from Resource Links December 2003, V.9, No.2
Gr. 3-6/Fiction Gr.7-12/French
Resources/Nonfiction K-6/Nonfiction Gr. 7-12/Picture
Pippin, The Christmas Pig
Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman. North Winds Press/Scholastic, 2003. Unp. Illus. Gr. K-3.
0-7791-1420-5. Hdbk. $19.99
Rating : E
Another gem from Jean Little, with illustrations by Werner Zimmerman.
Pippin, a young pig, is surprised to find out about Christmas on December 24. She listens
to all the animals in the barn boast about how their relatives had been at the first
Christmas and the special things they had done for the "child". When she insists
that pigs must have been there, too, the other animals scoff at the idea and exclaim,
"The very idea! The child was a king. That holy stable was no place for pigs."
Pippin leaves the barn, hurt and confused and walks out in to a snowstorm. There she
encounters a poor young woman and child and leads them back to the safety of the barn. The
other animals learn that instead of boasting about what their ancestors had done, they
needed to give of themselves. Pippin's actions remind them "what Christmas is".
A lovely read-aloud for the Christmas season, with the underlying moral that all of us are
valuable, even when we think we are too small or not good enough. The watercolor artwork
is lovely and a fitting match to the story. I especially enjoyed the many facial
expressions that Zimmerman gives Pippin, even on the endpapers.
A good addition to the library or to give as a personal gift this holiday season.
Thematic Links: Christmas; Treating Others with Respect
Fiction Grades 3-6
Groundwood Books, 2003. 164p. Gr. 5 up. 0-88899-542-3. Pbk. $7.95
Rating : E
Mud City is the third book in the award winning Breadwinner Trilogy. In this poignant and
heart gripping installment the audience is reintroduced to Shauzia, Parvana's friend (the
main character in The Breadwinner and Parvana's Journey.)
Shauzia is a realistic strong character. She is a self-obsessed 14 year old who is eager
to assert her independence, impatiently demanding change and childlike in her frustrations
with perceived obstacles as she slowly emerges into altruistic young woman.
Shauzia had left her family and their plans for her arranged marriage to realize her
dreams of a better life in France. On her journey, she befriends a dog, Jasper, and ends
up in "Mud City", an oppressively hot, flea ridden, lice infested unsanitary
refugee camp outside of Pakistan. At the camp, Shauzia 'works' at the Widows Compound, a
section devoted to widows and children. Her frustrations with a lack of privacy, no wages,
and her crumbling hopes entice Shauzia to rebel and leave the camp for Peshawar. There she
hopes to earn money and be one step closer to Parvana and their reunion in France.
While in Peshawar, Shauzia has several odd jobs, and in desperation has to resort to
picking through garbage to locate items to sell. As her situation deteriorates she resorts
to begging. An encounter with another corrupt adult lands Shauzia in jail after a false
accusation. A western English speaking man rescues her after he bribed the authorities to
set her free. He invites her to come home with him, and live with his wife and two
children. This is a relatively short visit as Shauzia, overcome with quilt at comforts
around her, invites the poor and starving from the streets into the family home while they
are away. While the family is willing to help Shauzia they are limited in their generosity
and they decide she must return to the refugee camp.
At camp, Shauzia breaks her leg in a food riot and has to be inactive for six weeks. She
uses this time to reflect upon her life and the plans she had made. She decides abruptly
to follow Mrs. Weera back to Afghanistan and leaves her dog Jasper to a young girl who now
needs him more than she does.
Ellis creates a compelling and heart wrenching depiction of life in the refugee camps. The
experiences of women and children at the hands of oppressive and corrupt people are so
tragically exposed. She also draws attention to the implicit western policy of aid and our
willingness to help as long as it doesn't greatly impact us. While the topic is quite
serious Ellis does not horrify the audience, rather she demands a contemplation of our
opinions and actions and our commitment to our global neighbours. She ends in the power of
The book also contains a glossary and background information on Afghanistan. And,
demonstrating her commitment, Ellis has donated the royalties from this book to Street
Kids International, an organization working with street kids around the world.
