Friday, 31 March 2017

And Then It Happened
And Then It Happened

By M & L Wade

“…After dinner that evening, we had a large bonfire and the Head Counsellor read us some really hokey, kiddie stories… until Gordon interrupted and asked if he could tell a story.

The Head Counsellor smiled and said, ‘Sure, go right ahead.’

I chuckled quietly to myself. The Head Counsellor did not know Gordon like we did.

Clearing his throat, Gordon stood up and said in a loud voice, ‘This is the story of the bear and the rabbit.’  The Head Counsellor looked pleased. ‘One day,’ continued Gordon, ‘a bear and a rabbit were walking in the woods.  Suddenly, they both had to go to the bathroom.’ The Head counsellor’s smile disappeared. ‘After they had both gone to the bathroom, the bear asked the rabbit, ‘Do you have a problem with poo sticking to your fur?’ ‘Not at all,’ replied the rabbit.  ‘Good,’ said the bear, and he grabbed the rabbit and wiped his butt with him!’ 

Laughter and howling erupted around the campfire.  Kids cheered and yelled, ‘More! More!’  The Head Counsellor, however, was furious and sent all us campers to bed early, which was fine by us.” ( Book One, p. 24-25)

And Then It Happened is a series of stories involving a boy and his two friends, Paulo and Gordon.  The boys are off on adventures ranging from leaving dead birds on their elderly neighbour’s lawn, to causing an egg fight at school, to saving their favourite turkey, Spot, from being Thanksgiving dinner.  Each story is more hilarious than the next!  

Boys will love reading about the antics of other boys who are known for wreaking havoc!  There are 11 books in the And Then It Happened series, which will appeal to both avid and reluctant readers.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Skeleton Tree

The Skeleton Tree
The Skeleton Tree
By Iain Lawrence

I’ve already mentioned that I love survival stories and this one is no exception.

Twelve-year-old Chris doesn’t know much about the outdoors.  His parents never taught him to fish or hunt or survive in the wild.  He’s scared of wild animals and downright terrified of mountain climbing.

Chris’s dad, who was always away on business trips, has just passed away.  Then, Chris’s Uncle Jack invites him to leave his home in Vancouver and join him on a sailing trip down the coast of Alaska.  Chris’s mom is nervous about the trip but lets him go anyway.

Chris arrives on the sailboat and, to his surprise, there is another boy there.  Frank is a few years older than Chris and obviously hates him.  But despite the awkward situation, Chris, Frank and Uncle Jack set sail.

Only hours into the trip, the sailboat is ravaged by an unexpected storm.  Chris and Frank escape to the lifeboat but Jack doesn’t make it.  After floating along for hours, the two boys finally make landfall on a deserted stretch of beach, forest and mountain in the wilds of Alaska.

Frank is a bully who constantly refers to Chris as “moron”.  But Frank knows how to fish and build fires.  The two boys find a deserted cabin (more like a shack) in the woods and make it their temporary home.

Chris also makes an unusual friend.  A raven starts hanging around the cabin and Chris adopts him as a pet, giving him the name “Thursday”.  Thursday gives Chris the affection he craves, but of course, Frank hates the raven too.

Time wears on and hope of rescue fades.  Chris and Frank must contend with some vicious animals, a shortage of food, and impending winter.  But they evolve along the way.  Chris overcomes many of his fears as he learns how to navigate the wilderness.  Chris and Frank also discover that they have some common ground, and an unexpected closeness blooms between the boys.

Ultimately, both boys only want to return to their homes and families.  But will they ever be rescued?  How long can they possibly survive?

Winner of the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize for 2017, The Skeleton Tree is a riveting tale of two children who, against all odds, conquer their fears and learn to rely on each other.  

Highly recommended.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Jungle Jitters

Jungle Jitters
Jungle Jitters
By Lisa Dalrymple

This post was originally published in Canadian Materials, Volume XXIII, Number 23, February 24, 2017

Tate, aka the Potato, is known as a pretty boring kid. Nonetheless, when he and some of his grade six classmates get the opportunity to travel to the Amazon with their teacher to help build a school, he jumps at the chance.

