Avalanche! by Terry Lynn Johnson

March 1, 2018

AvalancheAvalanche! by Terry Lynn Johnson [Series: Survivor Diaries: Book 2]

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: c2018: 104p.

Avalanche!! The word alone conjures up a combination of unspeakable beauty, power and terror.

Avalanche! is the second book in the acclaimed action-adventure series, Survivor Diaries by Terry Lynn Johnson.

Readers will be riveted by this narrative at the start from the opening tantalizing sentence “Tell me how you survived the avalanche?“.  The descriptive action and suspense continues  until the last page is reached!

The protagonist of this survivor diary is twelve year-old twin Ashley Hilder and her interview sets the stage for an engaging first-person narrative. Being told from this perspective heightens the reader’s anxiety levels as they become a silent witness to a family ski holiday where a rash ‘competitive’ decision has unforeseen consequences  for [both]  brother and sister.

The strength of Ashley’s character is a reflection of her intense training as a skier to always ‘be prepared’.  As the nightmare of the avalanche unfolds, this instinctive  reflex allows her to think logically and not panic.

Throughout the story, the author has interwoven all sorts of survival skills needed to survive such an event. All of the techniques that Ashley displays, are the reactions needed to get through an catastrophic event, such as being caught in an avalanche

Reader’s will add Ms. Johnson’s Avalanche and the books in Survivor Diaries, to Lauren Tarshis’ series “I survived” and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet books.


Highly Recommended  for any reader from grade 3-6!


The Land beyond the Wall : an immigration story

February 17, 2018

the land beyond the wallThe Land beyond the wall: an immigration story     by Veronika Martenova Charles

Published by : Nimbus Publishing, Halifax c2017 [32p]

This is the tender story of a young girl named Emma. As a consequence of her parents actions, she is orphaned and sent to live with her aunt. Living in a practical world, Emma’s dreams of becoming an artist by adding ‘colour’ to her otherwise ‘gray’ life is her wish to go to art school. However, in the world of her Aunt, dreams cannot exist along side a world of  common sense. This does not deter Emma…and against great odds she escapes these confines and arrives in a new land. Here she is welcomed with kindness and compassion. It is here, that her greatest desire … to add color…allows her to ‘find her voice’!

The vibrant and expressive illustrations lend an added sensitivity to the story that allows the reader to become empathic with Emma. Though this story has a magical-like thread woven through it, I think that the ‘wall’ and Emma’s journey is symbolic of many of the obstacles that many families and children may endure while escaping their past and seeking a way to follow their dreams.

Highly Recommended for Primary and Junior students! [grades 2-6]


Mouse Vacation by Philip Roy

October 26, 2016


Mouse Vacation by Philip Roy; illustrated by Andrea Torrey Balsara

Series: Happy the pocket mouse, Book 4

Published by: Ronsdale Press, c2016 ISBN:9781553804796

Happy the pocket mouse has dreams of taking a holiday like his neighbour Mrs. Farrell. When he approaches his human friend John, about his ideas, John and Happy’s ensuing conversation will take the reader on a journey that covers many areas on the globe.

The soft watercolour closeup illustrations of Happy throughout this tale of the “Pocket Mouse“, expertly captures and mirrors expressions that young children often convey when having similar conversations with an adult.  The lists that Happy and John compile reveal the difference each character has about taking a vacation. Happy’s  trips are all to farway places, whereas John’s rational for his choices are made from a more humble origin.

Eventually, a compromise is reached by both, which has Happy and John taking a journey via an overnight bus trip to the seashore.

At 32 pages, the expressive illustrations highly compliment the text and allow the reader to become fully engaged with Happy and John’s tale.

Although the story is simple in the telling, I found that Happy’s big ideas of ‘taking a vacation’ is an original way of introducing  world cultures, places and maps and engage young children!

A great curriculum connection for primary children!


Highly Recommended! FIVE STARS!



[Book supplied by Ronsdale Press in exchange for an honest review]

“Loyalist to a fault” by Evan Munday

September 19, 2015

Loyalist to a faultPublished by ECW press

[ARC generously supplied by Jenna Illies]
301p. c2015

The colourful ghoulish cover is just a teaser to what a reader can expect when they dive into the latest installment in Evan Munday’s nominated series Dead Kid Detective Agency!

If a reader is the least bit of a detective and observant, the title Loyalist to a Fault, is a clever play on an well known saying ‘loyal to a fault’ which provides a clue to the new, intriguing story involving the intrepid October Schwartz and a group of distinctly ‘spirited’ teen shades!

A story of unique friendships intertwined with decidedly weirdly poignant situations of midnight rendezvous in the local library, grave-digging in February, a pirate, a burning ship, intrigue and an interjection of horror-filled scenes …… captured my attention with such a force, that you can not help but become an unintentional invisible member of the Dead Kid Agency!

The helpful list of characters and appendix of passing references at the end of this third book in the series, allows the reader to delve deeper into the “important cultural history” that is alluded to throughout the narrative.

Mr. Munday adroitly crafts a tale that is a genuine unique blend of perspectives, voice, intrigue-filled social situations, aspects of the macabre laced with snippets of historical facts. Along with these components, and an opening paragraph that states how “many mysteries open with a heinous crime in progress” and in almost the next breath, reveals that….October, commits such an act, will totally ‘kidnap’ readers from the start!!!

