Tag Archives: Novels

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Discovering a ‘new’ favourite author can be a great classroom tool. Their books can be part of a series or they can be very different from each other. Today I’d like you to meet Wendy Orr. Born in Canada, she lives in Australia and writes award winning books.

Nim’s Island is a heartwarming tale of a spunky girl living (almost) alone on a deserted Pacific Island. Reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking, Nim is self sufficient and, together with her closest friends – a sea lion and an iguana –  saves the day when her scientist father is lost at sea. This book can be followed up by watching the movie starring Jodie Foster as Alex Rover, the adventure author who joins to help Nim.

ISBN 978-0385736060

There are two more titles in the series: Rescue at Sea – which deals with animals in captivity and a mad professor who trains them and wants to use them for research. Nim travels on a cruise ship as stow-away and makes new friends in the process. ASIN : B00166YC9C

In Rescue on Nim’s Island, she discovers a rare fossil and has to defend her island from exploitation. All three books make for good elementary classroom readings and discussions. ASIN : B00YVBQXFU


Very different from Nim’s Island, is Wendy Orr’s Bronze Age series. Dragonfly Song was inspired by a drawing, a found flint, and Wendy’s interest in archeology. This fantasy novel is aimed at upper middle grade readers. As I read the suspense full tale of Aissa whom the villagers see as cursed, and who is mute, I kept thinking that this is a bit like the Hunger Games for slightly younger readers. It’s a real page turner and won a long list of awards.

Swallow’s Dance takes us to Greek Islands and an era where people paid tribute to the Goddess as directed by the Oracle. Any reader interested in myths, legends and ancient history will be enthralled by this series – each book of which can be read independently.

The newest title, being released in March, is Cuckoo’s Flight – a coming-of-age story in which Clio battles the political power of the palace and her own feelings of inadequacy to save her town, her horses, and perhaps even herself. All three novels in this series are skillfully written in a blend of prose and free verse.

Panama Press ASIN : B08KYNQGJJ

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Not all people are the same. Recognizing yourself in a story can be a powerful experience. The right book can be a tool to reach out and help a child. Here are some books that show how people can experience different feelings, emotions and conditions.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is a beautifully written picture book that introduces very young readers to the concept of Alzheimers and memory loss. This story is so skillfully told that it will appeal to readers of all ages. Wilfrid Gordon lives next to a seniors’ home and knows all of the residents. Through sparse language we learn, as does he, what it means to lose memories. Wilfrid Gordon collects objects, each one of which helps his friend to remember special things in life. Highly recommended for classroom discussions. ISBN 978-0916291266

Duck Days by Sara Leach is a novel for ages 7 – 11. Third grade student Lauren has Autism Spectrum Disorder and experiences some things a bit different from her friends. Lauren has learned how to handle her own reactions and copes just fine. In this story her friend challenge her to ride a bike without training wheels. When her class has a bike workshop, Lauren is not happy but eventually overcomes her fears and triumphs. This book is part of a well written series for young kids on Autism and Asperger’s.  ISBN 978-1772781489, Pajama Press

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is written in the first person, which is a brave and bold move by this award winning author. Because Melody, the main character, has cerebral palsy. She cannot speak, her limbs move involuntarily, she drools and makes funny sounds. What no one realizes is that Melody’s brain works perfectly. She remembers facts, she gets match, she can spell like the best of them but she cannot let anyone know. Imagine the words and thoughts all stuck inside your brain and no way to let them out… Thanks to Draper’s skillful writing, we are inside Melody’s head and feel her frustration. This book is a must-read for all booklovers, but a special eye opener for all those (educators) who work with children who have physical challenges. ISBN 141697170X (ISBN13: 9781416971702)

Other highly recommended titles include:

Petey by Ben Mikaelsen (cerebral palsy); Wonder by R.J. Palacio (disfigurement); A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (synaesthesia); Rules by Cynthia Lord (autism)

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and speaks at schools around the world.

Global book Reviews

Books truly are ‘windows to the world’. Picture books can be a powerful tool to show kids that they are not the only ones dealing with a problem or coping with feelings. 

A Quiet Girl by Peter Carnavas is the story of Mary who comes from a loud family. With hairdryers and lawn mowers going, no one can hear little Mary who speaks in a whisper. But Mary is the one who hears the birds and talks to the flowers. Even when Mary seems to have disappeared, her family gets louder and louder. Until they finally fall quiet and can hear Mary’s song and learn to notice what she was trying to tell them all along. 

The Australian author of this brand new picture book worked as a classroom teacher and knows which stories can inspire.

