Friendship. What better topic to discuss in the international classroom? And what better tool to use than great books. Here are some of my favourite titles:
I Got You A Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan, illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Poor duck is having a hard time coming up with a surprise birthday gift for you. He tried so hard to make you happy but knitting socks didn’t work, the ice cream he bought you has melted and he couldn’t find you a dinosaur. But after all of his efforts, he does end up with a special gift, just for you! ISBN 978-1-5253-0009-7, Kids Can Press
Nut & Bolt by Nicole de Cock is the lovely story of a friendship between Bolt, a donkey, and Nut, the mouse. Friends each have to give and take. While it seems that Nut does much more for his friend, because that is what friends do, in the end it turns out that, Bolt too, has a lot to offer. ISBN 978-1-55455-364-8, Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Hug? by Charlene Chua. Now that the world is not into hugging, this is a fun book to share out loud with very young children. Hugs can make you feel better but problems arise when everyone wants a hug – cats, ducks, even skunks. There are bear hugs and porcupine hugs, even one character who does not want any hugs. A hilarious story told in few words and in pictures. ISBN 978-1-5253-0206-0, Kids Can Press
This Is A Dog Book, Judith Henderson, illustrated by Julien Chung. Bunny desperately wants to be part of the dog gang, specially if it means being in this book. He goes to all lengths to proof that he, too, is a dog and belong here. The dogs have their doubts and put Bunny to the test but eventually decide that, even if he may not be a dog, Bunny does make a good friend and should stay in the book. ISBN 978-1-5253-0493-4, Kids Can Press
Little Narwhal, All Alone by Tiffany Stone, illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee, reads like a fictional picturebook – about a little narwhal who likes to wander and explore. But in the back matter it is explained that this is based on the true story of a narwhal found about 1000 KMs away from his home in the Arctic. He now has befriended and lives with a pod of young beluga whales, an unusual true story of friendship beyond species. ISBN 978-1-77164-620-8, Greystone Kids
Aaaligator! by Judith Henderson, illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier is the story of an unlikely friendship. The boy loves bird watching but one day he stumbles upon an… aaaligator! After he feeds and helps the aligator, it shows up at his house, lonely. At first the town is against aligators but this one proves itself to be most helpful. A book to share and smile about together. ISBN 978-1-5253-0151-3, Kids Can Press
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy is a unique book. Produced in handwriting with exquisite drawings, the book reminded me of Christopher Robin and Pooh, sharing similar random wisdoms about life, self esteem and friendship. A beautiful story to encourage reading, writing and discussions with older students. This will also make a special gift for any educator.
Books don’t always have to be issue driven or full of information. Sometimes a just plain funny book can hook a reluctant reader into wanting to read more. It can offer an escape to a young reader who just needs a laugh. And when a child wants to read, he or she will tackle more and more books that will then lead to more knowledge. But let’s not forget the importance of a plain fun story to share. Here are some of my favourites.
Princesses Versus Dinosaurs, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Joy Ang. This brand new picture book is about pretty princesses. No wait, it’s about roaring, stomping dinosaurs. They argue about who gets to be in this book. They can’t agree on anything. And they certainly don’t want to play together. Building a wall turns out not to be a solution. In a fun ending, everyone ends up living together happily ever after. A great read out loud for younger students. ISBN 978-0-7352-6429-8
Perhaps these funny books, too, have hidden meanings when we search for them, but in our family we love to read Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin because it’s so silly and such fun to share out loud. The cows are on strike, the chickens want electric blankets. What’s next on this farm?ISBN 0-439-31755-X
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin can be used as spring board for students’ own animal diaries, for nonfiction and to look at ‘voice’ in writing. But it can also be just a wonderfully funny book about Worm and his family. His best friend is Spider who can’t dig, while Worm cannot walk upside down. Wonderful art by Harry Bliss adds more fun to this book. ISBN 978-0060001506
Elephants Do Not Belong in Trees by Russ Willms. Bird, Squirrel and Money agree. An elephant does not belong in their tree. Even though Elephant really, really wants to live there they insist they he cannot. Until Elephant saves the day. And the tree. Complete with surprise ending. ISBN 978-1-4598-2599-4
Many years ago I wrote a plain funny story about my own chickens who were pretty clueless. ‘What if… a chicken didn’t know what to do with her eggs?’ That question lead to my picture book Emma’s Eggs. It won all sorts of recognitions and has been in print for many years. Later, reviews told me that it really was about a child wanting to please. But when I wrote it, it was just a fun tale about chickens. ISBN 0-7737-5898-4
Where’s Walrus?, Stephen Savage. When I first saw this wordless picture book, I had no idea how much fun we would have with this book. Following Walrus’ escape from the zoo and into the city, was fun. Young readers will love seeing all the hiding places where a walrus can blend in. Spotting Walrus in a fountain and in shop windows supplied us with hours of fun sharing art and stories. This, by the way, is one of those picture books that is also great to study with older (highschool) students since it’s such a great style of art. What makes it work? A book that encourages storytelling. ISBN 978-0-439-70049-8
For reluctant young readers, there is a series of chapter books that is hilarious and will appeal to their sense of humour. The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is a wild romp. Andy and Terry build their dream treehouse that contains a pool, a bowling alley and much more. Together they argue, they invent and they end up with amazing slap-stick adventures. Add 13 to find each next book in the series: The 26-Story Treehouse, 39, 52 and so on. ISBN 978-1250070654
Poetry is a universal language. These books, both new and old, invite readers to explore the world.
Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Barbara Reid, is one of my all-time favourite picture books. Whenever I visit international schools, I try to bring this book as a gift. The illustrations are fantastic, made of plasticine, and full of detail. The text is poetic with fun information about different countries and with a wonderful flow to read aloud. The story is about a young girl whose grandmother travels the world and sends home gifts: a baobab seed from Africa, the roar from the jungle king, and a secret wish of a flying fish from Hawaii. Throughout the images, the girl grows up. In the end she is the one traveling the world, inspired by her grandmother. The book is also available in Spanish. ISBN 978-0-590-24935-5
Poem in My Pocket by Chris Tougas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon is a clever rhyming picture book celebrating poetry. What if you keep poems in your pocket but your pocket has a hole? Words tumble and float everywhere, even the letters get all mixed up. But in the end a wonderful thing happens – you can grow a poet tree. Great to use with elementary students of all ages. ISBN 978-1-5253-0145-2
My own newest picture book is also in poetry format: Come, Read With Me is illustrated by Christine Wei. It is a poetic celebration of books and fairy tales. Two children follow the piped piper, meet whales and princesses and a puss in boots as they read books at bedtime. ISBN 978-1-4598178-76
Judi Moreillon’s book Read To Me as been out for many years but remains a wonderful book to share with both students and parents. It emphasizes the importance of reading aloud to children, of setting a reading example and sharing books, stories and songs in any language. I love sharing this poem with parents. It is also available in Spanish and in Vietnamese. ISBN 1-932065-49-0
Melissa Sweet is one of my favourite illustrators. William Carlos Williams became a Pulitzer Prize winning poet by following his heart into nature and by writing even during his medical studies and work as a doctor. A River of Words is his beautifully told biography by Jen Bryant, illustrated in gorgeous collage by Melissa Sweet. A book that shows young readers to listen to their heart and focus on what is important to them. ISBN 978-0-8028-5302-8
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is a brilliant free-verse novel. A gentle, spellbinding story of Kek and his mother who came to the USA from Africa. Struggling with winter, housing and no extended family or friends, Kek learns to make a new life for himself in a new country. An eye-opening tale of what it is like to be a refugee. Great as a classroom read-a-loud. ISBN 978-0-312-53563-6
Books truly can be a window to the world. While reading, you can live in another country, learn what life is like in a different culture while discovering both the world and yourself. The following books shed light on a variety of settings and situations and help to create awareness.
