Saturday, December 29, 2007

The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane

Once again, Kate DiCamillo has penned an enchanting children's book that's really written for adults. This touching tale is about the adventures of a toy china rabbit, Edward Tulane, who learns the meaning of love. We follow Edward after being lost at sea. His journey is both physical and spiritual, as he is transformed physically from a beautiful emotionally cold toy into an ugly tattered toy who comes to understand the deeper meaning of love and it's loss. My ten year old daughter was simply enchanted by the ending. The hardcover edition has beautiful full colour plates drawn by Bagram Ibatoulline. Highly recommended for ages 8-12 and up.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A girl left behind

This is a picture of my mom and her boyfriend prior to his enlisting in WW II. She was 17 when this picture was taken. I recently found this photo in our family album. She placed a copy in the locket he gave her before he left for Britain.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Book Review - The Girls They Left Behind

The Girls They Left Behind is a 2007 Red Maple Nominee. This young adult read is about the women, young and old, daughters, finances, girlfriends, newlyweds, and mothers who watched the boys and men in their lives go off to fight in World War II. It is about the loneliness, the fear and anxiety, the grief women of all ages experienced during the war years, in a Canadian context.

The book is based on the author, Bernice Thurman Hunter's, experiences as a teenager. Prophetically, Bernice asked her daughter, Heather, to finish the book should anything happen to her prior to the its completion.

Through the eyes, of Beryl who insists upon being called Natalie, we see how young women watched as boyfriends left for war, how mothers dealt with sons enlisting, and how some "never came back". The book alternates between journal style with diary entries and chapters.

This book really resonated with me because it brought back memories my own mother had shared with me about her experiences during the Second World War which started when she was just 16 years old. The most poignant memory was about my mom's first boyfriend who enlisted in 1940 and died overseas in 1941. He was her first love and my mother spoke about how she found out about his death one day when she entered the soda shop where all her friends gathered after work. My mom had a locket with her initials on the front and a picture of the two of them inside. That she still had possession of this locket and spoke often about this man, led me to believe that she carried this loss with her throughout her life.

This quick read is highly recommended for young teens. It is a realistic portrayal of what it was like, coming of age, during the war years. It is especially important that these experiences not be lost with the passage of time and that younger generations understand the sacrifices previous generations made for the freedom we now enjoy in Canada.

Book Details:

The Girls They Left Behind
by Bernice Thurman Hunter
2005 Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Friday, June 22, 2007

Book Review - From this place: Recollections of the Lives of Women in the 20th Century

This book came about through a project known as "A Grandmother's Legacy". This project was overseen by the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. The oldest member of each Women's Institute Branch wrote a brief "recollection" of their life experience in the early 20th century. The book takes its title from a recollection written by Grace Arnold who begins each paragraph with "It was from this place...."
The recollections are fascinating to read and portray a way of life that is all but lost to most women today. The expectations of women then were likely very similiar to those of women today. For most women, it was a life of service mainly to family, community and during the wars, country as well. It was interesting to read stories from areas of Ontario I am familiar with, such as Brantford, St. George, Chatham and even oddly enough, Cobalt, Ontario.
Some of the stories have unusual twists. For example, in a recollection by June Lang, she writes about surviving her parents divorce in 1925 (certainly unusual for that time), a kidnapping by her mother who reclaimed June and her brother from their father, the birth of 6 children, homeschooling her children, the Depression and permanent separation from her husband.
The book contains numerous photographs unrelated to the story-writers but relevant to the period the book covers. The book would have a more personal, more intimate touch if pictures of the women had been placed within their stories.
This is a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to young women especially. It made me think of my music teacher, Truey Baker, born in the early 1900's, who told me stories of what it was like to live in Alberton in the 1920's.

Book Details:
From This Place. Recollections of the Lives of Women in the 20th Century
Janine Roelens-Grant (Editor)
2000 Federated Womend's Institutes of Ontario (FWIO)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Book Review - The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela

This picture book is an interesting fact-filled read about a medieval Jewish traveller known as Benjamin of Tudela. Over 100 years before Marco Polo made his journey, Benjamin left Tudela, Spain to travel throughout the known world - a journey that took him 14 years. The author, Uri Shulevitz used original Jewish sources to write about Benjamin's travels including Benjamin of Tudela's own account, appropriately titled, Book of Travels.

