Your guide to recently released books, CDs and other teaching resources. For additional reviews of French-language resources, visit Lu, vu, entendu. With the exception of some classroom sets, items reviewed are available on loan from the Margaret Wilson Library at the College. Contact Olivia Hamilton at 416-961-8800 (toll-free in Ontario 1-888-534-2222), ext 679, or e-mail

Stories, education, action

Kids Who Rule

The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs

by Charis Cotter   

Kids Who Rule is a highly readable account of the lives of five monarchs who started their reigns when they were children: King Tut (ca 1341–23 BCE), Mary Queen of Scots (1542–87), Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–89), Emperor Puyi of China (1906–67) and the current Dalai Lama of Tibet, born in 1935.

Each chapter focuses on an individual ruler, beginning with a first-hand account of an episode from the ruler’s life, followed by important elements of the country’s history and a description of how the regal life concluded. Vivid photos and artifacts are interspersed with maps and graphs to add realism and visual impact to the somewhat dense text. Sidebars about what life was like during the time of these kings and queens add interesting cultural windows, with information that is sure to interest young readers.

Although a challenging read for students in junior grades, the book would be a useful resource for studies in ancient civilizations. Chunked in manageable lengths for young readers, it is an excellent introduction to biographical text. The book was a 2008 nominee for the Silver Birch Award for non-fiction with the Ontario Library Association of Reading.

Kids Who Rule, Annick Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1554510610, softcover, 120 pages, $14.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192, fax 416-499-8313 or 1-800-450-0391,

Laura Barron is a teacher-librarian in Brampton.

The Literacy Principal

Leading, Supporting, and Assessing Reading and Writing Initiatives

by David Booth and Jennifer Rowsell

The Literacy Principal outlines the key role that principals can play in creating a successful literacy program in schools. This resource encourages principals to first enrich their own understanding of exemplary teaching strategies and then to set up teams of teachers who in turn become agents of change within their schools.

The book includes detailed accounts of professionals in the field who have taken an analytical approach to the data collected from their school communities and created comprehensive literacy plans based on the results. Principals and teachers are encouraged to adopt a similar research-based approach to improving literacy instruction. Specific suggestions include posting anchor charts, teaching a variety of text forms, modelling, using the Q-chart to improve higher-order thinking skills and planning with assessment tools in mind.

In addition to the critical roles that principals and teachers play in literacy instruction, the authors emphasize the value of building partnerships between the home and the larger community to reinforce mastery. This book is a must-have for leaders in education. If principals read only one book this summer in preparation for the school year, The Literacy Principal should be it.

The Literacy Principal, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2007, ISBN 978-1551382166, softcover, 144 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807, fax 905-477-3691 or 1-800-339-5568,

Sarah Lynn Frost Hunter is an early literacy teacher who works with K-3 teachers to create balanced literacy programs in the Peel DSB.

Echoes of the Holocaust

by Carole Ann Reed and Harold Lass

Discrimination in all its ugly guises reverberates throughout Echoes of the Holocaust as the authors present a wide range of contemporary human rights issues. Race and racism, social justice, gender equity, access for people with disabilities, societal challenges to women, and bigotry towards gay people are all covered in the text.

The book provides wonderful writing by Aboriginal Canadian Basil H. Johnston, retired York Region superintendent Jerry Diakiw, authors Elie Wiesel, Alice Munro, Roberta Bondar, Leonard Cohen, Irving Abella, Joy Kogawa, Neil Bissoondath, Pierre Berton and many others.

A list of objectives aimed at deepening students’ understanding of intolerance introduces a variety of pedagogical opportunities. These prompt questions about the nature of freedom and democracy in the face of racism, human rights violations and prejudice.

Regardless of their disciplines – English, history, religion or business – I would challenge all teachers of senior grades to enrich their curricula and make their teaching more relevant by exploring the many-faceted issues in this book.

Echoes of the Holocaust, Pacific Educational Press, Vancouver, 2007, ISBN 987-1895766783, softcover, 208 pages, $18.95, tel 604-822-5385, fax 604-822-6603 or -800-668-0821,,

Patricia Goldblatt is a program officer at the College and a former secondary school teacher of art and English in Toronto.

Guided Listening

by Lisa Donohue

All classroom teachers aim to create balance in their literacy programs. But we often forget that students must be taught to really listen before they can gain a greater understanding of the meaning of text. It is only once they have acquired real listening skills that students can transfer those strategies to independent reading.

Lisa Donohue presents several techniques to guide listening. She emphasizes the art of making inferences and asking good questions and refers to Bloom’s Taxonomy to show students how to synthesize information. Graphic organizers are provided to assist students with grouping their ideas. Rubrics and tracking sheets are also available to copy for classroom use.

