from Resource Links October 2003, V.9, No.1
Gr. 3-6/Fiction Gr.7-12/French
Resources/Nonfiction Gr. 7-12/Picture Books/Professional
Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch. Kids Can Press Ltd., 2003. 30p. Illus. Gr. K-3.
1-55337-084-8. Hdbk. $17.95
The first day of school is full of excitement, fresh starts, and the opportunity to
reinvent ourselves. That may mean defying others' ideas of what we should wear or how we
should behave. In Suki's Kimono, Chieri Uegaki introduces us to a feisty little girl who
wears her favourite kimono to school, despite the dire warnings of her sisters. Mari
points out that "people will think you're weird" and Yumi who predicts that
"everyone will laugh and no one will play with you". But Suki isn't impressed
with admonitions to conform - she just wants to wear her favourite thing, a blue kimono
which is a gift from her obâchan (grandmother). It reminds Suki of the wonderful day she
spent with her grandmother at a street festival, eating delicious snacks, and dancing.
Much to the disapproval of her sisters, Suki wears her kimono, red geta (Japanese wooden
clogs), and carries a paper parasol.
Stéphane Jorisch's delicate watercolour illustrations enhance the text, and show us the
expressions of Suki's classmates as she dances down the street to school. But Suki is
oblivious to the reactions, which range from smothered laughter to obvious smirks. On the
playground, her friend Penny asks why she's dressed "funny". In the classroom,
boys snicker and tease.
When the usual first day introductions begin, Suki takes the opportunity to talk about her
grandmother's visit, and the wonderful festival they attended. Suki dances, demonstrating
what she observed. As she takes her seat, Suki is met by total silence and everyone's rapt
attention. Her teacher, the colourfully-dressed Mrs. Paggio, claps in appreciation, and
soon all the children do, too.
At the end of the day, Suki's sisters express their annoyance at the lack of attention
their new clothes attracted. Suki just smiles.
This charming book highlights the importance of being ourselves, reflecting what makes us
distinctive. It also gives children the message that being true to what we value is
worthwhile. Suki's Kimono would be an excellent addition to a collection in the classroom,
library or at home. It addresses an experience that many children have, and shows a strong
protagonist dealing with non-conformity successfully.
Uegaki was a finalist in the 2000 Writer's Union of Canada Writing for Children
Competition and Jorisch is an award-winning illustrator. Let's hope this team has many
more opportunities to work together!
Thematic Links: Culture; Family; Classroom Experiences
Fiction Gr. 3-6
Leaving the Log House
Orca Book Publishers, 2003. 128p. Gr. 3-6. 1-55143-258-7. Pbk. $8.95
"Leaving the Log House fills a void in children's literature around issues of
- Linda McLaren, Physiotherapist - Amputation, G. F. Strong Rehab Centre, Vancouver.
At the age of three, Teresa lost a leg in an all-terrain vehicle accident. Now as a young
adolescent she travels to Vancouver to acquire and learn how to use her first prosthetic
leg. While learning how to adapt to a prosthetic leg, Theresa must confront many other
issues as well. Teresa is away from home, the lob cabin, and away from her parents and
siblings Tom, Janette and John. While staying with her Auntie Bee and Uncle Edward, Teresa
wonders why her mother could not leave the other children in order to be with her at this
difficult time. Teresa wonders why her teenage brother Tom, who was so close to her, is
now distant. Tom spends the first weekend in Vancouver with her. He and Teresa, play
intricate games with two dolls Tape and Curly. When he leaves to work on a farm outside of
Vancouver Tom does not respond to Teresa's letters. Despite the busy schedule and social
circle at the Rehab Centre, Teresa is determined to reach out to Tom. When she does, the
results are surprising. Eventually Teresa discovers that she does have courage, and that
she is capable of independence, both physical and mental.
Ainslie's portrayal of Teresa is written with sympathy and realism. Although Teresa must
devote time and energy to the realities of being an amputee, the world is not put on hold.
She must deal with her own doubts as well as with all the joys and disappointments that
are inherent in relationships with family and friends. Ainslie did extensive research on
the topic of amputee rehabilitation and embeds this information into the story without
distraction from the story line. She successfully carries the theme of the log house and
the importance of Tape and Curtly throughout the story.
