Are You Smarter Than a Third Grader?


According to the copyright page of A Mad Bird’s Life: A Division 6 Picture Guide to Canada’s Coolest Provincial Birds & Trees (Writers’ Exchange), “This book was created by Division 6, Mrs. Mehnert’s grade 3 class, at Thunderbird Elementary in the winter of 214.” It’s both illuminating and delightful to read how primary school children view our biosphere. In this chapbook, each student-writer focussed on a particular bird or tree and produced a page of illustrated text about it. The chosen trees have a colourful array of names: Red Spruce, White Spruce, Black Spruce, Red Oak, White Birch and Eastern White Pine. A student called Joanna wrote this haiku-like tribute to the White Spruce:

I’m a large tree with a narrow topMy needles go in a spiral around the twig

The needles smell really bad when they’re

Curiously, the tree most written about was the Tamarack (as student Ivan wrote, “its name is an Algonquin word/for the wood used for snowshoes”). In the bird department, the two hottest items were the chickadee and the gyrfalcon. I imagine the chickadee is popular because its birdsong is so pervasive. The gyrfalcon, meanwhile, is impressive because of its outright strength: it’s been known to take down a grey heron. A student called Jason wrote a poetic tribute to the gyrfalcon, part of which goes like this:

I’m the largest falcon in the worldI like to eat ptarmiganI sometimes take baths in freezing water

A Mad Bird’s Life is one of a series of writing projects for inner-city kids, sponsored by The Writers’ Exchange. To learn more, check out their website at

No items found.


Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits.



Marriage on the Download

If marriage was a television show, it might look something like this.

Gabrielle Marceau

Main Character

I always longed to be the falling woman—impelled by unruly passion, driven by beauty and desire, turned into stone, drowned in flowers.

Danielle Hubbard

The muse hunt

"The following resume / arrived by fax: One ex-military / man, 52, applying / for duty ..."