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October 16, 2014

By Tamara

I am fortunate in that I have the pleasure of reading for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Twice a year a big box of brand new books appears on my front doorstep, and these books are all mine to enjoy. Each box contains a different genre or level of reading. Sometimes it’s picture books, which are my favorite; at other times I may receive a box full of kids non-fiction, or perhaps early chapter books, and sometimes Young Adult fiction.

This may seem like an odd assortment, and perhaps some of the subjects may simply not appeal to you. Why would an adult be interested in reading up on the newest Canadian board books? Aren’t those for babies? Perhaps true for some, but besides enjoying books that may be a little bit off the beaten path, I am a Librarian working in the Children and Teen Section at the Winnipeg Public Library. I read all of these books as a sampling of what I can offer to the people who come in to the library looking for assistance with finding materials. These questions may come in the form of homework help, or perhaps a parent is in search of materials to help their child develop reading skills, or sometimes an avid reader simply looking for the newest tiles.

I enjoy helping someone find a specific title; the broad smile on a child’s face is the simple thanks that I am looking for. Also, the relief on someone’s face is often silent thanks for helping them find the materials needed for a school project. But I think that my greatest pleasure is when I offer something new to an individual, something that they have not seen before, but promises to satisfy their interest for a great adventure, or a new title that might provide a good laugh. When that person shows interest and joy in taking this book home, then I know that I’ve passed on the gift of reading.

The last box of books that showed up on my doorstep was full to the brim with Canadian teen novels. I’d like to share some of them with you. I hope that you find at least one from this list that will spark your imagination. If you really like one of these books, then consider passing on the gift of reading to a friend.

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston
In an alternate world where industrialization has caused many species of carbon-eating dragons to thrive, Owen, a slayer being trained by his famous father and aunt, and Siobahn, his bard, face a dragon infestation near their small town in Canada.

Shattered: book three in the Slated trilogy by Teri Terry
Sporting a new identity and desperate to fill in the blank spaces of her life pre-Slating, Kyla heads to a remote mountain town to try to reunite with the birth mother she was kidnapped from as a child.  There she is hoping all the pieces of her life will come together and she can finally take charge of her own future.

The World Outside: A Novel by Eva Wiseman
Seventeen year old Chanie Altman lives the protected life of a Lubavitcher Hasidic girl in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, in 1991. Religion is the most important aspect of her life, and, like other Lubavitcher girls, she is expected to attend a seminary and to marry as soon as she graduates from high school. But Chanie has a beautiful voice and dreams of becoming an opera singer, a profession forbidden to a Hasidic girl. When she meets David, a non-Hasidic Jewish boy, he opens the portals to the world outside her fundamentalist community. The Crown Heights riots break out, and the Lubavitchers are put under siege by their African American neighbors. A tragedy occurs. Will Chanie stay in the fundamentalist community she has always known in a life that has been prescribed for her, or will she leave it behind to follow her dreams?

Soldier Doll by Jennifer Gold
"When Elizabeth spots an antique doll dressed in a soldier's uniform at a local garage sale, she thinks that it might be a good last-minute birthday gift for her dad, who's about to ship out to Afghanistan. But is it more special? Could it be the very soldier doll that inspired a famous poem written during World War I? In finding the doll, Elizabeth has become the latest link in a chain of love and loss that began in England during World War I, when a young woman gave the doll to her fiancé before he left to join the fighting in Europe. From there to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, to a Czech concentration camp in World War II, and on to a young American soldier in Vietnam in the 1970s, the doll has been passed from hand to hand, in moments of both hope and sadness. Is the little soldier a good luck charm, or an unlucky foreteller of death? Now its fate lies in the hands of Elizabeth, who feels compelled to find its original owner. Like those who came before her, she will be tested by the realities of war, and she too will need to find the hope and courage to go on"

A Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook
Partnered with a boy named Brody, high school senior Avery embarks on a class project to find her birth mother, after Avery's former best friend, also adopted, dies.

Tamara is Head of Children's and Teen Services at Millennium Library. She enjoys reading and writing and lives by Michelangel's words "I am still Learning".

