Tag Archives: Canadian author

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

this dark endeavorBibliographic Information:

Oppel, K. (2011). This dark endeavor. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (978-1442403154)

Sequel: Such Wicked Intent

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother, Konrad, share everything. But Victor is more driven and feels the need to be better at everything. Which is why is finds it difficult to understand why his beautiful cousin, Elizabeth, may prefer his brother to himself. The three of them and their friend Henry do everything together.

The Frankenstein family wealthy and titled so Victor is used to getting what he wants with a limited amount of work. Then Konrad becomes very ill. When the friends come across the secret room, the Dark Library, Victor knows that he must make the Elixer of Life to save Konrad’s life.

Critical Evaluation:

Victor is the focus of this gothic tale. Oppel decided to use him as the narrator and as a result, the reader lives through his dark passions and confused motives. His feelings for Elizabeth and his jealous of her budding relationship with his brother creates a strained underlying current in his relationships with both Elizabeth and his brother.

His love for his brother is strong and bright but the Elixer of Life and the Dark Library are forbidden for a reason. The novel explores how one can choose a dangerous path with all the best intentions.

Reader’s Annotation:

Victor Frankenstein will do anything to save his brother from death. “Anything” means creating the Elixer of Life, if he can.

Information About the Author:

Kenneth Oppel was born August 31, 1967 on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. He completed a BA in English and cinema studies at the University of Toronto. He wrote his second children’s book in his final year at university.

Kenneth Oppel says he started writing stories when he was twelve. When he was fourteen he started his first short novel which was passed to Roald Dahl through a family friend. Dahl liked the story and passed it to his literary agent. His first novel was published in 1985.

Since then, Oppel has written a number of award winning books including the Silverwing trilogy, Airborn, and Half Brother (About the author).

Genre:

  • Horror fiction
  • Mystery fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Prequels to classcis

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about Frankenstein and discuss what would motivate a scientist to try to create life.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 4.3

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Kenneth Oppel is an author that has success at the elementary and middle school levels. This Dark Endeavor is appropriate for a high school audience and is an author the students have enjoyed in the past.

Awards:

  • 2012 Libris Award (Canadian Booksellers Association)
  • Honour Book, Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award
  • A 2011 Quill & Quire Book of the Year
  • A 2011 London Times Best Children’s Book

Shortlisted for:

  • Governor General’s Literary Awards
  •  Red Maple Award (OLA)
  • Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award

Reviews:

  • This dark endeavor: The apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(14), 1261.

“Victor too often describes himself in relation to Konrad, but he develops into a complex and troubled character as the inevitable conclusion draws near. A subplot involving a crippled alchemist and his pet lynx steer the story more toward horror and fantasy than Enlightenment-era science fiction.

A dark and dramatic back story for Shelley’s tormented creator.”

  • Campbell, H. M. (2011). This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. School Library Journal, 57(10), 144.

“Many details remain the same as in the original work; for instance, Victor’s arrogant desire to overcome the power of illness and death makes him a slightly unlikable protagonist. But here’s a sign of a good storyteller: readers may not like Victor, but they will certainly want to find out what happens to him.”

  • Ritter, C. K. (2011). This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Horn Book Magazine, 87(4), 155.

“Written from Victor’s perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel’s novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding.”

References:

About the author. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2013 from http://www.kennethoppel.ca/pages/biography.shtml

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Back in the Bigs: How Winnipeg won, lost, and regained its place in the NHL by Randy Turner

back in the bigsBibliographic Information:

Turner, R. (2011). Back in the bigs. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Free Press. (978-0968257562)

Plot Summary:

Hockey in Winnipeg, Manitoba is serious business. When the Jets returned to Winnipeg in 2011, sports writer Randy Turner explores the history of the team before it went south in 1996 and professional hockey in Winnipeg.

Critical Evaluation:

Back in the Bigs’ large format allows readers to enjoy the many pictures sprinkled through the pages. The writing is accessible and tells a great story of failure and the triumph in the saga of NHL hockey in Manitoba.

