Category Archives: Margriet Ruurs

GLOBAL BOOKS

The global Covid-19 pandemic has already led to new books to help children get a grasp of the unusual situation. These books may help educate but also help to realize they we are not alone in trying to cope in a difficult situation.

We Wear Masks

We Wear Masks by Marla Lesage is a picture book for very young readers, about masks of all shapes and sizes. Masks are worn by painters and pilots, in winter and underwater. You can wear a mask on stage or in a laboratory. Welders and superheroes wear masks. Wearing a mask is cool and means you care. Reading this picture book can be the start of making fun paper masks in class. ISBN 978-1459-828810, Orca Book Publishers

The Cow Said BOO!

Not specifically about Covid, but about communicable diseases in general and especially helpful in Kindergarten classes, The Cow Said Boo by Lana Button, illustrated by Alice Carter is a fun farm romp when poor cow catches a cold and can’t say ‘Moo!’ but says ‘Boo!’ instead. The other animals nurse cow back to health but once cow is better, rooster says “cock-a-doodle-CHOO!” A nonfiction back page talks about washing hands to prevent colds. ISBN 978-1-77278-216-5, Pajama Press

Talk to Me, What Do You See? Beauty and Joy from A - Z

Talk To Me, What Do You See? Beauty from A-Z by Sandip Sodhi, illustrated by Anika Sandhu uses the alphabet to focus on beauty in a time of unrest. Dedicated to frontline workers, this picturebook touches on washing hands, helping elders and staying connected. A lovely way to discuss Covid related anxieties with young students. ISBN 978-1-7770218-2-5

Germy Science: The Sick Truth about Getting Sick (and Staying Healthy)

Germy Science, The Sick Truth about Getting Sick and Staying Healthy, by Edward Kay with art by Mike Shiell is a new, nonfiction title about all things germy. What exactly are germs? Where are they found? Are there good germs as well as bad? The book includes a history of the discovery of germs and shows how we pass on germs every day. With hilarious, sometimes nice and gross, art this book is a good resource on how contamination happens and how to prevent it. ISBN 978-1-5253-0412-5, Kids Can Press

Don't Stand So Close to Me

Don’t Stand So Close To Me by Eric Walters is a good middle grade novel about the current pandemic. Based on recent events, the strength of this book is that young teens can recognize themselves and their families in this story. Suddenly faced with school closures, Zoom meetings and face masks, 13 year old Quinn and her friends learn to deal with a new reality. The story also shows how kids can take positive initiatives to help others. ISBN 978-1459827875 Orca Book Publishers

This link will show you even more children’s books about Covid-19 related issues:

https://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/kids-books/

Margriet Ruurs is the author of 40 books for children. She conducts author visits to international schools and shares her love of travel and books here: https://www.globetrottingbooklovers.com/

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

What is home? Home means something different to each person – real readers but also to fictional characters in books. Through books about home, students can recognize themselves or come to appreciate what ‘home’ means for others. Happy Banned Book week!

Roger and Matthew by Michel Thériault  This is a lovely, quiet story of two gentle men. They were friends in elementary school and are still best friends. They are part of their community and enjoy nature. They were not always treated kindly because they are different. But they have now been accepted and love the life they lead in their home surrounded by a garden full of birds. ISBN 9781554554843, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

In a similar vein, Patricia Polacco tells the beautiful story In Our Mother’s House in which Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like any other family on the block. In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don’t accept them because they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad? But Marmee and Meema’s house is full of love. They teach their children that different doesn’t mean wrong. That living in a house full of love is always right. An older title but every bit as relevant. ISBN 978-0399250767, Philomel

My Words Flew Away Like Birds

And what if your new home is in a different country? What if you don’t speak the language? My Words Flew Away Like Birds by Debora Pearson, illustrated by Shrija Jain is a lovely story about a girl who moves to a new country. All the words she used to have she can no longer use. And the few words she learned in English proof not to be very helpful. People speak too fast and she can’t understand their tumbling words. Not only a story for kids who recognize this situation, but also a good story to see how easy it can be to help a newcomer.  Reminiscent of Aidan Cassie’s book The Word for Friend, this is a fun story to read as well as to start a classroom discussion. ISBN 978-1-5253-0318-0, Kids Can Press