Thematic Links: World Issues - Impact of War; Refugee Camps; Social
Justice - Ethics; Role of Women Throughout the World
Fiction Grades 7-12
SCHWARTZ, Virginia Francis
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2003. 268p. Gr. 6-9. 1-55005-053-2. Hdbk. $22.95
Virginia Francis Schwartz is the author of (among others) If I Just Had Two Wings, which
won the Silver Birch Award for Historical Fiction. The Initiation is just as excellent, if
not more so. The setting for the story is the West Coast of North America, during the
fifteenth century. The Kwakiutl tribe is a Pacific coast aboriginal tribe whose whole
society and cultural fabric are based on harvesting the salmon, especially during their
great treks upriver in spawning season. In the centre of the story are twins - Nana and
Nanolatch - the son and daughter of the chief of the Kwakiutl. Soon into the story you
realize that the twins have been marked for greatness. This fate would not be revealed
until their initiation into adulthood, which would take place in about two year's time.
The story begins with the fishing territories of the Kwakiutl being invaded by a
neighbouring tribe - the Salish. Worse than this, the Salish had not returned the sacred
salmon bones to the ocean where they belong. This was considered both sacrilege and taboo
by the Kwakiutl. "The Way", or the spiritual and cultural foundation of the
Kwakiutl had been violated or broken. Revenge must follow in order to appease the spirits.
War was declared on the Salish. This resulted in the slaughter of the unsuspecting Salish
and death of 'first uncle', an important relative in the life of Nanolatch, the chief's
son. On their return, the Kwakiutl warriors brought back a slave 'Noh', whose mother was a
shaman. She was a seemingly speechless girl but she would ultimately act as a spiritual
guide for the twins in their rite of passage or initiation into adulthood.
Schwartz is able to weave both the cultural and spiritual influences of the Kwakiutl and
the lives of the twins into a compelling, mythical tale. We learn how important "the
Way" is to this tribe. The environment is revered and respected. Above all else, the
abundance of nature and its ability to provide for the tribe must never be abused or taken
for granted. The massacre of the Salish did not appease the spirits. The existence of the
Kwakiutl as a tribe became jeopardized as salmon catches dwindled. The twins searched for
their path into adulthood. Nanolatch would lead the tribe after his father. Nana was to
marry into a neighbouring tribe but this fate both terrified and appalled her. She was
certain that her fate called her to a greater destiny - one that would affect the very
existence of her tribe and one that was intimately connected with the salmon - the
lifeblood of the Kwakiutl. Noh, the Salish slave girl helped the twins find their path
through their initiation. "The Way" could be restored only after great
sacrifice. Only by restoring "The Way" and the tribe's intimate connection with
the spirits would the Kwakiutl survive.
This book would be an excellent read aloud and novel study in the Grade Six Social Studies
Program. The illustrations reflect the Kwakiutl's deference to both the elders of the
tribe, their spiritual connections and the environment. It would also be very useful in
examining the cultural traditions of rites of passage in an intermediate setting.
Thematic Links: Aboriginal Mythology; Social Studies; Rites of Passage;
Canadian Dinosaurs (A WOW Canada! Book)
Maple Tree Press, 2003. 96p. Illus. Gr. 4-7. 1-894379-55-1. Hdbk. $22.95
How can you study a species that has been dead for millions of years? Nobody has ever seen
a dinosaur yet many people worldwide continue to be fascinated with them. Did you know
that a unique combination of factors has made Canada one of the best places in the world
to study dinosaurs? "A great place to live, a great place to die, and a great place
to be found" is what makes our country a world leader in the discovery of dinosaurs.
and scientist, Elin Kelsey takes us through a journey of immense proportions in this
fascinating book about dinosaur discovery in Canada.
The format of Canadian Dinosaurs presents chapters in a two page spread that utilizes an
interconnecting mixture of photographs, artwork and information. For example the chapter
entitled Theropods: The Canada-China Connection contains: one drawing of a Velociraptor
fighting with a Protoceratops; one "Working Togethei" segment discussing how
Canada and China have discovered new species of dinosaurs; one "Dino Profile" of
the Velociraptor; a two paragraph discussion on why it is hard to find smaller carnivores
in Canada; and two photographs, one of a Velociraptor skeleton, the other of Canadian and
Chinese palcontologists in the Gobi Desert. While this may seem to be an overload of
information Grade Two students eagerly flip through the pages to see their favorite
dinosaurs while Grade Six students were enthralled with the fact that "real people
are dinosaur scientists".
Carefully researched and painstakingly written this book contains some of the most recent
discoveries and theories about dinosaurs. It was subjected to a scientific review board of
research scientists before it was published. It alerts the reader to some of the most
controversial challenges to old theories and assumptions about dinosaurs. The list of
dinosaurs finds and institutions along with the dinosaur timeline makes this a must have
resource for any school library.
