October 29, 2014

The mummy walks

Walking with the Dead
by L. M. Falcone

Alex's father is reopening his museum of oddities. Its main attraction is an ancient Greek corpse. But after Alex gets struck by lightning, the corpse comes to life! It needs help moving on, so Alex and best friend Freddie decide to take action. Soon they find themselves battling minotaurs, harpies, and gorgons. Clever and funny, Falcone turns Greek mythology into a well-paced, lively romp. 

A perfect Halloween read.

October 22, 2014

Newfoundland shipwreck

Ann and Seamus
by Kevin Major
art by David Blackwood

Ann Harvey lives in a remote Newfoundland community with the ominous name of Isle aux Morts - Island of the Dead. Her life is filled with endless work. She often dreams of other places and a different life.

Seamus Ryan is a young Irish teen hoping to find a future in new world. Bound for Quebec City on the brig Despatch, he may not make it there. The ship runs aground off Isle aux Morts and the lives of 160 souls are in peril.

Told in verse, this is the story of a dramatic rescue, young love, and hope for the future.

The wreck of the Despatch is a true story. It occurred in 1828. Ten years later, Ann Harvey and her family also saved the crew and passengers of another vessel, the Rankin. Ann's personal story, however, has been imagined by Major, who wished to commemorate not only a brave heroine but the steadfastness of early Newfoundland and Labrador settlers.

A raw and heartfelt book.

October 15, 2014

The birth of Canada

Born! A Foal, Five Kittens and Confederation
by Deirdre Kessler
illustrated by Brenda Jones

Nine-year-old twins Gabriel and Grace help their parents run the Great George Street Livery Stables in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. It is 1864, and a circus is coming to town. Politicians as well. The twins are more excited about their favourite horse, who is about to have her first foal. But visits from their friend, fourteen-year-old artist Robert Harris, who's also a musician, gives them an insider’s peek at the meetings that lead to Confederation.

Deirdre Kessler blends fact and fiction to provide a reasonably entertaining story about the biggest moment in Canadian history. In having to explain all the key events, Robert's dialogue is often long and unwieldy, which interrupts the story's flow. But at least his information is accurate. As for the rest of the story, a cat obviously has its kittens and the horse its foal. But it's up to the reader (or listener) to decide if the foal is male or female.

October 8, 2014

A Newfoundland tale

The Queen of Paradise's Garden
adapted by Andy Jones
illustrated by Darka Erdelji

Three brothers named Tom, Bill, and the youngest, Jack, set out to find the Queen of Paradise's Garden, where they hope to find a magic fruit that will make their elderly parents young again. In the manner of all tales, only Jack has hope of succeeding.

This is an unusual, lovely tale, ideal for reading out loud. It's charm lies in its musicality, for the words have the cadence of Celtic song and the lilt of the Newfoundland storyteller. The whimsical illustrations, drawn with a deft hand, provide a fine accompaniment.

PEI Oyster Fest

The Village that Loved Oysters
by Dustin Milligan
art by Meredith Luce

Prince Edward Island's Tyne Valley Oyster Festival has been growing strong for fifty years. In commemoration of the event, Milligan and Luce have created this rhyming picture book. With all the oyster imagery, I'm surprised the book wasn't oyster-shaped. It's nice enough, but  I suspect that for most kids, oysters are an acquired taste. Especially if they don't live near the sea. They're likely to view The Village that Loved Oysters with amused puzzlement. Far better would be to attend the festival in person. 

For more information , go to http://www.peioysterfest.com/.

October 1, 2014

Morgan's Boat Ride

Morgan's Boat Ride
by Hugh MacDonald
pictures by Anna Bald

A bored little girl gets into a leaky rowboat and drifts out to sea. The people she passes along the way - a couple digging for clams, a fisherman, some big kids, a sailor - shout warnings to her that she never hears. So why does this book leave me with a feeling of meh? Nothing really happens. Morgan happily waves to everyone she passes and is eventually rescued, all without a clue that she was ever in danger. Maybe if the boat had actually sunk, or if the birds had sounded the alarm (the cover illustration implies a more fantastical adventure), it would have been more interesting. As it is, the pictures are better than the words.