Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Amphibian

Amphibian
By Carla Gunn
Published by Coach House Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Phineas William Walsh is nine. He lives with his mom. He likes to dance to the Celtic happy music with his mom, not that it happens very often any more. Phin also seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, animals, and the natural world. He can tell you anything you want to know about frogs, dogs, whales, the endangered species list, ants, and much more. He has thousands of facts that he could recite off the top of his head and he understands the workings of nature and the planet better than most adults.

But what Phin doesn't understand is why his dad left and rarely comes home, why he isn't allowed to watch The Blue Channel, why his grandfather died, or why that waste-of-space Lyle has to pick on him every day at school.

To make all that not-understanding even worse, Phin is worried sick about the future of the planet and what humans all over the world are doing to the plants, animals, and land around them. He doesn't understand why the rest of the world isn't loosing sleep because a quarter of all of earth's animals are on the Red List of Threatened Species. To top it all off, his fourth grade teacher surprises the class with a new pet: a White's Tree Frog! So now, Phin has to worry about how to rescue and free this poor little frog that is all cooped up in a class aquarium.

This novel is gripping, extremely sad, and hilariously funny. As the story progresses, you are drawn more deeply into Phin's many turbulent worlds filled with worry, love, hatred, and good intentions. It's the story of a young boy who is trying to balance the lightness and darkness in his own world, all the while trying to save the whole world.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Arrival

The Arrival
By Shaun Tan
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach and Lisa Tran

The story of immigration is one so universal that it transcends language.

Shaun Tan understands this in his unique graphic novel, The Arrival, a full story of a man who leaves behind his family in order to immigrate to a new country - all told through a series of pictures.

Follow the main character from page to page, place to place, and watch as he journeys through his new and strange world without saying a word. The detailed drawn images are realistic. They evoke a sense of loneliness, bewilderment, frustration, fear, and joy that many immigrants experience when adjusting to a new culture.

A story told without words, The Arrival will capture the imagination of all who behold its beautifully illustrated pages.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where The Streets Had a Name

Where The Streets Had a Name
By Randa Abdel-Fattah
Published by Scholastic Canada
Ages 13+
Reviewed by Martha Beach
   
    Hayaat and her family used to own a beautiful olive farm. Her father worked hard and loved the olive grove. She and her siblings played happily and her mother was incredibly creative.

But everything changed drastically one day when they received a demolition notice from the Israeli army. Since then, Hyaat and her family have been living in a tiny apartment in Bethlehem.
Her two little brothers, a sulking father, nagging mother, talkative grandmother, and wedding-fevered sister are all packed into a few rooms, sometimes for days at a time when a curfew is issued by the Israeli Army.

Her new home, school, and shops are situated behind a huge impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank. Unfortunately, Hayaat and her family are on the wrong side of the wall.

When Hayaat's beloved grandmother becomes ill and expresses her urge to feel the soil of her home once more before she dies, Hayaat and her friend Sammy set off on the adventure of their lives.

Battling roadblocks, dealing with gun-toting and intimidating soldiers, Hayaat and Sammy must travel only a few miles, but find themselves in an entirely different world.

Author, Randa Abdel-Fattah deals with loss, friendship, family, war, and an extremely delicate political subject with grace, humour, and truth. Readers are sure to be submersed right from the beginning of the book. They will feel sadness, happiness, and the dusty road that Hayaat and Sammy are travelling on.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Secret of Your Name (Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen)

The Secret of Your Name (Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen)
By David Bouchard
Reviewed by Martha Beach
Published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside

Through story and spectacular art and music, this book is a moving tribute to a group of people who have lost so much. The Secret of Your Name is a call to the people of Canada to remember and help others to regain a solid cultural identity.

In this beautifully illustrated book, the author explores what it means to be Métis. He tells the story of his own identity and that of many other Métis people. The book strongly stresses the need to uphold cultural traditions and takes a look at the meaning and identity of the Métis in Canada.