Pajama Press, ISBN 978-1-77278-122-9

Noisy Poems for a Busy Day by Robert Heidbreder is a picture book of poems to use in Kindergarten. Full of onomatopoeia, kids can whisper, shout, sing and dance long with these fun poems. From animals to clouds, from swinging to burping there’s a poem that begs to be memorized and chanted out loud.

Kids Can Press, ISBN 978-1-55453-706-8

This picture book is a trusted classic by now. It’s a story about honesty and one of my favorite picture books ever because it shows the importance of being honest in very few words: The Empty Pot by Demi.

This quiet story is a wise lesson as well as a tale that brings tears to the eyes. The next Emperor will be chosen from among the children whose challenge it is to grow seeds. Ping is rewarded for his honesty and hard work.

The gorgeous illustrations show traditional Chinese architecture and landscapes. A great picture book to use as an example when writing legends with studentsof any age.

Henry Holt and Co., ISBN-10: 0805082271

The Greats by Deborah Ellis blends magical realism with a somber subject matter: it deals with the hardships of mental health issues, incarceration, and devastating loss. Jomon, a Guyanese fifteen-year old is visited by the ghosts of his grandfathers, who open his eyes to their stories and his family history, providing a way to deal with a childhood marked by abuse and hopelessness. Meanwhile, a prehistoric sloth in a museum awakens nearby, fascinated by her earthly surroundings. The Greats explores life and death through braided narratives threaded through with a message of hope. This short novel has a simple and poetic tone that creates an almost otherworldly feel that will appeal to teens and adults alike. 

Groundwood Books, 978-1773063874 (This teen novel was reviewed by 14 year old Matilda Colvin)

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children, including A Brush Full of Colour, The World of Ted Harrison. She conducts (virtual) author visits to schools around the world.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Two novels about censorship for elementary/middle school

One of my favourite books ever deals with the topic of censorship. Alan Gratz handles it in a smart way in Ban This Book. I read it in two evenings and loved it. This is a brilliant, funny story based on a very real concern, that of banning books in school libraries. Gratz skillfully deals with both sides of the issue in a great way. He leaves the power to solve the problem to the kids, especially to Amy Anne who loves her school library. But 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. The story shows how school libraries can be critical to the development of children. His main character grows and changes throughout the story. Gratz neatly quotes real titles, real authors (Dav Pilkey is a visiting author in the story) and refers to real book banning cases, wrapping up all loose ends in a satisfying manner. Highly recommended for kids, activists, parents, school administrators and all library lovers.

Starscape, Tom Doherty Associates. ISBN 978-0-7653-8558-1

I had the same high expectation for another book on the same topic, with an attractive cover: Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes.

But what a disappointment. Seemingly out of the blue, June’s parents decide that, even though she is in Grade Seven, a book about ghosts is too scary for her. They not only take that book away from her but also any and all books she owns. Then a moving van shows up at her school and all books in the library get removed. June slowly collects books again and lends them out to other. While the topic is an important one for young readers to learn about, and even touches on Little Free Libraries, I found this book too unbelievable to ring true for me.

Yearling, ISBN 978-1-5247-7150-8

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children and conducts author visits via ZOOM.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Novels for Teens

The Flooded Earth Trilogy by Mardi McConnochie

The Flooded Earth, The Castle in the Sea and The Skeleton Coast are three dystopian page turners for middle school.

While The Hunger Games was for older readers, these books have the feel of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass: deliciously scary. The Flooded Earth books are set 50 years after a massive flood and climate change change the earth’ surface. Four kids set sail in search of secrets, hidden clues and their mysteriously disappeared father. With three sequels, there’s plenty to keep an avid reader spellbound here.

Pajama Press, ISBN 978-1-772278-049-9

ISBN 978-1-77278-083-3

ISBN978-1-77278-099-4 

The Parkour Club by Pam Withers and Arooj Hayat is a high speed read for teens. This story features parkour courses, an unusual and fascinating focus.

Bronte moves from Egypt back to North America, and is coping with adjustments and making new friends at her new school. She follows her passion for parkour and makes friends in her new club. But some people are not who they seem. Is there a terrorist among them? Who can she trust and who is dangerous? A good read for teens.

ISBN 978-0995910324, also available as e-book.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman is a fascinating, and fun, read for middle grade students interested in wildlife and extinction. Set in a unique place, Louisa travels to an aunt in Tasmania where she discovers both a diary and the mysterious shadows of an animal. Could the Tasmanian tiger still be present? A wonderful read, very well written, for kids of all ages.

Pajama Press

  • ISBN-10 : 1772780545
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1772780543