Highly Recommended!!
for Grades 6,7,8!!!   Five Stars!

Genres: Mystery; Supernatural; Adventure; Humour

Eco Warrior by Philip Roy

May 8, 2015

Published by Ronsdale Press, Vancouver , BC: c2015 [ARC generously supplied by Ronsdale] In the seventh book of the awesome series Submarine Outlaw,  Alfred and his first mates are no longer EcoWarrior [book 7] by Philip Roy‘outlaws’ on the seas. Alfred now turns his homemade vessel toward Australia and pursues his dream of helping the environment become reality.  Unfortunately for Alfred, his ‘relaxed’ arrival in Perth is marred by a series of events that find him the centre of unwanted attention by authorities. When he is forced to make a quick escape via the help of a self-styled environmental activist-hippy named Merwin Hughes, the road to becoming an environmentalist is accelerated. Allowing Merwin aboard his submarine leaves Alfred uneasy. However, once the decision is reached, both individuals acknowledge this change in procedure – one with enthusiasm – the other with great reluctance. As the pair now travel toward the Southern Ocean, a stunning appearance and consequent interaction with a blue whale and her calf  leads Alfred to reflect on what he has encountered and witnessed during his many ocean travels. Caught up in the  pandemonium and violence of illegal whaling activities, Alfred soon comes to realize that every action counts. This seventh book in Philip Roy’s series adroitly explains environmental activism in a manner that it is comprehensible to readers at any level! Although Alfred’s past voyages are all filled with adventure, new perspectives and understanding, there is a subtle shift in this novel. Readers of Eco Warrior will be swept up in the innocence and trust exhibited by the blue whale and her calf.  They will also experience similar feelings of horror, anguish and desperation as did Alfred and Merwin, as the scenes of conflict unfold between the Sea Shepherd and the whaling ship. The uncertain plight of the oceans is stark – but Roy leaves the candle of hope lit within Alfred and the reader! Highly Recommended !! Grade 6,7,8,9

Student reaction to Eco Warrior:

Kevin “ I wanted to go right out and follow in Alfred’s footsteps and make a difference for the better!!”

Below is a bulletin board inspired by Eco Warrior!

World Oceans Day every day!


Series: Submarine Outlaw : Book 7 Subjects: Environmental Activism; Whales; Endangered species; Ocean life; Adventure; Environmental Protection; Ocean life; World Oceans day; Greenpeace; Sea Shepherd Genres: Action-Adventure; Whales; Submarines; Oceans United Nations World Oceans Day Video:

Random Acts by Valerie Sherrard

February 18, 2015


Random-Acts-cover-194x300Publisher: Puffin Canada; 264 p. c.2015

Random Acts is the newest novel by Canadian author Valerie Sherrard.  The title brings to mind that one has to step out of a normal routine or comfort zone and attempt a random act of kindness, and I was delighted that this topic would be the focus of a middle-grade narrative!

However the reader will quickly learn that ‘random acts’ takes on an entirely different meaning within the parameters of this story. Teenagers, Zoey, Jenna and ‘Bean’  have been BFF’s for a number of years. It is during an afternoon of overindulgence in a ‘pizza-feast’ that the simple idea of preforming random acts of kindness takes hold, but then evolves into a story filled with slap-stick humour  and misdeeds, reminiscent of skits from the “I love Lucy” show!

Ms Sherrard has eloquently and completely captured the angst and self appreciating humour often demonstrated by teens with the voice of Zoey. As the story progresses, the relationships of these three friends is in a constant state of flux, ever changing and growing in self awareness.  Told primarily from Zoey’s perspective, her interaction with her parents plays a pivotal part in the telling of this narrative.

This delightfully well written tale will definitely have the reader smiling, laughing out loud and groaning in empathy with all the ‘random acts’ performed by our three amusing artless teens!

Highly recommended for grade 6,7,8 !!!

Genre: Realistic fiction; Humour

Themes: Pay it forward; Friendship; Family; Relationships; Teenagers


Tin Soldier by Sigmund Brouwer

September 12, 2014

Tin SoldierTin Soldier  by Sigmund Brouwer

248p., c2014 [Seven Sequel Series ]

ARC generously supplied by D. Sutherland, Orca

Publisher:  Orca Book Publisher, Vancouver, BC


Tin Soldier is Sigmund Brouwer’s exciting sequel to his nominated Seven Series book, Devil’s Pass.

We first encounter Jim Webb in Devil’s Pass and now the mystery only deepens surrounding his grandfather’s perplexing past.

A chance discovery at the ‘family’ cabin in Northern Ontario, sets the scene for each of the cousins. An accidental tug dislodging an old notebook filled with baffling objects and a paper printed with the faded words “You are a traitor. You deserve to die!” spurs all cousins into action.

With guitar, passport and American money in hand, Webb begins his journey searching into his Grandfather’s mysterious exploits.

Brouwer’s narrative is an action-packed mystery, teeming with historical detail that references the Vietnam War and dog tags, the Civil Rights Movement, classic movies and songs, but does not hamper the storyline.

In some respects,  this venture through a volatile part of American history mirrors Webb’s own inner turmoil.

Though Tin Soldier is part of the Seven Sequel series, this exciting read can easily stand alone and will engage readers of both genders!

Recommended for Intermediate and Senior Grades