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Daughters, Mothers and Grandmothers
A "page-turner" to educate and save lives...
"Jennifer Cook has just published her sixth book. Daughters, Mothers and Grandmothers and is about a subject close to her heart, the Aids epidemic in Africa. Jennifer is an active member of the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. In May 2010, she and forty-one other Canadian grandmothers travelled to Swaziland to participate in a boisterous gathering of five hundred African grandmothers. The Canadian 'grandmothers' have raised more than $9,000,000 for this important cause. Jennifer is donating a portion of the proceeds from her latest book to the Foundation.
Recently a group of these grandmothers gathered in the House of Commons Visitor's Gallery hoping to witness the passage of Bill C- 398. This bill was designed to make Canada's Access to Medicines, CAMR, easier to use. As one of the Canadian grandmothers invoked, "We need to send generic, life- saving, quality, low cost drugs to the developing world as soon as we can." The grandmothers say the millions of HIV/Aids deaths are preventable. How depressing that this bill was defeated by such a slim margin of 148 to 141. This will only fuel the 'Grandmothers' determination to raise more of the funds necessary to support this endeavour.
Jennifer's book is a real "page-turner". She presents the sensitive topic of the HIV/Aids pandemic in her fictional account of two young teenagers as they deal with the realities of this disease in a town on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in contemporary South Africa.
The strength and determination of the African gogos/grandmothers inspired the Canadian grandmothers during their visit and this experience gives authenticity to the gogos presented in the book. Some of these individual women can be raising ten to fifteen children in a single household. They also deal with abuse and rejection, and one can only imagine the psychological struggles of orphaned infants, children and teenagers.
This novel would be an ideal choice to help introduce middle and high school students to the dire consequences of this disease. The book draws many parallels between the life of teenagers in western society and those of South Africa. The reader will easily empathise with the fears and uncertainties that the young people encounter as they deal with one woman's HIV/Aids experience.
George Chouchani's evocative illustrations capture the book's mood perfectly. The richly textured images contribute to both the character development and the compelling settings.
The sharing and support offered by Canadian grandmothers to these courageous African gogos was a life-changing experience for Jennifer. Her sensitive book is an effective way to educate readers about this devastating reality."
- Sarah McCabe for The Manor Park Chronicle, January/February 2013
Flight across the Mekong
"A gem of a book. Well written, exciting and moving. Even though it was geared towards younger readers, at 49 I enjoyed it thoroughly. It kept my interest, I didn't want to put it down. I strongly recommend this book for people of any age..."
- Nicole Melanson
"Flight across the Mekong" is a great teenagers read for two reasons: (1) it is an action packed adventure in which the young people play roles equal to their parents; (2) the setting of the fall of Laos in 1975 is based on historical fact which is developed in an interesting and entirely approachable way for young readers. No dull recounting of historical facts and figures here. Rather a fast-paced education in the complexity of a South East Asian nation in revolution - with sufficient intrigue and even a touch of teenage romance for good measure. Having lived in Bangkok and frequented Pattaya, the Laotian border and Thai jails and there was an undeniable realistic feel to the overloaded samlaw struggling up the hill. This book would be particularly suitable for junior high school teachers who wished to introduce their students to revolution through the eyes of young people."
- A reader from Los Angeles, CA, USA
"Dear Jennifer, thank you so much for your visit to our classroom. The children and I thoroughly enjoyed your reading and sharing of your life's events! I know that many of my class were inspired by your visit! Sincerely..."
- CP, Winnipeg
"Dear Mrs. Cook, Remember me? I'm Kevin the kid that sits in the front row. Thanks for coming to our school and sharing all that stuff about Laos and what happened. I found it very interesting and all that old money you showed us was cool..." Your friend,..."
- Kevin, Winnipeg
An Iranian Mosaic
"An Iranian Mosaic is Jennifer Cook's second novel for children. It is set against the backdrop of political, religious, and social change in Iran, as that country moved from being a western-oriented liberal dictatorship to one where Muslim extremism imposed strict codes of belief and behavior on all Iranians, offering no accommodation to minority religious groups.
The story unfolds over the course of three decades through the interweaving of friendships between the children of three families: an English Christian family, an Iranian family of the Bahá'í Faith, and an Iranian Muslim family. Cultural differences notwithstanding, these friendships and their deeper human connections of love, admiration and respect lead ultimately to marriages that unite the three families together in an affirmation of the fundamental universality of mankind.
