CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2000
Miss Ginn was the best teacher in the whole school, the best teacher Charlotte had ever had, possibly the best teacher in the world. When Charlotte was in grade one, she fell and cut her knee in the playground. Miss Ginn picked her up and carried her to the office. While she was fixing Charlotte's knee, she gave Charlotte a chocolate bar from her own purse. It was a Milky Way chocolate bar. After that, whenever her father showed her the Milky Way in the sky, Charlotte could taste the chocolate bar and smell Miss Ginn's perfume.The high spirited heroine of The Charlotte Stories is back, a few years older and just as full of life. It is the last day of grade four, and Charlotte learns that her beloved Miss Ginn is moving and will not be back to teach grade five. Charlotte feels like crying, and her introduction to the new grade five teacher, Miss Downing, does little to ease her anxiety. Charlotte resolves then and there to hate the new teacher. Only the discovery of a stray mutt helps to lift Charlotte's spirits. Charlotte discovers that this dog has a very odd manner - it does everything backwards. Thus the apropos name, ttuM. A family trip to the cottage is filled with intrigue when ttuM runs away and is found in the cottage of a mysterious woman in black. The mysterious woman turns out to be no stranger at all, and, as the summer progresses, many of Charlotte's anxieties about the coming school year begin to melt.
Teddy Jam has created an endearing character who will win the hearts of all readers. Although Charlotte's world is secure and simple, her fears and worries are very real and will ring true with young readers. The author has created a protagonist with great depth, complexity and humour - a real accomplishment in a simple chapter book. The chapters are just the right length for the emerging reader and will leave kids anxious to read on. Delightful black and white illustrations by Harvey Chan are sprinkled throughout, breaking up the text and bringing the story to life.
There has been much speculation over the years as to the identity of the elusive Teddy Jam. The truth was at last revealed with the sad news of his death. Teddy Jam was the brilliant writer Matt Cohen who died in December, just weeks after being awarded the Governor General's award for his adult fiction. Cohen clearly believed that literature for smaller people should be in no way lesser literature. His writing for children was marked with the same brilliance and genius he brought to all his writing, and he has left a remarkable legacy for generations of young readers to come. I know I speak for all Teddy Jam fans when I say a heartfelt thank you Matt Cohen for all those wonderful books. You will be greatly missed.
Carol McDougall worked for many years in Children's and Young Adult Services with the Toronto Public Library and was the librarian for the Canadian Children's Book Centre. She is currently the Atlantic Liaison Officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre in Halifax, NS.
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