All posts by Margriet Ruurs

Author of over 40 award winning books for children, Margriet conducts writing workshops and author presentations in schools around the world. Contact her directly to book.


Books about the environment, stories about animals.. Sometimes they are fiction, sometimes they can be nonfiction. And sometimes… you’re just not sure. Here are some fascinating and some funny picturebooks about nature that will be fun to share in the classroom.

Who Am I?, written by Gervase Phinn and illustrated by Tony Ross, is a hilarious read aloud about an unusual, newly hatched creature. He meets the tallest, the strongest, the smartest and many other animals living in the wilds, but would like to find out who he is. A great, surprise ending makes this a picture book to use with different age levels.

ISBN 978-0-7613-8996-5, Andersen Press

Usborne’s Fingerwiggly Monkeys and Fingerwiggly Elephants, written by Felicity Brooks and illustrated by Ela Smietanka and Elsa Martins respectively, are wonderful, playful reads for preschoolers. Written in rhyme, the stories show elephants spraying water and splashing in mud with their families, and monkeys playing and swinging in jungle trees. The fun part is sticking your fingers through the holes in the boardbook pages to form elephant trunks and monkey arms.

ISBN 978-1-4749-9556-6 (Monkeys)

ISBN 978-1-4749-8679-3, Usborne

Ary’s Trees by Deborah Kerbel, with art by Sophia Choi is a picturebook that works on many levels.

If earth were a small island, how long could we live the way we do before we depleted its resources? Using an island as a paradigm for the earth, Ary’s story is about trees as one of the most important natural resources earth offers us. Ary and her friends try to protect the trees as adults cut more and more to build houses, boats, furniture with no regard to the future. The children realize the wider importance of trees offering shade from the blazing sun, offer a home to birds and insects and clean the air. And when the adults leave in search of a new island that has not yet been depleted, the children stay to coax back trees and flowers that will offer them all they need. This is a story that can lead to discussions about the environment and global warming with students of all ages.

ISBN 978-1554554096, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Under The Arctic Ice by Line Renskebråten is a fascinating look under the arctic ice. It may seem that everything in the north is frozen solid in winter, but inside and underneath the ice, the arctic is teeming with life. The tiniest algae and phytoplankton support life of larger creatures, including the Greenland shark. Did you know that shrimp change their sex os they grow older? How do fish keep from freezing solidly? Or have you ever heard of snot fish? Or of pancake ice? As the arctic teems with life, so this book teems with facts and beautiful illustrations that explain how all of life is interconnected and how this harsh environment is fragile and of utmost importance to all of our planet.

ISBN 978-1554555741, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Margriet Ruurs is a booklover who writes for children. She lives in Canada but visits International Schools around the world.


Nonfiction, but also some fictional, books are a great resource for those of us who are curious and want to learn more. Why do some cultures have certain traditions? How can you find a job you love? What makes people tick? And even… what if dinosaurs really existed? These books can provide answers to many questions…

Henna Is…, written by Marzieh Abbas and illustrated by Anu Chouhan, is a wonderful picture book that both delights and informs. Henna Is… is the story of how henna is actually grown, picked and ground into powder. It tells how, by adding ingredients, it is made into a paste that is used to paint designs on skin. But, through poetic text, it is also a multi layered story of how the tradition has been carried through the ages, how it has been passed on through countries and cultures and how it helps to celebrate many different occasions. Henna Is… is so much more than a joyful story about henna. Use it in the classroom to explain why some people paint temporary tattoos on their hands and use it to inspire art. ISBN 978-1-250-86266-2, Feiwel and Friends, New York.

