The Flood Issue
Sue Ann Alderson. Illustrated by Ann Blades.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, l997. 32 pp., cloth, $15.95.
Grades Preschool - 2 / Ages 2 - 6.
Review by Alison Mews.
Raccoons out for an evening scavenge, four tumble-young raccoons twitter in a line-dance behind mother, look for fruit and frogs, take their findings pondside for a wash, twitter, tumble-play, hide and seek up trees and down, then tumble-follow in a line again, to find their hollow log and tumble in.
My only quibble is that there is no Table of Contents, index or pagination as one has come to expect from poetry books and which will confound any future indexer should this book be included in a poetry index Also, the poems are not separated into seasonal chapters, although they are arranged from Spring to Winter and running titles indicate into which season they fall. This lack of organization means the poems are less immediately accessible to teachers preparing thematic units, but it does not detract from the success of the marriage of natural science, lyrical language and lovely illustrations. A book to be enjoyed on many levels.
Alison Mews, Coordinator Centre for Instructional Services, Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF.
Betty Waterton. Illustrated by Ann Blades.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, l996 (Rev ed.). Unpaginated, paperbound board, $14.95.
Grades preschool - 2 / Ages 3 - 7.
Review by Sharon McCue.
"I'm going to stay and fish for salmon he [Simon] said. And he did.
He sat on a rock and fished.
But he didn't even see a salmon.
He saw red and purple starfish sticking to the rocks. He saw small green crabs scuttling among the seaweed. He saw flat white sand dollars lying on the wet sand. He saw pink sea anemones waving, pale jellyfish floating, and shiners swimming.
But he didn't see a salmon.
"Are they ever hard to catch," thought Simon. He decided to stop fishing, maybe forever.
It has been almost twenty years since A Salmon for Simon was first published - would that we had all aged so well! It came on the scene when Canadian children's books were just starting to blossom. Finally, Canadian children could read books about Canadian children, with Canadian place names and Canadian expressions. That could have been the reason that this book had a place in Canadian children's lit - it could have been, but it isn't.
This book has a place in Canadian children's literature because it is a classic - a book whose text and illustrations are timeless; a book that has as much meaning twenty (or fifty) years later as it had on the day it was published. Betty Waterton's text is simple, yet creative, never talking down to its young audience. Likewise, Ann Blades' watercolour illustrations seem plain, yet they are layered with texture and a few well chosen details to make the words come alive.
Simon is a small boy living on Canada's west coast. The story tells of the first summer that he is old enough to have his own fishing pole and of Simon's vain efforts to catch a salmon. When September arrives and he is still luckless Simon is ready to give up but fate intervenes and Simon does get a salmon though it comes from a passing eagle rather than the end of his fishing line. Simon keeps the salmon alive in a pool of water that has collected where he and his sisters have been digging for clams. Ingeniously, the little boy works hard to make sure that the beautiful fish returns to the freedom of the sea.
This book is about dreams and reality. It is gentle and poignant and wise. It is a classic. Buy it for your library. Buy it for your grandchildren, for if we manage to hold people to a respect for the salmon of the Canadian west coast, then their grandchildren will enjoy this book as much as all the children who have gone before them did.
Sharon McCue is a former library consultant for the Cree Shcool Board of James Bay.
Kerry Westell. Illustrated by Scot Ritchie.
Willowdale, ON: Annick Press, l997. 32 pp., paper, $5.95.
Grades Preschool - 3.
Review by Donalee Moulton.
If children like up-beat books with lots of life, energy and vitality,
they won't like Dinosaur Dreams. The 77 words in this book lack
imagination and do little to stimulate a child's sense of creativity or
fun. The premise is somewhat intriguing: If we were descended from
dinosaurs would we dream dinosaur dreams? Now I don't know how many
youngsters will understand the word descended, but once mom or dad has
explained it to them, they'll discover that dinosaurs dream, for example,
of fog. Not fuzzy fog, or fingers of fog, just fog. Likewise they dream of
bubble baths, not bubbly baths or soap-n-suds. Now there is something cute
about seeing a dinosaur in the tub with bubbles over its belly but even
then the artwork lacks imagination. Given the subject the illustrator
could have created fun-loving creatures in weird and wonderful sizes and
shapes doing weird and wonderful contortions. He didn't. Rather the
dinosaur is doing about what any little boy or girl would do in the tub.
