Whew, that was quick! It was just three issues ago, I was introducing myself to CM readers and now, I'm saying goodbye.
I'll be leaving CM after this issue to become Projects Director of the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers and Managing Editor of the magazine Prairie Books NOW, a full-time position(s). Though my time here was brief, it was thoroughly enjoyable and, if the position at CM were full- instead of part-time, I would surely stay.
Peter Tittenberger will remain Managing Editor of CM and I will do some freelance copy editing in order to help him out.
CM remains one of the finest electronic journals in existence. Keep reading!
Charmagne de Veer
I really enjoyed reading Janice Foster's review of Hazel Hutchins' book [Yancy and Bear]. Hazel is a fireball of energy and a really "pumped up" writer of children's literature. And Canadian. Hooray for "us!"
Linda Rogers and Rick Van Krugel.
Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 1996. 130 pp., paperback, $8.95.
Grades 4 - 6 / Ages 9 - 11.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
Molly Brown is a girl with a problem - at least she sees it as a problem. It's not that her mother (Candace) is a single parent, or that they have to scrape to make ends meet. It's that her mother is a clown. Her mother's occupation is a source of deep embarrassment to Molly, although her closest friend and confidant, a boy named Trouper, finds Molly's mom kind of neat. Deep down, Molly too admires and respects Candace and her talent: she just wishes she'd act like a "normal" mom sometimes.
The other source of Molly's problem is lack of knowledge about her father. Mom won't talk about him, so Molly constructs a relationship based on tidbits she remembers from before her dad left, and on her imagination.
Molly decides that a clown she sees in the circus must be her dad, and she is determined to be reunited. The circus leaves town, and so Molly creates an elaborate plan, using her mom's clothes and clown makeup to make her and Trouper look like junior adults (Trouper becomes a girl!). They then steal Candace's car, and set off on an adventure that takes them on two ferries to Vancouver. There they are unmasked, they find out the truth about Molly's father, and Molly's family is reunited.
Molly Brown is Not a Clown is a pleasant read with good humour that will appeal to children in intermediate grades. It deals with the subject of AIDS, addressing the silence that surrounds the disease, but ends on a positive note. It is set in British Columbia, and the illegal car ride provides the reader with accurate descriptions of the islands, the ferries and the city of Vancouver. Trouper's Chinese-Canadian ancestry offers a believable subplot, and the friendship and conversations between Molly and Trouper reflect the closeness that can exist between two kids.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
Victor Hugo. Retold by Tim Wynne-Jones. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Toronto, Ontario: Key Porter Kids, 1996. 90 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.
Review by Leslie Millar.
Through the streets the ragged parade bore the King of Fools until, at last, they reached the bonfire at the Place de Greve. The crowd parted and there danced Esmeralda the gypsy girl. A nymph, a goddess. Her streaming black hair jingled with brass coins. A beautiful white goat, its hooves and horns painted gold, pranced around her. Oh, how Quasimodo's heart clattered in his swollen chest to see her dance.
Award-winning children's and young adult author Tim Wynne-Jones has retold Victor Hugo's classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a children's story book, and done an admirable job. Hugo's weighty tome has enough layers of good and evil engaged in dramatic conflict to satisfy even the current Disney movie generation. (Which perhaps explains the Disney animated version, though it probably has more to do with marketing Quasimodo dolls.) Wynne-Jones employs a writerly style that sometimes gets bogged down in awkwardness - "Every street was a jumblement of cold and grasping shadows" - but the language strives to match the passion of the story, and I found myself carried along by the sheer drama and poignance of it all.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Quasimodo, a hunchback, is employed to ring the bells of Notre Dame cathedral. He is grotesquely disfigured, made deaf by the bells; a figure of derision who is destined to be unloved. He falls in love with the gypsy girl Esmeralda, who only has eyes for the dazzling captain of the guards, Phoebus de Chateaupers. Phoebus is killed by the evil archdeacon of Notre Dame, Dom Frollo, who desires Esmeralda for himself. Esmeralda is wrongly accused and convicted of Phoebus' murder and sentenced to hang. As she is being lead to the gallows, Quasimodo swoops down and carries her to the sanctuary of the church. The resolution is bittersweet. Esmeralda gains her freedom and is reunited with her mother, but Quasimodo is never to be loved, a fate so painful he proclaims "Would to God I were made of stone." The hero's victory is shadowed by his personal tragedy, and makes this story an appealing introduction to the genre for elementary readers. Who knows what reading interests it may spawn down the road? I know that I'm inspired to read the original (translated) for myself.
The vocabulary and metaphor-laden style will be difficult for young readers but is still worthwhile as they can draw meaning from context, from just the sort of story they love: a hero, a villain, a princess. (Well, Esmeralda could have been a princess.) Every student will understand the basic story; some will be able to access many levels of meaning. There are also many story interludes that lend themselves to review and prediction which also help teachers to expand student comprehension.
Bill Slavin's gothic illustrations, in muted colors, are packed with detail that children will enjoy. A dim light prevails throughout, creating an ambience that is just right for this sombre tale.
Leslie Millar is a mother and substitute teacher.
Gilles Gauthier. Illustrated by Pierre-Andrérome.
Montréal: La Courte Echelle, 1996. 60 pp., paperback, $7.95.
Grades 6 - 8 / Ages 11 - 13.
Review by Kathleen Kellett-Betsos.