The book includes a double narrative- one written in English or French, and one written in Michif, the language of the Métis people. The text also comes with a CD of traditional Métis music: John Arcand's “Master of the Fiddle.”

The book may be a picture book, but it's definitely a book for all ages. It's a story for anyone who wants to learn about one of Canada's unique cultures.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 to 19

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 to 19
By Jocelyn Brown
Ages 12 to 16
Published by Coach House Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach

We meet Dree while she's on her way to her dad's pancake brunch memorial, after he's had a fatal heart attack. It is also Dree's fifteenth birthday, but she's not really thinking about that little fact.

Mostly she's thinking about Edmonton's awful bus system, her ugly hand-made skirt, and the special fund her father promised her for her birthday. With that money, Dree will be out of Edmonton, on the WestJet Flight 233 to Toronto and more specifically, on her way to the upcoming Renegade Craft Fair.

Dree is not really very social and she's not very interested in Biology, or English, or Social Studies-actually she's not very interested in school at all. Dree likes to make things and she keeps a blog about how to actually do DIY crafts without spending money on fancy art supplies. The Renegade Craft Fair in Toronto is her chance to start over, away from Edmonton and the misery of high school.

But Dree comes to realize that her father may not have left her this special account. He left behind a lot of other things though-an ex-wife, two daughters, a new wife, debt, and a whole lot of open-ended questions that Dree feels the need to answer.

The answer to these questions can not be easily answered. While trying to solve the mystery surrounding her father, Dree encounters fire, family scandal, a new friend, and nineteen tiny sock-creatures named Marcel.

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 to 19 is a smart young-adult novel. It's a coming-of-age story about a young woman who is looking for the correct way to grieve a lost father.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Allergy-Free Cookbook

The Allergy-Free Cookbook
By Alice Sherwood
Published by DK
Reviewed by Lisa Tran

The Allergy-Free Cookbook is unique. There are no dismal, “special diet” versions of recipes. Instead there are dishes from around the world that center on ingredients other than eggs, dairy, gluten, and nuts.

It may seem like gluten-free and dairy-free diets are mere trends or the latest gimmicks for quick weight loss, but for many, these food intolerances and allergies can be life threatening. That's why Allergy-Free Cookbook is different. Sherwood is a real mom who prepares real meals for a son with real food allergies.

This cookbook has more than 100 recipes for meals, snacks, and lunchboxes as well as for suppers and birthday parties. By experimenting with polenta and potato flour, for example, Sherwood has invented a gluten-free crunchy shortcrust pastry.

With  The Allergy-Free Cookbook, everyone's invited to dinner!

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tumbleweed Skies

Tumbleweed Skies
By Valerie Sherrard
Published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Ellie never met her mother, she died when Ellie was young. Ellie's father is forced to take a job as a travelling salesman with the Marvelous Cookware Company in order to support them both.

So, while her father travels and sells in hopes of making ends meat, Ellie is forced to stay with a very bitter grandmother who doesn't want her around- or at least that's how it seems. 

Grandmother Acklebee has had a hard life, with many disappointments, but Ellie only begins to understand why that is near the end of her stay. 

The story takes place on a farm in the middle of the praries near Moose Jaw, as wide as the sea and as dusty as a desert.  Grandma Acklebees farm is dusty, faded, old and sun-baked. Ellie's grandmother makes Ellie do numerous chores, often working all morning before having a chance to sit down.

Uncle Roger is Grandma Acklebee's only son, and Ellie's only relief and her only friend, despite there being a little girl a few farms away who Ellie occasionally gets to play with.

Written from the perfect view-point of a child, with funny emotions and immature details and thoughts, this novel is bound to have kids hooked and charmed within the first chapter.

Ellie makes it through her time at the old faded farm, and while she's there, Ellie learns quite a lot about her Grandmother Acklebee and her own mother, but even more important, Grandma Acklebee learns about herself.