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner. This is one of my favourite middle school novels because it combines a good story with the skills of geocaching. Since his dad left him and his mom, ”Zig” Zigonski lives for simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than people -especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled without explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a GPS unit he finds at a garage sale. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town, Zig sets out to find him. But he soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home. An engaging story about hope and family. ISBN 978-1681198989, Bloomsbury 

Unravel by Sharon Jennings is a wonderful page turner for middle graders. Rebecca was raised by her single father. She’s turning into an avid reader but realizes that her life is unusual. They had no friends, she doesn’t go to school and they move suddenly many times. As Rebecca gets older the story of her life begins to unravel… Soon nothing is as it seemed. With the help of a new found friend, Rebecca discovers the truth behind her dad and their life together and ‘home’ will never be the same. ISBN 9780889956193, Red Deer Press 

Story Boat

But what if you are homeless? Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Rashin Kheiiriyeh says that home is ‘here’ – wherever you are. Home can be a cup, or a blanket. Home can be ever changing as you move in search of a place to stay. The art in this new picture book depicts refugee families as they move along in search of a new home, treasuring shelter, a light, a book along the way.

ISBN 978-0-7352-6359-8, Tundra Books

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is one of my favourite middle grade novels about homelessness because it shows, in a gentle way, how easy easily and how randomly, one can become homeless. Felix is twelve. His mom struggles to hold on to jobs. When she can’t pay the ever increasing rent, the two live in their van – just for one summer month. But when school starts in September, they still live in their van and Felix needs to keep their homelessness a secret. A realistic, endearing and almost humorous story about a very real problem that gets solved in unexpected ways.  ISBN 978-0735262775, Random House

Margriet Ruurs’ home is on Canada’s west coast where she writes books for children as well as a blog about her travels, paired with favourite books: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

Global Books

In this column I share my favourite books to read aloud, curl up with and put into the hands of young readers. This week, a look at books about libraries and books.

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians is perhaps my all-time favorite book about libraries. I can’t decide what I like more – the words by Carla Morris or the pictures by Brad Sneed; but the result of this combination is a heartwarming love song to librarians. Melvin grows up surrounded by books. The librarians encourage him to be curious and to look for answers in books and online. Their investment pays off in a perfect ending that I won’t give away. You will have to read this book for yourself.. or better yet, to your students. ISBN 978-1-56145-391-7, Peachtree

Library Lion

The Library Lion by Michelle Knudson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, looks and feels like a classic. It’s the wonderful story of rules made to be broken, of a librarian who is not easily ruffled and of a lion who loves listening to story. A must-share with young readers in a school library! ISBN 978-0-7636-3784-2, Candlewick

Lady with the Books, The: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman

The Lady With The Books, Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Marie Lafrance is based on the true story of Jella Lepman, a German Jewish journalist who believed in building global friendship and understanding through children’s books. She traveled around war-torn Germany with a display of international books, and initiated the International Youth Library as well as IBBY, the International Board of Books for Young People, a global organization that still promotes children’s books around the world today. A wonderful fictional read complemented by nonfiction details in the back matter. SBN 978-1-5253-0154-4, Kids Can Press

It's a Book

It’s A Book, Lane Smith. A book doesn’t need a mouse, it doesn’t need to be charged. A book may not need wifi or be able to tweet, but a book can draw you right in. For hours… You may like a book so much that you don’t want to give it back. And even then you won’t need to charge it. Because it’s a book. A hilarious story to share out loud. ISBN 978-1-59643-606-0, Roaring Brook Press

A Child of Books

A Child of Books byJeff Oliver and Sam Winston is a fabulous ode to stories. The art is made of papers and typeset words. “I come from a world of stories, and upon my imagination I float…” shows a child on a raft floating on a sea of words that a reader will recognize from many classics. The book shows a world made from stories and lends itself to be read to children of all ages as well as used with high school art students. A great gift for booklovers of any age. ISBN 978-1-4063-5831-5, WALKER