Le Temps des Fêtes ... C'est le pire, tu sais ... Tout le monde s'amus e ... Tout le monde boit ... Et tu as peur que ... Marcus a voulu continuer, mais il n'a pas pu. Il avait la gorge serrée. Il a lentement baissé la tête.
Si tu savais, Jenny, les Noëls qu'on a passé la maison, maman et moi ... Ce n'était jamais le père Noël qu'on attendait ... Oui, mais ton père n'a pas bu une goutte depuis deux mois.
Depuis qu'Antoine l'aide. La Puce a relevé la tête. Il a eu un petit sourire, l'espace d'une seconde. C'est vrai, mais ... il n'y a pas eu de Noël tout ce temps-là.
As the above conversation reveals, Gilles Gauthier deals with the very serious problem of children and their alcoholic parents in this novel published by la Courte Echelle in the series "Premier roman."
Le gros cadeau du petit Marcus is Gauthier's eleventh novel published by La Courte Echelle and the fourth in the series with the central character "Marcus la Puce." Well-known for Ne touchez pas à ma Babouche and its sequels, Gauthier also won the Mr. Christie Book Prize in 1992 for Le gros problème du petit Marcus, which reveals the father's alcoholism as the source of Marcus' problems at school and concludes with the young boy's joy at seeing his father join Alcoholics Anonymous.
In Le gros cadeau Marcus' father has stayed sober since joining Alcoholics Anonymous, but Marcus is still fearful that his father may have a relapse and ruin the festive season - as he has always done in the past. Another adult problem threatening Marcus' happiness is that Antoine, the school caretaker who befriended him and helped his father cope with alcoholism, is tempted himself by alcohol when his girlfriend is deported. Fortunately, Marcus' father is there to help Antoine in his turn. Despite his intense shyness, he fills in for Antoine, who is busy with Immigration officials, by taking on the role of Father Christmas at the school. Marcus is overjoyed at this, remembering an incident when his father had been too drunk to see him perform in a school play. It is indeed a wonderful Christmas gift for Marcus.
While effectively portraying a dysfunctional family, Gauthier neatly sidesteps the potential danger of being maudlin. In part, this is due to his decision to use Marcus' friend Jenny, a concerned observer of this family drama, as the narrator. Passionately loyal to her friend, she is eminently level-headed and likeable. Characters are made even more sympathetic by the engaging illustrations by Pierre-Andrérome, especially those of Marcus in his Montréal Canadiens sweater, of the faithful Jenny with her headband and curly hair, and of Mordicus, the school guinea pig who has always been a comfort to Marcus.
The large font is very suitable for this series which acts as a transition between illustrated story books and novels. I would recommend this novel as a realistic but optimistic treatment of an all-too-common problem, although its appeal may be somewhat limited by its subject matter.
Kathleen Kellett-Betsos is an assistant professor in the Department of French at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto.
William B. Hamilton.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press Inc., 1996. 502 pp., cloth/paper, $60.00/24.95.
ISBN 0-8020-0471-7 (cloth), 0-8020-7570-3 (paper).
Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
Review by Joan Payzant.
It is inevitable that the process of compiling any work of this kind must be brutally selective. To put the matter in context, it is worth recording that, at the time of writing, there were 62,880 officially approved Atlantic Canadian place names on the computer list maintained by the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (CPCGN). The vast majority of these names are descriptive in nature and many are repetitious. To illustrate: in Newfoundland and Labrador there are more than 200 distinct features that incorporate 'Green,' including 20 with the name Green Cove. Nova Scotia is not far behind. It boasts some 130 variants of 'Green,' numbered among them 25 locations known as 'Green Island.'Dr. William B. Hamilton is well qualified to have written Place Names of Atlantic Canada. As a former chair of the Toponymic Research Committee of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, he has previously written Local History in Atlantic Canada, and The Macmillan Book of Canadian Place Names. And what is toponymic research? I confess that I had to look it up, and found that toponymics is the study of place names.
This is a book that will appeal to a great variety of readers. It is scholarly and thoroughly researched for the enjoyment and satisfaction of historians, be they professional or amateur. It is a fascinating book for browsers and dilettanti who would like to confound friends with amusing stories of the reasons for names like Pinchgut Point, Magaguadavic River, Marshy Hope and Barachois Run. Students will find it an excellent reference when they research their own communities or the birthplaces of ancestors. Indeed it is a book that should certainly be in every library in Atlantic Canada as well as widely available throughout the rest of Canada.
In a book of this type, prefaces and chapters explaining how the author gathered material, why some names were omitted, how problems connected with variations in spelling were settled, and from whence place names originated, are often overlooked by readers who dash directly to the listings. This would be an unfortunate omission for the reader of this book as Hamilton's preface and first chapter, "Windows on History and Culture," provide fascinating insights into his subject. Place names were chosen with three categories in mind: size, history, and human interest - Saint John as a fairly large city, Port Royal as an important historical site, and Naked Man Hill for the story connected with that nomenclature.
As sources of information, Hamilton had a wealth of material from which to choose, both ancient and modern. Some names originated from the native Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Beothuk people, as well as from the Inuit people. Ancient charts and maps by early explorers of several nationalities - Vikings, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, Scots, Germans - reveal their choices of place names. Sites were named and renamed as populations changed from French to English, and sometimes back again. Many migrations also brought new names and changed older well-established names of settlements, such as the English who arrived after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to take over French possessions, German and French Foreign Protestants who settled Lunenburg, Planters and Loyalists from New England who came after the Expulsion of the Acadians, fishermen from many different nations and cultures, settlers from the Caribbean, and African Americans from the Thirteen Colonies.
