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This article was published 9/12/2011 (3001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canadian Jingle Bells and The Night Before a Canadian Christmas
AUSTRALIAN-BORN B.C. resident Troy Townsin is excited about Canada, and in these two Christmas-themed picture books he celebrates the culture and diversity of our native land.
In Canadian Jingle Bells, some of the rhymes are a bit forced and the lines don't always scan, but he manages to work in a multitude of Canadian icons, from B.C. ferries and northern lights to polar bears in Manitoba and the Bluenose II in Nova Scotia.
Jennifer Harrington, a B.C. native living in Toronto, has added big and splashy artwork in both titles.
Townsin has borrowed shamelessly from American Clement Moore's Christmas classic to create his Canadian version. Santa wears a Cowichan sweater, a red tuque and drinks a double-double. His sled is pulled by beavers with names such as Gretzky and Trudeau, and for a present mom gets a Hudson Bay blanket and dad tire chains. You get the picture.
A Christmas Dollhouse
SET in the 1930s, this traditional story centres on a little girl who yearns for a beautiful dollhouse at the local drugstore. It's being auctioned off with tickets, only she doesn't have money to spend at the store. Predictably, Christmas Eve brings a welcome surprise to their home.
Rudnicki is an artist living in Halifax and his full-page paintings in this book are exceptionally fine. For ages 4-8.
There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen
THIS is a new release of one of Maritime author Sheree Fitch's most popular books. Fitch is famous for her wild and wonderful rhymes and her use of evocative language.
Children will love to follow along with "It's a National, irrational, primordial disaster" or "There were monkeys in my kitchen/They were climbing up the walls/ They were dancing on the ceiling/They were bouncing basketballs."
Sydney Smith's paintings give an added oomph to the poetry. They are big, bright and appealing.
My Goat Gertrude
WHEN dad says he's bringing home something big and white that will help around the house, mom is expecting a clothes dryer, but Gertrude the Goat arrives instead.
Gertrude quickly becomes a family favourite and helps two little girls learn to get along together. Starr Dodson is a TV journalist in Halifax, while Dayle Dodwell, whose illustrations are extra large and extra colourful, lives in Bedford, N.S.
The Orphan and the Polar Bear
PART of a series on traditional Inuit legends, this volume is about a revered elder from the community of Arctic Bay, Nunavut. He tells a tale of an abandoned orphan who is befriended by a huge polar bear who can transform himself into a man. From the bear-man, he learns the skills he needs to hunt and to defend himself in the Arctic.
The illustrations are exceptional paintings by an artist who makes her home in Cork, Ireland. Other titles in this series include A Walk on the Tundra, The Shadows That Rush Past, Kaujagjuk and The Qalupauk.
A House in the Woods
ENGLISH author and artist Inga Moore makes this large picture book extra special with her full-page dreamy illustrations.
When two little pigs decide to move in with Moose and Bear, they need a much bigger house. Beaver comes to the rescue and after a few days of tree-felling, building and furnishing (all for only peanut butter sandwiches) they're ready to move in.
The Time Time Stopped
FORMER Winnipegger Don Gillmor is an author and journalist living in Toronto. In this little paperback, he plays with all the clichés about time: time flies, time on his hands, the end of time, wasting time, killing time, etc.
When nine-year-old Tristan wishes Time was dead, it suddenly stops. The Time Keeper has decided to turn off the Time Machine. Tristan and his 12-year-old sister, Bella, set out to try to find the Time Keeper to get it back.
Some of Gillmor's humour may be appreciated more by adults than young readers but his scenes at Tristan's school and with Bella will ring true.
The White Ballets
WOULD-BE ballerinas or anyone who loves dance will enjoy this large and lavish retelling of Swan Lake, Giselle and La Bayadere, all ballets in the "ballet blanc" tradition.
Kupesic is a former dancer, born in Europe but now living in Toronto, who recounts the stories of the ballets with graceful prose. There is a full-page illustration for each ballet and additional information in the end notes.