111 Trees, How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Each Girl, Rina Singh, Marianne Ferrer A wonderful true story from India, this book shows how one person can change the world. Traditionally, people in Sundar’s village had welcomed boy babies but not celebrated the birth of a girl. After the loss of his mother and a daughter, Sundar changes the minds of the villagers when he shows them how the earth needs to be replenished by planting trees. The parched earth recovers, it brings water and food to the village. Now his village plants 111 trees each time a girl is born and life has much improved for everyone. Sundar has changed his village and sent a message to other places around the world, encouraging eco-feminism. ISBN 978-1-5253-0120-9
One Hen, Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. This is one of my all-time favorite books on the topic of service learning. So simple, yet so brilliant. Based on the true story of Kojo in Ghana, this book shows how one little thing can grow in a big one. Kojo starts borrowed money and buys one hen. Now Kojo and his mom can eat an egg and soon he has enough to sell some. Carefully he saves his money to pay off his loan, then he saves until he can buy another hen. Eventually Kojo can afford to attend school by selling eggs. Read this book with any grade level and you can enrich it by saving up $25.- to extend a loan to someone in need through KIVA.org – online micro lending. Your students can select a country and the person they wish to help. ISBN 978-1-55453-028-1 Teaching guides: http://www.onehen.org/
See Where We Come From by Scot Ritchie takes a group of friends, all with different ethnic backgrounds. They prepare for their school’s Heritage Fair. Martin shares music and food from Japan, Sally brings smoked salmon and a cedar bark basket. Football from Brazil and koshary from Egypt help to celebrate a wide variety of customs and tradtitions. In the end pages, the book encourages family stories and shows how to make a Heritage box of treasures ISBN 978-1-5253-0497-2.
Gift Days by Kari-Lynn Winters, is a picture book for ages 8 up. This is the touching story of Nassali who longs to learn to read and write like her brother, Baaba. But since her mother’s death, Nassali is responsible for looking after her younger siblings and running the household. There is no time for books and learning. But one day she wakes up to discover that her chores have already been done. It is her first gift day. From that day on, once a week, Baaba gives Nassali the gift of time so that she can pursue her dream of an education, just as her mother would have wanted. The book itself is also raising money for the charity. Through the organization I am a Girl, which focuses on education and women’s rights, money has been raised to send girls to school in Uganda for a full year. ISBN-10 1554551927; ISBN-13 9781554551927 Check out: http://kariwinters.com/gift-days
The International Day of the Girl, Jessica Dee Humphreys and Rona Ambrose, illustrated by Simone Shin. What happens if half a garden does not get tended, watered and gets trampled? This is the comparison made in an important new picture book that explains the need for, and origins of, the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl. Through real stories of girls around the world, the book shows the importance of education and nurturing skills in girls. It also emphasizes how men and boys can make a difference, contribute to and benefit from the well -being of half of the earth’s population. ISBN 978-1-5253-0058-5
Walking for Water – How One Boy Stood Up For Gender Equality, by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Nicole Miles Victor loves going to school in his village in Malawi. But when they turn eight, his twin sister Linesi has to do what women and girls have always done: bring much needed water to the village. When Victor’s teacher talks about equality, he realizes that this is not happening. Slowly he finds ways to help and change both the way things were always done and the minds of other boys in town. Based on a true story, the book offers words in Chichewa, as well as information on support organizations. ISBN 978-1-5253-0249-7
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Also based on a true story but written for older students, this novel is the skillfully told tale of two African children who face hardships. A boy, Salva, is one of the ‘lost boys’ of Sudan. One day while in class, shooting starts as rebel forces reach his village. He walks and walks and walks in hopes of reaching safety, a new land where he can face a new future. A girl, Nya, lives in Sudan many years later. She, too, has to walk and walk. Eight hours a day to gather water for her family. She cannot go to school because the need for water is greater.
The two parallel stories intertwine when Salva, now with an American college degree, comes back to Sudan to build wells with the aid of Rotary International. This changes the lives of many Sudanese. A great story for all ages to share and discuss in the classroom. One of my local schools holds an annual Walk for Water day, educating students and raising funds to help build more wells in Africa. A picture book, to use with younger students to tie into the same theme is Hope Springs by Eric Walters. ISBN 978-0-547-57731-9
Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action by Darlene Foster. This book is the latest in a series of action/travel novels about Amanda. Each one is set in a different, real location and shares details about that country. In Holland, Amanda and her best friend Leah, see all the popular sights: tulips, canals, Anne Frank House, windmills, and even a wooden shoe factory. They learn about customs and traditional dishes. But Amanda is also here to discover what happened to her great uncle, who never returned to Canada after World War II. In the midst of her adventures, following clues about her uncle, she rescues an abandoned puppy. While trying to find him a home, she meets a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener and a strange woman on a bicycle. Upper elementary and middle school readers will enjoy following young traveler Amanda around Holland as she encounters danger and intrigue while trying to solve another mystery in a foreign country. Other locations in this series of print and ebooks include the Danube, New Mexico, Alberta, Spain, England and more. ASIN: B07L9LVK4J
Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts author talks and writing workshops for international schools, in person and via ZOOM.