Reader’s Annotation:

Manitoba was without an NHL team for a long time before the Jets returned for the 2011-2012 season. But, the desire for a return to the Bigs never died.

Information About the Author:

Randy Turner is a native Manitoban and have covered sports for the Winnipeg Free Press, a local paper, for twenty years (Randy Turner, 2013).

After Randy graduated from Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, he attended the Creative Communications program at Red River Community College. In 1987, he began working on the Rural page for the Winnipeg Free Press. In 2011, he became a general sports columnist and in 2011 he became a general features writer for the paper.

Throughout his time with the Free Press, he was covered high school hockey to Grey Cups and World Junior hockey championships. Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing (Randy Turner, Reporter 2013).

Genre:

  • Nonfiction
  • National Hockey League
  • Winnipeg Jets
  • Hockey

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about how the Jets did this year – pull the stats
    • Segue into how they came back to Winnipeg
  • Show clip of the reaction when it was announced that the Jets were coming back to Winnipeg.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 10 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Back in the Bigs tells the story of the Jets in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It should be in all schools in the province .

References:

Randy Turner. (2013). Retrieved May 5, 2013 from http://penguin.ca/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,2000000238,00.html

Randy Turner, Reporter (2013) Retrieved May 5, 2013 from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/biographies/141970423.html

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

all good childrenBibliographic Information:

Austen, C. (2011). All good children. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers. (978-1-55469-824-0)

Plot Summary:

When Maxwell Connors returns home after his aunt’s funeral he notices that the kids at school are acting strange. It turns out that the students were given a treatment while he was away that has turned them into obedient, well-mannered citizens.  His sister Ally notices it first. She says that the other kids are “are fuzzy and slow. They just go along.”

Middletown is special walled community that protects the inhabitants from the terrorism and disasters that are happening throughout the world. The whole community works for the same corporation, Chemrose International. As a result, the corporation controls everything that happens in the town. When Max’s class is vaccinated he has to pretend to be a “zombie” too. It is time for the family to leave Middletown but that may prove more difficult than one would expect.

Critical Evaluation:

Catherine Austen has created a multi-dimensional wise-cracking teenager as her protagonist in the dystopian world of All Good Children. A wise choice since young adults are very interested in developing their individuality at this stage. Max’s sarcasm and “tell it like it is” attitude will resonate with readers. These characteristics also infuse some humour into an otherwise stark plot.

Max’s development from a kid who accepts the way his world operates to one who is willing to give up all the nice toys for freedom is realistic. At first, Max is pretty comfortable with his situation. He lives in a safe community that has a good standard of living and the newest technology toys. He knows that he is smart enough to be successful. So, he is okay with the security. He likes that the city is clean and secure.

The novel, told from Max’s point of view, follows his dawning awareness that the New Education Support Treatment is stripping children of their individuality and making them into good workers with no emotions who are willing to do what they are told.

Reader’s Annotation:

In a world with terrorism and disasters, what would you be willing to give up for security?

Information About the Author:

Catherine Austen is an awarding-winning author of children and young adult fiction. All Good Children was her first young adult novel.

Catherine grew up in Kingston, Ontario. She studies political science at Queen’s University and environmental studies at York University. After, she worked in the conservation movement. While a student, she wrote short stories, which she published in small literary journals. She started writing stories for children in 2003 but her first children’s book, Walking Backwards, was published in 2009.

When she became a parent, she decided to become a freelance writer so she could be home with her family.

She currently lives in Aylmer (Gatineau), Quebec. She says she lives in a little house with a big yard (About the author, 2013) with her family.

For more information please visit her website.

Genre:

  • Survival fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • Social Justice
    • Behavior modification in schools
  • English program
    • Companion book to Brave New World

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Austen is a Canadian author who wrote a great book with a theme that is very popular with young adults currently.

