Volume 13, no.2
December 2007


Audio-Visual Materials / Fiction 3-6 / Fiction 7-12 / French Resources
Nonfiction Preschool-6 / Nonfiction 7-12 / Professional Resources

Picture Books


Shoe Shakes

Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Annick Press, 2007. 32p. Illus. Gr. Preschool -K. 978-1-55451-105-1. Pbk. $9.95.

Rating: E

In this marvellous collection of eleven poems, Lesynski’s wonderful imagination explores the fun world of feet and shoes. In “The Wake-Up Shake-Up,” arms and feet start the day off right by wiggling, jiggling, spinning and rocking to let everyone know that the children are awake. Strange things happen in “Shoe Shakes” when children, who are choosing which shoes to wear that day, discover that their shoes are in control of them, pulling them to the park and zooming them to the zoo. In “Toot Toot!” one child’s dog doesn’t bark or woof, the bird refuses to chirp or tweet, and the cat neither purrs nor meows; instead, each of these pets goes ‘Toot toot!’ Snowshoes are always fun to wear, but are they really made of snow? In “Snowshoes,” Lesynski answers this question as well as another important one: What happens if we don’t have snowshoes? Finally, in “If You Had a Magic Shoe……” Lesynski offers a variety of possible uses to which we can put a magic shoe, from race car to sailing boat and from airplane to perpetual hopper.

In each of these poems, the rhythm is natural and bouncy, the beat strong, and the words demanding to be read out loud. The poems vary in length and structure, but all are fun and engaging. The wacky ideas and imaginings and the outstanding poetry are brought to life by both text and illustrations in a way that will delight both young and old readers. Martchenko’s illustrations are a combination of pencil, watercolour and gouache, and they are consistently playful, easily drawing us into the shoe-shaking world. Children will love acting out the poems, as well as creating their own poems based on the ones they find in this book. Students may also enjoy sculpting or drawing their own magic shoe.

Thematic Links: Poetry - Children; Clothing - Shoes; Imaginative Play

Ken Killback

Fiction Grades 3-6


Dancing Through the Snow

Scholastic Canada, 2007. 239p. Gr. 3-6. 13-978-0-439-93823-5. Hdbk. $19.99

Rating: E

Once in a while, a very great while, a book captures my interest from its first page. It takes a special book to do this, with intriguing, engaging characters, a story that pulls at my heart strings without being too maudlin, and enough elements of truth that the story could be real. Add a Christmas theme, which is all about magical possibilities and you have a book that should be added to libraries right across Canada. Jean Little has created such a book with her latest offering, Dancing Through the Snow. Miss Little is a talented author who knows how to make her characters, flaws and all, become real to the reader. We care, right from the first chapter, about Min’s motives, concerns and what happens to her.

Min is introduced to the reader, sitting outside a bank on a chilly day just before Christmas, waiting for her foster mother who is going to return her to the Children’s Aid Society. The chapter is entitled “In the Recycle Bin” and by its end, we are in no doubt that Min needs rescuing, and are captivated both by her sad past and her imaginative dreaming for something more. Surely something better awaits!

Of course, something better does come, in the guise of a local doctor, who along with some flaws of her own, has enough compassion to make a decision to rescue Min, without even filling out the forms! Before Min can catch her breath, she is off to stay with Dr. Jess Hart. Jess sees some of Min’s story in her own past and gradually, through a series of situations the two develop a kinship that leads to a satisfying conclusion.

On the way, though, other themes are skilfully interwoven into the story. Min is meanly and viciously bullied and must learn how to deal with bullies. She is recovering from an abusive past and learns, by rescuing an abused dog and then helping close down a puppy mill, that healing comes by helping others. Her fears of abandonment and not being good enough to be loved are worked through in a realistic and positive fashion, leading the reader to feel that there is hope for even the saddest situations. Christmas becomes important, not for the commercial gifts but the feelings of family and togetherness that Min, for the first time in her life, feels.

Written for nine-twelve year olds, this book is one that will fly off your shelves once your students start reading it. It deals with difficult issues such as bullying, abuse, abandonment but also gives the reader hope and the conviction that there is something that can be done about each of these things.

Thematic Links: Bullying; Abuse; Adoption; Christmas

Susan Miller

Fiction Grades 7 - 12

ALMOND, David, Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Margo Lanagan, Gregory Maguire, Ruth Ozeki, Linda Sue Park and Tim Wynne-Jones


Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc., 2007. 217p. Gr. 9 up. 978-0-439-41138-7. Hdbk. $20.99

Rating: E

Maggie is in junior high and her brother Jason is in a senior in high school when their beloved Grandfather Gee, a photojournalist, suddenly dies. They are surprised when they receive gifts from their grandfather through his lawyer! Jason, who has just found out that he is adopted, finds autographed photographs of famous people taken by his grandfather. His anger at his family fuels his plans to sell them and run away to find his birth father. Maggie is enchanted by her gift, a strange wooden box filled with sea shells. A card in the box tells her, “Throw them all back - Gee.” What does it mean?