Place names in the book are listed alphabetically by province, with helpful maps of each province near the beginning of the listings. The last pages of the volume are designated a "Bibliographical Essay," a more graceful way to acknowledge sources than a mere list, although just as extensive. Altogether this is a fine contribution to both the history and geography of the Atlantic Provinces.
Joan Payzant is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Sharon Gibson Palermo.
Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 1995. 103 pp., paperback, $9.95.
Grades 8 - 10 / Ages 13 - 15.
Review by Kathleen Kellett-Betsos.
At school they showed a film about the war. Row after row, the children craned their necks, eyes glued ahead. The big square screen loomed above them. Music cheered. The announcer's voice filled the room. "Valiantly our boys will meet the enemy. We are ready for Hitler's army!" In black and white, parades of German soldiers thrust stiff legs forward - tin men come alive. "We must stop the march of evil forces," boomed the voice. "We must pray for our brave boys who have gone to fight. We must break the armies who would control the world."This novel, by Sharon Gibson Palermo, gives anything but a black-and-white picture of the impact of the Second World War on the community of Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia.
Outside there was bragging about older brothers who'd joined up. Julie was the worst, sticking her nose in the air. "My brother, Tom, was one of the first ones. We're so proud of him. Daddy says there isn't a better thing a boy could do."
Giorgio spoke up with vehemence. "Does your brother know what they've done to my father, and Rennie's? They hate Hitler, too, but now my father can't work in the mine. And Rennie's got arrested! Just because they're Italian! They do the same good work that everyone else does. My father says he'd be ashamed to be a Canadian soldier because of what they've done to us!"
Julie's eyes flamed with passion. "My brother's good! He would never hurt good people!" Rennie could almost feel Papa's protective arms around her, but Julie's eyes were powerful. Rennie kept her voice low. "What did my father ever do bad?"
For Rennie Trani, a ten-year-old girl whose Italian-born father is interned, it is difficult to distinguish friend from foe. The man who arrested her father is sympathetic to her and the Italian community. Yet her best friend, Julie, and her family now perceive Rennie's family to be the enemy.
The story centres around the insurmountable differences the situation creates for Julie and Rennie. Julie's family's hostility towards the Italian family is rooted in fear for the son Tom's life as he fights in the war. Julie, in particular, is fearful because she has lost Tom's ID bracelet which she feels would allow her to protect him in some way. Rennie has the bracelet but because of Julie's harsh words and cruel treatment, she chooses to hide it rather than return it to her. By the time Rennie does return the bracelet, Julie cannot forgive her, although Rennie leaves the door open for their friendship in the future.
Rennie must not only deal with Julie but the larger community in general. To make her father, a baker, proud, she makes bread sticks to sell. While many of the neighbours are willing to buy them, the hostility of certain townspeople causes her mother to forbid Rennie's sales. At the end of the novel, Rennie's father returns to his family, one of the fortunate Italian detainees whose internment lasted only a few months. As Palermo points out in her epilogue, many were detained for two years and more and returned to find that their businesses were lost and their families bereft.
The best quality of this historical novel is that, while informing young readers about the internment of Italo-Canadian citizens during World War II, it engages them in a moving story about growing through adversity. In a brief prologue and epilogue, Palermo sets her novel in its historical context, revealing that approximately seven hundred Italians were interned during the Second World War. She also gives references for readers to pursue. Fortunately, the historical detail never overshadows the human factor.
My only quibble is with the novel's ambiguous title. Presumably the lie in question is Rennie's hiding of Julie's bracelet. The lie may be necessary to the plot but the whole point of representing any moral dilemma is to show that we make a choice between the truth and a lie. Despite this one flaw, I found the novel itself very moving.
Kathleen Kellett-Betsos is assistant professor in the Department of French at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto.
London, Ontario: Brick Books, 1996. 80 pp., paperback, $12.95.
Grades 9 - 12 / Ages 14 - 17.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
The discrimination experienced by the aboriginal and Metis people in Canada is a blot on our history. Even though our society is supposedly enlightened, institutionalized subjugation takes many, many generations to overcome. Our educational system acknowledges it and teaches students that the rights of Canada's first peoples were, and are, violated. However, learning about it and living it are different matters. While most immigrant groups have experienced discrimination on the basis of colour or religion, the passing of generations has generally blended them into the mix. Not so with the aboriginal people of Canada.
In A Really Good Brown Girl, Marilyn Dumont writes about the reality of being a Metis in Canadian society.The book is divided into four sections: "Squaw Poems," "What More Than Dance," "White Noise" and "Made of Water." The cover art reflects the conflicting and overlapping aspects of Metis life - the aboriginal heritage, the attempts at white identity, the schooling in English and Cree, aboriginal spirituality, and more.
In The Red and White she writes about the continual efforts made by "do-gooders" to make brown children into white children:
god knows Mary tried
to keep us clean and fed, respectable but
all the bleach and soup bones
in the Red & White couldn't keep our
halfbreed hides from showing through
In Memoirs of a Really Good Brown Girl, she talks about the dual life she lived, keeping her aboriginal and white worlds separate, and how she adapted herself to fit in and be accepted in white society until she proclaimed her heritage as an adult. The poems in "What More Than Dance" and "White Noise" talk about her life in the white world, and her awakening identity. Breakfast of the Spirit evokes the feelings that gripped her entire being:
familiar as the ripple in your throat
waiting for your voice to return
from the sealed-off jars of memory
released now to feast on the preserves
after you've slept so long
tasted now, at the celebratory breakfast of your awakening.
