First days at school are always scary
THE Pocket Mommy (Tundra, 32 pages, $18 hardcover) by Ottawa author Rachel Eugster, with artwork by Ontario artist Tom Goldwater, will resonate with kindergarten students.
When Samuel doesn’t want to remain in school without his mommy, she offers to become small and stay in his pocket for the day. But he’s not prepared for the trouble Mommy causes: knocking off books, falling into flour and correcting his art work.
By the end of the day he’s happy to insist that Mommy stay home. Goldwater’s watercolour artwork makes an attractive addition to the text.
First-graders will enjoy Noni Is Nervous by Toronto TV host and author Heather Hartt-Sussman (Tundra, 24 pages, $20 hardcover).
Noni is worried about her first day of school. She bites her nails and twirls her hair as she wonders if her teacher will be mean, if she’ll spill her juice box, if she might have an accident. But when all goes well, it is her mother and father who are nervous and bite their nails.
Hartt-Sussman is known for such children’s titles as Nana’s Getting Married and Here Comes Hortense! Award-winning artist Geneviève Côté of Montreal has added simple but sensitive illustrations.
Christmas is even more surprised by her own attraction to life as a nun. Her too-ready refrain is a version of the book’s oft-repeated central question: “What the hell was I doing there?” Gloria Ann Wesley is a Halifax writer
She delights in the difficult choices and poet whose work has mainly centred she has to make: between a third maron stories of black settlers in Nova Scotia. riage or a vow of celibacy, between livHer latest young-adult novel, If This Is ing in a condo or a convent. Freedom, published on the Roseway im
Unfortunately, Christmas chooses to print of Winnipeg’s Fernwood Publishing structure her story around her decision(272 pages, $20 paperback), tells the story making process. She writes in the past of Sara Cooper, who accepted the promise tense but repeatedly wonders aloud if of land and protection to those who had she will choose life on the inside or the stayed loyal to Britain in the American outside of the nunnery walls — someRevolutionary war, moved from American thing very much settled in reality and territory and relocated to an area called rather obvious to readers who’ve taken a Birchtown on the outskirts of Shelburne, quickS.peek at the back of the book. N.
The suspense isn’t anywhere near as However, reality soon proves the promunbearable as Christmas’s efforts to ises false. The land is poor, supplies are drum it up. scarce and the only work available is of
While there is interesting material in the most menial kind. this book, it feels increasingly disinSara has signed an indenture agreement genuous with each chapter. It feels, to be with the Blyes, a wealthy, unscrupulous frank, like a prolonged performance of couple. In a plot reminiscent of Les Misindecisiveness by a woman invested in érables, when her wages are withheld she the kookiness of a manufactured situasteals a loaf of bread to feed her family, a tion. deed that leads to unimaginable consequences.
If This Is Freedom (being released Oct. 1) is not an easy book to read. There are many instances of bad faith and unnecessary hardship. The almost death-bed conversion to decency of the Blyes seems both too late and too unlikely.
Wesley has told an honest tale of a very difficult period in Nova Scotia history. While Sara is a heroine of courage and determination, her efforts here seem destined to have very little positive outcome.
The Path of Names, a first novel by Vancouver author Ari Goelman (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 340 pages, $19 hardcover), is about a maze. Not since Carol Shields’ Larry’s Party has this deliberately confusing arrangement of greenery and paths held such a prominent role in a novel.
However, Goelman’s maze is magic and has somehow trapped the souls of two little girls who wandered into it years before.
Half fantasy and half realism, his story contains ancient Jewish lore and a number of sacred Hebrew words. The narrator, 13-year-old Dahlia Sherman, has been sent to a summer camp to learn more about the Hebrew religion and language.
As she deals with ghosts and golems, and children possibly disappearing into the maze, this book might just become a late-night thriller for future campers.
In my August review of Sue MacLeod’s novel Namesake, I mistakenly attributed Lady Jane Grey’s death to a command of Henry VIII. She was executed at the order of Henry’s daughter, Mary, in 1554.