Della Owens. Illustrated by Donna Cameron.
Moberly Lake, B.C.: Twin Sisters Publishing Co. 1994
Grades K - 3 / Ages 4 - 8.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
"Many years ago, when Tanis was eight, she set out on a special visit to Kou-Kum. It was the first time she was allowed to go along. She was the youngest of the family.Going to Visit Kou-Kum is a story about a young native girl (Tanis) who is off to visit her grandmother. It is the first time she has walked down the road by herself. As the youngest of a large family, she was normally accompanied by an older sibling. Along the way she encounters a frog and a coyote, and must overcome her fears to go past them and get to Kou-Kum's house, where she finds safety, warmth, and teaching. She draws strength from her grandmother, and the courage to skip home with a smile on her face, able to face her fears.
She had eight brothers, one sister, a mother and a father, so there had always been someone to go with her. Tanis was excited, but at the same time, scared to go.
This was a very special visit, so Tanis was wearing her Sunday clothes. She even had clean running shoes because her mother had washed them."
This is a warm family story, about the bond between grandmother and grandchild. It has special application to aboriginal families where the grandparents traditionally play a major role in educating the children about native traditions. The story reinforces the tradition of the guiding role of the grandparent. It is the author's first book, and has been published to "preserve and promote stories of cultural interest to members of this community." (back cover). It is also suggestive of Red Riding Hood, who, like Tanis, dawdles on the road to her grandmother's house.
The writing could use more polishing, and it is hoped that future work by Della Owens and editing by Twin Sisters Publishing will produce more refined stories.
For example, Tanis is frightened by the frog, but the reader is not informed what happens to the frog as Tanis passes. The coyote is shown slinking into the woods, but again, the reader is not told that the coyote leaves, or why. Tanis's apprehensions are not fully explored; she seems to be going from one event to another. Her visit to her grandmother's house is also like one event following another, and the important lesson that Kou-Kum teaches, about respecting animals could be developed further.
The illustrations are carefully drawn coloured pencil drawings, and each page of text is framed by sparse branches of leaves. A glossary at the front of the book defines Cree words used in the story, and a bannock recipe is included at the back of the book, along with the author's recommendation on how she enjoys it.
Going to Visit Kou-Kum will be useful as a story book, and as a thematic link to studying fears, family, grandparents, community, and aboriginal families and tradititions.
Recommended with reservations.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
Paulette Bourgeois. Illustrated by Brenda Clark.
Toronto: Kids Can Press Ltd, 1996. 32 pp., $4.95.PB, $12.95 HC.
Grades K - 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
Review by Brian Rountree.
The adventures of Franklin are really coming "fast and furious" from the fertile imagination of Paulette Bourgeois. Here she records the fun which Franklin and his friends have at a community Halloween party. It is complete with games and prizes and a haunted house in the yard.
This is Franklin's 13th book and it is fitting that the superstitious number and the festival fit together. Franklin enjoys himself, as all children do, and manages to solve the mystery of the ghost, but not before he is as frightened as everyone else: Bear is always the ghost, but stayed home this year because of a cold. Franklin is sorry that his friend missed out on the fun and arranges for everyone to share in making up a Halloween bag of goodies for Bear.
Clark's illustrations of Franklin and his family and friends continue to be bright and cheerful. Her costumes for Franklin to try on are quite colourful and flamboyant. His final choice is well done and frightens his father (or is he just pretending?) Clark also pays attention to details not given in the text, such as the mice going trick-or-treating at the same time.
Primary grade children enjoy reading Franklin's stories (to Franklin himself, if you have one!) and this Halloween story will swiftly become another favourite.
Brian Rountree is the teacher-librarian at Eastwood Elementary School in Thompson, Manitoba. He is the Archivist for the Manitoba School Library Association.
Winnipeg: Prairie Harbour, 1996 unpaginated, paperback $5.95.
Grades 1 - 3 / Ages 5 - 7.
Review by A. Edwardsson.
