Mrs Peachtree

Is there a job where I can get paid to read?

Canadian Book Challenge Review #3 January 22, 2009

I have to say that I’m pretty terrible at keeping up with my reviews for this challenge! It’s not that I’m not reading, it’s just that I’m not writing about what I read. Also, I was planning to review only Canadian children’s literature but I seem to have veered off into some young adult titles so I’ll have to amend my challenge to Canadian children’s and young adult literature.

The book I just finished is Janet McNaughton’s An Earthly Knight. It is a book based on two ballads, the ballad of Tam Lin and the ballad Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight, and it is set in Scotland in 1162. McNaughton tells the story of sixteen-year-old Lady Jeanette Avenel who is struggling to fill the role of eldest daughter after her sister Isabel’s disgrace. The story is rich with detail about medieval life and the plot is subtly moved along, drawing the reader right into the story. Even though the story comes to a satisfying conclusion I found myself missing the characters and wanting to know more about them when I finished the book. The details of Isabel’s disgrace are not revealed in the beginning and emerge slowly and in pieces throughout the novel.

With elements of romance, drama, and adventure, this novel is one I would recommend to any teen and I’m glad I had the chance to read it now since I missed out in my own teenage years.


The Canadian Book Challenge review #2! November 24, 2008

Holy Cow! It’s nearly December and up to this point I’ve only posted one review for this year’s Canadian Book Challenge. I definitely need to pull up my socks! Since I’ve had no classes (because my professors are on strike) I’ve had lots of time to read so I will hopefully be posting some more reviews.

When I was a kid I read O.R. Melling’s The Hunter’s Moon and I absolutely loved it. I wanted to be Gwen, one of the main characters, and I was absolutely fascinated by the Irish folklore that Melling wove into her story. I didn’t find out about the rest of Melling’s books until I was an adult and I have to admit that I’m not quite as thrilled with the rest of them. I just finished reading The Singing Stone, which I began reading in August. I just wasn’t drawn into the story and so I hardly ever picked it up. The book is a slim volume and it tells the story of Kay, an orphan, who has been sent some mysterious books full of Celtic legends and who is transported to another time in order to accompany a girl named Aherne on a quest to locate four treasures and answer the question of who Kay and Aherne actually are. Melling has done what she always does, which is take Irish folklore and history and weave them into a story that involves modern day girls who are experiencing some sort of turmoil in their lives. Of course, there is also always a romance element and the girl always gets the guy in the end. I think the reason that I didn’t enjoy this one is that the book was too short to contain the story. Melling is tackling a huge part of Irish history – the debate about whether the Tuatha De Danaan actually existed or whether they are simply legend. Unfortunately, she crams this story into 205 pages, which is not enough to really get to know the characters or develop the plot. I didn’t feel like I really knew Kay and Aherne, I found their relationship unbelievable, and I often felt like the description and plot were rushed and confusing. I will admit, though, that I started to get into the story and enjoy it more in the last ten chapters, and I suspect that holding this work up to The Hunter’s Moon was unfair of me. I think that if I had read this book at the same time as I had read my first Melling book I would have enjoyed it much more than I did this time around.

Oh boy. I don’t think I’ve ever written an unfavourable review before. I do hope that O.R. Melling never reads this post because I still like her other writing and I will still be seeking out some of her other works which I haven’t read yet because I really am fascinated by the Celtic lore that she brings to her books and I also really enjoy the way she writes about Canadian locales that are familiar to me as well as these supernatural faery worlds that exist in the Irish countryside.


