The Children's Literature Web Guide

Best Bets 1996

The Ontario Library Association Canadian Materials Committee members consist of public librarians from Ontario. The titles included in this annual list of recommended new Canadian titles are selected based on their distinctiveness, quality and appeal to children.


*Doyle, Brian. Uncle Ronald. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996.

112 year old Mickey remembers what life was like after he and his mother ran away from an abusive father and moved to Low, in Brian Doyle's heartening and humourous story.

*Horrocks, Anita. Breath of a ghost. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996.

Darien is both comforted and alarmed as he continues to feel the presence of his little brother long after Jeri's death. When a recurring nightmare of a sinister coyote on the edge of the coulee becomes reality on Halloween, it is time to recognize the "breath of a ghost" as a positive force and accept his loss. An engrossing story of loss and healing.

*Hughes, Monica. The Seven Magpies. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1996.

Mystery and magic surround Maureen who is sent to boarding school for safety during World War II. Rejected by her classmates, Maureen becomes engrossed in discovering what their secret society is about and why she is drawn towards a strange Celtic stone. An enjoyable story of belonging and mystery.

*Lawson, Julie. Cougar cove. Victoria, B.C.: Orca Book Publishers, 1996.

When Samantha visits the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, she meets a cougar and earns the respect of her two older cousins. An adventurous story of wilderness, family and cougars that will interest all animal lovers.

*Nickel, Barbara Kathleen. The secret wish of Nannerl Mozart. Toronto: Second Story Press, 1996.

Twelve year old Nannerl Mozart, overshadowed by her younger brother Wolfgang, dreams of having her own musical genius recognized by writing a symphony and having it publicly performed. A well written blend of fact and fiction that brings the eighteenth century world of this remarkable girl to life.

*Pearson, Kit. Awake and dreaming. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada, 1996.

Nine year old Theo dreams of belonging to a loving family with two parents, brothers and sisters. In reality, her life with her young, irresponsible mother is miserable and poverty stricken. A ghost story with a difference sure to keep kids interested.

*Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Silver threads. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Toronto: Viking, 1996.

Ivan and Anna leave their life of hardship in Bukovyna for Canada. They find hope, but with the outbreak of war Ivan goes to help his new country and finds himself imprisoned and Anna must continue alone. Based on real events, Silver Threads is a well-written story of perseverance with rich, authentic illustrations.

*Wiseman, Eva. A place not home. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996.

When Nelly's family leaves Hungary in 1956 to seek freedom, Nelly is not sure that she wants to go. Nelly's journey from life in Hungary to refugee centres to Canada is effectively and realistically portrayed with poignancy and humour.

Picture Books

*Booth, David. The dust bowl. Illustrated by Karen Reczuch. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1996.

In this poignant tale, Andrew's fears about losing the family farm are reduced after his grandfather tells him about other hardships that they survived. Karen Reczuch's soft pastel colours compliment the rich text.

*Conrad, Pam. The rooster's gift. Illustrated by Eric Beddows. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1996.

Eric Beddows' glorious illustrations shine forth in this delightful story of a young rooster who believes that he has a gift for making the sun rise. One morning the sun rises without his help, and he is forced to re-examine his pre-conceptions.

*Davis, Aubrey. Sody salleratus. Illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1996.

Humorous illustrations add to Aubrey Davis's uproariously funny retelling of an old woman's attempt to get some sody salleratus (baking soda) for her biscuits.

*Gillmor, Don. The fabulous song. Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996.

Frederic Pipkin is destined to be as great as his musical namesake, Frederic Chopin - at least according to his parents who enrol him in one musical lessons after another. In the end, Frederic finds his own place in the musical world. Gay's humorous, chaotic illustrations bring the text to life.

*Huszar, Karen. Meet Matt and Roxy. Photographs by Susan Huszar. Victoria, B.C.: Orca Book Publishers, 1996.