"My Manitoba Friends is designed for the young reader to identify both the alphabet and Manitoba geography. Each page starts with a letter and ends with the next letter of the alphabet allowing the child to see the progression. Enjoy reading."
Based on his short introduction, author/illustrator Thomas Reid seems to have had the best intentions for this picture book. Unfortunately, it fails in a number of ways.
The background for each page is the outline of Manitoba with a crocus off to one side that is never identified.. The province is a soft shade of green with pale capital letters approximating the location of the towns featured in the book. Each page targets one over size letter, usually at the top. It is bright red, and shown in both upper and lower case.
The first page reads "ALANA'S ALLIGATOR ATE AT ALTONA'S ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH", followed by the question "CAN YOU FIND ALTONA ON THE MAP?" There is a red tiered cake with three candles and a green alligator with a party hat superimposed over the map. A colour cameo of Alana is near the bottom.
Page two tells us "BILLY'S BELUGA BATHED BESIDE BRANDON'S CRAZY CAMEL". A multicolored camel and a whale in a shower are featured mid-page, Billy is at the bottom corner. The directional question (can we find __), repeats at the bottom of each page in the book. All the print is in upper case, which makes reading difficult.
As you may have deduced, this book has a cluttered layout. The artwork is also extremely unappealing. "SAMANTHA'S SILLY SWAN SOAKED SNOW LAKE'S TEPEE TOTALLY" shows a stream of water (?) spewing from a swan and hitting the tent. The people appear disembodied and distorted. Their cartoon-like features are confusing. Most of the skin tones are the colour of cardboard; ethnic variations are pink, puce green or dark brown.
Billy has a taupe face with startling pink patches at either edge of his smile. This was probably supposed to represent a healthy glow, but comes across as clown-like. Greg is worse off - he has one normal eye and one where the white part is emerald green. Both of Petunia's whites are green, and in combination with her shrunken head has the effect of an evil Mr. Potato Head.
Even the title page confuses, over the background of correctly placed pale letters is a random pattern of red letters surrounding the red title. The least muddled page is at the center of the book. It is a blowup of the Manitoba background found on every page, with all the featured place names listed at the bottom.
As a concept, this book had promise. Unfortunately, the author's rigid parameters force each descriptive sentence to end with the next letter of the alphabet. It would have been much more educational and engaging if each place could have been linked with a memorable symbol that represents the community. e.g. Instead of "WALLY'S WONDERFUL WALLEYE WELCOMING WINNIPEG'S EXTRA XMAS",(huh?) couldn't he have welcomed the Golden Boy? Not only that, many kids may be familiar with Manitoba's giant statues such as our giant mosquito and catfish. Why not incorporate them?
All in all, this disappointing paperback should only be considered for purchase by those desperate for Manitoba content. Otherwise, it's not recommended.
A. Edwardsson works at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library, where she is in charge of the Childrens 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.
Pamela Hickman. Illustrated by Suzanne Mogensen.
Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1996. 48pp., paper, $9.99.
Grades 2 - 6 / Ages 7 - 12.
Review by Gerri Young. ***/4
"The night book will wake you up to the amazing world after dark."
Do you know why owls and hawks don't fight over food? Owls hunt at night and hawks hunt during the day. Night is necessary for many animals and plants to be able to survive as the night prevents too much dryness for some, and less competition for food for others.
Pamela Hickman has done it again, adding another good book to her list of science books for children published by Kids Can Press: Birdwise, Bugwise, Plantwise, Wetlands, and Habitats and the Kids Canadian Nature Series.
Night book is easy to read and use, as each chapter is well-laid out in a two-page spread with pleasant illustrations throughout. There are many activities, or easy experiments a child can do:
The young reader will find out:
Not everyone lives in the perfect-pictured habitat in this book or is able to see all the night-time animals, sounds, and stars, however, there will be something for every child to learn and try.
I can't help thinking this book has another life outside school libraries; it would make a wonderful gift to a young grandchild.
Gerri F. Young
Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1995. (Series: Hello Canada.) 72 pp., cloth. $24.99.
Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 10 - 14.
