but there's a picture in one of my books. Someone made a model of what he thought dinosaurs might have evolved into if they hadn't died out. It looked a lot like Weet, but it was just guesswork. No one realized that they could have evolved into this before they died out."
"Hasn't anyone found his bones?" Rose seemed unconcerned that the green figure in front of them should have turned to stone long ago.
"No" Eric replied thoughtfully. "Maybe his bones are too fragile to be preserved, or maybe there aren't very many of them."
"How old do you think he is?" Rose's question surprised Eric.
"Sixty-five million and something," he replied, with more flippancy than he felt.

Dinosaurs have always been a popular subject for youth fiction and non-fiction. Adults, too, are fascinated with the subject. Some researchers have speculated on how the dinosaurs might have evolved had they not died out. That brings us to Weet. John Wilson explores the idea that some dinosaurs evolved into intelligent, social humanoids before they went extinct.

Despite the title, the main character of this story is twelve-year-old Eric Richardson. Eric seems to spend most of his time learning and dreaming about dinosaurs. On a family outing to the Badlands of Alberta, Eric, his sister Rose, and their dog Sally are mysteriously transported sixty-five million years into the past, to the late Cretaceous. There they meet up with Weet, a member of a fictitious species of highly evolved dinosaur. They share Weet's adventures, and some of their own, all the while wondering if they will ever get back to their own time.

Being transported back in time is a theme that has often been used before. But Wilson has done his homework, and while telling an entertaining story, he also includes a great deal of information on dinosaurs and the late Cretaceous period. He uses parallels with our own time to explain certain concepts, such as environmental changes. Wilson uses speculation about dinosaurs as well as facts. Weet and his kind are obviously the biggest speculation, but he also uses other notions about dinosaurs' intelligence and physical characteristics that are still are matter of debate among paleantoIogists (for example, he depicts velociraptors with feathers).

At the end of the book, Wilson has included a few notes on the different kinds of dinosaurs the children encounter.

The ideas and issues of the story are strong, as is the writing. The adventures of Weet and his companions hold the reader's attention, and Wilson effectively recreates the late Cretaceous with vivid descriptions.

There are a few weak points however. The greatest weakness is that the entire adventure turns out to be just a dream. Granted, it is difficult to come up with a plausible reason for two children and a dog to be transported back in time; but "it was all a dream" is a particularly weak plot device. It is also remarkable how quickly Weet picks up English, and that his names for certain dinosaurs (shoveltill, roarer, sickleclaw, and so on) are English-language descriptions for the creatures. Similarly, Rose understands and adapts rather too well to the world of the late Cretaceous for a seven year old.

These points aside, John Wilson has written an informative and exciting story for children nine and up. This story will appeal particularly to boys, but also to anyone interested in dinosaurs. The black-and-white sketches scattered throughout the book are well done and add to the story.


Caroline Thomson is a librarian in North York, Ontario. She holds an M.A. in history.

Book Review

Of Things Not Seen.

Don Aker.
Toronto: Stoddart, 1995. 197pp, paper, $5.99.
ISBN 0-7736-7435-7. CIP.

Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

In his first young-adult novel, Aker, a Middleton, Nova Scotia, high-school teacher, deals powerfully with the theme of physical abuse. Ben Corbett, sixteen, has lived with being beaten and seeing his mother battered ever since Jim Rankin (six feet, four inches tall) became his stepfather seven years ago. To protect each other, mother and son, have both tried fruitlessly to mollify Rankin by constantly monitoring and modifying their behaviours in accordance with his wishes and demands, but Rankin's rages, often alcohol-fuelled, are unpredictable and always physically violent.

The book's title, rooted in Hebrews 11:1, is part of Ben's mother's belief that "things will get better soon" and they just have to have faith, "the conviction of things not seen," that Rankin will change for the better.

A year and a half earlier, the family's fifth move in five years brought them to Brookdale, a small community in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, where Rankin works in a plastics factory and Ben's mother is a cashier. Though Ben has learned that playing the role of social isolate helps keep the family's secret hidden, in Brookdale he allows two people -- his girlfriend Ann and octogenarian neighbour Sadie Jackson -- to see into his dark world. And a third person, Mark Lewis, Ben's grade-eleven English teacher, unknowingly blunders into that darkness and sets in motion a chain of events that ends the abuse.

Just as Ben is receiving a particularly brutal "tuning up" from Rankin, Ann, Mr. Lewis, and Ben's mother independently conclude that the police must be called, and the book's ending finds Ben and his mother in a shelter for battered families.