The Undercover Book List

The Undercover Book List, Colleen Nelson is a fabulous middle grade novel. It’s a story grounded in a school library and books, focused on friendship. Jane loves to read but misses her best friend who moved away. Tyson is into video games and does not like to read. But through the secret messages left in books in their school library, both main characters change and make new friends. A great story for book worms and kids who have to move and make new friend. Also perfect for the teacher to read aloud.  ISBN 978-1-77278-187-8, Pajama Press

Rebel in the Library of Ever

The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander is a fictional novel about Lenora who is curious. In magical, fantastical adventures she travels through the ages and around the globe, all entering a library. Hired as the Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian, Lenora climbs her way up the library ladder, through solving problems and risking her life for knowledge. ‘Knowledge is a Light’ is the library’s slogan, chiseled in stone, and Lenore knows it’s true, especially when she encounters dark forces who want to get rid of books and ban others from gathering knowledge through reading. In the sequel – Rebel of the Library of Ever – Lenore has to free knowledge from the shadows. Your upper elementary students will love these smart, sci-fi page turners. ISBN 978-1250169174, Imprint.

Ban This Book: A Novel

Ban This Book, Alan Gratz. No column about school libraries would be complete without this title which deals skillfully with the difficult topic of censorship of books in an elementary school library. While showing both  sides of the issue, Gratz leaves the power to solve the problem to the kids, especially to Amy Anne who loves her school library. The book also manages to show parental concern, the responsibilities of school boards and – most of all – the importance of having a real librarian in the school library and the influence books can have on a child’s life.   A great read, even for teachers. ISBN 978-0-7653-8558-1

Margriet Ruurs is the author of My Librarian is a Camel, a nonfiction book about unique mobile libraries around the world. She conducts author presentations at international schools.

My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World

GLOBAL BOOKS

Books About School

Children’s books, including picture books and novels, are not just for little ones. Some children’s books should be called ‘everybody books’. And some can be especially good for educators to read. Here are some that will work particularly well at the beginning of a new school year to share as read-alouds by librarians, classroom teachers, counsellors or administrators.

A wild and humorous book for school administrators to share with younger students, is the last book written by Dr. Seuss, finished by Jack Prelutsky: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. The principal worries that, if his students won’t pass the test, there may not be funding to keep their beloved school open. The classroom teacher and the librarian know better as they coax the students. A very funny read. ISBN 0-679-89008-4, Alfred A. Knopf

1, 2, 3 Off to School by Marianne Dubuc is the kind of picture book I would have savoured as a child. There’s lots of fun text, but it’s the images that you can study forever. Each double spread shows a school in a fairy tale setting: there’s Cattail Academy where frogs paint and sing. The sloths attend Sleepytime School and squirrels learn all they need to know at Lookout Heights. Throughout the pages, little Pom discovers how much fun kindergarten will be. She can’t wait to attend her own school. ISBN 978-1-5253-0656-3, Kids Can Press

Harley The Hero by Peggy Collins is based on a real classroom where the teacher has a service dog. The book celebrates the work of service animals and the normalization of neurodivergence. The author-illustrator brings Harley and his class to charming life and concludes with an Author’s Note about the real dog behind the fictional Harley who goes to school every day with Ms. Prichard to make sure she feels safe. Harley can’t play with the students while he’s wearing his work vest. They write him letters instead, and everything is perfect in the best, most quiet class in the whole school. Until the day the old stage curtains catch fire. As the fire alarm blares and chaos erupts, Harley remembers that Ms. Prichard isn’t the only human in his class who gets upset by loud noises. ISBN 978-1-77278-195-3, Pajama Press

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is perhaps her best known book. This autobiographical story shows how the now prolific author struggled with reading as a child. Despite being surrounded by books she could not master the skill of reading until a patient, understanding teacher changed her life.  ISBN 0-399-23166-8, Philomel

