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Book Reviews in January/February 2003 Issue

Note from Editor
Editor's Note
by Olga Stein
The Fall 2002 issue of Common Knowledge, ran an interview with Gianni Vattimo, author of The End of Modernity: Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Postmodern Culture. The Italian philosopher eloquently expounds his notion of "weak thought", an intellectual commitment to 'weakening' what are commonly held to be objective truths, by exposing them as the products not of divinely ordained, 'metaphysical' precepts, but of violent historical developments.
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Unity (1918)
by Kevin Kerr

Talonbooks
128 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 0889224617
Book Review
Reign of Death and Gallows Humour
by Keith Garebian
Because it has won the 2002 Governor General's Award for Drama, Unity (1918) cannot be simply praised for its merits as a tapestry of the flu epidemic that strikes the small town of Unity, Saskatchewan, during the last year of World War I. By honoring it as the best published play of the season, the GG jurors have pushed it to the forefront of Canadian drama for critical assessment.
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The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy
by Burton Mack

Continuum
237 pages $25.95 paper
ISBN: 0826413552
Book Review
Deconstructing Christianity's Origins
by Daniel A. Smith
In this book, Burton Mack (former Professor of Early Christianity at Claremont School of Theology) sets out to apply what he calls a "social theory of religions" to the beginnings of the Christian movement and to the development of Christianity over the last two millennia. This is by no means a small undertaking.
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The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette
by Edited with an Introduction by Donald Justice and Robert Mezey

The University of Arkansas Press
252 pages $28 paper
ISBN: 1557281459
Book Review
Stepping out of Time
by Christopher Doda
The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette is one of those books designed to rescue a writer from obscurity or, at least, draw some attention to him before the shifting sands of literary taste bury him completely. Despite early potential, Coulette remains a minor figure in the vast panorama of American poetry.
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Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei
by Pain Not Bread

Brick Books
131 pages $14 paper
ISBN: 1894078098
Book Review
Entering Through A Gate of Dew
by Robyn Sarah
I was twelve when I first came across Chinese poetry of the Tang Dynasty. I had arrived early for a piano lesson when the previous student was running overtime; our teacher, issuing me into the den that served as anteroom, ran a cursory eye over his bookshelf and placed in my unsuspecting hands a volume of Chinese poetry in translation, saying, "Here's something you can look at while you wait.
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A Song for Nettie Johnson
by Gloria Sawai

Coteau Books
296 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 1550501879
Book Review
Award-Winning Graceful Collection
by K. Gordon Neufeld
The title story of Gloria Sawai's moving new collection¨which won the Governor General's Award for Fiction¨opens with a mentally-challenged woman sitting in a chair overlooking a quarry, spelling simple words out loud to herself. Behind her, in a trailer lost on the Saskatchewan prairie, her partner, Eli, a brilliant musician and reformed drunk, stirs from sleep, roused by passages from Handel's Messiah which interlace his dreams.
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Creation
by Katherine Govier

Random House Canada
306 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0679311815
Book Review
The Goings and Shortcomings of Noble Men
by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
The story of a man abandoning his wife in order to pursue some perceived noble course of action is as old as Homer's Odyssey. What a bitter decision it must have been for Odysseus to make upon the birth of his son Telemachus. But there they were, the relentless Menaleus and Agamemnon, knocking at the castle door, demanding that the brand new daddy honour a commitment to protect fickle Helen's marriage to Menaleus
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Doing the Heart Good
by Neil Bissoondath

Cormorant Books
328 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 189695135X
Book Review
Scrawling Out of Death's Way
by Sam Ajzenstat
Socrates is supposed to have said that wisdom is learning how to die. Alistair Mackenzie whose attempt to size up his life makes up Neil Bissoondath's quietly but deeply moving new novel, Doing the Heart Good, wouldn't have much patience for that idea of wisdom.
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The Womanizer, A Man of his Time
by Rick Salutin