In the final section, "Made of Water," Dumont deals with the relationships within her family. They are tender poems that reflect Dumont's maturity and desire to find answers and bring a sense of closure to unresolved problems of the past, as in He Taught Me:
he would never have suspected
that I'd find my way back
through clear cuts, slash and burn,
along right-of-ways, cut-lines, nerve-endings,
longitude and latitude,
along arteries, over skin plains,
and valleys of hair,
topographical features of flesh,
calibrating the fault lines.
he never would have guessed
that I'd become a forester of my own flesh.
Dumont's poems are rich with symbolism, and are at the same time very direct and bold. She deals with all the issues - the limitations placed on her by white society and by rivalries within aboriginal society. She is honest and direct, and yet also displays keen powers of observation and a sense of humour. Dumont is the author of five other anthologies of poems, and is a writer whose work is well worth reading. This book would provoke vigorous discussion and thought in any language arts program, and provides aboriginal or Metis students a poet with whom they can identify. A Really Good Brown Girl offers students not only well-written poems to study, but an analysis of Canadian society that must be addressed.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
Jamie D. Kucey.
Brandon, MB: Jamie D. Kucey, 1996. 120 pp., paper, $11.99.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Katheryn Broughton.
The smell of the water in the Oldman coming up on the west wind from the coulees, the smell of the water in the air to warn of upcoming rain. During sunshine and darkness, calm and storm, and all through the seasons of the year, the prairie had its own fragrance. Its beauty was sometimes hidden deep, but was always there - if not in the perfume of newly cut grass then in the stench of a prairie fire.
This title joins the growing body of non-British immigrant fiction which depicts being "foreign" as adding to the hardships endured by those who came to Canada in the early 1900s.
Willow Wind Blows No Evil tells the story of Eszter, who comes with her family from Hungary, determined to make a better life for herself . Her memories, dating from those of her eleven-year-old self up to the celebration of her one hundredth birthday, are interlaced with present-day events. The author manages to convey these complexities without using chronological order, which is an accomplishment in itself.
The protagonist appears hard and uncompromising to her parents, siblings and her own children, but this ability to appear impassive is the only way for her to survive the difficulties and disappointments of her life. She has a friendship stretching back to her early adolescence with Willow Wind Blows no Evil, a Blackfoot who suffers the many indignities bestowed by the dominant community upon his people.
The title, as explained on the back cover, "is a metaphor for how our pioneers survived the prairies. If one stands under a poplar tree and a willow tree during a windstorm, the difference in noise level is noticeable. The wind sounds much louder beneath the poplar. The poplar snaps its branches while the willow tree bends. The willow is a symbol for the pioneer, who flourished by bending or adapting to all challenges."
The true strength of Willow Wind Blows No Evil is the convincing characterization of Eszter. As well, the descriptions of the prairie in its seasonal manifestations are evocative and beautiful, particularly for the prairie-bred reader. The relationship between the title character and Eszter, however, is not convincing. Nonetheless, this novel is a welcome addition to Canada's body of immigrant fiction.
Katheryn Broughton was born in the prairies and taught high school English and Library skills for nineteen years in North York, Ontario. She has edited a book of short stories (entitled Heartland) for senior students. These days she writes about old houses for the historical society newsletter (which she edits) in her home town, Thornhill, Ontario.
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1996. 192 pp., cloth, $24.95.
Review by Joan Payzant.
No sensible child will work when it snows, including Lily. The only way I can get her to take on a chore is to talk to her for twice as long as it takes to do the job. If the job has anything to do with stacking wood, then the ratio is three to one. That morning, Lily's task was to rake snow from the chicken run, so the chickens could see their seed. We talked about why it needed to be done, and about what was going to happen if it didn't get done, i.e. no snowball fight. Finally she picked up the rake and started. The snow she was raking looked like waves, she said. Then, pausing to gaze at the untrampled hay field, she said it looked like ripples, or skin on a wrinkly grandparent. With the rake at full stop, the images came on: water, skin, feelings; metaphors heaping on top of one another like drifts. When I interrupted with a reminder that the job was not getting done, she announced her hands were frozen.This is Tom Henry's third book. His first two, The Good Company and Dogless in Metchosin, won British Columbia writing awards and The Ideal Dog bids fair to win another.
'Think of something else,' I said, 'and you won't feel the cold.'
She paused a moment, head tilted, looking to the left, her trademark thinking stance. Then she dropped the rake. 'Can't. My mind just pushes the thoughts away,' she replied. 'Besides, I want to think about the cold.'
I can understand that. In our temperate, rainy, sodden, sloppy winters, a rare thing like snow is not to be ignored. It is something to dwell on all the day.
With this collection of anecdotes gleaned from his life in the rural community of Metchosin on Vancouver Island, Henry raises a longing in readers to share a similar lifestyle. He has chosen a hard way to earn his living - gardening, cutting down trees, stacking firewood, clipping hedges - and his keen-eyed observations of the seasons, animals, people and daily routines will bring waves of nostalgia to readers. It also might surprise city dwellers that such an existence as Henry's is possible today.