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October 9, 2014

 By Sophie H.

In our technology driven society, I was lucky enough to spend 6 weeks this summer at my favourite place on earth, Camp Massad, completely away from technology. I let go of my phone and laptop as I left home and got to spend an amazing summer with all of my closest friends. Being surrounded by technology 24/7 in the city, being at camp felt like being in a whole different world. But overall, my break from wifi and the outside world was a well needed one.

Thankfully, most of my closest friends already go to camp, so instead of texting them all the time, I got to live with them every day. For my friends and my family who weren’t at camp, hand written letters were used a s a method of communication. Although it’s slow, it’s still a surprisingly personal and sentimental way to talk. And being cell phone free was incredibly relieving. There were no notifications, and no stress to always be on top of everything that was happening to everyone else all the time. I finally got a break to just focus on the people in front of me, and that made me grow so much closer with so many of my friends. However, at times it could be inconvenient. In the middle of a program if you desperately needed to find someone, instead of sending an instant message sent straight to them, you’d have to run around the campsite, going from building to building just to ask one simple question. And at times, having no access to the outside world could feel quite isolating. Considering everything that happened in the world over the summer, it felt very strange to come home from camp and suddenly realise that the global situation is in absolute turmoil. However, it was sometimes a blessing in disguise. For those few weeks, the only issues I knew of were ones within the campsite. So instead of worrying about ISIS, I could worry about what song we’d be singing at lunch that day.

Despite the inconveniences of living without technology, it was a way to reconnect with my friends away from screens. I got to live for six weeks without distractions, and only had to deal with problems inside my own little world. I am so thankful for the amazing summer I had at Massad, and thankful for my break from social media.

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October 2, 2014

By Colette

On September 26th 2014,the MANITOBA YOUNG READER’S CHOICE AWARD was presented to Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch for her novel Making Bombs for Hitler.  The award was presented at a special ceremony held at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, with hundreds of kids in attendnace.  Marsha was selected by Manitoban tweens who had read at least 5 books from the nominated list.

Students and fans gathered to hear Marsha read from her novels. Making Bombs for Hitler is part of trilogy, brilliantly written since you don’t have to read them in any particular order. Each book follows the story of a Ukrainian child caught up in the events of World War II. Marsha was thrilled to be in Winnipeg, and she shared the story of how her first nomination ever was a MYRCA nomination for Hope’s War, which incidentally is the inspiration for her WWII trilogy. Manitoba clearly loved having her back, judging by the enthusiastic responses from the assembled crowd.

Making Bombs for Hitler is about Lida who was captured by the Nazis and sent to a work camp. There, she struggles to survive under horrific conditions. Although she is only 8, she lies about her age to appear older since she has heard from Luka that the Nazis shoot anyone who isn’t useful. Because her hands are very small, she is recruited first to do the mending, then to make bombs. This is a job the Nazis would only give to slave labourers since the bomb factories were a prime target of the Allies. Marsha's biggest worry about this book was that her character was too young, but during her research, she discovered that children as young as 5 were found in the work camps. Sadly, Lida’s story really could have happened.

Lida’s friend Luka is the subject of the book Underground Soldier. Luka manages to escape the work camp by hiding in a train car full of the corpses of his friends who died in the camp. Luka decides to walk back to Kiev and attempt to find his father, his last remaining relative. Unfortunately the war is directly in his path and the walk to Kiev is far more distant than he could ever imagine. He meets up with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and wants to join but cannot give up the journey to find his missing family. Will Luka ever realize that everything he loves is gone?

Stolen Child is the story of Lida’s younger sister Larisa, both abducted at the same time. Larisa doesn’t remember anything of her older life, except for hazy snippets of memories in different languages. When the children at school begin to tease her about being a Nazi, Larisa secretly believes they are right. Why can she speak German? Why can she speak Ukrainian and who are these people pretending to be her parents? Marsha told the crowd that this was her favorite book since she considers it the best written. She said that it has the shape of an onion; the reader slowly peels back the layers of Larisa’s memory to discover what really happened to her. The truth will shock you!