Doubleday
323 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0385259468
Book Review
Cogitations of a Serious Womanizer
by Sharon Abron Drache
A Man of His Time would have been a better title for the all-embracing Proustian romp that the novelist, Rick Salutin, delivers in The Womanizer. Similar to A Man of Little Faith, which incidentally won the 1988 Books in Canada First Novel Award, The Womanizer's main turf is ideas, with the added frisson of having been inspired by numerous women, "one night stands", and "repeaters", who enter and exit the protagonist's life.
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A CookĂs Tour In Search of the Perfect Meal
by Anthony Bourdain

Raincoast Books
274 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1551924293
Book Review
A Cook Scours the World
by Leanne D'Antoni
Anthony Bourdain, the author of A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, poses on the cover, lean and dangerous-looking in a camouflage tank-top with a tattoo around his bicep. This, his follow up to the much-acclaimed Kitchen Confidential, is less a cook's tour and more a cook's tour of duty; a sort of extreme sport of the culinary world.
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In Search of King SolomonĂs Mines
by Tahir Shah

Little Brown & Co
295 pages $38.77 cloth
ISBN: 1559706414
Book Review
An Indiana Jones Type Explores Ethiopia
by Christopher Ondaatje
As any intrepid traveller will tell you, it is the accident of discovery that propels the true adventurer, and the stimulation of achievement, that drives the explorer. Being there is important. Tahir Shah is a most extraordinary writer. Born into a respected Afghan family and educated in England, Shah has taken us in his other books into the underbelly of India, the myth of Godwanaland and into the heartland jungles of Peru.
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Seven Journeys
by Doris Shadbolt

Douglas & McIntyre
142 pages $26.95 paper
ISBN: 1550549227
Book Review
Spiritual Journeys of Emily Carr
by Linda Morra
Doris Shadbolt is one among a number of illustrious Canadian art historians and critics, including Maria Tippett, Paula Blanchard, and Kate Braid, who have been fascinated by, written prolifically about, and championed the life and work of Emily Carr. The range of Shadbolt's output extends temporally and critically from her first book, The Art of Emily Carr (1979), which examines Carr's visual productions, to the editing of The Complete Writings of Emily Carr (1993).
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The Writer and the World: Essays
by V.S. Naipaul, Edited by Pankaj Mishra

Knopf Canada
524 pages $39.95 cloth
ISBN: 0676975194
Book Review
Writer in the World
by T.F. Rigelhof
"I am exhausted. My work is complete," V.S. Naipaul told friends at his seventieth birthday party this past summer. There will be no new books, no more journeys. "I travel to discover other states of mind.
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Unended Quest
by Karl Popper

Routledge Classics
320 pages $23.21 paper
ISBN: 0415285909
Karl Popper
by Routledge

Routledge Classics
431 pages $23.21 paper
ISBN: 0415285941
Book Review
Karl Popper Centenary
by Barry Allen
The nineteenth century French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) invented a scientific philosophy he called "positivism." In Austria and Germany in the early twentieth century, a new positivism appeared, called logical positivism, associated with names like Ernst Mach, Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, and Otto Neurath. This obscure central European movement became unexpectedly decisive for philosophy written in English in the twentieth century, thanks to Adolph Hitler.
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Where the Words Come From Canadian Poets in Conversation
by Edited by Tim Bowling

Nightwood Editions
255 pages paper
ISBN: 0889711844
Book Review
Outside the Petri Dish of the Poetic Imagination
by Andrew Steinmetz
Where the Words Come From: owes its existence to Tim Bowling who modestly asserts in the introduction that his role in the entire production "was a minor one." This is far from the truth. Bowling set out to mark the loss of Al Purdy in 2000 by first soliciting "A collection of interviews pairing younger and/or less well-known poets with some of our countries most celebrated practitioners of the art." The pairings cover a wide range, from Avison to Zwicky.
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The Natural History: Poems
by Christopher Dewdney

