All posts by Margriet Ruurs

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

There’s a fine line between reading picture books aloud to children and children being able/wanting to read by themselves. Even if their interest level is high, sentence structure can be difficult to master. Here are chapter books and graphic novels to help encourage reading.

Super Detectives! (Simon and Chester Book #1)

Graphic novels can help beginning readers to master a whole book. The Simon and Chester books by Cale Atkinson are fun stories, divided into chapters, about a boy and his ghost best friend. Together they solve mysteries in Super Detectives!. They have adventures in Super Sleepover! Together they learn to rely on each other to get them out of difficult situations like ‘how to behave at a sleepover’ or finding a lost dog’s home. Through humorous adventures, without violence, and in graphic novel format, these books will encourage beginning readers to master a whole book in no time. ISBN 978-0-7352-6742-8 ISBN 978-0-7352-6744-2, Tundra Books

Hermit Hill

Another graphic novel but for somewhat older readers and with a delicious added twist of mystery and supernatural… is the Sueño Bay Adventures series by Mike Deas and Nancy Deas. The fabulous art sweeps the chapters along with exciting characters that have new adventures in each title. In Hermit Hill they meet Hivers, tiny Moon Creatures who play a role in the health of the forest. Can Sleeves overcome the ancient curve that surrounds them? ISBN 978-1-4598-3149-0, Orca Book Publishers

Esme's Birthday Conga Line

Esme’s Birthday Conga Line by Lourdes Heuer and Marissa Valdez is a chapter book that really encourages emerging readers. Esme’s grandparents did not plan much for her birthday. But Esme sets out to organize her own party complete with cake, a piñata and music as she invites all occupants of her apartment building, including the grumpy caretaker.  ISBN 978-0-7352-6940-8, Tundra Books

Some readers struggle because of learning difficulties. The following novel about a dyslexic child was reviewed by Beatrix, age 10:

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael is a book about a girl named Louisa, who dreams of being the youngest Broadway playwright in history, as well as the youngest Cirque du Soleil gymnast. But for now, she’s in fifth grade, with two best friends (Lexie and Nakessa), ADHD and dyslexia, and a teacher, Mrs Snyder, who seems to hate her. Then Lou’s mom delivers some bombshell news: Lou is going to be a big sister—to twins! Will she ever get to spend time with her mom after the babies are born? This book is amazing. I could really feel what Lou was feeling. I am in fifth grade, so I could relate to a lot that she goes through, and I couldn’t put it down until the end. I recommend it!  ISBN 978-1772782585, Pajama Press

Word After Word After Word

Not long ago prolific author Patricia MacLachlan passed away. We all know her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. But I looked up some of her latest, perhaps lesser known books and fell in love with Word After Word After Word. Designed as an easy-read novel for kids beginning to tackle chapter books, this one is also a wonderful story to read aloud to a class. Written in a poetic style, with lots of poems written “by kids”, the book celebrates a visiting author who teaches poetry to the children. Undoubtedly, MacLachlan wrote the story based on true classroom experiences. A great book to follow up by writing free verse poems with students. ISBN 978-0-06-027971-4, Harper Collins

The Poet's Dog

And finally another title by Patricia MacLachlan, slightly older but still readily available and one that young readers will love: The Poet’s Dog. In this poetic chapter book two children wander in a snow storm. A large, lovable dog comes to their rescue and takes them to his deserted home. Having been raised by a poet, surrounded by books, it comes as no surprise that this dog can talk and the children can understand him. The new friends bond, keep each other from being lonely until they are found. And, as suitable in such a lovely fairy tale story, there is a happy ending. ISBN 978-0-06-229264-3, Harper Collins 

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children. She conducts author workshops at international schools around the world. Book her through her website: www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Nonfiction picture books can be a great teaching tool when talking about the environment. These new titles can be used with students of all ages to discuss science as well as art and writing.
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth

One Well, written by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods. This impressive nonfiction picture book about the environment should be in every classroom, in every child’s hands. Water, the book explains, is one of the most important, and precious, commodities on earth. As in the book in the same series, If The World Were A Village by David Smith, this book says ‘if all water on earth’ was one well, this is how much we have and this is what we need to use it for. It explains in admirable child-friendly terms how water allows life on our planet. Did you know that you drink the equivalent of a backyard pool full in your life time? And that one cloud can weigh more than a blue whale? The book can be an eye opener to any water user and encourages much needed, water-friendly habits. ISBN 978-1-55337-954-6 Kids Can Press

A Tree Is a Home

A Tree is a Home by Pamela Hickman, with art by Zafouko Yamamoto is an in-depth look at the shelter offered by one tree. Like the house next to it, it offers a home throughout the seasons. The text and close-up art take us from the roots, where a chipmunk lives, to the highest branches and show us each animal throughout a year. A good a book to pair with Jeannie Baker’s Window – a look through the window of one house over many years. ISBN 978-1-5253-0236-7, Kids Can Press