After the formal Award Ceremony, the atmosphere was electric as everyone lined up to have their books signed by Marsha. She was nice enough to bring 350 signed bookmarks to give to each one of the students who attended the ceremony!  Although her books are about dark times, she is quickly becoming a guiding light of truth. Without books like hers, we would never know about some of the atrocities faced by the Ukrainian people in World War II.

 

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September 22, 2014

The Giver Gathering Blue  Messenger Son

This summer the classic novel The Giver by Lois Lowry came to the big screen. The movie rendition attracted some high profile actors such as Jeff Bridges as The Giver and Meryl Streep as Chief Elder. The movie was directed by Philip Noyce and the screenplay written by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide. Lois Lowry's The Giver has been studied in junior high and high school classes for years and is well-loved by many. The book is the first in The Giver Quartet which includes: The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. You will find all of the books in our catalogue and you will find the eBooks or eAudiobooks in OverDrive. The movie soundtrack can be acessed using Hoopla.  Movie soundtrack

One of the perks fo being is YAC member is that sometimes the library recives advanced screening passes for upcoming movies. This summer we received some passes for The Giver and the YAC members who had the opportunity to see it were asked to provide some commentary on their experience. How did the movie compare to the book? Did they agree with the acting and directing choices that were made? Read on for the reviews from 5 of our Youth Advisory Council members...

Aidan focuses in on the portrayal of the characters in the movie versus the book, particularly the main character of Jonas.

The Giver, is a truly inspiring novel and an equally enjoyable movie. It is a story about a boy named Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites), who lives in his futuristic community with his family and friends in complete harmony. Everything is perfect: no arguments, sadness, regret, everyone is happy, until Jonas is chosen to become the new receiver of memory. He alone must carry the memory of man-kind’s mistakes and joys in this futuristic tale. The question is however, is he okay with having these memories whilst everyone is in the dark?

Between the book and the movie there were some differences, as it is with all novel-based movies. One of the major differences I found was that Jonas’ friends Asher and Fiona (played by Cameron Monaghan and Odeya Rush) were more involved in the movie than in the book.

Though it took away from the feelings of solitude and loneliness that the novel expertly created, it also took away some off the sadness that was originally in place. Also, the actors in the movie fit their characters quite well. The side characters being emotionless to the edge of being a human or a robot really helped to reinforce Jonas’ difference in his ability to feel. Jonas’ performance will be guaranteed to keep you enthralled throughout the entire movie.

Robyn enjoyed the movie and found it to be a fair representation of the book.

My friend thought that it was very similar to all the other dystopian movies out there.  We both agree that they chose great actors/actresses for the parts.

I found that the book and movie were almost identical.  The only difference I could see was that the mark of the receivers/givers is light coloured eyes in the book and a mark on their hand in the movie.

In my opinion the ending of the movie was a little anticlimactic even though it was exactly the same as the book.  Overall, it was a good movie and I would recommend it to anyone.

Rena feels that the deep emotion conveyed in the movie in quite similar and just as impactful as that conveyed in the book.  

I haven't read the Giver for about six years and I barely remember it.  This may have been a bit of an advantage in seeing the movie, because I do remember loving the book, and as with all book to movie adaptations, I was afraid the movie would not live up to the book.  However, I believe that this movie did, in its own way, live up to the theme and message of the book; though there were some differences between them.   

Luckily, I saw the movie with a friend who had read the book more recently and was able to refresh my memory.  The greatest change from the book was, of course, aging up all the characters.  In the book, the age at which the children of this dystopian society receive their job placements is twelve, in the movie, it's eighteen.  This change was probably made to include the addition of a love story between the characters, and perhaps because the mature themes and content in the book meant the movie is already more predisposition to an older audience.  Although the young age of the characters in the book added a lot to the story, I understand their reason for the change.  And I can say that I enjoyed the movie more with older actors than I might have if they were all prepubescent. 