ECW Press
104 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 1550225138
Book Review
Get Tay Fuck Ootma Road: The Avant-Garde's Friendly Face
by Carmine Starnino
"Perhaps the ideal place to begin any discussion of the poetry of Christopher Dewdney is the point at which the reader turns away in bafflement and self-doubt." ű Alistair Highet, "Manifold Destiny: Metaphysics in the Poetry of Christopher Dewdney" No, Mr. Highet, better we start with your sentence.
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Saboteurs: Wiebo LudwigĂs War Against Big Oil
by Andrew Nikiforuk

McClelland & Stewart
296 pages $22.99 paper
ISBN: 1551991012
Book Review
Callous Big Business vs. Ruthless Protest
by Lee Lamothe
Reading and re-reading Andrew Nikiforuk's award-winning Saboteurs is illuminating and frustrating¨both. As an exposT of the dirty deeds of Big Oil and corporate ruthlessness in the oil patch it's an eye-opener, for we Easterners tend to think that the power produced when we flick a switch, light the gas fireplace, or activate the chainsaw, comes from some magical place where the marvels of engineering and technology produce energy without harm or pain to anyone.
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An Inexplicable Story
by Joseph Skvorecky

Key Porter
180 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 1552633683
Book Review
Back to the Days of Ovid
by Timothy Kevin O'Keeffe
Since arriving in Canada as an exile in the wake of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Josef Skvorecky has¨in addition to his considerable contributions as publisher and teacher¨furnished readers with stories and novels posited in a variety of settings: from Nazi-occupied (The Bass Saxophone) to cold-war Communist countries (The Republic of Whores), to thinly disguised Canadian locales and institutions (Two Murders in my Double Life).
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Seek My Face
by John Updike

Knopf
276 pages $35 cloth
ISBN: 0375414908
Book Review
Updike Gets Good With Women
by Joel Yanofsky
This is a story with a happy ending. More than a decade ago, I interviewed Canadian supermodel Monica Schnarre. Although she was still a teenager at the time, she'd already been a celebrity for years. She was in Montreal to promote her memoir, which consisted mainly of fashion and makeup tips for girls who were just like her, though, let's face it, not nearly as leggy. All I recall now of Schnarre's book is that it had more exclamation marks than pages. (I counted.
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Flint & Feather: The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake
by Charlotte Gray

HarperFlamingo
438 pages $37.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002000652
Book Review
The Mohawk Princess
by Anne Cimon
As we learn in Flint & Feather, Charlotte Gray's erudite and enthusiastic biography of Canadian native poet E.Pauline Johnson, known also by her Mohawk name, Tekahionwake, her older sister, Evelyn, played a major role in how the poet is remembered. As Gray explains in her Afterword, "Evelyn burnt as many of her sister's papers as she could lay her hands on.
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Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada
by Ed. W. H. New

University of Toronto Press
1347 pages $75 cloth
ISBN: 0802007619
Book Review
The New (Revisionist) CanLit Encyclopedia
by W. J. Keith
How can one review, both promptly and adequately, a double-columned book of well over 1300 pages? Obviously, one can't. All I can do under the circumstances is to institute a series of spot-checks concentrating for the most part on my own special interests and/or obsessions and then report on my findings. (This explains why, though the book is equally comprehensive on francophone writing, I have generally confined my attention to literature in English.
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A ReaderĂs Manifesto: An Attack on Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose
by B.R. Myers

Melville House
149 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 0971865906
Book Review
No Immunity:US Lit Celebrities Take a Hit
by Harold Hoefle
Reading B.R. Myers' A Readers' Manifesto, noticing his bows to some of the great modern German-language writer¨Broch, Musil, Canetti¨I kept thinking of a permanently bowed German: Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. An eighteenth-century hunchback, mathematician, and aphorist, Lichtenberg once mused on the Myers of his day: "Whenever he composes a critical review, I have been told, he gets a tremendous erection.
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Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust
by Richard Rhodes

Knopf
338 pages $41.95 cloth
ISBN: 0375409009
The Fall of Berlin 1945
by Antony Beevor