Tom Henry's wife is Lorna Jackson, who is also a writer. She and their small daughter Lily are often included in these tales, creating an impression of a warm family relationship. I particularly enjoyed descriptions of Lily's participation in a few of her father's activities, and his deep interest in her reactions to various situations.
I have one criticism. Why do modern male writers find it necessary (or macho?) to use ugly words that describe unattractive bodily functions? Is it a paucity of vocabulary? I can't imagine a Dickens, or even a Robertson Davies dropping such words casually into their writing. Why do they seem so magnetic to today's writers?
The Ideal Dog's short selections are divided into seasonal groups: "Fall of the Leaf", "Winter Rains", "Seed Time", and "Dog Days." In its entirety The Ideal Dog gives a good picture of life in the Vancouver Island countryside.
Joan Payzant is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian, living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 1996. 157 pp., paperback, $13.95.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
I didn't know until that moment that the muse could be male or of the narcotic effect the imagination can have on fear and pain.Byrna Barclay's fourth novel is a delightful blend of styles. The novel becomes the retrospective that the son, Paul, puts together for a showing of his mother, Estelle Caron's paintings. The book is also a collection of letters that Estelle writes to a psychiatrist in which she tells a story or vignette. The novel also consists of entries from Estelle's journal and poetry that are intended to tell Paul about his father. The unusual format of the novel weaves the various parts together to paint a highly informative portrait of a woman who struggles to give her son a sense of life.
And then, for the first time, I moved the landscape indoors.
Cezanne said that nothing painted in the studio could ever equal what was done outdoors: the contrast of figures with open air settings. Your father wanted me to copy him, but I resisted, compelled to follow the light where it led me. Even before our honeymoon I had been loathe to make love inside and lured your father out of the cars behind barns, down to the riverbank, or into my mother's sunflower garden at home. Here, it was harder to find privacy. So I isolated the patient, surrounding him - and the dentist - by what the light carried into the room from the window.
After the visit to the dentist, my search for the nude muse began in earnest; I was driven, once I fully realized that time and place could dissolve a painting, people superimpose upon each other, and that, dreamed or imagined, Cezanne's plein-airisme contained its equal and opposite reversal. Rather than contrast figures and landscape, the land and its meaning may be brought inside as a way of showing how we come from and are part of the earth and that all it holds and promises is in us too. In either setting, the mindscape may be tapped and revealed. The final painting must be an orgy of colour!
But even now, trying to put it into words for the first time - for you - I feel a loss of faith, of integrity, of ownership. The story and its painting comes from me, you see, but is not me. Just like you. I can imagine your eyes. Perhaps they will be as black as your father's but as mild of expression as my father's, with an oval slant like mine, yet they can only be your distinctive eyes because of what you will see and how you will react to that vision.
The complexity created by the woven pieces of plot make this a novel to read over and over again: on first reading, the reader is well aware that s/he is only skimming the surface.
Deborah Mervold is a teacher-librarian in a grade 6 to 12 school, and a Grade 12 English teacher at Shellbrook Composite High School.
Toronto: Past Forward Heritage Services, 1996. 30 mins., video, $29.95.
Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Tom Chambers.
Canada enjoys a rich history and this video brings to life a small part of that history. It deals with the operation of the Fassett Lumber Corporation's saw mill at Fossmill in Algonquin Park, Ontario. Since logging played such an important part in Canada's past, a video such as this is invaluable. It brings the subject to life.
Logging By Rail combines still photographs and film with a musical selection of jigs and reels from the period. The informed narration greatly increases the value of the tape. The most unusual aspect of the production is the inclusion of a film from the 1930s made to promote the operation of the Fassett Lumber Corporation's logging operations. Viewers see exactly what the employees of the mill did each day and the kind of tools and equipment they used. The tools can be seen in a museum but this cannot compare with a film showing exactly how they were used. It is particularly exciting to see the Shay locomotives chugging away with their loads of logs, scenes that will bring lumps to the throats of any old-time loggers. These emotions are reinforced at the end of the tape when part of the film is played again with only the sound effects of the train.
The Fassett Lumber corporation ran into hard times in the 1930s. Fire destroyed the wood yard at Fossmill and some of the workers' homes in 1931 and the mill itself was destroyed in 1934. Since the company lacked the money to rebuild the mill, the town of Fossmill eventually died. Without this video and the book that is to follow, an interesting part of Canada's history would eventually be lost.
Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in local history, especially those with an interest in logging and railroading. It will be very valuable for teachers wanting to stimulate an interest in the history of logging.
Thomas F. Chambers is a teacher at Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology in North Bay, Ontario.
This week, CM profiles two projects dedicated to saving important archival information on the web: one is our own CM digital archives project in which we have tried to save as many of the back issues of the magazine as time and money allowed; the other is Project Gutenberg, a 25-year-old volunteer mission to save legacy material in electronic form.
Recognizing the vast global influence and economic efficiency of the World Wide Web, CM magazine went online in 1995. But what about all those issues of CM published between 1971 and 1994 that existed only on paper? What about the efforts of hundreds of volunteer reviewers dedicated to promoting and preserving Canadian children's literature?
Thanks to Industry Canada's support, the CM Digital Archives project has put much of that information into electronic format - and literally saved it from destruction.
"The ones we were working with, a third of them were photocopied, some of them were in rough shape, there were pages missing," says Jim McDowell, one of the students hired to work on the project.
