Teddy Jam. Illustrated by Joanne Fitzgerald.
Toronto, ON: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996.
32 pp., hardcover, $14.95.
Grades preschool - 1 / Ages 3 - 6.
Review by Kathleen Kellett-Betsos.
Just as he was falling asleep, the dolls landed on his chest. "We're lonely!!!!" they cried. "Tell us a story!!!!"
"All right," Jacob said. "Once upon a time there was little boy who wanted a log cabin. He was a very lonely little boy, and when he got the log cabin he was going to pretend he lived there with a friend and they were pioneers."
"We have a log cabin!!!!" the dolls squeaked. "Come live with us!!!!"
"Thank you", Jacob said.
"What are you doing now?", called his mother.
"Telling myself a story," Jacob said.
"Good-night!" his mother called." (27-28)
"Good-night," Jacob said.
"Good-night!!!!" whispered four little voices.
Winners of the Governor General's Award in 1991 for Dr Kiss Says Yes, author Teddy Jam and illustrator Joanne Fitzgerald have teamed together again to create this story in which Jacob wins a miniature model of a pioneer cabin by answering a skill-testing question from a box of Chocky Chocko GoodGrain Nutflakes: "What color was John A. Macdonald's black hat?" (2). No brainteaser there as Jacob remarks: "Anyone who couldn't answer that question didn't deserve to win a prize." (3) Fitzgerald's remark, "The illustrator thanks the Ontario Agricultural Museum for its wonderful preservation of our rural architectural heritage", suggests the cabin has been rendered with historical accuracy. Fascinated by the pioneers whom he admires for their ruggedness, Jacob is delighted with his log cabin. However, his prize is also magical, for the four little dolls who sleep in the cabin's loft come to life just as Jacob is about to go to sleep. They are very playful little girls who wreak havoc before going back to their beds. The next morning Jacob resolves to send away for another prize: a sailing ship with four sailors on deck.
The initial story line is appealing - I clearly remember the seriousness with which I saved up my Popsicle Pete coupons until I had enough to buy some of the exciting prizes: a miniature flashlight, a small toy. However, the focus of this book is not very clear, and the title is no help in that respect: is Jacob primarily concerned with the pioneers and Canadian history or with his little pioneer dolls or with winning prizes from cereal boxes? For that matter, Jacob never refers to the dolls as "sisters," and they certainly are irritatingly whiny creatures. Almost every one of their remarks concludes with three or four exclamation marks: "We're hungry!!!!" they cried. "We want something to eat!!!!" (11) Jacob shows pioneer-like ingenuity when he fashions clothes out of socks for three of the little girls and gives the fourth a fancy dress made from a handkerchief so that she looks like a "pioneer princess going to a barn dance" (no historical accuracy here). He cannot resist teasing them: "You have to take turns," said Jacob. "The pioneers sometimes had to wait ten years for a dress." (18) The author no doubt gives a very accurate picture of the way older brothers see younger sisters, and Fitzgerald has certainly succeeded in conveying the mixture of tenderness and exasperation that Jacob surely must feel toward the little girls. However, I'm not sure that younger sisters will appreciate the humour, although they might be entranced by the Fitzgerald's charming pictures.
Recommended with reservations.
Kathleen Kellett-Betsos teaches French language and Quebec/French Canadian civilisation and literature at Ryerson Polytechnic University.
Edited by Patricia Aldana. Illustrated by Luis Garay.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 1996.
64 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Grades 2 and up / Ages 7 and up.
Review by Lorraine Douglas.
The fourteen traditional tales in this collection are drawn from two cultures. The first seven selections are Native stories which often explain how the natural world originated. The Latin stories revolve around the relationships between people as well as their relationships to the natural world.
The stories are short, direct and easy-to-read. The Legend of Manioc, for example, surprisingly tells how a mother buries her unwanted daughter alive. The daughter is transformed into manioc, a staple root crop of the Indian people of South America. In an Aztec story, When Mountains became Gods, two warriors battle for a woman, and, after an earthquake, the woman turns into snow-covered mountains. Other tales tell of the origin of the Milky Way, the creation of Devil's Gorge and how Chile's Mapuche people found flint to make fire.
The Latin stories are also mature in content. In one story, women are seduced by the songs of Sombrero Grande, and his tears turn into crystal along the cobblestones. The Horse of Seven Colors is a fabulous tale from Guatemala in which a magical horse saves a man and helps him win the hand of the princess in a race. This story of Jose is quite reminiscent of the story of Joseph in the Bible because of the theme of jealousy between brothers. Several of the stories would allow readers to do a cross-cultural comparison of versions of creation stories. For example, students could make comparisons between the origin story of the Milky Way and other constellation myths.
