Connecting Dots by Sharon Jennings

February 18, 2015

Connecting Dots Publisher: Second Story Press; Series: ‘Gutsy Girl’ ; 183p.:c2015

Sharon Jennings’ long anticipated companion to the multi-nominated book Home Free has finally been launched!

Connecting Dots is the heart wrenching story of feisty Cassandra Jovanovich, Leanne Mets’ ‘bosom’ friend, first introduced in ‘Home Free’.

We are given a small hint that our central character  has a very direct and forthright attitude, as she remarks on her friend’s constant inquisitiveness about her life. The italicized word “my” in the sentence “so I am sitting at my desk in my room” is a subtle indicator for the reader that this tiny word will become important in the narrative of Cassie’s life.

Society in the late ’50’s and early 60’s often dictated the social norms of the day. It is for this reason that every aspect of family life comes under close scrutiny when the circumstances of Cassie’s birth are established. At age 5 with the untimely passing of her Grandmother, we see how Cassie’s sliver of childhood innocence rapidly diminishes as she is passed through the ranks of various relatives.

Over time she is looked upon as a liability. Facing ongoing criticism, her confusion and mistrust merge into a mask of stubborn defiance. Cassie’s constant ‘tough -act’ demeanor translates further when participating in a school play her ‘acting skills’ win her positive praise. Amazed at how she feels on stage, she vows to explore this revelation and strives to hone it into a new found career.  Cassie faces the ultimate test and when she freezes it is Lee’s genuine open-minded belief in her that comes to the rescue. It is at this awkward moment that the reader is given a glimpse of the real Cassie beneath the cultivated tenacious exterior.

I found this tale of a harrowing childhood to be a sensitive coming of age portrayal. Ms Jennings’ has written Cassie’s story with great perceptiveness and understanding, which is communicated to the reader who in turn cannot help but become an unshakable champion of Cassandra Jovanovich!

Spirited, inquisitive and quirky, “almost twelve-year old” Cassandra Jovanovich, exhibits such a fearlessness that despite all odds, the reader cannot help but admire, applaud and ….be…..amazed!

Highly Recommended!!!     Be prepared “to be amazed at what will emerge!”

Reading Ability: Junior : Intermediate (Grade 6,7,8)

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: Abuse; Acceptance; Grief; Courage; Coming of Age; Acting, Actors; Friendship; Social bias;

Second Story Press: http://secondstorypress.ca/books/175-home-free

Author Interviews : http://www.openbooktoronto.com/atsintziras/blog/interview_with_sharon_Jennings

 

Thank you to SECOND STORY Press for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 


The Rule of 3 by Eric Walters [ a brilliant new Dystopian novel!]

February 24, 2014

RULE-OF-THREE

  The Rule of Three3  by Eric Walters

  published by razorbill/Penguin Canada ; 404p. ; c2014

It was the dramatic boldly coloured cover of Walter’s latest book, The Rule of Three3, that captured and intrigued me from the start.

In no time, I became completely absorbed by this realistic and disturbing premise and by my own simultaneously personal question of, ‘what if ” this situation really occurred?’  Could this be a possible outcome to humanity – a dramatic reaction to a shocking ‘global viral catastrophe’?

This thought alone, made me want to halt my reading. But it was these same disturbing thoughts that compelled me to continue. Though the story feels almost science fiction-like, one only has to think back to recent global weather events that resulted in similar scenarios.

One quickly realizes that the veneer of civility is shed, if one is without all the computerized driven technologies that have become such an integral part of today’s society.

Through the eyes of sixteen year old Adam, we witness the fear of a seemingly local (innocent) power loss, escalate as the days increase without resolution, to an atmosphere of disorder, feuding, vandalism and desperation. As more time elapses, Adam and his family … with the help of a astute neighbour…try to combat the ever violent disorder and chaos surrounding their suburban neighbourhood into something more orderly…a necessity for survival.

Unfortunately what once was the norm, now has to be re-thought , a mentality, that not all can conform to.

Sacrifice and survival become the key, if any shred of what civil end humanity is to be retained.

This is a strong read, that will challenge the reader to think beyond the box!

Truly a  story of  “what ifs”!

Highly recommended!!

For Intermediate and Senior students


Brothers at war by Don Cummer

November 2, 2013
An quick paced adventure story of two boys becoming unlikely friends!

An quick paced adventure story of two boys becoming unlikely friends!