By the same author, Patricia Polacco, is Mr. Lincoln’s Way – the story of an bully in Grade 5 and his principal. Despite personal lashings out, Mr. Lincoln finds a way to break through Eugene’s shield of anger by tapping into the boy’s one keen interest. Through books, patience and caring the two forge a bond that helps Eugene find his way.  ISBN 0-439-43011-9

Here is a picturebook recently self-published by teacher/librarian Sandip Sodhi: Ms. Chievus in the Classroom. Division O-O has so much misbehaviour that most teachers gave up. But not Ms. Chievus. She somersaults into the classroom and into the hearts of the rowdy students. In Pippi Longstocking-like fashion the teacher blows bubble gum bubbles and stands on her desk until the students teach her to behave better. A fun, turn-about way to discuss students’ behaviour in school. ISBN 978-1-7770218-0-1

Off To Class by Susan Hughes is a nonfiction book about the wide variety of ways in which children around the world get an education. From schools in refugee camps to finding text books in trash, this book shows the resilience of children and educators in many different countries.  ISBN 978-1-926818-86-3

The Report Card byAndrew Clements is a wonderful novel of a strong willed child who does not see the value of dividing students into ‘gifted’ and ‘hopeless’. She’s brilliant but wants to demonstrate how her best friend much feel when he gets D’s and she gets A’s. She does not want to stand out, blending in is much better. But when Nora fails her tests and the school librarian discovers the true level of her interests and knowledge, Nora has some explaining to do that might just lead to her teachers’ understanding of her concerns. Based on a true study, this is a timeless story. ISBN 0-439-67110-8

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children including the nonfiction picture book MY SCHOOL IN THE RAINFOREST showcasing a variety of schools around the world including an international school, Boyds Mills Press, ISBN 978-1-59078-601-7

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

When teaching writing to children, we often talk about the importance of voice. Who is telling the story? Is it a narrator or a character? The following picture books and novels all use a unique voice to tell their story.

If Only...

If Only… by Mies van Hout is a colourful picture book for the youngest readers, in which the voice of a child wishes he/she was a butterfly. But the butterfly wishes it was a different insect. From ladybugs to spiders, all critters voice their wishes until the story comes full circle. In addition to the story there is information about each creature as well as instructions for making your own colourful art.

ISBN 978-1-77278-196-0, Pajama Press


Hello, Dark

Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong gives voice to a child who is afraid of the dark. “I hear you creak, and cast shadows all around,” he whispers, alone in bed. But soon he realizes that the dark helps animals at night, even helps the moon shine bright. Soon he is no longer scared but plays games with his new found friend. 

ISBN 978-1-77278-221-9, Pajama Press


Wolves

Wolves by Emily Gravett is an older picture book with a quirky voice that slightly older students love. Rabbit goes to the library and find a book about wolves. The information becomes more and more vivid. Rabbit has a close encounter but, luckily, this story has a happy ending. The art adds to the text and is fun to explore and discuss. The pages include mail with real envelops and letters to Rabbit.

ISBN 978-1-4050-5362-4, MacMillan


Time for Bed's Story

Time For Bed’s Story by Monica Arnaldo is written in an unusual voice – that of the bed! Bed knóws that you don’t want to go to bed, and toss and turn. But have you ever considered Bed’s feelings? A fun bedtime read for parents to share with their young readers! 

ISBN 978-1-5253-0239-8, Kids Can Press


The Coconut Crab by Peter W. Fong

The Coconut Crab

This 200 page middle grade novel is a fun and beautiful read. With facts about the main characters – a coconut crab, a goat, a bird and a gecko – based on nonfiction, the story is a well written fictional tale reminiscent of folk tales. Based on a tropical island, Coconut Crab faces dangers and makes new friends, learning about the natural world while exploring the world of man. The voice that tell this story, with faint echoes of The Life of Pi, is beautiful and made me imagine vivid images. The humour and emotions conjured up by the characters was similar to watching the Madagascar or Finding Nemo movies in which quirky animals banter with each other. A fascinating read that may be labeled for kids but can be equally entertaining for adults who love a good tale.