My Book of Butterflies

My Book of Butterflies, by Geraldo Valério is a large picturebook that can be a child’s first guide book. In A Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle eluded to the life cycle of butterflies in a fictional manner. This information book picks up the theme by showing fabulously painted butterflies and elaborating on their life cycle. From tiny yellow eggs to a wide variety of weird looking caterpillars to brilliant butterflies from a round the world, this book will encourage children to take a closer look at these amazing insects. Geraldo Valério also created My Book of Birds. ISBN 978-1-77306-335-5, Groundwood Books

This is the Boat That Ben Built

This is The Boat That Ben Built by Jen Lynn Bailey, with illustrations by Maggie Zeng, is a very Canadian story of a northern river ecosystem. Beaver, bear, loon, goose – all gather momentum as Ben floats down the river and spots more wildlife. The text uses repetition as ‘moose strolls by bear taking a swim by the goose that glides by the loon that floats by the beaver in the river that carries the boat that Ben built’. Fun to read over and over with young students and create your own story based on animals your students may spot in their own surroundings. Nonfiction information on each animal is supplied in back pages. ISBN 978-1-77278-242-4, Pajama Press.

Before We Stood Tall: From Small Seed to Mighty Tree

Before We Stood Tall by Jessica Kulekjian, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, is written in the voice of the trees themselves. From the time they are seeds floating on a breeze, they dream of standing tall in a kingdom of trees. But trees can’t do it alone – they need the soil, the insects, the wind and much more to allow them to grow tall and become a forest. A lovely story to look at the interconnectedness of nature. ISBN 978-1-5253-0324-1, Kids Can Press

Orca Rescue!: The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer

Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer, written by Donna Sandstrom, illustrated by Sarah Burwash. This is a great book for all ages: the true story of an orca spotted close to Seattle, WA where no other pods where around. Through a set of circumstances, the author become involved in this young orphan’s life by helping to figure out why she was there and where her family was. The story tells in fascinating detail how marine biologists work, how pods are tracks, and how scientists are able to find out information. With 144 pages this book is divided into chapters and lends itself as a great read for all ages. ISBN 978-1-5253-0117-9, Kids Can Press

No More Plastic

No More Plastic by Alma Fullerton is the touching story of a young girl who witnesses a dead whale on the beach near her home. The whale died from eating so much plastic that he starved. It opens Isley’s eyes to a gigantic problem. She tries to convince others to no longer use plastic bags, containers or water bottles. But they soon forget. Isley doesn’t forget the whale and the impact plastic has on the ocean. She gathers so much plastic that she can build a sculpture the size of a whale. Thén her village realized the size of the problem. Together they work towards a solution: passing laws that ban plastics and making a difference. This is a story that can inspire readers to take action, no matter how small. It shows that we can all make a difference. ISBN 978-1-77278-113-7, Pajama Press

Margriet Ruurs has written many books about nature, including Wild Babies, Amazing Animals and The Boy Who Painted Nature, the story of wildlife painter Robert Bateman.

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Books About Big Dreams

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes: And Became the World's First Giraffologist

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes, written by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by François Thisdale is a beautifully executed, nonfiction picturebook that works on several levels. First and foremost it is the biography of a remarkable young woman who knew what she wanted. Anne Innis Dagg was a child who saw her first giraffe in a zoo. She studied worked and saved hard in hopes of, one day, going to Africa to see giraffes in the wild. Through sheer determination, she did, in the 1950’s, and became one of the first scientists to study and observe giraffes in the wild. Anne worked all of her life to preserve and protect her favourite animals.

This is also a story of feminism and discrimination since universities refused Anne a position as professor, simply because she was female. Later, universities apologized and even bestowed her with an honorary degree. Anne’s story is reminiscent of that of Jane Goodall, another female pioneer in the world of zoology.

And lastly, this picture book works as a catalyst to help young readers learn more about and appreciate giraffes, while encouraging them to follow their dreams. ISBN 9781554555406, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Her Epic Adventure: 25 Daring Women Who Inspire a Life Less Ordinary

Her Epic Adventure, 25 Daring Women Who Inspire a Life Less Ordinary, by Julia de Laurentiis Johnston and Salini Perera. This nonfiction picturebook (64 pages) features women around the world who have accomplished impressive feats despite the fact that they were discouraged because they are/were female. The book is divided into sections like ‘Land’, ‘Ice’ and ‘Water’. Each double spread tells the story of a woman who achieved her dream, including Mae Jemison, America’s first black woman in space, the petite Junko Tabei from Japan who conquered each of the seven highest peaks on each continent and Arunima Sinha from India who reached the top of Mt. Everest despite having a prosthetic leg. I enjoyed learning about the youngest girl sailing around the world and about Sylvia Earle who became a world renowned oceanographer against all odds. A great book to encourage anyone, female or male, to achieve their dreams and not give up. ISBN 878-1-5253-0110-0, Kids Can Press

