October 28, 2010


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Voodoo
by Shannon R. Turlington

A very detailed and enlightening book about a misunderstood religion. It tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the history of voodoo, the gods and spirits served by voodoo devotees, and all the rituals and special rites involved in voodoo practice. It also debunks some commonly held myths about  zombies and black magic. 

Parents need not be concerned about the subject matter. The initiation proceedings are so long and complicated that it should discourage most readers from attempting any curses. The ingredients would also be hard to find. 

For readers who only want to know the basics, Turlington has also written Do You Do Voodoo? The Real Religion Behind Zombies and Voodoo Dolls. This quick read explains the main concepts of voodoo, revealing it to be a serious, legitimate religion. Interestingly, Turlington uses slightly different words, spellings, and pronunciations. This is due to Haiti's oral tradition and regional variability. 

Disappointingly, the books do not reveal the origin of brain-eating zombies. However, it may inspire more creative Halloween costumes.

October 26, 2010

Raising the dead

Raising the Dead
by Daniel Cohen

An entertaining look at movie monsters and other undead creatures, like Frankenstein, mummies, zombies, and homunculi (small humans). While their stories are fictional, they were based on fact, as revealed throughout history. The chapter on body snatchers in the 17th and 18th centuries is particularly gruesome and true! Also real is Nicholas Flamel, familiar to Harry Potter fans as the maker of the Elixir of Life. While there is no actual proof that Flamel is still alive, rumours to the contrary still exist.

Too bad the book has no pictures aside from the cover. Also missing are vampires and werewolves. To find out more about them, you'll have to find Cohen's other books: Real Vampiresand Werewolves.

October 21, 2010

Kids start a business

Once Upon a Company
by Wendy Anderson Halperin

When the author's kids - Joel, Kale and Lane - were bored, she suggested they make and sell wreaths for Christmas. They would start a college fund with the money they earned. And so The College Fund Wreath Company was born. With help from family and friends,  Joel and his sisters were able to turn a profit.

In the summer, bored once again, their mom suggested a lemonade stand. They also sold peanut butter and jam sandwiches, creating The Peanut Butter & Jelly Company. As the companies grew, the kids added distributors, wholesalers, and employees. Some of their ideas didn't work, but their companies remained viable, earning them over sixteen thousand dollars for college.

Although the book is American-based (published in 1998), it is informative, fun, and encouraging. Good for any kid who's interested in business.

October 19, 2010

Magic and love

The Magician's Elephant
by Kate DiCamillo

When he sees the fortuneteller's tent, Peter Augustus Duchene knows a question he must ask: How can he find his sister? "You must follow the elephant," he is told. "She will lead you there." To say more would give away too much of the story and deprive the reader of its magic. It is a quiet story, with mysterious pictures. It asks three things of the reader: What if? and Why not? and Could it possibly be? And reminds the reader that magic is impossible, truth is forever changing, and anything can happen.

October 14, 2010

A weird and funny story

13 Words
by Lemony Snicket

Only Lemony Snicket could get away with a story like this. It begins with a despondent bird. A dog thinks that the bird can be cheered up by eating cake and keeping busy. He makes the bird paint ladders while he goes for a ride in a convertible driven by a goat. They go to a haberdashery with a scarlet door to buy a cheering-up hat for the bird. The store is owned by a baby, who sells the dog two hats that have a lot of panache. It ends with a mezzo-soprano who shows up to sing and eat more cake. But the bird remains despondent.

13 Wordsis a very strange story with very strange pictures. No one tries to find out why the bird is so sad, even though she's happy with her hat. Maybe she doesn't like cake or paint or perhaps she's a frustrated singer. Whatever the reason, you can't help but laugh, especially at the mezzo-soprano's song.

October 12, 2010

Civil rights in Canada

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged!
by Jody Nyasha Warner
pictures by Richard Rudnicki

In 1946 Nova Scotia, an usher in a movie theatre told Viola Desmond that her ticket was for a balcony seat, not a main floor seat. She had to move. Viola offered to pay for a main floor ticket, but the usher was adamant: she had to sit upstairs. Viola knew she was being targeted because she was black. She refused to move. She was arrested, held in prison, and fined. Angry at her treatment, she appealed the ruling, but lost. Still, her actions inspired people to fight against racial segregation.

Told in clear, concise prose, this book illuminates a previously unknown true story about racism in Canada. The strong, expressive paintings capture Desmond's character, respectability (she was a successful businesswoman), and determination. An afterword provides more information about black immigration to Canada.