Reviews:

  • Wiersema, R. (Ed.). (2011, October). Book review: All good children. Retrieved
  •      May 11, 2013, from Quill & Quire website: http://The Canadian Library
  •      Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award Winner.

Awards:

  • Canadian Library Association Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 2012.
  • The 2012 Sunburst Award (for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic) Young Adult Winner.
  • A YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominee and a YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee.
  • A Forest of Reading 2013 White Pine Nominee.

References:

About the author. (2013). Retrieved 15 March 15, 2013 from http://www.catherineausten.com/contact_author.html

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

three day roadBibliographic Information:

Boyden, J. (2008). Three day road. Toronto: Penguin Canada. (978-0-14-301789-8)

Plot Summary:

Xavier and Elijah are two Cree boys who decide to enlist in the army in World War I. In the War they become snipers because of their hunting background. It is also the story of Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman who refuses to lose the traditions of the past. When Xavier returns from the War, during the three day paddle home, the two characters relate their pasts; Niska to draw Xavier back from the horror of the War and Xavier to find redemption.

Three Day Road is the first of a planned trilogy. Through the Black Spruce won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Critical Evaluation:

Three Day Road is the type of books that can be read on a variety levels. It can be read as conflict of culture – native and European. It can be a book about assimilation or about being true to one’s culture and roots. It can be used as a companion book to All Quiet on the Western Front because of its’ depiction of the human cost of war.

One can also discuss the character development in the novel. The evolution and devolution of the characters of Xavier and Elijah would make a fascinating discussion. The contrast of these two young men who went away to war is marked.

One can also read the novel with a focus on the differences in the voices of Xavier and Niska. Both relate their histories during their three day road. Through the telling of their tales the reader is introduced to the loss of the native culture and the assimilation into the dominant European culture. There is a sadness about this loss and a recognition that a very important part of the people was lost during this time.

Reader’s Annotation:

Two young Cree men leave their community to become snipers in World War I. Three Day Road tells the story of how they change during the War and what comes back after the fighting was done.

Information About the Author:

Joseph Boyden grew up listening to the true stories of his father, a World War II medical doctor. Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He also heard stories about a grandfather and uncle who served in the First World War (Nurse). Joseph’s uncle Erl, lived a more traditional lifestyle with a strong respect from Ojibwa traditions which included making his own clothes and living in a teepee. Erl and his father as well as another native war hero, Francis Pegahmagobow, influence Boyden’s plots and characters (McKay, 2012).

Joseph Boyden was born in 1966 in Willowdale, Ontario. He was a voracious reader as a child who was reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume by volume, by the time he was six. After high school he worked on his creative writing degree at York University and at the University of New Orleans. Now, he teaches Canadian literature and creative writing at the University of New Orleans.

For more information please read Joseph Boyden’s biography. He tells his story much better than I can. http://www.josephboyden.com/bio.htm

Genre:

  • Historical

Curriculum Ties:

  • Canadian History
  • First Nations
  • English – Canadian author

Booktalking Ideas:

  • First Nations and World War I

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Adult

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

The main reason that I included Three Day Road is that it is a beautiful example of Canadian literature and, in my opinion, should be an essential text in Canadian literature collections.

Reviews:

“The characters of Xavier and Niska and, to a slightly lesser extent, Elijah are full to the brim with life – they’re quite satisfying and believable as they are, and need no further stamp of authentication.”

  • Keymer, D. (2005). Three-Day Road. Library Journal, 130(9), 104.

“In straightforward, concrete prose, first novelist Boyden evokes a ghastly poetry of death: “small red flowers bloom…around dead soldiers and their rifles…cover[ing] up the horror before the flowers are pounded into black slime by artillery.” This is an exceptional tale of hell barely survived during World War I. Enthusiastically recommended for public libraries.”