The addition of a love story is also a bit of a change, one that I originally wasn't a fan of as it seemed to be there simply to appeal to the teenaged audiences, and to assimilate it with previous popular films such as Divergent and The Hunger Games.  However, I enjoyed how Fiona began to question the rules and society because of Jonas' feelings; and how she began to change even before Jonas broke the barrier.  I thought this spoke to the strength of human emotion, and the strength of Fiona's character; that she began to feel and make her own choices without having to rely on Jonas to save the day.  In the book, no one feels anything until Jonas (and Gabriel) cross the Boundary. 

The only other major change we noticed was the role of Jonas' friend Asher, in the book he is assigned to watch over the younger children, and does not have all that active of a role in the story.  I preferred his more involved role in the movie, though it did unfortunately mean he betrayed his friends and helped the totalitarian government.  However it was a great moment when he decided to let Jonas go, and it was interesting to see him warring with himself over the decision.  Just like it was interesting to watch Fiona wrestle with herself when she decided to help Jonas escape with Gabe. 

I enjoyed all the acting in the film although I didn't know any of the main teenaged actors in the film but I thought they did a great job at portraying the characters and making their gradual journey to feeling emotions believable.  Apparently Taylor Swift made an appearance as well but I did not recognize her at all; I guess I was too caught up in the movie. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about the film was the filming; I'm really glad they decided to do it in black and white as it followed the book and made the full colour memories all the more important.  The dizzying effect and poor footage in some of the memories really helped make them seem jarring, and each one portrayed an emotion well.  The war memory was especially disturbing, in a good way. 

There have been a lot of dystopian movies as of late, but for me, The Giver stood out from the other teen dramas for its younger perspective, and greater focus on the importance of memories and human emotion; as well as what life would be like without those things and how we would relate to each other without feelings like love.  The movie did have flaws of course, such as when Jonas and Gabe (a like year old baby) were dropped out of a helicopter into a series of rapids and both emerged perfectly fine.  However, for the most part I greatly enjoyed the movie and thought it was a thought provoking experience, much like the book.  

Dana did not read the book before seeing the movie but she definitely intends to read the book after seeing it. Here are her thoughts on the story as portrayed in the movie:

Hello! I had the fortunate chance of going to an advanced screening of “The Giver” based off the book from Lois Lowry. Since I haven't read the book my perspective might differ but I'll do my best of also analyzing the movie in detail. Initially, the first thing that caught my eye was the lack of colour to emphasize how monotonous the society is. I notice that everyone basically wore the same clothes in the same colour and had the same coloured bikes. Their way of speaking was so polite and almost robotic in a way that you could tell that this society did not welcome change or difference easily.

Jonas, the main character played by Brenton Thwaites, I think played the role perfectly. He's very confused about where he belongs since it seems like he's different from the rest - and he is. You see splashes of colour from him and wonder why he gets them. Everyone is designated a job that they will do for the rest of their lives, it’s decided by a council of elders. When Jonas is singled out and is chosen for the position of “The Giver” he gets introduced to the past Giver who is played by Jeff Bridges (another great actor!). From there he receives training to be passed on the memories of the Giver and is given the trust to have the citizens and elders ask for his advice and through the memories he can guide them. The memories are of our memories of Earth and yet it feels eerie seeing it being played across his mind. But once he discovers more of these memories he gets torn and finds out about one of the big secrets being kept from him. And thus he tries to set everything right by travelling out of the town's limit to reach it.

I can't of course forget the other characters and their interactions/ roles in the movie. Meryl Streep who plays the chief elder did a fabulous job of being very authoritative but also have a very vulnerable side for someone who's the leader. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard who play Jonas' mother and father were great, you can definitely see even though they may seem brainwashed they genuinely love Jonas and are protective of their family. Odeya Rush who plays Fiona was stunning, she brought this light hearted atmosphere and is very gentle as she has a motherly instinct. As opposed to Jonas' best friend played by Cameron Monaghan also believes in him and still protects him even if it means putting his life on the line. Rosemary played by Taylor Swift was short as she only appeared briefly but she did a great job especially when it came to the singing. I can't forget Lily who is played by Emma Tremblay and I have to say was too cute and really was supportive and brings an innocence to the movie.

