Punishment by Linden MacIntyre

PunishmentPunishment by Linden MacIntyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MacIntyre masterfully combines a serene small town setting with the incestuous secrets of the past. Tony, a retired guard from the nearby penitentiary, returns home to create some space between himself and the drama of his former employment only to discover that his past won’t let him alone. White lies and half-truths abound in the community around a murder, a drug ring and the ex-convict living nearby. Tony is compelled to get further involved than he ever imagined. MacIntyre combines clues and red herrings so skillfully that the reader will never see what’s coming. Nominated for the 2016 Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen award, this gem is sure to thrill readers of all types.

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This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The ClimateThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book has changed my life. This book is the first book I’ve read from the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen selections for 2015. Naomi Klein is such an important voice for Canada that this book was on my to-read list well before it was nominated though. I enjoyed reading this book through Audible.com‘s selection so I listened to about 7 hours a week which was wonderful because it has a lot of important information about climate change that are combined with unfamiliar issues such as economics, world trade, environmental law, industrialization, and indentured slavery that I needed to digest in smaller pieces. Klein manages to put all of these issues together into one book and concludes that if we can’t manage to adjust our culture of consumption that we don’t have a chance of stopping global warming. More importantly though, that we need to start making right the crimes that we have committed through industrialization and globalization and make reparations to developing nations that are still disadvantaged by centuries of colonial actions. At home in Canada, Klein argues that we need to demand a higher minimum wage so that people can stop taking McJobs for shitty companies who continue to put capitalism first and human needs and the environment as distant seconds.  In a deeply personal chapter, Klein reveals that her concerns for climate change exploded during her struggles with infertility and points to our dramatic increases in infertility and disease as the red flag symptoms that we continue to ignore by believing in the capitalism-driven pharmaceuticals instead. In summary: I learned a lot.

As a secondary school teacher-librarian, I will carry this book in my library but it isn’t going to be an easy sell. However, as a research tool it will be phenomenal and I will bring bits and pieces of it out to stimulate inquiry research and for discussion for years to come.

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The Bear by Claire Cameron

The BearThe Bear by Claire Cameron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The UGDSB has just chosen this book as our board-wide novel for secondary students and author Ms. Cameron will be visiting schools in May 2015. After reading this terrifying novel, I am nervous about the problematic areas in Cameron’s choices. As a parent, I can only describe the first 2/3 of the books as horrific, as main character Anna, 5 years old, attempts to care for her 2 year old brother in the wilderness of Algonquin Park after a trauma happens to Anna’s parents and the two children are left on their own. Nothing could be scarier except…trying to find food, and exposure to the elements, and the confusion of being suddenly alone. Every minute of Anna’s narration is heartbreaking. As a secondary school librarian, I hope the teens who pick up The Bear won’t be turned off by the narrative voice, and won’t be scared to ever go camping again. There are many issues to explore about wilderness, survival, bears and PTSD so I’m hoping the book will open avenues to inquiry. There is nothing explicitly horrific that I fear censorship on, only that the power of the imagination leads the reader to a dangerous place of what could be around the next corner for Anna with every turn of the page. Having said that I devoured it in 48 hours of my busy life, so I’m hoping teens will have the same reaction.

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Launching a book club with a riddle

My White Pine book club is growing stale. The same few students join every year (which is awesome) but I’m not reaching as far as I’d like to in my secondary school of 1200 students. So I’m trying an additional book club this year in a different format. The book I’ve chosen is “This Dark Endeavour” by Kenneth Oppel and if you haven’t read it you should!

So each week we’ll run a seminar on an interesting topic within the book in hopes of engaging new students!  I hope it will also promote inquiry-based thinking and lead to new possibilities.