Leaving the Log House is recommended for both school and public libraries. As a story
about the ups and downs of growing up and achieving independence Leaving the Log House is
an agreeable read. Adolescent readers will easily relate to Teresa. The novel with its
attention to amputee rehabilitation would enhance many aspects of Health and Life Skills
Thematic Links: Amputee Rehabilitation; Family; Friendship; Independence
Fiction Gr. 7-12
Ordinary Miracles (Northern Lights Young Novels)
Red Deer Press, 2003. 167p. Gr. 9-10. 0-88995-277-9. Pbk. $12.95
Rating - Excellent!
Ordinary Miracles is a web of short stories told through the eyes of each of its main
characters: 11 teenage friends living in Sky Falls, northern Ontario. We learn of the
struggles and joys of each character not only from their own perspective but from their
friends' perspectives as well. This type of storytelling gives depth to the characters
that are splendidly human - some ordinary, some quirky. There is Angel, first mentioned as
the strange nine-year-old sister of Krista, who has a set of homemade wings she wears for
every occasion. As her story unfolds, we learn that with her "Obi-Wan Kenobi
eyes" she is the family healer who inspires her parents to really communicate with
each other. In the second chapter, we meet Clive Pinner. A young boy in love with poetry
and another boy Toby, he struggles fiercely with his own identity. Near the end of the
book, we learn through his friends of his happiness and transformation after finally
coming out of the closet and dating Toby. Shoulders, a strong and loving adopted son of
pure Mohawk ancestry, is introduced as the kid with the brightest future in Sky Falls. In
his chapter, "Moose", Shoulders has just received a football scholarship and is
about to tell the love of his life, Clive's sister, Amy Pinner, that he loves her. Driving
down the dark country highway at full speed to meet his friends, he has never felt so
excited about his future: "the world will never seem so perfect, so in line with my
dreams." Shoulders collides with a moose in the middle of the road and dies
instantly. As the focus shifts from one character's story to the next, there is an
expanding sense of characters that we have already met and a deepening of their
Aspin's collection of short stories is a dynamic read because her storytelling technique
brings the characters close to our hearts. Through the multiple perspectives, we can see
how much people's lives are interwoven in community. It celebrates simple beauties found
in relationships, diversity and being true to one's self. Touching on so many issues
relevant to youth such as friendship, death, sexuality, and family, it would make a great
book report and reflection paper.
Creative, deep, light, sad, joyous, intriguing and playful, Ordinary Miracles is a book
where the ordinary is made beautiful.
Thematic Links: Friendship; Love; Death; Spirituality; Family; Family
Non-Fiction Gr. K-6
The Dinosaur Atlas: A Complete Look at the Worlds of the Dinosaurs
Key Porter, 2003. 64p. Illus. Gr 3-6. 1-55263-540-6. Hdbk. $26.95
The Dinosaur Atlas is competently written by "Dino" Don Lessem, "renowned
dinosaur expert" and author of numerous dinosaur books. The Dinosaur Atlas
"illustrates the distribution and evolution of dinosaurs" in the three
prehistoric periods: Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Within these three periods the
geographical distribution of various amazing dinosaurs is discussed along with a
description of the changes in the landforms and climate. Detailed information is provided
about the world and the dinosaurs which roamed the earth during each period. As the land
and climate changed so did the dinosaurs over time. An introductory section is devoted to
life on earth before the dinosaurs and the concluding section discusses reasons for their
disappearance and the latest theories on the subject.
Various dinosaurs, approximately 50, including the Lessemsaurus which is named after the
author, are highlighted in tables throughout the book. Each dinosaur name and
pronunciation is provided along with its meaning. Other information noted is their size,
diet, where it is found, and its habits and enemies. In each table a silhouette of a boy
and girl enables us to compare the size of the dinosaur being discussed. A sidebar is
provided on most pages with information, for example, "What makes a dinosaur, a
dinosaur?" Other features provided are a table of contents and an up-to-date
bibliography titled "Learning More" which contains additional sources on
dinosaurs - books, videos, web sites, dig sites and museums (worldwide). A glossary
provides information on hard to understand words. Also included are an alphabetical index
for easy access, numerous "full-colour" maps which point out the geographical
locations of the dinosaurs and awesome illustrations and "dinosaur art" by John
The Dinosaur Atlas is a wonderful book which takes a geographical approach to the study of
dinosaurs. This book would be a useful resource in any school library. A welcome addition
to the study of dinosaurs for all ages with refreshing information.
