In this column I review books with special appeal to people around the world. Today I’ll share with you books about kindness and honesty – one is a classic, others are brand-new titles. Don’t forget to share picture books with older students, too!
The Empty Pot by Demi is a beautifullly illustrated picture book for readers of all ages. Each image is in the round shape of a pot. The Emperor of China loves plants and flowers so much that he decides that whoever can grow the most beautiful flowers, will become his successor. All the children in the land receive seeds. They plant, they tend and they nurture. I won’t give away the ending, but Ping’s seeds need all of his care. It takes courage to confess to the Emperor what happens in the end. But Ping’s honesty is well rewarded.
Charlie pushes a cart around the neighborhood and finds things. He fixes things. He makes a bird bath from an old tire. But Charlie cannot find out whose pie he found. Eventually the whole neighborhood benefits from Charlie’s find and he helps people in the process.
Nice Try, Charlie by Matt James features interesting art, a blend of painting and photos.
A World of Mindfulness, Erin Allidin and Suzanne del Rizzo, is a compilation of text and art by the creators at Pajama Press. A meditative text, accompanied by beautiful images demonstrates the importance for children on being quiet and reflective some times. It shows how listening to birds can help quiet the snow storm in your head and help you to let go of anger. This picture book can help to lead children to practice yoga, meditation and general peace of mind. ISBN 978-1-77278-138-0
This book is a companion to the first title published by creators at Pajama Press: A World of Kindness, Anne Featherstone and Suzanne del Rizzo. ISBN 978-1772780505
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 Greatsby 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.
As an avid reader and writer, I love books about books and libraries. Here are some outstanding ones.
Every once in a while you pick up a book that makes its way straight to your heart: Alphamaniacs, Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is such a book. The text is a poetic description of 26 people who made a difference in the world of language – some are writers, others invented a new style or printed books in a new, unique way. Rather than a summation of biographies the author used the voice of a circus ringmaster to introduce each ‘Wonder of the Word’. There is Jean-Dominique Bauby who became paralyzed except for one eye lid and ended up dictating an entire novel by blinking the letters. An astonishing feat. Jumping back and forth through the ages, the book celebrates European writers and native Americans, among others. One is Jessie Little Doe Baird who singlehanded saved her Wampanoag language, actually bringing it back from extinction. There’s the inventor of Klingon as well as the creator of Esperanto, a universal language created by Ludwik Zamenhof in Poland in hopes of promoting peace and understanding between people.
Each story is accompanied by a piece of art by the incredible master of collage, Caldecott Honor illustrator Melissa Sweet, making this book is a feast for the eye and ear of any booklover.
Candlewick Studio, ISBN 978-0763690663
Another book I fell in love with is the picturebook A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. One of those fabulous books for anyone who knows the value of stories, this one starts with a pen and a blank page. Then the main character takes us along on a celebration of books, through illustrations composed of words from those very books. While sailing the ocean, the words forming the waves are from books like Ten Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, The Swiss Family Robinson and more. Kids climb mountains of words from Peter Pan to reach the sky. They discover treasure and wander through forests made of book spines. I love this book and its powerful images, and I suspect that booklovers of all ages will love it, too.
Candlewick Press, ISBN 978-0-7636-9077-9
Oliver Jeffers is also the creator of The Incredible Book Eating Boy, a hilarious picture book to share with Kindergartens or older. Henry devours books, literally. The more he eats, the smarter he gets. Until he is so stuff full of books that he gets a tummy ache. Then he discovers that reading books is much better than eating books, and he gets smarter yet. The ‘real bite’ out of the back cover is a fun bonus.
ASIN : B007XJ7388
The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander
As soon as I spotted this novel for young readers in my local bookstore, I knew I had to own it. And it was a wise choice. As I read, I met Lenora and traveled along on her wild adventures through the ages and around the globe, all entered through a library.
Lenora is ‘hired’ as Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian and 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.
I’ve read many other books with a library theme: Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library for instance. But those books are merely fun entertainment. The Library of Ever actually has a whole layer beyond its entertainment value that, almost imperceptibly, demonstrates the importance of books, research and the freedom to read.
I soon loved how this unique book blends fantasy with true questions, asked at the Help Desk and whose answers can be found only be doing research. The book is very cleverly written because we all have asked some of the questions and often have made the mistake of not enough fact checking. Reading, I learned some very interesting facts – from the highest point on earth (not what you think!) to Minoan Literature, from leap years to hieroglyphs. Readers’ minds can truly grow on this book.
Underlying all of Lenora’s adventures is the threat of Dark Forces. As the Chief Librarian states at one point: ‘the value of a Library cannot be counted in money.’ Same with the book – it was well worth the 10.- purchase price and both my grandson and I gained much more from the reading experience than just fun hours spent reading together. We kept sharing what we learned by saying “Did you know this? And listen to this!”…
Fantasy is not normally a genre I enjoy but now I can’t wait to read the next title: Rebel in the Library of Ever.
These not-so-obvious scary books are a treat to share around Halloween
In this column I share books with you that have global appeal. I hope to help you, in a quick and easy manner, to find the most fabulous books to share with your students. Of course, nothing is better than a read-a-loud – regardless of age level.
FROM FAR AWAY by Robert Munsch is a picturebook for the younger grades, co-authored by Saoussan Askar (age 9). She wrote to Robert Munsch, of Love You Forever fame, to share her story of immigrating from Beirut, Lebanon. She was happy to live in a safe place, but when Halloween came around she was suddenly confronted with ghosts and skeletons in closets. Munsch skillfully turned her scary tale into a funny one that highlights differences in cultures and the difference a caring teacher can make.
ISBN 1-55037-396-X, Annick Press
GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel. Its word choices and story content make this is a great story for slightly older readers. Catrina, her sister Maya who suffers from cystic fibrosis and their parents move to a new town. Catrina does not like it there. Nor does she like the town’s history full of ghosts, which is celebrated during Diá de los Muertos. Catrina is very hesitant to go out on Halloween night but she and her sister meet many ghosts who help change their perspective.
ISBN 978-0-545-54062-9, Scholastic
SEVEN DEAD PIRATES is a great classroom read at any time, but particularly fitting around Halloween since Lewis Dearborn is moving into his great-grandfather’s dilapidated old mansion. The mansion, it turns out, is already inhabited by no less than seven ghostly pirates. Lewis ends up with seven rowdy room mates who depend on him to reclaim their ship so they can roam the seven seas again. In the process, Lewis has to face his worst fears. 296 page novel.
Finally, and coincidentally by the same author, a picture book that is perfect for older readers – including high school students.
MARY WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN by Linda Bailey is the beautifully crafted background story of Mary who, as a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on tombstones. At age 19 she is challenged by Lord Byron and Percy Shelley to write a scary story. Mary Shelley ends up creating the most terrifying, and enduring, tale of all: Frankenstein. This gorgeous biography showcases captivating art by Júlia Sardá.
ISBN 978-1770495593, Tundra Books
Sharing stories, expertise, and experiences from international educators around the world