"We're making information available to readers online that they otherwise would not have access to. These magazines would be on the back issue stacks in some libraries and in cardboard boxes in the basements of others," adds Peter Tittenberger, Managing Editor of CM, who oversaw the project.
Because of the limitations of time and money, only one hundred and fifty reviews and one hundred and fifty feature articles were selected from past issues of CM and converted to electronic format. This material was then indexed and cross-indexed to make searches for author, subject, title, book, and more available to users.
Tittenberger says that now, especially, it is important to make archival material available and easily searchable online.
"Theoretically, the internet will be available to every school in Canada by next fall," he says. "As a research tool, this material would be very relevant. And it would bring an element of history to the internet."
Industry Canada's commitment to the project was not only to save important cultural documents but to train young people in the "coming information technology," says Tittenberger.
McDowell says that the job was a learning experience in many ways. He did not have a lot of internet experience to begin with, but, he says, "it was easier than I thought. The actual HTML language isn't that hard. Anyone who's unfamiliar with the net should know that it's a lot like using a word processor."
McDowell says he came away with not only a fuller understanding of information technology, but that he also has developed a keen interest in Canadian children's literature.
"I'd never heard of a lot of these authors before," he says. "I thought it was great to make this information accessible to people."
The CM archive is available as part of the entire CM site and selected articles appear in each issue of the journal. Should more money become available in the future, CM would attempt to save the entire archive.
"Digital Archiving makes this material available to anybody at all times," says Tittenberger. "So it doesn't matter if it's published in 1994 or 1984, you can always access it."
The CM archive is also available at the Schoolnet Digital Collections site: http://www.schoolnet.c a/collections/cmarchive/.
"We want to post 10,000 books on to the world, via the Net, BBS's, and 'sneakernet' - handing a disk to a friend," says Michael Hart, Executive Director of Project Gutenberg.
The project is aimed at stopping illiteracy by making literature available to everybody. Hart says that books are too expensive for many people to buy and that libraries are too inaccessible.
"When you think of the cost/benefit ratios, there is no comparison. Try buying Alice In Wonderland at your bookstore, then download a copy. The cost in your computer is 1/400th - same as the cost of books after Johann Gutenberg as compared to before," he says.
"(Electronic) books are always available, never in for rebinding, on the wrong shelf, no pages torn out, and the library is always open. Most people never enter a library in a given year. Most people would have trouble reading this," he adds.
The project converted thirty-two texts each month in 1996 with an aim of doubling production to sixty-four a month in 1997. In October of this year alone, the project made etexts of books by Charles Dickens, Christopher Marlowe, R.L. Stevenson, Leo Tolstoy, and Bertrand Russell among many others. In the same month in 1995 works by W. Somerset Maugham, Edna Ferber, Homer and Willa Cather were converted.
Project Gutenberg also goes about investigating copyright. While most of the works converted are already in the public domain, five to ten per cent are newer, copyrighted works, according to Hart.
Project Gutenberg is always looking for volunteers to choose and proof a text. Over seven hundred people have volunteered so far and Hart says the average needed is about one volunteer per title. The project has also experienced funding cuts in the past few years and monetary donations are welcome as well.
For more information, contact Michael Hart at email@example.com. The web site can be found at http://www.promo.net/pg
Kit Pearson on Being a B.C. Writer.
Volume 22 Number 4.
"How does living in B.C. influence my writing?" "What is it like being a B.C. writer?" Kit Pearson poses and answers those questions for readers across Canada.
The following text is an edited version of an address given by Kit Pearson at the Canadian Library Association Annual Conference in Vancouver on June 15,1994.
When Judy Richardson first asked me to speak on the theme, "The View from the Coast," I said I was the wrong choice, for even though I have lived on and off in British Columbia for half my life, only one of my five novels is set here. I am rooted, by birth and ancestry, in the prairies and, as well as in British Columbia and Alberta, I have lived in Ontario, where I also have family connections.
Thus my first book is set in British Columbia, my second in Alberta, and my next three, a trilogy, in Ontario. I am now back to B.C. with my work in progress, which is set in Vancouver and Victoria - but the book after that will take place in Alberta again. So I jump all over the place in my writing as I've done in my life, and I'm sure I'll set stories in places where I haven't lived as well.
My multi-provincial background means I should never call myself just a B.C. writer. But living here must have some effect on my writing, especially since I've lived in B.C. for all my writing life.
It's easy to talk about being a B.C. writer, so I'll save that for second. I'll begin with the harder, more amorphous question: does living here influence my fiction?
Obviously it does in the two books - The Daring Game and my new untitled manuscript - that are set here. The Daring Game is about a twelve-year-old girl who is a boarder at a girls' school in Vancouver in 1964-65. You can probably guess that it was inspired by my boarding school, Crofton House, which I attended for three years during the same period.
I could have set this story anywhere, of course, in Ontario or England. And because all girls' boarding schools are basically the same - I am confirmed in this by the number of adults who've told me how much the school in my book is like theirs - perhaps the book wouldn't have been that different if I had. But I think the dramatic beauty of B.C. plays a prominent role in the book.
One of its themes is Eliza's awakening to the mountains and sea and greenness of Vancouver: she even writes an essay comparing spring in B.C. to spring in Alberta. This province's seductive beauty hooks her, and I think she will end up returning to B.C., just as I have. When I look at The Daring Game now I think it has too many flowery - sorry for the pun - descriptions of Vancouver's scenery, especially of spring. But this was because I was writing the book during the first coastal spring I'd experienced in six years. I was overcome by it, just as I was shocked by Vancouver's lushness when we moved here for four years, in the middle of an Edmonton winter, when I was eight.