And the winner is… November 9, 2008

I attended my very first Canadian Children’s Literature Awards on Thursday night where Christopher Paul Curtis took home both the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for his novel Elijah of Buxton. The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award went to author Frieda Wishinsky and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay for their work on Please, Louise!, and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction went to Hugh Brewster for At Vimy Ridge: Canada’s Greatest World War I Victory. The event was put on by TD Bank at the Carlu in Toronto and it was all very swanky. The excitement in the air was palpable and it just made me itch to finish with school and get to work in a school or a library somewhere sharing fabulous literature with children!
Unfortunately, the TAs, contract faculty and graduate students at York University are on strike right now so I am rather worried about what will happen to my year. I should be graduating in the spring and I will be so disappointed and angry if I end up losing my year over this strike. On the plus side of the strike, it will give me time to do more reading! I haven’t been keeping up with the Canadian Book Challenge at all and I’d like to take the time to post some reviews in the coming weeks. Of course, my reading list for the challenge may be completely changed now that I’m dying to read all of the nominees and winners of the four awards presented on Thursday night. I’ll be starting with Elijah of Buxton and Too Many Books since they were both sent home with me in a lovely goody bag at the end of the evening.


Back to School September 5, 2008

Filed under: ADHD,School — Mrs. Peachtree @ 11:46 am

It’s that time again. It’s time to go back to school. For me this means back to my university courses as well as back to work since I work at a school. I always feel like it’s the new year in September more than I do in January. There are fresh notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, brand new textbooks, a new schedule, and the potential for a whole new routine.

I always make promises to myself that this year everything is going to be organized, on time, and easy and every year it all goes crazy and I end up feeling like I’ve failed. When I look back on my journals they are filled with resolutions and they are always the same ones. I will begin working on my assignments well in advance. I will do all of my course readings and take meticulous notes before and during each class. I will hand in my assignments on time. I will study for all my tests and exams. I will get As in all my classes. Now that I’m aware that there is an actual neurological problem that is sabotaging all my well-meaning efforts I don’t feel quite so bad about writing the essay at the last minute, asking for an extension on an assignment, or the fact that my desk/knapsack/office frequently look like something has exploded. I am starting to accept that because of the ADHD I will not be able to achieve all of those lofty goals. A really great result of learning about ADHD, however, has been that I have found out that I am capable of achieving those goals, and that it just requires a lot more planning for me than the average person!

Last school year I actually did achieve an A+ and an A along with my Bs. I have accomodations at school which allow me to ask for an extension if I need it and to write all of my tests and exams on a computer with 50% more time. All of my professors receive letters explaining my “special needs” status and so I am no longer intimidated by going to them to discuss the problems I am having in writing a particular assignment and I no longer feel that they secretly think I’m lazy and don’t want to succeed or do any work in their class. My work spaces still do frequently look like a bomb has gone off but all of my important dates and details are recorded diligently into a moleskine agenda and since I started taking my class notes on the computer not only are they much more complete and coherent than before, other students are actually asking me if they can borrow my notes!

Finally, another added benefit of learning about ADHD has led me to reassess my career goals. When I originally went to university I was in the concurrent education program where I was working on a degree in French and a teacher’s certificate concurrently. I had excellent marks in the teacher’s ed. portion of my degree but when I dropped out of university and then later reapplied I did not reenter the teacher’s ed. part of my degree. I had decided that I would much rather work in a library. Lately, however, though I still love books, reading and the library, I have been considering applying to teacher’s college next year when I have completed my undergraduate degree. Not only do I keep ending up in jobs where I am working directly with children and youth, I have found that in the past few years I have been able to understand and work with students who have learning disabilities or behavioural issues much more effectively than in the past. Rather than be irritated by a boy who continually disrupts the group and seems to blurt out insults to his fellow participants without thinking I find myself wondering whether this is something he has any control over at all and finding alternative ways to redirect his energy and attention rather than repeatedly telling him to please be quiet or sit still. I think that as a teacher with ADHD I would have many tools to work with this type of student that others may not have without much education and mountains of understanding and patience. I only wish now that at some point in my childhood someone had recognized me as having this disorder instead of labeling me lazy or disorganized or just plain dumb!

Now I must get to work. I think my desk could use some tidying and my Old English text isn’t going to read itself…


The Challenge Begins July 2, 2008

“…in third grade. My art teacher, Mr. B., failed me on an art project. I could not draw a perfectly symmetrical flower vase. “If you can’t draw a perfectly symmetrical flower vase,” Mr. B. said, “you’ll never learn to draw.” Discouraged, I gave up drawing for the next ten years.” This quotation, taken from the Groundwood Books website reminds me very much of the story of the Little Prince. Personally, I never would have guessed that anyone could have anything bad to say about Marie-Louise Gay’s artistic abilities since that is the part of her books that I like best! I would love to have pictures of the forest in Stella Fairy of the Forest to put on the wall close to my desk.

