May 27, 2010

Memorable journey through Canadian history

The Secret of Your Name
by David Bouchard

David Bouchard discovers his M├ętis heritage in this emotional book. His quiet anger and sadness is evident as you listen to his voice on the CD, accompanied by John Arcand's fiddle.  

Written and told in both English and Michif, this book would be a worthy addition to any library.

Alexie book a must-read

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
art by Ellen Forney

Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation where he gets beaten up almost everyday. He was also born with a variety of medical problems. To cope, he draws cartoons. But cartoons can't solve his family's poverty. 
Encouraged by a teacher, Junior takes a big risk. He leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in a neighboring town. With his sharp observations and biting wit, Junior makes a place for himself despite the racism at his new school, the scorn of the rez, and the tragedies he must endure. 
Ellen Forney's artwork capture Junior's personality so well that he becomes a real living person, not just a fictional character. Funny, honest, cynical and sad, Sherman Alexie has written an unforgettable book.

Interesting and unique creation myth

The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth
retold by David A. Anderson

Olorun, the supreme god, told his orishas (assistants) that the entire sky was theirs to explore. But Obatala wanted to do more. He suggested that if something could be built on the waters below, a world of beings could be created. Then the orishas could use their powers to help them. Olorun agreed and told Obatala to create the earth and its people.

May 25, 2010

Introduction to vaccines

Science Quest: Killing Germs, Saving Lives: The Quest for the First Vaccines
by Glen Phelan

In clear, straightforward prose, Phelan traces the discovery and development of vaccines, featuring the key scientists whose work have inspired today's researchers.

A list of resources at the end of the book encourage further reading, including Cells Alive! - a colourful, interactive website, with puzzles and animation.

Fun with germs

Achoo!: The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read about Germs
by Trudee Romanek
illustrated by Rose Cowles

A fun and interesting book about germs: how they spread, how they make you sick, and how your body responds. Includes activities and experiments (some a bit gross) that will delight budding scientists.

Part of the Mysterious You series of books by Kids Can Press. Other titles include Baa! (genes & cloning), Squirt! (blood) and Zzz... (sleep).

May 20, 2010

Sex education for all ages

It's Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends
by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley

Young children are curious about everything, especially their bodies. It's Not the Stork helps answer questions about the differences and similarities between boys and girls, how babies are made, and where they come from. Through friendly artwork and accessible language, the authors provide straightforward explanations in a reassuring, respectful manner. Two cartoon characters, a bird and a bee, add comic relief and give voice to a child's emotions and reactions. For ages 4 and up.

Another excellent book about human reproduction. Additional information covers sex, love, chromosomes, adoption, and HIV. For ages 7 and up.

For older children, It's Perfectly Normal covers sexuality, puberty, birth control, STDs, HIV, and internet safety. Ages 10 and up.

For budding medical specialists

The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body
by David Macaulay, with Richard Walker

Everything you ever wanted to know, or not know, about the human body and its functions. The extensive and detailed explanations threaten to overwhelm the reader at times. As well, Macaulay's huge illustrations, which compare the body to a factory, can be difficult to interpret. A good reference book overall.

Contents: Building Life/Air Traffic Control/Let's Eat/Who's in Charge Here/Battle Stations/Moving On/Extending the Line/Glossary/Index/Appendix

May 18, 2010

The politics of oil

by James Laxer

A book about the discovery of oil, the rise of the giant oil companies, and the relationship between oil, politics, and finance. It concludes with the impending challenges of a finite oil supply, climate change, and renewable energy sources.

Oil Spills

Oil Spills
by Jane Walker

by Jillian Powell

Both books discuss the environmental damage that results from oil spills, the methods used to clean up spills, and ways to prevent spills in the future. It should be noted that oil spills occur every day (on land and sea); only extremely large spills are reported. 

Walker's book includes a brief mention of oil platforms and ways of reducing pollution. Powell's book begins with a definition of oil and goes into more detail about clean-up methods and how chemical dispersants work. Graphs, charts, activities, and a list of related websites provide additional information.

May 13, 2010

Good choice for book clubs

by Phyllis Gotlieb

A nuclear accident causes mutations in a town's children. Due to their violent and destructive powers, they are interned in a prison called the Dump. When they break free, Shandy Johnson and her friends must find them before they can do anymore damage.