Hooray for DNA!: How a Bear and a Bug Are a Lot Like Us

Hooray for DNA, How a Bear and a Bug Are a Lot Like Us, written by Pauline Thompson and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli is a picture book that shows how DNA makes us us. It looks at animals and other things that are alive, and how DNA turns us from a ‘thing’ into a person. But mostly it stretches how humans are alive and how – regardless of skin colour or eye colour, DNA makes us all related. The back pages have more in depth information  on the building blocks of DNA. A fun, rhyming read that encourages budding scientists to learn more. ISBN 978-0-593-42704-0, Alfred A. Knopf

The Extinct Files, My Science Project by Wallace Edwards.This is a brilliant picture book for dinosaur lovers of all ages. “Wally” Edwards is a kid in grade school who discovers that extinction of dinosaurs is just a giant coverup. He has photos and many observations to prove that dinosaurs are not extinct but have evolved to be smart and have adapted to urban civilization. The fantastic illustrations and book pages look like a child’s homework project, complete with perforations and string. The ‘photos’ are ‘taped’ to the pages to make it look like homework. However, just before handing in his project, it has been found by the dinosaurs, who undertake a security breach investigation and issue a warning to all dinosaurs to be careful. All Wally has left to show his teacher is a remaining corner of his report that was eaten by dinosaurs. A great, fun book to inspire students’ imagination! ISBN 978-1-55337-971-3, Kids Can Press

Meet Clara Hughes, by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Mike Deas is the inspiring biography of an Olympic skater who battled mental health problems. This enlightening picturebook is part of Scholastic’s biograpies series. Not only does this book focus on Clara Hughes, an impressive athlete who won Olympic gold medals in speed skating and competed in cycling. She also struggled with mental health issues and depression. Clara created awareness of these conditions in hopes of helping others. She embarked on a Big Bike ride across Canada to raise awareness and was Canada’s flag bearer at the Vancouver Olympics. She is the only person ever to win multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Olympics.  A good read with the Olympics coming up! ISBN 978-1443197724, Scholastic Canada

See It, Dream It, Do It was written by Colleen Nelson and Kathie MacIsaac, illustrated by Scot Ritchie. The book helps to create awareness for kids about how to get the job of your dreams. What does it take to become a paleontologist? Or a basketball coach? How can you actually become a stand-up comedian or a microbiologist? The book shows kids real life situations, spin off jobs, and the kind of education or experience needed for a wide variety of jobs. It highlights a young woman who worked for the foreign service and became an Ambassador. Other young women became a pilot, a captain and cybersecurity analyst. What does it take to be a Lego designer or a male midwife? This fascinating book is aimed at young people but an equally informative read for people of all ages. ISBN 978-1-77278-288-2, Pajama Press

Margriet Ruurs is a writer in Canada who loves her job and is curious about just about anything. Book for for author talks in your school here:


Wildlife in the city… From trees turning colour, to growing gardens and zoos, there is much of nature to be found in cities. These books celebrate the magic of growing your own vegetables, watching nature in an urban environment and, as a bonus, the magic of reading!

Bunny Loves Beans by Jane Whittingham is a picture book for the very young that works on many different levels. Not only do the text and the lovely photos introduce a wide variety of animals, it also focuses on healthy, natural foods as well as colours. A fun book to read aloud and share many times over. Follow it up with healthy snacks mentioned in the book: blackberries, carrots, bananas and more. ISBN 978-1-77278-301-8, Pajama Press

City Beet by Tziporah Cohen, illustrated by Udayana Lugo, is a fun, repetitive picture book to read aloud. Using the same rhythm as books like The House That Jack Built and the fun of The Gigantic Turnip, this is sure to become a favourite. Victoria lives in the city. While out for a walk with Mrs. Kosta, they spot a poster for an upcoming city block potluck. “Raw beet salad!” exclaims Victoria and, together, they buy seeds at the corner store. Together they dig, they water and fertilize. And the beet grows. It grows and grows, right until the day of the potluck. But when they want to harvest it, the beet won’t budge, no matter how hard they pull.  Soon help arrives. First a taxi driver, then policemen, a street sweeper. More and more people arrive. They all tell Victoria that she doesn’t need to help so she prepares her recipe. But even with an endless row of people pulling, that beet won’t budge. Until, finally, Victoria comes to the rescue.  And her raw beet salad is ready just in time for the block party. This fun, colourful story comes complete with the recipe. ISBN 9781534112711, Sleeping Bear Press

