Richmond Hill: Scholastic, 1996. ©1993. 32 pp. paperback, $6.99.
ISBN 0-590-24667-4 CIP
Grades preschool - 2 / Ages 4 - 7.
Review by Alison Mews.
Originally published in 1993, this cheerful extension of the title song tells of an adventurous badger who sets out to see the world in his little rowboat, lustily singing "Row, row, row your boat" as he goes. His progress down the stream takes him past a variety of playful animals who, hearing his rousing song, ask to join him in his boat. The rowboat eventually becomes so overcrowded that the overwhelmed badger decides to continue his journey alone by train.
On the last page we see the refrain "I've been working on the railroad" begin, along with a train which, unbeknownst to the contented badger at the front, is towing a small rowboat (on wheels) filled with boisterous animals. This surprise ending delights small children, who take great pleasure in the knowledge that the unsuspecting badger is about to be invaded again. This rhyming story begs to be read aloud, and invites children to join in singing the song interspersed throughout.
As with Mary Kovalski's Take me out to the Ball Game and Jingle Bells the song is a catalyst for the events which take place in the story and part of the fun is the interposition of the familiar with the unexpected. The humour is artfully extended in the exuberant pictures, especially in the animals' emotions which are rendered with comic expression.
This paperback reissue of Robin Muller's rollicking story is a welcome addition to the growing body of affordable Canadian books for libraries and children's bookshelves.
Alison Mews is Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Compiled and Edited by Katherine Farris.
Toronto: Greey de Pencier Books, Inc., 1996. 160 pp., softcover, $14.95.
Grades 2 - 5 / Ages 7 - 12.
Review by Lorrie Ann Wannamaker.
Who first used umbrellas? Are there really only seven colours in a rainbow? Are all frogs green? How much paper does one tree make?
Have you ever wondered why something is the way it is or how something happens? Are you full of questions about everyday things that no one can answer? Then this book is for you!
If your students or children enjoy the question and answer section of Owl magazine then they will love this book. If you like teasing young minds, whether as a teacher or a parent, you will find this book a useful daily tool.
Editor and compiler Katherine Farris has taken the best 350 questions sent into Owl magazine. Along with the answers she has divided the information into chapters - the human body, science and technology, space, and plants and animals.
The photographs are stunning and the illustrations are bright and colourful to go along with the fascinating and fun nature of the book. Some pictures fill in most of the page and catch your attention even before you read the questions.
The table of contents and the index are helpful in letting the young reader find the section they are most interested in reading. My favourite section is the human body, but my nephew's and niece's favourite part was the one about animals. I think when you compile 20 years of questions from Owl magazine you are bound to provide something of interest for everyone.
There are many question and answer books on the market. Owl's book far exceeds them in terms of quality of graphics, style and overall FUN. They have the most unusual questions, probably because they were solicited from children. Only a child could think of some of these questions - How do worms see underground? Why do people burp? Why do table knives have round edges? This book would be a perfect gift for the child who is constantly asking why or for the parent who has to give the answers.
Lorrie Ann Wannamaker
Michael Seary. Illustrated by Michel Bisson.
Toronto: Douglas and McIntyre Ltd. 1996. 64 pp. softcover $13.95.
Grades 3 - 8 / Ages 8 - 13.
Review by Gary Robertson.
" We can all draw and paint, sculpt and construct. Some of us take to art more readily than others, but everyone gets better with practice. That is what this book is about: improving your skills as an artist with practice-- the practice of art."This little instruction book is a useful tool for teachers and parents who are working with children's art. It is organised in a clear, concise way that makes it easy to read and use with children, beginning with describing what basics are needed - the approach, the space and the materials. It then explains some simple ways of using the elements and principles of art to produce simple, creative works. The author has kept the process simple, suggesting easy and enjoyable uses of the materials and techniques commonly used.
Unlike other instruction books, this one does not pretend to be a complete course or great recipe book of ideas. It attempts to motivate and open doors to more exploration by both the teacher and the student.
The book includes short chapters on: The Use of Colour; Drawing Techniques; Perspective; Painting; Composition; Real and Imaginary Worlds and Visions; and, Applications of Art.
The drawings and diagrams, in combination with a simplified text make for an easy read and a great starter book for encouraging art in the classroom, in the home on a rainy afternoon.
Gary Robertson is a recently retired Secondary School Fine Arts instructor and is both a practicing artist and musician in Regina.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 1996. 143 pp., paper, $6.95.
Grades 4 - 5 / Ages 9 - 11.
Review by Lorraine Douglas.
