from Resource Links, October 2001, V.7, No.1
Singing the Dark
Illustrated by Sheena Lott. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2001. 32p.
Illus. Gr. Preschool - 4. 1-55041-648-0. Hdbk. $19.95
As the summer edges toward autumn, I am always
surprised by how the days seem to shorten. It's no longer softly light when the we walk
the dog in the morning, no longer bright at 9:00 p.m. As dusk falls earlier in the day, I
want to stay closer to home - turn on the lamp and curl up with a book. Our family
routines begin to reflect the subtle change.
Gail Sproule's rich prose combines with Sheena
Lott's gorgeous watercolours to tell the story of a little girl whose mother has created a
wonderful evening ritual for her...singing the dark. Love is reflected in the mother's
willingness to take her bed-bound daughter outside, love is reflected in the words the
author has chosen to tell the story, and most of all, love shines through the delicate
illustrations. I was captivated by the beauty of both words and pictures. The sunset
colours which dominate the first few pages ease into the shaded dusk as the darkness
deepens. The text is initially quite spare and careful, but as the mother and daughter
revel in their shared experience, language becomes poetic. Very young children will want
to hear the story over and over, and early readers will gravitate to this book as well.
Adults are appreciative of the artistry of the book - every audience will find something
I think this book could easily become a bedtime favourite for both children and adults, and is a sensual delight. I could smell the hayfields and orchards of my own childhood, hear the cricket music and feel the softness of summer pyjamas.
While this book seems to appeal first to young
children and their parents as an excellent choice of reading just before bed, it would
also be useful as a read-aloud before nap for children in an early education and care
setting. Everyone needs beauty and Singing the Dark brings us lovely words
and illustrations to set the stage for a gentle sleep.
Thematic Links: Routines and Rituals; Poetry and
Fiction Grades 3-6
The Carved Box
Kids Can Press, 2001. 180p. Gr. 5 up. 1-55337-016-3. Pbk. $6.95
Fifteen-year-old Callum Murdoch is sent to Upper
Canada when he becomes orphaned in Scotland. In Canada, he goes to live with his
mothers youngest brother, Rory Murdoch and his family. Before Callum meets his
uncle, he has a strange altercation with a stranger in the local inn. Unable to bear the
strangers physical cruelty to his dog, Callam buys her for the two sovereigns he was
sent to the New World to give to his uncle. The dogs previous owner hands Callam a
small, carved wooden box and tells him Bess will stay with him as long as he keeps the box
on his person and unopened.
Callam knows he is a fool to hand over the small savings but he is
powerless to resist the pull of the mysterious dog. Throughout Callams first months
at Murdochs, Dog as he renames her, helps with the work and entertains the children.
One is reminded of the Darlings Nanna of Peter Pan. When an accident breaks
open the box, Callam is unprepared for the outcome.
The Carved Box is a delightful tale of life in Upper
Canada and of the sacrifices and industry of early Canadian pioneers. It is also a tale of
intrigue as the Dog plot unfolds.
This book would make a great novel study for any
junior or intermediate elementary classroom.
Thematic Links: Supernatural; Science Fiction;
Fantasy; Pioneers; Canadian History; Family Life
Nature Unfolds Series
CHESHIRE, Gerard, The Tropical Rainforest (0-7787-0308-8);
STONEHOUSE, Bernard, The Poles (0-7787-0309-6)
Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001. 39p. Illus. Gr. 4 up. Hdbk
style="mso-spacerun: yes"> $24.95 ea.
Crabtree Publishing has built a solid reputation
among educators for their comprehensive collection of non-fiction books. This new series, Nature
Unfolds, will not disappoint teachers or readers. The hardcover books employ a highly
visual design using double fold-outs lavishly illustrated in full colour with extensive
The Tropical Rainforest, and The
Poles begin with a pictorial Table of Contents showing the page layout of the 2
major sections in each book: Swamplands/Rainforest and The Antarctic/The Arctic. Turn the
page, and you will be met with a brief introduction and quick regional overview followed
by the first of 2 fold-outs that extend the book horizontally, or vertically, for a
4-panel panoramic view of the region (e.g.. The Tropical Rainforest: The Upper Canopy, The
Lower Canopy, Understory, Forest Floor). The fold-outs are pure illustration, no text.
