January 29, 2016

Undercover reporter

Reporter in Disguise: The Intrepid Vic Steinberg
by Christine Welldon

Vic Steinberg was a columnist for the Toronto News in the 1890s. She wrote about life as a fortune teller, bookseller, factory girl, servant girl, or shopgirl. She often donned disguises to gain access to men-only settings like rugby games and taverns. Her stories were often one-sided and provocative, but her readers were delighted. Apart from that, not much is known about her personal life; not her real name, nor even what she looked like. Nevertheless, Welldon has written an interesting story with recreated dialogue to liven things up. Too bad the small type size and small pictures will turn off some young readers. Those who are more tenacious should find it rewarding.

January 27, 2016

Journalists make a difference

Fearless Female Journalists
by Joy Crysdale

In this book, Joy Crysdale profiles ten female journalists who have changed the world. These are women who have bucked stereotypes to fight slavery, expand women's rights, and expose atrocities. They also entertained and inspired readers and viewers. Their personal stories reveal how they began their careers and what they did to succeed. Plus, the book helps explain what journalism is and why it is so important.

A very good book that's well-written and an easy read.

January 25, 2016

The best reporter in America

Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly
by Sue Macy

A woman's mission in life is to be a helpmate to a man.

So wrote Erasmus Wilson of the Pittsburg (sic) Dispatch in 1885. His views didn't sit well with twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Cochran, who wrote an angry letter to the editor. Having witnessed her mother in financial difficulties, Elizabeth argued that women needed opportunities to earn a living. Her passion led to a career as a female reporter under the byline Nellie Bly

Nellie used her newspaper columns to advocate for the rights of working women, expose the conditions inside a psychiatric hospital, and even criticize the government of Mexico. But what she's most famous for is her trip around the world in 72 days. No one thought she could do it; she'd need a chaperone and lots of luggage. Nellie not only travelled  alone, she only used two small satchels!

Nellie comes alive in this excellent biography by Sue Macy. She really captures the tenor of the times and Nellie's independent spirit.

Highly recommended.

January 22, 2016

Fun science

Silly Science: Strange and Startling Projects to Amaze Your Family and Friends
by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone

Growing plants in bottles, turning sponges into fossils, and making electric pencils are just some of the 28 experiments in this introductory science book. Kids and adults will have lots of fun, and they'll learn about scientific principles too. A brief "what happened" section summarizes each finding.

Good for rainy weekends.

January 20, 2016

Scary science

Scary Science: 25 Creepy Experiments
by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone
illustrations by Ashley Spires

Kids will get a kick out of the gross and scary experiments that will allow them to make shrunken heads, festering ooze, zombie food, alien barf, bouncing eyes, and vampire bites. Most of the materials can easily be found in most homes so kids can get started right away. A good book for Halloween, this is a fun way to get interested in science.

Adult supervision required.

January 18, 2016

Science hones hockey skills

Hockey Science: 25 Winning Experiments
by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone
illustrations by Lorenzo Del Bianco

Sports and science go well together as this book clearly demonstrates. The easy-to-follow experiments help explain the difference between fast and slow ice, why hockey sticks break, the advantages of hockey tape, and why pucks should be frozen. Other experiments measure strength, reaction time, balance, and agility with tips on improving all four. It'll make hockey practice fun!

January 15, 2016

The fabric of Canada

The Quilt of Belonging: Stitching Together the Stories of a Nation
by Janice Weaver

When visual artist Esther Bryan learned that there was at least one person from every country living in Canada, she wanted to celebrate this amazing diversity. She decided to make a massive quilt with each quilt block designed to symbolize one country and made by a person originally from that country. Called The Quilt of Belonging, it is a unique visual symbol of the power of connectedness. 

Author Janice Weaver takes a close look at some of the individual quilt blocks, and tells the fascinating stories of the groups they represent. The blocks are startlingly beautiful and showcase a wide variety of craftwork. Some are embroidered, appliquéd, or tie-dyed; others are decorated with beads, butterfly wings, porcupine quills, fish bones, shells, and cedar bark.

The quilt is a wonderful way to capture the specialness of belonging. 

For more information about the Quilt of Belonging, go to http://www.invitationproject.ca/.

January 13, 2016

Life-changing power of music

Stay Strong: A Musician's Journey from Congo
by Natalie Hyde

Stay Strong is the story of musician Gentil Misigaro, who immigrated to Canada in 2010. Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), he and his family lived in constant fear due to war. For fifteen years, Gentil tried to find a safe haven, but the violence followed him from Congo to Rwanda to Uganda. Throughout his ordeal, Gentil found strength in music. How his music helped him and how he used it to connect with Canadians is an inspiring story that young teens will appreciate. The book's simple typeface and slim format also makes it accessible to reluctant readers.

Gentil's successful contributions to his adopted country make for a very positive and heart-warming story.

January 11, 2016

Canada: a nation of immigrants

Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land
by Susan Hughes

For hundreds of years, people have been coming to Canada from all over the world. Without them, we would not have the country and the diversity that we have now. This book reminds us of all the immigrants who helped shape our society from the French and British who founded the Maritimes, the African-Americans fleeing slavery, the Chinese and Italians who built our railways, the Ukrainians and Icelanders who settled the west, and to the refugees fleeing war from Vietnam, Hungary, or Somalia.

Stories of a welcoming Canada are tempered with accounts of discrimination and exclusion, with no mention of the Native Canadians who were already here. But the book serves as good way of showing why people emigrate and why we should continue to welcome them.

January 8, 2016

Lost mother

Missing Nimâmâ
by Melanie Florence
illustrations by François Thisdale

A little girl named Kateri grows up without her mother who is one among many of Canada's missing indigenous women. In alternating voices, we listen as Kateri longs for her mother and as her mother longs for her. Raised by her nôhkom (grandmother), Kateri nurtures a hope that her mother will be found. Her mother in turn mourns the passing years and the missed milestones of her daughter's life such as going to school, attending her first dance, getting married, and having a baby. Beautiful and heartbreaking in words and in pictures, Florence's debut picture book elucidates the feelings of those who are left behind.

Highly recommended.

January 6, 2016

Split identities

It's Not All Black and White: Multiracial Youth Speak Out

Through poetry, interviews and short essays, mixed-race teens talk candidly about their anger and confusion when people persist in asking them what they are and make assumptions about their appearances. Their voices are strong, blunt, sad, defiant or affectionate, and wholly authentic.

An important book for readers who are unaware of their own prejudices.

January 4, 2016

Shattering stereotypes

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices
edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

In this evocative anthology, Indigenous youth share their life experiences through prose, poetry, art, sports, dance and fashion. Though they face bullying, racism, and intolerance, their strength, resilience, joy, and self-confidence are clearly evident. The book is important in combatting the stereotypical images of Native people that is often perpetuated in mainstream media.

A must-have for all school and public libraries.