Even the pastel and subdued shades of the illustrations hamper the images
from leaping off the page and into our hearts. It certainly won't take
long to read Dinosaur Dreams. That, unfortunately, is its best
Donalee Moulton, Halifax, Nova Scotia .
Laural Dee Gugler. Illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen.
Willowdale, ON: Annick Press, l997. 24 pp., paper, $6.95.
Grades Preschool - 3.
Review by Donalee Moulton.
Muddle Cuddle is as ticklish a book as it sounds. Building on the wonder of sound, nonsense and rhyme author Laurel Dee Gugler explores what happens when a variety of pets, toys and toddlers all clamor to sit on Dad's lap simultaneously. The result, quite frankly, is a lapful of fun and frolic. For example, when the rooster comes a struttin' through 'He wants to crow and snuggle, with a cockadoodle cuddle, a cockadoodle cuddle on your lap.' With each addition to Dad's lap -- kitty, clown, twins, to name but a few -- the rhyme scheme grows along with the chaos until finally there's a 'comfy cozy, furry purry, giggle tickle, happy daddy, double trouble, cockadoodle, gr-r-reat gr-r-rowly, swirly curly, jumble muddle cuddle' that all comes a tumbling down. The language is evocative and silly, designed to produce giggles, guffaws and belly laughs. But it also is ideal for parents and kids reading out loud to use as a learning tool. Here are the sounds certain animals make. Can you make them? Complementing the vibrant, enthusiastic text is an equally vibrant and enthusiastic set of illustrations. Illustrator Vlasta van Kampen uses bold, primary colors to bring the story to life.
Donalee Moulton, Halifax, Nova Scotia .
Gilles Tibo. Illustrated by Gilles Tibo.
Translation of Simon et la Chasse au Tresor. Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, l996. 24pp., paper, $4.95.
Ages 5 - 8.
Review by Sharon McCue.
Gilles Tibo is an illustrator with a strong following in his home province of Quebec, and in some cases, justifiably so. This is not one of those cases. The illustrations in this book are joyful and appealing, however, they are not well supported by the text and that, in the end, is the book's weakness. Whether this is a case of poor translation or weak original text is difficult to say without the original in hand for comparison. Nevertheless, one can imagine few children sticking with a book, no matter how enchanting the illustrations (and these illustrations would be so described by only the most indulgent of reviewers) when the narrative is so dull and unappealing.
The story revolves around Simon who is looking for something, one knows not what. He rides off on his rocking horse, finding various clues along the way. He meets his friend Marlene who would help him look if he knew what it was he was looking for. When Simon is unable to say just what it is he is searching for Marlene leaves (and all the smarter for having done so, in my opinion). Out of nowhere Simon comes upon a gold miner but, it appears, that is not what he is looking for. He gets lost, wanders into a cave where there is a ghost, becomes scared, and is, finally, rescued by Marlene who, Simon realizes, is the treasure for which he has been looking.
Tibo's illustrations cannot overcome this disjointed, pointless story. Perhaps there was something in the original text that gave this story meaning and life. If so, the author has been ill-served by this translation.
S.A.M McCue formerly worked as a library consultant for the Cree School Board of James Bay.
Roch Carrier. Illustrated by Sheldon Cohen.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, l996. 20 pp., cloth, $15.95.
Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 7 - 9.
Review by Michele F. Kallio.
Roch Carrier's new book in his sports related series follows The Hockey Sweater and The Boxing Champion in an appealing look at a young boy's introduction to basketball at Seminaire De St. Georges in Ste. Justine, Quebec. Our hero is followed from his arrival at the Seminaire where he is taken under the tutelage of an old priest, who leads the new boys into the school gym.