The plot gets a little bogged down in psychological explanations for the teens' delinquent behaviour. Some readers may be offended at the generalities expressed - that poverty, immigration, disability, even body type - are responsible for deviant actions. First published in 1964, the novel also contains a few politically incorrect terms.

Disturbing novel must be experienced

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy

A father and son walk through a postapocalyptic world in this sombre survival tale. All that sustains them is their love for each other.
I haven't seen the film version, but I'm sure that it can't compare with McCarthy's spare, masterful prose. The reader is drawn completely into the story, experiencing every heartbreaking moment, made all the more horrific when captured in your own mind. Actually viewing it onscreen may dilute its power.

Perils of genetic engineering

by David Stahler Jr.

Everyone in Jacob's colony is born blind due to genetic modification. They embrace the philosophy of Truesight: that blindness brings unity, purity, and freedom. Seeing is a distraction that causes pain and suffering.
As with other novels set in utopian societies, notably Lois Lowry's The Giver,trouble arises when one or more individuals start questioning the status quo. Jacob's situation is complicated when he suddenly begins to see. 
The story is suitably ominous, with sinister hints and an eerie plot twist that will compel readers to seek out the rest of the series.

The Seer 

May 11, 2010

If the world ends, there's always another one

A Thief in the House of Memory

When Dec Steeple hitchhiked home from school, he had no idea that it would lead to an attempted robbery, a death, and a lot of unwanted memories. It makes you wonder how many secrets a person can hold and whether some truths would be better left unsaid.

Funny, memorable book

Bucking the Sarge

The Sarge, aka Luther's mother, has cheated the system in order to run a number of shady apartments and group homes. She wants Luther to take over the business. In fact, she put him in charge of a home when he was only thirteen. But Luther no longer wants anything to do with the Sarge's evil empire. He wants to win the science fair and leave town for good. His friend Sparky also plans to leave, but his wacky scheme involves Dontay Gaddy, the Sue-Em-All lawyer.
The author really captures Luther's thoughts and feelings, as well as those of the other characters. When Luther discovers that Sarge has bilked him too, his revenge is especially satisfying.

May 6, 2010

Two girls in towers, two very different stories

Book Of A Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale

Lady Saren refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her. As punishment, he is locking her in a tower for seven years. Imprisoned with her is her new maid, Dashti. When Saren's suitors come to the tower - one she supposedly loves and one she fears - she orders Dashti to speak for her. Many complications ensue.
Saren is not a very sympathetic character. She's weak, whiny, and frightened most of the time. Dashti, who narrates the story, is stronger and more intelligent. But she is too concerned with caste, making her overly loyal to Saren.
Character flaws aside, the story is very engaging. The supernatural elements (a shape-shifting lord) will keep readers interested.

by Shannon and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale

A very strange superhero comic book set in the Old West. It stars Rapunzel and Jack (of the beanstalk) as two outlaws who team up to rid the world of evil Mother Gothel, who has enslaved and starved the villagers. Rapunzel, using her long braids as weapons, battles bandits, coyotes, and a giant watersnake. Jack is her thieving, smooth-talking sidekick. 
The action is fairly non-stop, culminating in an exciting showdown with Mother Gothel. Overall, it was a little too weird for this reader, but kids would probably enjoy it, especially those who like cartoons.

May 4, 2010

Fantasy for girls

by Gail Carson Levine

Aza, an innkeeper's daughter, has a wonderful voice, but she is unhappy. In a country that prizes beauty above all else, she's considered ugly. But when she becomes lady-in-waiting to the new queen, she has to get used to being noticed. 
Queen Ivi is beautiful and vain, but dangerous. She forces Ava to use her voice to deceive the court. When the deception is uncovered, Aza is imprisoned. To save herself and her kingdom, Aza must accept that her self-worth is more important than the pursuit of beauty. 
An interesting version of Snow White.

by Linda Smith

Alina has waited all her life to be called to the Isle of Weaving, where the tapestry of life is created. Now it looks as if she has caused a terrible disaster. She retied a broken thread, saving a young prince's life, a prince who will grow up to become a cruel conquerer, causing the death of thousands.
Alina is sent to undo the damage. But as Prince Ranjan begins to trust her, she finds it harder and harder to accomplish her task. She is also attracted to the soldier Daris. Frightened and homesick, Alina must make a difficult decision that will affect her own life and that of the world. 
A complex tale that raises interesting questions about fate and free will.