Two at the Top: A Shared Dream of Everest

Based on true events, Two At The Top by Uma Krishanaswami, illustrated by Christopher Corr, is the brilliant story of two boys who share a same dream: to climb to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, one day. Neither boy knows if they can ever achieve their dream. Tenzing Norgay lives in Nepal and tends his father’s yaks. Edmond Hillary lives in New Zealand and tends his father’s bees. Lovely, mirroring pages and well balanced text shows how each boy, from an early age on, works and trains towards his goal. In 1953 the sherpa and the climber finally meet and, as a team, reach the summit of Mount Everest and achieve their joined dream. The book gives factual information on mountains and their environment in the back.  ISBN 978-1-77306-266-2, Groundwood Books

A Boy Named Tommy Douglas, by Beryl Young, illustrated by Joan Steacy is an important story for Canadian children to read. Or for that matter, for anyone who ever goes to a doctor’s office, gets treatment or stays in hospital and doesn’t have to pay. In Canada, we owe this free medical care to a boy from Saskatchewan who injured his leg in 1911. He felt it was unfair that he could not see a doctor because his parents could not afford it. For the rest of his life, Tommy Douglas worked hard in government and succeeded, in 1968, to bring universal health care to all Canadians. A fascinating story about how dreams can come true. ISBN 978-1-988242-41-5, Midtown Press

John's Turn

And it’s not only people who become famous who have big dreams. In John’s Turn, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kate Berube, John is in elementary school and nervous, but also excited, that his turn is coming up at Sharing Gifts time, his class’ show and tell. Will he do magic tricks? Will he read? No, John puts on his leotards and dances, leaving the entire class in awe and earning a standing ovation from his friends. The book shows kids to believe in themselves and follow their own dreams by being brave. ISBN 978-1-5362-0395-0, Candlewick Press

Take Off Your Brave: The World through the Eyes of a Preschool Poet

And finally a very unusual book of poems: Take Off Your Brave, The World through the Eyes of a Preschool Poet, by Nadim (age 4) and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail. This is a collection of poems in picture book format. In the inbtroduction Nadim’s mom explains how they discussed ‘what a poem is’ and how she recorded his words. Now Nadim writes his own poems, encouraging his sister and his preschool class to write poems as well. The poems in this collection deal with love, friendships, nature, school and much more. In Dream School the students turn into kittens and there are no bullies. And when you come home… you can take off your jacket and take off your brave!  ISBN 978-1-5362-2316-3, Candlewick Press

Margriet Ruurs is the author of over 40 books for children. She conducts author presentations at international schools around the world. www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Great (Picture) Books for older readers

I’m a firm believer in picturebooks as being everybody-books. In fact, some picturebooks are not for little readers but lend themselves perfectly for older students, especially to illustrate classroom discussions or for new language learners. Here are some picturebooks as well as novels for older students.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, written by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Júlia Sarda. This is an incredibly beautifully written story of how Mary Shelley – in the early 1800’s – came up with the idea for her book Frankenstein. A daydreamer, some friends, a creepy castle and a thunder storm all contributed to what would become one of the most famous horror stories of all ages. A fascinating story for readers who like to write and daydream… ISBN 978-1-77049-559-3, Tundra Books

Oliver Jeffers is a sort-of Irish illustrator. He also spent time in Australia and currently lives in the US. But most of all he a book creator in the broadest sense of the word. He creates amazing art, writes the text and introduces readers of all ages not just to amazing books, but to important topics. The environment, kindness, creativity – are all addressed in his books. They have been translated into over forty-five languages, and sold over 12 million copies worldwide. Many of his books are great for younger readers, but some specifically lend themselves for an older audience that will appreciate subtleties in the art.  His art is delicious… In The Incredible Book Eating Boy (ISBN 978-0-00-718) he used lined paper, pages from a dictionary, old ledgers, the cover of book, and everything book related. It’s a wild fantasy about a boy who, literally, devours books. But it is also the serious story of how important reading is to get smarter. Obviously the book eating boy got his hands on the book because there’s a big bite missing of the back cover… Some of Jeffers’ books were written by someone else. Like The Crayons books, all written by Drew Daywalt. The fonts, the design, the drawings in these books all dance of the pages in delight.

