CHILDREN’S BOOKS: Quartet of new books by local writers clear sign literary arts, artists thriving


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A recent article in the Free Press reported that many Winnipeg visual artists are doing well and making a living. If today's sampling of books by local writers is any example then the literary arts aren't far behind.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/04/2010 (4722 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A recent article in the Free Press reported that many Winnipeg visual artists are doing well and making a living. If today’s sampling of books by local writers is any example then the literary arts aren’t far behind.

Best known of the Winnipeg authors are Carol Matas and Perry Nodelman, whose third novel in their Ghosthunters trilogy, The Hunt for the Haunted Elephant (Key Porter, 267 pages, $13 paperback), is aimed at ages 9-12.

Molly and Adam Barnett travel to the family home in Oxford, England, but so does the ghost of Adam’s grandfather, that of the vindictive former servant, Lucinda, and a host of other spirits.

This time Molly and Adam are not only trying to erase the curse on males in their family but to save the world from destruction as millions of ghosts replace living persons.

While the setting is refreshingly different, Matas and Nodelman approach the farcical, as Henry VIII battles with Anne Boleyn and ghosts move in and out of their bodies. This book might be popular with 8-10-year-olds, but older readers could find it absurd.

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Maureen Fergus has chosen an unusual hero for her latest novel, Ortega (Kids Can Press, 224 pages, $19), aimed at 9-12-year-olds.

Ortega is a young gorilla who has been raised as a boy. His vocal chords have been enhanced so he can speak normally and scientists have decided to enrol him in school.

While Ortega is willing to try to fit into a class of 11-year-olds, not all the students are willing to accept a gorilla in their class. Fergus does a great job of making this situation seem convincing.

Ortega is funny, articulate and achingly vulnerable. Fergus teaches an important lesson about accepting differences, while writing an innovative and appealing story.

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Gabriele Goldstone has chosen the gritty details of her ancestors’ imprisonment in Stalinist Russia as the subject of her first young-adult novel, The Kulak’s Daughter (Blooming Tree Press, 208 pages, $9 paperback).

When Josef Stalin determined to distribute land to Russian peasants, two million kulaks, or owner/farmers, had to be relocated.

Olga is the oldest of a family five children who, with their mother, are evicted from their farm in 1930 and sent to a camp in Siberia without proper clothing, food or medicine.

While Olga’s initiative eventually leads to the survivors’ release, her experiences don’t always make for pleasant reading. However, Goldstone tells a compelling story, stronger because it is based on true history. Aimed at ages 12 and up.

— — —

In non-fiction, registered nurse and university professor Anne Katz has written an almost definitive how-to book for young girls, illustrated by Whitehorse artist Monica Melnychuk, Girl in the Know: Your Inside-and-Outside Guide to Growing Up (Kids Can Press, 112 pages, $19 hardcover).

Katz covers everything from bodily changes to emotional and intellectual maturation. Besides dispensing advice on nutrition, exercise and relationships, she even touches on the subject of tattoos and body piercing.

The one subject she avoids is sexual relations, and while it’s not hard to understand why (it might strike the book off some school’s or parents’ wish list), without it the book seems incomplete. She could have given, without using explicit details, some cautionary advice to the pre-teens for whom the book is written.

Winnipeg children literature specialist Helen Norrie’s column appears on the third weekend of the month.

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