Awards:

  • Nominee for the 2005 Governor General’s Awards.
  • Winner of the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award.
  • Winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for 2005
  • Winner of the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year

References:

McKay, J. (12 Oct. 2008). Archive: Writer in Resident Joseph Boyden Biography. Retrieved from http://writer-in-residence.athabascau.ca/archive/JosephBoyden/bio/

 

Nurse, D.B. (March 2005). Joseph Boyden: Way of the warrior. Retrieved April 3, 2012 from http://www.quillandquire.com/authors/profile.cfm?article_id=6573

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Almost truthBibliographic Information:

Cook, E. (2012). The almost truth. New York: Simon Pulse. (978-1442440197)

Plot Summary:

Sadie has a plan. She has saved her money, filled out the forms, and she is ready to leave Bowton Island and start her real life at the University of California in Berkeley. Or she was, until she finds out that her mother has taken all of her money from her account to pay for her father’s lawyer bills and fix the bathroom.

It had taken a lot of small cons for Sadie to raise the four thousand dollar deposit needed for university. Her waitress job would never bring in enough money on its own.

With one big con, however, she still might be able to live her dream. Luckily, she is a better con artist than her father – and she looks just like an age enhanced computer-generated picture of a long lost heiress.

Critical Evaluation:

From the cover of the book one would think this novel will be a typical romance novel. It is a romance but romance is definitely not the focus of the plot. Cook is an experienced author who knows the importance of developing a character. Sadie is a well-developed character with a few quirks to keep her interesting and a complicated living situation. In the end, the book is really about personal identity and choice.

Like Ally Carter’s successful Heist Society, The Almost Truth’s heroine as is a good girl living a life on the wrong side of the law. Also like Carter’s Heist Society, humor plays an important role in keeping the plot fun and light.

Cook has also created an interesting set of secondary characters from Sadie’s con artist father to her long-time friend and current boyfriend, Brendan who willingly helps her with her cons.

The Almost Truth is a fun read that does not take itself too seriously. In a teenage market filled with dystopias it is a refreshing change.

Reader’s Annotation:

Sadie needs just one big con to change her life forever. All she needs to do is convince everyone she is a long-lost heiress. If she fails, she may end up in a cell by Daddy. The stakes are high and she can’t afford to fail.

Information About the Author:

Eileen Cook is an accomplished writer with several books to her credit including Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. She completed high school and university in Michigan. She has a degree in English and in counseling (Eileen Cook Revealed). Currently, she lives in Vancouver.

For more information please visit Cook’s website.

Genre:

  • Chick lit
  • Romance fiction
  • Mystery fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read the section where Sadie finds out her mother took her money
    • Ask if her mother had the right to do so
  • Create a book list of thieving heroes

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Sadie is a con artist

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I read The Almost Truth for a book committee and thought it was fun and a nice change from the darker themes found in dystopias and the teen problem novels.

Reviews:

References:

Eileen Cook revealed. (n.d.). Retreived from http://authors.simonandschuster.ca/Eileen-Cook/47825204/author_revealed

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

SweetnessBibliographic Information:

Bradley, A. (2009). The sweetness at the bottom of the pie. Toronto: Anchor Canada. (978-0-385-66583-4)

Flavia de Luce series, bk. 1

Plot Summary:

Flavia de Luce is having an interesting day. First, she escapes from being blindfolded and tied up in her closet by her sisters. Then she is present to see the fear on her father’s face when he finds a dead bird with a postage stamp in its’ beak on their doorstep. Later, she overhears her father arguing with a mystery man in his study – only to find this same man dead in their cucumber patch the next morning.

And so, a new detective is born. As she says, “I wish I could say I was afraid but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” But it will not be her last. In her investigations she will search a man’s room, climb a tower, be kidnapped, and of course, perform some chemistry. In the end, will it be enough to save her father from prison or will she find herself sharing the cell beside him?