This book is an excellent resource for helping teachers guide their students from being passive listeners to becoming accountable learners. Guided Listening would be a valuable addition to any primary, junior or intermediate classroom library. It could also be an outstanding tool for teachers in training.

This is a must-have!

Guided Listening, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2007, ISBN 978-1551382197, softcover, 152 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807, fax 905-477-3691 or 1-800-339-5568,

Dorothea Bryant is a student-teacher advisor for the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Education and an English and language arts instructor for junior-intermediate and intermediate-senior teacher candidates

The Great Number Rumble

A Story of Math in Surprising Places

by Gillian O’Reilly and Cora Lee
illustrated by Virginia Gray

In recent years, math curriculum has shifted away from rote learning towards a problem-solving approach where students are encouraged to make sense of math and appreciate its relevance in their everyday lives. As a result, educators have had to revise their thinking about what math is and how it should be taught.

The Great Number Rumble is a literary response to these new trends. The premise of the book is simple: When the director of education bans math in all schools, Sam, a self-proclaimed “mathnik,” initiates a plan to show how important math really is.

The Great Number Rumble initially asks the question, “What is math?” That question is ultimately answered with, “What isn’t it?” Each chapter explores a different aspect: math in nature, sport, art, music, magic and more. Accompanying each of the chapters are vignettes telling the stories of great mathematicians. Sidebars delve into various math facts, like integers and rational numbers. Diagrams, illustrations and photographs support the text. Non-traditional applications of math that would make great enrichment activities are also included. Further reading suggestions, a glossary and an index round out the book.

The message in this book is clear – everyone can succeed at math. While winning over the math-phobics of the world, The Great Number Rumble makes math both relevant and fun.

The Great Number Rumble, Annick Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1554510313, softcover, 108 pages, $14.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192, fax 416-499-8313 or 1-800-450-0391,

Jennifer Wyatt is a Grade 4 teacher in Toronto.

Educating the Net Generation

How to Engage Students in the 21st Century

by Bob Pletka, EdD

At the core of Bob Pletka’s book is the claim that the millennial generation needs drastically different pedagogical methods than the high school students of previous eras. Pletka, a teacher and superintendent in California, makes a credible argument for changes in both school policy and teaching methods to better serve today’s high school students. He urges parents and teachers to avoid doing the same old things if they hope to engage and motivate young adults.

In the book, interviews with and photographs of students provide a sharp contrast to the quotes by parents and teachers. Based on what is said, the author develops a number of suggestions aimed at making school work more meaningful for students.

Not only does he provide a forum for these voices and offer valuable strategies for addressing the problems of student dropout and disengagement, he includes inventories for parents and educators and lists education references and web sites for further investigation.

Educating the Net Generation, Santa Monica Press, Santa Monica, 2007, ISBN 1-59580-023-9, softcover, 192 pages, US$16.95, tel 1-800-784-9553,,

Mary Shaughnessy instructs student teachers at Queen’s University in Kingston.

Rise of the Golden Cobra

by Henry T. Aubin
illustrated by Stephen M. Taylor

Set in Egypt in the eighth century BCE, Rise of the Golden Cobra is the complicated story of 14-year-old Nebamon (Nebi). The novel is based on the true story of the African king of Kush, Piankhy, whose military campaigns and honourable reign led to the unification of ancient Egypt. The story abounds with intrigue, military maneuvers and secret codes. Events are fast-paced and full of twists and double crosses.

At the outset, Nebi joins the medical corps that travels north with the army to save Egypt from the threat of a resurgent Assyria. In his detailed and accurate depiction of major battles and their aftermaths, Aubin builds suspense while describing military tactics, weaponry and political differences.

The larger events of the Egyptian political and military conflict provide a backdrop for Nebi’s physical and emotional growth and his budding friendship with Prince Shebitku. Both the larger and more personal issues come together smoothly. Piankhy’s triumph is well earned and is a model for good leadership. Nebi emulates that approach to leadership when he steps back from an opportunity to avenge the brutality he experienced earlier in the book.

The story is told in a solid, unadorned style and depicts a world full of danger, excitement and complex moral issues. It is sure to appeal to readers who are interested in intricate military exploits and exotic settings.

Rise of the Golden Cobra, Annick Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1554510597, softcover, 256 pages, $12.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192, fax 416-499-8313 or 1-800-450-0391,

Gail Lennon is an author of teaching materials who divides her time between Ontario and Florida. She is working on her first novel.

Out of the Question

Guiding Students to a Deeper Understanding of What They See, Read, Hear, and Do

by Sally Godinho and Jeni Wilson

“Who asks the questions in a classroom?” is the central question the authors pose to their readers. In many classrooms, the teacher asks the questions and the students respond. However, when students and teachers share the responsibility of asking questions, the authors argue, a genuine learning environment can be created.