Earlier in December, Uncle Will and Father had argued for the first time. Oliver thought of that now and tried to remember what the argument had been about. Oh yes, the row of books that was always on the mantel, books that Oliver's father had bound back home.Oliver lives in Fort William and his cousin Bert lives close by in Prince Arthur's Landing. It is just before the New Year of 1880 and the boys argue because their fathers have quarrelled. Oliver vows never to speak to Bert again but Mr. Campbell, his grouchy blacksmith boss, urges him to talk to him. He finds out why the brothers disagreed and their dispute parallels some of the tensions between Fort William and Prince Arthur's Landing. Oliver's father has set off on a dangerous job carrying nitroglycerine and when he is away the Powder Company blows up. Oliver's sister Hannah is lost in the commotion and Oliver asks Bert to help him find the girl. The boys are finally reconciled.
This slowly-paced historical fiction novel is Ms. Acheson's first book. The dialogue and plot would have little appeal for contemporary readers. Some readers in the Thunder Bay, Ontario area might be interested in the book as it sheds light on the history of the amalgamated communities.
Lorraine Douglas is Youth Services Coordinator at the Winnipeg Public Library.
Toronto: Scholastic, 1996. 154pp. paperback $4.99.
ISBN 0-590-24699-2. CIP
Grades 4 - 6 / Ages 9 - 12.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
You haven't said much since the airboat ride, Brittany, Dad said as we passed the Orlando city limits sign. Almost four hours with only the occasional grunt isn't like you. Cat got your tongue?Martyn Godfrey (of catchy title fame) has written yet another book that deals with adolescent concerns - this time the strained relationship between divorced parents and the strained relationships between a child and an absentee parent. The story revolves around Brittany, a 13 year-old-girl, who is going to Florida with her friend Laura. They are going to visit Brittany's dad, whom she has not seen for 15 months. Brittany has grown up since their last visit, and is no longer a little girl. Her father is a worrier. He has trouble adjusting to the changes in his daughter, and has difficulty relating to her. The subplot involves meeting the boy the two girls dream of, the star of a popular TV show. The conflict in the plot is resolved when Brittany's dad realizes that he has to adjust to the new reality that is his teenage daughter, and he resolves to strengthen their relationship by seeing her more often. The dreamboat TV star turns out to be an ordinary, likable boy; and, the two girls go back to Toronto happy.
I've always thought that was a dumb expression. Yes, I told him. The dumb cat has got my dumb tongue.
Ouch, Laura said.
There's absolutely no need to be rude, Dad lectured.
This book has a plot that deals with a contemporary issue in the lives of children and adolescents. It has the happy ending people like to see in a book, and an appropriate amount of humour and irony in the form of Laura, who often gets caught with her foot in her mouth. The setting begins in Toronto, but takes place mostly in Florida. At least there is a touch of Canada in it, and many kids are familiar with Florida and Disneyworld as a vacation spot. The names of the characters, the places they visit and the things they talk about are written in contemporary language. The language level is not difficult, and the book falls into the category of bulk reading for students in grades 4-6.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
David Booth. Illustrated by Karen Reczuch.
Toronto: Kids Can Press Ltd., 1996. 17 pp. hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 1-55074-295-7 CIP.
Grades 4 - 7 / Ages 9 - 12.
Review by Floyd Spracklin.
"A few of us farmers ploughed deep furrows around the fields to stop the earth from blowing away. Others thought it was hopeless to keep planting because their ploughs just turned up dry, fine dust that blew away in the wind. A few went to church and prayed for rain. For some, farming was becoming a slow way to starve."David Booth is the author and anthologist of more than thirty books. His works include Images of Nature: Canadian Poets and the Group of Seven and Doctor Knickerbocker although The Dust Bowl is his first picture book. Karen Reczuch is an accomplished illustrator whose previous books include Just Like New and The Auction, nominated for the 1991 Mr. Christie's Book Award.
This is a tale of the great drought of the 1930's. It captures readers' attention from the very beginning with its colourful and provocative cover, through to the many splendid illustrations, and wonderfully large print. The mood of uncertainty and impending doom is very cleverly crafted for its intended younger audience.
Though this story is about the almighty, invincible and unmerciful forces of Nature, the family is resolved to stick to its roots. "The rain will come. If not this year, then next year. We can hang on."
The fine illustrations and attention to historical details are a tribute to the many, many hours both author and illustrator have obviously spent researching for this wonderful picture book. "One big dust cloud blocked out the sun for days." There are shades of Barry Broadfoot's many years of gathering the stories from the prairies and of Sinclair Ross's intimate knowledge of the prairies. "She (Grandma) scrubbed her fingers to the bone, but the dust kept winning." All with one exception. This is a book for younger audiences. Although no bibliography is present, the author does acknowledge the works of several writers and historians.
The Dust Bowl should surely find a worthwhile niche in the curriculum of elementary to lower junior high language arts and social studies programmes. Students will quickly identify with Matthew, the young boy through whose eyes the story is revealed. Whether one lives in the timberlands, near the ocean, on the wheat fields, or in the orchards of Canada, this story with its hard work, uncertainty both in Nature, and in gaining a livelihood will ring true.
