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January 17, 2009


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Author: Pam Withers

Page Length: 101

Genre: Fiction


SUMMARY: Beverly lives in Winapeg, Canada, but is visiting her uncle who lives in Hawaii.  Her uncle runs a dive shop and she is eager to go scuba diving again.  Beverly has two goals to accomplish during her stay.  Feeling a little chubby, she vows to lose ten pounds.  She also wants to find a boyfriend.


Quite a few boys pass through the dive shop, but the one who catches Beverly’s eye is Garth, the dive master.  He is cute, confident and a bit flirtatious.  Beverly likes him too.  Being a little bit older, he seems to be pushing the affection part a little more than Beverly is comfortable with.


Beverly is actually hiding the fact that she is trying to lose weight and is almost starving herself.  When she goes on the dives with her uncle and Garth she realizes that she has not consumed enough calories to provide the energy she needs to swim comfortably.  A series of events spur a lot of action and suspense as the story develops.

REVIEW:  This was a good fast read that I think teen-age girls would enjoy. The setting in Hawaii and the romance of Beverly and Garth will keep the reader intrigued with trying to determine what will happen next.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Cause and Effect, and Making Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Camp Wild, Raging River, Peak Survival, Adrenalin Ride

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Coral Reef Adventure (2003)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


November 5, 2008

Tough Trails

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Tough Trails

Author: Irene Morck

Page Length: 96    

Reading Level: 2.6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As a teen-ager, Ambrose Metford worked for his Uncle in the summer taking trail riders high up into Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.  As the story begins, Ambrose is sent to the horse auction to sell his horse Blackie.  Uncle Mac had given permission to Ambrose to buy a horse to replace Blackie. 

As the auction begins, Ambrose meets an older woman who seems to be as upset as he is to be selling her horse.  In fact, she convinces Ambrose to buy her horse, Society Girl who is 25 years old.  Ambrose didn’t make the best decision when buying his horse. He knows he will be scrutinized by Uncle Mac and his two aunts, Janice and Madge for buying the old mare.

Ambrose bonds quickly with Society Girl and has her practice packing the bags she will need to carry on their trail rides. A famous photographer and his son request Ambrose and his aunt to take them on the very steep, rocky trail to Wapta Lake.  The trail is tough, the boy is a brat, and a storm hits.  Ambrose questions if he can redeem himself from his bad decision of buying a horse because of a sympathetic heart.

REVIEW:  This is an easy to read, short book that would interest horse lovers. It has adventure and suspense, along with showing the vulnerability of a young man sent on his own to make a very big decision.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details

RELATED BOOKS: Firehorse, Paint the Wind, I am the Great Horse

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Horse Whisperer, Sea Biscuit, Dreamer



REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

September 1, 2008

Refuge Cove

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Refuge Cove

Author: Lesley Choyce

Page Length: 89

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Greg and his mother have just moved to the town of Deep Cove. Greg’s father has recently passed away and Greg is embarking on a new adventure in his young life. His love for sailing takes him out to the cold waters of the North Atlantic where he encounters an Asian refugee family struggling for survival.

Greg offers to bring the refugees to his home and care for them. The family reluctantly agrees. At first, Greg hides the family’s identity from his mother, however that does not last long. Deep Cove is a community where everyone knows everyone. For example, the residents of the town feel so comfortable with each other, that they will walk into each other’s homes without even knocking!

Soon, many residents assist the refugee family by providing food and blankets. The refugee family’s fears of being caught and sent back to their own country seem to be lessened. However, one day, the Mounties arrive at Greg’s home and speak to his mother. She unsuccessfully lies to the police and they arrive a second time to take Greg’s mother in for questioning.

Upon witnessing the presence of the Canadian police, the refugee family makes an escape out onto the stormy waters. Greg chases after them, and after a climactic adventure on the sea the family is returned back to Greg’s home. In the end, the immigration service allows the family to stay on the condition that they have a support network from which to turn to. Greg and his mother as well as the Deep Cove community turn out to be just that support.

REVIEW: Students may have trouble connecting to this story initially. The Canadian setting and numerous references to boating and sailing may not hook the reader. Some front-loading on Canadian geography and boating vocabulary may be beneficial. The topic of refugees is not an easy one. However, this book would be a great supplement to such a historical study. I would recommend that this book be read and then discussed as a group or in pairs.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (pages 7 & 26), vocabulary – whitecaps, tiller, dory, gunwales

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: reference to “booze” and “drugs” (page 20)

RELATED WEBSITES: (website to the city referred to in the book) (website to a Canadian city of the books title) (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) (What is a Refugee?)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

July 29, 2008

Far North

Far North

Author: Will Hobbs

Page Length: 216

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Gabe, a teenager from Texas, has moved to Canada’s Northwest Territories to attend boarding school and to be closer to his father. His roommate is a teenager named Raymond, a native “Dene” to the Northwest Territories – Nahanni Country. Even though both boys share the same birth date, Gabe and Raymond are very different. Raymond finds it difficult to transition into his new school. He eventually quits and takes a plane ride back home. However, unbeknownst to him, Gabe is on the same Cessna plane yet for a different reason. Gabe is along for a scenic tour. Also along for the ride are Clint, the pilot, and Johnny Raven, Raymond’s great-uncle. Johnny Raven is riding back from a hospital stay.