The four years I lived in B.C. as a child were some of the happiest in my life. My family lived in Quilchena close to an abandoned golf course where, in more innocent days, we were allowed to run wild. I have such vivid memories of those ages - nine to twelve - that I know that's why I write for and about them. But so far I haven't drawn specifically on that time - the late 1950s - and that neighbourhood for a novel. I know I will, though - it's another setting waiting in the wings.
Settings, therefore, are profoundly important to me, I'm sure, partly because, like my characters, I became more aware of the landscape around me through moving from one to another when I was young. Canadian settings are especially significant to me; modern young Canadian readers are luckier than I was as a child, since the only books I read then with a Canadian setting took place, as you can guess, in Prince Edward Island.
I think place grounds a novel just as it grounds people in real life. I was moved a few years ago when a graduate student wrote a paper on the significance of Canadian settings in Kit Pearson's novels; she recognized how deliberately I emphasize this. Apart from awakening my characters to this province's beauty, does setting a book in B.C. affect the characters, plot or themes in any other way? In other words, am I, in my present and future works, a regional writer after all?
Probably not. I'm not even sure if you could call my novels particularly Canadian - they wouldn't be that different if they were set in another country.
I can think of two types of fiction, however, where the B.C. setting could have a more profound influence - fantasy and historical fiction: novels like those of Catherine Anthony Clark, who uses the landscape for mythic fantasy; or Ruth Nichols, who has two children walk into the Endowment Lands and then into a magic land; or Paul Yee, writing about Vancouver's Chinese-Canadian past; or Ann Walsh, who sets her fantasy and historical fiction around Barkerville; or Julie Lawson, who sets a time travel in Victoria's Chinatown. These books are far more "regional" than mine.
On to the more prosaic part of this talk - being a B.C. writer. I'd like to emphasize that I can talk only about being a Vancouver writer; I know it is very different living in more remote parts of B.C. When I decided to try writing a book, I was living in Boston, but I intended to return to Toronto, where I'd been a librarian for the previous four years. Somehow I just couldn't picture myself staying inside my apartment in Toronto and writing a book - I would escape to a play or an art gallery or a book store. It was much easier to imagine sitting at my desk on a grey Vancouver day with the rain dripping outside ... So I moved back here.
This is a great city to write in, because there are so many places to think. I can take my dog for long walks on the beach or in the Endowment Lands and get ideas. Maybe that's why so many writers live here.
However, I am, again, not typical of many B.C. writers because my publisher, Penguin Books Canada, is in Ontario. This is both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on what stage my current book is at. While I'm writing one I want to be as far away from my publisher as possible. I can only write if I feel that
1) I don't have to do it and
2) I'm not doing it for anyone but myself.
But because my books have been successful my publisher, understandably, tries gently to find out when the next book will be finished and what it's about. I don't blame them for this, but it helps to feel 4400 kilometres away. When I am in Toronto I'm treated especially nicely, given tours of the office, and taken out to dinner. The Penguin people there still seem glamorous to me and I can pretend I'm an eccentric children's writer, when I'm really very ordinary. Thus a kind of mystique is set up on both sides that keeps our relationship interesting, whereas if I lived there perhaps we'd get bored with each other.
While I'm being edited, however, it's a different story. Despite the phone and fax, there are still times I would desperately like to go out for lunch with my editor and hash things out. On the whole I am very happy with Penguin and very happy to have them "back east." It helps me not take writing as seriously, to pretend that I'm just doing this for fun, and that's the only way I can do it at all.
Many of my fellow Canadian children's writers have told me they are envious of our children's book community here, and perhaps they have reason to be. There are so many supports in Vancouver, and in many other parts of B.C., for children's writing - the Children's Literature Roundtable, Vancouver Kidsbooks, the wonderful public and school librarians who ask us to come to talk to kids, writers' festivals in Vancouver and Sechelt and Nanaimo, an accredited Writing for Children course at the University of British Columbia, strong children's literature courses in the library school and education department at U.B.C., and, just recently, our very own British Columbia officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre, April Cox.
But it isn't all idyllic. We do not have as much funding for writing from our government in this province as in others, although this is slowly improving. And creators of children's books complain about poor reviewing and lack of awareness of children's books as much as in any other province. I think this is a national problem, however, not a provincial one.
Vancouver, notwithstanding hockey riots, is a peaceful, breathtakingly beautiful, and supportive place to be a writer. I have a restless wanderer inside me and I have no idea whether I'll always live here. But, I'm sure, whether I stay or not, this province's soul will find its way into my writing.
Bernice Thurman Hunter.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1993. 160pp., paper, $4.95.
Reviewed by Norma Charles.
Volume 22 Number 3.
In her tenth book, Hunter focuses on Billy, the youngest member of the Thomson family of "Booky" fame.
Through eleven-year-old Billy's adventures we explore Toronto at the time of World War II, in 1942. The newest arrival at school that first day in September is Danny Thunder, a young Mohawk. He soon demonstrates that he is someone to contend with by taking on the school bully. Danny befriends Billy, whom he names "Stretch" because of his height, and Billy calls Danny "Hawk," short for Mohawk. A binding friendship is soon established. Hawk leads Billy into many adventures including getting into the movie theatre free, and saving Billy's life when he falls through spring ice.
