Is There Really a Human Race? By Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Is There Really a Human Race?

I thought this book was going to be about race relations but it was actually a play on the words “human race”. It begins at a park where a little boy asks his mother, “Is there really human race.”

The next page reads, “Is it going on now all over the place? When did it start? Who said, ‘Ready, Set, Go’?”

He continues talking about warm-ups, coaches, practicing and training. He asks about location, participants, winners and losers, rules, and if they are all going to crash.

Then it reads, “Sometimes it’s better not to go fast. There are beautiful sites to be seen when you’re last. Shouldn’t it be that you just try your best? And that’s more important than beating the rest? Shouldn’t it be looking back at the end that you judge her own race by the help that you lend.” It continues in this theme until the last line says, “and make the world a better place for the whole human race.”

The words were clever, well paced, rhythmic, and important. The rhyming was flawless. The message was delivered beautifully.

The book was illustrated by Laura Cornell who used pencil and watercolor. The pictures were full of dynamic and zany movement. Many of the pages had stories within the illustrations. Some crowded double-page spreads took quite a while to absorb. She definitely got across the idea of the insanity of competition and pushing ourselves as fast as possible.

Inside the back cover is a “world yearbook” that features various pictures of children and their career choices such as tech support, circus clown, mud brick master, astronaut, career criminal, clog dancer and nuclear physicist. Every portrait is bursting with personality.

All in all, this was a wonderful surprise. Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. Book Review.

The Tiny Hero contains well-done black and white illustrations for each chapter.  There are 324 pages but the type is large and well spaced. This book is immediately engaging. Even though it is written for children ages seven to twelve, I was completely hooked.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

Aunt Min is special. She has taught Eddie to read and told him many stories she overheard in the school library. These are books every child should experience from the works of Dr. Seuss to E.B. White. Avid readers will nod their heads with understanding whenever these books are mentioned. You may want to find those you haven’t read.

The novel supports reading and libraries at a time when many are shrinking or disappearing. Little Eddie reminds us of all the reasons we love a children’s library and why it cannot be replaced by a computer terminal.

The first quest for Eddie is to save his aunt and then protect his foolish little cousin who has followed him. The second one is to save the library from a substitute librarian (sister of a powerful administrator) who wants to board up its beautiful windows, remove all the books, and turn it into something less expensive. It seems an impossible task for a little bug to stop the demise of the beloved library when even the principal has trouble asserting himself but Eddie is committed and clever.

This endearing, suspenseful, and thoughtful book will connect with children and parents alike. There are acts of courage and sacrifice, a great deal of humor, subtle ethical topics, and tributes to our most cherished children’s books. I love how we see the world through the eyes of a small, defenseless creature who only wants to survive with his family. (A good discussion could follow about how some humans are “squishers” of small insects and how this contrasts with the compassion other people show to the small and defenseless.)

This book doesn’t touch on the topic of bullying but I believe if children are taught to show kindness to the smallest and most helpless, they are less likely to bully others or to be speciest. Little Eddie and his family are adorable ambassadors for compassion.

Highly recommended. Buy link http://a.co/bOOONR1

I was given a copy of this book for review.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid – Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow! by Mark S. Waxman. Book Review.

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This is a humorous novel written for Junior grade children.

Morgan is a loner, not by choice but because he doesn’t seem to fit into the social landscape around him. He has a special relationship with his grandfather, Poppy, who encourages Morgan’s experimentation and attempts to invent new things.

Unfortunately, Morgan’s school life is dominated by a bully named Buckholtz. The bully is jealous that Morgan is already shaving and continually threatens him. This culminates in a promise to beat Morgan and shave his face and head. Morgan decides to invent a product that will remove facial hair without shaving. He believes if his red whiskers disappear, Buckholtz, who is three years older, will not feel the need to pummel him. However, because of the storm, his formula is changed and Morgan discovers something that is worth even more money than a hair removal product.

In the midst of all of this, a beautiful, smart and popular girl named Robin moves across the street. Morgan is shocked by her friendliness and her ability to spout random facts like he does. But Robin has mixed feelings about Morgan and his invention. Things get even more complicated when investors begin to bribe, woo, and threaten Morgan. In the end, Morgan has to decide what he values most.

Kids will love the humor, ethos, bumbling affection, and random facts scattered throughout this book. Morgan is a lovable and relatable character. Morgan’s final decision is sure to spark some interesting conversations. Well recommended.

Buy link. 

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Only in Canada! From the Colossal to the Kooky by Vivien Bowers. Book Review.


buy link – Only in Canada!: From the Colossal to the Kooky (Wow Canada!)

This hefty, nonfiction 95 page book has a humorous approach to engaging the reader. Scattered throughout the book are the narrators, a Canada goose and the moose, dressed in full clothing and making comments, some helpful and some silly.