Each story is attractively illustrated by Luis Garay who utilizes earthen
colors in a stippled style. Readers will enjoy using these stories to learn
more about Central and South America.
Lorraine Douglas is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Winnipeg Public Library.
New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1997.
185 pp., paper, $21.50.
Grades 3 - 7 / Ages 8 - 12.
Review by Irene Gordon.
In this fantasy adventure story, a sequel to The Boggart, Emily and Jessup Volnik travel from Canada to Scotland to visit Mr. Maconachie, the new owner of the castle which their father had inherited from his great-uncle. The castle is haunted by the Boggart, a shape-changing spirit who delights in playing tricks. At first, Mr. Mac did not believe in the Boggart.
More and more in the months since he had moved into Castle Keep, he had been seeing things happen that were impossible. Small, insignificant, meaningless things; things so small that it was possible each time for him to wonder if he hadn't imagined what he saw . . . When with no reason at all he saw a spoon rise vertically into the air . . . he knew at once that one of two fates had befallen him: either something terrible was happening to his eyesight, or he was going mad.
(Then he found a letter addressed "To the New Owner of Castle Keep" from Devon MacDevon, the previous owner of the castle)."So you've found him," (it began). "Don't be feared of him. He means no harm, but his tricks will drive you wild if you let them . . . He's older than you or me or the castle or the clan, and he'll be here when we're all gone. He's a thieving rascal, but he eats seldom and little. He likes porridge and cream and new wholemeal bread, apples and cheese, ice cream, ketchup, pickled onions, and fish...above all...he is kin to the seals, as are we MacDevons. And like us too, he enjoys his dram . . . of whisky . . . He's a good soul . . . Have him stay if you can. He's the Boggart of Castle Keep, and I'm fond of him. (pp. 7, 8)
Emily, Jessup, Mr. Mac, and Tommy, who lives near the castle, go on a camping trip to Loch Ness where yet another scientific expedition is searching for the Loch Ness monster. When they arrive at Loch Ness, the Boggart (who had secretly followed them) discovers his long-lost cousin Nessie, who has spent the past 300 years sleeping at the bottom of Loch Ness in the form of a monster and has lost his shape-changing ability.
The Boggart tries to convince Nessie that he can leave the depths of Loch Ness and become a proper Boggart again. Nessie finally agrees, but it requires the assistance of Mr. Mac, the children, and a descendant of the family Nessie had lived with before he lost his boggart powers to enable Nessie to do so. The adventures they have in getting Nessie safely out of Loch Ness and into Loch Linnhe near Castle Keep are, by turns, exciting and funny.
This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy fantasy adventure stories with a dash of humour.
Irene Gordon, a teacher-librarian who has spent the past 13 years working in a junior high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is presently co-editor of the MSLA Journal published by the Manitoba School Library Association.
London, England: Bloomsbury Children's Books, 1996. Distributed by Raincoast Books.
96 pp., paper, $7.95.
Grades 3 - 7 / Ages 8 - 12.
Review by Irene Gordon.
This British book telling young readers about a career as a veterinary surgeon cannot be recommended for Canadian students for two reasons. The first is that much of the information, such as the educational qualifications required and the names of organizations to contact for further information, does not apply in Canada. The second is that Canadian young people will almost certainly find the author's humorous, slangy style confusing or silly rather than funny. For example:
Simple misunderstanding number one: BEING A VET IS A JOB. Wrong! It's a way of life . . . And you're never off duty! You might be tucking into your third portion of apple crumble or even tucking yourself into bed. But whatever you're doing when you get an emergency call, you have to help. Think about it. On the one hand a huge portion of apple crumble with loads of crunchy bits and lovely thick custard. On the other, a sheep having trouble lambing, stuck halfway up a mountain in the pouring rain. (p. 12)
Simple misunderstanding number three: DOGS DO NOT SMELL. Wrong! They do. Dogs can really honk and pong. In fact lots of animals (especially when they're ill) are a bit on the niffy side. (p. 13)
For its intended audience of British readers aged about 8 to 12, this book may be excellent, but I'm a genious vet cannot be recommended for Canadian schools or libraries.
Irene Gordon presently works as a teacher-librarian in a Winnipeg junior high school and is co-editor of the Manitoba School Library Association Journal.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic, 1997.
32 pp., hardcover, $15.99.
Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
The tangram pieces are called tans. The object of tangram is to create different shapes using the tans. That can be tricky because you must use all seven pieces to make each shape! You can make more than 1,500 different designs.Tangram, an activity book that uses a hands-on approach to teach children the magic of mathematics, contains a brief history, an explanation and examples of tangrams, and challenges for children to develop their understanding of this ancient Chinese puzzle game. The publisher has packed the contents into a 32 glossy-paged 13 x 15 cm. book that has a cardboard box of the same size attached to it. The box slides out, revealing 4 tangrams ready for play.
Tangram is part of the Discovery Box series published in North America by Scholastic. The series, originally a French publication, includes: Plants, Weather, Light, and Colour. Children, with an adult's assistance, can gain a lot of understanding of basic scientific principles from these interesting volumes.
The books have tables of contents, and the information is well organized, being divided into 2 page segments and clearly explained. However, as the concepts are not easily understood by the youngest age child in the target audience, an adult will need to participate to have the children both understand the science being taught and feel a sense of accomplishment with the tools contained in the box. Children aged 9 and up should be able to follow the instructions and complete the experiments without too much assistance. A concluding glossary elaborates on difficult words.
Each page is brightly illustrated, and information about the subject is simply explained. Often a question based on the information is asked with the answers printed upside down. In Tangram, children are challenged to mimic animal shapes with the enclosed shapes. In the other books, children are advised to observe plants at certain stages, taught how to use a prism, and are invited to collect and measure rainfall. The objects contained in each box are engaging for children (the weather gauge is a whale) and quick and easy to use.
Each book in this series would make a good gift for a child interested in discovering science. Not only will children playing with these books learn basic information about the subject matter, as well as some miscellaneous trivia, but they will have a good time doing so. These books are very appropriate for a family oriented activity, for rainy days, and are just the right size to take to the cottage this summer.
Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher-librarian.
Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 1997. Distributed by Raincoast Books.
180 pp., paper, $9.95.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Grace Shaw.
I understand now why this life has never been lived before. It is hard with no support but a high purpose, to live against every species of social opposition.
Elizabeth Blackwell's story is indeed a story of triumph, and, for twentieth century women who take for granted both the medical services system and the fact that a woman can be whatever she wants to be, it is a reminder of whence they have come.
Middle-class nineteenth century women stayed at home where they supposedly belonged. However unsanitary, the practice of medicine was an inviolable men's club. No nice young lady would even contemplate looking under skirts at disgusting body parts.
Nancy Kline has written an engaging, touching story of Blackwell's struggle against hardship and discrimination. With Elizabeth's view that the future of women in medicine and the future of society were inexorably one, endure she must.
Blackwell's legacy as the first North American woman physician and a crusader for public health and prevention deserves to be known.
Grace Shaw is an instructor at Vancouver Community College.
Edited by David E. Scott.
Burnstown, ON: General Store Publishing House, 1996.
143pp., paper, $16.95.
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
I really don't know when, or even how, it was formed, but the Shoot and Hook Outdoors Society was perhaps the most elite group of outdoorsmen that ever existed. When it first began, there were only six members, and only once in its history did the society ever admit another, bringing the total to seven. This is where I come in . . .
That was my first meeting with the members of the Shoot and Hook Society, but before the fishing season ended, I was admitted into membership in the club. Not only that, I was unanimously elected chairman in charge of all chores. Bubbling with exuberance, but short on common sense, I accepted my new post. It was after I accepted that they told me the next election would be in 20 years.At any gathering of anglers, inevitably someone will recount a "one-that-got-away" story which usually contains some elements of the tall tale. This telling naturally "invites" the listeners to recount their own stories, with each narrator attempting to "top" the previous speaker. Scott, author of five guidebooks to Ontario, has compiled 31 entertaining sports fishing stories which arrange themselves across the fact-fiction continuum, with more, not surprisingly, leaning toward the created end. In the absence of specific publication credits, it must be assumed that all of the stories were especially created for this anthology. Varying from 2 to 7 pages in length. most of the pieces fall in the 3-4 page range. Of the book's 15 authors, two-thirds have contributed multiple stories, and only one, Lyn Hancock, is female. The brief bios which follow each selection attest to the various writers' outdoor and/or writing credentials.
While a few of the stories are serious in tone, the vast majority are humorous and will evoke everything from sympathetic smiles to loud belly laughs. David Carpenter's "Tyee," for example, deals with a man who attends Sexually Disabled Anglers International or SDAI, a self-help group for men whose wives have caught bigger fish than they. In Ray Dillon's "Mac'n'me," the narrator acts as a fishing guide to Mac, 76 and deaf, plus Charmer, Mac's 150 lb. mind-of-his-own dog, with hilarious results.