This novel is a combination of stories written by ten authors describing the life of George Keane (Gee) and his family as they journey through the past, present and future! All of the stories tie into Linda Sue Park’s original story about Maggie and Jason’s gifts from their grandfather. Stories are named for the people in Gee’s life. Some focus on Gee’s photographs: in Annie, David Almond tells a haunting tale of a disabled girl who finds new life through one of Gee’s photographs; in Lev, Deborah Ellis explains the photograph of a prisoner in a Russian prison who created Maggie’s beautiful wooden box; and in Vincent, Roddy Doyle tells the story of Gee’s photograph of Muhammed Ali autographed for Jason - years before Jason was even born!

Other stories explore Gee’s travels and accomplishments as a photographer and a humanitarian. In the story Maggie by Nick Hornby, we are socked to learn that Gee had another family in France. Several stories explore Jason and Maggie’s lives after their grandfather’s death. In Min by Tim Wynne-Jones, Jason learns that he wants to become a photographer when he falls in love with a beautiful but troubled girl named Jasmine; in Afela by Margo Lanagan and Margaret by Gregory Maguire, we see Maggie as an older woman reflecting on her life and coming to terms with her mortality!

This book is an amazing accomplishment! The title Click unites this beautiful tapestry of stories which are woven about the life of a photographer and his impact on his family and the world. Not only have ten writers been able to work together to tell a beautiful story, but they have done it for a good cause. All the proceeds of this book will be donated to Amnesty International! There is even a section at the end of the book which explains the organization and its aims. This book will definitely appeal to both male and female readers.

Thematic Links: Photography; Creativity; Travel; Family Relationships; Adoption; World War II; Russian History; Honesty; Prejudice; The Future

Myra Junyk

Non-Fiction Preschool - Grade 6

BATEMAN, Robert with Nancy Kovacs

Birds of Prey: An Introduction

Scholastic Canada/Madison Press, 2007. 48p. Illus. Gr. 4-8. 978-0-439-93880-8. Hdbk. $19.99

Rating: E

Birds of Prey: An Introduction is an introduction to artist and bird-lover Robert Bateman’s favourite raptors. It is a beautiful book, full of Bateman’s highly realistic renditions of these powerful birds, including a picture of hawks that he painted when he was 14 years old. Bateman’s paintings capture the birds in all their splendour - the osprey swooping down to capture a fish in its talons, or the tiny elf owl peeking shyly from its home in a saguaro cactus. There is plenty of information in this artful book. The physical details of each bird (length, wingspan, weight), what they eat, their range, migration and habitat are included in each entry and Bateman’s own experiences as a birder are often related. There is a glossary, but no table of contents or index. This does not really compromise the book’s accessibility since it is on such a narrow topic to begin with, and the section headings (Buteos, Eagles, Falcons, etc.) are prominent when you browse through the book. This is a fine book which may well prove inspirational to some young naturalist.

Also available in French.

Thematic Links: Birds; Birds of Prey; Art; Canadian Artists

Susan Prior

Non-Fiction Grades 7-12


Out of Line: Growing Up Soviet

Tundra Books, 2007. 160p. Gr. 6 up. 978-0-88776-803-3.Hdbk. $24.99. (reviewed from unedited page proofs)

Rating: G

An autobiography of growing up in 1970s Communist Russia

Out of Line: Growing Up Soviet, is the first book from Toronto writer, Tina Grimberg. It narrates her life as a young girl in the Ukraine, beginning with a “round year,” 1972, the year she is 10. The story ends five years later, when she is 15, and her parents make the decision to leave and settle in the United States.

The story has a first person point of view present timeline that provides its framework, plus past tense narration, which fills in the backstory of Grimberg’s life through events that have happened to parents, relatives, and friends. Details are vivid, reflecting lifestyle and a general consciousness of those around her. For example, she speaks of Pravda, the newspaper whose name means truth, saying, “Every time someone uses it for wrapping herring or pickles, lining a cat’s litter box, or as a desperate substitute for toilet paper, the thought is always there - it’s good for something, but not for the truth.” Grimberg’s economy of words, and style of fleshing out memories with her adult insights, make the autobiography much more than the story of a young girl.

Autobiographical memoirs often say more to adults than they do to children, even though the time period may be childhood. Grimberg, however, manages to write with layers of meaning that appeal to every readership, according to their ability to understand what she’s telling them. The strength is in the details she’s chosen to include, her metaphors and analogies. Pacing is important in books for young readers, and Grimberg doesn’t linger on any one area, rather uses active language and tension to keep the story always moving forward.