Matt and Roxy are best friends. Hand coloured photographs richly illustrate their times together playing, sharing and relaxing. A simple tale of a dog and his boy for both young and old.

*Lawson, Julie. Whatever you do, don't go near that canoe. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman. Richmond Hill, Ontario: North Winds Press, 1996.

The rollicking lyrical text transports two young children and a stuffed kangaroo to a land of fearsome, jovial pirates. Delightful watercolour illustrations capture the fantastic voyage exquisitely.

*Shortt, Tim. The Babe Ruth ballet school. Toronto: Firefly Books, 1996.

Issy Archer and Babe Ruth are best friends. But when Issy's interests turn from baseball to ballet, Babe joins his friend in ballet school. An amusing story with outrageous illustrations.

*Valgardson, W. D. Sarah and the people of Sand River. Illustrated by Ian Wallace. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996.

When 12 year old Sarah leaves her Icelandic settlement to attend school in Winnipeg, she is forced to work as a servant to a cruel host family. A raven which transforms into a Cree spirit friend of Sarah's grandparents helps her survive and find her way home. Delicate dream-like illustrations in pencil, watercolour and gouache convey the magic and dignity of this literary fairy tale.

*Watts, Irene N. The fish princess. Illustrated by Steve Mennie. Toronto: Tundra, 1996.

The child was not of their kind, but a fisherman found her, took her home and became her grandfather. A beautiful story of devotion with haunting illustrations.

*Yee, Paul. Ghost train. Illustrated by Harvey Chan. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 1996.

Paul Yee has created a beautifully poignant story that brings to life one aspect of Chinese Canadian experiences in the 1900's. Choon-yi creates a masterpiece after her father appears before her in her dreams and tells her to paint a picture of the train he and others helped build. Harvey Chan's illustrations compliment the text and bring the story to life.


*Brewster, Hugh. Anastasia's album. Toronto: Penguin Studio, 1996.

A delightful journey into the life of Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. Intimate photographs from Anastasia's own photo albums predominate, while excerpts from friends and family letters highlight the informative text.

*Gorrell, Gena K. North Star to freedom. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996.

Gorrell presents a comprehensive examination of slavery in North America, the Underground Railroad, and Canada's role in both. Black and white photographs and line drawings reflect the mood and provide stories themselves.

*MacLeod, Elizabeth. Get started: stamp collecting for Canadian kids. Illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1996.

Colourful illustrations and photographs bring the world of stamps and stamp collecting to life. Everything from the history of postal service to removing stamps from envelopes is covered. The information is clearly presented and well illustrated.

*Martin, Carol. Martha Black: Gold rush pioneer. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996.

From Chicago society to the Klondike to Canadian parliament, Martha Black's life was full of adventure. This fascinating biography with photographs, a glossary and sidebars, is a readable, accessible account for children.

*Oppenheim, Joanne. Have you seen bugs? Illustrated by Ron Broda. Richmond Hill, Ontario: North Winds Press, 1996.

A fascinating factual and lyrical look at bugs. Life like three dimensional paper sculpture of ants, moths and butterflies, buzz and dive in shimmering activity. A guide on the last page identifies insects found in the book.

*Tanaka, Shelley. Discovering the Iceman. Illustrated by Laurie McGaw. Toronto: Madison Press, 1996.

In September 1991, two tourists found a frozen body in a glacier that was 5300 years old. The Iceman's discovery and identification as well as details of life 5000 years ago are described in this informative, interesting well illustrated book.

*Whetung, James. The vision seeker. Illustrated by Paul Morin. Toronto: Stoddart, 1996.

In a period of great darkness, a young Anishinaake brings his people back into contact with themselves by retrieving the ritual of the Sweat Lodge. The text flows with an oral cadence and the spirit of the tale is captured by the luminous sculptured paintings of Paul Morin.

The Canadian Materials Committee gratefully acknowledges the assistance of National Book Services in compiling this list.
Thursday, March 6, 1997
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