Nov-Dec 2009


Reviews of Children's Literature written by Dr. Andrea Deakin


Remembrance Day 


 Remembering John McCraie

Remembering John McCrae
By Linda Granfield.

Scholastic Books. 2009


John McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields" is known around the world, but how many children know who John McCrae was?


Linda Granfield tells his story in her clear direct prose, drawing a portrait of a young man from Guelph, descendant of Scottish immigrants, who went to study Medicine at the University of Toronto despite his constant struggles with asthma. Her account of his life shows clearly his ability as both physician and soldier, and it is packed with photographs of family, colleagues, and his wartime experiences. It is a thorough, sympathetic and eminently readable biography for young readers.




The Nutcracker and the Mouse King By E.T.A. Hoffman.
Adapted by Wren Maysen.
Illustrated by Gail de Marcken

Orchard Books/Scholastic. 2009


This is a retelling of E.T.A.Hoffman's original story, toned down with some of the events modified, all of which helps to avoid some of the more frightening episodes of the original tale. Yet, at the same time, Wren Maysen manages to restore some of the strength and mystery of Hoffman's tale. There is a richer experience in the storytelling, a combination of Maysen's prose and the colourful, engagingly detailed and presented illustrations by Gail de Marcken.



 True Gift

The True Gift
By Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Brian Floca

Atheneum/Simon and Schuster. 2009

School is out, and Liam and his sister go to their grandparents in the country to wait for their parents to join them at Christmas. As they drive in to the farm they see that White Cow is alone in the field. Her companion, the donkey, has been sent back home. Liam begins to worry that the cow will be lonely, and when he reads in a book,” Cows are social beings. Cows have feelings" he shares his thoughts with his sister. He is determined to find a companion for White Cow, and his sister, who tells the story, gets caught up in what turns out to be a very successful endeavour.

This warm-hearted tale examines the reality of a true gift, in this case a gift of compassion and companionship, given because of the thoughtfulness and determination of young Liam and his sister.


 Thirteen Days 2

The Thirteen Days of Christmas
By Jenny Overton
Illustrated by Shirley Hughes
Oxford Books. 2009

Jenny Overton's delightful confection, The Thirteen Days of Christmas, was first published in 1972. Now re-issued, with illustrations by Shirley Hughes, it proves every bit as inviting as it did nearly forty years ago.

The story covers the season from St. Nicholas' Day and Christmas Eve through the thirteen days from Christmas to January 6th and the Feast of the Three Kings. It tells the story of Prudence, James and Christopher Kitson and their sister Annaple.

They are most eager to see their sister accept the hand of the wealthy young merchant Francis Vere who is steadfastly wooing her. You see, she is a terrible cook! They encourage the young man to be more venturesome in his courting, and soon the house is overflowing with pear trees, partridges, French hens (brought by boat from France by Francis and the boys) and other weird and wonderful presents, familiar from the old song. The locals gather outside the house every day to watch the fun while Annaple becomes more and more embarassed.

One of the great pleasures of the book is the daily account of Christmas traditions, many now lost, and Christmas songs and carols - a reminder of past celebrations.

Shirley Hughes' illustrations, setting the period as early Sixteenth Century, add to the fun and the pleasure of this unusual and truly celebratory story. This is a book to be shared by the family, along with hot mince pies.


 Christmas to Remember

Dear Canada: A Christmas to Remember
Scholastic Books. 2009

A Christmas to Remember is an anthology based on the Dear Canada Series. The diaries range from Genevieve Aubuchon's Christmas following the Plains of Abraham, to Devorah's 1943 Hanukah and a Christmas spent with a mourning wife and mother. In Christmas 1916 Charlotte in Halifax writes to her brother Luke at the Front, longing for an Allied Victory before he has to leave for France and imagining a wonderful beginning to 1917, little realising how Halifax will be changed that year.

Through the series of excerpts we see how life, and celebration have changed over almost two hundred years of life in Canada; and how certain emotions, hopes and dreams remain so much the same, bringing each period to a moment of vivid life for the young reader.



 Suzy Goose

Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star
By Petr Horáček
Candlewick Press/Random House.

Even from the title page Suzy Goose, with her enthusiastic stride and bright-eyed eagerness, catches the imagination. It is Christmas Eve and the stable animals are gathered around their decorated tree. It is beautiful, but, alas, has no star to top it. In the sky far above shines a very bright star. "I will get it," declares Suzy, and off she goes.