Out of the Question encourages teachers to use various questioning techniques to tap into their students’ creativity, emotions and cognitive skills in order to generate higher-order thinking. These techniques provide students with the language they need to express themselves, clarify their understanding and think more deeply about their own thinking.

Many of the activities and strategies are anchored in the processes identified with creative thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy, Krathwohl’s Affective Domain Taxonomy and De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, all of which encourage higher-order thinking skills. The authors anticipate the reader’s concerns with the things that can make asking questions problematic, such as risk taking, when to tell students the answers, how to assess questions, how to build questions into the lesson and how to encourage the reluctant questioner.

The book provides checklists that teachers can use to track techniques for asking effective questions and a self-assessment rubric for students. The handy flip-chart format, with colour-highlighted diagrams, has the information leaping off the page. This is a book that will likely remain close at hand and end up with several sticky notes to mark favourite pages.

Out of the Question, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55138-214-2, softcover, 32 pages, $12.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807, fax 905-477-3691 or 1-800-339-5568,

Caroline Cremer teaches Grades 1 and 2 in Toronto.

Let’s Put on a Show

Theatre Production for Novices

by Stewart F. Lane

Staging a play or musical is a collaborative, cross-curricular, not to mention fun opportunity in any school. But the challenges can be daunting. In Let’s Put on a Show, Stewart Lane soothes stage fright by providing authentic examples from his own experience as a three-time Tony-Award-winning producer.

The book offers information that helps directors at schools, community theatres – even professionals – to stage a production. Advice on obtaining rights, financing, fundraising and sponsorships are covered. Chapters 2 to 4 suggest how to select a show, with consideration to theme and talent level.

Chapters 5 through 7 describe how to assemble a creative team, define roles and manage timelines. Handling auditions, casting, production schedules, promotion and marketing are also addressed.

The final chapter deals with writing a play or musical. Concepts support Ontario curriculum expectations and may be useful for senior drama and English.

Lets Put On a Show will assist neophyte directors/producers in their theatrical debuts while reinforcing fundamentals for more experienced impresarios.

Let’s Put on a Show, Heinemann, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 2007, ISBN 978-0325009810, softcover, 176 pages, $23.34, distributed in Canada by Pearson Education, tel 905-853-7888, 1-800-567-3800, fax 1-800-563-9196,

John Phillips leads the curriculum review for the arts 9-12 at the Ministry of Education.

Let’s Go!

The Story of Getting from There to Here

by Lizann Flatt

Let’s Go is an enticing history of transportation suitable for primary and junior students with cross-curriculum applications for literacy, social studies and science. It begins with the lives of First Nations peoples and continues to present-day space travel.

Simple sentences with carefully chosen descriptors enrich understanding and enhance enjoyment.

 A comprehensive vocabulary includes words like travois, portages and bushplanes. And literary devices such as alliteration, metaphor and the occasional rhyme are used.

Type is manipulated for emphasis and interest. The text is carefully set into colourful, double spreads with detailed and appealing illustrations.

A Did You Know? section provides additional information such as the history of dogs and horses in North America, the difference between propeller planes and jets, and developments in the technology of landing space shuttles. These pages are a satisfying completion to a delightful resource.

Let’s Go!, Maple Tree Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1-897349-02-1, hardcover, 40 pages, $19.95, distributed by Raincoast Books, tel 1-800-663-5714, fax 1-800-565-3770,

Bonnie Beldan Thomson teaches kindergarten in the Durham DSB.


From Pen, Brush and Tongue

edited by Jessica Hein, Heather Holland, and Carol Kauppi

This book gives teenagers the opportunity to share their thoughts and artwork on being young and female in Canada. By doing so, each girl joins the community of published authors while lending her voice to an ever-more complex understanding of the topic.

The catalyst for the book was a series of conversations among the editors about their own adolescence: what mattered, what overwhelmed them, what scratched at their self-esteem, and how they managed to navigate the range of teenage emotions. The project eventually included a survey of 556 young women, interviews with girls, the development of workshops and a travelling exhibition titled Making Her Mark, which showcased writing and artwork created in the workshops.

The book is organized into chapters that reflect four themes: voice, beauty, strength and becoming. Scattered throughout are data from the survey and quotes by contributors. These elements, along with the writing and artwork, make the reading layered and complex – challenging the reader to think again and again before assigning fixed notions to the topic.

This enjoyable book compelled me to think about my role as a mother of teenage daughters and challenges teachers to think about the environments teenage girls need to thrive.

GirlSpoken, Second Story Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1-897187-30-2, softcover, 184 pages, $18.95, tel 416-537-7850, fax 416-537-0588,

Sandra Jack-Malik is a member of the College and a PhD candidate in elementary education at the University of Alberta.

For past reviews, visit the archives.

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