April 21 is Earth Day. It will be celebrated around the world by planting seeds, picking garbage, starting a recycle program or in many other ways of being kind to the earth. In addition to projects, you can also celebrate Earth Day through those wonderful books.
My Ocean is Blue by Darren Leboeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron is a picture book with poetic text that looks at all characteristics of the ocean – from shallow to deep, from quiet to loud. A lovely read with the youngest readers. And a good incentive to collect shells and pebbles for an ocean display in the classroom. ISBN 978-1-52530143-8
Beginning scientists will love That’s No Dino! by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay. This book shows how new research determines the characteristics of dinosaurs. From such extinct creatures as Platyhystrix (not a dinosaur!) to Velociraptor (yup! A dinosaur.) the book has lots of information, humour and a check list for budding dinosaur lovers. ISBN 978-1-5253-0023-3
Kids in grades 2 – 6 will likely love this gross book: Extremely Gross Animals by Claire Eamer. You’ll need a strong stomach to read this book but you will learn many unusual, fascinating facts like how fish can spit prey out of the air, how birds use vomit as self defence and about many other slimy, smelly adaptions that help animals survive. ISBN 978-1-5253-0337-1
Ashley Spires wrote a fun graphic novel about the power of bugs: Burt The Beetle Doesn’t Bite! The humorous text is a dialogue between the book’s narrator and the June bug who feels he has no super powers like other bugs which can use smell, webs, strength or flight. But June bug does redeem himself in the end. A fun book to read out loud or to encourage young readers to read by themselves. ISBN 978-1-5253-0146-9
For older readers, Flush by Carl Hiaasen is a good book about the environment and what kids can do to help. In this fictional novel, Noah wants to help his father in proving that someone is dumping raw sewage into the ocean. A fast paced, exciting read for anyone who loves the earth as well as reading. ISBN 978-0375861253, Grade 4 and up.
Margriet Ruurs loves the environment and has written many books about nature, including AMAZING ANIMALS, WILD BABIES and IN MY BACKYARD.
Books can help create awareness of traditional and cultural holidays around the world. There are many wonderful stories, including fiction and nonfiction, about seasonal celebrations like Passover, Easter, Eid and Mimouna, often including unique traditional foods. Why not enhance reading by sampling matzos or painting eggs in the classroom.
Easter Morning, Easter Sun by Rosanna Battigelli, illustrated by Tara Anderson. A lovely rhythmic text for the very young that celebrates more than just bunnies and eggs at Easter. This picture book is waiting to be shared out loud and can be chanted along, with sometimes predictable, other times surprising rhyming words, with preschoolers and kindergarten students. ISBN 978-1-77278-177-9
Passover, Festival of Freedom by Monique Polak. This nonfiction book explains the origins and traditions of Passover. Through text, facts, photos and personal accounts, the book shares stories and information from the Jewish community. Recipes for traditional Passover dishes are also included in this beautiful information book. ISBN 978-1-4598-0990-1
A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Rotem Teplow
Not only is this brand new release a story about food, it also brings awareness of a Jewish holiday with which I was not familiar. Mimouna marks the end of Passover in Morocco and, like Ramadan, it is celebrated by eating special food at the end of a period of fasting. The lovely art shows a Jewish child who invites her Muslim friend and neighbor to share the food. The book includes a recipe to make your own moufletot, a pile of leavened pancakes. ISBN 978-1-77306-397-3
The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobson. This picture book explains the biggest holiday in the Muslim year when Aneesa gets to wear new clothes, helps cook lamb stew and goes to the mosque. ISBN 978-1-59078-431-0
Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki is a celebration of community kitchens. This picturebook has the looks of a comic strip with speech bubbles, making it joyous and interactive as everyone contributes ingredients, supplies and ideas. Together they peel, chop and splash. They set tables and invite in the long line of hungry, waiting clients. The multiracial characters bring this story to every realistic neighborhood and ends with the encouragement to volunteer in a community kitchen near you. Besides a read for younger students, this book can also be a good place to start classroom discussions of community service work with older students. ISBN 978-1-77306-262-4
Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua is a brand new picturebook with a unique angle. The story focuses on the building in which all of the characters live. They have all received an invitation to come to a birthday party on the 10th floor. Many people get into the elevator, carrying their favourite dishes to contribute to the party. From cookies to gulab jamun this is a fun book to anticipate who will get on next and what they will bring. Will they all fit into the elevator before they reach the top floor? ISBN 978-1-5253-0113-1
What A Party! by Ana Maria Machado, illustrated by Hélêne Moreau is a joyous celebration of friends and food. What starts as a birthday invitation, soon turns into a feast when kids bring coconut cookies, mangoes, pickles and friends. Signora Gina makes pizza and Mrs. Tanaka brings sushi and together they celebrate global diversity. ISBN 978-1-55498-168-7
Margriet Ruurs is the author of My Librarian Is A Camel, How Books Are Brought to Children Around The World. She conducts author visits to international schools.