With enthusiasm Suzy dives off the hill and soars high in the sky - splat. With unbounded energy she tries again, and again, climbing hedges and wood piles, until she finds herself lost in the surrounding snow and for the first time, dispirited. Then comes the sound of honking as Suzy’s friends guide her home to where the star has moved in the sky, right over their Christmas tree.

Petr Horacek's tale is lively and funny; it also contains the spirit of caring, giving and rejoicing, all so much a part of the Christmas season.



Stick Man
By Julia Donaldson.
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
Scholastic Books. 2009

Herewith is another of Julia Donaldson's witty stories, endearing, and with a gentle message presented in engaging rhyme and wittily illustrated by Axel Scheffler. His illustrations not only depict the tale, they also add their own sympathetic commentary.

Stick Man lives in a tree with his family, but one day, as he is out for a walk, he is captured by an eager dog and used to play Fetch, despite his protests that he is not a stick, rather he is Stick Man. From a game of Fetch he is seized on to play Pooh Sticks, inspected and collected by a swan as just the right stick for her nest, drifted down a river to the sea and thrown up on the beach to become a flag standard on a sand castle. Eventually he finds himself in the most dangerous situation of all, lying on top of the logs in a fireplace. At the moment of his greatest danger he is able to rescue someone who has become stuck coming down the chimney....... Needless to say, Santa sees him safely home again.

Packed with wit and imagination, and endowed with a very suitable and happy conclusion, here is a book to entrance little ones, to read over and over as you share it with them, for they will soon have the adventures down pat.



The Mummer's Song
By Bud Davidge.
 lllustrated by Ian Wallace.
Groundwood. 2009  (1993) Accompanying CD

Mummers and their performances go back to Mediaeval times in England and they performed throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The custom came to the eastern provinces of Canada with immigrants to the new world, and they are found in some areas of the United States.

The tradition is particularly lively in rural Newfoundland but, as the custom seemed endangered, Bud Davidge wrote The Mummer's Song as a tribute. This publication is a new edition of the 1993 book.

Shortly after Christmas several wildly costumed mummers arrive at Granny's house and soon she and her grandchildren are caught up in the fun, Granny at the piano, everyone dancing wildly and trying to guess who is behind the mummers' costumes.

Ian Wallace brings the whole to energetic life with his coloured pencil drawings. The original publication received the Aesop Accolade from the American Folklore Society and was a finalist for the Mr. Christie's Book Award (Illustration). The lively account contains Bud Davidge's music to play and an accompanying CD.



Picture Books


The Mitten
Retold Jim Ayelsworth.
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock.
Scholastic Books. 2009

The original folk tale on which Jim Ayelsworth's story is based is thought to be originally from the Ukraine, but the theme of too many of anything pushing into too small a space comes up in the folklore of many countries.

Jim Ayelsworth's tale is a warm-hearted gentle version with a refrain that little children will soon be chanting, “My toes are as cold as ice! Your mitten looks so cozy, and warm toes would feel so nice!”

The boy's grandmother has knitted him a warm woolen hat, a long warm woolen scarf, and a pair of warm woolen mittens. He loses one of his mittens out playing in the snow where it is found first by a little squirrel who snuggles into it and goes to sleep "so nice and toasty". This is possible, but with the charming impossibility of the folk tale, he is joined by a rabbit, a fox, and a bear. When a little mouse shows up the pressure is too much for the mitten which bursts apart around them.

The next day the boy and his grandmother find the wreckage of the mitten and they are totally at a loss as to what could possibly have happened.

This is the kind of text which allows, even encourages, children to join in, and the illustrations - the warmth and security of the grandmother's house, the cold expanse of the countryside and the warm red of the soft mitten, invite the impossible humour of squirrel, rabbit, fox and bear all cuddled warm inside a very stretched mitten.


 Perfect Snow

Perfect Snow
By Barbara Reid
Scholastic Books. 2009

Perfect Snow is a romp, a snowy celebration of Canada's winter and young children. Quieter Scott is intent on making snowmen; more boisterous Jim is working on his "totally massive, indestructible Snow Fortress of Doom". At recess any planning is thrown to the wind in a wild energetic battle for snow, and Scott's little group of snowmen is in dire trouble until Scott, seeing the danger, gives a warning, and the bell rings.

At lunchtime co-operation sets in as Jim and Scott join in a plan to make the snowmen stronger, and soon the schoolyard is packed with helpers hauling snow to finish off the snowmen and produce 'The World's Greatest Totally Massive Snowman Fort!".

That night it rains.

Barbara Reid combines ink and watercolour panels to elabourate on her plasticine illustrations and help carry the tale along. She handles white with consummate skill, the texture bringing the whole alive as if the snowballs can fly off the page to hit the reader. Texture and colour produce tactile illustration, these figures, too, are ready to leap from the page at any moment. Barbara Reid has an outstanding ability. Her work is unique.



