Better than Weird by Anne Kerz
Aaron is in grade six. He doesn’t have many friends because he’s a little weird. He knows he has trouble making sense of people and controlling his behaviour. He tries to fit in and remember all the things his counsellor, big brother and friend have told him about how to behave but sometimes things just don’t go the way he hopes. He is waiting for a visit from his father who he hasn’t seen in many years. All his hopes are resting on the visit and preventing his father from thinking that he’s too weird.
A terrific story about an unusual boy, probably dealing with a mild form of autism, and his classroom struggles. A must-read for grades 4-6. A fantastic read aloud possibility and companion to Mealworm Diaries.
Full Steam to Canada by Anne Patton
Anne Patton’s Full Steam to Canada is great addition to the ever-expanding choices of Canadian historical fiction for elementary readers. Dodie Bolton’s family is on their way to the Barr Colony in Saskatoon. Her mother aspires to be upper class and her father dreams of owning his own land. Her brother’s trouble finding work as the Boer War veterans return home seals their fate and off they plunge to the Canadian wilderness. Barr’s promises don’t always completely fit with the resulting circumstances but Dodie is unperturbed. She is delighted with the adventure and the freedom on her trip and as she arrives in Canada.
This entertaining story is a terrific match to Saskatchewan Grade Three Social Studies curriculum particularly in Saskatoon where students study local history and there is a system-supported trip to the Meewasin Centre on the history of Saskatoon. The factual background in the end notes adds to the overall impact of the story. A must buy for the K-8 library.
Ghosts of Government House by Judith Silverthorne
J.J. and Sam are on a tour of Government House when they sneak away. They get closed in a dark room and hear the sound of shoes flip-flopping down the hallway and through the door. When they tell Gabe, a brother to one of them, he is doubtful and the two are determined to have him experience it for himself. With the helpf of Grandma Louise, they discover the hidden ghosts and stories of Government House. The story is straight forward and simply told. It will appeal to young readers who enjoy history mixed with mild adventure.
Every once in a while a book on the Willow list makes me wonder what the committee was thinking. Occasionally, one of those very books, is well-received by the students at my school. This could be one of those books. Not one I would have chosen to purchase.
Ghosts of the Titanic by Julie Lawson
Kevin Messenger’s father has inherited a house in Nova Scotia on the beach front. He thinks that this windfall must be too good to be true so when they travel out to take a look, he isn’t surprised when house is a bit run down and there are rumours of a ghost. Julie Lawson writes a mystery adventure story which weaves together the history of theTitanic and the difficult relationship of a teenage boy and his father. The book is well-paced and full of interesting details. The relationship between the boy and his father is heart-wrenchingly awful to begin with but slowly improves.
An excellent addition to any school library, this book will appeal to lovers of mystery, historical fiction and adventure. Suitable for readers in approximately gr. 4-8.
Missing by Becky Citra
Thea loves horses. She has ridden her whole life but her life has been turned upside down. Her father won’t let her near them and moves from job to job and town to town. She remembers having friends but it has been so long she isn’t sure she knows how to do it anymore. Out of the blue, a man named Tully offers her dad a job and a place to stay at the double R ranch. He is reluctant but because the place doesn’t currently have horses and it means they can stay put for a while, he agrees. Encounters a mystery associated with the ranch and meets a persistent young man who wants to befriend her and it seems life might just get better. Will they be able to stay?
Becky Citra takes us into the life of a young teen in small town BC. This realistic fiction story has just enough mystery to move the story forward and is full of warm and caring characters.
A nice light read for older readers which will appeal to your horse-lovers in the younger grades. Appropriate for students grades 4-8, with nothing to prevent a strong younger reader from enjoying it.
No Small Victory by Connie Brummel Cook
Bonnie’s family has lost their farm. It’s 1936 and the depression and poor farming conditions are taking their toll. Their family moves further north from Missassaga to Peterbourough to farm a rental property which has been standing vacant due to rumours of illness in the house on the home quarter. Bonnie is sad to leave her home, her family, her friends and most of all her cat. Although her parents are concerned about surviving and paying back their debt, Bonnie is trying to fit in and make some friends.
Connie Cook’s story of the depression and family life in the 1930′s is a welcome addition to Canadian historical fiction literature for elementary readers. The characters are well-described the action is believable and interesting. The setting and historical context have an authentic feel. Suitable for readers in grades 3-7. A recommended purchases for Canadian school libraries in particular but any library collecting good books for young readers.
Rating: very good
Off to Class by Susan Hughes
This year’s non-fiction addition to the Willows, Off to Class is an interesting read with terrific photos and layout to match the well-written and informative text. Using the United Nation’s right to education as backdrop and context, Hughes highlights some of the amazingly diverse and responsive shapes, schools take. A useful book for grade two study of world communities and for looking at issues of power, government responsibility and the role of education in other grades. An excellent book for any library.
Power Play by Liam O’Donnell and Mike Deas
Devin and Nadia are meeting their friend at an international meeting on the importance of water protection. Someone is working very hard to prevent their friend’s father, an environmental activist, from being able to speak to the delegates. When it looks like the police have their hands full, Devin and Nadia take things into their own hands. Can they figure things out in time?
A graphic novel intended for elementary age readers, Power Play, teaches about governmental systems and the role of protest within a democracy. Mike Deas’ illustrations and layouts are terrific. Graphic novels are not my cup of tea and somehow the teaching component seems to overwhelm the action and adventure. Although perhaps useful for teaching about government and democracy, not a pleasure read. Suitable for students in grades 4-6.
Somebody’s Girl by Maggie De Vries
Martha’s mother is expecting a baby and her life has been thrown into a tail-spin. Her mother is sick and seems to have no time for her. Her father is preoccupied with her mother and the baby and to top things off, Martha is adopted. She is beginning to wonder if they will even want her after the baby comes.
A decent realistic fiction story for young readers with well-written characters and plausible plot. I wondered a bit at the lack of communication between the parents and their daughter. The concerns of an adopted child in the face of a new biological sibling are predictable, I would have expected the parents to have made some kind of attempt at reaching out to their older child. This lack in the story events prevented my full enjoyment of the story. Suitable for students grade 3-5 and the K-8 school library.
Spy Spy Again by Tina Holdcroft
I couldn’t even read this one so this is hardly a review but I found the text font too small and an irritating shape. I disliked the layout and found it messy and hard to track. I did not want to read it after looking at it so I set it aside. It was immediately picked up by eleven-year-old son and joyfully read until finished.
Rating: poor (me), good (son)