Critical Evaluation:

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an excellent example of how a character comes from a certain place and time. In this case, Flavia needs to come from a home where she has a great deal of freedom so she can investigate the crime but also so she can do her chemistry experiments. Further, she comes from a world where girls are not expected to be adventurous or interested in worldly matters. Much of the humor of the novel comes from Flavia’s unconventional responses or her reactions to people’s expectations of her. Part of this can be attributed to her age. She is young enough at eleven to still be outspoken and be a hoyden. These behaviors may not have been as believable in a heroine at sixteen, for example.

Flavia’s ongoing spates with her sisters and irrepressible personality add a level of normalcy and humor to her character. As a result her character is Anne of Green Gables meets Sherlock Holmes.

Reader’s Annotation:

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce decides she must solve the murder of the man found in her cucumber patch to save her father from prison.

Information About the Author:

Born in Toronto Ontario in 1938, Alan Bradley has had a long and varied career as a writer, teacher and media technologist. After attending Ryerson University, Bradley worked as a television engineer in Ontario and Saskatoon (Jessop, 2012). Later, he served for 25 years as the Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Bradley has written screenplays and short stories and has taught Script Writing and Television Production Courses at the University of Saskatchewan. He has been involved in the local literary scene. He was the first President of the Saskatoon Writers and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. He is also a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, “a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings” (Author’s bio, 2013)

Alan Bradley was 70 when he wrote the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The story started out as a 15-page excerpt that he had written and submitted to The British Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award, which he won in 2007.

Interestingly, although the novel is set in England, Bradley had not been to England himself until he went to receive his award in 2007. But, he says, he grew up submersed in the English culture through his English grandparents and the English books and magazines he read. He also credits his wife, Shirley, with helping him research the subject (Catto, 2009)


Click here for an interesting conversation between Alan Bradley and Shelagh Rogers about Flavia de Luce and his newest novel, Speaking From Among the Bones.

Genre:

  • Mystery – detective stories
  • Historical fiction
  • Crossover

Curriculum Ties:

  • Chemistry
  • English
    • Mystery novels
    • Character development

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read from page 11 as Flavia adds poison ivy oil to her sister’s lipstick
    • Talk about pranks between siblings
  • Read from page 24 when she eavesdrops on her father to finding the dead man

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

I do not read detective stories very often but this series has received a lot of press lately. I heard an interview with Alan Bradley a few weeks ago and decided to read it. It was funny, smart, and had a good mystery.

Reviews:

Coon, J. (2009). The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Booklist, 105(17), 35. (star review)

 “Only those who dislike precocious young heroines with extraordinary vocabulary and audacious courage can fail to like this amazingly entertaining book.”

Goldsmith, F. (2009). The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. School Library Journal, 55(5), 140.

“Flavia is brave and true and hilarious, and the murder mystery is clever and satisfying.

The sweetness at the bottom of the pie. (2009). Kirkus Reviews, 77(5), 49.

Brilliant, irresistible and incorrigible, Flavia has a long future ahead of her. Bradley’s mystery debut is a standout chock full of the intellectual asides so beloved by Jonathan Gash readers. It might even send budding sleuths to chemistry classes.

Awards:

  • 2007 Debut Dagger Award
  • 2009 Agatha Award, Best First Novel
  • 2010 Amelia Bloomer List, Young Adult Fiction
  • 2010 Alex Award nominee
  • 2010 Arthur Ellis Awards, Best First Novel
  • Macavity Awards, Best First Mystery Novel
  • 2010 Best Books for Young Adults

References:

Author’s bio.(2013) Retrieved from http://www.flaviadeluce.com/view-authors-bio/

Catto, S. (2009). Alan Bradley: The old/new face of fiction. Quill & Quire. Retrieved from http://www.quillandquire.com/authors/profile.cfm?article_id=10492

Jessop, P. (2012). Alan Bradley. In The Canadian encyclopedia. Retrieved from

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/alan-bradley

The Nobody by Jeff Lemire

nobodyBibliographic Information:

Lemire, J., & Wells, H. G. (2009). The nobody. New York: Vertigo. (978-1-4012-2081-5)

Plot Summary:

John Griffen comes to Large Mouth looking for a place to hide while he tries to reverse the side effects of an experiment that led to the death of his wife. His attempts to disappear from his old life and blend into his new are complicated by a teenage girl who is also feeling lost and the suspicious townspeople who have decided that he must be hiding something more sinister than some scars.