This week’s seminar will be lead by Adam Wallace, and he’s going to talk all about Switzerland and cover many of the places the characters visit in the book.  Here’s our promo:

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinleyThe Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first read of the 2014-15 Ontario Library Association’s White Pine picks for this year and based on this book alone, I’m very hopeful. Like last year’s Old Man by David A. Poulsen, our main character Kyle McGinley has a very unusual relationship with his estranged father. Here the similarities end though, as Kyle’s father was neglectful and abusive before abandoning his son when he was only 8. Having moved around the foster system ever since, Kyle finally lands with Jill and Scott in a rural location which allows him the peace and quiet he needs to begin healing. Kyle takes his need for silence to a whole new level by refusing to speak with his new wards. However, the threat of his father’s return catapults him once again into turmoil. This book is a fast read of only 198 pages but it is rich in symbolism as Kyle wrestles with noise and silence, hope and despair. Andrews’ characters are very believable and her unique style of creating Kyle’s inner voices allows for some very creative interpretations of his emotional story. I would highly recommend this book to any student but I will urge reluctant male readers to pick it up the most.

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Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Through Black SpruceThrough Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boyden allowed me to feel that I had been to Moose Factory and felt the complicated nuances of self-government and survival that happen there. And yet it’s a wonderful modern mystery as we try to understand what has happened to Suzanne and we hope that her uncle Will’s story is going to end well. The complicated intertwining of these two narratives takes us over much of Northern Ontario and New York State. It crosses all sorts of social boundaries but feels rich in detail and authentic. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I would highly recommend it to mature young adults and adults.

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely fabulous. You’ve got to really like dragons (and luckily I do) but Rachel Hartman will have a fan in me forever after this. I hope she’s busy writing a sequel as after I was done I immediately looked for the next one. This is high fantasy, with lots of rich world-building and complicated new concepts and vocabulary for things. Hartman is not only delving into the fantastic with relish, but she is also making a social commentary about the ridiculousness of asking creatures to be what they are not in order to conform with societal norms. The taboos that the dragons break as they attempt to conform to the world of the humans are laughable. I’m also really glad that the ‘freaks’ (no spoilers) also get some superpowers as they develop their fringe community. I would highly recommend this book to any reader, young adult to adult, who enjoys fantasy.

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Essex County by Jeff Lemire

The Complete Essex CountyThe Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was deeply touched by Jeff Lemire’s Essex County, as to me, it portrays my version of home in Southwestern Ontario. The contrast between his drawing of Toronto’s hubbub and Essex County’s stark isolation is vivid and particularly resonates with my experience growing up in a rural community. His characters are so well-developed and the threads between them are surprising in their complexity. Their stories are intimate in a way that compels me to read more even though I feel like I’m intruding in their underwear drawers. I particularly fell entranced by reading the story of Lester and the complicated relationship between his father and his uncle. I found Lemire’s artwork to be mesmerizing as he uses broad brush strokes and intentionally muddies his images. A thought occurred to me the other day….that Terry Fallis should collaborate with Jeff Lemire and create a graphic novel version of “Best Laid Plans”.

Although this is part of my secondary library collection, I think it will come across to students a bit like Margaret Laurence’s Stone Angel…not relevant to their age of experience.  I will, however, recommend it to all the staff.  I’m going to rate it for senior teen, but not because of content, but because of themes.

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Nightschool: The Weirn Books Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova

Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Vol. 1Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that this is the first Manga I’ve ever read, although I’m an emerging fan of the graphic novel format. The artwork varies with the characters’ emotions from mysterious and flirtatious, to outraged and scary. The colour panels at the outset of Chapter 2 when our main character, the young Weirn and her pet Astral, are introduced are rich and ethereal in their hues of blue. The other section that stands out is the fight sequence when The Hunters take on The Rippers is about 6 pages long and almost completely non-verbal but filled with motion and tension. The thing I appreciate most about Nightschool is the enthusiasm with which Chmakova writes it. She is absolutely enthralled with the diversity of her Nightschool characters and each one of them clearly has an intrinsic purpose to the overarching storyline. This first volume mainly serves as a teaser, beginning every introduction of new plot and character in media res, the reader must take for granted that clues to the nuances of this other world will develop. It requires a leap of faith from the reader that I’m not sure every reader, certainly not struggling readers, would make. Having said that, I can see why these books would be wildly appealing to the right audience, pre-teen to young adult, and I’m proud to call Chmakova Canadian.