Thematic Links: Dinosaurs; Archeology; Paleontology
Shirley Jean Sheppard
Non-Fiction Grades 7-12
The Road to There: Mapmakers and Their Stories
Tundra Books, 2003. 146p. Illus. Gr. 6 up. 0-88776-621-8. Hdbk. $29.99
In this fabulous, informative book about the history of
mapmaking, Val Ross spans the 12th to the 21st centuries. She highlights the lives of King
Roger II of Sicily and his friend Al-Idrisi, a Muslim scholar from North Africa; Cheng Ho
of 14th century China; Prince Henry the Navigator; Gerard Mercator; the Cassini family of
17th century France; Captain James Cook; Alexander von Humboldt, a 19th century German
naturalist; Lewis and Clark; John Murray, a Canadian who mapped the sea floor in 1872-74;
Pundit Nain Singh, who, disguised as a Buddhist pilgrim, mapped the forbidden Tibet and
Nepal; Phyllis Pearsall who mapped the city of London in the mid 1930's; and the many
people who contributed to mapping earth from the atmosphere.
Each chapter begins with an exciting present tense bold-typed description of a predicament
the mapmakers found themselves in. The text is broken up with photos of maps, locations
and people that clarify and extend the text. Beautifully bordered and shaded boxes add
additional information pertinent to the chapter. In the chapter on von Humboldt, who
climbed and mapped Mount Chimborazo in South America, for example, is a box on measuring
altitude. The chapter on Lewis and Clark contains a boxed section explaining how native
people used mental maps. The final chapter on "Mapping from Above" sets out in a
box the work of astronomer Margaret Geller, who mapped the positions of 10,000 galaxies.
Most fascinating, of course, are the maps themselves, which reveal Mercator's secret:
"maps are never purely scientific. Mapmakers select what seems important and leave
other things out. Maps always reflect their maker's beliefs." From the oldest map
still in existence, a Babylonian clay tablet showing Babylon as the centre of the earth,
to the NASA aerial photograph of city lights across the globe, mapmaking is clearly about
how maps' authority creates power and control over territory. Maps reflect the reality
that we want them to reflect and that, of course, is why they are so compelling.
Ross' text is thorough, yet clear and easy to follow, giving enough information but not
overwhelming the reader with too much detail. The writing is compelling; the reader is
drawn quickly into the drama around maps and the political history that advances ideas and
knowledge or did not. It is amazing to be reminded of the years it took to produce
credible maps, not to mention the travelling, the personal danger and the political
machinations these early mapmakers endured. Although this is a non-fiction book, it reads
like a gripping novel: you just have to turn the page.
The Road to There is also a beautifully designed book (by Terri Nimmo) with the cover a
glowing photograph of a map of Africa from the Catalan Atlas. Each page is numbered and
bordered by a flowing scripted line at the bottom of the page. The chapter's title is
below this line on the left hand page and the chapter's subtitle is below it on the right
hand page. Further Readings details material the reader may want to consult, tied to each
chapter. A good index, table of contents and photo credits add depth to the text and
Anybody interested in history, geography or maps will glory in this book. Teachers could
integrate it into geography or social studies lessons. But it is very accessible to the
reader who just picks it up because it is a beautiful book and then can't put it down
because of its amazing stories.
Thematic Links: Exploration; Mapmaking; Mapmakers; Astronomy
A World of Music
Hug Bug Music, Inc., 2003. 106p. 0-968199-5-X. Coilbound $25.00
A World of Music provides written music and lyrics from selections of several of Charlotte
Diamond's award-winning recordings and videos.
Each song contains the notes for melody on keyboard instruments as well as chords for
stringed instruments. Many of the songs are provided in more than one language. English,
Spanish, French lyrics as well as sign language sketches are presented. All the songs
include suggestions for presentation ideas and followup activities. Lists of related songs
about the theme of the song are also provided. A bibliography provides related language
materials and companion books.
Charlotte Diamond advises use of the PRIZE method of song teaching with children. (i) P -
Use props and puppets and drama so that the song appeals not only to ears but also to
eyes; (ii) R - Use rhythm. Get the kids moving. Ms. Diamond claims this movement makes the
lyrics of a song or chant easier to learn and remember; (iii) I- Imagination - stimulate
creativity, add a sense of wonder and discovery not only with the song but in introductory
and followup activities; (iv) Z - Zipper songs - write new songs by adding variations to
those learned; (v) E - Echo - The easiest way to teach a song is to sing a line and have
children sing it back until the song is familiar to them.
