Friday, October 24, 2008

A Remembrance Day Flower Story Not About Poppies: A Bloom of Friendship Review

Review by Scott Tingley


I’ll come back to that.

Tomorrow night my wife and I plan on attending the new Canadian movie, Passchendaele. If you are Canadian and you aren’t sure if the movie is going to be set in World War I or WWII, the rule of thumb is that if you have heard the name of the battle, and that battle isn’t Dieppe, then it was in WWI.

That really annoys me. I may not have encyclopedic knowledge of Canada’s military heritage, but the majority of us Canadians have little or no understanding of what our countrymen (and women) have endured on the world’s battlefields and at home. We were feared. We were loved. In the past few years (10?) there has been a push to get people out to Remembrance Day celebrations, but I still don’t find that knowledge of specific events has gone up.

A Bloom of Friendship: The Story of the Canadian Tulip Festival by Anne Renaud and Ashley Spires does a nice job of filling a little part of this void for teachers and the young readers they...teach.

Basically, Bloom tells this story that I got from Wikipedia: In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of the Netherlands, so that the birth could formally be claimed to have occurred on Dutch territory. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.

In telling this story the book tells a big part of the story of WWII and Canada’s part in it.

When I fist saw the cover of Bloom, I was hoping it would be a storybook that I could use with early elementary kids, but instead I got so much more. Primary Documents! I didn’t know what a primary document was until University, but this book is full of them. Newspaper clippings and photos are interspersed with chunks of text and “Instant History Facts” to tell the story of the Dutch royal family, Canada’s battle experience in Holland and the whole war in general.

I am very impressed with this book, and I am going to ask my principal to order multiple copies for next year’s Rembrance Day studies (and if I get them this year we will use it whenever).

I will be using the book with my grade 3 class over the next few weeks and I would highly recommend it for upper elementary and middle school students. Even though the cover and format will likely come across as too kid-ish for the middle schoolers it can still be a good teacher resource. As much as I like the internal pictures by Spires, I wish a different cover image was used. I wonder if older elementary and early middle school students will be receptive to a book that, at first glance, looks like a primary storybook.

ISBN: 978-1-897073-35-3, Non-fiction, Ages: 9 – 12, paperback and hardcover, 24 pages, Reading level: 7.4 (AR)


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Friday, October 3, 2008

A Review of Wilbur and the Moose, and an Accidental Review of Bubba the Cowboy Prince - Or - Get Ready for All Kinds of Cowboy Awesomeness!

Review by Scott Tingley

I teach third grade. I have a new batch of students this year and I have to decide something. When will I treat them to the greatest story reading of all time?

I think most teachers have something they secretly think they are amazing at. Maybe one thinks that no one teaches sentence structure like them, or that they teach Trigonometric Functions like a rock star. I’ve got a couple of things I do pretty well (keeping my desk clean is one of them….lying on the internet, apparently, is another), and reading Bubba the Cowboy Prince is another. I put on my black cowboy hat, my dark green bandana and my silver bolo tie; then I pull out the awful cowboy accent (including a truly horrendous John Wayne impression I use for the Fairy God Cow) – it’s awesome.

But, this is not a review for Bubba the Cowboy Prince…well I guess it sort of is, isn’t it? Bubba the Cowboy Prince, by Helen Ketteman and James Warhola is an amazing book to read out loud, with crazy cowboy slang and plenty of silly details in the art to keep the kids giggling every time you or they read it.

The dilemma I am facing is that I have all the gear: hat, tie, bandana, Roy Rogers six-shooters even…but only one cowboy themed book to read. I’ve tried. There have been some very valiant efforts by some very big names in the children’s book universe, but none have met my exacting standards…basically, if a John Wayne or Walter Brennan impression doesn’t fit in while reading it, then no go.

The question is, will the newest printing of the 1989 book, The Ballad of Wilbur and the Moose by John Stadler make it or not?

Well, does the song Big Bad John mean anything to you? If not, listen here and come back. You’re reading this on a screen, It’s not going anywhere.

Okay, so basically if you add a chorus of “Big Blue Moose” to every page you have a cowboy kid’s book at least on par with Bubba. I think the reading calls for something a little subtler than John Wayne; more Tennessee Ernie Ford – just channel your inner cowboy-poet and you will be fine.

The Ballad of Wilbur and the Moose is a cowboy story-song about Wilbur Little and his Big Blue Moose. They have cowboy adventures involving boxing matches, trains, deserts, a bad guy with one of those little mustaches perfect for twirling, a crooked card game and a gang of pig-rustlers. Oh, and lots of lime juice.

Final words? I can’t wait to read this to my students in a week or so….now if I can only train them to do the chorus…”Big Moose, Big Moose, BIG BLUE MOOSE…Big Moose.”

It will be like Rio Bravo meets The Good The Bad and The Ugly meets, I don’t know, Yo! Gabba Gabba – and that adds up to all kinds of cowboy awesomeness.

· $14.99 us
· ISBN: 978-0-375-84174-3 (0-375-84174-1)

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