Thursday, November 26, 2009

Canada's Diabetes Meals for Good Health by Karen Graham

November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a condition that seems to be becoming much more prevalent in our community, especially among those over 60. I’m sure many listeners have agonized over what to serve to dinner guests who are diabetic. Well the library can help.

Each branch carries a number of diabetic cookbooks, and I’ve chosen to highlight a new one entitled Canada’s Diabetes Meals for Good Health, by Karen Graham. It has been published in cooperation with the Canadian Diabetes Association. This book includes complete meal plans and over 100 recipes. There are full paged beautiful colour photographs of every meal, variations for large and small meals, substitutes, and an exact breakdown of nutritional information.

These meals look so delicious they could easily be served to a diabetic or non-diabetic at any dinner party.

Fatal Journey: the final expedition of Henry Hudson by Peter Mancall

In school, I think it was about Grade 5, we first learned about the search for the Northwest Passage and the fate of Henry Hudson.

But what we learned then was really just the tip of the iceberg. Of course they were looking for a route to the east, but what made men set out year after year to brave the unimaginable conditions found in the Canadian arctic.

Peter Mancall explores this question in Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson. What drew these men to the east is not that different than today’s search for energy or new drugs. The spices found in the east were believed to have extraordinary medicinal qualities and whoever found a way to get them would enjoy enourmous wealth. Investors were willing to pour huge amounts of money into the search for the North West Passage. As we know now, this search was Hudson’s undoing, and the common perceptions of the mutiny are also examined in this book.

Take some Canadian history off the shelf and you’ll discover that it’s incredibly fascinating.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Canadian Children's Book Week

Nov. 14 – 21 is Canadian Children’s Book Week. We celebrate the abundance of Canadian literature for children. Morden Winkler and Altona will be hosting Lori Weber, a young adult author, on Tues. Nov. 17, so check the website, or with your local branch about the time.

The theme of this year’s Canadian Children’s Book Week is “Gold Medal Reading”, and the focus is on children’s books with a sports theme. I pulled one of my all time favourites off the shelf, "The Hockey Sweater" by Roch Carrier. The classic story of a young boy in Quebec who is forced the wear a Toronto Maple Leaf sweater is beautifully written and illustrated. It’s a great story and introduces young readers to a little bit of our cultural history.

Something new on the sports theme is "Clancy with the puck" by Chris Mizzoni. This is a Canadian retelling of the classic Casey at the Bat. As a bonus, it includes a DVD with an animated short, narrated by Bob Cole.

During Canadian Children’s Book Week I hope everyone indulges in an old favourite, and discovers a new one as well.

The Book of Negoes by Lawrence Hill

This book has been recommended by a number of readers who have enjoyed it.

In this book, Animata tells the story of her life. She is born and raised in a small village in Africa. The midwifery skills she learns from her mother are useful throughout life. Animata survives the brutality and cruelty of the slave traders and owners. It is clear that she has derived great strength and wisdom from her parents even in the few years she had with them.

Eventually she escapes and in New York registers her name in the ‘Book of Negroes’, a historic British military ledger allowing 3,000 former slaves to sail from Manhattan to Nova Scotia. The British fail to keep their promises of freedom and land and years later, Animata joins a group of 1,200 former slaves traveling to Sierra Leone to establish a place called Freetown. Aminata sees it as a chance to finally return home.

This book makes history come alive and is well worth reading.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Remembrance Day is an excellent time to look at Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road.

The novel is set in the early1900s, as the British Empire sends a call to Canada to fill the ranks of its military. The story centers on Niska and her nephew, Xavier Bird. Niska escaped from a residential school as a young girl to live as her elders once had. She takes young Xavier from that same school and teaches him everything he needs to know to become a great hunter. Xavier and his friend Elijah, spend summers with Niska, learning the old ways. Too soon, these young hunters travel to Toronto where they enlist in the army and are sent to the front.

Alternating chapters tell Xavier’s and Niska’s stories. It is a heart-wrenching graphic story of the Great War, and the sad, powerful story of an aunt trying to reclaim the broken life of her only nephew when he returns from that war. This is a personal glimpse into two of the great tragedies of our Canadian history.

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

The story is set in present day Rwanda. Angel Tungaraza and her husband Pius live in a multinational complex in the capital city of Kigali along with people of many different nationalities and career paths. Angel and her husband have tragically lost both of their children and are now raising their five grandchildren. Angel bakes cakes to help with the family finances. She is an excellent compassionate listener and we learn the stories of many of her customers. The conversations often carry a disturbing note of the tragedy of Africa – genocide, AIDS and poverty.
In the end it is ultimately a story of hope and recovery and the unfailing spirit of human beings to be able to rebuild their lives in the face of unimaginable tragedy.