 Timmerman was here

Timmerman was Here
By Colleen Sydor.
Illustrated by Nicolas Debon
Tundra Books. 2009

When Timmerman arrives at the door seeking room and board in return for odd jobs, the young girl resents him, after all he is taking Granddad’s room, and Granddad has just had to enter a home. It is hard to find fault with Timmerman as he goes about painting window boxes here and helping with the garden there. He is quiet, does a good job, is even gentle with the dog, and is certainly hard-working.

But some neighbours begin to talk, for Timmerman is seen walking around at night carrying a spade and a sack. What is he up to? All sorts of tales fly around, and the lass takes a black eye at school for defending him, but even she becomes suspicious and asks her Granddad for advice. He tells her to trust her instincts.

One day Timmerman leaves and she does not know the answer to her question until spring comes and everyone knows the answer. Hundreds of colourful tulips pushing up in gardens and along the street give the answer. They are Timmerman's thanks to those who had taken him in. Colleen Snydor's story of caring and friendship, enriched by its sense of mystery, is both moving and enriching. It is Granddad, with the experience of a long life, who has taught the girl to trust her instincts and give Timmerman the benefit of the doubt. Timmerman has returned the trust and kindness shown to him a hundredfold.



Wiggle Giggle Tickle Train
By Nora Hilb & Sharon Jennings.
Annick Press. 2009

This paperback picture book captures the connection between experienced realities and a child's imaginative acting out of that reality. It is an engaging book to share with a toddler, who will recognize their own responses to a train, or a horse a-gallop, a jet plane or their own spread-arm enactment of the aeroplane's course. Beginning with sunrise, caught in a child's drawing, to a cut-out moon above a toddler's bed, author and illustrator capture the sense of a child's early experience and enactment of the world around them.


 Marshmellow incident

The Marshmallow Incident
By Judi Barrett.
Illustrated by Ron Barrett.
Scholastic Books. 2009

Here is a delicious, especially if you like marshmallows, examination of the absurdities underlying many quarrels between men and nations. Two towns exist, side by side, one inhabited by left-handers, the other by right-handers. A dotted yellow line between them, guarded by knights armed with marshmallows, makes sure the inhabitants never meet. That is, until someone slips, falls, and lands right across the line, breaking the truce.

Needless to say all works out well in the end, and the moral has a sweetness to it, battered as all and everyone is with marshmallows, but beneath it all the author and illustrator make a strong point about the absurdities of many quarrels.


 Scarecrow's Dance

The Scarecrow's Dance
By Jane Yolen.
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.
Simon and Schuster. 2009

The scarecrow stands stiffly in the field, watching over the corn. One night a capricious autumn wind starts up, blowing the clothes off the scarecrow, freeing his feet of straw which “Began to prance / his knees of straw / to bend and dance". Dance he does across the fields, past cows and pigs, to the window of the house where a child, kneeling in prayer, asks a blessing on the farm and the old scarecrow who guards the fields.

Back goes the scarecrow and with a great leap slides back onto his pole"....only I can keep fields free."

A moving story, a tale about recognising the importance of the part you play, and accepting it.

Jane Yolen tells her gentle tale with classic restraint and Bagran Ibatoulline's sweeping illustrations bring alive the vitality of the scarecrow's dance across the evening fields until the dawn throws light behind him, silhouetting him as he stands back upon his pole, keeping his watch.


 Goblin 2

The Goblin and the Empty Chair
By Mem Fox.
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Simon and Schuster. 2009

Once, in a land far away, a goblin saw himself reflected in a still pond, and, horrified by his reflection, hid himself away from others.

A day came when he saw a farmer set down his tools and stop to mourn, a woman on the same farm set down her pail, and buries her head in her hands. Quietly, at night, he took some of the farm chores upon himself until the night he saw a young girl, sitting at a table, bury her head in her hands. He stayed quietly beside her while she slept, "He stayed where staying was needed".

His care does not go unnoticed. At the farm table a chair sits, empty, as it has been all winter, until the farm family quietly sets a place with food and waits until, at last, the goblin overcomes his shame and comes to the empty chair to be warmly welcomed by the family.

Mem Fox's gentle tale of loss and acceptance has been illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon in subdued tones of violet and green. Each main illustration is headed by a strip of smaller pictures which not only help to carry the story forward, but also elaborate on the simple tale, a moving and heart-warming experience.