Critical Evaluation:

Lemire has successfully blended the graphic elements with the sparse text to create a moody and tragic tale. Loosely based on the H.G. Well’s classic of the same name, Lermire has taken the elements of the original and has woven in a theme of losing one’s identity; how does a person become invisible?

The bleak theme is represented in the black and white panels. Blue and white are used with the scenes depicting Griffen’s flashbacks with softer lines and shading to give these scenes a dream-like quality. Otherwise, the use of blue makes the images colder and more distant.
Reader’s Annotation:

When a mysterious man moves into the small town of Large Mouth, Vickie’s life changed forever when she decides to learn his secrets.

jeff%20lemireInformation About the Author:

Jeff Lemire is a Canadian cartoonist who has won a number of awards. In 2008 he won the Schuster Award for Best Canadian Cartoonist and The Dough Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent. He also won ALA’s Alex Award in 2008 for Essex’s County and has been nominated for an Eisner Award. In 2010 Essex County was named as one of the five Essential Canadian Novels on the Decade.

Lemire is the creator of the monthly comic book series, Sweet Tooth (see the official Sweet Tooth blog).

Jeff Lemire was born in Woodslee Ontario on March 21, 1976. Although he took art classes in high school, he really is a self-taught graphic artist.

http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/jeff-lemire

Genre:

  • Graphic novels
  • Science fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Themes of prejudice or self-awareness
    • Adaptations H.G. Wells or accumulative nature of literature
    • Visual impact in graphic novels

Booktalk Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this book?:

Reviews:

  • The Nobody. (2009). Kirkus Reviews, 77(10), 28.
  • Abbott, A. (2009). The Nobody. School Library Journal, 55(11), 139.
  • Olson, R. (2009). The Nobody. Booklist, 105(17), 71.

References:

Jeff Lemire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001JP1PJ0

Jeff Lemire. (2013) Retrieved from http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/jeff-lemire

Jeff Lemire’s blog (2013). Retrieved from http://jefflemire.blogspot.ca/

Moran, R. J. (2012). Jeff Lemire. In Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/jeff-lemire

Hurricane Heat by Steven Barwin

hurricane heat

Barwin, S. (2013). Hurricane heat. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers.

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Travis Barkley has been separated from his sister, Amanda, since their parents’ death five years earlier. After the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, Amanda’s family moved from Arizona to California. At that point, the siblings lost contact with each other. Now, Travis is sure that Amanda was the one who sent him a blank postcard of Hermosa Beach Pier, and he decides he needs to find her. So, when school ends, with the blessing of his foster parents, Travis moves to Hermosa for the summer to try to track her down.

While searching for Amanda, Travis meets Ethan who encourages him to try out for his baseball team, the Hurricanes. Although Travis hasn’t played baseball since the death of his parents, his natural talent and love for the game become evident to the coach. Soon the possibility of scouts recruiting him and the dream of scholarships begin to conflict with his original focus of finding his sister.

Critical Evaluation:

Orca Books is a Canadian publisher that focuses on materials for the reluctant reader. The Orca Sports series are very popular with this population because the novels are short and full of action. The use of a sports theme can help to draw the reader to the book while the use of action, mystery and adventure keep the reader engaged.

Equally important, in Hurricane Heat, the main character is an older teen who is living on his own. Reluctant teen readers may need a book whose vocabulary is at a lower level but they still want to read about characters who they can relate to; age is an important factor in their willingness to read a book.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Travis receives a blank postcard, he knows that the sister he was separated from five years earlier is trying to contact him. Now he has to decide what is more important; finding her or his shot at the Big Leagues.