There are six chapters in the book. The first is “Amazing Facts about How Canada Was Bashed, Pummelled, Scrunched, and Scraped into the Shape It’s in Today”. The humour and hyperbole draw the reader in to learn about tectonic plates, the Great Lakes, earthquakes, volcanoes, ice and more.

Chapter 2 is “Naturally and Wildly Canadian”. The author promises to share the “weird, intriguing, obnoxious, badly behaved, and utterly improbable plants and animals that exist in Canada.” I was not at all surprised to learn that Canada has one million square kilometers of muskeg.” Just try digging anywhere in my neighbourhood. I was surprised to learn puffins have a regular beak underneath their big fancy one, which they drop off after they win the female. Hmmm. Typical.

The only thing I must warn you about is if you need reading glasses, make sure you have them when you open this book. It is jampacked with tiny print. You won’t want to miss any of the fascinating facts and crazy tidbits. I had heard of Gray Owl but not Billy Miner or Two-gun Cohen. There’s even a paragraph about the lines down the middle of the road.

Chapter 3 focuses on the arrival of people. Chapter 4 is about Canada’s modern growth such as the canals, bridges, and buildings. Chapter 5 is about our weather. Yes it does deserve an entire chapter of its own. Chapter 6 is about interesting Canadians and I’m sure you’ll find some you’ve never heard of before.

This is a fun and informative book that may engage children (and adults) in Canadiana who otherwise would not be interested.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Canada Celebrates Multiculturalism by Bobby Kalman. The Lands, Peoples, and Cultures Series. Book Review.

Canada Celebrates Multiculturalism (Lands, Peoples, & Cultures) buy link

The topics covered in this nonfiction book are:

  • Beginnings of multiculturalism
  • Celebrating Canada’s history
  • Heritage days
  • Caribana
  • Cross-cultural festivals
  • Harvest festivals
  • Christmas customs
  • New year celebrations
  • Religion
  • Holidays
  • Family days
  • Festivals
  • Recipes

It also Includes a Glossary and an Index.

This is a lot of things to tackle in such a small book of 32 pages. Basically, it just whets the appetite.

The beginnings of multiculturalism is a two-page spread, three-quarters of which is a photograph. In the text bar there is a short paragraph written on native cultures, French and British, more people came, and celebrating multiculturalism. At the bottom, in italics, is a caption for the picture that reads, “Many cultures can be found in Canada. People in this picture represent the Native, German, Ukrainian, Filipino, and Engine populations in Canada. Can you identify them by their costumes?” I’m not sure about the other cultures, but First Nations people do not like their regalia to be called a costume. This is a disrespectful term.

In the “Celebrating Canada’s history”, there are paragraphs on Canada Day, Victoria day, Labor Day, and Remembrance Day. It does mention the alternative holiday celebrated by the French Canadians in Quebec. There is a small text box below the fireworks picture and a sketch about Louis Riel. It is entitled “remembering a hero.”

Under heritage days, the author gives a short blurb on the powwow. The entire second part of the two-page spread is about African Canadians. Turn the page and you’ll find paragraphs on the national Ukrainian Festival, Fete National, Festival du Voyageur, Klondike Days, Oktoberfest, Highland games, and Icelandic Festival. The entire next double-page spread is devoted Caribana.

Under harvest vegetables, Canadian Thanksgiving is described. The Green Festival celebrated by the Iroquois, harvest fall fairs, and the wild rice harvest by the Algonquin, Cree, and Ojibwa are explained. There is a flashback about the order of good cheer. A short paragraph explains the Chinese Moon Festival.

For such a short book, it shares a great of information on unfamiliar holidays. Well worth a read or for stocking your class library.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts – Frank, District of Alberta, 1902 by Jean Little. Book Review.

Jean Little is a national treasure. Her body of work is phenomenal and this is up there with the best of them. You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy this book, or the series, which is told in diary format.

The story of the landslide that buried part of the town in the coal mining area of Alberta, Canada, is told through the eyes of a young girl, Abby. Her father has recently died and her family has moved to Frank to live with relatives who run a hotel. The family dynamics are as complex and intriguing as real life drama. Abby, is a sensitive and loving child, the only one of her siblings willing to care for her Down Syndrome brother. The story is told through her diary entries.

This moment in Canadian history is relatively unknown by people living outside of Western Canada. The book is based on the true events and the deaths and near misses resulting from the landslide are taken from actual historical incidents. There are black and white photographs at the back of the book which show the size and extent of the mountain’s partial collapse. An explanation is given in the afterword as to the possible causes of the enormous landslide.

This book is both an engaging story of a family around the turn of the century and a stunning example of the power of nature. Abby, and her family, are based on a number of people Jean Little researched. Although it is written for tween readers, anyone from 9 to 90 will be intrigued by the story and touched by the impact of this tragedy on the community and individuals.