The Yellow Leaves Are Coming by James Gladstone, with art by François Thisdale, is a reaffirmation of the turning of seasons. Two children watch the last yellow leaf flutter to the ground. Then they know that the snow will come, followed by slush. After the hot days of summer, the school year starts again and leaves turn colour. They find solace in the cycle of seasons and knowing that yellow leaves are here once again.  ISBN 978-0889956834, Red Deer Press

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown is not a new book. But what a wonderful title to use if you are discussing libraries, and especially mobile libraries. Miss Molly McGrew drives her bookmobile into the zoo by mistake. Through great rhythm and rhyme, this is a wild romp of animals discovering the joy of reading. Both the text and the art are full of subtle nuances that make this picture book fun for readers of all ages. From ‘raccoons who read in bunches to llamas who eat while eating their llunches’, ‘hyenas howling over joke books to porcupines writing with their very own quills’ this book is a fabulous read aloud for Poetry Week or parent nights at school.  ISBN 978-0-375-82538-5, Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House

Wildful by Kengo Kurimoto is a 212 page graphic novel. At first, when Poppy walks her dog Pepper along the city streets, she notices nothing of the world around her because her eyes are glued to her cell phone. But then Pepper chase an animal. He jumps through an opening in a fence and disappears into a dark clump of trees. Cautiously Poppy follows. She calls and searches but Pepper does not come back. Around her, Poppy hears unusual sounds. The woods frighten her. But then she meets Rob who explores the forest. He points out birds and tracks. Slowly, she starts to notice all that goes on the wild woods. Leaving first her phone, and then her headset, she becomes more aware and intrigued by nature. Eventually she even convinces her mom to come along and they spend time reconnecting. With nature but also with themselves. A great book, for readers of all ages, that can lead to endless classroom activities. ISBN 978-1-77306-862-6, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is now taking bookings for author presentations in 2025. “Best author visit in 30 years!” – quote from Kelowna BC teacher.


GRANDPARENTS – they are full of stories, experiences and wisdom. What can grandparents share with their grandchildren and how can we learn from their stories? These (picture) books all share the love and memories children have of their elders and the stories they can tell. The past leads to the future…

Sometimes you come across a book so perfect that is forms a whole world on its own. Green Papayas by Nhung N. Tran-Davies, illustrated by Gillian Newland is such a book. The illustrations, alternating between light coloured pages and dark, subdued ones, the text and the design work together to tell a touching story. 

Three young children play in muddle puddles when their mother calls them to gather around Oma’s bed. She’s been in hospital and can’t remember their names. But the mother tells her mother’s story of caring for her children during difficult times. Oma grew food, fed and clothed them. She kept them safe during a war and eventually managed to get them to a new country where they could start over. While the moon watches over them, Oma passes away and the family gathers to remember and be grateful. ISBN 978-0889955608, Red Deer Press

Every Wrinkle Has A Story is told by Israeli author David Grossman, illustrated by Italian artist Ninamasina. Like many Groundwood books, this one is unique and touching.

Grandpa Amnon picks Yotam up from school and, on their way home, they often stop at a neighborhood cafe. There, tucked in a corner, Yotam asks about grandpa’s wrinkles. What caused them? How will a face know to make wrinkles? He discovers that wrinkles come in different shapes. Some were made by sad things, others by laughing about happy things. In the end, Yotam is inspired to draw grandpa’s wrinkles on paper. ISBN 978-1-77306-827-5, Groundwood Books

Molly Misses Nainai by Emman Chen, illustrated by Sean Huang, is the story of Molly whose grandmother has been with her always but who needs to now return to China because her visa has expired. Molly misses her so much that she packs her suitcase and follows the snowy road from her home in Canada. Molly’s mom fetches her and together they reminisce about grandmother. And when grandmother joins Molly on her ipad and sings her favourite lullaby, Molly knows that she will always be there. A touching story about grandparents far away, with beautiful, tender illustrations. A good picture book to share with students who can relate to this problem because their grandparents live in another country. ISBN 978-0889956889, Red Deer Press.