ISBN 978-1-9505845-7-4, Green Writers Press


Margriet Ruurs, MEd, conducts author presentations at schools around the world. Her latest title is Come, Read With Me, ISBN 978-1459817876

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

These global picture books and novels are placed in different countries. Reading stories from around the world will help students of all ages to both appreciate other cultures as well as recognize their own cultural backgrounds.

My Heart in Kenya by [Ruth  Beardsley]

My Heart in Kenya by Ruth Beardsley. This is a true story, in picture book format with photos, of a family living in a refugee camp and being selected to come to Canada. However, one person was not on their application and thus could not come. Nasteha was only two months when her family had to leave her behind in Kenya. This is the story of how, eventually, they were reunited. The photos give a good impression of life in a refugee camp and of a very real problem that effects many families. Written by an educator, the book has a website: www.myheartinkenya.ca with complementary resources. ISBN 978-1525-566-806

Tea Time Around The World by Denyse Waissbluth, illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne. Who knew tea could be so fascinating! This colourful picture book has a main fictional text in large font, complemented by text in smaller font that gives nonfiction details about each country and their tea customs. From butter tea in Tibet to a Japanese tea ceremony – from English high tea to the modern bubble tea, this is a fun book to share and then have a tea party. ISBN 978-177164-601-7, Greystone Kids

Travels in Cuba

Part of the Travels With My Family series, Travels in Cuba by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel is the story of Charlie on a family holiday in Cuba. As they explore the country, Charlie meets kids, makes friends and learns things about Cuba. The book is sprinkled with words and expressions in Spanish. The series includes chapter books for Grades 2-5 about a variety of countries including Croatia, Mexico and France. ISBN 978-1-77306-347-8, Groundwood Books

The Camino Club by Kevin Craig. I read this teen novel as an e-book. It is a very realistic account of a group of juvenile delinquents – reminiscent of Ben Mikaelson’s Spirit Bear but for older students –  whose punishment for a variety of crimes, is to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain with counsellors. Since the real experience is transforming, the fictional teens, too, are transformed by confronting each other, by confessing sins, by meeting new people and by the very act of walking a long distance trail. The teens’ foul language may be realistic in this setting but it almost turned me of off reading on. I’m glad I did, though, as the story gets gripping and you do want to know what happens to each teen in the end.  ISBN 978-1945053979, Duet Books

Placed not just in another part of the world, but also in a different era is The Day The Pirates Went Mad, a middle grade novel by Trevor Atkins.

The Day the Pirates Went Mad

This is a fictional story placed in the early 1700’s. The details about the ways of living, customs, food, clothing and especially ships is impressive. The story is well written so I could ‘see’ it unfold as Emma escaped a Bristol, UK orphanage and find her place on a ship that trades around the world. She sails to Africa and beyond, learning from the rest of the crew, often comprised of female sailors. The story is gripping – I couldn’t put it down. The author’s thorough research and knowledge of the topic and era truly bring the story to life. Any student interested in history and/or pirates will love this novel. 

ISBN 978-19894-5902-7, Silverpath Publishing. Check out www.emmasharpesadventures.com for teaching resources and behind-the-scenes.

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children, including picture book biographies. She conducts author talks at international schools.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

There is an expression that says ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ – meaning that you cannot understand someone else’s struggles and problems until you have tried to see things from their side. The following books let you ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ – and see what it is like to be confined to a wheelchair, to be homeless, have an abusive parent or face many other obstacles in life.