Here are some fabulous new, and not so new, titles to use as tools in the classroom with students while studying science.
When Elephants Listen With Their Feet by Emmanuelle Grundmann is a brand new title that looks at animals’ senses. A 40 page picture book, it has attractive art and lots of text boxes to encourage curious, budding biologists. From fish that pass gas to communicate to the taste buds of pigs and everything in between, this book is full of fascinating facts about senses. ISBN 978-1-77278-123-6
It’s About Time, Pascale Estellon.From one second to one century, this book teaches young children about time. Combining information with activities, it touches on clocks, how to tell time, on calendars and seasons.
Putting a whole different slant on telling time is the new release Once Upon An Hour byAnn Yu-Kyung Choi and Soyeon Kim. This bedtime picture book is based on the tradtional Korean practise of timekeeping with the 12 animals of the zodiac assigned to a section each of the 24 hour clock.
50 Climate Questions, Peter Christie, with fun art by Ross Kinnaird, poses an, often funny, question on each page with the answer chockful of information from ice ages to today, including temperatures, weather, greenhouse gasses and global warming. Besides questions, the book also has answers on how we can change our ways.
In a similar vein, but for older readers, Paul Fleischmann looks – in his book Eyes Wide Open – at the politics and psychology behind environmental headlines. Besides opening eyes to issues such as reducing carbon emissions, the book brings awareness of differences in media coverage of the issues. Great for (highschool) classroom discussions.
Design Like Nature, Kim Woolcock and Megan Clendenan is another brand new, fabulous title in the important Orca Footprints series. Its subtitle is ‘Biomimicry for a Healthy Planet’. This book explains that humans design buildings and cities that change the environment. But what if we designed like nature, learning to design stronger, better, brighter and more sustainable by using nature’s examples? From solar power to natural dyes, from bullet trains to medicine this book looks at reducing our footprint and making the impossible, possible by learning from nature.
For budding marine scientists, the book Orcas Everywhere by Mark Leiren-Young is a valuable resource. Exploring the ‘Mystery and History of Killer Whales’ this book has great photos and facts on all aspects of orcas: a look at aquariums, hunting skills, communication as well as what we can do to protect these valuable mammals of the sea.
Picture Books are more than entertainment. They can be great tools to teach concepts such as math. This works for children of all ages and also for second language learners. Here are some of my favourite math picture books:
A fun counting book for the very youngest readers, is Going for a Sea Bath by Andrée Poulin, illustrated by Anne-Marie Delisle. Leanne’s father has a great idea. He brings more and more sea creatures for her bath. Until the tub is overflowing. Then Leanne is the one with the best idea. ISBN 978-1-927485-92-7
Growing Patterns, Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell is a beautiful nonfiction picture book with photos that will fascinate young readers of all ages. From pineapples to pinecones, from snails to shells – this is a close look at numbers in nature. ISBN 978-1590787526
Mysterious Patterns, Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell is an equally interesting picture book with photos. It looks at spheres, cones, cylinders – manmade and in nature and finds patterns from tree branches to broccoli. ISBN 978-1-62091-627-8
Fibonacci’s Cows by Ray Galvin is a fun short, chapter book. Ryan has to do his homework assignment before he can play soccer. But he needs to research Fibonacci cows and doesn’t know where to start. With a little bit of help from Leonardo, Ryan discovers amazing patterns in flowers and animals and ends up with a great classroom presentation. ISBN 978-0769913568
Fractions, Decimals and Percents, David A. Adler, takes young readers to the County Fair. Each booth offers tickets, cotton candy, or games that deal with decimals, percentages and more. ISBN 978-0823423545
Perimeter, Area and Volume by David A. Adler is a ‘monster book of dimensions’. The monsters are making a movie and need to know all about area, radius and other measurements. ISBN 978-0823427635
Equal Shmequal by Virginia Kroll is a fun picturebook about how to decide is both sides of a game of tug-of-war are equal. Is bear stronger than mouse? How should the animals make teams of equal strength?ISBN 978-1570918926
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, Cindy Neuschwander. Radius has a problem. He has given his father the wrong potion and turned him into a dragon. How can he solve the circle’s riddle and save his father from dragon slayers? ISBN 1-57091-164-9
How Much Is A Million? asks David M. Schwartz in this picture book illustrated by Steven Kellogg. How high a stack would a million kids form? How long will it take to count from one to a million? This is a fun text to read out loud and keep the attention of kids fascinated by ‘a million’. ISBN 978-0-688-04050-5
As with all books, it is always best to support a local bookstore. If you order online, check out: www.betterworldbooks.com There is no shipping fee to most countries.