They show the landscape features and the multitude of flora and fauna which inhabit it in
functional, accurately painted drawings. For species identification, a numbered key to the
fold-outs can be found following the descriptive pages for each.
The following 8 pages focus on the 4 panels, one
at a time. Accurate detail on species is given in easy-to-read chunks arranged around a
reduced version of the fold-out, centrally placed, with the featured frame (e.g.. The
Upper Canopy) in sharp print and the other 3 (e.g.. The Lower Canopy, Understory, Forest
Floor) in faded aspect. The animals are shown in natural poses or activities which are
different from their appearance on the fold-out page. Close-ups are used to highlight
particularly intriguing details: e.g. a lamprey's teeth, seal's nostrils, baby hoatzin's
wing claws. Fascinating facts will delight the curious: e.g. a narwhal's spiralled tusk is
actually 2 teeth that grow toward and twist around each other; the tropical rainforest
does not go through seasons so trees can produce flowers, seeds and fruit at the same
The last page is a Glossary of terms that were
shown in bold typeface throughout the book (although there is no instruction to that
effect). An Index occupies the inside of the back cover. There is no bibliography or
further readings list.
These books will be an excellent research tool
for anyone wishing to closely examine the rainforest or polar environments. They are also
wonderful for browsing and discovering little known but fascinating facts. The fold-out
illustrations appear in some form at each turn of the page, thus eliminating the need to
flip back and forth to spot a specific animal in context. The vertical fold-out design is
especially effective for depicting the rainforest from the top of the canopy to the forest
Two minor points: experience as a
Teacher-Librarian taught me that books with 'moveable parts' have a reduced wearability
level in a library setting. I would suggest reinforcing the fold-outs prior to
use. Also, it may be well to point out to the youngest readers that the density of
species in the functional drawings may give the illusion of 'wall-to-wall' animals,
whereas the reality is that vast spaces (especially in the polar regions) mean few animals
would actually be seen.
Thematic Links: Rainforest; Arctic; Antarctic;
Habitats and Ecosystems; Endangered Species and Spaces; Biological Diversity
Red Deer Press, 2001. 208p. Gr. 8-11. 0-88995-232-9. Pbk. $9.95
Rating: Good - Excellent
There are many young adult novels about
dysfunctional families, substance abuse, and psychiatric treatment. Truly, we do not need
more unless there is some quality that raises them above average. Fortunately, Teresa
Toten does not write about or for the "average." As with her first novel for
young adults, The Onlyhouse, The Game treats both its characters and
its readers with great respect for their individuality and character.
Dani is in Riverwood psychiatric unit for
troubled teenagers because she overdosed with pills and vodka. During the course of the
novel, we learn about the problems that drove her to such extreme measures. We also learn
about life in the unit and meet other teenagers with enormous burdens.
There is little new about the plot of this book for any
reader who is familiar with the wide range of "teen trauma" novels.
Nevertheless, Toten succeeds in telling the story of Dani's attempts first to forget and
later to accept the events of her own life in a fresh and vivid way. It is not a flawless
book; the plot turns are sometimes predictable, and the ending is overly neat.
Nevertheless, the story feels true and not hackneyed. The characters have
three-dimensional quirks and attitudes, so that they feel substantial and real.
Toten has addressed a topic that, unfortunately
for all of us, is almost a cliche of contemporary writing for young adults and has
achieved a new and highly engaging story out of overly-familiar materials - a very
Thematic Links: Depression; Suicide; Mental Health;
Family Relationships; Psychiatric Treatment
Margaret Mackey style="mso-ansi-font-size:
As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of Newfoundland and
Penguin Books of Canada, 2001. 492p. Illus. Gr. 7 up. 0-670-88290-9.