The King of Jam Sandwiches by Eric Walters is a fictional story but very much based on the popular author’s own childhood. Living with only his father, Robbie leads a double life. He tries to hide his domestic troubles from his teachers and friends. No one knows that his father often disappears for days. How will Robbie survive if he doesn’t return? He lives in constant fear of how his father will react to anything he says or does. His new friend Harmony lives in foster care. Meeting her changes everything and, eventually, helps Robbie to overcome some of the obstacles he faces. ISBN 978-1459825567, Orca Book Publishers

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is one of my favourite novels for young readers about homelessness. Felix is twelve. His mom struggles to hold on to jobs. When she can’t pay the ever increasing rent, the two live in their van, just for one summer month. But when school starts in September, they still live in their van and Felix needs to keep their homelessness a secret. A realistic, endearing and almost humourous story about a very real problem that gets solved in unexpected ways.  ISBN 978-0735262775, Random House

Unbound, Judith Scott, Melissa Sweet. This is the true story of Judith Scott, born with Down syndrome and undiagnosed physical handicaps. Her twin sister is healthy and, as young children, not aware of her sister’s differences. But once Judith has to go to live in a home, life changes for both girls. It is not until many years later that the sisters are reunited and that Judith finally gets the opportunity to express herself through art. Art that eventually becomes well known and in demand. An impressive book that helps us realize how much has changed over the years, and how much still needs changing. This brand new picture book was illustrated in fabulous at by Caldecott winner Melissa Sweet and is great to use with all ages. Every art teacher should have a copy! ISBN 978-0-525-64811-6, Random House

Petey by Ben Mikaelsen is an older title but still as important as ever. What is it like to move to a new town where you don’t know anyone? This is what Trevor did and he wonders how he will make new friends. What is it like to spend your life in a wheelchair, unable to communicate because you have cerebral palsy? That’s what life is like for Petey. This is the story of an unexpected friendship and discovering how the human spirit can triumph over physical obstacles. ISBN 0-7868-1336-9, Hyperion

Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is a similarly powerful story of a child in a wheelchair. 11 year old Melody is the smartest kid in school. She knows the answers to all questions. The problem is, no one knows it. Melody cannot speak. She has no way of communicating with others. The teachers think she cannot learn. But Melody understands everything and has a photographic memory. Trapped inside her own mind and body, Melody needs the friendship and skills of a special ed teacher who slowly helps to unlock the door to Melody’s mind. A great read for kids, but also for all educators. ISBN 978-1-4169-7171-9, Simon & Shuster

I love the two view points in Counting on Hope by Sylvia Olsen. This is the story of early British settlers on Canada’s west coast, but is also a universal story of colonization. Letia’s family has always lived in their traditional summer camp on an island. One day a British ship arrives and settlers, who were given land by the Queen of England, move in. The families each warn their children to staying away from the dangerous others. But whose land is this and how can it be shared peacefully? A beautiful, skillfully told story from the view point of two children. ISBN 978-1-55039-173-2, Sononis Press

Margriet Ruurs, MEd, conducts author presentations at international schools. Her books have been published in many languages.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

What difference can one person make? Have you discussed global warming, Black Lives Matter and gender equality in class? These books about activism are shining examples of how you cán change the world, one issue at a time.

I Have the Right to Save My Planet

I Have The Right to Save My Planet, Alain Serres and Aurélia Fronty is chock full of facts about climate change and endangered species. The book explains that every child on earth has the right to water and clean air as decreed by the International Convention on children’s rights. It spells out many of the problems the earth is currently facing but gives children ways to manage these concerns: get your family to buy less plastic, don’t eat cookies made with palm oil from trees that are replacing rain forest, etc. With an interesting voice combined with beautiful art, this book is part of a ‘Rights’ series. ISBN 978-1-77306-487-1, Groundwood Books

Walking for Water: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality

Walking For Water, How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Nicole Miles is a wonderful story inspired by true events in Malawi. Victor and Linesi are twins. They love going to school but at some point Lenesi is the one who can’t go anymore because she has to fetch water for the family. In school, the new teacher tells the children about gender equality. Soon Victor sees the unfairness of this and has a plan: he and his sister take turns going to class and fetching water. The changes have a ripple effect so that, soon, equality becomes not just something that is only talked about but practised as well.  ISBN 978-1-5253-0249-7, Kids Can Press