This book is part of the Dear Canada series which features a number of remarkable books. Some speak of heroism and sacrifice while some examine our most shameful moments.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Coming to Canada: Building a Life New Land by Susan Hughes. Book Review.

 

This is a nonfiction history book is organized into easy-to-read sections. Is quite up to date and inclusive. It begins with the arrival of the aboriginal peoples. It follows through with the Acadians and the Great Expulsion, an example of how prejudice and politics can destroy the lives of ordinary people.

Throughout the book, it honestly shows the cruelties and failures done while building our country. Many people know generally about the loyalists’ tribulations but few know how badly the emancipated slaves were treated. For example, “of the 30,000 Loyalists who came north to Nova Scotia in 1783 in 1784, roughly 10%, or 3000, were black.” Many didn’t get their land grants and if they did it was soil that could not be farmed. They were treated worse than second-class citizens. “And what about the other resources promised by the British – the lumber, the money, the tools? Again, the black Loyalists were always at the end of the line. Many suffered through their first winters in the inadequate temporary structures they put up just for shelter.” They were not given the same rations as the whites. But in spite of all this, the black loyalists built several strong communities of their own. While some may think it is shameful to bring forth the treatment of groups such as this, I think that their descendents would be proud of their resilience and ability to overcome such blatant racism. There may be inspiration in their suffering. I wish I could say that these inequalities were quickly corrected, but in fact the people of Halifax’s Africville were appalling victims of entrenched systematic abuse and neglect for 150 more years. For those of us who are not black, seeing the truth is a reminder that we must be vigilant against prejudice toward immigrants and minorities. A timely topic.

The book covers the arrival of the Irish immigrants in the 1600s aboard the coffin ships. It follows these people through the building of the railroad where it also connects up with the experiences of the Chinese immigrants.

You will find historical tidbits you may not have known. For example, have you heard of New Iceland?

In the late 1800s, many Ukrainian immigrants arrived and most settled around Winnipeg. The book explores the premises made by the Canadian government to potential immigrants. It examines the prejudices and false assumptions towards southern Europeans. I was surprised to learn that, next to the Chinese, the Italians “played the biggest role in pushing the Canadian Pacific Railway through the diamond-hard mountain rocks and steep-sided river valleys of Western Canada.”

Hughes discusses the treatment of Italians in the first world war, the creation of ethnic neighborhoods, and, again, the mistreatment of immigrants. The most shocking is the refusal of the Canadian government to allow most of the east Indians on board the Komagata Maru to disembark even though they were not being supplied with food or water. Eventually, they were forced to return to their places of origin.

Of course, you cannot speak of immigration without discussing the treatment of Japanese immigrants and their descendents, especially during the second world war. It is one of Canada’s most dishonourable moments.

After the Second World War, 165,000 refugees came to Canada. Those countries that came under Soviet control did not experience true freedom. 1956, Hungarians rose up with nothing more than kitchen utensils and makeshift weapons. The Soviets sent in tanks. 2500 Hungarians were killed and 37,000 were admitted to Canada as refugees.

Although not refugees, there was a surge of Americans moving to Canada during the Vietnam conflict in order to avoid being drafted. Approximately 50,000 to 225,000 Americans came to Canada. When they were offered a pardon in 1974, few were willing to take the risk to return. Of course, many Vietnamese immigrated to Canada during this time as well. They were followed by refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, and more. Between 1991 and 2001 almost two million immigrants have arrived in Canada.

Canada is a nation of immigrants and refugees. Most of us know someone from each of these groups. We do not consider ourselves a melting pot but strive to be a mosaic wherein people keep the parts of their culture that do not contradict Canada’s laws or strong social norms. This can be difficult at times, but it is also enriching. The first time I went to Europe in 1977, I was surprised at how each country seemed culturally isolated from the next. If you wanted spaghetti, you’d have to go to Italy. The last time I went, in 2015, this had changed greatly. Countries had become multi-ethnic and food, music, and entertainment had spread from one country to the next. It felt closer to Canada where my typical Christmas dinner had always included Ukrainian periogies, Chinese fried rice, Italian lasagna, French bread, English pudding, Jamaican jerk chicken, Japanese sushi, Canadian wild blueberry pie and more. Multiculturalism at it’s best.

This book would be a marvelous addition to a family library. Adults and young people alike will find much to attract their attention. There are photographs and illustrations on every page. These include copies of important telegraphs, tickets, maps, numerous photographs and drawings, and more. It is written in sections just right for short periodic reads. An outstanding book.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Colossal Canada – 100 Epic Facts and Feats by Elizabeth McLeod and Freda Wishinsky. Book Review.