Review by Brian Rountree
For those students, and teachers, looking for information on this soon-to-be newest Canadian Territory, this little book fits the bill nicely.
Hancock has done an admirable job of presenting information about the land, the history, the economy and the people of this region. There are several maps which clearly indicate the placement of Nunavut and show the major towns. There are many photographs which brilliantly portray life on the land and the history of the region.
There is a section on "Famous people from Nunavut" which includes such well-known names as Susan Aglukark, Michael Kusugak, and James Houston. Included in the book is a section of Fast Facts, a Timeline and a small pronunciation guide for words found in the book. The glossary and index provide valuable assistance for the young researcher.
The author's biography tells us that Hancock, born in Australia, has been in and around our North since 1972 and now lives in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories.
The "Hello Canada" series is a new set with a book dedicated to each of the provinces and territories, 13 in total. They would be a good addition to the 971 section of an elementary library.
Brian Rountree is the teacher-librarian at Eastwood Elementary School in Thompson, Manitoba. He is the Archivist for the Manitoba School Library Association.
New York: Scholastic, 1996. 48pp. paper, 184 pp. $4.99.
Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 11 - 14.
Review by Brian Rountree.
What do Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Tobias and Marco have in common? They are, as Marco describes them, "Idiot teenagers with a death wish."
More importantly, they are five teenagers who have seen flying saucers and met an alien, an Andalite who has the power to change his body into any animal which he has previously touched. This Andalite passed on his power to the young people before he died at the hands his enemy, Visser Three. Now the five find they have the mission of saving the Earth from an invasion by the slug-like aliens called Yeerks.
Applegate introduces us to a new group of "heroes" in the sense that they have powers to use and a mission to perform. But they are also shown as human, and teenagers, with strengths and weaknesses of their own. For example, Jake realizes that he is the leader of the group and Marco is unwilling to become involved because of his worries about his widowed father. Cassie is the one who catches on to the morphing the quickest. She has figured out how to retain a bodysuit when she changes while everyone else has their clothes falling off which means they are naked when they return to human form. Applegate's descriptions of the morphing process are well written and one can feel the power and complexity of the animal the person chooses to become. Where else can you feel a spider wriggling in your stomach while you are a lizard?
This is the first of a series of books called "Animorphs." Others available now are #2 The Visitor, #3 The Encounter, and #4 The Message. It should become a popular series-- my 13-year-old son stayed up until 4 a.m. reading the first three books! Check them out to find out if Jake rescues his brother Tom from the influence of the Controllers. And, does Tobias have to stay an eagle forever?
Brian Rountree is the teacher-librarian at Eastwood Elementary School in Thompson, Manitoba. He is currently the Sec-Treas. of the Canadian School Library Association.
Bala Cynwyd, PA: Future Press, 1994, Softcover, $10.95US.
Grade 6 - 9 / Ages 12 - 15.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
"It was Friday night and I was cruising with my friends. I was in the front with Mack who was driving. We had had a few beers, maybe a few too many.
We had called it a night and were driving back to my house. I was talking to Leo, who was in the back seat. I never saw a thing. Leo yelled, "Watch out!" I heard the squeal from the tires trying to stop. Then I felt myself being lifted out of my seat. My head crashed into the windshield. That's all I can remember.
When I opened my eyes, I realized I could not move my head."
Changes is a book of short stories that are written to help adolescents deal with contemporary issues they face. This collection of stories is a very good tool in the hands of teachers working with adolescents, or students who are engaged in peer counselling or group discussions.
Each story is preceded with a thought-provoking quotation from world-famous individuals, and followed by thought-provoking questions or exercises. The stories are written to appeal to both boys and girls. Vincenzi uses different styles of writing, including science fiction and romance. Many are written in the first person. Each one deals with the problems that adolescents today face, from peer pressure to lack of motivation, conflict, dating, self-esteem, pregnancy, etc. Most of the stories represent both sides of the coin - a young person who has confidence and is succeeding, and another who lacks self-esteem and is headed nowhere. "The Future Starts Now" shows what happens when a boy doesn't use the opportunities he has before him, and ends up in a dead-end life. A time machine gives him the chance to make amends, and life is much happier when he tries hard and adopts a positive outlook. In "Acceptance" a young girl who allows herself to fall into verbally abusive relationships with boys realizes from discussions with her friend that she is not worthless, and that boys will like her if she expresses opinions and stands up for what she thinks. The stories honestly present the whole range of emotions that teenagers deal with, and acknowledge that even when a teen determines to change the direction of his or her life, change does not come easily or quickly.