As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of
Newfoundland and Labrador by Kevin Major is the fourth release in Penguin
Canadas provincial history series. This series has been commissioned by Penguin and
is being written not by the historians of our country but by some of our literary greats,
thus giving a somewhat different perspective to the history of our nation.
In As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of
Newfoundland and Labrador, Major presents a very comprehensive history of the
province of Newfoundland and Labrador from six hundred million years ago up to the entry
into the 21st century. He has included all the major historical events such as
the Maritime Archaic Indians, the Vikings, Cabots discovery, the patterns of
settlement, the variety of governance, religious and educational developments, the entry
into Confederation, and the growth and development as a Canadian province. He has,
however, included much more. In his telling of the story of Newfoundland and
Labrador, Major gives insight into specific times with descriptive stories about
individuals (e.g. Sarah Kirke, Donald Alexander Smith, Ann Harvey, John James Audubon) and
events (e.g. the building of Government House; the sinking of the Caribou in 1942) which
are not the general approach for historians. In many cases Major relates events in the
context of his own experience, growing up in Newfoundland at a time when it was making the
transition from being a British colony to becoming Canadas youngest province. His
own opinions and his ready wit show through in many of the anecdotes (which he includes in
parenthesis) as he relates various aspects of the history.
While historians have some difficulty with
the fact that these histories do not contain footnotes and detailed bibliographies, Major
does acknowledge the research of the many historians and others on whom he relied for much
of the factual information in the book. The lack of footnotes certainly gives for an
easier read and the publishers attempt to provide more of a
peoples approach to history allows for more acceptance of this apparent
lack of historical format. As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of Newfoundland and
Labrador has a selected bibliography, an index - the previous three releases do
not have an index - and a section entitled Newfoundland and Labrador History ... on
the Web, in Video and Fiction and Live! which gives reference to additional sources
Overall, I found Majors history of
Newfoundland and Labrador to be a very interesting and enjoyable read. Even though I had
previously studied the provinces history in an academic manner and have probed into
various records and writings over the years, I still found new information. I feel this
work (along with the others in the series) has a major role to play in the study of
Canadian social studies, this one particularly in the new Grade 8 history curriculum
presently being developed for Newfoundland and Labrador schools. It will be enjoyed by
many who are interested in learning more about the history of the province, those who
enjoy Majors writing, and Im sure will be on the Christmas gift list of
many current and former Newfoundlanders this year.
Majors book was published in late August
and is already on several major best-seller lists in Canada. style="mso-spacerun:
Thematic Links: Newfoundland and Labrador - History;
Victoria Pennell style="mso-ansi-font-size:
Song Writing: A Classroom
Pacific Edge Publishing,2001. 40p plus song scores; CD of songs.
1-895110-90-4. Pbk. $29.95
Song Writing: A Classroom Approach
is an excellent resource for teachers or for anyone who may be a budding songwriter. Fred
Maybee, an elementary music teacher, provides a practical step-by-step guide, including a
monthly September-June planner which teachers will find most useful! Maybee has evidently
used this song writing unit frequently, for the book contains 26 song scores with words,
guitar chords and tempo indications, all of which have been written by students on topics
as far-reaching as "Stinky Sneakers" and "Mad Cow Disease". These
songs are also available in audio version: a CD of over one hour in length accompanies the
The book begins with reasons for song writing and
where to find ideas for lyrics. Planning and preparation for the unit include such
practical hints as resources which are necessary, training for the teacher and how to
promote the idea with administrators. Maybee discusses music (structure, melody, harmony,
rhythm, timbre) as well as lyrics (rhyming, poetic devices, imagery). There are obvious
ties to language arts, but the lyrics can also relate to any curriculum area students are
studying (e.g. "At the Aquarium Zoo", a song about whales, and "Thank You
Martin", about Doctor Martin Luther King). Students can therefore summarize what
they've learned into lyrics or simply express their feelings on a subject. Science and
technology come into play as students actively participate in setting up and carrying out
the recording process.
