Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Children's Books: B.C writer makes his pug a celebrity

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Animal lovers and anyone who enjoys short, humorous anecdotes will like Adventures with Ollie (Oolichan Books, 204 pages, $20 hardcover) by Victoria journalist Adrian Chamberlain.

Ollie is a dog or, more specifically, a pug, one of those short, stout, pushed-in-nose type of dogs that look a bit like the former Winston Churchill. Chamberlain, who worked at the Winnipeg Free Press in the 1980s, amuses his readers with a series of short episodes in Ollie's life.

It seems that despite a pug's drawbacks (they are hard to train, they shed excessively and snore), they elicit extreme love and loyalty from their owners. They are friendly, loving, devoted and cute (if you believe Chamberlain).

Chamberlain's chapters are like short newspaper columns, predictably since he is a columnist with the Victoria Times-Colonist. Ollie, it seems, has become something of a celebrity in Victoria, and perhaps with this book he will become a celebrity in the rest of Canada as well.

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PEN International has worked since 1960 to help writers who have been wrongfully imprisoned by encouraging their members to send letters to the prisoners and to their captors urging their release.

The Stamp Collector by Toronto author Jennifer Lanthier (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 32 pages, $19 hardcover) is a picture book that tells the story of two young boys in an unnamed totalitarian country. One grows up to be a jailed writer who receives letters from sympathizers all over the world, and the other becomes a prison guard who is inspired by the beautiful stamps on the letters to listen to the stories the writer can tell.

While written for children ages six to 10, the book raises issues that will resonate with all ages: loss of freedom, political oppression, the power of stories. Illustrations by Montreal artist Francois Thisdale show sensitivity and competency in beautiful images that still manage to convey a feeling of apprehension.

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Jason is a nine-year-old who has been labelled "a problem" by his school and his mother. When his mother asks he be placed in a group home, he can't understand why he is being sent away.

Jason's Why by Saskatoon author Beth Goobie (Red Deer Press, 78 pages, $9 paperback) clearly reveals Jason's misery and fears. This is a short novel narrated in the first person and aimed at six- to 10-year-olds.

Jason learns how regular rules with strict but fair and non-violent enforcement can help him contain his periods of rage and violence. He also realizes that his mother loves him despite her moods and periods of anger but is overwhelmed with coping as a single parent.

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Mystery lovers aged nine to 12 will enjoy Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House by Charlottetown author Patti Larsen (Acorn Press, 166 pages, $12 paperback). When Chloe Sutton's parents are killed in a car accident outside Ottawa, she is sent to live with her aunt in Prince Edward Island. She finds the old house she lives in has a secret: the ghost of a boy who lived and died there in 1941.

As Chloe unravels the mystery of the boy's death, she realizes it relates to her own feelings of guilt over her parents' accident. Can she release the ghost boy from his anguish and lose her own regrets at the same time?

Larsen has written a series of young adult novels called The Hunted, as well as the Hayle Coven novels featuring paranormal adventures for teens.

Winnipegger Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian. Her column appears on the third weekend of the month.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 J9

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