Waiting for the Whales by Sheryl McFarlane, Ron Lightburn (Illustrator)

    This is a "classic" that should be on every child's bookshelf as well as be read by all adults. A beautifully crafted, heart string story with depth.

    This timeless story is set on the West Coast. An old man lives alone on a bluff overlooking the sea and tends to his garden. Each year, when the whales return to the bay in front of his cottage, his loneliness is somewhat eased.
    One day, his daughter and her baby return home to live with the old man, bringing a renewed sense of purpose to his life. As his granddaughter grows, the old man passes on a wealth or knowledge and wisdom as well as his passion for the whales. And each year they wait together for the whales to appear.

    The darker images light up with joy once the child enters his life. No words are needed when the gorgeous illustrations tell us that grandfather is no longer there, but mother and daughter wait for the whales to return as they always do.
This is a tale of the unique friendship between grandparent and child, but also of the circle of life and the promise of new life when an old one ebbs away.

Paperback, 32 pages, Orca Book Publishers  ISBN
0920501966 (ISBN13: 9780920501962)

Hey Canada! Travel through pages from coast to coast!

Hey Canada!
Author: Vivien Bowers
Illustrations:  Milan Pavlovic
Publisher:  Tundra Books, a division of Random House
Pages:  72
Format:  Hardcover
Ages:  Children 7-10 years
Genre:  Children's books/non-fiction/history
ISBN 978-1-77049-255-4
Release date:  May 8, 2012

I am writing this review of Hey Canada! on a small island on the west coast. I have lived in the Yukon, in Alberta, and across B.C. When my two sons were 7 and 9 years old, we were lucky enough to be able to travel across Canada for a whole year. I had not written many books back then, but if I had, I would have wanted to write the book that Vivien Bowers has just created. Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic, Hey Canada! is an interesting, upbeat book that is not only chock full of information, photos and great illustrations - it is FUN to read!

9 year old Alice and her cousin Cal accompany their Gran on this coast to coast trip. In each province, the kids have to find a number of things and readers can search right along. Through blogs and tweets, the three characters share their journey. From cod in Newfoundland to dinosaurs in Alberta, from PEI’s red sand to Nunavut’s throat singing, the book touches on all things Canadian.

Comic strip pages with historical U-Turns, text boxes with additional facts, even side bars on how their hamster is doing on the trip, keep the story moving along and fun to read. Nice, too, to see the same amount of information dedicated to the territories as to the provinces, making this truly a complete trip across Canada.

A great family read for Canada Day!

Gifts - the perfect book gift

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, Barbara Reid (Illustrator)

One of my all time favourite picture books. I give this book as a gift to new babies, to grandmothers, to friends who like to travel, and to any child in need of a good story.
Told in beautiful poetry, this book is a whimsical introduction to faraway lands and cultures is told from the perspective of a young girl, whose adventurous grandmother brings her back such treasures as an African baobab seed, an Australian didgeridoo, and a Hawaiian rainbow.
As the story progresses, the girl grows up and her grandmother grows older. But the sad ending turns happy as she now is the one traveling the world and sending home gifts to her own grandchild.
Jo Ellen's beautiful text and Barbara's fascinating plasticine art are the perfect combination - just like books and travel!

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen Hannah is twelve and tired of always visiting the same old family members, always listening to the same old stories. But this Passover is different. When she opens the door, this time, Hannah 'becomes' her grandmother and lives her experiences in a concentration camp. Experiencing the horrors first hand changes Hannah in ways she could never have expected. The story is riveting and well told by master storyteller Jane Yolen. A must for readers of all ages! From School Library Journal Grade 4-8 In this novel, Yolen attempts to answer those who question why the Holocaust should be remembered. Hannah, 12, is tired of remembering, and is embarrassed by her grandfather, who rants and raves at the mention of the Nazis. Her mother's explanations of how her grandparents and great-aunt lost all family and friends during that time have little effect. Then, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. As she does so, she is transported to a village in Poland in the 1940s, where everyone thinks that she is Chaya, who has just recovered from a serious illness. She is captured by the Nazis and taken to a death camp, where she is befriended by a young girl named Rivka, who teaches her how to fight the dehumanizing processes of the camp and hold onto her identity. When at last their luck runs out and Rivka is chosen, Hannah/Chaya, in an almost impulsive act of self-sacrifice, goes in her stead. As the door to the gas chamber closes behind her, she is returned to the door of her grandparents' apartment, waiting for Elijah. Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children's understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow.
Reading level: Ages 8 and up Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Puffin; First Edition edition (April 12, 2004) 
ISBN-10: 0142401099
ISBN-13: 978-0142401095

Throwaway Daughter by Ting-xing Ye

This dramatic and moving YA novel has been written by Ting-xing Ye, internationally acclaimed author of A Leaf in the Bitter Wind, working together with her husband, William Bell, author of the award-winning novels for young adults Forbidden City, Zack, and Stones. Ting-xing Ye hails from China and tells this story with a well informed voice. Throwaway Daughter is the impressive story of Grace Dong-mei Parker, a typical Canadian teenager until the day she witnesses the Tiananmen massacre on television. Horrified, she sets out to explore her Chinese ancestry, only to discover that she was one of the thousands of infant girls abandoned in China since the introduction of the one-child policy, strictly enforced by the Communist government. But Grace was one of the lucky ones, adopted as a baby by a loving Canadian couple. With the encouragement of her adoptive parents, she studies Chinese and travels back to China in search of her birth mother. There she manages to locate the village where she was born. At first no one is willing to help her. However, Grace never gives up and finally is reunited with her birth mother, discovering through this emotional bond the truth of what happened to her almost twenty years earlier. Although the account is fictionalized it is very realistic and believable. A fascinating read and an eyeopener to a different culture.

Reading/Writing Resource

On the site of my online e-zine for children's writing, KidsWwwrite, we now have archives of over 1,000 book reviews by kids: http://www.kalamalkapress.com/kidswwwrite/reviewarchive.html Check out the reviews. If you are a writer, pass on the information to your publisher for future book reviews.