High school English teachers seeking stories of character should troll the anthology's contents. The brevity of the stories, plus their generally lighthearted content, will definitely net some senior school readers.
Dave Jenkinson teaches children's and adolescent literature courses at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
Arthur J. Ray.
Toronto, ON: Lester Publishing Ltd. and Key Porter Books, 1996.
398pp., cloth, $45.00.
ISBN 1-895555-94-9. CIP.
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Ian Stewart.
It has happened very often, that where we were most welcome, where we baptized the most people, there was in fact where they died the most; and, on the contrary, in the cabins to which we were denied entrance, although they were sometimes sick to extremity, at the end of a few days one saw every person prosperously cured. We shall see in heaven the secret, but ever adorable, judgments of God therein.
- Father Gabriel Lalemant, 1640
We know from bitter experience that others do not know what is best for us. We are engaged in a fight we will never give up, a fight to implement the policies we know will help us lift ourselves above our present problems. We hope for and welcome the support of other people in Canada in that struggle.Canadian historian Arthur J. Ray, author of Indians and the Fur Trade (1974) and The Fur Trade in the Industrial Age (1990), has undertaken a daunting task in this elegantly written one volume work. This is history on a grand scale, an attempt to synthesize 10,000+ years of Native Canadian economic life into a form that is accessible to a general readership.
- George Eurasmus, Co-chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1989
In the introductory remarks, Ray notes that new general histories "by and about" Native people focus on ideological, religious, social, and political aspects of history. However, he wants to demonstrate that changes in these areas developed subsequent to changes in economic patterns. As well, he shows that, since the first contact, white economic policy consistently reflected a dedicated purpose to marginalize Aboriginal people and destroy their culture.
At the "time of contact", the indigenous peoples enjoyed sophisticated advantages over the "intruder", advantages that made them valuable resources. Natives knew the territory; they had control over the resources; they had established trade-links to other peoples in the interior. Unfortunately, for the Native people, it did not take long for this relationship to be reversed. Traders learned the land and established their own networks, and soon the Natives became laborers instead of partners in the enterprise.
Through an examination of the modern fur trade, the industrial fishery and western agricultural policy, Ray shows how Natives were systematically disenfranchised and not allowed to compete in the market place on equal terms with entrepreneurs and settlers.
Governments began promoting colonization and industrial development. Indigenous people were seen either as an economic burden whose way of life and spiritual beliefs were incompatible with white materialistic ideology or as an economic threat to white control of agriculture and industry. Consequently, Canada's insidious course of action, although always promoted under the pretense of benevolent paternalism, has been the spiritual destruction of the First People through the residential school and reserve systems.
This excellent work will be an "eye-opener" for most young students of Canadian history. The mistaken belief that Canada has not oppressed and actively sought the destruction of the First Nations might finally be put to rest with Professor Ray's indictment of the federal government and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
Ian Stewart is a member of the Winnipeg Public Library Board and works at Lord Nelson School in Winnipeg, MB.
Julie J. Ferguson.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 1996.
364 pp., cloth, $36.99.
Grades 11 - 12 / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Ian Stewart.
Two small vessels crept slowly into Canadian waters in the pre-dawn of a summer's morning. It was 0445 on 5 August 1914 - warm, calm and hazy. The vessels were submarines, arriving, secretly after an escape under cover of darkness from their American shipyard.There are only a few years of service left in Canada's aged submarines: HMCS Ojibwa, HMCS Okanagan, and HMCS Onondaga. Julie Ferguson is afraid that her story of the Canadian Submarine Service, which is a celebration of the submariners' commitment to excellence, might also be its eulogy. The death knell may have sounded when Defense Minister Perrin Beatty's plan to purchase twelve nuclear submarines (SSNs), in 1988, collapsed. Since then no Liberal or Conservative Defense Ministers have advocated purchasing any type of new boats to modernize the fleet. However, as Ferguson describes, the submarine service has risen from the dark depths many times.
At that moment the Canadian Submarine Service was born.
Its conception had not been planned by the Royal Canadian Navy . . . Like all unexpected events, the acquisition of the submarines was surrounded by urgency and confusion.
As she tells the story, Canadian governments have always had an on-again-off-again relationship with the service. While neither the defense department nor the chiefs of naval staff have ever had a true commitment to maintain the service as a fully functioning part of the naval forces, they have been equally unwilling to disband it and commit all monetary resources to surface ships.