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Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

“>Friends with BoysFriends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think my favourite thing about the main character, Maggie, is that her personality is so well-developed. Before the ghost is even introduced we find out that: she’s the only girl with 3 brothers, her Dad has a new job, and her Mom has left the family. Besides all the other normal angst that goes with being a teenager, she’s starting her first day of regular high school after being home-schooled her whole life. The jacket is very well done and I think the description:”… and, oh yeah, she’s haunted.” is sure to appeal to readers in my library. I also really like how the main conflict in the novel is really approachable for all teens: new friends, learning the grey areas of right and wrong, and, oh yeah, how to put a ghost to rest. Ok, maybe not that last one. Maggie’s brothers are also well-developed and have distinct personalities especially Zander who is both wise and immature. With all their cavorting about it makes me wish that I had brothers too.

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Grown Up Digital: How the net generation is changing your world

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your WorldGrown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad that Don Tapscott is Canadian. Knowing that he’s a local expert and is so prescient in his thinking made this book an even more enjoyable read. I actually listened to it on audiobook through Audible.com.

This is one of those books that caught my attention 4 years ago when it first came out (2009) but I was only ready to read it now. Tapscott calls the current generation of students in high school “The Net Generation” and describes them as valuing these eight norms: freedom, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, entertainment, speed and innovation (p. 74). As such education is experiencing a massive paradigm shift and is moving towards inquiry-based learning, where students direct their own studies. Tapscott describes school’s new dominant role as one to “encourage students to discover for themselves, and learn a process of discovery and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the teacher’s information” (p. 130). School libraries need to morph to extend this role as well, creating flexible spaces where student innovation can happen. This book has a lot to do with the transformation that I’m pushing for from school library to learning commons.

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The Taming by Eric Walters and Teresa Toten

The TamingThe Taming by Teresa Toten

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I expect high things from anything that Eric Walters puts his name on. After the Ontario Library Association nominated this as one of the best Canadian young adult fiction of the year, I expected even more. Until halfway through I thought I had found a predictable teen romance. When our main character Katie’s life starts to imitate her art on the stage of her high school Shakespeare production, I became engrossed. The rest of the story strikes me as very true dealing with the bizarre power struggles that sometimes arise in first love relationships. Although I wish that the ending will be true in the case of most young people caught in Katie’s circumstance, it was a bit too hopeful to be believable. This book would suit most of the readers who would pick it up…young females searching for love.

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The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

The Stone AngelThe Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A classic Canadian tale of a pioneering woman’s spirit. This is living proof the survival theme as part of the Canadian identity. People who will particularly enjoy this book are: someone who knows the Canadian Prairies, mothers, and single women. I’m not sure why it’s sometimes suggested reading for high school students other than it is part of the Canadian literary canon. I thoroughly enjoyed it …. but it would have to be a very special student that I would recommend it to.

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Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

Kiss of the Fur QueenKiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure why I never read this book when it first came out, but I just found it this year. It is an incredibly moving story of what it was like to attend a residential school. More importantly, it made me feel much more in touch with the complicated issues surrounding native Canadians and the displacement of their culture. A must read for Can Lit fans. This book would be an excellent complement to a reading of The Rez Sisters, also by Tomson Highway.

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Triptych by J.M. Frey

TriptychTriptych by J.M. Frey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Triptych’s exploration of heteronormativity touched me in places that I didn’t even know existed. The characters and their relationships make the sci fi problems Frey creates, very real and very relevant to the human reader. It is a very brave first novel, and I found it surprisingly accessible for something that I consider outside of my genre. I will definitely pick up J.M. Frey’s next novel.

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