Fiction - Junior

 Queen of paradises garden

The Queen of Paradise's Garden
By Andy Jones.
Illustrated by Darka Erdelji.
Running the Goat. 2009

Storytelling used to be a large part of this season as children, needing to be occupied, were entertained by an adult with a gift for spinning tales. The Queen of Paradise's Garden is storytelling in that old tradition, for here we have the core of a good folk tale: three sons, the youngest Jack - a traditional third son hero whose kindness and good deeds receive the aid of magical gifts.

Andy Jones traditional folk tale opening has its own mischievous twist," Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, not in your time, indeed not in my time, but in olden times when quart bottles held half a gallon.....", and we are sitting , poised, at once ready for the obstacles, the awards, the good deeds, indeed for the Queen of Paradise herself. This is traditional storytelling at its best.

Darka Erdelji has illustrated the tale in soft blues and greens, landscapes set in fairy tale, her figures simple and the smaller images picking up aspects of the story. A notable and intriguing comment are three nesting eggs at the beginning that become three white birds in red who reinforce areas of Jack's adventure, three birds, three sons--- the magical "three" of folk tale.


 Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant
By Kate Di Camillo.
Illustrated Yoko Tanaka.
Candlewick/Random House. 2009

Peter Augustus Duchene stands in the square, clutching the coin he has been given in order to buy fish. There is a fortune-teller's tent there, and the lad is overcome by the need to find out if his sister is still alive and how he can find her. He sacrifices the coin, but the reply sets his heart sinking, "You must follow the elephant. She will lead you there." What elephant?

At the Opera House an elderly magician tries to conjure a bouquet of lilies to land in Madame Bettine La Vaughn's lap, but instead, in a shower of tiles and plaster dust, an elephant comes through the roof and crushes the noblewoman's legs. As for the elephant, she is horrified at not being where she should be, and she desperately wants to go home.

It is Peter's compassion and readiness to act that brings the whole disaster together in a joyful conclusion to this strange and enchanting tale.

Word must be added to complement Yoko Tanaka's soft, grey-toned, sensitive illustrations.


 Giant slayer

The Giant-Slayer
By Iain Lawrence.
Delacorte/Random. 2009

Laurie has grown up a lonely child. Her mother died when she was born, her father is totally absorbed in his work to fight Polio. The vaccine has not yet been developed. Grandparents will remember those summers of no swimming, the pools closed, and the great fear of contracting the disease.

However Laurie's loneliness ends in 1955 when a young lad, Dickie, comes to live nearby. The children become close friends until the day Dickie ends up in hospital with polio, and in an iron lung. Laurie gathers up her courage and goes to the hospital in the hope of seeing him and is taken to the ward where she meets two other children, also in iron lungs, Carolyn, bitter and feeling abandoned by her parents, and Chip, who was building a car with his Dad. As the conversation becomes awkward, Dickie asks Laurie to tell them one of her stories. So Laurie begins the tale of Collosso, a fierce giant, and Jimmy, a very small boy, who is destined to become a giant killer.

As Laurie's story grows the children begin to claim characters as their counterparts and it becomes so vital to the group that when Laurie cannot continue, the others take turns to keep the action going. Indeed they feel it must be completed for all their sakes.

Lawrence gives us a story within a story, each gripping, and each dealing with a terror to be overcome. Young readers will find themselves caught up in Jimmy's struggle to defeat the Giant as they long for the young characters to overcome polio. Laurie's determination and courage in showing up every week to the iron lung ward, to deal with the moods of the young patients and to tell the tale that will give Dickie support, and with him the group, is gradually echoed in the outlook of the other children in a most moving and finely written novel.


Fiction-Young Adult

 Ask and Answer

The Ask and the Answer
By Patrick Ness.
Candlewick/Random House. 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go left Viola close to death and in the hands of Mayor Prentiss, while Todd, separated from her, is imprisoned. After the first novel, which had been one breathless flight from danger, one rapid and disruptive rush of new ideas and new discoveries for Todd, the second brings the reader face to face with the harsh and complex decisions both Todd and Viola must make, and the brutal times in which they must make them.

As the novel opens Viola is absent and Todd, alone, is being tortured by the Mayor. The conquered city has subjected itself to the new authority Prentiss represents, but in the countryside a new group called The Answer, starts a bombing campaign, and the Mayor creates a counter-force called The Ask. It becomes a battle of the sexes with the women who have survived fleeing to The Answer and the men remaining to become part of The Ask. Viola has lived and has joined The Answer; Todd is co-opted into The Ask under the command of Prentiss and in association with Prentiss's son.