Dropping a basketball in the boy's hands the priest says, "All you have to do is drop the ball into the basket you can see over there. "
"First I located the basket . . . then I threw the ball as hard as I could. It rose slowly to the ceiling then it fell back down in front of me.
"I know you're a champion, even if it doesn't show today, " the old priest observed.
"I've never played this game before" I explained
"The best way to learn," said the old priest, is by playing . You ' re going to be on the basketball team."
So begins our young hero' s journey to the provincial championships. An excellent read sure to appeal to boys and girls alike.
Michele Kallio is a former teacher/librarian living in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick..
Madeline Davis, Sr. Translated by Della Owens, Harriet Landry. Illustrated by Donna Cameron.
Moberly Lake, BC: Twin Sisters Publishing Company, cl994. 42 pp., paper, $8.95.
Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 12.
Review by Brian Rountree.
The bear told her that there was better berry picking further, so the girl started to follow him. As they walked, the bear used his sacred powers so they could not be followed. He led her away from where her mother was.
In this British Columbia folklore tale the grandfather of a teenage girl appears to her as one of the sacred bears and leads her away to teach her the sacred ways. They stay for a winter in a tipi which the bear builds within a hole in the ground he had dug using his magic to keep them hidden from the people hunting for the girl. At the end of the winter her father is allowed to find the girl and take her home. She now knows many special things and will be able to lay her hands on people to heal them.
In the way this family tale is given to us by Madeline Davis Sr. of Moberly Lake, we feel a part of the storytelling tradition of the Cree people. Indeed, it almost feels like Davis is telling her own story.
Donna Cameron illustrates this book with simple black-and-white drawings which have their own power to interest and enthrall the reader. She is a self-taught artist who did the illustrations for the first Twin Sisters publication, Going to Visit Kou-Kum.
This could be a good addition to a collection of Canadian aboriginal folk tales.
Brian Rountree is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian School Library Association.
Art and Quotations by Students of G.T. Cunningham Elementary School.
Forward by George Littlechild.
Vancouver: George T. Cunningham Elementary School, 1996.
Distributed by POLESTAR Press (Vancouver). 56pp., paper, $15.95.
Grades 3 - 8 / Ages 7 - 14.
Review by S.A.M. McCue.
Visual symbols are a powerful and immediate connection to our cultural heritage. They are a reflection of cultural myths, legends, values and history This is where Art finds its roots and inspiration. ... The students who contributed to this book learned about First Nations history, culture, and art in a truly personal and meaningful way. This book is a celebration of art, culture, and families. We hope it inspires people of all ages to create their own family heritage collage.
This book started out as a project to help students in a Vancouver school see the richness in their diversity. It began as an art project which would help them understand First Nations values and heritage and grew to include their own cultural and family backgrounds. The students looked at the environment in which artists create. They talked to members of various First Nations, visited art galleries, and talked to members of their own families about their ancestors. The result is a remarkable effort filled with love, joy, and gentle advice (for example, from an Ojibway aunt who said, "Be your own self, don't follow others.").
The book is a collection of collages which were made by students of a Vancouver school. The full colour collages are on one page along with what the student understands We are all related to mean. On the opposite page the student talks about him/herself and family, the meaning of his/her collage, and why the project was interesting. On the same page is a statement from a family elder to whom the student has spoken.
The collages are bright, varied, and imaginative. Their borders range from combinations of fish and triangles to sunsets, stars, and stripes - each with its own special meanings for the artists and their families. Central to the collage are photos of the artists, their families, and drawings which help to explain the family and its origins.
This book would make a wonderful resource for students beginning an exploration of First Nations culture. These students whose work fill these pages were inspired by Cree artist George Littlechild who facilitated workshops and inspired them with a collage of his own ancestors. Perhaps, with a little digging in their own region young people could find other Aboriginal artists to inspire them. School librarians would do well to ensure that a copy of We Are All Related is in their libraries where it will interest students and inspire teachers.
S.A.M McCue worked as a library consultant for the Cree School Board of James Bay from 1983-88.
Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore. Illustrated by Alan Daniel.