Out of Line: Growing Up Soviet is a valuable addition to library collections of autobiographies and cultural perspectives, since her story as she says, is “what life in the Soviet Union was like. It is what life everywhere is like.” Teachers will find it a valuable book in the classroom for cross-cultural education, as well as Soviet Union history. Adults, no matter what their background, will also find Grimberg’s autobiography resonates with its details of family and community, and how they come together to create the memories of childhood.

Thematic Links: Autobiography; Soviet Union - History - 1970s

Linda Aksomitis

Professional Resources

VON HEYKING, Amy and Janet McConaghy

Teaching with Robert Munsch Books, Volume 3: Fun and Creative Teaching Activities Using Six Favourite Stories

Scholastic Canada Ltd., 2007. 62p. Illus. 978-0-545-99902-1. Pbk. $12.99

Rating: G

Teaching with Robert Munsch Books, Volume 3: Fun and Creative Teaching Activities Using Six Favourite Stories contains ideas for activities to accompany the following 6 Robert Munsch titles: Aaron’s Hair, Lighthouse, No Clean Clothes, I’m so Embarrassed!, More Pies!, and The Sandcastle Contest. Following the format of the previous two volumes, volume 3 begins with some information on Robert Munsch and the illustrators of the featured books, in this case Michael Martchenko, Alan and Lea Daniel, and Janet Wilson. Sections for each story include a summary of the story, a list of questions relating to the story and illustrations, background on the story and the child who inspired it, and three activities with links to different areas in the curriculum.

The book contains a resource list of related titles and websites, as well as some reproducible activity sheets.

Also available in French as Robert Munsch en classe, vol. 3: Des activités amusantes et créatives! Six histoires à redécouvrir!

Thematic Links: Robert Munsch; Language Arts Susan Prior

Audio-Visual Resources

Joe Rock and Friends Reading Adventures: Joe Rock Book One (0-973069-0-1); Joe Rock Book Two (0-9739069-1-X) Joe Rock Book Three (978-0-973069-2-9)

Boogle Noggin Media Inc., 2006. CD ROM, activity book and picture book set, bonus DVD. Gr. Preschool - 3.

$24.99 ea. set

Rating: G-E

The Joe Rock Series stars - not surprisingly - a rock named Joe! This charming little fellow is a grey rock with huge blue eyes and a mouth. This newest story edition is the third in a collection released by Boggle Noggin Media Inc. The series has won reader awards. The series includes soft bound picture books, a CD ROM and an activity book. The CD is playable on PCs with Windows in both McIntosh and IBM format and requires Windows 98 and up with a minimum 128 MB RAM.

Each CD ROM contains three stories, three songs, text in English, French and Spanish. The text can be switched from one language to another. The stories are organized in three levels of reading abilities. The DVD contained in each package includes songs, stories, and games in three languages.

The Joe Rock stories are simple and follow a formula. However, the repetition appeals to children in beginning reading situations. Inclusion of CD ROM, a follow-along picture book and a DVD is very satisfying to early readers. Clear, colourful graphics and drawings have immediate appeal to the pre-readers and early readers who reviewed these materials for me.

Included in the Joe Rock Book One early reading series are the following titles: Joe’s New Look; Mr. Grumpy Face; Joe and the Twins. Included in the Joe Rock Book Two: Joe and the Big Trouble; Joe and the Pirates; Joe’s Bad Dream. Included in the Joe Rock Book Three: The Painters in the Park; Inukshuk Joe; Kate’s Birthday Surprise.

Joe Rock is an excellent supplementary reading resource suitable for use with any beginning reading program. Its colourful graphics, computer enhancements and lovable character make it a welcome addition for young readers. Software and DVD are easy to run and interactive quality is a winning addition. The stories can be combined with DVD to make the series useful as Big Books. Activity books contain varied and entertaining reader activities which nurture fluency and reading comprehension. Students find the subject matter appealing and humorous. The fact that there are multiple reading levels and three languages is an enriching feature for bright students. Audio/visual components of the series encourage beginning readers to improve their reading ability.

Thematic Links: Adventure; Early Readers; Multi-Media

Gail Lennon


French Resources

Le petit reporteur: Le seul hebdomodaire québécois d’actualité pour les 9 – 14 ans

Le Petit Reporteur - Adomédia Inc. Illus. Gr. 4-9 French Immersion and Core French. 1911- 4273. 1-5 subscriptions $120.00 ea., 6-9 subscriptions $115.00 ea., 10+ subscriptions $108.33 ea. Also available in electronic format.

Rating: E

This weekly magazine is a must for every second language teacher. It can be used in the content areas (Science, Social Studies) as well as in the French language arts curriculum. The articles contain information about Quebec, Canada and the World and are written in a language that adolescents can easily understand. On each page, there is a box containing difficult vocabulary and an explanation of each word in French. The articles deal with a wide variety of topics that pertain to adolescent interests and issues.

I would highly recommend this resource for the French Second Language classroom.

Joanne Connors


Editor: Victoria Pennell