How do you become invisible? You think of invisible things, like wind or music. What do fairies look like? They’re tiny and beautiful and they fly very fast. Do butterflies eat butter? Yellow ones do. These are just some of the wisdoms that Stella imparts on her little brother Sam as they spend an afternoon in the fields and forest looking for fairies and building a fort out of ferns to protect them from the giant who is watering his rocks. Marie-Louise has perfectly captured the relationship between an older sister and younger brother in this and in her other Stella and Sam books. Stella loves to teach Sam about the world around them, Sam is always bursting with questions, and often with insights of his own (blue butterflies must eat pieces of sky).

I’m afraid I don’t know anything about illustration techniques but to me the illustrations look like they are done with ink, watercolours and maybe even some tissue paper. In any case, the beautiful illustrations are slightly ethereal and they lend a sort of dreamlike quality to the story. When I read this story I get the sensation of a really hot, breezy and sunny summer day spent outdoors exploring.

I would recommend this or any of Marie-Louise Gay’s other books to grownups and children alike.


The List June 16, 2008

Since I’m very busy procrastinating and not working on the take-home midterm exam that is due tomorrow at 11:55pm, I thought I’d come up with a list of the books I would like to read for the second Canadian Book Challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it through the first challenge because I started so late and had too much school reading to do. My theme for the first challenge was Canadian Children’s Literature and since I now have many sad children’s books calling to me from the shelf I’m going to stick with that theme for the second challenge.

Here’s the list:

  • Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
  • Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel
  • A Perfect Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson
  • The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton
  • The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier
  • Stella Fairy of the Forest by Marie Louise Gay
  • Some of the Kinder Planets by Tim Wynne-Jones
  • Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler
  • Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt
  • The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton
  • The Singing Stone by O.R. Melling
  • Death Over Montreal by Geoffrey Bilson

Okay, so some of them may be crossing over into Young Adult fiction instead of staying in the Children’s fiction genre, but I think that they’ll all prove to be fantastic reads.


Bowing Out June 12, 2008

Filed under: Canadian Book Challenge,Canadian Children's Literature,School — Mrs. Peachtree @ 12:28 pm

Sadly, I’m going to have to bow out of the Canadian Book Challenge this year. I am so swamped with reading for my two summer courses that I just can’t seem to find the time to do any extra reading for myself. I will definitely be back to participate in the next Canadian Book Challenge, and I think I’ll stick to the same theme of children’s books, although I won’t cheat! The books I have already read for this year’s challenge don’t count..I’ll have to read more.

Although I’m kind of bummed about not having time for the challenge this year I’m really enjoying all the reading I am doing. I am taking Fiction of the Fantastic, a third year university course where we are exploring elements of the fantastic in books like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Harry Potter, The Shining, The Castle of Otranto, and numerous others. I am also taking Genre Fiction and Readers’ Advisory, which will count towards my Library Technician’s diploma. In this course we are exploring a few different genres (western, romance, science fiction, historical fiction, crime/mystery, horror, suspence, and fantasy) and instead of following a set reading list we are making up our own reading lists and choosing our own books from the different genres to complete the assignments. Both courses are a lot of fun and incredibly interesting but the amount of reading I am doing right now is unbelievable. Good thing I like to read!

Of course, just to make sure I’m not bored, on top of my summer courses I am planning and running two different summer camps this year. The first is a month-long literacy program for kids from an inner-city school. The focus is media literacy and I am in charge of the “camp” activities such as games and visual arts while the three teachers I am working with are in charge of the classroom part of the camp. The second is a two-week residential French camp that I run with my best friend. This year I am in charge of the CIT program as well as being the program director for the entire camp. Wow! Just rereading all of that is freaking me out. I had better get to work.