What thousands of teachers have been trying for many years, was recently accomplished by one young poet: Amanda Gorman reawakened the world to the power of poetry.
Teaching reading, writing and use of poetry in the classroom can be a powerful tool to help students of all ages realize their own voice, their own stories. It seems almost an oxymoron to find poetry on the NFL website, but this is the text to Amanda Gorman’s poem recited at the Super Bowl: https://www.si.com/nfl/2021/02/07/amanda-gorman-super-bowl-lv-poem-video
Canadian poet Shane Koyczan also has incredibly powerful texts. You can find some of his poems here: https://www.shanekoyczan.com. My favourite is ‘My Voice’. These are all to use with older highschool students but listen to the texts first to use your own judgement on suitability for your classroom. You can use these poets to demonstrate how they bring their own experiences to their writing, then invite students to try the same by looking at their own lives. Does their poetry rhyme? Free verse is a great way to write poetry that does not use rhyme but focus on the words themselves, using rhythm and sometimes alliteration.
Kindergarten poetry can be as simple as enjoying the rhythm of words with books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault. ISBN 0-590-43889-1 Your students can chant, dance, shout out loud and clap to this book.
A lovely new board book to share with the youngest children is My Heart Beats by Rina Singh, ISBN 978-145-98256-80. This read aloud text uses rhymth and words in my languages to describe a beating heart. A good Valentine read for preschool and early childhood ed classes.
Great in a global classroom is We All Went On Safari, A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns. ISBN 1-84148-119-X You can read, chant out loud, even dance to this book. And then invite students to come up with their own sights in their own neighborhood of things to spot and count. This book includes numbers in Swahili. You can add numbers in any language that your students might speak.
Edward The Emu by Sheena Knowles is one of my all-time favourite examples of telling a rhyming story. Fun to read with all ages and again to use it as a springboard for your own classroom writing about favourite animals. ISBN 978-0-06-443499-7
Crossing over from primary to intermediate students, use wonderful poetry books by Jack Prelutsky such as A Pizza The Size of the Sun, or It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, Something Big Has Been Here and of course There’s No Place Like School, Classroom Poems. One of my favourite Dr. Seuss’ books was finished, after his death, by Jack Prelutsky: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, a hilarious poem about a principal who is worried about the students passing their test. As he worries, the school librarian tells the students:
“We’ve taught you that the earth is round,
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more,
We’ve taught you how to think.”
Here is a band new boardbook: The Sun Is A Shine by Leslie A. Davidson. ISBN 978-145982-6267. This rhyming story shows natural elements around the world, seasons, animals, diversity. It also includes the words for ‘thank you’ in Ojibwe, French, Arabic and many other languages.
For teaching the writing poetry, here are some of my favourite titles:
Fly With Poetry and Leap Into Poetry by Avis Harley, ISBN 1-56397-798-2. Both of these books use incredible techniques that show the joy of playing with language.
I Did It Because…, How A Poem Happens by Loris Lesynski. ISBN 978-1-55451-017-7
Pass The Poetry Please by Lee Bennett Hopkins ISBN 0-06446199-8
Poems Please! Sharing Poetry With Children by David Booth and Bill Moose, ISBN 0-921217-22-6
And finally, my own book entitled The Power of Poems, The Joy of Teaching Poetry, ISBN 978-1-934338-89-6, Maupin House
Have fun using poetry to reinforce the joy of playing with language.
Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts live and ZOOM author visits to schools around the world.
Eric Walters is the author of over 100 books. His work includes picture books, early read novels and novels for teens and young adults. Many of these books are ‘everybody’ books and are often realistic fiction based on true stories. He was instrumental in building an orphanage in Kenya, which I was able to visit once. Many of his books reflect the true adventures of some 80 children who live here and are now able to attend school. Here are some of his titles that should be in all international classrooms:
My Name Is Blessing, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (ISBN 978-1-77049-301-8) This is a beautifully told tale, based on a true story, which takes the reader to the home of a wise, Kenyan grandmother who cares for many children as best as she can. The last pages of the book offer nonfiction information about the real boy whose name was changed to Blessing and whose future was changed by an orphanage.
Hope Springs, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (ISBN-13 : 978-1770495302)This story shows the struggle, in Africa, to get water. The children at the orphanage have to walk daily to the public well to collect and carry back jugs of water. They stand in long line-ups but, one day, are no longer welcome. Is it fear that there will not be enough for the community if they let the orphans use their well? When the building of the orphanage’s own well is completed, Boniface has an idea to help the villagers. A lovely story of kindness, it shows that, through compassion and understanding, true generosity can spring from unexpected places. This book is perfect if your school takes part in an annual Walk For Water project.
Light A Candle, co-authored with Godfrey Nkongolo and illustrated by Eva Campbell (ISBN 978-1-4598-1700-5) is the story of the birth of the nation of Tanzania. It was the wish of President Nyerere to light a flame atop Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, to show the world hope for the future. Eric Walters climbed Kilimanjaro. The book is published in English and Swahili and gives background information in addition to a touching story of a young Chagga boy.
The Wild Beast, illustrated by Sue Todd (ISBN 978-1-4598-1589-6) reads like a myth, a legend, an old folktale. Africa’s wildebeest looks like it was created from spare parts. Eric Walters ran with this idea. Beautifully told, in words and vibrant images, this is the story of how the creator made sky and earth, then birds, fishes and mammals. Heeding her own message not to waste anything, she then creates the wildebeest. A delightful tale when studying myths and legends. Also look for The Matatu: based on folk tales, it tells a humorous story of the famous African busses full of people and animals.
Today Is The Day, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (ISBN 978-1-77049-648-4). Until reading this picture book, I had not realized that an orphan may not know his birth date. And if you don’t have one, you can’t apply for a passport or other important papers. Today Is The Day is based on the true experience Walters had when he gave the children a birth date as well as a gigantic party! A great book as basis for classroom discussions.
Hockey Night in Kenya, co-authored with Danson Mutinda (ISBN 978-1459823617) is a brand new release – a chapter book for beginning readers. It tells the story of orphans in Kenya who learn about a thing called ice hockey. They have never seen ice but read a Canadian magazine with pictures of a hockey team. Through hard work, kind friends and good luck, dreams can come true and even an orphan can end up having roller blades and a hockey stick.
Just Deserts by Eric Walters (ISBN 978-0143179351). A middle grade-and-up novel that will appeal especially to boys, Just Deserts is the story of a spoiled, wealthy boy who gets expelled from boarding school. In typical Eric Walters fashion, this page turner is full of adventure and suspense, when Ethan is dropped in the middle of the Sahara and left to his own devices.
Walking Home (978-0385681575), this novel made me cry at the end! It is a touching, interesting, heart warming and well written story. This is the story of a brother and sister, orphaned in a troubled, violent time in Kenya. They decide to walk to the region where their mother grew up, in hopes of finding relatives who will take them in. Rather than be separated by government officials who will place them in different homes, they walk over 200 KM, through Nairobi, through villages and deserted stretches. Not only did the author make this trek himself, he also built an orphanage and supports it financially with the help of many schools in Canada. The story takes the reader right along on this amazing walk, introduces us to Kenyan customs and beliefs and shows the landscape and fabric of African life. it is backed up by a website full of resources including videos and ways to connect: https://ericwalterswalkinghome.com/
And finally, From The Heart of Africa (ISBN 978-1-77049-719-1). “It takes a village to raise a child” is likely one of the best known wisdoms from Africa. The author collected many sayings that traditionally share wisdom passed from one generation to the next. Beautifully illustrated these aphorisms form a book for both children and adults and will make great discussion points for any classroom.