Then the bombs begin to explode in earnest. Now we see what Todd, grown rapidly into manhood, and Viola, desperately torn between her fears for Todd and herself and her responsibility to The Answer, are made of.

"War makes monsters of men," says Todd, quoting Ben in The Knife of Never Letting Go, and in The Ask and The Answer Viola remembers his words; but are they the final statement? If one side is evil and corrupt, does that make the other side good and worthy?




Solace of the Road
By Siobhan Dowd.
David Fickling Books/Random House. 2009

Siobhan Dowd was awarded this year's Carnegie Medal for her novel, Bog Child (reviewed in September/October). It was the first time that the Carnegie Medal, Britain's premier award for children's fiction, was awarded posthumously.

Every bit as strong as Bog Child is this novel about Holly, a fifteen-year-old, moved from a group home to foster care, who decides to run from her foster home and seek her mother in Ireland. She finds a wig belonging to her foster mother, who has had cancer, and its blonde tresses change her attitude as she mentally turns herself into the older, more sophisticated Solace. As this personality she finds the courage to become someone who can go by bus and by hitching a ride to find the ferry which will take her to Ireland.

We begin to realise that Solace/Holly is following a dream, a belief that her mother is longing to see her, that they will have this wonderful time together, but eventually memory and desire mix, she remembers incidents from the past, and at last recognizes that that will not happen and that she must face up to another life. She has fought against the care home and the foster parents because, with all her heart, she has believed that there was another better life with the mother who had really abandoned her. She cannot, will not at first acknowledge that the loving Mum is a fantasy, that her walk to happiness is a delusion and that happiness may be with what she has left, not what she imagines she is going to. So she embraces the potential dangers of the road and finds, although there is always the possibility of danger, kindness and a kind of hospitality. She finds people who did something to help her " and asked for nothing back". Her adventure leaves her with hope.



 Vanishing Girl

Vanishing Girl
By Shane Peacock
Tundra. 2009

Once again Victorian London is convincingly re-created as the young Sherlock Holmes is engaged in another endeavour. Victoria Rathbone, the daughter of a wealthy family, is kidnapped as she takes the air on Rotten Row in Hyde Park. She vanishes into the crowd, pulled in like “a duckling sucked down a whirlpool".

Sherlock goes to a news conference given by Lestrade of Scotland Yard, and finds his first clue. As the detective brandishes the ransom note in the air, the noon-hour sun picks out a very faint watermark on the paper. Sherlock has his first lead. A wild train ride to St. Neots and a long established paper mill offers both possible solutions and further complications in the case. A kidnapped girl, a dark forbidding mansion, ghostly figures, strange and threatening sounds and ferocious animals guarding a maze all give a classic Holmes atmosphere to the tale.

Sherlock develops here. We learn the source of many of the skills he later uses, thanks to the support of Sigerson Bell, a fascinating character. Sherlock is still a lad with grandiose ideas, but with deep-seated changes coming in his personality. There is intelligence and a unique character, one whose deep love of his late mother never becomes sentimental but inspiring. We can see the possibility of greatness, with more self-discipline, and that makes Peacock's character so engaging.


 Midnight Charter

The Midnight Charter
By David Whitley

Doubleday Canada. 2009

We are in the city of Agora, a world in which everything costs, and, indeed, everything is for sale. A father sells his sick son for medicine for himself, and when the boy recovers he finds he belongs to Dr. Theophilus who has cured him, bought him, and owns him. The good doctor lives in the house of his grandfather, an astrologer, Count Stelli. The Count would never allow a plague survivor under his roof and, in anger, throws his grandson out. Lily, the servant girl Dr. Theophilus owns, goes with the doctor while Mark becomes the Count's servant.

Mark is trained by the Count as an astrologer, and becomes famous. Lily turns to working with the doctor, observing and working to ease the suffering of the poor. An inexperienced Mark becomes involved in his own success and power, an innocent in the ways of the world he falls victim to those who would use him. Meanwhile Lily begins to see the evil that underlies the city's government. When she discovers the Midnight Charter she finds a key to both her own and Mark's future.

This world evolves in subtle shifts of association and power, a little like watching a fine chess game, its patterned existence about to be disrupted; it would seem, by Lily and Mark. A carefully controlled and patterned first book lays an intriguing background for what is yet to be played.



 Alexander the Terrible

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
By Judith Viorst.
Illustrated by Ray Cruz.
Atheneum/Simon and Schuster. 2009

My thirty plus son saw my review copy of this sitting on my desk and seized upon it, "My most loved, favourite, empathetic, life-saving book!" For a moment he was once again six years old, and being rescued from a bad day by Judith Viorst's funny understanding tale of poor Alexander, for whom nothing is going right.