The book is designed to be used in the order the stories are presented. With a teacher's direction these stories can be very helpful to open up discussion about teens' concerns. "The Survey Says" are the results taken from an actual survey of middle school students. The 14 skills surveyed represent typical concerns of middle school students, such as how to be friendly, how to accept criticism without becoming angry or ashamed, how to be responsible, how to be independent for your age, and how to be self-confident. The chapter offers suggestions to master each skill. The exercises following each of the stories refer back to the applicable skills, ask the reader to determine with which character he or she identifies, and assign a writing project for the reader to offer solutions to the character's problem.
Used as instructed, Changes can be an excellent resource for teachers to open up discussion with their students about these difficult issues. Hopefully, by opening the doors to discussion, adolescents will be more able deal with their inner conflicts and societal problems, or seek help if needed.
Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher/librarian.
Saskatoon: Fifth House Publishing, 1995. 118 pp., paper, bibliography, illustrations, maps, $12.95.
Grades 8 - 13 / Ages 14 - 18.
Review by Ian Stewart.
"The work is brief, and focuses primarily on the past three hundred years. During this period, all peoples had many elements in common, but there were as many, often subtler, points of difference. To speak of the horse coming to the Blackfoot is, in a sense, to speak of the horse coming to the Cree, the Assiniboine, the Sarcee, the Salteaux or the Shoshoni.... To describe the Cree hunting buffalo is to describe the Peigan, the Blood, the Dakota, or the Crow, but again, the manner in which this all important animal was integrated spiritually and conceptually with the people varied widely.... And if you begin to question who was affected by the fur trade, the answer must involve every sentient being within the boundaries of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and beyond, and a billion fur-bearing animals besides."
Donald Ward knows his audience will be high-school students and Canadian history teachers. Yet, he does a strange and marvelous thing in The People: A Historical Guide to the First Nations of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. He does something so rarely seen that it is almost beyond comprehension; believe it or not, he actually writes for the people who are intended to read his book. Students' and teachers' eyes will be opened to a new appreciation of the First People of Canada because Ward's lucid and intelligent book is a pleasure to read.
The People looks at the diverse customs and social systems that made-up Native life and culture on the great western plains and woodlands. Ward discusses current archaeological-anthropological theory and evidence of North America's human habitation in a comprehensive introduction. The first half of the book is devoted to a study of the Assiniboine, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and the Nations of the Cree. The second half examines the smaller and more diverse peoples who also inhabit what is now Western Canada. He touches on virtually all aspects of Native life with a sensitive, yet critical, eye.
In his introduction and throughout the book, Ward challenges the simplicities, biases, and misunderstandings which fill the white historical record. Ward believes that the complex spiritual and secular cultures of the First Nations were denigrated and simplified by explorers, traders and missionaries. These misinterpretations have been perpetuated by generations of unsympathetic white chroniclers. However, Ward and many other Canadian historians, using ethnographic and anthropological methods, are beginning to appreciate the lives and history of First Nations' people in a more realistic and deserving way, without creating a destructive myth of a pristine primordial past.
There is a precarious balance between good scholarship and simply writing a book filled with anecdotal "factoids". Since students get their quota of boredom from teachers and textbooks, history books for young adults must be enjoyable without being trivial. Ward walks this line deftly, whether he is discussing the role of women, warrior societies, buffalo hunting, the funerary practices in Native societies or the treaties of the 1870s and 1880s. We feel satisfied but not overwhelmed by indigestible matter.