The Worst Band in the Universe by Australian author/illustrator Graeme Base at first comes across as a hilarious, cosmic tale of aliens on a far away planet where music has been banned. The story is written in impressive rhyming verses.  But upon reading it more closely, it become clear to the older reader, that this is not just a romp through outer space. It is also a serious tale about the silliness of banning anything, including books on earth. The large format picture book comes complete with CD and ‘forbidden music’.  ISBN 978-0670865659, Viking

The same talented book creator produces the well known older picture book called The Sign of the Seahorse. I love these books because their rhythmic texts make for enriching classroom read-alouds. But besides entertaining with their detailed illustrations, this book also has a much deeper meaning. It’s a who-done-it in the deep sea where species are threatened and disappearing. Who could be causing such chaos in the ocean?  ISBN 978-0613087551, Turtle Back Books

The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam is the incredible story of an Indian artist who had never left his home village until he was commissioned to come to London to create his art. The book is his personal interpretation of how he sees the modern world and relates it back to the siritual tales of his childhood. A fascinating book to study with highschool students. ISBN 978-8192317120, Tara Books

Are you familiar with books by Peter Sis? His text and art are great to discuss with older students, i.e. in the book The Wall: Growing Up Behind The Iron Curtain. As a child growing up in a communist country seemed normal, but as he got older Peter Sis had questions. Cracks appeared in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. But it didn’t last long before a Soviet-led invasion brought an end to it all. Important picture books to share in highschool. ISBN 978-0374347017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

New Year by Mei Zihan, illustrated by Qin Leng. In this story about Lunar New Year, a grandfather reminisces about his daughter who lives far away in a different country. Is she honoring the old traditions or living a whole new life? More in the voice of an older parent than in that of a child, this is a story about seeking independence and missing family. ISBN 978-1-77164-731-1, Greystone Kids

Oceanarium, written by Loveday Trinick, illustrated by Teagan White (the ‘curators’) showcases the world’s oceans as if it were a museum, an aquarium full of interesting creatures. And it is.  Presented as galleries with exhibits, the book walks you through the entire museum – from zooplanton to marine mammals, from antropods to crustaceans, and everything in between. From the polar regions, the Galapagos, the open ocean and the mangroves – this large book is a visual treat as a coffee table art book as well as a detailed source of information for oceanographers of all ages. A valuable and enriching addition to any classroom or library, this book is part of the Welcome to the Museum series by Candlewick Press. ISBN 978-1-5362-2381-1, Candlewick Press

The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter, is the beautiful, true story of Alia, a courageous librarian in Iraq. When war comes, she realizes the importance of bringing the precious books, books in many languages – to safety. She enlists her neighbors into helping. Together they pack and move most of the books. A fire destroys the building but Alia is happy in the knowledge that they have safeguarded an irreplaceable treasure. ISBN 0-15-205445-6, Harcourt

Step by Deborah Ellis is a collection of short stories – all of them focusing on 11 year olds from around the world in vastly different settings. Len helps as server in a soup kitchen where, to his shock, the school bully shows up. Lazlo lives in Hungary and is hopefully that his father will take him on a special outing for his 11th birthday. He is shocked when things turn out much different. Dom meets Gregoire from Madagascar and learns what it’s it like to be hungry.  All of the stories in this collection by the skilled storyteller who wrote The Breadwinner, are jolting eye openers, sometimes a bit shocking. The book is labeled as being for readers ages 9-12. However, I would suggest it’s for students 12 and over. Not stories to comfort but stories that create awareness of how different our lives can be. The author is donating all royalties to UNHCR to aid refugees. ISBN 978-1773068152, Groundwood Books

Future History 2050 by Thomas Harding.  This is perhaps the most thought provoking novel I’ve read in a long time. Although it may be controversial in a school library, this small novel is perhaps the best way to bring awareness to readers to climate change and the type of future we currently face.  Written in the year 2050, Billy interviews his Gran to learn more about her life and about life before he was born. He records her stories and is amazed that people knew about climate change and still did not take more drastic action to prevent it. He learns about life when there was still democracy and how politics changed. Billy finds a way to send the diaries back to the year 2020. A stark and interesting wake-up call before it is too late to change our future. ISBN  978-1773068039, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is a writer in Canada. She reads all the time and conducts writing workshops in schools. She also writes travel stories in http://www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Picture Books about Friends and Family

Everyone needs a friend. Family and friendships can differ but enrich our lives. The following picture books reflect families, relationships and friends in which you can, perhaps, recognize yourself. Many of these books can lead to enriching classroom discussions.

A Stopwatch from Grampa

A Stopwatch from Grampa by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok, is the touching story of a grandchild’s love for his Grandpa and how much he is being missed. But Grandpa left his stopwatch, which helps to hold on to good memories and to making new ones. ISBN 978-1-5253-0144-5, Kids Can Press

Wounded Falcons

Wounded Falcons was written by Jairo Buitrago from Mexico, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng from Colombia and translated by Elisa Amado from Guatemala.  The story follows two best friends, living in a big city they find a wounded bird on an empty lot and slowly nurse it back to health. Adrián is always getting into trouble, getting into fights but Santiago knows that his friend cares about others. Adrián feels like one with the wounded bird until, one day, it flies out on its own.