Toronto (ON): Lester Publishing and Key Porter Books, 1996. 320pp., paper, $29.95.
ISBN 1-895555-88-4. CIP.
Grades 6 - 8 / Ages 11 - 13.
Review by Caroline Thomson.
The Story of Canada begins with stories of the first people in what is now Canada; it ends in our very recent past. The middle is made up of just about everything in between. Stories about the people who crossed the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago, to Lucien Bouchard resigning from Federal politics to become Premier of Quebec. The authors present many of the dramatic turning points in Canadian history and the story is enhanced with folktales, myths and anecdotes.
The authors are well suited to the task: Janet Lunn is a well known and respected Canadian writer for children who has won several awards for her work. Christopher Moore is an historian and writer who specializes in presenting history to general audiences. He is also the co-author of The Illustrated History of Canada. Alan Daniel, the well-known illustrator, adds his vivid illustrations throughout the book greatly enhancing its appeal.
As the authors themselves note, no book has enough room for all the
stories of Canada; however, they have done an admirable job of covering the
multifaceted history of our country. This completely updated version
brings their coverage to 1996. They tell stories of humour, tragedy,
courage, daring and vision. There also seems to have been an effort to
bring more attention to the role of women, Natives and the common man, but
in doing so they do not exclude leaders and traditional heroes. Included
with the basic facts of history are anecdotes about individuals or events
that are often amusing and always interesting and informative. The
accounts of daily life scattered throughout the text enable the young
reader to imagine what their life might have been like had they lived during
Every page includes illustrations or photographs which help bring the stories alive. The authors used historical photographs, maps, paintings posters and cartoons, not to mention Alan Daniel's colourful and detailed illustrations. The book also includes a chronology and a detailed index.
The book is written in a lively and fascinating manner holding the attention of the reader. The Story of Canada is the story of the many Canadians who have shaped and influenced our country. The result is a beautiful and informative book. With attention to stories of the people of our past rather than a basic listing of events and dates, this book will show young readers that our history is neither dry nor dull.
Caroline Thomson, Librarian, Toronto, Ontario.
Nikki Fisher. Illustrated by Peter Smith.
London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 1996.
Distributed by Raincoat Books Distributor. 162pp., paper, $4.95.
ISBN 1-895555-88-4. CIP.
Ages highschool - adult.
Review by Donna Doyle.
After his mother had left for work, Shaun sat on the side of his bed, tearing pages out of a magazine and dropping them into a wastepaper bin. Casually he struck a match, held it for a while and then, just before the flame touched his fingers, lit a piece of paper and watched the result. It was amazing how quickly the flame grew. He could already feel the heat coming up from it and see black smoke as the paper charred and curled in the bin. Even the green paint on the bin was slowly going brown with the heat, though the red roses were unaffected. Withing seconds, all the paper was alight and the yellow flames were licking up well above the rim of the bin, huungry for more fuel, greedy for anything they could consume.
Burning Ambition is the fourth in the Accident series by Nikki Fisher. The story takes place in a hospital emergency unit in Great Britain. The author takes us behind the scenes into the lives of both staff and patients. The threat of closure, all too common in health services these days, weighs on the staff and complicates their stressful occupation even more. The characters are well-developed. The main characters are: Ollie, a nurse, who must choose between her love of nursing and her love for a man; and, Shaun, a troubled young man, whose undiagnosed learning disorder leads to a rage against his former teacher and a revenge that brings him to the emergency unit.
The narrative flows well in step with the pace of an emergency unit. The politics, pleasures and pain are all there. The book also contains a fact sheet on dyslexia - Shaun's problem - a failure to process information which makes reading, writing, spelling and math very difficult. This is easy reading, and doesn't get bogged down by opinion or fact.
Recommended as light reading for adults.
Donna Doyle is a writer, former freelance journalist and former teacher. She is currently a video producer living in Arichat, Nova Scotia.
Copyright © 1997 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
AUTHORS | TITLES | MEDIA REVIEWS | BOOKSHELF | BACK ISSUES | SEARCH | ORDER | HOME