It is a pleasure to see Alexander back in this new special edition. He stands out from the crowd visually new in his bright green shirt and purple pants, but his trauma is unchanged. We ALL have days when nothing goes right and so we all, parents and children, understand Alexander. He is as sympathetic and attractive a character as ever as he sighs at the end of the day, recognising that some days are just like that, even in Australia.


New Edition

 Alice in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll.
Illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko.
Tundra. 2009

Firstly, this is not an edition for young children, it would be better for them to choose the original Tenniel illustrations or the Kate Greenaway Medal winning version by Helen Oxenbury. This is in no way a criticism of Lipchenko's work, but rather a guide for those who want to buy a copy of Alice for young children.

Oleg Lipchenko's Alice is for older readers who appreciate a different approach to classical material. His contemporary Alice dreams herself into a surreal world where the eye that weeps the tears builds from a sea of water and drops its tears into that same sea, where the surroundings are patterned with a familiar which is not quite real. Each page requests close examination as the darkly shaded borders reveal more and more - both realistic and fantastic.

This is a fine and revealing version of Alice, eye-catching from the delicate half-drawing of a rose and the haughty dignity of a flamingo as the hedgehogs escape him to the wry humour of a pig flying through the queen's hoop. The fine detail and creative fantasy of the borders, part real part surreal, present Alice in a new intriguing way.


Bible Stories


 Bible Stories

Oxford Book of Bible Stories retold from the Old Testament
Retold Berlie Doherty. Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft.
Oxford. 2009

Berlie Doherty has retold over forty familiar stories from the Old Testament, from the creation story to the tale of Jonah and the monster fish. With her clarity of prose and skilful portrayal of people and events she has given young people a vivid, highly readable version of these tales. Jason Cockcroft has illustrated the collection with pictures imbued with light that evoke the era and the emotion of the stories.



 Adventures on the ancient silk road

Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road
By Priscilla Galloway with Dawn Hunter.
Annick Press. 2009

Apart from its undoubted value in a school library, Priscilla Galloway's book is a totally engaging experience, a perfect gift for those young people who truly prefer non-fiction. Her Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road tells the story of three men who centuries apart, travelled the mountains and deserts and encountered the many dangers of the route - bandits, hunger, and above all, the thirst of the great deserts.

The first is Xuanzang, a Chinese Buddhist monk who made the trip from China to India and back over sixteen years. A devout man, dissatisfied with Chinese translations from the Sanskrit of Buddhist holy writings, he set off to collect copies of the scriptures from India and bring them back to China. The second account is of Temujin, known as Ghengis Khan, who rose to power and whose Mongol soldiers patrolled the trade routes so that trading flourished along the Silk Road. The last is Marco Polo who, as a very young man, a teen, set off for China in 1271, sailing from Venice with his father and uncle. He became a favourite of Kublai Khan who gave him duties and responsibilities which allowed him to explore far parts of the Empire. It was almost 25 years before Kublai Khan permitted the Polos to return to Europe.

The stories of these three men are accompanied by a wealth of colour photography and sidebars of information-Xuanzang as the folk hero, Tripitaka, forms of writing materials in Venice, and a description of the development of silk making, amongst others.

The tales of the three, Xuanzang, Genghis Khan, and Marco Polo, are vividly told and the book is an engaging introduction to the history of the area, an invitation to seek further.



 Children's book of art

Children's Book of Art
By Deborah Lock, Senior Editor
Dorling Kindersley. 2009

This can best be described as a wide-ranging introduction to both painting and sculpture, ranging from the paintings of early cave dwellers to the present day - Damien Hirst's skull and Cornelia Parker's striking work, Cold Dark Matter.


No period or artist is examined in great detail; rather this is a beginning for youngsters who have already found the delight of drawing or playing with colour, and those who have been fortunate enough to have a gallery nearby to expand their interest. For others here is a gallery in book form, a way to examine how artists use colour and form to express what they see and experience - from the wild animals they hunted, the visual expression of the stories that they heard, the power of what they believe, or the expression of society's interests and apprehensions.



 A Thousand Years of Pirates
By William Gilkerson
Tundra Books. 2009

Pirates, William Gilkerson tells us, have been here " from time before memory", in the Aegean Sea four thousand years ago, in the Orient, the Caribbean, Scandinavia where the Vikings led the way in ship-building and tactics, and around Africa, where they continue to harass shipping to this day.

This, then, is a history of those who eventually became known as the Brotherhood, from the Vikings onward, telling the stories of all of these, Portuguese and Spanish and those who preyed on them, like Sir Francis Drake. Drake, part pirate, part adventurer, part defender of English shores, part explorer, part hero and, to the Spaniards, is some sort of sea-devil.