A touching story about friends, fighting, and caring for wildlife, a story that can serve to kickstart many classroom discussions. ISBN 978-1-77306-456-7, Groundwood Books

Hat Cat

Hat Cat by Troy Wilson, illustrated by Eve Coy. The old man feeds the squirrels in his garden every day. One day a kitten shows up, curled up in the old man’s hat. The old man feeds it and finds it a lovely companion. But he’s afraid to let Hat Cat outside for fear that it will run off or chase the squirrels. One day the old man is not there but when he shows up again, the two friends have learned to trust each other. Told in sparse text this is a story of friendship, a lovely picturebook that works on different levels.  ISBN 978-1-5362-1366-9, Candlewick Press

Whistling for Angela

Whistling for Angela by Robin Heald, illustrated by Peggy Collins, is a beautifully executed picture book tat will work on many levels. Mostly it is the story of a new big brother preparing a special gift for his new baby sister.  It is the happy story of a family adopting a baby. And it is the important but sad story of a birth mother finding a loving home for her baby. Robin Heald skillfully brings the different stories together in this touching picture book. ISBN 978-1772782455, Pajama Press

And J.J. Slept

And finally a lovely story of adoption: And J.J. Slept by Loretta Garbutt, with great illustrations by Erika Rodriguez Medina. When J.J. arrives at his new home, everyone is excited. His new siblings run and stomp and yell. But J.J. sleeps contently in his new parents arms. The dog barks, the doorbell rings but nothing disturbs J.J. Until all the kids leave and the house becomes unusually quiet. Then he wakes up and screams at the top of his lungs. Until all of the noisy siblings return… A realistic story about adopting and adapting. ISBN 978-1-5253-0419-4, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs reviews books and writes on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. She also conducts author presentations at international schools and writes about her travels in a blog: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Wordless Picture books

Most picture books tell stories in very few words. Often the illustrations add to the story. And in some picture books, the art tells the entire story. Wordless picture books offer an opportunity to make up your own story, to add words that change with each reading. In fact, wordless picture books can help create a special bond between a parent (or educator) and a child. And, of course, wordless picture books are a great tool to use with children who speak or learn a different language because the story works in any language!

Over the Shop

Over The Shop by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Qin Leng is a lovely story that can be told on many levels, over and over again. A young girl and… perhaps her grandmother run a shop and, to make ends meet, rent out an apartment over the shop. But it’s too run down for some. Not many people actually come to look, until one day the perfect couple shows up. They clean and fix. In the process they meet the people, and the cats, of the neighborhood and the shop flourishes.  ISBN 978-1-5362-0147-5, Candlewick

Window

Window by Marion Arbona is a brand new release. This wordless picture book in black & white, features a child walking home from school. Along the way she passes a row of houses with many different windows and doors. What goes on behind each one? The pages are folded windows that allow the reader to open them and peek inside, where the girl’s imagination conjures up fantastical scenes full of robots, inventions, aliens and creatures. Until she comes home to her own room and can truly let her imagination run wild, on paper. A lovely book to inspire readers to come up with their own stories. ISBN 978-1-5253-0136-0, Kids Can Press

Window

An older book by the same name: Window, by Jeannie Baker has a very different approach by is also wordless. It focusses on one window and shows how the view changes over the years. As a baby grows older, the backyard changes from diapers on the line, to tricycles. Trees are cut, new homes are built. The world changes through this window until the boy has grown up and his home is old. Then it’s time for a new home, a new life, and a new view from the window. This book is perfect to discuss change, evolution, the environment, urban development as well as use it in art lessons with older students. ISBN 0-14-054830-0

Mirror

Jeannie Baker created another fantastic, wordless picture book to use in international schools: Mirror. Designed to be read side by side, the left side features a family in the western world, the left side focuses on a family in Morocco. While housing, food, clothing and environment are vastly different, the book also shows how similar people in different cultures are, and the importance of family and friends. While the same moon shines on these families, they learn about each other’s place on earth. A brilliant teaching resource. ISBN 978-1-4063-0914-0

Sunshine

An older one but still wonderful to use with young students is Sunshine by Jan Ormerod. It shows a family waking up and getting ready to start their day. From burning toast to hurriedly getting dressed, this is a lovely discussion starter on what yóu do to get ready for school. A second book, called Moonlight, shows how the family prepares dinner and gets ready for bed. You may have to search for these books as ‘used’. ISBN 978-1845070489

Zoom

ZOOM by Istvan Banyai does exactly what the title promises. He zooms out from the first black page, to reveal many different scenes. This book is perfect for guessing and predicting what comes next. The art takes the reader around the world and even beyond.  ISBN 0-14-055774-1

in REZOOM, Istvan Banyai takes us, at a dazzling speed, around the world from ancient Egypt to England, to Paris, to the jungle in India and many other places. Or does he? Both of these books can be a source of entertainment for younger readers but also can serve as introductions to art and design for older students in all grades. ISBN 0-14-055694-X

THE PAPER BOAT

A brilliant refugee story, The Paper Boat is told in paper collage by Thao Lam. Its roots are from her own childhood, of fleeing Vietnam with her parents in a boat. The paralel story of ants sailing away in a paper boat is based on the stories her mother told her, stories of kindness and karma.

