Taking a Walk in the Forest of Reading

Red Maple Selections

Being an active reader is one of the most important ways for children to succeed in school.

The Forest of Reading program is designed to introduce students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to books written by Canadian authors. The program has ten categories broken down into different grade levels.

The Red Maple category consists of ten fiction books geared towards students in Grades 7 and 8. Every year, I wait rather impatiently for the Red Maple books to be announced. It is probably the single greatest resource I have to keep up-to-date on what’s new and exciting in young adult and junior fiction. Three of my favourites from this year’s Red Maple picks are:

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

Abandon all hope ye who enter Room 117.

The self contained special eighth grade class (SCS- 8) is held at the far corner of the school next to the metal shop and the custodian’s office. The class is made up of delinquents, goof-offs, troublemakers and anyone else who could be described as a hot-mess express. They are the unteachables.

Mr. Kermit used to care. He used to have enthusiasm for teaching but not anymore. He has 10 months until retirement and plans to coast along “teaching” the SCS-8 until June.

Author Gordon Korman has a talent for creating realistic and compassionate characters. Each chapter is narrated by a different student in Room 117. The reader learns that each so-called “unteachable” student has a real story. Parker has a legitimate learning disability that has gone unnoticed, Elaine’s tough girl reputation is based on a rumour and even Mr. Kermit has a back story that derailed his teaching career. It was easier for the school to label these people as problems instead of looking closely at the real issues.

The Unteachables is easy to read and is full of both humour and compassion.

Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands

The White Lady gives nothing back. Legend says her spirit is bound to the water. When the snow falls she returns to walk the shore. She calls to the children. She traps them forever. The White Lady gives nothing back.

Christopher awakes in a cell, cold and alone. He remembers nothing.  He learns that strange events are happening all over England. Children are missing. Christopher believes if he can figure out what’s happening to the children, he can unlock his memories.

Fans of Harry Potter will find themselves captivated by this book. Christopher is a similar but more realistic version of Harry.  Orphaned, scrawny and bullied as a child, he was later taken to be trained as an apothecary’s apprentice. While he has no magical powers, chemistry proves to be his most effective weapon.

Call of the Wraith is the fourth book in the Blackthorn Key series but you can read the books in any order. The characters cross over in each book, but the plots are stand alone.

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

At first glance The Light Between Worlds may seem similar to Narnia, but it is so much more. It explores the idea of what happens after the fairytale is over. Once you’ve been in a magical world how can you ever go back to living in the real one?

The story focuses on three children during the Second World War. The children spend many nights clinging to each other in a darkened bomb shelter. One night Evelyn prays to be sent somewhere else, somewhere peaceful. Magically, they find themselves in the kingdom of the Woodlands.

Although the tale of the Woodlands floats back and forth throughout the book, the story’s main focus is on the relationship between the siblings. Once they return to the real world, things between them change.

The Light Between Worlds covers a lot of heavy subject matter but there is so much truth to how the characters develop.  The story will hit home with anyone who has watched a love one battle depression.

For a complete list of books in the Red Maple category please see the WPL catalogue. And please stay tuned for more favourites in the Forest of Reading program.

— Lesley L.

Making Memories the TV Way

Remember appointment viewing TV? It’s not really a thing in 2019 because everyone subscribes to a different cable or streaming service. It seems like every time I turn around there is a new option for viewing. The end result is that it is rare for everyone to be watching the same television program at the same time like we all used to. In the days before streaming we would all watch the same television shows and then share the experience the next day. The day after a big television event everyone would talk about it. After the final episode of M.A.S.H. or Friends people would discuss the plot at school or work – it was big news. Now it happens less and less.

I have great memories of watching television with my family when I was a kid and then, in university years, cozying up on a couch together with classmates to watch our favourite shows (although we really should have been studying). When I talk about this with people at the library now we all agree that it was the sharing that really meant something – everyone involved in the same activity and then talking about it later. We all knew the same characters, story lines and theme songs! Oh, the songs.

Here at the library we have shelves and shelves of the TV shows that will take you back to the days of your childhood – just pick a decade. We have Green Acres, Family Ties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and every wonderful season of Scorpion (if you haven’t seen it yet, you have to – it’s like the A-team but set in 2010s). The real thrill of having this diversity of television viewing at our disposal is that it is so much easier to find the show that matches your needs. Just watch an episode or two and see if you like it and then bring it back to the library if it doesn’t work for your family.

We hear this kind of feedback all of the time at the library desk, especially from people who are trying to find something that suits a variety of tastes in one group. Trying something new at the library is a breeze and we can help you sort through all of the choices. When you are able to browse through a collection that houses television programming that was written in the 1950s (Gunsmoke), the 1970s (Mary Tyler Moore), the 1990s (Frasier) and this past year (Mr. Robot) it is so easy to be extra aware of things like the sense of humour used by the writers and actors. You can even make your choices based on how graphic they are in their depiction of violence or sexual content in an individual series. Parents and grandparents come to the desks to find television shows that they can share with children and grandchildren or they come to us to ask for suggestions. This is all possible through the wide assortment of series that we have here on the shelves.

At our house we now know that we have fallen in love with the work of television producer Mike Schur. It wasn’t deliberate. We didn’t set out to follow the TV shows that he made but there was a moment when I was listening to a podcast for the television show The Good Place when I heard a conversation about his work and found that so much of the content that was coming from his production company – Fremulon – falls in our top five of all-time favourite television programs. We have made characters and catch phrases from Parks & Recreation, The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine part of our household because they feel like ‘family’. Well, a particularly diverse and extremely funny family. The team at Fremulon have cast talented actors who are able to make television shows that are telling you a story – whether it is in a police station, city council office or in another ‘place’ – while making you feel like you could be at home there too.

And, isn’t that what made watching television so cozy way back when you were a kid? Feeling comfortable at home, just sitting on the couch, fighting over what you would watch, because someone wanted to watch the Sunday Walt Disney movie but someone else wanted to watch the football game? You can take home a television series (or try more than one – we have so many here on the shelves) and make some cozy memories of your own.

— Penny M.