All in all, the movie itself gives out a very powerful message about not being afraid to be different. The society thinks that stripping emotions and creativity is better since they think it’s “a threat”. I think that if we block all emotions and creativity we'd be lost and we wouldn't be able to achieve to our potential as emotions and creativity help us nurture and grow.

In terms of music it was a big bonus in helping to convey the emotion and moments in the movie that were climatic. The soundtrack sounds awesome! It may seem slow at some parts since it’s not an action/thriller movie but it definitely is a really good movie to watch especially if you're fans of the book and want to see the world come to life. Anyways that’s all I have to say about the movie and I'm for sure reading the book and maybe my opinion might change I don't know haha. Have a nice day and see this movie and read the book :D

Julia definitely prefers the book to the movie. Although she pays kudos to the cinematography she lets on that the story may fall short in comparison to the classic novel.

I went into this film thinking I knew what to expect. Most of us know the story of Jonas, of The Giver and of Gabriel. We expect the black and white screen, the sharing of “feelings”, the lack of true caring in any of the characters. The film starts strong. The Ceremony is well done, although much more futuristic than the book portrayed – the holographic leader of all the colonies was an interesting touch. Jonas' apprehension, and his fear when his name is skipped by the leader, is portrayed clearly by Brenton Thwaites – as is Jonas' fear as he becomes the newest Receiver of Memory, singled out as different in a world where everything is the same.

Sadly, the film falls flat in many ways. Although the cinematography is exceptional, much of Lowery's magic is lost in translation. From Jonas' first received memory, that of sledding, to his final journey, the film seems to lose the true meaning of the story in favour of becoming a watered-down crowd-pleaser. The film tries too hard to be something it's not, creating its own story in Jonas' romance with Fiona, the massive cliffs surrounding the colony, and Jonas' dramatic fall over the waterfall. Although these scenes create a sense of the impossible, and are certainly cinematically brilliant, the story loses something in cutting out the little things. The things like Jonas' conversation with an Old, Larissa, about the Ceremony of Release, his first experience with the Stirrings, and the Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, where a family is given a new Caleb in replacement for their last who drowned at the age of four. These instances from the novel give more depth to the story, and grant a greater understanding of the way Jonas society functions. Without giving away too much more, I will say that this film has its positives – the cinematography, the actors, the costumes and scenery are all exceptional. I only wish that the script could have been the same.

 

I hope you've found these reviews to be interesting and informative. Remember, whenever possible: Read the book first!

 

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September 12, 2014

by Madeleine

e. lockhart is one of my top favourite “read every book multiple times” teen authors. Her characters get inside your head and stay with you for a long time.

The Boyfriend List The Boy Book  The Treasure Map of Boys Real Live Boyfriends

The Ruby Oliver series (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys and Real Live Boyfriends) is a great examination of what happens when you lose all your friends and have to start learning how to cope and rebuild your life. Though the titles all mention boyfriends and boys in the title, the real heart of the books is female friendship. Ruby Oliver was a happy, mostly well-adjusted teenage girl who was generally well-liked in high school. A falling out involving her ex-boyfriend and best friend leads to her becoming, in her words, a “social leper” and now she has started therapy because of panic attacks. Her therapist helps her work out how she got to where she is and shows her that she has the tools she needs to start the recovery process. As a therapy assignment, Ruby starts writing a list of the boys in her life—those she has dated, kissed, or just had a crush on--but it unfortunately falls into the wrong hands and she goes from “social leper” to “famous slut” as people assume entirely the wrong thing about her list of boys. Ruby learns that while some friendships can be salvaged, some are simply too damaged to ever repair. However, she finds that she can still make peace with those she is no longer close with. Even with all the difficulties Ruby faces, she still faces everything with a healthy dose of humour and is a cool, interesting and complex girl to read about.