When I Visited Grandma by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illustrated by Kavita Ramchandran, is the story of Maya who can’t believe she is finally visiting her grandma in India. Grandma is not impressed by Maya’s fashion of ripped pants and wants to fix them for her. Together they go to the market where Maya is overwhelmed by sights and sounds. And everyone want to visit her, bringing gifts of food. All those friendly neighbors are too much for Maya. When grandma lands in hospital, Maya wants to visit her but she can’t say goodbye before having to fly back home. Luckily, grandma soon calls her on her iPad and Maya is happy to know grandma will be fine. This picturebook paints a nice picture of two very different places and a common bond that overcomes the distance between them. ISBN 978-1-77306-833-6, Groundwood 

Grandpa’s Stars by Carolyn Huizinga Mills, illustrated by Samantha Lucy Haslam is a celebration of constellations.

A child from the city gets to stay with her grandpa in the country. But at grandpa’s house it is too dark to sleep as branches cast scary shadows. Until grandpa shows his grandchild the night sky, where millions of pin pricks of light dance and make amazing pictures – the ‘lights of your imagination’ grandpa says. And when grandpa has to go to hospital and the child is sad, they knows just what to do: recreate those lights and shapes on the bedroom ceiling!  ISBN 978-1554554638, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Kaiah’s Garden by Melanie Florence and Karlene Harvey.

Based on traditional beadwork, this is the story of Kaiah who has just moved to a new house in a new street in a new city. But all Kaiah wants is to be back at grandmother’s house. This new house smells different and she misses her grandmother. But the beadwork they had made together helps her to remember: the roses, the turtle, the sun of grandmother’s garden. And the traditional beadwork encourages her to create a beautiful new garden at her new house, that might not be so bad after all. ISBN 978-1443190251, North Winds Press

Margriet Ruurs is a writer of many books for children. She loves to learn about different countries and cultures through books. For school visits cantact her:


Sometimes a story can be more powerful than therapy. Picturebooks can help readers of all ages to realize they are not the only ones struggling with a problem or dealing with a difficult issue. Meeting a book character can shed new light on how to solve a problem. These books all are good examples of that.

The Only Lonely Fairy by Lana Button, with illustrations by Peggy Collins is the story of one little girl who is too busy feeling sorry for herself to notice new friends. Leah has beautiful fairy wings but, seemingly, no one wants to play with her. All the other children are busy playing with others but poor Leah is all alone and doesn’t like it. Until she finally notices another child who would like to try on her fairy wings. This one is soon followed by another and soon Leah is no longer alone. This is a picture book that can lead to discussing how to make new friends, how to pay attention to others and how to reach out. ISBN 978-1-77278-302-5, Pajama Press

The Reflection in Me, written by Marc Colagiovanni and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, is an affirmation – a discussion between a child and its mirror image. “You are just perfect in every way,” they tell each other. But sounding confident and looking lovely are just outward signs of being confident. The true magic of any person comes from within. This simple but caring picture book can lead to wonderful classroom discussions on being brave and having the courage to be yourself. And you’ll be just perfect. ISBN 978-1-338-81048-6, Scholastic

Sky Pig by Jan L. Coates, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo is about pursuing your dreams, about being persistent when you try something new. Kids, and pigs, can be resourceful. Jack and his little pig friend Ollie try hard to achieve Ollie’s dream of flying. Jack helps his friends but mostly their inventions don’t work. Until Ollie has an idea that just might help pigs to fly. ISBN 978-1-927485-98-9, Pajama Press

More Than Words by Natalie Hyde and Valerie Sherrard, with illustrations by David Jardine, is a brand new release. This unique nonfiction book is all about communication. Written for young teens, the book examines how people communicate. Not only through language but through eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and body language. How and when do you use sarcasm? How important are expressions? Are you a good listener as well as a speaker? The book includes tips on connecting with others online and by phone. Are your words in a text message sending the right meaning? How important is proper grammar to make a first impression? This book will help those seeking to improve or practise good communication skills but will also come in handy for those who like to write. ISBN 978-1-77086-719-2, Cormorant Books, DCB Young Readers

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and conducts author presentations to International Schools around the world. Book now for the 2024/25 school year:


Books are much like moccasins – they allow you to walk a mile in someone else’s footsteps; to experience life from someone else’s viewpoint. Books share stories from other cultures and countries. Here are some beautiful new titles to enrich any (classroom) library.