A World of Music presents an excellent collection of songs with appeal to pre-school and
primary grade children. The PRIZE method offers early years teachers ideas for enhancing
other songs with new teaching techniques. This collection would be an invaluable aid to
early years teachers. Its coilbound format, large print and useful illustrations for sign
language provide a ready-made classroom teaching aid. Topics discussed by the various
songs are valuable themes for early years teaching. The addition of a bibliography
provides extensions for the songs which would save teacher preparation time.
Thematic Links: Music; Nature; Seasons; Feelings; Self-Awareness;
Friends; Helping Others; Co-operation; Multiculturalism
Atanarjuat:The Fast Runner
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk. Inuktitut with English subtitles. National Film Board of
Canada, 2000. VHS 161 min.
Gr. 10 -12. C0401 023. $39.95
This film is truly unlike any other. Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner is an epic story of good
versus evil. This is a common and timeless tale but what makes this film different is that
it was filmed in Inuktitut and directed by Inuit filmmakers.
The story begins in the eastern Arctic in ancient times when a shaman causes a rift
between two hunting families in a small nomadic Inuit community. Rivalry and ridicule
replace the spirit of partnership between two hunters. Time passes and their sons
reinstate the rivalry. Brothers of one family, Atanarjuat and Amaqjuaq confront the Oki,
the evil son, of the other family. The balance of power shifts when Atanarjuat wins the
hand of Atuat, the promised wife-to-be of Oki. This has tragic results when Oki seeks
revenge. Atanarjuat flees across the sea ice. Atanarjuat faces both natural and
supernatural enemies in his journey. Eventually he returns to find a way to bring back
peace and harmony to his community.
The cinematography is stunning. The landscape is, at times, bleak and in other scenes,
beautiful in its simplicity. The props and costumes are historically accurate. The
intensive research done prior to the film has resulted in a legitimate depiction of the
ancient Inuit way of life. This film has won nineteen awards, both national and
international, including the Camera D'or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.
The film is appealing at many levels. As a historical mystery it is an excellent film to
be viewed for recreational purposes. As an academic study of the Inuit people it is both
accurate and interesting. Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner is an example of the timeless
universal story of good versus evil. The film in itself is an excellent illustration of
superior cinematography. The film is recommended for both public and high school
libraries. Due to some of the content it is strongly recommended that the film be
Thematic Links: Aboriginal People; Ancient Legends; Arctic; Inuit; Epic
Zak, le fantôme
Illustrated by Martin Goneau. Soulières éditeur, 2003. 110p. Illus. Gr. 5-6 EFI, Grade
8-9 LFI. 2-922225-83-6. Pbk. $9.95
Zak, le fantôme is the 25th novel from Alain Bergeron and is a part of the Collection
Chat de Gouttière. Is this another Halloween story about ghosts and the like? No! After
close examination the text reveals a touching story about a grade six boy who was
tragically killed walking home from school one day.
Zak, short for Zachary, thirty years earlier, had stayed after school one day to review
for his math final. He wasn't paying attention while walking home as his head was full of
math strategies that his teacher had just gone over with him. Unfortunately, he met his
untimely demise and hence never had the opportunity to write his arithmetic final. Because
of this he found his ghost trapped inside his grade six classroom until he could find the
opportunity to finally write this exam.
Zak is finally discovered by Patricia during a Halloween party. She keenly notices that
there appears to be an extra pupil in the classroom who turns put to be Zak the ghost. He
befriends Patricia as she seemed trustworthy and reveals himself to her after leaving
several spooky yet harmless signs in the classroom. He gains her trust finally by saving
Patricia from the bullying tactics of the not so friendly classmate, Thomas Masse.
Patricia proves to be a true friend to Zak and goes to great lengths to track down a
thirty year old copy of the math textbook. During her quest she discovers a string of
interesting details and coincidences about her chance encounter with her friendly ghost.
Her successful mission concludes in a happy ending to this tale of friendship, family
death and challenges that meet sixth graders. Bergeron blends these complex issues
skillfully into this story making it not only entertaining but thought provoking for
readers of this pre-adolescent stage of life.
The black and white sketches are scattered throughout the novel. They are simple but
expressive. The first chapter is actually presented in comic format which works well to
reel in the reader and take away that sometimes daunting task of breaking into the first
few lines of a sixteen chapter book. At the end of the novel you will also find a math
test complete with answers that Zak had to pass in order to free himself from the
classroom and reunite with his mother and father in the spiritual life.
Thematic Links: School; Death; Friendship; Halloween