Brothers at War by Don Cummer

published: Scholastic Canada: Oct. 2013
203 p.
Brothers at war is a quick paced adventure story where the setting is in the past — Canada’s past. Looking at the title and cover the reader is given the impression that this novel is perhaps about two brothers at odds with a war. It is this colourful cover that leads a reader into the pages of a little known part of Canadian history. Tensions in the newly settled areas of Upper Canada, like Newark, are on the rise with the arrival of loyalists and patriots alike.
Only upon reading the first few chapters, is the reader made aware that this story is about two boys and an unlikely friendship that results from a dare by the elite townies and the ensuing, almost tragic consequences. These two young boys, one from a British Loyalist family and the other from a rebel American immigrant family.
Eli McCabe and Jake Gibson become blood brothers and provide support for each other as they get into one scrap or adventure after another. Even when tensions begin to mount within the community against Eli and his family, their friendship remains steadfast. Until one fateful day, when Jake steps up to save is friend that he is no longer considered a blood brother by Eli. The strain and stress between Jake and Eli become mirror images for what is happening in the community….and both boys discover that [as the publisher states]… choosing friends can also mean making enemies and that there are many kinds of loyality.

The author has cleverly intertwined a fast paced adventure within a histoircal venue that never leaves the reader bored!

A great read for Middle grade students!
Highly recommended!

Youtube Book Trailer for Brothers at War:

 


Borderline by Allan Stratton

March 30, 2011

 

Themes: Racism, Coming of Age, Trust, Family, Traditions, Bullying

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Grade /Reading Level: Grades 7 – 12

Fountas and Pinnell Level: N

Sami finds himself in a position that no one should find themselves in.  What do you do when you start to question the actions of those you trust the most?  Sami’s father enrolled him in a private school where he is the only Muslim student.  He is bullied at his school, but he does have two best friends who attend the local public school.  Sami is suspicious about his father’s motivations behind recent occurrances including the cancellation of a planned son-father weekend, and the accusation of stolen chemicals from his workplace.  Sami finds himself dragging his buddies along in trying to defend his father after he is arrested by the FBI.  The surprise ending was the selling point when sharing this story with my students and colleagues.

ISBN-10: 1554680832

ISBN-13: 978-1554680832

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (Feb 26 2010)


The Kayak by Debbie Spring

March 27, 2011

The Kayak

by Debbie Spring

Thistledown Press | March 11, 2010 | Trade Paperback; 190 pages; $12.95     ISBN: 978-1897235-71-3

The simplistic realism of this cover … of a young woman paddling a kayak toward the sunset is what first drew my attention to this book! 

 Serenity and peace … an image that also conjurs  a feeling of enjoyment and relaxation.  At the onset, author Spring cleverly has the reader believing  in  this “sense of freedom”  and even  Teresa’s own words while kayaking …. “This is a mystical place. Out here I feel safe and secure.”   is a contradiction of what  this story is really about….. that of a young woman facing  major psychological and physical challenges in order to enjoy the freedoms she once took for granted.

Teresa , once a typical teenager, hanging with friends, and  running track until a tragic accident changes not only her life but that of her family’s.  Entering adolescence is difficult enough for teens, but add insecurities, anger, and doubts and Teresa struggles to push herself  to attempt things that she’s never done before.  As Teresa battles her physical and psychological demons we  also see the impact these adversities have upon her parents and sister.

This is a powerful touching story with a protagonist that displays courage, determination and grit, but also has an inner depth that  truly has the reader cheering for  her!

Highly recommended!!!!

Genre: Realistic Fiction; Romance

Interest Level: Intermediate/ Senior students; interest in the Physically challenged

Weblinks: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/exams/marking_materials/en10/training_papers.pdf

http://www.docshare.com/doc/91928/Debbie-Spring-The-Kayak-A-literary-deconstruc

http://voicethread.com/share/1893491/


The Mob by Clem Martini

January 19, 2011

Grade Level: 7, 8

Fountas and Pinnell Level: X

Theme:  Family, Friendship, Traditions

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

The first impression my students had of “The Mob” was a book about animals…too immature for grade 7s!  But upon further exploration, the themes of family and friendship are strong.  Traditions, strength of character, responsibilities, and loyalty are all great discussion topics. 

The Mob of crows which makes up a very extended family, meets together at an annual Gathering.  This coming-of-age story is about Kyp, a male adolescent crow who is temporarily exiled for causing the accidental death of another crow, but prematurely returns to warn his family of imminent danger.  Kyp’s proposal offers no guarantee of survival against the challenge the family faces.  Only teamwork, strength and wisdom will give the crows a fighting chance.

ISBN-13: 978-1553376644


Owen

January 19, 2011

  ISBN:  0-688-11449-0

Grade Level: K-2

Author:  Kevin Henkes

Theme:  Empathy, Growing Up

In this story, a small mouse named Owen has a blanket that he adores.  The blanket is getting old and dirty and his neighbour feels that Owen is getting too old to carry it around.  Owen does not want to give up his blanket.  His parents try a variety of tricks to get him to give it up, including a “Blanket Fairy”, and “the vinegar trick”, but Owen somehow manages to cope and keep his blanket.  By the end of the story, the family comes up with a solution to make everyone happy.  Students can easily identify with Owen and can make connections with this text to their own lives. This text can be used as a guided reading text, a read-aloud for theme thinking, or as part of an author study.  An excellent story that I would recommend for a primary classroom.