Waci! Dance! is an indigenous celebration of dance and life. Written by Sage Speidel and illustrated by Leah Dorion, the art dances off the pages in this picturebook as a small child is dressed and gets ready to join her elders in a festive dance to drums. The indigenous words are explained in a glossary in the back. This beautiful, happy story invites any reader to join in dancing and drumming to celebrate Mother Earth.

ISBN 978-0889957275, Red Deer Press

Look! Look! has been written by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy. 

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources. In India people used to have wells and catchment systems. But often these ancient sources have became covered by soil while weeds grow and the land dries up. In this colourful picturebook, a child looks closely and notices a grey stone under the dirt. Working together with others, the people uncover steps leading to an ancient well. And when the rains come, the uncovered well once again fills up to provide precious water for the earth and the people. A nice reminder of the value of historic resources and the power of a child. ISBN 978-1773069326, Groundwood Books

We Belong Here, written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Ruth Ohi is set in the 1950’s. Even though many countries are a melting pot of different cultures, it can still be difficult to make a new country your home. Eve and Mark are each part of a family of newcomers to a new land. They often get teased or called names. Mark’s father even loses his job due to discrimination. But the children help their families to be stronger and better by working together. When Mark’s father uses his carpentry skills, the whole neighbourhood agrees that everything is better in the renovated delicatessen store.  ISBN 978-1-4431-9403-7, Scholastic

Taming Papa by Mylène Goupil is a tender, thought provoking novel for young readers. Mélie didn’t even know she had a father when her mother receives word that he is coming to join them in their country. Mélie wasn’t told about him because he was in prison in his home country, where everyone has to agree and say the same things or they get put in prison. Something her father couldn’t do. When he actually joins them, he doesn’t speak the same language. There are many barriers to overcome for shy, introvert Mélie. But with the help of a kind, former teacher and his new baby, and the help of a new, lost kitten, Mélie learns to understand her father in more ways than just with words. All the while she searches for, and finds the answer to her question ‘what is a real family?’ 

Children of immigrant families who struggle with similar problems, will love this gentle, beautifully written novel. ISBN 978-1-77306-723-0, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children in Canada and visits international schools around the world. Book now for the 2024/25 school year:


Walking… it might be as beneficial as reading! So here are some wonderful reads about walking: walking people, walking animals, even walking trees. They include brand-new as well as long-loved titles. There are other wonderful books about the importance of walking, some of which I reviewed for this TIE column before, including A Long Walk for Water by Linda Sue Parks and Walking Home by Eric Walters.

Follow up reading one of these books by going for a classroom walk!

The Cat Who Walked The Camino, written and illustrated by Kate Spencer is a wonderful story for anyone who has walked, or hopes to walk, the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It’s a great book to help children understand the history and significance of this popular long distance trail but also a fun story based on a true event. A hiker sets off for Santiago and encounters a kitten who ends up traveling the length of the world’s most famous hiking trail with her. Told in the voice of the kitten, we meet a variety of people walking the trail. We also learn about of the most interesting points along the trail: the church of Santo Domingo and its chicken legend, the Cruz de Hierro where pilgrims leave a stone behind, and of course the Cathedral at the end of the walk. With lovely illustrations as well as a map of the entire trail, this is a perfect story to share with children, whether you plan this epic hike or not.