Each destination in The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela, and there are alot of them, is accompanied by unique, colourful artwork depicting a famous event or aspect of the locale. Shulevitz, in his author's note at the back of the book, writes that his "aim was to convey primarily a feeling of what it might have been like in Benjamin's day."

The places Benjamin visited include Marseilles, Genoa, Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Baghdad. Shulevitz frequently presents lesser-known facts about many of the historic cities and regions Benjamin visited. The book also contains a colourful, easy-to-read map outlining Benjamin's route throughout the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa. This is an excellent feature of the book, and helps young readers to put the scope of Benjamins travels in perspective.

This book is highly recommended.

Book Details:

The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela
Through Three Continents In The Twelfth Century
by Uri Shulevitz
2005 Farrar Straus Giroux

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Book Review- Chinese Cinderella

This book grabbed my attention at my local public library because of the photo of the sad little girl on the front. And what a truly sad story this book presents. Yen Jung-ling's (Adeline Yen Mah) mother died shortly after her birth. Because of this, her family considered her bad luck and emotionally and physically abused her throughout her life. Adeline's father remarries and soon two new children are born into the family. However, things do not go well for little Adeline. Her stepmother, Niang, favours her own children and the family becomes increasingly disfuntional as the years pass. Adeline, her Aunt Baba, and her grandparents Ye Ye and Nai Nai struggle to hold on to some semblance of dignity and to help one another cope. Despite her terrible home life, Adeline remains a top student, even becoming class president and winning the International Play-writing Competition in 1951-52. With the wonderful encouragement from her Aunt and grandfather, she struggles to believe in her own selfworth.

This book is fascinating but ends rather abruptly with Adeline being sent off to England to study medicine, thus leaving readers to wonder how the rest of her life turned out. For that, readers are directed to read her book, Falling Leaves.

Chinese Cinderella provides many insights into Chinese life during the early part of the last century, prior to the fall of China into Communism. There is an interesting recounting of the discussion by Adeline's grandfather on the subtlety of the Chinese language and of her grandmother telling Adeline about having her feet bound at the age of three. Included are black and white photos of Adeline's family, but none of her birth-mother because her father ordered all the photos of his first wife destroyed.

Recommended for teens and older.

Book Details:
Chinese Cinderella
The true story of an unwanted daughter.
by Adeline Yen Mah
1999 Dell Laurel-Leaf

Monday, April 16, 2007

Library Humour: Part 2

As I've mentioned in my profile, one of my areas of interest in librarianship is the information seeking behaviour of various user-groups in the academic library. My areas of interest include the information-seeking behaviour of science librarians and also how students use Google to locate information on the Internet.
However, in my search on the web, I recently came across a special user group that I've not read about. To read more about the research skills of this user group click the link below.

This link provides evidence of the kind of cutting-edge research into information-seeking behaviour that is being undertaken by librarians these days. It is a webpage devoted to the information seeking behaviour of peeps
which I think many of our library staff will find very informative. The webpage covers beginning library research, advanced library research skills and the library behaviours (positive and negative) of peeps. (Some peeple have ALOT of spare time !)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

Book Review

I recently decided that I would officially collect children's picture books, since I own so many of them.I like these books to have attractive illustrations and an engaging story. Rachel's Library has both. The cover, as you can see by the photo in this post, is very colourful and each page inside is the same, with beautiful paintings in deep reds, blues and greens. The author, Richard Ungar, is a lawyer by profession, but obviously, also a talented painter and storyteller.Smileys
Rachel's Library is about a young girl who lives in the village of Chelm. The villagers are seeking a way to show outsiders that there is something special about their town. And it is Rachel who comes up with a unique idea, one that all the people of Chelm can participate in - a library! And, what a library!
This book is suitable for children from 7 to 10 years of age. I look forward to reading Ungar's other books, Rachel's Gift and Rachel Captures the Moon.

Book Details:
Rachel's Library
by Richard Ungar
2004 Tundra Books

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Book Review

I quickly grabbed a book from the local public library this weekend that I thought might interest me. It is "West against the wind" by Liza Ketchum Murrow.
It looked similiar to several books I've read in the past year that deal with young women during the American pioneer era of the mid-West.Smileys
This book tells the fictional story of Abby Parker and her family as they journey from Independence Missouri to California in 1850 to meet up with their father who has been hit by "gold fever". Along the way, they meet up with a young man, Matthew Reed who confides to Abby a terrible family secret.