Besides writing a good book, Ward has added a bonus for the readers of The People. He has chosen photographs from Western Canadian archives and the National Archives of Canada that are not standard obligatory page fillers. I believe that he put some effort into choosing these intriguing images of our collective past. Readers will not only look at these pictures, they will study them and, with any luck, they will want more.
Ian Stewart works at Lord Nelson School in Winnipeg and at the University of Winnipeg Library.
On Writing Fiction,
Non-fiction and Autobiography
by Joe Shepstone
Volume 20 Number 6
Have lunch with one of Canada 's most famous authors for both adults and children, join in the conversation on writing and story-telling, and get a taste of his newest book, My Father's Son.
We met in a small cafe in downtown Toronto, about a block from Union Station--and I can now say that I've done "the lunch thing" with Farley Mowat. You may not be impressed, but I sure was, because, you see, I grew up with Mutt, the Owls, Happy Adventure, and the wolves. Meeting the man who had actually lived (and written about) all these stories was exciting.
We ate lunch and talked about families (he and Claire split their year between a farm in Cape Breton and Port Hope, Ontario); about dogs (two of their dogs "perished" (his word, not mine) last year; they now have just the one); and about writing (specifically, his new book, My Father's Son).
My Father's Son is Mowat's thirtyfirst book and his third look back at World War II, following And No Birds Sang and The Regiment. The book is a collection of letters written from 1943 to 1945 between Farley and his parents, Angus and Helen.
In the book we learn that Mowat, at the age of eighteen, joined the ranks of Canadians volunteering for military service at the outbreak of World War II. The young Farley enlisted in his father's regiment, the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. He went to England in the summer of 1942 and the following year took part in the invasion of Sicily.
Farley Mowat was to spend the next three years in Europe, first in Italy and then Holland, Belgium and Germany. His parents, meanwhile, stayed behind in Ontario keeping up with their own interests (Angus Mowat fought hard to have library books sent overseas for the soldiers). His parents supported Farley the best way they knew how. Like many, the Mowats kept the family bonds strong by writing letters.
Having said that, I can report that My Father's Son is really only partially a war story. It is more a dialogue between a young man and his parents during a time of crisis. This dialogue is interesting because it's in the form of letters written over a span of several years. Reading this book is not unlike listening to a good jazz recording. Each character in the story has a personal point of view from which he or she responds to, and influences, the whole. The story is "sewn" together by the letters.
"This is part of my autobiography, which I've been writing in bits and pieces," Mowat told me. "I've been doing it all my life. I write about what I know best."
I wanted to know if he ever "embellished" reality to make a better story. "I never let the facts stand in the way of the truth," he said. "I am not a rational animal. I am a subjective animal. The only thing that matters is the subjective response."
He stabbed his fork in my direction. "Whatever you do, remember your readers first and foremost! If you forget them your purpose becomes frustrated and blunted. You can't lose them!"
"Angus always thought that the only kind of writing that meant a damn was literary writing, and that meant fiction. He believed fiction was the thing. Angus thought his reader was the ghost of the nineteenth-century English writer, Joseph Conrad, and that was the kiss of death. He concluded I had failed because I had not become a novelist. I didn't want to be a novelist."
"Do you consider yourself a nonfiction writer then?" I asked. Farley Mowat, raising a glass of beer up to his mouth, paused, brought it down, brought it back up again and then lowered it sort of halfway in between.
"I am an entertainer," he said at last. "I do like to pleasure my audience. If that makes my writing more acceptable then it will be more effective. My writing is a communication between myself and the reader. I am very aware of the unseen reader."
"The essence of writing is storytelling and it's oral and always has been and will remain so! And if we lose touch with that we become incompetent as writers. If you examine most of the writers you find difficult--hard to handle--you don't like their work and are uncomfortable with it--you will see it is because they have forgotten (if they ever knew) what their essential role really was-- story-tellers!!"
This is important information for dedicated Mowat readers to remember. Farley Mowat practises a tradition in which "fiction" and "truth" are not mutually exclusive. Stories told around the kitchen table and cooking fire are true stories meant to be remembered and learned from--but perhaps not exact in every fact.