A great book to use with younger kids but also to study the art of illustration with older students.  ISBN 978-1-77147-363-7, Owl Kids

Helen's Birds

Helen’s Birds by Sara Cassidy, illustrated by Sophie Casson is a story of friendship and environmental awareness. A young girl befriends an elderly lady who lives in an old house on the corner. An avid gardener, the lady teaches the girl about birds, and nests, how to build a bird house and how trees and flowers attract squirrels and other urban wildlife. After the lady passes away and her ramshackle house no longer stands, the girl puts her lessons into practise and helps transform the neighborhood by being a gardener and building birdhouses. ISBN 978-1-77306-038-5 (Groundwood Books)

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts writing workshops in international schools. www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

War, refugees… these are not easy topics to write about for children. But books are powerful tools to share stories of war and to show what it is like to live as refugee. These capable authors and illustrators convey the stories, creating tools for parents and educators to use to show what life can be like – sorrowful but also hopeful. Not only are these books stories of war, they are also stories of friendship, compassion and how we can help one-another.

The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit is hands-down the most impressive picture book I have come across in recent months. I could fit this story into the category ‘friendship’, or ‘finding home’ but, even though it is not mentioned anywhere in the story, ‘refugees’ is probably the most applicable label. The chickens were content to live in their cozy coop. They did not intend to share it with anyone. Until the large, unfamiliar capybaras show up. The chickens don’t want to build fences, but neither do they plan to invite them. But… it is hunting season. Reluctantly they agree to let them stay until it’s safe to go home. They do tell their young ones not to mingle. But of course, two of them do. And after the little cabybara saves the little chicks life, do the chickens realize it’s fine to share and benefit from each other. An amazing parallel to humans… ISBN  978-1771647823

A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman has beautiful art by Peggy Collins. Dedicated to the children of Afghanistan, this is the story of Aria who lost a leg to a landmine but who knows she can do anything, even carpentry. Finding it too hard to sit on the floor of her classroom, Aria collects wood and learns the skills needed to build herself a bench. A bench so beautiful that all the girls in class want to learn how to build furniture. A heartbreaking and heartwarming story all at once. ISBN 978-1-77278-222-6, Pajama Press

In A Feast For Joseph, by Terry Farish and Od Bonny, illustrated by Ken Daley, Joseph and his mom reminisce about the way food was shared with many others around the campfire in the refugee camp. Now they eat alone in their apartment. But Joseph wants to celebrate and share their food with friends. Will his grandmother come from Africa? Will his neighbours show up if they cook for them? A lovely picture book about food and customs and the simplicity of sharing. ISBN 978-1-77306-438-3, Groundwood Books

What The Kite Saw, written by Anne Laurel Carter, illustrated by Akin Duzakin. After the tanks and the soldiers come and take away the men, a young boy wishes he had wings so he could see where his father was and what was happening beyond his town.He builds a kite, and many other children do too, to send a message of hope into the sky. Inspired by Palestinian children, this is a universal story of war and hope. ISBN 978-1-77306-243-3, Groundwood Books

Stealing Home, J. Torres and David Namisato is a graphic novel for middle grade. Not only tells this book the story of Sandy, love for baseball. It is based on the true story of Japanese internment camps during World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the attitude of Sandy’s friends and their family towards his Canadian-Japanese family changes. Suddenly they won’t play baseball with him anymore. Their relatives lose jobs and homes. Eventually Sandy and his family are taken away to live in remote ‘ghost towns’. With nonfiction information in the back, this graphic novel brings renewed awareness to young readers of a dark period in history. ISBN 978-1-5253-0334-0, Kids Can Press

Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, with art by Rashin Kheiriyeh.  When you have no home, when you are walking towards a new place, ‘here’ is a different concept. ‘Here’ is home and ‘here’ changes all the time. A cup, a blanket can mean home. They can also let your imagination roam, help you tell stories, sing songs about ‘home’. A lovely, award winning book that will encourage children to think and write about what ‘here’ means to them. ISBN 978-0-7352-6359-8, Tundra

When My Name Was Keoko, by Linda Sue Parks is the impressive story of war in Korea. I grew up in Europe and have heard and read much about World War II in Europe. But I did not realize how similar this was to life in (South) Korea under Japanese occupation. This book was an eye-opener for me, told in two voices – Keoko and her brother who are both given Japanese names and can no longer speak their own language. A gripping novel and important story that makes a good read for older children, even for adults. ISBN 978-0606247160

Margriet Ruurs is the author of 40 books for children. She conducts author presentations at international schools around the world. www.margrietruurs.com www.globetrottinggrandparents.com

Global book recommendations

Students in International Schools often speak several languages. Supporting their language development, and love of reading in any language, through books is important. Many books are available in different languages but finding books printed in two languages is harder. Here are some of my favourites.