Viking
490 pages $43.99 cloth
ISBN: 0670030414
Book Review
Human Wreakage
by Rondi Adamson
IN The past decade the Second World War has become a favorite with moviegoers, many of them too young to have even a grandfather who was involved. Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" series and Stephen Ambrose's numerous bestsellers are unprecedented in their across-the-board popularity.
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A Picnic on Ice
by Matthew Sweeney

Vehicule Press, Signal Editions
140 pages $16 paper
ISBN: 1550651633
Book Review
Affinities for the Strange and Subversive
by David O'Meara
Half a dozen years ago, Irish Poet, Matthew Sweeney, co-edited an anthology of poems called Emergency Kit; a kind of alt-poetry collection subtitled "Poems for Strange Times". It's an astounding and refreshing anthology, intended to bring together unconventional voices on the strangeness of our last century.
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Surrender
by Roy Miki

Mercury Press
131 pages $15.95 paper
ISBN: 1551280957
Book Review
Word-Pranks and Identity Politics
by Jack Illingworth
When Surrender was awarded the 2002 Governor General's Award for poetry in English, it received some fleeting, belated, and largely vapid media attention. Journalists (who had, at best, given the book a single glance before safely paraphrasing its press release) represented it as a sort of verse Obasan, a moving account of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.
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A Rhinestone Button
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Knopf Canada
317 pages $35.95 cloth
ISBN: 0676975496
Book Review
A False Sense of Awe
by Maureen Lennon
In a recent interview, Gail Anderson-Dargatz explained that mystical experiences, as she understands them, manifest in "Ó a feeling of profound awe..." People who undergo them have a mysterious sense of 'understanding' settle over them, although they are unable to articulate what it is they have come to understand. Often, they assume that they have come to understand God.
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The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michel Faber

HarperFlamingo
838 pages $39.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002005271
Book Review
Sex and Drive in the Victorian Era
by Raj Mehta
Michel Faber's first novel, a satire of sorts, Under the Skin, and his collection of rather crotchety short stories, Some Rain Must Fall, have attracted much flattery and even infatuation over the past few years. His writing has come to foil expectation and indeed faithful description, infused as it is with a kind of subjective strangeness and fullness of subtlety that swings between hyperactivity and quiescence.
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Quentins
by Maeve Binchy

McArthur & Company
345 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 1552783081
Book Review
A Gathering at Quentins
by Angela Narth
Summer rumours to the effect that Maeve Binchy was about to retire had her reading public very concerned. Catching everyone by happy surprise, the recent release of Quentins has been at least a temporary relief from the spectre of the end of this Dublin author's wonderful body of work. It has been said that reading one of Binchy's stories is like coming home. Never was this sentiment more true. Quentins, a name already familiar to Binchy fans, is a novel about a restaurant.
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Pot Planet
by Brian Preston

Grove Press
289 pages $24.95 paper
ISBN: 0802138977
Book Review
High-Minded Reporting
by John Ayre
A few years ago RollingStone magazine asked Vancouver journalist Brian Preston to write a feature on the burgeoning pot-growing business of British Columbia. It was logical territory for Preston. Known to smoke more than a toke or two, Preston had made a specialty of writing articles about quirky religious movements, New Age retreats and counter culture lifestyles for magazines like Details, Playboy and Vogue.
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Playing Through
by Curtis Gillespie

Doubleday Canada
321 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0385658818
Book Review
Playing The Scottish Field
by Gordon Phinn
Wedding ancient eastern philosophies to modern western sports and hobbies has become something of a cottage industry in the last fifty years. From Herrige's Zen And The Art Of Archery to the Tao of Pooh, the wisdom of the orient has been relentlessly shoehorned into the laisser faire dogmas of packaging and profit. Perhaps a little too much fretting over the possibility of a timid CanLit remake of Michael Murphy's epochal Golf In The Kingdom (1972) made me approach Mr.
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House Inside the Waves
by Richard Taylor