Grannuaile O'Malley is celebrated here too, "the pirate queen of Ireland" who gave Elizabeth I's forces so much trouble, and ended sitting down to bargain with the queen herself. Like Drake, her piracy was an act of defiance against a foe.

The buccaneers of the coast were a different matter, although Morgan successfully spun his career into Sir Henry Morgan, deputy governor of Jamaica. William Gilkerson introduces us to Pardal, to Thomas Tew and Henry Avery, to the notorious Captain Kidd and to Sam Bellamy, not to forget two women pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

His history of pirates is packed with information presented in such an attractive and readable way that it is bound to capture the imagination of young readers. Just as engaging are the many illustrations - paintings and drawings and the whole is handsomely designed and bound.


 Winter's Tail

Winter's Tail
By Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff
Scholastic Books. 2009

The authors, who told the story of Owen and Mzee, turn their attention to Winter, a baby female dolphin who became entangled in a crab trap. In her struggles to get free she strangled her tail and the aquarium to which she was rushed was very worried about her chances of survival. At first she was encouraged to swim, but her tail fell off and the concern was how she would be able to swim without it.

Winter changed her swimming pattern; moving the stump of her tail from side to side, but impressed as the trainers were by her ingenuity, they were very much afraid that she would damage her backbone.

Kevin Carroll and his team from Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics came to the rescue and the story of how their ingenuity and Winter's courage and determination gave her back flexibility and the ability to swim naturally is bound to appeal to young readers and, indeed, be an inspiration to youngsters who need prosthetics.


Non-Fiction-From Adult List

 Prehistoric Life

Prehistoric Life: Definitive Visual Guide
Dorling Kindersley. 2009

This volume form Dorling Kindersley's adult list is almost certain to appeal to teens with an interest in paleontology. It is a detailed, very generously illustrated, study of where we are in our knowledge of the earth's past history. In its almost five hundred pages it explores the understanding we have reached in our interpretation of the ancient life of the past.

Michael Benton's introduction tells of Leonardo da Vinci picking up fossil seashells high in the Apennines and deducing, correctly, that an ancient sea once covered the area....the beginning of paleontology. Each era covered begins with an earth view of where the continents and seas were positioned at that time, how the climate was being affected and what was developing in the growing number of different forms of life - plant and animal. Photographs and diagrams of various life forms are accompanied by reconstructions like that of the bizarre Opabinia of the Cambrian period, the strange Solicylmenia shellfish of the Devonian, or the towering trees, Lepidodendron, of the Carboniferous. We have not even yet arrived at the amazing beings that walked the earth in Jurassic times or flew through the skies like the Archaeopteryx, whose discovery the year Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species, gave support to the theory of evolution by natural selection.

The development of flowering plants in the Cretaceous and the continuing domination of the dinosaurs and the development of fur and feather only emphasizes how lately we have arrived on the scene and how even more recently we have developed the skills which make us human.

This is a book to keep the whole family absorbed and to suggest all manner of further detailed investigation. It would also be a very valuable addition to a Junior or Senior High School library.



Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009
Neil Gaiman’s  The Graveyard Book wins the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009
The Graveyard Book was reviewed in the Deakin Newsletter January-February 2009

TD Canadian Children's Literature award
Nicola I. Campbell : illustrated Kim Le Fave: Shin-Chi's Canoe : Groundwood Books

Governor-General's Awards Children’s Literature-Text
English: Caroline Pignat:Greener Grass:The Famine Years: Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry&Whiteside
*French: Herve Bouchard: Harvey : Les Editions de la Pasteque

Governor-General's Awards Children’s Literature-Illustration
English : Jirina Marton: Bella's Tree : text Jane Russell: Groundwood Books
*French: Janice Nadeau: Harvey: text Hervé Bouchard: Les Éditions de la Pastèque
*This is the first time one book on the French list has won both text and illustration.

Costa Shortlist for Children's Literature Award
(This award was known as the Whitbread Award until 2005)
Siobhan Dowd: Solace of the Road
Mary Hoffman: Troubadour
Patrick Ness: The Ask and the Answer
Ann Perera : Guantanamo Boy


Featured Websites - This Issue

 David Whitley

David Whitley



 Mem Fox

Mem Fox

See and hear Mem Fox reading Goblin and the Empty Chair.



 Bog Child

CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner Announcement 2009 Awards
Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Video and audio from the Awards Ceremony and Winner’s Acceptance Speech
David Fickling's acceptance speech given on behalf of Siobhan Dowd for her novel Bog Child. This is the first time the Carnegie has been won posthumously.