The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau BanksThe Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks

Before the summer before sophomore year, Frankie Landau-Banks went mostly unnoticed by her family and nearly everyone around her. She was always intelligent but was seen as someone who needed to be protected. That summer her appearance changes drastically—she’s “hot” now—as well as the kind of attention she starts to receive. When she goes back to her prestigious boarding prep school, Matthew, the cute, funny and smart guy in the in-crowd takes an interest in her and they begin dating. However, she starts to notice how patronising he can be towards her. She starts to realise that the girls in her new group of friends are expected to stand aside while the guys have all the fun and monopolize conversations at the lunch table. When she finds out Matthew has been lying to her about an “old boys club” type of secret society he is a part of, the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, she makes a plan to infiltrate it and by doing so finds out just how deep gender discrimination is ingrained in her school and the larger society around her. This book is by far my favourite of all Lockhart’s books, and Frankie is one of my favourite literary characters I have ever encountered.

DramaramaDramarama

Dramarama is an good read for anyone in theatre, or just anyone who has an interest in theatre. Unfortunately I never went to drama camp but I love learning about it. Sarah is a self-described “supersonic, hydrophonic, gigantic person, only no one could see it.” She lives and breathes musical theatre and doesn’t fit in at high school in her boring hometown of Brenton, Ohio. When she hears about the Wildwood Summer Institute (a prestigious drama camp) is holding auditions, Sarah signs up right away. She cuts her hair and invests in a new wardrobe. At auditions she runs into Douglas Howard, aka Demi in whom she discovers a kindred spirit. Being gay and African American, he also feels out of place at their high school and shares her love of musical theatre. They become best friends and are overjoyed to both be accepted at Wildwood for the summer and he helps her decide on a new name for camp—“Sadye”. When Sadye and Demi get to camp, they meet all sorts of likeminded, talented people. Demi finds his place at Wildwood and really starts to shine. Sadye, however, has more difficulty. She’s opinionated and outspoken and it does not endear her to many of her peers or the staff. She does not get the parts she hoped for in the plays. Sadye learns a lot about herself and what she wants from theatre, which might not be exactly what she first thought she wanted. There is no shortage of glitter, lamé, jazz hands, humour, and of course, drama, in Dramarama.

Fly on the Wall Fly on the Wall

Ever hear someone say “I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for THAT conversation”? Well, Gretchen Yee ends up experiencing that very thing. Gretchen is having a rough time. It’s hard to fit in when everyone at your artsy high school wants to stand out. Her parents have announced they are divorcing. Her best friend Katja has been pulling away for some reason. Her art teacher is disdainful of her love for Spider-man and comic book art. On top of all that, she just doesn’t get boys; in particular, Titus, who is in a group that call themselves the Art Rats. One day, she wakes up and slowly realises that she has been turned into a fly on the wall of the boy’s locker room at her high school! After her initial horror over her Kafka-inspired transformation starts to hear exactly what kinds of conversations go on inside the locker room and she’s intrigued. Gretchen finds out that boys are, in fact, human, and have fears and insecurities like her own.

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars

We Were Liars is Lockhart’s latest title, and it is a lot darker than her previous novels. It’s also the one that has gotten the most attention—already it has been optioned for a movie adaptation! It is not my favourite of hers, but if you’ve never encountered an “unreliable narrator” in literature before, this is a fun place to start. (I would also recommend Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood as well as The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler.) Cadence Sinclair was born into a life of wealth and privilege. Every summer, she would go to her family’s private island along with her mother, her grandmother, her domineering grandfather, her aunts, her cousins, and the nephew of one of her aunt’s boyfriend’s nephew, Gat Patil. Gat comes from a very different background and Cadence’s grandfather has always seemed to resent him. Cadence, her cousins and her beloved Gat, who she loves the most, were very close and called themselves the Liars. They never saw each other during the rest of the year but summers were theirs. During their fifteenth summer, something terrible occurs to Cadence that causes her to hit her head—something that she doesn’t remember. Her memories are damaged and she has shrunk into herself. She finally convinces her mother to take her back to the island, hoping things will be back to normal, but everyone is acting so differently. Cadence makes it her mission to piece together what exactly happened that fifteenth summer, though the truth might be too awful for her to bear. We Were Liars examines the toll that privilege takes on those who don’t have it and those who can’t imagine living without it.

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