Information About the Author:

Steven Barwin is a Canadian who focuses on writing sports themed books because, simply, he loves sports.  Barwin says he always wanted to be a writer and started writing his own stories when he was in eighth grade. He went to Ryerson’s TV program and became a writing intern at CBC’s Royal Canadian Airfarce.

He was a reluctant reader as a child and, as a teacher, Barwin learned the importance of having books for reluctant readers. He indicates that he writes his sport books “like I write my scripts – filled with snappy dialogue and visuals that jump off the page” (“About – Steven Barwin”).

For more information, please visit Barwin’s site at http://www.stevenbarwin.com/

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports
  • Hi/Lo – Reluctant Readers

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Use the postcard to initiate the mystery.
  • Include in a baseball-themed booklist.
  • Include in a mystery booklist.

Hurricane Heat book trailer

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Interest level 12-18
  • Fry Reading level 3.3

Challenge Issues:

N/A

Why did you include this book?:

  • I reviewed this title originally for CM Magazine. I decided to include it because I felt that it is important to have hi/lo books represented.
  • Barwin is a well-known Canadian author.
  • Orca is an excellent source of resources for reluctant readers.

Review:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

seraphina Bibliographic information

Hartman, R. (2012). Seraphina. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (978-0-385-66839-2)

Plot summary

Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh is a gifted musician who has just recently found a place in the royal court as a new assistant to the court composer. Her love of music encouraged her to defy her father and come to court even though she had been taught to blend in and hide since childhood as her mere existence is considered an aberration to both sides of her parentage. Her mother was a saarantrai; a dragon in human form. It wasn’t until her death and Seraphina’s birth that her father learned that the woman he loved wasn’t really a human.

Seraphina’s musical talents draw her into the inner circle of the Princess  Glisselda and her fiancé, Prince Lucien Kiggs. As Seraphina’s knowledge about dragons becomes known, she finds herself in the unique position of helping Kiggs, who is also Captain of the Queen’s Guard, try to solve a mysterious murder. She has come into the world of court at a time of high drama; it appears that Prince Rufus was killed by a dragon just before Ardmagar Comonot, the dragon’s leader, arrives to celebrate the anniversary of a treaty between their two nations. Someone is trying to destroy that peace treaty and Seraphina may hold the key to peace – or to war. But the more time she spends with the observant Captain, the closer he gets to learning her terrible secret.

Critical evaluation

Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina, received a number of richly deserved accolades including the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel and the Cybils Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction. Seraphina was also a finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada), short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK), and long-listed for the Carnegie Medal (“Seraphina”).

Hartman’s tightly spun plot tells the story of the musically talented Seraphina. Told through Seraphina’s voice, the reader is first introduced to a scared young woman afraid to be noticed. As the plot develops, however, Seraphina’s character is shown to be increasingly complex as the reader is given glimpses of the depth of her confusion and self-loathing about her dragon heritage as she relates memories of her childhood. This coming-of-age story follows a remarkable heroine on her road to self-acceptance.

The kingdom of Goredd has the flavour of the Italian Renaissance with the rich interest in the arts, opulent dress, and focus on politics. Indeed, Hartman has aptly developed two cultures; one based on humanism focusing on creativity, art and emotion and the other based on the founding ideals of the Enlightenment with its focus the intellect, reason, and objectivity. These two ideals are embodied in the character of Seraphina who, being half dragon and half human, is struggling to accept herself as something more than the monster that both societies view her as.

Reader’s annotation

Seraphina’s gift of music came from her dragon heritage. But, when a dragon becomes the main suspect in a royal murder, that closely guarded secret could undermine her growing relationship with Prince Lucien Kiggs, destroy her family and, perhaps, throw the kingdom into war.

Information about the author

According to her website, http://rachelhartmanbooks.com , Rachel was born in Kentucky. She has lived throughout the United States, England, and Japan and currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She has a BA in Comparative Literature but “eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books.”

Challenge issues:

  • none

Seraphina is her first novel.