Featured Websites (Cumulative)

100 Books Every Child Should Read - An Introduction by Michael Morpurgo.

Achuka Children’s Books

Alexis Deacon,,2041222,00.html

Allan Ahlberg

Anne Fine

Anthony Brown. New Children’s Laureate 2009.

Barbara Reid Home

BBC. The Roman Mysteries.


BRAW: Books, Reading & Writing
"Thank you for visiting the new BRAW website, the only site completely devoted to Scottish children's books."

CCBC Awards (Canadian Children’s Book Centre)

Canadian Children's Literature/Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse

Caroline Lawrence. Jubilee Books Profile of author. (see also The Roman Mysteries)

The Centre for Research in Young People's Texts and Cultures (CRYTC)

“Children's Book Award Winners Break The Mold.” Washington Post. Jan. 15, 2008.

Christchurch Libraries

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards

CILIP Carnegie medal posthumously awarded to Siobhan Dowd

CILIP Carnegie Medal. David Fickling's acceptance speech on behalf of Siobhan Dowd for her novel Bog Child

Colin Thiele Webpage

David Almond

David Jones

David Whitley

Dick Bruna's the Official Dick Bruna Website.

Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver. Illustrator of How the Summer Came to Canada reviewed in this month’s issue. “From the botanical material--pine needles, cedar branches, green plants, and potato prints--which she incorporated into How Summer Came to Canada (1969)…”
Library and Archives Canada.

Forestry A-Z

IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People

Index to Internet Sites: Children's and Young Adults' Authors & Illustrators

Gaiman's Graveyard Book gets Hugo award

Geraldine McCaughrean

Gillian Wolfe. Art educator, author and Head of Education at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Guido Pigni

Harry Potter. Pottermania lives on in college classrooms -

Helen Oxenbury

History of the Book in Canada.
”Looking at ourselves, Looking at others: Multiculturalism in Canadian children's picture books in English.” Paper Presented to the History of the Book in Canada’s Open Conference for Volume III (1918-2000) by Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman, University of British Columbia.

Jackie Morris

Jamie Bastedo. On Thin Ice.

Janet McNaughton

Jean Little.

Joan Aiken,11617,1117708,00.html

Joel Stewart.

Judith Kerr. “Cats are very interesting people.”

Julia Golding

Kevin Crossley-Holland and

KIdsWWwrite: The e-zine for young authors & readers
Issue #67 (February 2008)
KIdsWWwrite Archive

"A Kind of magic": James Campbell of the Guardian writes about the life & work of Walter de la Mare, on the 50th anniversary of his death.,,1793847,00.html

Kit Pearson. Official site of the author of fiction for young people, historical fiction, Canadian novelist.

Kristine O’Connell George

Laura Amy Schlitz. "Children's Corner: Author celebrates surprise book award." Jan. 29, 2008.

Lauren St John: author interview - Orion Publishing Group

Lemony Snicket

Lynne Truss

Lynne Truss

Madeleine L'Engle

Maite Carranza

Malachy Doyle

Maurice Gee

Mem Fox

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Rosen, Children’s Laureate. 2007.,,2100927,00.html,,2100543,00.html

Michelle Paver official website

Neil Gaiman.

New York Times Books Update

“Not a childish pursuit: Children's literature a vital part of our literary tradition” (Article) by Deidre Baker News@UofT. Commentary.

“Capturing the bear essentials of Paddington.”
Paddington is 50 this year and has had many guises. His illustrators describe how they portrayed the bear in the hat. Michael Glover. TIMESONLINE.

PJ Lynch.

Paul Faustino

Phoebe Gilman

Philippa Pearce,,1000024801,00.html

The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture

Pottermania lives in college classrooms

Priscilla Galloway

Red Cedar Book Award

Roald Dahl’s Funny Prize Roald Dahl Funny Prize

Roberto Innocenti

Roberto Innocenti

The Roman Mysteries. By Caroline Lawrence. Orion/HarperCollins. See review in the October 2007 Deakin Newsletter.

Rosemary Sutcliff: An interview with Rosemary Sutcliff.

Sarah Ellis

Seymour Science.

Shane Peacock

Shaun Tan

Shirley Hughes

Siobhan Dowd (1960 - 2007)

Siobhan Dowd: In Memory of. The English Pen: Mightier than the Sword August 22, 2007

Sophie Masson

Susan Cooper

Tim Decker

Welwyn Wilton Katz

William Gilkerson. Official Website

Write Away.



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