Beach Holme Publishing
276 pages $22.95 paper
ISBN: 0888784287
Book Review
Looking for 'It' by the Seashore
by Tom Abray
For one year in the late 1990s Richard Taylor and his family traded the suburbs of Ottawa for the east coast of Australia. The events of that year form the narrative structure of House Inside the Waves. The book is marketed as a memoir but is more of an extended personal essay than a chronological history, for it touches on various subjects, such as, domestic life, surfing, literature, music, history, and the quest for what the author calls it.
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A Virgin Conceived: Mary and Classical Representations of Virginity
by Mary F. Foskett

Indiana University Press
248 pages $35 cloth
ISBN: 0253340551
Book Review
The Virgin Mary¨History or Fiction?
by Gwen Nowak
In A Virgin Conceived Mary Foskett invites us to join her on a journey into virgin territory. Given the 'virginal' destination it is appropriate that Foskett's chosen path is "a road not previously taken"; i.e., she claims to be the first Marian scholar to enter in to [to penetrate?] this virgin world and to fully explore it
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NobodyĂs Perfect: Writings From The New Yorker
by Anthony Lane

Knopf
752 pages $53 cloth
ISBN: 0375414487
Book Review
A Critic in New York City
by Matt Sturrock
"You are holding a hunk of old journalism." Thus begins Anthony Lane's introduction to his book, Nobody's Perfect, a voluminous anthology of movie reviews, literary essays, and profiles written during the first decade of his tenure at The New Yorker
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Bad Press: The Worst Critical Reviews Ever
by Laura Ward

BarronĂs Press
256 pages $21 paper
ISBN: 0764155393
Book Review
Poison Pens
by Shane Neilson
Why kill a book with kindness when one can play with venom? The bile, the brilliance: when dyspeptic pens slay dross and deficient wits, readers thrill at the panache. Reviewing is often a hack's art¨a plodding description of character and plot¨until the sword is taken up, and a book is disemboweled in public. Reading the binary thumbs-up vs.
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Interviews
Interview with Doris Shadbolt
by Linda Morra
Doris Shadbolt, author of The Art of Emily Carr (1979) and editor of The Complete Writings of Emily Carr (1993), was awarded the Order of Canada in 1976. Her most recent book, published by Douglas & McIntyre, is Seven Journeys, although her paperback copy of Bill Reid is scheduled to appear in May 2003. She was interviewed in the studio of her late husband, Jack Shadbolt.
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Essays
Don Bell's FoundE Bookes
As mentioned last month, we'd been planning for quite some time to write a column called Trout Fishing in Albania about a book which may, or may not, exist. It stems from a conversation I had with Montreal book dealer Michel Lanteigne around the time I had started this book scouting business.
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Essays
Languages Buzzing Around Us
by Tess Fragoulis
The Use and Abuse of Dialect and Foreign Tongues in English Novels The business of the novel should never be about private revelations, games or jokes hidden in foreign words, or the erecting of self-serving obstacles made up of clumps of letters that the reader will trip on. Nor should it be about short-cuts, catch-words or phrases that take the place of the careful and slow weaving of details that creates convincing atmospheres and characters.
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A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry
by Ian McGillis

Porcupine's Quill
185 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 0889842469
Some Girls Do
by Teresa McWhirter

Polestar
148 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 1551924595
Stay
by Aislinn Hunter

Polestar
269 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 1551925680
Tiger Dreams
by Almeda Glenn Miller

Polestar
363 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 1551925729
How the Blessed Live
by Susannah M. Smith

Coach House Books
168 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1552451003
An Expectation of Home
by Larry Lynch