Floyd Spracklin is a Language Arts Department-Head at G.C. Rowe Junior High School in Corner Brook, NF. He has been teaching, writing, and reviewing literature for twenty-five years and has published a number of short stories, essays, and poems in Canadian magazines.
Nicholas Read. Edited by Kim Nash. Illustrated by Chum McLeod.
Vancouver, B.C.: Polestar Sirius Books, 1996. 142 pp. paper, $8.95.
ISBN 1-896095-22-4. CIP
Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 10 - 14.
Review by Joan Payzant.
"The neighbours weren't happy either. They didn't like to complain to the LeClercs because they wanted to be on good terms with them. But when Joey's barking got to be too much, they had to say something. Then the LeClercs got angry with Joey all over again. If only someone had paid attention to him, things would have been different. But the more care and attention Joey needed, the less he received, until even Robert couldn't be bothered with him any more."
This is one dandy little book! Nicholas Read has received awards from both Great Britain and the United States for his involvement with animal welfare. His voice is heard in the "Vancouver Sun" and on the radio concerning animal issues, and his concerns come through clearly in this book.
A pithy sentence on the back cover states: "Told in Joey's own charming and innocent voice, 'One in a Million' is a 'Beautiful Joe' for the '90's." This is an apt description. Joey, a black shepherd cross, is put in an animal shelter as a puppy, but has difficulties being placed in a permanent home. Nicholas Read has managed just the right degree of pathos for today's readers, whereas Marshall Saunders tended to lay it on too heavily a century ago. Children's emotions will be touched by the plight of dogs in shelters, but rational explanations of rules in kennels will prevent them from having agonizing nightmares.
This is an ideal book for teachers to read to a grade four class. It will awaken a love of animals in children, and also has enough suspense in regard to Joey's search for a home that it will grip their attention. This is not to suggest that children couldn't read it on their own, because it is a good "first chapter" book.
Another kudo to the publishers - "One In a Million" is beautifully designed, and remarkably free of typos and grammatical errors. It was a pleasure for this adult to read.
Joan Payzant is a retired teacher/librarian, and UNretired writer, of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Debbie S. Miller. Edited by Carolyn Smith. Illustrated by Daniel Van Zyle.
Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Northwest Books, 1996. Unpaged, cloth, $15.95 U.S.
ISBN 0-88240-474-1. CIP
Grades 4 - 9 / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Joan Payzant.
"The young female, who only weeks ago was just learning to fly, has come thousands of miles. Now she grows weary as she beats her wings through the pressing wind. With only a few miles remaining on her journey, she suddenly feels turbulent storm clouds around her. The whirl of updrafts and downdrafts tosses and bounces her above the ocean. Heavy raindrops pelt her feathers. Wet and exhausted, she descends through the storm clouds."
This is beautiful book in every possible way, with an incredible story to tell of bird migration. It is the result of the collaboration of two wildlife enthusiasts - author Debbie Miller of Fairbanks, Alaska, and illustrator Daniel Van Zyle of Hawaii. Miller's clear, sometimes poetic descriptions of golden plovers are enhanced by Van Zyle's full-page paintings. His birds, insects, and large animals like grizzly bears and arctic foxes are set against dramatic backgrounds - sunsets, storm clouds at night, the arctic tundra and many others.
The central theme of the book is the amazing migratory flight of golden plovers between Hawaii and Alaska - non-stop for 3,000 miles in only two days! That's about 60 miles per hour! It is a wonderfully informative book, explaining the differences between the birds' lives when in Hawaii or Alaska. There is a pronunciation guide, a decorative map of the route, and a final page with detailed factual information.
This book would be a worthwhile addition to any library, institutional or personal. I know an adult birder, who was thrilled when he looked at it.
Joan Payzant is a retired teacher/librarian, and UNretired writer, of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Edmonton, Alberta: Reidmore Books, 1996. 134 pp., paper $26.50.
Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 15.
Review by Kathleen Kellett-Betsos.
"In May 1611, the explorer Samuel de Champlain visited the future site of Montreal. Champlain was an adventurous young man from France who had already travelled much of the world. He had come to Canada across the Atlantic Ocean on a sailing ship. Another French explorer, Jacques Cartier, had also visited the same site, about 75 years before. In his diary, Cartier had described a large First Nations village there, called Hochelaga. Now, there was no sign of the village or of the people who had once lived there. No one to this day knows what happened to the people of Hochelaga." (p.3)
The sense of history as an exciting mystery rather than a dry list of dates is evident right from the beginning of this wonderful history text aimed at students from approximately Grade 6 to 9. In a format similar to that used in his previous textbook, Alberta; A Story of the Province and its People (Reidmore Books, 1993), Marshall Jamieson pursues his treatment of Canadian history, concentrating this time on Canada as a country of immigrants, from the First Nations to the European settlers of the "Great Migration" in the nineteenth century.