The Midnight Zoo
AUSTRALIAN Sonya Hartnett has written a moving story about three young Gypsy children who are forced to flee their home during the Second World War. They stumble upon a deserted zoo, where the animals have been abandoned.
In a tale that is part myth, part philosophy and partly about loyalty, love and compassion, the children communicate with the animals to seek a solution to their predicament.
Hartnett is an exceptional writer. Lines such as "The feather-footed approach of Dawn" or "Dew gathered on the bars of the cages, and the kangaroo licked it up" make this a pleasure to read.
A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War
WHEN the Americans pull out of Saigon in April 1975, many babies are rescued from the orphanage where eight-year-old Tuyet has lived for years. The orphanage is to be abandoned and the children left alone.
But Tuyet had polio and walks with a limp; she doesn't expect to be chosen to go to a foreign country.
Ontario-based Skrypuch, who has written a number of award-winning books for young people, tells the true story of how this little girl is transported to Toronto and finds a loving home with a Canadian family. She makes us feel Tuyet's fears, confusion and loneliness as she adjusts to her new home. Her book uses actual photographs of Tuyet and her family.
WHAT if you could simply look at an old picture and be transported back into the past? That's the premise of Regina author Alison Lohans' novel about a young girl, unhappy in her present life, who finds herself back in 1931.
She realizes that the farm family she has landed up in are her own relatives, in an earlier generation. Alyssa manages to help both her own family and her earlier one through her unexpected visits.
In the Sea There are Crocodiles
BASED on a true story, this is an inspirational tale of an Afghani boy's five-year journey from Pakistan to Italy. Enaiat, as he is called, is of the Hazara tribe, which faces persecution by the Taliban, who are Pashtun. After the Taliban close his school and shoot his teacher, Enaiat's mother smuggles him out of Afghanistan before he can be forced to work for the Taliban.
Before she leaves him to go back to her other children, Enaiat's mother asks him to promise he will avoid three things: drugs, weapons and dishonesty.
Enaiat is resourceful, courageous and intelligent. His journey takes him across Iran, Turkey and Greece before he reaches Italy and is able to claim asylum. He faces and overcomes incredible hardships and dangers but eventually meets Fabio Geda, an Italian novelist who has written Enaiat's story, originally in Italian but here translated by Howard Curtis.
The Winter Pony
HORSE fanciers or any reader with a love of adventure and a yearning for the impossible quest will enjoy this novel by veteran author Iain Lawrence. Using historical records, Lawrence tells of Robert Scott's failed but heroic attempt to be first to reach the South Pole.
The account is told from the viewpoint of James Pegg, who was a hardy Manchurian pony brought by Scott from China with other horses in the hopes they could withstand the cold of Antarctica.
As they battle killer whales around the sea ice, bottomless crevices on land, terrible cold and chest deep snow, the ponies sense the growing desperation of the men. Yet they remain obsessed to reach the pole.
ADULT crime novelist Kathy Reichs of Charlotte, N.C., ventured into the young adult genre with the novel Virals. Seizure is the second novel in this series and will appeal to teens who loved the Twilight novels.
Tory Brennan (niece of Reich's adult heroine Temperance Brennan) and her friends live on Loggerhead Island, a wildlife preserve off the coast of North Carolina, where their fathers are employed in scientific research.
They have been accidentally infected by a wolf virus, which allows them to have superior strength, sight, smell and hearing when they "flare" or turn on the power. When federal funding threatens to be cut off and the wildlife preserve destroyed, along with the wolf pack on the island, Tory and her friends seek to raise money to save it and their fathers' jobs.
The plot also involves buried treasure, plenty of blood and gore, contemporary references, good dialogue, suspense and excitement.
Helen Norrie has taught children's literature at the University of Manitoba.
Updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 8:42 AM CST: formats text, rearranges pictures