Things quickly turn bad. Upon a water-landing, the engine fails to start again. Everyone but the pilot is able to escape. The plane and Clint, tumble to their demise. The boys and Johnny Raven spend the next several months surviving on their own. Many survival skills the boys learn from Johnny Raven who is accustomed to living off the land. Johnny, Raymond, and Gabe erect structures to sleep in, start fires from crude materials, hunt rabbits, beavers, and moose and avoid winter bears. Temperatures out in the Northwest Territories during the winter months drop as low as – 60 degrees Celsius. Johnny, Gabe, and Raymond feel this cold chill their bones. The only things that matter now are food, water, and movement. Raymond and Gabe convince Johnny that instead of waiting the winter out, they should trek towards Nahanni Butte (village of Johnny).

Johnny Raven eventually passes away in the wilderness and Gabe and Raymond ceremoniously cremate him. The boys trek on towards the Nahanni Butte. After several near-death experiences (escaping bears, falling through freezing water, avoiding wolverines) Raymond and Gabe reach civilization.

The story ends with a ceremony commemorating Johnny Raven’s life with the families of Raymond and Gabe in attendance.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book very much. As one who has mountain climbed in freezing temperatures and has camped out with only the bear necessities, I understand what these characters have gone through to some extent. The realistic depictions of survival in sub zero conditions, is vivid and awesome. The theme of life and death is apparent all throughout the book.

The interactions between Raymond and Gabe seem a little childish, but not overdone. The book, at 216 pages in length, is representative of the many months that the boys were out on their own in the harsh conditions of the Northwest Territories. The author, in his note at the end, states that some of the elements of the story are based on real life experiences and history.

Even focusing on just one chapter of this book, one can feel the rush of emotion and conflict the boys encounter. This is a story that truly depicts what it means to survive.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: reading a map (map located at front of book), foreshadowing (Chapter 1), setting, writing good endings to chapters, simile (pages 55, 68, 77, 97, 113, & 177), sequence of events (Chapter 10), Native American stories (Chapter 12), letter writing containing theme of dying on the inside vs. outside (Chapter 14)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: animal clubbing (page 116), death of a human (page 119), ceremonial act of human cremation (Chapter 13)

RELATED BOOKS: Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, Dangerous River: Adventures on the Nahanni, Downriver, Julie of the Wolves, & The Talking Earth


RELATED WEBSITES: (awesome site about Dene culture, Northwest Territories, survival techniques, student activities, and teacher tips)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

May 28, 2008

Anne of Green Gables

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Anne of Green Gables

Author: L. M. Montgomery

Page Length: 373  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY:  The story begins in Avonlea, Canada with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, siblings, contemplating the adoption of a young boy from an orphan asylum.  The couple is aging and feels it would be nice to have a young lad to assist them on their farm, Green Gables.  They decide to adopt; and, Matthew takes the horse and buggy into town to pick up their “new son.”

He is surprised to find a young eleven year old girl who talks incessantly all the way to Green Gables.  Although Matthew wanted a boy, he is pleasantly taken with Anne Shirley and her bubbly personality.  Marilla is hesitant, but decides she will keep Anne and help her with schooling and her social skills.

Marilla has a stern personality. She is quite challenged to teach Marilla appropriate social skills, beginning with the appropriate way to pray.  The story covers Marilla’s adventures throughout the community and school.

 Marilla meets a friend down the road who she adores.  The two girls are quite close until Marilla invites Diana to “tea” and unknowingly gets her drunk.  This is just the first of many of Anne’s adventures.

REVIEW:  As the story began, like Marilla, I found Anne’s never-ending dialogue irritating.  However, as the story progresses, I became attached and entertained by Anne’s antics. 

Montgomery goes into great detail and description throughout the book.  If not reading the entire book, it could be used for teaching examples of descriptive writing. (p. 9, 137, 227, 236-237, 273)

Girls would enjoy the book more than boys, but it could easily be used as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Setting, Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast, Character, Predictions, Conclusions and Generalizations, Figurative Language, Descriptions in Writing

RELATED BOOKS: Sequels to the book which cover Anne’s life to an older woman are:  Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplar, Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Anne of Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS:  Anne of Green Gables (1985, mini-series), Anne of Green Gables: The Continued Story (1987), Anne of Green Gables (The Animated Series, 2000)



REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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