There is extensive consideration of contacts between the First Nations and the Europeans: the hostility between the First Nations and the Norse, the importance of the fur trade, the role of diseases brought over from Europe. The text does a very good job of exposing the diversity of the First Nations peoples, although the table on "The First Nations of Early Canada" (p. 22-3) specifying the characteristics of the various groups tends to be reductive, especially the section on "Beliefs".
Key events in Canadian history: the settlement of New France, the deportation of the Acadians, the impact of the Loyalist migration, the 1837 Patriot Rebellion of Lower Canada, the massive wave of immigrants from Europe in the nineteenth century, are all treated succinctly and effectively.
The author has done an excellent job of relating yesterday's history to today's controversy. It's intriguing, for example, to see the Loyalists represented as the first in a long line of refugees to Canada. This textbook is beautifully designed to attract the students' attention and to enhance learning.
Each chapter begins with a "Key to Understanding", a brief summary of its main points. Rather than presenting a solid block of information, the chapters are broken up into shorter narratives on political and social history, biographical portraits (including those of Jeanne Mance, Henry VIII, Kelsey and Molly Brant), and historical documents such as letters and travel narratives. Occasionally, Jamieson uses chronologies to focus attention on important dates.
The textbook is also commendable for its inclusion of the often forgotten voices of women and of visible minorities, notably the Black Loyalists. A section entitled "Points of View" encourages students to reconstruct historical conflicts imaginatively, especially through role play. The effect of the appealing illustrations, including maps, drawings, portraits, paintings, and photographs, is reinforced by questions listed under "Map Study" and "Picture Study".
Each chapter concludes with a series of questions labelled "Looking Back", reminding the students of people and places to remember as well as outlining useful assignments for further research or analysis. The final chapter provides more review questions and invites students to reflect on the implications of diversity for Canadian culture. A glossary and an index complete the book.
Although I would highly recommend this textbook, I do have a few criticisms. First, the language is sometimes overly simplified, as in the following quotation:
"Unfortunately, we have no idea of what the First Nations thought of the Norse. Since they attacked the Norse, we can guess that they were not happy that the newcomers invaded their land." (p. 27)."Not happy" hardly seems adequate here. Also, students would be just as likely to understand if the French had been described as "angry", rather than "mad", at the English for establishing their trade posts in the Hudson Bay area (p. 75). In the glossary, certain words, such as "habitant" and "Métis" are no doubt key historical terms but others, such as "legend" and "tide", might be just as easily be found in any dictionary. At the same time, I liked the glossary's very Canadian explanation of the not so innocent word "distinct". I also believe that a short bibliography would have been a welcome addition.
Secondly, in terms of historical material, certain additions could be made. For example, when presenting the Patriot Rebellion of 1837, Jamieson might have reduced some of the distance between our two solitudes by mentioning the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. Also, a subsequent edition might correct the comment that in Lower Canada, "only well-to-do men, mainly those who owned property, could vote" (p. 111). In Histoire des femmes au Quèbec depuis quatre siècles (Montréal: Le Jour, rev. ed., 1992), the Collectif Clio points out that from 1791 up until 1849, when they were specifically disenfranchised, women of Lower Canada who owned property also had the right to vote. These minor flaws do not, however, detract from the textbook's overall appeal and its usefulness in the classroom.
Kathleen Kellett-Betsos is an assistant professor in the French Department of Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, Ontario.
Saskatoon, SK.: Thistledown Press, 1995. 215 pp., paper, $8.00
ISBN 1-89544-943-X CIP
Grades 7 - 10 / Ages 12 - 15.
Review by Jennifer Sullivan.