Stepping Stones / حَصى الطُرُقات: A Refugee Family's Journey / رحلة عائلة لاجئة

I became aware of the power of bilingual books when one of my own picture books, Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey, was published in both English and Arabic. I found it fascinating to see how well that works – the story is now one that Arab speaking children can share with their families, that English speaking people can read but also one that shows a new script and writing method to many. When doing school visits, students are fascinated by the different languages and refugee kids often are seen as very smart when they can actually read those unfamiliar sentences. Here are more books that use language in addition to story and art. ISBN 9781459814905, Orca Book Publishers

Aquí era el paraíso / Here Was Paradise: Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak'abal / Selected Poems of Humberto Ak'abal

Aqui era el paraiso/Here Was Paradise by Humbert Ak’abal celebrates Mayan poetry. The poems are in both English and Spanish. Ak’abal is an indigenous poet from Guatemala who wrote his work first in K’iche’, the language of his childhood. The poems in this collection focus on nature, the natural environment and life in the Americas. Written for adults, the art in this book makes it accessible for readers of all ages and it’s a treat of speakers of both English and Spanish. ISBN 978-1-77306-495-6, Groundwood Books

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

A River of Words, The Story of William Carlos Williams, written by Jen Bryant, art by Melissa Sweet. This is a picture book biography of an American poet, published in English only but based on the power of language. As a child, William listened, observed and absorbed life around him. He became a doctor but wrote poems on his prescriptions pads and stayed up late at night to write, to play with language. He had 48 books of poetry published. This one is incredibly beautifully illustrated in Melissa Sweet’s iconic collage for papers, letters and images. A joy to share with readers to show the power of following your heart. ISBN 978-0-8028-53-2-8, Eerdman Books

When I was a child I loved folk and fairy tales. I devoured books by Grimm and Anderson in Dutch. I liked the morals these stories told. Idries Shah knew the power of storytelling perhaps better than anyone. Shah grew up speaking many languages. As writer and philosopher he became the leading voice of Sufism in the 20th century – retelling century old stories which have now been produced as contemporary, colourful picture books in many languages. These Teaching Stories and based on an ancient art form and especially designed to develop human thinking skills and perception.

  • The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal, Idries Shah, illustrated by Rose Mary Santiago, is the story of a boy who visits a nearby village where the people are terrified of an unusual ‘beast’ in the field. The clever boy recognizes it as a watermelon. He ‘slays’ the beast and hands delicious slices of fruit to the astonished villagers. He also shows them how to plant seeds to grow more watermelons. Published in English and Dari. ISBN 1-883536-18-9
  • The Farmer’s Wife is a cumulative tale about the woman who tries to convince animals (and objects) to do what she wants. In the end the bee and the cat and the dog and the bird, and many more, all do as she wishes. Told in English and Arabic. ISBN 978-1-946270-27-6
  • The Man With Bad Manners is the tale of a man who does not behave properly so a boy thinks of a plan to teach him a lesson. A colourful picture book in English and French. ISBN 978-19462-7055-9
  • Published in English and Urdu, illustrated by Jeff Jackson, The Silly Chicken is a tale of learning a new language and using your brain.  ISBN 978-1-942698-79-1

All Hoopoe books have available teacher guides and activities to supplement the reading: https://hoopoebooks.com

Global book recommendations

As an adult I love reading teen and YA novels. There’s nothing better than curling up with Because of Winn-Dixie or The Library of Ever. But which new novels are coming out now? And what are they about? Here are some reviews to help educators put books in the hands of readers. Happy Reading!

Making Seakerby Karen Autio. It took me a while to figure out the meaning of the title but it is about the making of a small floating boat with GPS, called Seaker. Jamie has just moved to a new city and school. She is worried about making friends since she is not into sports. Jamie is a science nerd. She soon discovers that her new home town is also the home town of Paddle to the Sea, the wonderful classic written by Holling Clandy Holling. That story forms the bases of Jamie’s quest to retrace the journey, with her toy boat, from town to the sea through the Great Lakes using tracking equipment.  ISBN 978-1989-724095, Crwth Press

A very good website gives details on the making of the book, the equipment used for the boat as well as links to science sites: http://www.seaker.ca/

This book is great to couple with The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner which is based on a boy who loves geo-caching.