Even though she tries to explain the origins of our submarine service in the best possible light, it began as low comedy. In 1914, Sir Richard McBride, the Premier of British Columbia and friend of Britain's First Sea Lord Winston Churchill, bought two submarines to protect Vancouver and Victoria from German warships, without bothering to inform the Canadian government or navy, neither of which had never expressed interest in submarines.
The boats were available because the Chilean government, which had originally contracted for the boats from a Seattle based ship builder, refused to honour the contract. It seemed they had a tendency to lose buoyancy and go into uncontrollable dives - not a good thing for a submarine. Everyone seemed to know this except McBride, and he willingly paid $200,000 more for the boats than Chile had originally agreed to pay.
Luckily, there was no real German threat because the submarines did not come with torpedoes and they had no trained crew. McBride donated them to Canada, and the submarine service was born, unannounced and unwanted.
During the First World War, Canada purchased other submarines from Britain. Canadian naval officers trained at the Royal Navy's (RN) submarine school and captained the boats with some distinction under the authority of the British Admiralty. After the war, all the boats were de-commissioned and sold. Canada did not have any submarines in the Second World War, but 26 Royal Canadian Naval Reserve officers and sailors (RCNVR) trained at the RN submarine school and served ably in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Far-East theatres of war. The navy rented submarines in the 1950s and 1960s for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training. No boats were purchased until 1968-1969 when the three submarines now in service were commissioned. They are also used for ASW training. The navy hoped for six new diesel-electric boats in the 1980s, but Beatty scuttled those plans with the overly ambitious nuclear option. However, public opinion and Treasury Board opposition quickly torpedoed the Defense Minister. He soon moved on to run Canada Post and later the CBC.
Ferguson has combed naval archives for the diaries, memoirs and oral histories of Canadians who served from the Great War to the modern era. She has interviewed men who are still living and the relatives of those who have passed on. Naturally, there are great stories of adventure, hardships and the boredom that was part of an early submariner's life. There are many stories of brave and honourable sailors, and the author has not shirked her responsibilities as an historian. The tales of incompetent scoundrels are also included.
The Canadian Submarine Service owes Ferguson a debt of gratitude for the effort she has put into a fine book. Students will enjoy experiencing this little known part of Canada's naval history.
Ian Stewart is a member of the Winnipeg Public Library Board. He thinks sea stories are great and likes dark rum with lime.
John Norris and Patrizia Menton.
New Denver, BC: Two Corbies Publishing House, 1997.
60pp., cloth, $42.95.
Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
John Norris is a resident of New Denver, B.C. This book of photographs shows the results of his efforts to create a garden over a thirty year period. The garden contains wild flowers, regular cultivated flowers, a rock garden, and a pond. It appears from the photographs of Patrizia Menton to be a garden of which nature would be proud.
In addition to the flowers, the garden boasts much else to attract passers-by. Proudly assembled like works of art at a gallery opening are granite and aged driftwood sculptures which urge readers to feel them and acknowledge their beauty. An ancient cedar stump partially burnt by fire is described by the author as, "made lovingly by a cascade of pale grey-green lichens that we also avoid touching lest we destroy them, so fragile they look". The close-ups of these natural sculptures show them to be dignified, richly textured and deserving of attention.
John Norris is well qualified to write about his own garden. A talented writer he has previously written three books, Old Silverton, Wo Lee Stories, and Historic Nelson. Old Silverton won the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor's Medal for History Writing in 1986.
A sample from John's Garden shows the richness of Norris' prose. From "Inside And Outside", he writes, "Years later - after I had begun to tinge my whole house with red as an echo of that old 'CPR red' once so familiar in this valley - I brushed the timbers with a mixture of about one part red paint to fifty parts linseed oil, thereby bringing about - if I may be permitted an extremely attenuated stretch of the imagination - an occurrence of convergent evolution between timber and rock."
Patrizia Menton, owner and operator of Chiaroscuro Photographic Gallery in Hills, BC, is also very talented. Her photographs, rich with intense colours, create powerful, irresistible images. They give the garden an aura of mystery, a glimpse of a wonderful world that viewers can only enter with their imaginations. They tantalize like the thoughts of some forbidden fruit. What lies bevond the leaves and moss? What hidden secrets await behind the rocks and dense beds of flowers?
Norris and Menton complement each other. Together they have created an unusual book that readers will enjoy time and again. The photographs can be viewed solely for their artistic merit, but, with the addition of Norris's text, they become more alive and meaningful.
Thomas F. Chambers is a professor of economics and political science at Canadore College, North Bay, ON.
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.
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