"Did I have a plan? Yeah, I had a plan. I would put myself between the barge and its destination. I would make my point loud and clear to whomever was running that ship that it was not wanted. The words were on my wing. I believed in the unbelievable, as I skidded across the surface of the water lighter than a bird, more invulnerable than a rhinoceros. I believed that I could somehow get out there, show them that they were wrong. And that they'd turn around and take their deadly payload back to where it came from."When Rocky Harbour, a small seaside east coast town, is targeted as the site for a second waste burning incinerator, sixteen-year-old Chris Knox refuses to be a passive witness to the destruction of the wildlife and the landscape. Along with Marina, an attractive newcomer to the town who has her own reasons for joining the fight, Chris struggles to prevent the installation of the incinerator. Caught up in a wave of youthful idealism, Chris and Marina soon find themselves involved in a conflict that threatens to tear apart not only their community, which relies heavily on the chemical company for employment, but also their relationship. Energized by his enthusiasm for the cause and his feelings for Marina, Chris can't understand his father. Mr. Knox has grown tired and cynical after a long and unsuccessul attempt to prevent the installation of the original incinerator in Rocky Harbour and losing his job with the Department of the Environment in the process. But when it seems like Marina is more interested in pursuing the Regional Authorities than him, Chris is forced to examine his own motivations. All I wanted was a chance to fall in love with this girl and for her to fall in love with me. Along with this introspection comes maturity, and a greater understanding of the passivity that haunts his father. A concern for the environment is a recurrent theme in award-winning author Lesley Choyces' fiction. He balances descriptions of the ravaged landscape with the windsurfing scenes, which convey a powerful oneness with nature, to suggest what will be lost if action yields to complacency. The dialogue reinforces this appreciation of the landscape; it is realistic yet full of wonderful imagery as Chris describes his strong connection to Rocky Harbour. This concern for the natural world is most poignantly voiced in the relationship between Marina s dying father and Jack, a seagull who breaks his wing when he is shot down outside the incinerator. As the maimed Jack embarks on his shaky flight, supported by a homemade wing lovingly constructed by Marina's father, it signals a triumph of the spirit over technology and financial profit. This is a thoughtful novel that will no doubt encourage discussion about a timely and important theme. It would be especially relevant for units on environmental studies or pollution. Most important, it encourages kids to stand up for their own values and principles.
Diane Jarvis Jones.
Vancouver, B.C.: Diane Jarvis Jones., 1995. unpaged, paper, $12.99.
Review by Lorraine Douglas.
This unusual self-published paperback deals with the themes of death, the gift of love, and the beauty of giving. The narrator remembers being a baby and being given a button blanket by Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary comes to live with the family when the narrator is five and she is seriously ill and dying. She sings a song to the young child who is afraid of death but does not understand its meaning. After the death of Aunt Mary, the child continues to give others buttons in remembrance.
The text on the left faces photos of portions of the button blanket on the right. This kind of layout does not integrate the text and illustration. But the idea of using buttons, sequin beads, and threads to create the illustrations is unique. The book is autographed and contains the gift of a button.
The author's approach to the theme of death is quite different from other works dealing with the issue and the book might be useful in some situations. The main problem with the text is the use of the first-person narration - a third-person narration would make the story more credible. Not an essential purchase.
Recommended with reservations
Lorraine Douglas is Youth Services Coordinator for the Winnipeg Public Library.
Burnstown, Ontario : General Store Publishing House, 1996. 155pp., paper, $18.95.
Grades 10 and up / Ages adult
Review by Irene Gordon.
William Morris tore the handbill from the tree and crumpled it savagely in his hands. His dark eyes quickly took in the crowd gathering around the hastily erected hustings. Colourful bunting fluttered from the leafless trees, making them look like gaudily dressed matrons at a fall fair. The liquor was circulating freely, and minor tussles were already punctuating the throng. Morris's eye traced a trail of blood to a man sitting dazed on the side of the road. His nose was broken, and he seemed impervious both to the pain and the barrage of abuse being flung at him by his irate wife. There'd be a lot more blood spilt before the victor was declared, Morris thought abstractedly. (p. 82)The author used archival material in researching this book of a dozen tales of life in Perth, Ontario, during the first half of the 19th century. The result is a rather strange mixture of historical fact and fiction. Some of the stories are quite entertaining, but others seem of limited interest or importance . In most cases the archival material tends to be padded with too many (presumedly) fictionalized details (see the excerpt above) that neither further the story or are interesting in themselves.
This book may have a place in the high schools of the Perth area, but it is not a book that this reviewer would recommend for school purchase.
Recommended with reservations.
Irene Gordon is a teacher-librarian at Westdale Junior High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and currently co-editor of the MSLA JOURNAL published by the Manitoba School Library Association.
Toronto: Simon and Pierre, 1996. 94 pages, paper, $16.99.
Grades 11 and up / Ages adult.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
There's a ribbon of mist in front of the treesThis is Ms Rapoport's fifth book of poetry. The variety of subjects, from fossils, tourists, oysters, parrots, adventurers, angels, to ghosts; and, the variety of length, made this an enjoyable volume to read. The poems ranged from prose-like narratives to three line thoughts. The word choice added to the descriptive nature of the work. The poems also varied in voice, from first person singular, to first person plural to third person. The poet was present in the words through her memories and imagination.
on the far side of the harbour. It passes
through sailboats and wraps gulls scanning for food.
A foghorn groans from up the coast
across bird shrieks and engines. The ribbon spreads
toward the city, binding the grey water
to the grey sky.
A click of the camera can't take the rest
of this picture: we too are wrapped in damp spice
and the tang of the sea, our summer faces on the dock.
