Tag Archives: reading

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

 If you work at an international school, chances are that you like to travel. If you like to read and travel, here are some of my favourite books to curl up with over the holidays.

 Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, ISBN 978-0375709159

The author and his wife lived in England when, many years ago, they bought land in Spain. He now has three books about the trials and tribulations of (sheep) farming on the Andalusian slopes. The books are fun and make you feel like you are right there with him.

Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming is a fascinating account of daily life in an unusual country. She takes you along inside the homes and on walks around the country and culture into which she married. This book made me want to visit Bhutan some time, where the gross national product is measured as happiness.

Pole To Pole by Michael Palin (ISBN 978-0753823262) is one of my favourite travel books because it covers little bits of many different countries and cultures. He sets out to travel from the very North Pole to the South Pole along the 30º line of longitude which travers the most land mass on the planet. Using mostly public transit, he takes the reader along, sharing his trip but also bits of culture, history, politics and customs.

 A few years ago I did author visits to international schools in Turkey. I wished I had read this book then: Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark by Rick Antonson (ISBN 978-1510705654)

Not only is this a great read about the author’s trek up Mount Ararat in (what is currently) Turkey, it is also a good story of ancient and biblical times, of rifts between nations, of interested cultures, beliefs and people. 

And one more fascinating nonfiction book – even if it is not exactly a travel destination: The Girl With Seven Names, Escape From North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee is an unusual story from North Korea. It shows life with all of its ups and downs in North Korea. I found it well written and an intriguing story from a relatively unknown part of the world. ISBN 978-0-00-755485-0

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! HAPPY READING!

Global book reviews

In today’s column I would like to share with you books of wintery tales and seasonal information. These books can all spark discussions about seasons and traditions as well as lead to classroom crafts and activities.

Snow Days by Deborah Kerbel is illustrated in collage by Miki Sato. This is a wonderful picture book to share with young children about the magic of snow. If they have never seen snow, they will want to after hearing about snow angels and snow men. The attractive art is featured on thick, shiny pages (‘toddler tough’ the publisher calls them) making this a good book for kids to explore and try to make their own paper snowflakes.

Pajama Press, ISBN 978-1-77278-135-9


What if you came from a warm country and had never experienced snow? Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illustrated by Eva Campbell tells the story of a young girl’s very first walk in snow with her mom. This picture book casts a new light on snow clouds, on snow falling and covering everything, making sidewalks slippery and trees pretty. What is better, snow or sun?

Groundwood Books, ISBN 978-1-77306-258-7

Raven, Rabbit, Deer by Sue Farrell Holler is a brand new release. This picture book is a walk in the snowy woods of a boy and his grandfather. Together they make tracks and grandfather teaches the boy which animals make which tracks as well as the Ojibwemowin names of the animals.

Panama Press, ISBN 978-1-77278-136-6


I Found Hope in a Cherry Tree by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Nathalie Dion is a lovely story of winter – when shadows disappear but snowflakes dance and the wind tells stories. It is a poetic picture book to share with young readers and discuss miracles of nature, like how do cherry trees know that their buds will blossom when spring returns.

Groundwood Books, ISBN 978-1-77306-2204


The Three Brothers by Marie-Louise Gay is the story of Finn, Leo and little Ooley. They like to tell stories about exploring and about wild animals. But a real adventure is even better so they set off, on a very snowy day, to explore the woods. They don’t spot many animals and worry about climate change. But they do end up building their own snow animals – even better than building a snow man!

Groundwood Books, ISBN 978-1-77306-377-5


One of my favourite Christmas stories ever is Linda Bailey’s When Santa Was A Baby. Have you ever wondered what Santa was like when he was little? ‘He had a little nose, like a cherry!’ And his voice? Not a baby’s soft gurgle but, even in his cradle, he made booming ‘Ho, ho, ho!’ noises.

This book is fabulously funny and a great one to share with kids of all ages. It can even inspire students to write their own hilarious childhood stories of other fictional characters.

Tundra Books, ISBN 978-1770495562

And finally I want to bring this great resource to your attention: Christmas, From Solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate and Dani Tate-Stratton is an 80 page nonfiction book explaining history and traditions of Christmas around the world. From Egyptian Solstice information to traditions from Guyana, the book has lots of personal stories of food, decorations, beliefs and customs. A great resource for any (international) school library.

Orca Book Publishers, ISBN 978-1-4598-1355-7

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of over 40 books for children, including Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey. She conducts (ZOOM) author presentations in schools around the world.


GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

A Look at our Environment in picture books and novels. Here are some brand-new titles for readers of all ages, dealing with our environment and even with our current global pandemic.

 This Is My Daddy! by Mies van Hout is a lovely board book for very young readers. Each colourful image shows an animal baby and four possible daddies who look amazingly similar but are actually different animals. The art really makes you look closely at wings, legs, feelers, horns to determine whose baby this is. A fun book for preschoolers, complete with surprise ending. ISBN 978-1-77278-112-0, Pajama Press

Benjamin’s Blue Feet by Sue Macartney is a fun, engaging picture book about creatures living at the Galapagos Islands. Benjamin thinks his beak is too long, his wings are to wide and his feet are… too blue! The iguanas, lizards and crabs are all adapted to their own environment.  But when Benjamin tries to alter his looks with things found on the beach, he discovers that he is just perfect, too. This book offers additional resources here: pajamapress.ca/resource/benjamins_blue_feet_extra_content ISBN 978-1-77278-111-3, Pajama Press

A Forest in the City by Andrea Curtis examines the importance of trees and park in city landscapes in this nonfiction picturebook. Tied to urban development and climate change, the book shows the importance of paying attention to parks as city populations grow. A good resource for upper elementary and middle school students who are looking at city planning and environmental impact. ISBN 978-1-77306-142-9, Groundwood Books

Kah-Lan and the Stink-Ink by Karen Autio is a chapter book for young readers. We all know the perils and consequences of an oil spill in the ocean, but how would a young sea otter feel when his environment is endangered? This interesting story is told from Kah-Lan’s viewpoint as he grows up and is ready to leave his family raft. Venturing out alone along North America’s west coast, Kah-Lan learns about the dangers he must face and experiences what happens when people pollute. A nice story to share and discuss the environment. ISBN 9-781989-724071, CP Press

Don’t Stand So Close To Me by Eric Walters is a timely novel about the world’s current pandemic. Although based on recent events, facts and experiences, the strength of this book is that it is a fictional story in which young teens can recognize themselves. Suddenly faced with school closures, Zoom meetings and face masks, 13 year old Quinn and her friends learn to deal with a new reality. This book will show upper elementary and middle school readers that they are not alone in facing many new challenges. The story also shows how kids can take positive initiatives to help others. ISBN 978-1459827875 Orca Book Publishers

Mostly Ghostly Books

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.

ISBN 978-1-77049-815-0

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