Anyone who has read Farley Mowat's other books, as well as anyone who would like to become a better writer, should read his latest. Why? Because My Father's Son is a good account of Mowat's wartime experiences after And No Birds Sang and because it illustrates the importance of voice in modern writing. The voice, or narrative style, Mowat uses in his books is nearly identical to the voice he used in his letters home. Each is a conversation, a dialogue between the writer and the reader.
If you ever get an opportunity, also read Angus Mowat's novel, Carrying Place. Compare it to Farley Mowat's writing. The two men, father and son, have surprisingly similar letter-writing styles but radically different writing styles in their books.
Farley Mowat's books "talk" to us. Whether it is a humorous account of sailing a Southern Shore bummer up the St. Lawrence or a very angry and passionate account of the abuse of life in the oceans, we are never unsure of who is telling the story.
While talking with Farley Mowat I had to ask him why, at the age of seventy-one, he still writes. "To deny function is to deny life," he responded. But does he still enjoy writing? A smile worked its way up through his beard and twinkled in his eyes. "I don't enjoy writing, I've never enjoyed writing. I enjoy having written. The completion of the exercise is marvellous!" Yes, marvellous.
Books by Farley Mowat
And No Birds Sang. McClelland and Stewart, 1980.
The Black Joke. McClelland and Stewart, 1963.
The Boat Who Wouldn't Float. McClelland and Stewart, 1969 (new edition 1974).
Canada North. McClelland and Stewart, 1967.
Canada North Now: The Great Betrayal. McClelland and Stewart, 1976.
Coppermine Journey: An Account of a Great Adventure, Selected from the Journals of Samuel Hearne. McClelland and Stewart, 1958.
The Curse of the Viking Grave. McClelland and Stewart, 1966.
The Desperate People. Little, Brown, 1959 (revised 1975).
The Dog Who Wouldn't Be. Little, Brown, 1957.
The Grey Seas Under. Little, Brown, 1958.
Lost in the Barrens. Little, Brown, 1956.
My Father's Son. Key Porter Books, 1992.
My Discovery of America. McClelland and Stewart, 1985.
Never Cry Wolf. McClelland and Stewart, 1963 (revised 1973).
The New Founde Land. McClelland and Stewart, 1989.
Ordeal by Ice. McClelland and Stewart, 1960 (revised 1973).
Owls in the Family. Little, Brown, 1961.
People of the Deer. Little, Brown, 1952 (revised 1975).
The Polar Passion: The Quest for the North Pole. McClelland and Stewart, 1967 (revised 1973).
Joe Shepstone is a creative non-fiction writer with a passionate interest in natural history. He specializes in writing and interpretation for children. Home base is a cedar cottage on the shore of a small lake in the Gatineau Hills north of Ottawa in Quebec. His first interview for CM, "Marjorie Lamb: It's Only a Mater of Time," appeared in the September 1990 issue.
Sheldon Oberman. Illustrated by Ted Lewin.
Honesdale (Penn.), Boyds Mills Press, 1993 (c1994). 32pp, cloth, $19.99.
ISBN 1478093-22-3. Distributed by McClelland and Stewart. CIP.
Review by Jane Robinson.
Volume 22 Number 3.
This is a comforting story about the importance of tradition and the certainty of change. At the beginning, Adam is a young Jewish boy growing up in Russia in the early 1900s. When the revolution forces his parents to seek a better life in North America, Adam must leave his grandfather, whose name is also Adam, and all that is familiar and dear. The prayer shawl his grandfather gives him takes on tremendous significance and, as Adam grows up, marries and becomes a grandfather himself, the prayer shawl remains a constant in his life. Events come full circle all those years later when Adam's grandson assures him that their "always prayer shawl" and their name "Adam" will continue through the next generations.
The text is clear, simply written and concise. Sheldon Oberman, who has written for both children and adults, keeps the story on track and enables the reader to understand even complexities like the Russian Revolution and the passing of time. While it is obviously a story of great personal importance to Oberman, audience appreciation need not be limited to a study of Jewish culture. It will easily appeal to a wide range of readers and can be applied to many situations.