The author uses the geographic movements of the children as they visit one another's country, home and family, and as they study together in a neutral country, to show case the richness of cultural diversity in its many forms. The end result is a book that unobtrusively educates the reader as he or she moves through a fast-paced story of excitement and drama.
An Iranian Mosaic is a very good read for young people and adults alike. It achieves admirably its dual objective of entertaining and educating. And it proves that, as the poet said, diversity does indeed increase charm and adds to beauty."
- Lorcan Scanlon (Manor Park Chronicle)
Canada with Governor General Lisgar - 1868 and Lady Adelaide, Prince Arthur and Charlotte
"If you wish to familiarize yourself with some of the most successful achievements of Sir John Young, Baron Lisgar, when he was appointed to serve as the second Governor General of Canada from 1868 to 1872 as seen through the eyes of an imaginary sixteen year old character, Charlotte Moore, this is the book for you. This novel also offers the reader a remarkable retrospective description of what living in 'Lower Town and Centre Town' was all about in the years of early Confederation. I truly enjoyed reading this interesting novel and strongly recommend it to other avid readers of action-oriented historical books."
- Raymond D. Tremblay (Ottawa)
Windsong on the Silver River
"'Windsong on the Silver River' is a story of a family's life in Northern Ontario. A fine read for teenagers to give them a sense of the dangers of alcohol and its destabilizing effect on a family. The relationship of Aboriginal beliefs and the Spirits in nature that Jennifer Cook brings in as a backdrop, reminds me of the beauty of Roy Henry Vickers beautiful paintings that always include the eagle in the face of the moon and the prominence of the raven in our First Nations' traditions. The advantage of "Windsong" short chapters are they keep the pace moving for young people and for elders too who may be daunted by too large book. A swift pace and enjoyable read."
- Christopher Brown, Gatineau QC.
"I just finished reading your book. I believe this may be your best one yet. Very colorful...full of twists and turns,...and quite dramatic though true to life. It's beautiful the way you referred to St. Brigids, the park and the Shepherds of Good Hope Soup Kitchen in the book. I truly enjoyed it. I'm sure that many others will as well."
- Raymond Tremblay, Ottawa.
Molly's Story: Aftermath of War and Love
Molly's Story is Manor Park resident Jennifer Cook's fifth novel and is based on her experiences growing up in England during the Second World War. Cook's brother, Oliver, flew as a rear-gunner in the Royal Air Force. He was shot down over Hungary in November 1944 and killed with his crew.
Most movies, television shows, and history books focus on the service personnel who fought and sacrificed during the war, but often we silence those on the home front who waited and worried, desperately clinging to old letters and praying that the next knock on the door would not be a telegraph boy delivering a dreaded telegram that a loved one was not returning.
In this moving novel, Cook explores a family at war that must come to grips with news of a missing husband and father. This is a deeply moving account of loss and longing, which centres on the family of Royal Air Force airman, Reggie Allsop, who serves with Bomber Command. His wife and daughter, Molly and 5-year-old Gracie, are left to wait for all important letters, life-lines from the air war back to home.
Cook evokes time and place: the cold of wartime England and the dampness from houses that are rationing coal. While the war is being fought on multiple fronts, Cook's focus is the bone-tired civilians who work all day and stay up as fire air wardens at night; of mothers trying to put together meals with rationed sugar and wheat; of children who can't escape the bombs that rain down from German planes and then learn about it in school the next day.
When news arrives of Reggie's disappearance, officially listed as 'missing in action,' the family is left to wait with a growing sense of dread. Neither dead nor alive, he has been instead consigned to some purgatory. Cook provides deep insight into the family's anxiety and desperation as they seek information, like countless other families looking for lost loved ones consumed in the maw of war. Some were returned to their families, escaping back from enemy lines or living out the war in prisoner camps, but too many were never found, eventually presumed dead.
Molly's Story recounts the difficult piecing together of lives after the Allied victory, which must have rung hollow for so many who never had a chance to be reunited with their loved ones. The rest of the novel takes place in Africa, a redemption space of sorts for Molly and Gracie, although they always feel the weight of the war.
With the novel based on historical events, Cook has cleverly added in official communiqués, accounts from recipe books, and even letters from airmen in her chapter headings, which offer another layer of authenticity. These alone are worth reading, although it is through her powerful prose and moving insight that Cook has provided a much needed reminder of the quiet war of hope and desperation fought by the civilians at home during the Second World War.
Molly's Story is highly recommended.
- Tim Cook, author of At the Sharp End and Shock Troops (and no relation to Jennifer). This review appeared in The Manor Park Chronicle in November 2009.