Gasperau Press
301 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 189403161X
First Novels
First Novels by W.P Kinsella
by W. P. Kinsella
How the Blessed Live by Susannah M. Smith (Coach House Books, $18.95, 168 pages, ISBN: 1552451003). With beautiful language and the lyrical voice of a poet Smith carries off this retelling of the Isis/Osiris myth. What makes the novel work is that the reader does not need to know the myth to enjoy the story. When the twins Lucy and Levi are born their mother, Wren, dies. They are raised by their grief-stricken father in an idyllic setting on an island on Lake Ontario.
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Brief Reviews
Theatre by Keith Garebian
by Keith Garebian
In the Wings by Nicky Guadagni From the novel by Carole Corbeil Directed by Layne Coleman Theatre Passe Muraille, Nov. 8-Dec 8, 2002 Layne Coleman's production was a homage to his late wife, the brilliant arts critic Carole Corbeil, whose second and final novel is, among other things, a homage itself. It is the story of Allan O'Reilly, a brilliant young actor who is about to play Hamlet, and Alice Riverton, an actress who falls in love with him
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Children's Books
Children's Books
by Jeffrey Canton
The year 2002 was another fabulous year in the world of children's books but Books in Canada wanted to offer readers a best of the best list to make sure that readers started off 2003 on the right foot. Asking our children's book reviewers what their top picks were proved that almost every reader reads with their own very particular point of view. It's a fascinating look at the hits of the past year and a great way to kick off the New Year. Theo Heras, Children's Specialist at Lillian H.
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The Corner Garden
by Lesley Krueger

Penguin Canada
336 pages $24 Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0143012738
Children's Books
Children's Books
by Karen Krossing
Lesley Krueger has chosen a diary form in writing The Corner Garden. Compelling secrets are revealed in the notebooks of teenager Jessie Barfoot, adult Martha van Tellingen, and the teenage Martha, or Maaike, as she was known. These characters use their diaries the way they were meant to be used¨as a way to understand their worlds and to express painful secrets.
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The Same Stuff as Stars
by Katherine Paterson

Clarion Books
256 pages $24.95 cloth
ISBN: 0618247440
Children's Books
Children's Books
by Jeffrey Canton
Katherine Paterson weaves wonder into her fiction. She's able to cast a line from her imagination out to young readers, drawing them into the midst of worlds totally unlike any other they've ever encountered. Eleven-year-old Angel Morgan isn't sure how she's going to cope with what's happening in her world.
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The Big Book of Canada Exploring the Provinces and Territories
by Christopher Moore, illustrated by Bill Slavin

Tundra Books
256 pages $39.99 cloth
ISBN: 0887764576
Children's Books
Children's Books
by Trudee Romanek
Did you know that Asian sailors may have visited Canada before western explorers arrived? Or that "dumbledore" (aside from being the name of the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter books) is the Newfoundlander nickname for bumblebee? Christopher Moore's new compendium of all that is Canada is a wealth of fascinating information.
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True Confessions of a Heartless Girl
by Martha Brooks

Douglas & McIntyre $12.95 paper
ISBN: 0888994761
Children's Books
Children's Books
by Jeffrey Canton
With every novel, Martha Brooks pushes the boundaries of Young Adult fiction a little bit harder, a little bit further. She does it ever so quietly¨perhaps hoping that we'll get so embroiled in the lives of her characters that we won't notice what's different about her approach this time or where it is that she's taking us.
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Trudee Romanek is a childrenĂs writer who lives in Barrie, Ontario.
by Amber Waiting, Nan Gregory, Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Red Deer Press
32 pages $19.95 cloth
ISBN: 0889952582
Children's Books
Children's Books
by Olga Stein
Nan Gregory, author of the best-selling How Smudge Came, gives us a delightful picture book yet again. Little Amber has just started kindergarten. She enjoys classroom activities¨painting a mural, quiet reading time¨as well as outdoors ones¨riding on a swing, and playing with her friends in the snow. What she doesn't like is waiting in the office after everyone else has gone home because her father is late picking her up. One such afternoon, Amber imagines a way of teaching her dad a lesson.
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Hoot
by Carl Hiaasen

Knopf
304 pages $23.95 cloth
ISBN: 0375821813
Children's Books
Children's Books
by Jeffrey Canton
Hoot, Carl Hiaasen's first book for younger readers is part mystery, part slapstick comedy and is a totally satisfying and truly environmentally friendly novel. On one level, it's a story about Roy Eberhardt, the new kid in this otherwise sleepy little Florida town who has caught the eye of the local bully and has to find a way of dealing with this dilemma as well as make his own place in his new community.
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