Aker is particularly strong at characterization, and he renders the dynamics which allow abuse to continue within a family with great credidbility. Lest readers leave the book stereotyping abusers as just being blue-collar drunks or step-parents, Aker includes another abuse scenario that involves an upper-middle-class father and son.

Highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and young-adult literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.

Book Review

Tides of Change: Faces of the Northwest Coast.

Sheryl McFarlane. Illustrated by Ken Campbell.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 1995. 32pp, cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 1-55143-040-1.

All Ages.
Review by Lorraine Douglas.


Old growth coastal forests touched by a hundred thousand days of mist and rain have existed for an eternity. Yet we've only just begun to understand the intricacy of this living tapestry.

The award-winning author of Waiting for the Whales (Orca, 1991) poses questions to the reader about the histories, people, and faces of the Northwest Coast. She explains petroglyphs, how lumberjacks worked, tidepool treasures, the Grey Whales, and several other topics.

Each page is illustrated with a brilliantly coloured realistic painting. The text is reminiscent of If You're Not from the Prairie by Dave Bouchard (Raincoast, 1993) in its theme of appreciation for the world around us. However, Tides of Change does not have the continuity of Bouchard's poem and would be more difficult to read aloud. But it is a real browsing item that might pique a child's interest in different topics.

An appendix of interesting details the author discovered in her research is included.

Lorraine Douglas is Youth Services Coordinator for the Winnipeg Public Library.


The Little Math Puzzle Contest

Tom Murray, the coordinator of the the math puzzle, has been kind enough to give CM permission to run the weekly Little Math Puzzle Contest (inspired by The Great Canadian Trivia Challenge.)

Royal West Academy (a high school) in Montreal, Quebec is sponsoring a little math puzzle contest.

This contest is open to all participants but is designed for students in grades five through ten. English will be the language used for all problems and if their solutions relate to a language, the language will be English.

We are now on the Web at:

Contest Format:

Each week a new puzzle will be presented and the answers and winners from two weeks earlier will be posted. Answers are to be received by 8:00 a.m. eastern time the following Friday.

The answers will then be judged, and a correct answer along with the winners' names, will be posted with the puzzle two weeks later.

Both individual students and entire classes are welcome to participate.

Do not to send your answers to CM.
Instead, please send all answers to Andrea Pollock and Alex Nazarov at the following address:

With your solution please include your names, school, grade, and e-mail address, and your city.

Question #11 from two weeks ago was the following:

What are the next two numbers?

61, 52, 63, 94, 46, __ , __

New deadline (try a new approach) December 8th.

Answer #11:

Many students sent in answers of which they said they were not sure. When you 'see' this one you will be sure.

There were some very impressive solutions such as the ones well explained below from Winnipeg. One is a neat solution to the number set that went out in error.

There is a much simpler pattern to #11 that may be found. Problems are puzzles. Look for a twist, try another approach; it is not intended to be a trick. The puzzle is one of my favourites and a little different so you have been given the next number as a hint and publication of the answer will be delayed a week. Hopefully someone will enjoy a flash of insight.

A very common (incorrect) answer was 65 and 136 such as given by Clyde Dohey level 1, Fatima Academy St. Bride's Newfoundland

I like how you were thinking but the 13 was based on a guess at a pattern from two numbers. You need at least three to show a pattern.

A very rare answer (correct?).

The next two numbers are 145 & 216: Between 61 & 52 is a distance of -9; from 52 to 63 is +11. Therefore, the jump in adding numbers is +20.

61-9 = 52; 52+11 = 63; 63+31 = 94; 94+51 +145; 145+71 = 216

By Brett Kuntz, Gr. 7 B, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate, Winnipeg, MB

Here is a neat solution to the number set that went out in error (WOW).

61, 52, 63, 49, 67, 44

increase by 2 on the first number, then decrease by 3 the second number; place results after the first two numbers, then continue...