Thematic Links: Dinosaurs
Non-Fiction Gr. 7-12
Alexander Mackenzie: From Canada by Land
Douglas & McIntyre, 2003. Illus. 118p. Gr. 6 up. 0-88899-483-4. Pbk. $9.95
Is Canada a nation in search of heroes? Ainslie Manson provides a biography of explorer
and fur trader Alexander Mackenzie that avoids the pitfalls of "great man"
hagiography and faceless collective history. This short book presents a strong narrative,
skillful compression, and an abundance of intriguing detail about the fur trade in the
Canadian west during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Unfortunately, the book fails to do
justice to the history of the native peoples whose lands Mackenzie passed through and
opened up for commercial exploitation.
True to the man, Manson does not depict Mackenzie as an adventurer uninterested in the
petty concerns of commerce. Involved in the fur trade from his youth, Mackenzie intended
his two voyages of exploration to open up new territories for European traders. His first,
failed attempt to reach the Pacific Ocean overland, undertaken in 1789, took Mackenzie
into the Canadian artic and convinced him of the need to hone his skills as a geographer
and cartographer. Following his re-education he launched a successful second attempt,
leaving his famous epigraph on a rock on the Pacific coast: "Alexander Mackenzie,
from Canada by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and
Throughout, Manson emphasizes Mackenzie's education, and especially his willingness to
learn from native peoples, as key to his success. Nonetheless, the role of Canada's first
peoples in the fur trade is not accurately presented here. Manson is careful to identify
tribes by name - which will appeal to students in search of material on specific tribes -
but she does not recognize the natives as people with their own agenda, for whom the fur
trade is a story of exploitation, disease, and the sad consequences of uncontrolled trade
in alcohol. Native people in this book exhibit the Tonto Syndrome: those who helped
Mackenzie are praised for their peaceable intentions and knowledge, while those whose
experiences with white men left them wary or hostile, such as the Bella Bella, are
described as "disagreeable and rude." This is perplexing in a book that takes
pains to differentiate the many tribes, linguistic groups and cultures that Mackenzie
encountered. Worse, it is out of step with current trends in popular and academic history,
in which Canada's aboriginal peoples are recognized as independent agents who pursued ends
in which European fur traders were often peripheral.
The book is well laid-out, its text interspersed with illustrations and boxed accounts of
particular aspects of the fur trade. Some of the illustrations are too dark, with details
lost in the murk. A better map would have been helpful as well. The sole map is reproduced
from Mackenzie's journal, on which the names of rivers and lakes are printed in archaic
fonts and are too small to read. One or two simple, clearly drawn and labeled maps would
have been a very welcome addition. The glossary and index are helpful and could serve as
the basis for bibliographic and research instruction.
Overall, the book is well written and carefully structured. It will appeal to its intended
audience. The reduction of native peoples to supporting actors whose importance lay only
in whether they helped or hindered Mackenzie is a major flaw in an otherwise balanced take
on the history of the Canadian fur trade. As the focus of the book is on Mackenzie, this
flaw is, perhaps, forgivable.
Thematic Links: Canada - History; Canada - Exploration; Alexander
Mackenzie; Fur Trade
COLES, Mike, Chas White, Pip Brown
Learning to Learn: Student Activities for Developing Work, Study, and
Pembroke Publishers, 2003. 104p. 1-55138-153-2. Pbk. $24.95
Learning to Learn presents teachers and parents with practical strategies for helping
students learn better and succeed in school. The authors provide activities and
information about new and effective skills to help students work and study better. The
activities are also meant to assist students in developing better work and study habits.
The authors have organized the book around seven major themes or topics, all of which are
essential to student success: time management, note taking, library and research skills,
reading strategies, learning techniques, essay writing, and preparing for and writing
tests/exams. Each of the seven chapters (or units, as they are called in the book),
includes practical teaching suggestions (e.g. how to introduce or present each activity
and additional related activities) and student activity pages which can be photocopied for
Learning to Learn is an invaluable resource for teachers, parents and students.