Warned: The Astrologer’s Prophecy by Mahtab Narsimhan is an exciting adventure set in India. Avi pleaded with his parents to let him stay with a friend but they insisted on him staying with his grandfather in Delhi while they work as doctors in Rajasthan. Now he is stuck in a crumbling mansion, no wifi, and with an old man whom he barely knows and a mysterious, scary caretaker. Who locked him into the attic? Can he trust the girl he meets from a different caste? The exotic location shines through in the sounds, scents and sights of India while the deliciously scary story takes you right into the midst of the chaos. Well written and highly recommended. ISBN Ebook: 978-1-7778318-0-6

Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man by Norma Charles is the fascinating true story of a boy who grew up in Manitoba, Canada. As a young boy Harry started running and never stopped. He trained at the University of Oregon and competed in three Olympic Games while setting an incredible seven world records. This novel explores who he was and what makes an athlete overcome obstacles, including prejudice for a boy with African-Canadian heritage. A great read for wanna-be Olympians. ISBN 978-0-889955-5-30, Red Deer Press

The Other Side by Heather Camlot is a page turner murder mystery. As twelve year old Liam visits his grandfather’s cottage by the lake, he discovers a body. Who was she? How did she get there and what happened? Intertwined with Liam’s relationship with his elderly grandfather who is dying in hospital and who spent his earlier life as a German soldier in World War II, the story is laced with intrigue about the murder as well as details on soccer’s World Cup.  ISBN 978-08899-5614-8, Red Deer Press

Margriet Ruurs writes fiction and nonfiction. She conducts author workshops at schools around the world. www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Stories reflect our history and show us who we are. Stories help us to understand others and share our own cultures. Here are voices from other places, stories worth sharing from around the world in picturebooks, in poetry and in nonfiction.

THAO: A Picture Book

Thao by Thao Lam is an autobiographical story by an illustrator. Her name was common in Vietnam but once she and her family came to live in Canada, she did not like having a name that no one could pronounce or spell properly. Why could her name not be Jennifer? But only Thao could eat yummy Vietnamese food…. The book is exquisitely illustrated in paper collage. A wonderful story to share with children who also have hard to pronounce names! ISBN 978-1-77147-4320-0, Owl Books

Burying the Moon

Burying The Moon by Andrée Poulin, with beautiful art by Sonali Zohra is the touching story of a 12 year old girl in India. The women in Latika’s village can only do their daily ‘business’ at night in a nearby field. Once girls reach puberty they can no longer go to school because the school nor the village have toilets. Latika is angry that boys don’t have these problems. Education doesn’t even seem important to them. Latika gathers her courage to speak out and make a change for all women in her village. A heartbreaking story, written in free verse, that sheds light on a huge problem around the world. I had no idea that half the world’s population has  no access to flush toilets. If, after reading this book, you want to make a difference, check out this website: https://water.org/donate/ ISBN 978-1-77306-604-2, Groundwood Books 

Ho'onani: Hula Warrior

Ho’Onani, Hula Warrior is a unique picture book about Hawaiian culture. Traditionally, boys can lead a Hula group. But why not a girl who loves to sing and dance? Ho’onani does not think of herself as ‘just a girl’ or ‘just a boy’. She is Ho’onani – strong, sure and steady. Through hard work and courage she achieves her dream and make her family and village proud of their heritage. ISBN 978-0-7352-6449-6, Tundra

Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth and Priscilla Burris is the story of Natsumi, who may be a Japanese girl but is not dainty nor quiet like other girls in her village. Everything Natsumi does, she does in a big way. Her family tells her that she is too fast, too loud. Discouraged, Natsumi’s grandfather knows what his granddaughter will be good at. On the day of the annual traditional Festival, dainty dancers perform, tea is served carefully and finally Natsumi can show her true self by being a powerful, traditional taiko drummer! ISBN 978-0-399-17090-4, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

I Have the Right to Culture

Part of a picture books series based on the UN Convention on the rights of the child, I Have The Right to Culture, by Alain Serres and Aurélia Fronty, the book celebrates all things art. From dance to film, from poetry to paintings, the book shows how cultures preserve and protect their heritage and how each person has the right to learn about the art from their country because ‘A child who never knew about.. sculptures or paintings… would as as sad as a thousand birds who never learned how to fly.’ Highly recommended especially for schools with diverse populations. ISBN 978-1-77306-490-1, Groundwood Books.

A sad but beautiful, and important, story is I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe, art by Pauline Young. It is the story of a child in residential school, forced to adopt a new language and new customs. As the child grows older and darkness folds away, colour returns to the pages as she slowly discovers the power of her own culture and extends a hand of friendship to others to help them understand. A beautifully executed picture book that works on many levels, for many ages. ISBN 978-1-77108-810-7, Nimbus Publishing

You Might Be Special!

So what if you have a common name and no special skills? Well… You Might Be Special by Kerri Kokias, illustrated by Marcus Cutler, puts you to the test. If you feel different from others you can take a quiz to make sure you are not a unicorn, or a dragon. And if you are none of these… then you are special because you are you! A fun book to share out loud with young readers who are special. ISBN 978-1-5253-0333-3, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of over 40 books for children. She conducts author presentations at international schools and shares her travel stories here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com