Small History of a Disagreement

A Small History of a Disagreement by Claudio Fuentes, with art by Gabriela Lyon. This story is based in Chile but is so universal it could take place anywhere. Children come to school, after the holidays, to find a large fence blocking access to part of their school grounds, including the tall Monkey Puzzle tree. The introduction explains that this tree is millennial, more than a thousand years old and endangered. But laws allow it to be cut down to make room for the much needed school expansion. Soon, the controversies and debates begin. Groups form in favour of development as well as in favour of protection. Who will win? And how will so many students ever agree? Focused on a school based issue, this is the universal story of debate, disagreement and reaching satisfactory solutions through research and debate. A book that should be mandatory for all politicians… ISBN 978-177164-707-6, Greystone Kids

How to Become an Accidental Activist

Following How To Become An Accidental Genius, Frieda Wishinsky and Elzabeth MacLeod followed that title with How To Become An Accidental Activist. The book shows how many people, from all corners of the world, may be accidental, but definitely heroic, activists by standing up for what they believe in. The book shows people in history but also today taking action against social, gender or racial injustice. It shows what young people do for the environment and against bullying. The book shares inside stories of well known people like Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand and Greta Thunberg in Sweden, but also of lesser known heroes like Rigoberta Menchu Tum standing up for equal rights in Guatemala and Song Kosal from Cambodia advocating against landmines. This book shows that you are never the only one and never should be discouraged from fighting for change and believing in doing the right thing. ISBN 978-1-4598-2611-3, Orca Book Publishers

Growing Up Elizabeth May: The Making of an Activist

Growing Up Elizabeth May, The Making of an Activist, written by Sylvia Olsen with Cate May Burton – is the story of how a girl from Connecticut became the leader of Canada’s Green Party. Inspired by her mother to take action against injustice, Elizabeth studied problems she saw around her in the environment. She fought for what she thought was right and battled politicians to ban pesticides. Eventually, that young girl was named one of the most influential women in the world, showing other young people to take action for what they believe in. This inspiring book is supplemented with examples of young people’s actions against plasticide, air pollution and more. Even though this book is about one particular person in North America, it is also a universal story of what can happen if you follow your heart and stick to your convictions. ISBN 978-1-4598-2370-9, Orca Book Publishers

Margriet Ruurs conducts author presentations and workshops at international schools around the world. Contact her directly to book for your school.

Books & the environment

From simple concepts to complicated science; from preschool to high school, (picture)books can serve to discuss and discover information about the environment, including climate change and endangered wildlife. These books can lead to hands-on projects such as adopting a whale or planting trees. The books can also serve as examples to write your own classroom stories about your specific environment or favorite (endangered) animals.

Miss Rumphius

One of the earliest picture books about the environment is perhaps the ever popular classic Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. It is the story of a librarian who wants to travel the world ánd make the world a more beautiful place. She does so by planting wild flowers that form an everlasting legacy. A lovely story that can lead to a classroom discussion of “How will you make the world a more beautiful place?”. Students can start a school garden or plant seeds in pots. ISBN 0-14-050539-3

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback, written by Beryl Young, illustrated by Sakika Kikuchi. A gentle story to share with young readers, it compares where Humpback lives with her calf to a child in his own environment. Both are growing bigger, both need food and a clean environment to thrive. And both are learning new skills as they grow. A perfect picture book to install a love of, and respect for, nature. ISBN 978-1-77164-573-7, Greystone Kids

Sunny Days

Sunny Days by Deborah Kerbel features attractive collage art by Miki Sato. This padded board book celebrates a day outside for very young readers. Written in rhyme, it shows how to plant seeds, bake mud pies and splash in the ocean. Added activities in the back make children aware of the environment and simple science. ISBN 978-1-77278-197-7, Pajama Press

Forest Magic: A Guidebook for Little Woodland Explorers

Forest Magic by Sarah Grindler is a guide to all things forest. The text gently points out the miracle of seeds growing into tall trees, offering shelter to birds and insects. The beautiful art shows the difference between moss and lichen, explains how a nurse log propagates life and what you can do to support and encourage biodiversity. A lovely guide for young explorers in the forest. ISBN 978-1-77108-926-5, Nimbus Publishing