Shall we eat fog sandwiches?
Purcell's Cove (page 17)
The volume was divided into four sections: Borders, In the Carousel of Space, Ghosts and Angels, and After Paradise. The number of poems varied in each section but spoke to a personal side of the poet. Geographical locations were often brought to mind. The binding, print and page quality were suitable to the collection.
The poems were reflective as well as a cause for reflection making this a volume that could be read and shared with poetry and prose lovers. Because of the variety of poems included in this volume it would be very suitable for public and personal libraries.
Deborah Mervold is a teacher librarian in a grade 6 to 12 school, and a Grade 12 English teacher at Shellbrook Composite High School.
London, Ontario: Brick Books, 1995. 96 pp., paperback, $11.95.
Grades 12 and up / Ages adult.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
Pender Harbour, B.C. Spent the first
evening on the dock listening
to geese honk their rubber bicycle horns
over the marina. Those stick-to-the-point
flights over Ontario, seriously Canadian
as blanched carrots in the freezer.
And wildflowers! Splitting
out of rock, their little hooks into air.
It was spring. I was in love
and needed a place to have my baby.
Circled the map with a pin and pierced
Pender Harbour. Barely accessible
boats calling just often enough.
Anyway, with mother's hysterics and war
there was no room in Ottawa to bursting
with either child or happiness. Plus: his wife.
Night won't settle. Hills smudge
with coal from earlier fires, and light shimmies
the water as if the artist's unhappy
with too thick a night. So there's none.
untitled poem from page 32Cornelia Hoogland was born in B.C. not long after her family emigrated from Holland. She now lives in Ontario and has taught English Children's Literature and Drama. She has written stories and stage dramas for children. This is her second volume of poetry.
Her poetry shows great expression, love of life and extensive vocabulary. She uses unusual words and structures to provide a realistic view of poetry. The selection offers an overview of life as she traces the poet and the woman in her struggle to find meaning. The poems are divided into sections; the first being "Root and Furrow", followed by "In the Meantime: Elizabeth Smart Poems" with two sub-sections, "Each Bird Walking" and "Girl Who Went Forth".
The quotation which concludes the volume is credited to the Carrier Indians from B.C. "The white man writes everything down in a book so that it will not be forgotten; but our ancestors married the animals, learned all their ways, and passed on the knowledge from one generation to another." I enjoyed the poems in this collection. I found that many touchstones to other lives and other people could be remembered through her poetry. Often, I had to reread the poems and think about her word choice. This is a volume that I will return to and share with other women. It contains poetry to be shared and discussed with new chapters opening with each reading.
Deborah Mervold is a teacher librarian in a grade 6 to 12 school, and a Grade 12 English teacher at Shellbrook Composite High School.
Meet the Man
Behind the Pictures
by Janet Collins
Volume 22 Number 4
If you've ever thought of children's book illustrators as being creative types with lofty goals, you wouldn't be far from the truth. Not if you mention Ron Lightburn's name in the same breath.
The soft-spoken Victoria resident's career has more than "got off the ground." He was, after all, awarded the prestigious Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Medal for his work on Sheryl McFarlane's Waiting for the Whales (not to mention the Governor General's Literary Award and the Elizabeth Mrazik Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award).
However, it was while taking research photographs for his new release, Eagle Dreams (also written by Sheryl McFarlane based on an idea of Lightburn's), that Ron Lightburn had his most uplifting experience.
"Much of my work is based on photographs," Lightburn explained. "Many of the illustrations I did for magazines and other publications in the past had to be very accurate, so I was often supplied with a photograph of what I was to illustrate. I continued doing that when I started working on children's books. Not many Canadian children's book illustrators do this. It's a great way to meet new friends."
Whenever possible, he seeks out people living in the type of setting he envisions the characters in the book living in. The people look the way he imagines the characters in the story looking, do the things he imagines the characters doing. He may change the colour of someone's clothes or create his own background while working on the final illustration, but the series of photos provides a general frame of reference.
"I found the perfect family for Eagle Dreams while travelling around dairy farms near Cobble Hill (near Duncan, B.C.)," Lightburn reported. "But I was having trouble locating the right window of their house to use in a certain picture. I imagined Robin, the boy in the story, looking out a window at eagles flying against the sky. Janice, the mother in the 'model' family, suggested I use one of the second-floor dormer windows. It was perfect. "
The next problem was getting up high enough to take the picture. A piece of farm machinery known as "the bucket" was used to raise Lightburn to the desired position.
"I needed to take several pictures of the boy sitting in different positions," Lightburn continued. "The family decided it was best to leave me to my work, so they all went away. I soon finished and found there was nobody there to let me down! I felt a bit like Steven Spielberg getting a crane shot."
