Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Review: Three Million Acres of Flame

Three Million Acres of Flame is a well written, interesting fictional account of one of Canada's great national disasters, the Miramichi Fire, which destroyed 3 million acres in New Brunswick in 1825. The story opens with the main focus on the recent turmoil Skye Haverill's family has endured with the death of their mother and the remarriage of their dad to Hannah, a young widow with a son, Stewart.
However, their lives are forever changed on October 7, 1825 when a wildfire roars through New Brunswick and devastates numerous communities including Skye's town of Newcastle (which is now part of the city of Miramichi). Skye's stepsister is born during the conflagration as were 12 other babies. The Haverill's along with virtually all of their fellow inhabitants of Newcastle lose everything in the fire. How they struggle to cope with the immediate aftermath of the fire becomes the focus of Sherrard's first historical novel. The courage, resiliency and the faith with which the townsfolk respond to their dire circumstances is vividly portrayed by Valerie Sherrard.
I enjoyed reading this book as it was well paced and has a positive ending despite the horrific circumstances. Sherrard incorporates many facts of the Miramichi Fire as well as the experiences of those who endured this tragedy to produce a novel that will make this historic event very real to young readers.
It is to be hoped that Valerie Sherrard will produce more excellent historical novels for young Canadian readers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book Review: Canadian picture books

Featured in this post are two delightful picture books with stories from very different areas of Canada.

First off, is The Market Wedding by Cary Fagan. This story is about two people who work in Toronto's Kensington Market at the turn of the century and who fall in love. When their extravagant marriage plans go awry, it's their friends who set them right. Regolo Ricci's rich and colourful art help bring this story alive.

The second picture book, Under a Prairie Sky by Anne Laurel Carter tells the story of a young boy who wants to be a Mountie when he grows up. The dynamic watercolours of Alan and Lea Daniel add to the suspense of this story as the young boy searches for his brother.

Book Details:

The Market Wedding by Cary Fagan
Published by Tundra Books, 2000

Under a Prairie Sky by Anne Laurel Carter
Published by Orca Book Publishers, 2002

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray

A Dog's Life written by Ann M. Martin, is a delightful but poignant story of a stray called Squirrel, who starts life as a wild dog born on a farm. Written in the dog's own words, she begins her story as a puppy on the Merrions farm. When something happens to her mother, Squirrel's brother Bone decides to leave the farm and she has no choice but to follow. The two remain together for only a short time as Bone is eventually taken by humans when the two dogs wander along the edge of a highway.

Eventually, Squirrel makes a good friend with another dog, Moon and together they travel to various small towns in order to survive. Squirrel's encounters with humans continue to be unfavourable throughout the book until the very end. My guess is this aspect of the story reflects the authors work with an animal rescue organization in upstate New York. This type of work would undoubtedly result in seeing dogs who have experienced some very sad situations. However, Martin's book has a satisfying conclusion and shows us a dog who is both intelligent, sensitive and fiercely independent.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to children aged 10 to 13, especially those interested in animals and working with animals.

Other books which may be of interest include:

Michael Morpurgo's Born to Run:The many lives of one incredible dog and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.

Book Details:

A Dogs Life. The Autobiography of a Stray.
by Ann M. Martin

Scholastic Press, New York, 2005.