Outside, You Notice

Outside, You Notice by Erin Alladin, illustrated by Andrea Blinick. From the smell of rain to the feel of seeds – “the most important things in the world” – this picture book is a beautiful first introduction to the outdoors and helps to create awareness of the interconnectedness of nature. The book has a main text complemented by text boxes with more details as well as suggestions on ways to spend time outside: to parks, markets and more. ISBN 978-1-77278-193-9, Pajama Press

City of Water

City of Water, Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Katy Dockrill is for upper elementary and middle grade students. Where does the water in your tap come from? This book looks at all things water – from the history of aqueducts to how water treatment plants work. It highlights innovative ideas like turning salt water into drinkable water. I was interested to learn that “a bottle of water costs up to two thousand times more than the same amount of water coming from the tap, requires two thousand times more energy to produce and uses more water in the production process than an average bottle can hold!” Fascinating facts for budding environmentalist, and for anyone who drinks water. ISBN 978-1-77306-144-3, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is the author of environmental books like When We Go Camping, Amazing Animals, In My Backyard and The Elephant Keeper.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Friendship. What better topic to discuss in the international classroom? And what better tool to use than great books. Here are some of my favourite titles:

I Got You A Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan, illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Poor duck is having a hard time coming up with a surprise birthday gift for you. He tried so hard to make you happy but knitting socks didn’t work, the ice cream he bought you has melted and he couldn’t find you a dinosaur. But after all of his efforts, he does end up with a special gift, just for you! ISBN 978-1-5253-0009-7, Kids Can Press

Nut & Bolt by Nicole de Cock is the lovely story of a friendship between Bolt, a donkey, and Nut, the mouse. Friends each have to give and take. While it seems that Nut does much more for his friend, because that is what friends do, in the end it turns out that, Bolt too, has a lot to offer.  ISBN 978-1-55455-364-8, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Hug? by Charlene Chua. Now that the world is not into hugging, this is a fun book to share out loud with very young children. Hugs can make you feel better but problems arise when everyone wants a hug – cats, ducks, even skunks. There are bear hugs and porcupine hugs, even one character who does not want any hugs. A hilarious story told in few words and in pictures.  ISBN 978-1-5253-0206-0, Kids Can Press

This Is A Dog Book, Judith Henderson, illustrated by Julien Chung. Bunny desperately wants to be part of the dog gang, specially if it means being in this book. He goes to all lengths to proof that he, too, is a dog and belong here. The dogs have their doubts and put Bunny to the test but eventually decide that, even if he may not be a dog, Bunny does make a good friend and should stay in the book. ISBN 978-1-5253-0493-4, Kids Can Press

Little Narwhal, All Alone by Tiffany Stone, illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee, reads like a fictional picturebook – about a little narwhal who likes to wander and explore. But in the back matter it is explained that this is based on the true story of a narwhal found about 1000 KMs away from his home in the Arctic. He now has befriended and lives with a pod of young beluga whales, an unusual true story of friendship beyond species. ISBN 978-1-77164-620-8, Greystone Kids

Aaaligator! by Judith Henderson, illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier is the story of an unlikely friendship. The boy loves bird watching but one day he stumbles upon an… aaaligator! After he feeds and helps the aligator, it shows up at his house, lonely. At first the town is against aligators but this one proves itself to be most helpful. A book to share and smile about together. ISBN 978-1-5253-0151-3, Kids Can Press

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy is a unique book. Produced in handwriting with exquisite drawings, the book reminded me of Christopher Robin and Pooh, sharing similar random wisdoms about life, self esteem and friendship. A beautiful story to encourage reading, writing and discussions with older students. This will also make a special gift for any educator.

ISBN 978-0-06-297658-1, Harper Collins

Margriet Ruurs combines her global adventures with favourite books here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com