Genre: Fantasy fiction, subgenre: animal

Curriculum ties: none

Booktalking ideas:

  • Read the section where Seraphina is describing her garden
  • Internal struggle for identity
  • Conflict of the rational vs emotion
  • Use of music as a plot device
  • Fear of the “other”
  • Book trailer

Reading level/interest:

  • 15 and up
  • Grade level 4.6

Why did you include this title?:

  • Canadian author
  • Winner of the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel, Cybils Award,Finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada),Short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK),Long-listed for the Carnegie Medal
  • Received starred reviews from Horn Book, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Rebel Heart

Bibliographic Information:

Young, M. (2012). Rebel Heart. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (9978-0-385-67186-6)

Dust Lands bk. 2

Plot Summary:

Rebel Heart, the second book in the Dust Lands series, follows Saba and her family’s attempt to move on from the deception and destruction sown in Blood Red Road. Lugh wants nothing more than to take their small family and start a new life at the Big Water. He wants to forget his time with the Tonton and all the misery they have lived through.

Saba, however, is being followed by too many ghosts to allow her to find peace. When a message comes from Jack, she decides to risk everything to find him and get him away from the Tonton. While hunting for Jack, Saba is reunited with another of her nightmares, DeMalo.

Critical Evaluation:

First person narrative is a common motif in young adult literature. This narrative mode has many benefits to an author. First, the immediacy of the telling can quickly draw a reader into the plot. It also a great way for an author to control the information the reader is receiving as the narrator’s understanding is limited to, and shaped by, his own experience and what he has been told. Young uses this technique to demonstrate the duality that exists in Saba’s character: she is strong and determined but vulnerable and filled with guilt.

Through allowing Saba to tell her own story, Young depicts the typical flawed hero often associated with high fantasy plots. Young’s post-apocalyptic setting provides a contemporary feeling to the typical hero’s quest. In this, the Dust Land series follows a current trend of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels starring strong female protagonists which includes The Hunger Games, Legend, Shatter Me, and Divergent.

Saba has many similarities to the female protagonists in the books listed above. One of the main differences is her voice. Young’s future is one where literacy is limited; where the very language is decaying. As a result, Saba’s dialect is filled with misspelled words, contractions, and grammatically incorrect sentences. The result is jarring and uncomfortable to a reader used to novels following the rules and conventions of English – which is the point. This devolution of language is echoed in the harsh, barren landscape where Saba lives.

Reader’s Annotation:

Saba, now known as the “Angel of Death,” has successfully rescued her brother Lugh but at what cost? The sacrifices made have marked her and her brother. When a message comes from Jack, she knows she must risk going to New Eden to rescue him but New Eden has some more surprises for her – who is Jack really working for and what does she really want? Maybe there is a place for her in creating this brave new world – maybe she does not have to be its’ destroyer.

Information About the Author:

Although Moira Young was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, she graduated from high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After completing a history degree at the University of British Columbia, Moira attended the The Drama Studio in London, England. She had a short-lived career in theatre as both an actor and dancer. After retraining, she continued her stage career as an opera singer (“Moira Young”).

Blood Red Road was her first book.

Young was an avid reader in her youth. Explaining she said, “I was hungry for books, I devoured them. Libraries provided boundless food for my imagination, shelves full of ideas and thoughts and possibilities. I’d quite like to be buried in a library, there among the stacks” (“Moira Young: About the Author”).

Genre:

  • Dystopian
  • Post-apocalyptic
  • Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – voice, hero tale
  • Companion book for dystopian unit

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read-alikes for The Hunger Games
  • Girls kick butt too
  • Unique narrative voices

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Lexile Level: HL420L

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Sex

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I chose to include Rebel Heart for the following reasons:

  • Blood Red Road won the Costa Children’s Book Award, was a Cyblis Award Winner for fantasy and science fiction. Rebel Heart received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
  • Moira Young is a Canadian author with a Winnipeg connection.
  • Dystopian literature is very popular right now.