Tate’s friends, Dre and Noelle, don’t seem nearly as freaked out as he is by the jaguars, tarantulas, snakes and caimans that lurk in the Amazon. Why does he have to be so scared of everything anyway? To make things worse, Maria and Oscar, kids living at the lodge where Tate and friends are staying, tell them the story of El Tunchi, an evil Amazonian spirit that haunts those who destroy plant or animal life in the jungle and then drags them off.

Meanwhile, Tate’s possessions start to go missing, and he eventually finds a rather threatening photo of a snake on his bed. Tate fears that his mishap involving dripping paint on a frog in the jungle has made him a target of El Tunchi.

As the tension builds, Tate becomes more and more fearful of the jungle inhabitants, both real and unreal. But his trip to the Amazon teaches him that he has the courage to face his own fears. When another child finds himself in danger, Tate knows he must act. And his own bravery surprises him.

Although the idea that a small group of children would travel to the Amazon with their teacher is a little far-fetched, the story, itself, is interesting enough that readers will soon suspend their disbelief. Each chapter ends on a suspenseful note, making readers want to read on. The hint of grade six romance will appeal to some maturing readers as well.

Jungle Jitters is suitable for grades 4-7 and is especially appropriate for the reluctant reader in grades 6 and 7. Jungle Jitters is short and easy to read but lots of fun.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Thickety: A Path Begins

The Thickety
The Thickety: A Path Begins
By J.A. White

Kara Westfall is a witch – at least that’s what the townsfolk keep telling her.  Her mother was a witch too, although Kara doesn’t remember any magic or spells.  She does remember a loving mother whom she misses very much.  

Kara’s mother’s legacy and reputation as a witch keeps Kara an outcast as she grows into her teenage years.  Her father can barely function since Kara’s mother died, so Kara runs the household.  She is the primary caregiver for Taff, her younger brother – and she would do anything to keep him safe.

The Westfalls live on an island and all the residents keep themselves separate from the rest of the world.  At the edge of the island lies the Thickety, a dense forest that constantly encroaches on “civilized” territory.  The islanders fear the Thickety, and its evil magic.

Although Kara must contend with disdain from all the villagers, her most vicious enemy is Grace Stone.  Grace is beloved by the people of the town, but Kara knows her for who she truly is: a bully who will do anything for power.

When Kara finds her mother’s grimoire, or spellbook, she learns that she is indeed capable of casting spells.  Her spells usually involve commanding the animals around her to do her bidding.  Kara has no evil intention, but she starts to become obsessed with magic... and her grimoire.  She can’t let anyone find it or take it from her.

Then the unthinkable happens: Grace finds the grimoire.  And both Kara and Grace uncover a terrible secret -- Grace is a witch too.  Her ability to cast spells and her quest for power brings evil to the town.  Only Kara can save the villagers who have always cast her out.

First in a series of four books, The Thickety is written like a fairy tale.  It’s full of witches, spells and magic, as well as righteous folks who fear that magic and feel they must drive it from the island.  If you love this kind of fantasy story, immerse yourself in The Thickety!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Mark of the Plague

Mark of the Plague
Mark of the Plague
By Kevin Sands

This follow up to the wildly popular Blackthorn Key is equally good.  Christopher Rowe is back, but his master is dead.  Although the apothecary shop has been left to him, he is still an apprentice and therefore not allowed to sell his wares.  He is in dire straits without a source of income.  But worse than that, a deadly plague is sweeping the city, and no one is safe.

Enter the prophet Melchior.  He appears to have the ability to predict who will die next, and as such, he gains a significant following.  Christopher fears him, but also questions his abilities.  After all, how can a mortal man predict the course of disease and death?

Then there’s the apothecary Galen, who seems to have discovered a cure.  Unlike the money-grubbing quacks who have claimed to heal people time and again, Galen proves that his cure actually works and is quickly hired to save the city.

Christopher has his doubts about both of these men.  With the help of his friends Tom and Sally, Christopher begins an investigation.  The discoveries of these three children are shocking and terrifying, and lead all of them into a criminal conspiracy that could cost them their lives.

Mark of the Plague weaves the history of 1660s London into a suspenseful mystery.  Once you start, you can’t put it down!