Such concern about detail is reflected in the realistic aspects of Lightburn's illustrations. He feels he owes it to his readers to be as accurate as possible. If something isn't just right, chances are a reader will pick up on it. Getting the tiniest detail right also makes the stories more believable.
"It was difficult for me to imagine what a wounded eagle might look like, never having seen one up close. I probably wouldn't have been able to do a proper job of it without photographing a real birds Lightburn said.
As luck would have it, the artist not only found a real eagle, but one that was easy to pose. It seems the Royal British Columbia Museum just happened to have a dead eagle in its freezer and was willing to let Lightburn photograph it. Better yet, Tracy, the "model" veterianarian, had once worked with large birds, so she knew how to position both the bird and herself for what was to become the wingbandaging illustration.
As well, Lightburn's range goes beyond the realistic style relying on photographs.
"When I illustrated Patti Farmer's I Can't Sleep! I chose a different style of artwork based on flat pattern rather than three-dimensional form using light and shadow as I had done in Waiting for the Whales," pointed out Lightburn.
To say that the work Lightburn is best known for is highly realistic is not to say that it is always literal. He often incorporates symbols in the illustrations to add to the story's underlying message. For example, the grandfather's hat in Waiting for the Whales becomes synonymous with the man himself. When he dies, all that is left is the hat. But when the man's granddaughter wears the hat, the reader understands that something of the grandfather's knowledge and responsibility has been passed on to her, something more than the love of whales and of gardening.
Light also plays a major role in Lightburn's illustrations. It not only sets the tone--the mood--it also acts as a symbol.
"I've found that you can actually tell a story with light," Lightburn said.
In Waiting for the Whales, for example, we know much about the grandfather's feelings from the amount of light in a given illustration. When the old man is alone at the start of the story, the light is subdued. Things brighten when his daughter and granddaughter come to live with him, and are brightest when the grandfather and child are either in the garden together or waiting for the whales. Light lends a ray of hope, and we see the granddaughter at the end of the story standing in the sunshine, looking at the whales swimming by. While these are rather sophisticated techniques, their effect is by no means lost on the intended audience.
"I will never forget how one young girl reacted to a picture in Waiting for the Whales," Lightburn recalled. "It's the picture where the man is sitting on the porch, his head tilted back, hat in his hands. There's a strong sense of light and shadow. This is the last time we see him before he dies, so I was trying to make his face reflect what he was thinking about--that he was content with his life, that he knew his granddaughter would wait for the whales, that he was at peace. Well, at this one reading I did, a young girl told me she thought the whales would like the man because he has a kind face. So I guess I got it right."
Lightburn says it's important that his illustrations be accessible to the audience. He not only uses images and symbols that young readers will easily recognize and understand, he also employs a medium that most children already have some experience with.
"I like using coloured pencils," Lightburn said. "I used to paint a lot, but, since about 1982, coloured pencils have been my main tool."
During book tours, Lightburn, who attended the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, sometimes finishes the formal session with a bit of an art class. First, he makes a simple line drawing, usually on coloured paper (he says using coloured paper gives drawings a unifying colour scheme), then adds white to illustrate highlights and black to indicate shadows. The children then try what they've learned, with Lightburn offering advice and encouragement. "Coloured pencils are something almost every child has some experience with," he said. "I show them a few simple techniques, and they become so inspired. I'm always amazed by what they come up with after a simple demonstration. A light seems to come on in their heads when they see how they can play with light in their drawings. I wish a professional artist had been available to show me a few things when I was young."
Even these days, Lightburn's work is not restricted to the realm of picturebooks. His illustrations have appeared on the covers of many adult and young adult books as well. Margaret Buffie's My Mother's Ghost and Ann Walsh's Your Time, My Time are just two examples of the two dozen book covers he has created over the last ten years. More covers are on the way, including Speak to the Earth for Doubleday and King of the Class for Scholastic.
"It's fun setting up a book display for teachers and librarians," Lightburn commented. "They're familiar with these other books, but they usually don't know I illustrated the covers. They seem to know me only for Waiting for the Whales."
Early indications are that we'll soon know Ron Lightburn for Eagle Dreams as well.
"My illustration style seems to suit Sheryl McFarlane's writing style," Lightburn said. "We work well together."
Who knows to what new heights that collaboration will take him.
Picture-Books by Ron Lightburn
Book Covers by Ron Lightburn
Janet Collins is a regular feature contributor to CM. Her most recent assignment was learning paper engineering for an interview with Celia King ("Celia King: The Art of Book Making, Pop-Up Style") in the October 1993 issue. Janet lives in Vancouver.
Lee J. Hindle.
New York: Avon Books, cl984. 139pp, paper.
ISBN 0-380-88468-2. Distributed by Avon Books of Canada.