The two households, Danny's and Billy's, are shown to be very different from each other: Danny's boisterous, relaxed family is contrasted throughout the story with Billy's tight, super-organized household. Billy is ambivalent about his new friend. He is entertained by his energy and enthusiasm and he feels more at home with Danny's rowdy family than he does with his own, but he also feels a twinge of jealousy when his mother, his favourite sister, Bea (Booky of earlier stories), and even his eccentric aunt all seem charmed and delighted by Hawk's merry brown eyes.
All the characters, including the adults, are well drawn, believable and consistent throughout the story.
Steeped with memories of an earlier time more than fifty years ago and told in a zippy, entertaining fashion by a wonderful storyteller, a kind of storyteller that can keep her audience enthralled for hours, this book begs to be read aloud to Junior classes. The students will learn about history "in context," that in the olden days there were real people with real feelings who had real adventures that modern children can certainly relate to.
Grades 3 to 7 / Ages 8 to 12.
Norma Charles is a teacher-librarian at Henderson Annex School in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1993. 256 pp., paper, $7.95.
Reviewed by Caroline Thomson.
Volume 21 Number 6.
David Richards' Soldier Boys is an adventure story tracing the experiences of a bugle boy with the Winnipeg Rifles and a Métis boy who joins Riel's rebels. Each is a thoroughly likeable character and both are entirely believable. The two characters meet towards the end of the book in a fictional account of the Battle of Fish Creek.
Richards re-creates the mid-1880s very well. The story is dramatic and exciting, pulling the reader into the lives of the young characters.
Richards is well qualified to write this tale, as he has previously written a history of the Riel rebellion. He has also spent a great deal of his life close to such historically vibrant places as Batoche, Duck Lake and Fort Carlton. He has brought his fascination with the history of this area to his novel and has produced an entertaining, exciting and well-researched story.
Since the Riel rebellion is frequently studied at the grade 7 and 8 level, this would be a highly valuable book in schools. It helps to bring to life an important period in Canadian history and may help students appreciate our history more.
Richards provides maps and a glossary as well as a summation of fact and fiction. Readers will be amazed at what they have learned.
Grades 5 to 7 / Ages 10 to 12.
Caroline Thomson is a librarian in Burlington, Ontario.
with Paul Kropp
For parents and teachers in the Winnipeg area, Paul Kropp will be making a presentation on Friday January 24, 1997 at 2 pm at the Louis Riel Library in Winnipeg.
Paul Kropp has taught reading for over twenty years. He is the author of several novels for young adults and a highly recommended series of books for reluctant readers.
He is the author of The Reading Solution - a practical guide for parent participation in developing children's learning. His presentation will focus on ways parents can help their children learn - and love - to read. His talk will be of interest to parents, educators and anyone who works with children and young adults.
A children's event will be held at the same time for the children of parents attending the workshop. Please call (204) 986-4576 to register your children for this event.
Paul's visit to Winnipeg is sponsored by The Canada Council and Winnipeg Public Library.
Just thought I'd let you know about a fairly new Canadian lesson plan site for English and library secondary teachers. The site has lesson plans which have been extensively used in the class and each plan comes with a rationale, printable and usable handouts, and instructions. There is also a collection of letters to the editor on education related issues. The site has been successful beyond my wildest dreams with over 5500 hits in the first seven weeks and lots of supportive e-mail. Check it out.
You can visit the site at: http://www.ptbo.igs.net/~raysaitz/ or email Ray at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents' Journal of School Related Issues
This non-profit group's journal is designed to provide parents with an inside view of what's happening at their child's school. The journal features extremely well-written articles by both teachers and parents, such as Dr. Alan Krantz's "What's Wrong with School" and Linda Davis' column on "Safe Kids/Safe Schools," as well as reviews of new educational software, book and video releases. Highlights also include "Ask Doctor Dave" - a 'Dear Abby' like column for pressing educational questions like what to do if a child refuses to do their homework or how to manage a child coming home and saying 'My teacher hates me.' Not only does this journal address today's problems in education, it provides solutions.
Review by Melissa Canam.
Reprinted from the EdRes mailing list.
The Teacher's Edition Online is a site which was created by teachers to help others in the same occupation. Its purpose is to improve classroom management and provide helpful tips and creative ideas for classes of all levels and abilities.
The first section includes Lesson Plans and Micro Activities, each of which provides a variety of ideas for different subjects in grades K to 12. These ideas have have been posted by educators all across the globe. Also included in this site is a section for classroom management, which provides suggestions as well as ideas for improving the classroom environment.
A Teacher-2-Teacher section can also be found in this site. It provides opportunities for teachers to ask questions and post ideas or advice for others. An interesting addition to this site is KeyPals which allows classes from all over the world to connect to one another in order to ask questions and share information and interests.
Teacher's Edition Online is a helpful site for any teacher, regardless of grade or subject, who wishes to expand their knowledge base. Although the layout of Teacher's Edition Online is somewhat confusing, with text on both sides of the screen as well as in the middle, all the information needed is right there.
Teacher's Edition OnLine is a great web site. It is easy to use and easy to understand. Although there is minimal use of graphics - unfortunate because pictures are useful when working with children - don't overlook this site.
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
MEDIA REVIEWS |
BACK ISSUES | SEARCH | HOME