This is a concise, practical and somewhat
technical manual about song writing from someone who has "been there, done
that". Maybee also discusses how to prepare for a recording session and the equipment
and materials necessary to turn a classroom into a recording studio. Also included are
suggestions re packaging the final product as a CD or cassette, along with notes about
accounting and copyright. A glossary with song writing and recording terms as well as
suggestions for using the song scores complete the book.
Seasoned music teachers or teachers with little
or no experience will all be able to follow this process and produce music of which they
can be proud!
Thematic Links: Language Arts; Music;
Science/Technology; Graphic Design
Blast o' Brass (HAM-CD4144); Where the Winds
Blow (HAM-CD4111); String Things (HAM-CD4141); Some Drum (HAM-CD4109)
HearAgainMusic, 2001. Gr. K-8. Set $70.00 /Each CD $18.95
Parents or teachers who wish to introduce young
children to the orchestra and intrigue them with music should take a serious look at this
CD series produced by HearAgainMusic from British Columbia.
This excellent series is a great investment, providing a plethora of
information, activities and music. Each CD box actually contains 2 CDs, one instrumental
and the other vocal. The 24 songs provide a wonderful introduction for children to the
various families of orchestral instruments and the sounds they make. The musical styles
include traditional, contemporary and classical and often highlight specific instruments
in both amusing and educational ways. Tubas make great elephants! The vocals add interest
and allow children to sing along. Many are sung by children and the lyrics, supplied with
the CD, are easy to learn.
Author, producer and parent Monika Tusnady has
strong backgrounds in both music and education which are readily apparent. She makes
practical easy-to-implement use of current educational research and learning theory. Each
pair of CDs is accompanied by an amazing, creative 28-page booklet. A wide variety of
activities, integrating many of the multiple intelligences, is provided. Every child will
find some aspect of these to enjoy since the activities combine music with movement (i.e.
dancing, actions), instruments (i.e. making a kazoo or a hand drum), science (i.e. making
a rainmaker, dancing raisins), art (i.e. leaf art, a three-cornered hat), math (counting),
language (things that are green or begin with a certain letter) and literature in the form
of suggested related reading. Although music is the principal focus, children are
encouraged to participate in ways that are sure to engage them.
Any adult could make great use of this
innovative, simply marvellous series of well-chosen music and prepared activities to share
a love and knowledge of music with children through fun and play.
Thematic Links: Music
JOHANSEN, K. V.
Coquine et Pouding
Illustrated by Bernice Lum. Les editions Scholastic, 2001. Illus.
Gr. K-2. 0-439-98608-7. Pbk. $7.99
Coquine, Mabelle's tan-coloured dog with big floppy
ears and black curly tail, is inquisitive and very friendly. The kitten she discovers
hiding in some bushes is just as friendly and very playful. Coquine brings the kitten home
to Mabelle after playing tag all morning in the bushes. Unfortunately, though Mabelle
thinks the kitten is very cute, she decides to find her owner, particularly after the two
play chase all through the house and break a vase! When the kitten's owner arrives
to pick her up, Mabelle can't find her anywhere; Coquine has hidden her in the attic!
Finally found, the kitten leaves with her owner, and Coquine is very sad and begins to
pout. She has no one to play with, no one to curl up with, no one to chase. She refuses to
eat and lays on her mat all day. Mabelle realizes things are serious, so she takes her car
keys, saying she'll be back soon. Sure enough, she soon returns, with a purring bundle.
Christened Pouding, the kitten jumps down from
Mabelle's arms and chases Coquine around the house. "Outside!" cries
Mabelle. The three go out for a walk and encounter a toad - who follows them home...
The sequel to Coquine et Mabelle, this is
a charming story about friendship and pets. Children will laugh at the two friends' antics
and be delighted at their reunion. The text is quite dense and is probably at too high a
level for the age range of the children it is aimed at, but this book can be enjoyed as a
read-aloud or a big buddy reading book.
Thematic Links: Pets; Friendship