Reviewed by Barbara Conquest
Volume 22 Number 3
This winner of the Flare Competition for young writers (13-18) fills all the requirements for a book likely to be popular with the nondiscriminating young teen, the one who thinks Flowers In The Attic and Carrie are the best books he/she has ever read. Horror, violence, and very obvious foreshadowing abound.
On the plus side, this young author exhibits a good ear for current adolescent speech, a keen eye for detail, and a definite talent for transposing both into print. If the curtailment of self-indulgence that frequently comes with maturity materializes, future writing from this young author should be awaited with favourable anticipation.
Grades 8 to 10
Barbara Conquest, D. S. MacKenzie J.H.S., Edmonton, Alta.
Thomas A. MacDonald
Toronto, Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1994. 165pp, paper.
ISBN 0-02-954255-3 (paper) $9.95. CIP
Reviewed by Janet McKinlay
Volume 22 Number 5
It is Upper Canada in the late 1880s. When eleven-year-old Aaron's parents die of cholera, his great-aunt Morag and great-uncle Archie, rather than send him to an orphanage, reluctantly take him to live on their farm in the north. Aaron's mother had always said, "there were folks who were Christian by duty and folks who were Christian by love." Living in the emotionally sterile environment of his aunt and uncle's homestead, where only the basic necessities of food and shelter are provided, Aaron soon understands exactly what his mother had meant. But he finds acceptance at school both through the friendship of Sophie and her brother and through the encouragement of Mr. Nelson, the teacher, who appreciates Aaron's scholarly side. Unfortunately, he also becomes a favourite target of Big Josh Grossler, the school bully, who is constantly admonished by his father to emulate Aaron's love of learning.
The main focus of this story, however, is Aaron's relationship with Roland, a young wolf. Right from the moment of his arrival on the farm, Aaron is drawn to the fierce beauty and freedom of the wolves, which he views as "princes from another world." He mourns their slaughter when the local farmers go out one evening on a wolf kill. Weeks later, while wandering the local woods, Aaron rescues one lone cub from starvation, and they soon become inseparable. Secrecy becomes all-important, as Aaron knows Roland will also be killed if found.
Aaron spends as much time with Roland as he can. And, when his beloved newly found cousins invite him to come to live with them in Cobourg, he hesitates, torn between his love for his cousins and his love for Roland. Aunt Morag, however, jumps at the opportunity to get rid of Aaron and insists that he accept the invitation. While Aaron is walking alone to catch the train to Cobourg, tragedy strikes, and Aaron's life is saved only by the ultimate sacrifice that one creature can make for another.
There are many facets to Thomas MacDonald's novel. It is a historical novel of small-town and farm life in Upper Canada in the 1880s. It is an enchanting story of the strong bond between two lonely creatures, the boy and the wolf. It is also a story of child abuse and survival. Aaron survives the emotional abuse of his aunt and uncle through his love of learning and the friendships he creates with Sophie, with Mr. Nelson and particularly with Roland. Aaron's character is highlighted by and contrasted with the character of Big Josh, who succumbs to the physical and emotional abuse of his father by repeating the pattern of cruelty on others.
Thomas A. MacDonald, an up and coming young adult author, has written a fine first novel. He has built on his own experiences of living in the deep woods of Ontario, which lend authenticity to the setting and story-line. The relationship between the wolf and the boy is presented in a realistic fashion. The time period and the descriptions of the general harshness of life on a farm in the 1800s enhance the novel. The vocabulary is rich and the story flows logically. Both the strength of the main character and the theme will appeal to young people. Aaron's powerful story of emotional survival is compelling.
Grades 5 to 8 / Ages 10 to 13
Janet McKinlay is a teacher-librarian at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver, British Columbia
Review by Bruce Pinchbeck.
Reprinted from the EdRes mailing list.
B.J. Pinchbeck's Homework Helper provides the user with more than 240 relevant links to sites around the world. A comprehensive search engine and reference section are included, allowing the user to find information about virtually anything on the internet. Subjects that relate to English, History, Math, Science, Social Studies and Foreign Languages are plentiful.
Since April, 1995, this homepage has received 10 awards. B.J. Pinchbeck's Homework helper can be (and has been) used to train teachers, guidance counselors and parents of the merits of quality educational sites on the internet. It is an excellent way for students to research and explore topics assigned by their teachers.
Review by Derek Keats.
Reprinted from the EdRes mailing list.
The Internet Biology Education (BioEd) Project is based in the Botany Department at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. This project aims to make use of the Western Cape Schools Network (WCSN), and the University's internal network linked to the FRD's Uninet, to evaluate the feasibility of producing and distributing teaching aids and making other resources available through Internet access by schools that are part of the WCSN. The resources are available for global access,and encourages biology teachers and pupils around the globe to interact with their counterparts in south Africa.
The following resources are currently accessible (follow the RESOURCES link on the home page):
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