ISBN 97982-1811-9119. Order from Amazon, wholesale from Ingram Spark, or inquire through the author via Facebook Message:

Walking Trees by Marie-Louise Gay was inspired by a true event in The Netherlands were an art project used movable trees to bring green space to different parts of a city. When it’s Lily’s birthday she asks for a small tree to put on her balcony. Then she decides to take it for a walk around the neighborhood, with the potted tree in her wagon. Soon, people love the shade her tree brings. They talk about global warming and how much we need trees and shade and green. Soon, others follow her example and create green spaces all over the city.

Not only is this a fun story to share and to find information online about the original project (called Bosk) but also to follow it up by planting school trees, in the ground or in movable pots.

ISBN 978-1-77306-976-0, Groundwood Books

The Armadillo from Amarillo by Lynne Cherry is the intricately illustrated story of an armadillo who sets off on foot to explore the state of Texas. Along the way he learns many things and makes new friends. He sees cities and deserts and forests. He meets many different kinds of animals and, thanks to a Golden Eagle, even sees the earth from a different perspective. And all along, he mails postcards back to his armadillo friend in the zoo. The rich illustrations are full of facts and information. A great book to share and to follow up by sending postcards around the country or around the world.

ISBN 0-15-200359-2, Harcourt Brace

The Boy Who Walked Backward by Ben Sures, illustrated by Nicole Marie Burton, is a beautifully told, yet heartbreaking, story of residential school. Leo and his family live in the traditional Ojibway manner. Their language, food and way of life are steeped in tradition. But one day a truck comes to collect the children who now have to leave their families to go to school. No longer are they allowed to speak their own language. They even have to cut their hair. When Christmas finally comes, the children are able to see their families and to spend time in their own homes again. And when the holidays are over, Leo invents a clever way to avoid going back to school. Using skills he has long learned, he uses his beloved forest to hide and wait until the truck has left.

ISBN 978-1-927849-49-1, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre.

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 off of 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

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

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of over 40 books. She has walked part of the Camino de Santiago and will travel anywhere in the world for author presentations at International Schools.


If you manage to put the right book into the hands of a young reader, fiction can get them hooked on reading. Below are some wonderful new novels that really draw the reader into a new world. Whether it is fantasy or realistic fiction, these books will be valuable additions to any (classroom) library.

Out of the Valley of Horses by Wendy Orr is a magical story. Young readers who like magic, adventure and horses will love it! Orr is a skilled storyteller and has expertly woven real elements into a mystical tale. The author has created a fascinating new world that will captivate readers’ imagination. A family, a camping trip in a van, a pandemic which changes the world, and a valley from which there is no escape. The book’s main characters are children who are strong and smart and solve the main problem – all the ingredients needed for a spellbinding tale. Honey and her brother Rumi are the heroes, assisted by horses with superpowers that seem as real as the valley in which they live. A touch of Pippi Longstocking combined with a setting as magical as that of Orr’ popular book Nim’s Island, with a sprinkling of ancient fairy tale dust and plenty of magical horses, make this a must-read.  ISBN 978-1-77278-311-7, Pajama Press

Nish by Isabelle Picard is told in an authentic voice that places this novel in a refreshingly real setting that has been missing in children’s books. ‘Nish’ means ‘two’ in the language of the Innu, the people of northern Quebec. Eloise and Leon are 14 year old twins. People in their aboriginal village speak French and Innu and some English. Each of them tells their own story in alternating chapters. The teens have adventures that are realistic and interesting to read, both for children who will finally recognize their own setting in a book, as well as for young readers who can learn what life is like in a different place in North America. 

