Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

By Maureen Tai, 7 April 2019

“He saw the garden at many times of its day, and at different seasons – its favourite season was summer, with perfect weather.” 

img_0104

With just two upturned dinner chairs and a few blankets, my kids can create a cosy hideout, away from prying adult eyes, in which to hold secret readings and from which to execute dastardly plans. This desire for a lair is universal. So it is with Tom Long, the pajamaed hero in Tom’s Midnight Garden, who longs for company and a place to play.  In this classic fantasy tale, Tom finds not only an garden hideout and an exciting new playmate, but an intriguing and secret existence in a parallel past-universe. Continue reading

big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce

By Ben, 24 March 2019

IMG_2999“Oh, yeah! I was shocked! Stunned! Flabbergasted! Hornwoggled! Gobsmacked!” – Nate Wright.

Sunday afternoons are for loafing around and reading comics.  At least that’s my idea of the perfect Sunday.

Ben’s recommendation for the lazy weekend is a volume from the extensive Big Nate series of comic strip compilations. Ben and I discuss why Big Nate is such a hit with him, as well as with boys and girls in Grades 3 and 4. Continue reading

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

By Maureen Tai, 27 January 2019

“All that suffering, all that death, for nothing. I will never understand, as long as I live, how a country could change overnight from only a line drawn.” – Nisha

img_0103The year Nisha turns 12 is the year that newly independent India is rent in two.  A line is hastily drawn by the governing British, separating mostly Hindu India from mostly Muslim Pakistan, formally partitioning a country that had lived as one for centuries before. Nisha is a keen observer and the diarist in The Night Diary.  Writing only after the sun has set each day, Nisha records her impressions and thoughts, hopes and fears.  Hers is a compelling yet fragile and bewildered voice during the defining and possibly most devastating event in the history of the Indian subcontinent. This is not only Nisha’s story, but the true story of so many millions of others affected by Partition.  Continue reading

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

By Ben, 20 January 2019

“Only once a year, on his birthday, did Charlie Bucket ever get to taste a bit of chocolate.”

img_0269M: Do you like chocolate?
B: Yes, I love chocolate. Why do you ask?
M: Because I think it’s important to like the main food in a book if you’re reading about it.
B: But you’re not a big fan of chocolate?
M: That’s true. But I think I’d like to visit Mr Wonka’s chocolate factory even though I’m not a big chocolate fan. Wouldn’t you?
B: Yeah, I would love to.

Continue reading

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil

By Maureen Tai, 3 December 2018

“You have to be patient in war. I learned that the last time, when we fought against Iran. It’s not only about battles and bombs. There’s a lot of just waiting.” – Ali

IMG_0697Ali is an eleven year old half-Kurdish middle grader who lives with his family in Basra, near the Iraq-Kuwait border. It is January 1991. A US-led United Nations coalition of 35 countries is about to launch an attack against Iraq for its invasion and annexation of neighbouring Kuwait.  Saddam Hussein is Iraq’s dictatorial president, a brutal, power-hungry tyrant in both the eyes of Ali’s family, and the world.  Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is the story of Ali’s survival over the ensuing 43 days of Operation Desert Storm.    Continue reading

Homecoming by Michael Morpurgo

By Maureen Tai, 30 November 2018

“A lot would never have happened if I’d handed over a lemon sherbet that day.” – Michael.

img_0506.jpegWhen a place and a time are suffused with equal measures of gladness and sorrow, should one, when the opportunity arises, revisit it? Or leave the past well alone, buried in the hazy mists of memories?  In Homecoming, a middle-aged man struggles with this decision, only to be drawn back into his boyhood days from fifty years ago, to the village where he and his mother used to live, and where, by the edge of a wild and glorious marsh, he made an unlikely friend in Mrs. Pettigrew.  As he reminisces, he wistfully recounts the unusual but ultimately tragic story of lives irrevocably altered by that fearsome weapon of humankind known as Progress.

Continue reading