Information is presented in an organized, easy-to-read (and understand) format, and
provides practical solutions to some of the most common problems students encounter with
studying, learning, and writing exams.
Highly recommended for schools and libraries.
Thematic Links: Study skills; Research Skills; Exam Preparation and
Writing; Teacher Resource Material
Joanne de Groot
SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF CANADA
Reaching Out: The Importance of Early Treatment
Schizophrenia Society of Canada (www.schizophrenia.ca), 2003. Kit (includes video (VHS, 23
minutes, colour), resource binder (79 pages), booklet (45 pages), materials available in
both English and French). Gr. 7-12. Free to educators
Reaching Out: The Importance of Early Treatment is a kit (video, resource binder, and
booklet) designed for teachers to use with students from grades 7 through 12. The video
combines a drama about a teen concerned about a friend with the stories of five real
people with schizophrenia. The drama focuses on how teens can support someone who is
displaying what might be symptoms of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and
emphasizes the need to speak to a responsible adult and get accurate information. The
stories of the five individuals living with schizophrenia emphasize that, with treatment
and support, it is possible to lead a productive life while dealing with this serious
chronic illness. The resource binder contains everything a teacher might need to teach the
Reaching Out program: background information, resources, lesson plans (two periods
recommended, can be done in one), and masters for overheads and handouts. Teachers don't
need any prior knowledge about schizophrenia (or mental illness in general) to teach this
I must admit, my first reaction was to wonder how useful a resource about schizophrenia
designed for teens might be. Then I began reading and discovered that schizophrenia
affects 1 out of every 100 people and the first symptoms often appear between 15 and 25
years of age. I teach in a high school with 1600 students so this means, statistically, I
can expect 16 students to develop schizophrenia and it's quite likely their symptoms will
first appear while they're in high school. Once I realized this, the kit seemed relevant
indeed. Reaching Out is well-designed, informative without being overwhelming, and from an
authoritative source. And the price is certainly right!
The resource binder includes suggested curriculum connections including in a wide variety
of subject areas from the obvious - Psychology - to the less obvious - English, as part of
a thematic study of stereotyping, alienation, etc. Given the wealth of suggestions and the
creativity of teachers, it should be possible present Reaching Out to students.
Thematic Links: Schizophrenia; Mental Illness; Alienation; Friendship
KOECHLIN, Carol & Sani Zwaan.
Chercher, analyser, evaluer
Adapted for French by Louise Dore & Sandra Rosenberg. Cheneliere McGraw-Hill, 2002.
180p. Illus. Includes reproducible pages. Professional Resource. 2-89461-688-0. Pbk.
Most teachers and teacher-librarians desire to help their students become life-long
learners, able to take responsibility for their own learning, to think critically and to
effectively gather and process information in an age when we seem to be bombarded with it
from all sides.
Koechlin and Zwaan take teachers through the various steps of the research process so that
they in turn can assist children with the skills of planning and producing projects and
assignments. There are suggestions for helping students clarify exactly what information
they need as well as for where and how to conduct their research. Graphic organizers give
students a framework to help process the information gathered. These pages can all be
photocopied as class handouts which is truly a time-saver for classroom teachers or
The manual also presents tools for such skills as test preparation, goal setting, time
management and electronic searching. Techniques for interviewing and conducting surveys
are included, as are tips for many methods of effectively presenting the finished
research. Gathering information from literary texts and from media is part of the overall
scope of the book as well.
This is a manual with a broad-based spectrum of ideas and activities geared to help
students work well individually or in groups. The suggestions for gathering and analysing
information are practical and the worksheets are clear and concise, yet interesting for
young researchers as well. Most materials could be adapted for a variety of curriculum
concepts and grade/ability levels.
All educators want students to work more efficiently and work 'smarter'. This book
provides many of the tools to teach them how to accomplish this and aids students in their
pursuit of strategies which will eventually mean they can monitor, evaluate and regulate
their own thinking.
The professional section of your school library should include a copy of this well-priced,
comprehensive, multi-faceted and Canadian research manual.
Thematic Links: Research and Study Skills