Leon loves hockey. He and his friends take part in regional competitions and have to fly to the big city for a tournament. Eloise films around her village as she and her teenage friends make a video for a school project. An interesting read based in a place that is rich in stories but not often used in contemporary books. ISBN 978-1-4431-9723-6, Scholastic

The Party Diaries’ Top Secret Anniversary, written by Mitali Banerjee Ruths and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel, is fun chapter book for early readers with lots of illustrations. Priya, the returning main character from other books in the series, has started her own Party business. While planning a secret anniversary party, she has to do research, make invitations, plan decorations and much more. All the while, Priya keeps notes and shares her crafts with readers so that they, too, can plan special parties. In addition to just having fun, she also raises awareness and support for manatees, an endangered species. ISBN 978-1-338-79990-3, Scholastic

A Bucket of Stars by Suri Rosen is a wonderful novel for young teens to sink their teeth in. Written in a powerful voice reminiscent of Susin Nielsen or Kate Di Camillo, this is the story of Noah and his older brother. They move to their father’s home town not long after losing their mother. Their father has lost all interest and has given up on his passion: the stars in the night sky. Noah misses how his father used to teach him about constellations and galaxies. While his brother hooks up with new skateboarding friends, Noah meets Tara who loves to make films. Unwittingly, the two encounter a crew of unscrupulous characters, get blamed for the destruction of a heritage home and find evidence of much wrong doing in their new home town.

This is a wholesome page turner sprinkled with amazing true facts about our solar system. A great book to put in the hands of students or to use as a classroom read aloud in grade 5 and up. ISBN978-1-4431-9279-8, Scholastic Canada

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and conducts author presentations at International Schools. She is now taking bookings for the 24/25 school year.


In this column I feature books that I recommend. Books specifically suited to use as read-alouds or to support the curriculum. These books often reflect a global lifestyle. But books also need to be plain funny and entertaining, demonstrating the power of imagination and encouraging children to become readers. Today’s books are great examples of that. World Read Aloud Day is in February so celebrate by reading aloud to any grade level! Happy reading!

Cinderella With Dogs by Linda Bailey, with art by Freya Hartas is a frolicking romp through a dog park! Like fractured fairytales, this one shows us a Cinderella who loves dogs. When – unexpectedly – her fairy dog mother shows up instead of a god mother, Cinderella is thrilled. When she mentions a… ball, the dog is very excited. Together they chase squirrels and end up at the royal palace where people are shocked. But the prince is thrilled to find someone who loves dogs as much as he does. Not only is this a wonderful spin on a well known tale, it also shows readers how to use your imagination and create new stories. ISBN 978-1-9848-1382-4, Tundra Books/Penguin

Our Cat Cuddles by Gervase Phinn is a wonderful rhyming story that will be fun to share out loud with preschoolers to Grade One. It’s a perfect story to talk about predicating a plot. What do you think might happen? What kind of cat will this family end up with when they visit the animal shelter? Each family is looking for different qualities in a cat. Will they be able to agree on a kitten? With a surprise ending, this is a great story with good rhyme. Illustrations by Amanda Montgomery-Higham. ISBN 978-0859538640, Child’s Play

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy, with art by Eugene Yelchin is a brilliant story about a small but noisy village. Cars, dogs, children – everything makes noise. When Don Pepe runs for mayor, he promises quiet – nice and quiet. So everyone votes for him. At first it’s nice. But soon more and more laws come into effect. No more singing, no more whistling, no more talking. Some people move away but the village stays deadly quiet. Until, one day a loud rooster crows. He and the mayor have a stand off. But the rooster will not be quiet. Even behind bars, even when his family is taken away. The little rooster shows everyone that a song is stronger than the biggest bully and cannot be taken away. This book can be used with young children but is especially effective with high school students to discuss oppression, dictatorship and freedom of speech. ISBN 978-0-545-72288-9, Scholastic. 

Mixed Beasts by Wallace Edwards, with verses by Kenyon Cox, is a book of ‘Rare and Fantastic Creatures’ compiled by Professor Julius Duckworth O’Hare. This studious hare can be spotted throughout the large illustrations as he observes the creatures he studies. There is the Rhinocerostrich, the busy Bumblebeaver, the loud Kangarooster and, my favourite, Creampuffin among many other. Not only are the black and white drawings of each ‘beast’ almost believable, the full page colour illustrations are full of other, smaller creatures to spot. A back page is an index of animals like horsefly, fowl balls and fruit bats that are hilarious. What a fun activity to follow up reading and studying this book with inviting students of all ages to create their own ‘mixed beasts’. ISBN 978-1553-377-962, Kids Can Press