 

buy link – Colossal Canada: 100 Epic Facts and Feats

This pocketbooks style nonfiction paperback is jampacked with interesting tidbits and photographs. The content chapters are:

  • uniquely Canadian
  • extremely Canadian
  • unforgettable Canadian moments
  • highflying Canada
  • who put the can in Canada
  • Canada did it
  • colossal Canada
  • monsters myths and mysteries
  • things that make you sing “O Canada”
  • Canada rocks the world

This would be a good book for someone new to Canada as it often explores cultural idiosyncrasies. It discusses such things as Inuksuk (which I also see spelled Inukshuk), tuques, mukluks, poutine, kayaks, and lacrosse. Our widely varied geology and strange and dangerous animals show up in chapter 2. Included in chapter 3 is the involvement of Halifax in the rescue operations for the Titanic. It always impresses me how, for such a sparsely populated country, Canadians have come up with so many wonderful inventions, a few of which appear in chapters 4 and 6. Chapter five discusses some of our odd place names such as Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump and the hoodoos of Alberta.

I love this section in chapter 8 entitled “Five Myths About Canada” with explanations. For those non-Canadians reading this, just in case I will give you the headlines.

  • Myth number one: Canadians live in igloos.
  • Number two: Canada is always covered in snow. (It only feels that way. )
  • Number three: the national sport is hockey.
  • Number four: Canadian police officers dress in red.
  • Number five Canada is just like the U. S.

For those of you are interested in the unusual – Did you know Canada has its own special werewolf mythology? Did you know Northumberland Strait has a ghost ship? Neither did I.

This is definitely a fun and interesting book to read and its small size makes it easily portable. Great for leisure reading and for the classroom.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Find It! Canada: A Search and Find Activity Book by Jeff Sinclair.

 

This is a search and find book in 8 x 10 paperback format. Each double page spread is full of Canadian items and icons to find. Some are hard and some are easy.

Each double-page has a list of 20 items. For example, the first spread is titled The Wonderful West Coast. Some of the things to search for are a seagull with a clam, two University signs, a Chinese lantern, a Sasquatch footprint, the Gastown Steam Clock, beluga whales, and Ogopogo. You can see that the fantastical is mixed in with the historical, the natural, and the contemporary. They are drawn in a style similar to the Where’s Waldo books.

The page representing the West Edmonton Mall only mentions the province in the searching list as “the Alberta Flag.” I think it should be stated quite clearly on each page what province or territory is being represented.

The Yukon is called Gold Rush country. Ontario features Toronto but the province’s name appears nowhere on the two pages of “Summer in the City”. Manitoba features Lake Winnipeg. Alberta shows up again with the stampede. (The bucking bull has a big smile belying the fact that he has been tormented into a frenzy and now has a barbed cinch digging into his privates to make him kick and flail trying to dismount the cowboy who is causing his pain.) Newfoundland focuses on the ocean and does not include Labrador. Ontario returns with a celebration of Canada Day in Ottawa. The fortress of Louisburg represents Nova Scotia. For the third time, we go to Ontario to find animals on the shore of Georgian Bay. Nunavut is packed with northern animals. Winter carnival represents Québec. Saskatchewan features oil derricks and farming. Prince Edward Island has potatoes, the ocean shore, and our beloved Anne of Green Gables.

The Northwest Territories and New Brunswick are not included. This seems really odd considering there are three pages about Ontario and two about Alberta.

Readers search for common items like seagulls and more challenging things like a frozen fleur-de-lys, a pewter bowl and spoon, and an Avro Arrow jet. Hopefully, children will ask questions about these more unfamiliar items.

With 280 items to search for, I can see this would be a good diversion for traveling when kids need a break from technology but aren’t interested in reading. It requires focus and attention to detail. This would be a fun book for children who enjoy searching and finding but definitely not a complete overview of Canadian symbols and activities with one province and one territory missing.

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Click on the covers for more information or to buy the book.

 

  

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Unforeseen Consequences – Erasable by Linda Yiannakis. Book Review.

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If you read yesterday’s interview with Linda Yiannakis, you have already realised that Erasable is an intriguing novel for children.

The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

I love how this book explains that one small action can have huge impacts on numerous people. It is impossible to tell what “erasing” something or someone from her life will cause. No one is immune to the results, not even Ellie.

The characters are likable. The family dynamics are realistic without being syrupy. The kids are kids, thoughtless and impulsive one minute, wonderful the next.

Yiannakis writes like a professional. The reader loses herself in the book. The prose is tight, the plot is trim, the dialogue is natural, and everything flows the way it should. It’s hard to believe this is Linda’s first book.

Although this book is targeted towards 9, 10 and 11-year-olds, it can be enjoyed by readers outside that age range. It would be a great book for a parent and child to read and discuss.

The book is not illustrated, per se, but there are little pen sketches dotted throughout. These are tiny, almost thumbnails, at the top of the chapter. I wondered why they weren’t larger.

All in all, this is an interesting, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read.

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Click on this link to buy Erasable