The novel explores several themes including the California Gold Rush and its impact on families of the period, the hardship these pioneers endured especially the women), the fallen young woman in society, and the coming of age of a young teenage girl.

I found the story riveting at times and also very sad with its graphic descriptions of the monotony of walking across the open prairie, the greed of men taken by "gold fever", the struggles of Abby to grow more independent and the love within families and also that shown to total strangers. The author effectively portrays to the reader the determination people of this era must have had to open up the far west of the continent.

I found this book in the children's section of my local public library, but because of the coming of age issues as well as other issues dealt with in the book, I feel it's better suited to the YA shelf. Although the descriptions of the Abby's reactions to the physical changes of puberty, marriage and childbirth are tame by comparison to current novels, I feel teen readers would probably identify more readily with her reactions than the younger reader. Some of Abby's negative reactions towards the physical changes she experiences are not resolved outwardly in the novel, although the reader is left with the impression near the end of the book, that she is becoming more confident and comfortable as a young woman.

Book Details
West against the wind
Liza Ketchum Murrow
Holiday House New York, 1987

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Review

My Forbidden Face. Growing up under the Taliban: A young woman's story by Latifa is an eye-opening book. The author, who has written under the psuedonym of Latifa, escaped Afghanistan in 2001 with her parents. Growing up under the Soviet occupation of her country, life was relatively "normal" for this young woman until civil war developed between the army of General Massoud and the Islamic extremists (Taliban) supported by Pakistan. Latifa's description of life under the Taliban and what it meant to women in Afghanistan are truly horrifying and almost unbelievable. She decribes the rules implemented by the Taliban as "the total negation of women". Unable to work, be educated, seek medical help, shop for basic necessities, or even go out among society without the accompaniment of a man, were just some of the rules women had to endure.

I enjoyed reading this book because it provided a perspective on life in a country most Canadians know little about, and yet is now a part of the daily news. Like other reviewers on, I found the book to be very difficult to follow. The history of Afghanistan is complicated and unfortunately, is presented in a rather disjointed fashion. The author opens the book with the events of the Taliban entering Kabul, where she lives, in 1996. Latifa then has pages of recent Afghan history strewn throughout the book and it's difficult to understand how everything fits together. A second detailed chapter on the history of Afghanistan would have been a more effective way of dealing with the events that preceded those in the opening chapter and would have provided a platform for discussing the events in her family's life. Other comments made throughout the book, such as how Afghani's viewed American foreign policy, might have been discussed in detail.
Nevertheless, I recommend this book. The author's style is readable and she has some valuable insights into the effect of the Taliban on the Afghan people. It would be interesting to know how Latifa is doing today and whether she has returned to her native Afghanistan.
My Forbidden Face. Growing up under the Taliban: A young woman's story.
Editions Anne Carriere, 2001

Friday, March 23, 2007

Library innovation from delicious

Well, I have been searching delicious lately and I've found a few interesting sites that I've decided to bookmark.
One in particular (check it out)seems like it would be especially useful for our university libraries which are undergoing restructuring and renovation. Based on some of the items on the above website I have some suggestions for purchases the library might make to enhance both staff performance and the library environment.

1. This first idea would be very useful for those involved in library management. It is the conference bike. Since there are many changes planned for the campus libraries, what better way to have staff meetings, planning meetings and even interviews! According to the webpage, the conference bike builds intimacy and lowers inhibitions. Perfect for those meetings where you're trying to sell a new idea that's sure to garner lots of resistance!

2. For any future library renovations, and I'm thinking of the Thode Science and Engineering Library in particular, the addition of slides to move from floor to floor would be sweet. Of course, these would be open only to staff. After all, the slides would be installed to enhance the efficiency of staff and the work environment of the library and NOT for the enjoyment of library users.

3. Another useful piece of library furniture is the bibliochaise. These could be utilized throughout the library in designated quiet areas. Perhaps we could have a bibliochaise for various subject areas; a math bibilochaise or CSA standard bibliochaise.