And if you got carried away by those fantastical beasts and want to meet more, there is Unnatural Selections, a collection of more beasts composed of two, three or even four different animal parts. In these pages you will meet, almost seemingly possible, animals like the Whalephant, a black and white cowaconda and a Shardunk (combination shark, duck and skunk!). This is a book to have endless fun, alone or with a group, to study the detailed illustrations, spot more beasts and then draw and write about your own creations. ISBN 978-1-4598-0555-2, Orca Book Publishers

Margriet Ruurs conducts author visits to international schools, writes books and believes in using your imagination.


From elephants to sea turtles, from caterpillars to owls, here are some fabulous (new) books for children – and nature lovers of all ages – to learn more about the natural environment. I have included fictional and nonfiction texts, both picturebooks and novels.

The Smallest Owlet, written and illustrated by Georgia Graham, is my new favourite nonfiction picture book with gorgeous art. It is an intimate look at day by day life of a pair of Great Horned owls. As we follow the hatching of eggs and growing of young, we learn about diet, growth and dangers faced by these majestic birds. Did you know that Great Horned Owls do not have eye balls? Or that the ‘ears’ on their head are not ears but feather tufts? A fascinating look at all things owl that shows readers how impressive nature has designed the smallest details. A beautiful book for owl lovers of all ages.

ISBN  978-1554556144, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Coco and the Caterpillars by Geraldo Valério has wonderful paper collage images. My favourite character is Coco the chicken, who has a mind of her own. While a little boy studies books about plants, bugs and flowers, Coco is busy pulling tasty worms from the soil. While the boy discovers butterfly eggs underneath a leaf, Coco is chasing insects to eat. The boy can’t wait to see what kind of butterflies will come from the eggs and is careful not to show Coco. But when he goes to find her more chicken treats, Coco finds and devours most of the newly hatched caterpillars. And then she has a tummy ache. Luckily she did not eat all caterpillar and some turn into beautiful monarch butterflies. And while the boy studies their beautiful wings, Coco tries to catch them but they are too big for her now! 

If you have ever used The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle in your classroom, this will be a valuable addition to your lesson plan about gardens and insects.

ISBN 978-1-77306-798-8, Groundwood Books

Written by science writer Dr. Wayne Lynch, the book Bears, Bears, Bears for Kids is the ultimate guide to all things bear. Not only does it include information on polar bears, grizzlies and black bears, but also on sun bears, sloth bears and many more. The informative text is full of fascinating facts. The photos give an intimate look into the lives of bears, what they eat, how they survive, and much more. A must-have bear guide for every classroom.

ISBN 978-1554556137, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Little Bull, Growing Up in Africa’s Elephant Kingdom by Ellen Foley James is an older picturebook but so beautiful that I hope you can still find a (used) copy for your students. Through perfect text and photos, the author share the magic and the facts about a baby elephant, his environment, his family and his herd’s life. The book touches on lifespan and challenges faces by elephants, including drought, enemies and food. The photos are gorgeous and are a great reflection of the reality of Africa’s plains in the shadow of mount Kilimanjaro. Using a baby elephant makes the book very relatable for kids. 

ISBN 0-8069-2098-X, Sterling Publishing Co.

We The Sea Turtles by Michelle Kadarusman is a wonderful collections of short stories featuring turtles around the globe. Each chapter is placed in a different place: Australia, Florida, Indonesia and many more. Each story is a complete and interesting tale, always focusing on a turtle and its importance to man and nature. Stories deal with environmental issues, endangered species and global warming. This book is a must for any turtle lover and works for readers of all ages. Highly recommended for pleasure reading as well as adding value to curriculum content.

Use a world map to pinpoint the different locations, research the variety of turtles mentioned and discuss what you can do to help protect this amazing species.

ISBN 978-1772782851, Pajama Press

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of many books for children. She conducts author presentations and writing workshops at International Schools anywhere.