The water-color illustrations are an effective mix--a soft black and white to portray the past and muted colors to denote the present. Ted Lewin uses a realistic, portrait-like style, focusing on the main characters and their relationships. A gentle, pleasing rhythm, played out through both the words and the pictures in the story reflects the cyclical nature of life.
Grades 1 and up / Ages 6 and upJane Robinson is a former teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Toronto, Kids Can Press, 1993, 157 pp, paper, $4.95.
ISBN 1-55074172-1. (Stevie Diamond Mystery). CIP
Review by Marion Scott.
Volume 22 Number 2.
Pre-teen sleuths Stevie and Jesse test their detection skills once again in this fast-paced mystery. This second adventure takes them to Stevie's dad's tree planting camp in northern British Columbia for a much-anticipated vacation. But much to Stevie's chagrin, they find they are expected to babysit five-year-old Alexander, the camp cook's son.
Stevie's mood improves somewhat when she finds that Alexander and his mom are linked to a mystery. Some time previously, they had rented their house to a stranger whom they never met--a stranger who turned out to be Rubberface Ragnall, an international crook and master of disguise. Now it appears that Ragnall planted something among their possessions, and has followed them to the camp to retrieve it. One of the workers, Stevie figures, is Ragnall. But who? A colourful cast of characters keeps both the young detectives--and the reader --guessing.
If the plot seems improbable, it is certainly no more so than in any novel of this genre, and the suspenseful, well-paced writing quickly draws the reader into the action. Nor is the outcome totally predictable. In the process of reaching a solution, Stevie and Jesse make several embarrassing miscalculations. One almost blows the case. When a resolution is reached, it is satisfying and unforced.
The real highlight, however, is the characterization. Stevie is realistic and appealing as the spunky, independent heroine. Easy-going Jesse makes a good foil. And Alexander is a classic rambunctious--at times trying--five-year-old. The sparring among the three is often amusing, and the dialogue realistic and snappy.
This is Bailey's second novel for children. (Her first How Come the Best Clues Are Always in the Garbage?, introduced Stevie and Jesse.)
How Can I Be a Detective is both entertaining and attractively packaged, and is sure to please young mystery readers. I would recommend this title for school and public library collections.
Grades 4 to 6 / Ages 9 to 11
Marion Scott is a children's librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario.
Review by Karen Karr
Reprinted from the EdRes mailing list.
The Incredible Art Dept. website includes lesson plans for Elementary, Jr.High/Middle School, High School, Undergraduate, and Graduates. The site also provides:
Great site! With easy to integrate lesson plans, this site can be incorporated into any regular curriculum. The lesson plans are particularly useful as they provide explicit details (material needed and detailed directions of the project) of completing a project for any level. With so much information, any teacher can incorporate art into any lesson. This site is very well laid out, easy to navigate, with plenty of relevant material. A site for ALL teachers to check out!
Review by Nancy MacDonald
Reprinted from the EdRes mailing list.
The Canadian Space Agency's Space Resource Centres are dedicated to promoting science and technology from a space perspective. They ensure that teachers, educators, and students have full and convenient access to a wide range of information materials and resources about the activities of Canada and other space-faring nations.
Established in partnership with well-recognized institutions actively involved in promoting space science education and activities, the Space Resource Centres bring a wide pool of knowledge and resources to bear, in support of the educational community and in raising general awareness of Canada's space program.
The Space Resource Centres will provide information (free or at minimal charge) on a wide range of space topics, make available an array of teaching tools, aids, sample lesson plans, and teachers' guides, keep teachers and educators well-informed about sources and resources that are available to them, act as a focus for student assignments and projects, and nurture space science activities through workshops and seminars for teachers.
Review by Lynn Thomas.
Reprinted from the EdRes mailing list.
