Snow Willows 2011

Continuing my series on this year’s Willow Award nominees.  The Snow Willows are intended for a grade 7 and up audience.  They tend to have mature themes – drug use, abuse, war and violence are just some of the topics covered.

Haunted by Barbara Haworth Attard

Haunted is a book I never would have read without it being on this list.  I don’t typically choose to read from the ‘thriller’ genre.  Haunted is a spooky, suspense-filled mystery story.  Set in post World War One in a rural area of Ontario, a young girl is drawn into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of young girls in her region.  Definitely a read to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Thunder over Kandahar by Sharon McKay.  I was troubled when reading this book.  Just prior to reading it, I heard a discussion on CBC radio about the ‘exotic’ stance in western literature when portraying mid-Eastern cultures, particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The speaker talked about how all portrayals of this area of the world seem to start with a woman in a veil.  Sure enough, on the first page, the issue is the veil and the woman on cover is wearing a burka.  I wondered about the bias of the author throughout the book.  Although there are strong attempts to portray the positive and life-giving aspects of the lives of people in Afghanistan, there is also a tendency to portray the Canadian and British forces as the ‘white knights’ of the region. Much as I hope the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan have brought peace and stability, I know the situation has been much more complex than simply the role of hero as it seemed to me here.  Still the book is well-written and could provide a starting point discussion on international interventions and cultural relativity.  If I were to use it in a classroom, I would want to have other books and resources to provide further depth and perspective to the discussions.

Shapeshifter by Holly Bennett.

Sive is a beautiful young woman with a magical and powerful voice.  She captures the attentions of an evil wizard and so begins her struggle for freedom, love and a home.  Holly Bennett writes the story behind the mythical story of Sive and Finn mac Cumhail.  A well-written and spell-binding novel with adventure, magic and love.  It would be worth offering to your Twilight fans when they are looking for something new.


Free as a bird by Gina McMurchy-Barber.

Ruby Jean Sharp has Down’s Syndrome.  She is sent to live at the age of eight in an institution in British Columbia.  The institution is brutal and de-humanizing yet Ruby survives and when finally given the opportunities to learn and care for herself, is allowed to leave.  An important story, well-told and accessible.  This book would make an interesting addition to discussions on Canadian policies during the 1930’s-1970’s.  A time period full of sweeping institutionalization of ‘undesirable’ parts of society from education institutions to health institutions to judicial institutions, this story serves as a reminder of what society can at its worst do to the people it does not understand.





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