January 31, 2013

Billy goats on the loose

The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a well-known story, told in many different ways. Below are three titles that are sure to please.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
by Paul Galdone

The classic story of three goats who defeat an ugly troll to get to the green meadow across the bridge. Galdone's wonderfully expressive illustrations are oversized and bold. His goats almost leap off the pages, as does the hairy troll.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
by Carole Bloch
illustrated by Shayle Bested

Set in Africa, these billy goats live on a veld and want to graze on the sweet grass on the koppie. They also walk on their hind legs, and wear hats, scarves, and dreadlocks. The lizard-like monster is green, fat, and wields a fork.

The Three Billygoats Gruff and Mean Calypso Joe
by Cathrene Valente Youngquist
illustrated by Kristin Sorra

The goats in this story are named Little Billygoat, Williegoat, and Captain Bill E. Goat. They live on a Caribbean island and have to contend with Calypso Joe, a mean troll with eyes as big as coconuts and flying seaweed hair. Told in lilting, Caribbean dialect, each goat has a distinctive trot and his own charming personality. As for Calypso Joe, he just needs to be taught some manners. A fun version of a good old tale.

N.B. Look for it in your local library.

January 29, 2013

Goat is girl's best friend

My Goat Gertrude
by Starr Dobson
illustrated by Dayle Dodwell

When Starr's cousin Leanne doesn't share her chocolate bar, a goat named Gertrude solves the problem. 

Young children will fall for the mischievous, slightly loopy-looking Gertrude, especially those who have ever been teased by older siblings or relatives. 

A whimsical, lighthearted picture book.

January 24, 2013

Hockey mystery

Oil King Courage
by Sigmund Brouwer

When Inuit hockey star Reuben Reuben is offered the chance to play for the Edmonton Oil Kings, his grandmother surprisingly agrees. She has only one condition: that he find out the truth about his grandfather's death. Helped by his best friend Gear, who narrates the story, Reuben sets out to solve the mystery. At the same time, the boys are playing in a three-on-three hockey tournament across the Arctic. As they put the clues together, Reuben learns more about his family's history and gains a renewed appreciation for his Inuit heritage.

A short and easy read, with just enough action and hooks to keep readers interested. The mystery itself is slight and the villain is obvious, but the story is quite satisfying. Its strength lies in the depictions of the Inuit elders and the respect that the author has for the northern way of life.

For more books about hockey, go to Interesting Nonfiction for Inquisitive Kids.

January 22, 2013

Pond hockey

The Hockey Tree
by David Ward
pictures by Brian Deines

When Owen's sister accidentally shoots the puck into a fishing hole, Owen thinks the game is over, but their dad has another idea. A warm-hearted story of family togetherness and a well-known hockey tradition. 

January 17, 2013

Caribbean demon

La Diablesse and the Baby
by Richardo Keens-Douglas

La Diablesse is a woman with one human foot and one cow foot. She likes to take people's souls and kidnap babies. In this Caribbean folktale, the grandmother of author Richardo Keens-Douglas manages to outwit La Diablesse.

Mysterious, certainly, though not very frightening. More background would have been nice; I was left wondering why La Diablesse has a hoof and what she does with the children she manages to take away. Still, kids may find it intriguing as it is certainly unique and different from many other tales.

January 15, 2013

An island of babies

Baby Island
by Carol Ryrie Brink

Brink, author of the Newbery-winning Caddie Woodlawn is also the writer of this fanciful story. In a foreward, she mentions a time long past when it was fashionable for young girls to borrow the neighbors' babies. These girls weren't exactly babysitters; they simply liked babies, and parents were much more trusting back then.

In Baby Island, twelve-year-old Mary Wallace and her younger sister Jean, are accidentally set adrift when their ocean liner founders during a storm. With them are four babies, the children of some of the ship's passengers. Their lifeboat drifts onto a tropical island, where the girls set up camp. They pass the time rather pleasantly, with no real thought of rescue, unless you count the messages in the bottles that Jean sends out every week. They also meet another island resident, a Mr. 'Arvey Peterkin, who isn't fond of young'uns. The girls set about reforming him, and a friendship is eventually reached.

An unusual, old-fashioned, and amusing story if one can suspend disbelief. The girls encounter no real danger and have no trouble finding food and water. And the babies are pretty easy to care for. But then, this is a fantasy after all.

For girls who can't get enough of babies.

January 10, 2013

Dark novel is a winner

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
by Susin Nielsen

A terrible family tragedy forces Henry's family to move to a new city. His therapist suggests that he keep a journal. Henry resists at first, but soon starts to confide in it. The reader soon learns the horrifying truth: Jesse, Henry's older brother, shot a student at school and then killed himself. In writing that is by turns ironic, earnest, funny and deeply emotional, Henry tries to come to grips with the aftermath.

Nielsen has become an expert at portraying eccentric characters and difficult situations with humour and pathos. With Henry K. Larsen, she writes movingly of bullying, guns, and the stigma that the shooter's family must endure. Yet she doesn't forget the victim's family and what they're also going through. The story is made more tragic in having Henry be best friends with the victim's sister. After reading her letter to Henry, I had to stop reading so I could wipe away the tears. 

A most deserving winner of the 2012 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is a timely and unforgettable read.

January 8, 2013

Blink & Caution

Blink & Caution
by Tim Wynne-Jones

Blink is a street kid. We first meet him as he's trying to steal breakfast from a downtown hotel. While there he witnesses a crime and even enters the room where the crime took place. Stupidly, he steals a cellphone that was left behind and ends up mired in a very dicey situation. Helping him out of the mess is Caution, a girl consumed with guilt. She killed her brother in an extremely freak accident and can't get over it.

The action sometimes strains credibility, but it moves along briskly, with plenty of suspense thrown in. An interesting device is Wynne-Jones' addressing the reader directly as "You" as in You want to get close enough to look in just one window. Then without warning an enormous pair of arms wraps around your chest and holds you tight. In other words, the reader is Blink, making him even more real and authentic than other literary characters. You care about what happens to him, just as much as you care for Caution, whose streetsmarts still aren't enough to protect her from harm.