If you have any other innovative ways to restyle our campus libraries, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I have been investigating the social bookmarking service, and yes, I think it's divine but I remain unconvinced that I would want to continue using this service. For one thing I have tons of favs saved on my computer (all very organized) but some of them are personal interests (ie. political websites for example) that I don't care to share with the rest of the world.

The "delicious" buttons were relatively easy to install on my browser at home although I installed these one day and then the following day was informed that I had to reinstall them because a new version was now available. That was slightly annoying.

I chose a few of my favourites to place on delicious and then I chose to edit the titles of some of the links because I lengthy webpage titles. Let's make it short and sweet.

I also wanted to place delicious on my sidebar in a manner similar to what I did with mylibrary. I needed to find the necessary code, so I selected "link" under Blog at the bottom of my delicious webpage.

This leads to a help page ( in delicious which produces html/javascript code to be used in your blog. This page also allows you to style how this widget will look on your blog. You can choose the number of items to display, whether you want tags or notes displayed and so forth. You must be signed into delicious to use the template. After you have tweeked the widget the way you want, simply copy it by highlighting and right clicking.
You can then place this widget in your blog by selecting the template, add a page element, and selecting html code element. Once the html code box is open, paste the code from delicious into the box and save.

A word of warning though to those of you who are using Wordpress. Wordpress does not allow the use of javascript in widgets on its site. I believe this is because it can be easy for those people who are interested in making life difficult for the rest of us, to alter the code and redirect visitors to other sites.

Monday, March 19, 2007

More social stuff

I made an interesting discovery this past weekend and it's called LibraryThing and I LIKE IT! LibraryThing is an online service that allows you to catalogue your personal book collection using tags that choose. You can catalogue up to 200 books for free and if you've got more (and apparently, ALOT of people have ALOT more!) you can choose a yearly or lifetime subscription. According to the website, which has been around since 2006, "LibraryThing uses Amazon and libraries that provide open access to their collections with the Z39.50 protocol." Your books can be arranged on a virtual shelf or as a list.

This site allows for a great deal of social networking. Once you enter a book into your library you are told how many others have copies of that specific book. You can then link to those libraries. You can check out other libraries on the site and submit comments about their libraries. There are forums for people with similar book interests and you can recommend books to others.

I've posted a link to mylibrary on the sidebar of this blog. It randomly pulls up 3 books from my library.You can click on the mylibrary link and view the books in my library. I have about 100 books entered. I was astonished to learn that some libraries on this site have thousands of books!

I was impressed with the many different forums and also with the possibilities to discuss some of my favourite books with people I might otherwise never come into contact with.

Check it out.

Monday, March 5, 2007

More of Nancy Pearl

Okay someone (I am eternally grateful to Olga N) was kind enough to send me a link to more pictures of Nancy Pearl. The situations she gets herself into .<tisk, tisk>
If you want to get a very good picture of the action figure go to this link. If you want to see Nancy Pearl in action go here.

And, here's a taste of what you'll find:

(Thanks to Shelley S who posted these at Flickr)

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Domenic's War by Curtis Parkinson

In this post I would like to review a book I just read entitled, Domenic's War by Curtis Parkinson. This book is fiction but the author arrived at the idea for the story after listening to a friend recount his experiences as a teen in Italy during World War II. The story deals with a specific time frame, that is the Allied campaign to remove the German Army from the monastery of Monte Cassino. Monte Cassino was a German stronghold and a barrier to the Allied army's move northward into Italy and ultimately up towards the rest of Europe. Parkinson's novel focuses on events in two (fictious) teens lives, Domenic Luppino and Antonio. Domenic lives on a farm and courageously helps his father during the War, while Antonio has a more difficult time as a young man who has lost everything and is forced to work for the Nazi's.

I felt that this YA novel presented an accurate portrayal of the physical hardships and emotional distress encountered in an occupied country during WW II. It also touches on the controversial bombing of the beautiful and sacred monastery of Monte Cassino where the tombs of Benedictine founder, St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica are located. The Afterword contains information on the mind-boggling numbers of soldiers from various countries who died in the battle for Monte Cassino as well as information on the Allied strategy.

This book would appeal to especially to teen boys and those teens interested in WW II historical fiction.

Book details:
Domenic's War. A story of the Battle of Monte Cassino
Curtis Parkinson
2006 Tundra Books
191 pages
Silver Birch Awards Official Selection