61+2, 52-3, 63+4, 49-5, etc., working on every other number

By Eric Klatt, Gr. 7 B, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Inst., Winnipeg, MB

The Winners - Solvers of Puzzle #11

The people who answered puzzle #11 correctly were:

  1. Jane Scaplen's grade 6 French Immersion class
    Sacred Heart Elementary - Marystown, Newfoundland
  2. Lindsay Pettigrew and Nick Humber in Mr.Garbaty's Grade 8 class
    St.Margaret's School - Sarnia ,Ontario.
  3. Gail Snow & Jennifer Mullett in Edgar Lee's class
    Lakewood Academy - Glenwood
  4. Ryan Cook, Kiran Helferty, Evan Powell, Vincent Spano Ms. L. Laudoniio' s Grade 5
    Gregory A. Hoggan School Sarnia, Ontariio
  5. Chris Galipeau, Frank Spano, Shawn Andrews in Mrs. Pitt's class
    Gregory Hogan School Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
  6. Erin Doyle, Jaclyn Doyle
    Lambton County Roman Catholic Separate School Board Sarnia, Canada
  7. Meagan Heard Grade 9
    Cunard Junior High School - Halifax, N.S.
  8. ( and a unique solution - also satisfying the problem )
    Brett Kuntz, Gr. 7 B
    Mennonite Brethren Collegiate, Winnipeg, MB

Puzzle #14

This week's Question #14 is the following:

What are the 2 missing numbers in this sequence.

2, 5, 10, 20, ___, ____ , 500, 1000

Send your response by 8:00 a.m., Friday, December 15th to:

Andrea Pollock and Alex Nazarov
Royal West Academy, Montreal West, Quebec.


Cyberspace Scavenger Hunt

The Hunt Continues, Round 9

Centennial Regional High in Greenfield Park, Quebec is proud to continue with the Cyberspace Scavenger Hunt. We are proud, too, to announce the "grand opening" of our home page that can be found at This message is repeated in our homepage.

The Internet is the "largest library" in our world, and we, as teachers should be teaching students how to use this research facility. Our research staff have scanned the Web looking for appealing and varied questions for your and your students. Each week, a different question will be posted, a question that will challenge student's research skills on the net.

You are free to use any Internet resource available to you.

When you have found the answer to our question,

Please include with your answer a little bit of information about you and your school.

  1. Resource person's name.
  2. Your school name.
  3. High school, middle school or elementary school.
  4. Location of your school, city, province/state or country.
  5. Your e-mail address.
  6. Any comments you have about our activity.

The 8th question was:

What do the following people have in common:

And who would be the missing person in this list?

They are all authors who wrote novels starring James Bond, Secret Agent 007. Of course, Ian Fleming was left off the list.

Question 9 is a bit easier:

Our next question is a James Bond question, in honour of the 19th James Bond movie.

Six (yes there were six) actors have played James Bond on the screen.

Can you name them all.

Send your answers to:

Good luck to all the hunters.


An Invitation from the National Gallery of Canada

"What is this so-called reality; what is this theory but a beautiful though totally human fantasy?" (M.C. Escher, 1898-1972)

In conjunction with the exhibition M.C. Escher: Landscapes to Mindscapes, the National Gallery is launching an interactive. on-line forum. For the duration of the exhibition, from December 1, 1995 to March 17, 1996, teachers are invited to participate in an open discussion on the works of M.C. Escher. The goal of this forum is to foster creative thinking and communication by teachers about the artist's work and also about possible classroom activities and resulting projects.

Escher's name is more often mentioned in introductory mathematics and psychology texts than in general art histories. Mathematics and geometry teachers sometimes use his prints to demonstrate to their students how science can be a source of poetry and beauty. Psychology textbooks use them as proof of the structured nature of our perceptions. In Escher's work, three traditionally unrelated disciplines intersect. Escher's wide interests in such subjects as visual arts, mathematics and music could serve as the basis for exploring ways in which these fields could be better integrated.

We invite you to include your classes in this ongoing discussion. A free teacher's introduction has been prepared and will be sent to participating classes (while quantities last). This could also encourage you to access the visual introduction to the Escher exhibition on the upcoming National Gallery of Canada Web site. Forum highlights will be incorporated into a visual introduction in this soon-to-be launched site.

For more information, please contact:

Jean-Francois Leger
Education Division, National Gallery of Canada
Tel. (613)-990-6531

Non-Linear Creations
Tel. (613) 567-5517 (Ottawa, Canada)


Merry Christmas!
Welcome to Santa's address on the Internet!

Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the rest of the crew is always happy to have visitors.

If you or someone you know would like to write to Santa Claus, you can send e-mail to Santa at the addresses below.

Please make sure your e-mail address is entered in your Web browser so that Santa will be able to send email back to you.



Email (for Español)
French will be available shortly!

All mail IS ALWAYS answered by Santa. If for some reason you don't get a reply, it probably means the mail was lost in the internet mail, so just re-send your mail and make sure the return address is correct. Santa gets 5 to 10 messages per day to which replies can't be delivered because of an error in the address, so please make sure your address is correct so that Santa can send you a reply. Happy Holidays!

Copyright © 1995 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