Connections+ consists of Internet resources--lesson plans, activities, curriculum resources--linked with the corresponding subject-area content standards. Also included are other links to assist teachers with using the Internet in the classroom, such as a direct link to the Lycos search engine.
Each week there is posted a few of these samples, which illustrate the supplemental education resources available to teachers online. The web sites and other resources chosen have been created, maintained, and/or recommended by educators. The first set of samples follows:
The site is very descriptive in terms of the resources needed to fulfill lesson plan objectives. Everything is made available to the teacher; objectives, necessary material, detailed lesson plans - with time expectations, activity sheets and details where these materials can be obtained.
This is an excellent site for detailed lesson plans! It is, however, very scarce in its content and variety of subjects. There are only six topics discussed, but the site is still under construction.
Reviews by Lorrie Andersen.
The Fortress of Louisbourg: making history
Folkus Atlantic, 1995. VHS, 40 minutes.
Distributed by Folkus Atlantic.
Finding really good, recently produced videos on Canadian history or geography topics which are also valuable classroom tools have been as scarce as hen's teeth over the last few years. A new one which is most welcome is The Fortress of Louisbourg: making history. At forty minutes it is a little long for classroom use, but there are logical places to make breaks if it must be segmented.
The video combines the historical role of the 18th century fortress of Louisbourg, with the reconstruction of life during those times, with an appreciation of the conservation work, which enables us today to view the life of those times. And so, we are provided with historical vignettes of lives of merchants, soldiers, the people celebrating the Fete de St. Louis and other characters of the 18th century, as well as the archeologists, the construction workers, the interpretive specialists, and the historians who have recreated clothing, food, pewter spoons, earthenware, muskets, buildings with period architectural detail, furnishings, crafts and social customs of the day. Short of a personal visit to the site, Canadian students are treated to an authentic glimpse of that period of our Canadian history, its role in the development of Canada as well as the specialists who today bring that world to life.
Recommended, Grade 5 to 12
Wetlands : Cradles of life
CTV, 1995. VHS, 24 minutes.
Distributed by Magic Lantern Communications Ltd.
"Scientists and environmentalists recognize the importance of biodiversity provided by wetlands across North America. Instead of continuing to destroy wetlands, landowners, special interest groups and individuals of all ages are benefitting from, and enjoying, the living things in this unique ecosystem" says the blurb.
The basic message behind this video is to preserve marshes, bogs and fens. In conveying this message we are shown adults and children who enjoy learning about the flora and fauna of wetlands as well as the enemies of the wetlands in the form of urban development, agriculture, and even purple loosestrife invasion. Interviews are given by a biologist, a farmer, representatives of the North America Waterfowl Management partnership and Ducks Unlimited. Sustainable development is advocated. The benefits of the marshes through their ability to decontaminate water and for their role in holding the carbon dioxide stored in the peat which, if destroyed, would release methane gas into the atmosphere are some of the final closing messages.
Recommended, Grade 5 to 12
National Film Board of Canada, 1995. VHS, 87 minutes.
Distributed by the NFB.
Certainly, not an essential purchase for a school, but an interesting documentary for those of us who do not know the workings of a modern Canadian school and today's youth. The blurb summarizes it well:
"Roaming the corridors and classrooms of Montreal's Rosemount High School in true cinema vérité style, this stirring documentary records a transitional year in the lives of Grade 7 students and teachers...Lessons takes us to the heart of what it's like for Grade 7 kids who enter high school at the bottom of the social ladder. It's that pivotal time when kids are struggling with issues of family, entity, self-esteem and sexuality; issues of lifelong concern which, all of a sudden, feel weighty with consequence."
Lorrie Andersen is a Collections Development Consultant with the Manitoba Education nd Training Instructional Resources Library.
Folkus Atlantic Video Productions
89 Cottage Road
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Canada B1P 2C9
(902) 539-3363 / 539-0077
Magic Lantern Communications Ltd
775 Pacific Road, Unit 38
Canada L6L 6M4
National Film Board of Canada
Box 6100, Station Centre-Ville
Canada H3C 3H5
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.
The Manitoba Library Association