All posts by Margriet Ruurs

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mostly Ghostly Books

These not-so-obvious scary books are a treat to share around Halloween

In this column I share books with you that have global appeal. I hope to help you, in a quick and easy manner, to find the most fabulous books to share with your students. Of course, nothing is better than a read-a-loud – regardless of age level.

FROM FAR AWAY by Robert Munsch is a picturebook for the younger grades, co-authored by Saoussan Askar (age 9). She wrote to Robert Munsch, of Love You Forever fame, to share her story of immigrating from Beirut, Lebanon. She was happy to live in a safe place, but when Halloween came around she was suddenly confronted with ghosts and skeletons in closets. Munsch skillfully turned her scary tale into a funny one that highlights differences in cultures and the difference a caring teacher can make.

ISBN 1-55037-396-X, Annick Press

GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel. Its word choices and story content make this is a great story for slightly older readers. Catrina, her sister Maya who suffers from cystic fibrosis and their parents move to a new town. Catrina does not like it there. Nor does she like the town’s history full of ghosts, which is celebrated during Diá de los Muertos. Catrina is very hesitant to go out on Halloween night but she and her sister meet many ghosts who help change their perspective.

ISBN 978-0-545-54062-9, Scholastic 

SEVEN DEAD PIRATES is a great classroom read at any time, but particularly fitting around Halloween since Lewis Dearborn is moving into his great-grandfather’s dilapidated old mansion. The mansion, it turns out, is already inhabited by no less than seven ghostly pirates. Lewis ends up with seven rowdy room mates who depend on him to reclaim their ship so they can roam the seven seas again. In the process, Lewis has to face his worst fears. 296 page novel.

ISBN 978-1-77049-815-0

Finally, and coincidentally by the same author, a picture book that is perfect for older readers – including high school students. 

MARY WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN by Linda Bailey is the beautifully crafted background story of Mary who, as a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on tombstones. At age 19 she is challenged by Lord Byron and Percy Shelley to write a scary story. Mary Shelley ends up creating the most terrifying, and enduring, tale of all: Frankenstein. This gorgeous biography showcases captivating art by Júlia Sardá.

ISBN 978-1770495593, Tundra Books

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Novels for Teens

The Flooded Earth Trilogy by Mardi McConnochie

The Flooded Earth, The Castle in the Sea and The Skeleton Coast are three dystopian page turners for middle school.

While The Hunger Games was for older readers, these books have the feel of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass: deliciously scary. The Flooded Earth books are set 50 years after a massive flood and climate change change the earth’ surface. Four kids set sail in search of secrets, hidden clues and their mysteriously disappeared father. With three sequels, there’s plenty to keep an avid reader spellbound here.

Pajama Press, ISBN 978-1-772278-049-9

ISBN 978-1-77278-083-3

ISBN978-1-77278-099-4 

The Parkour Club by Pam Withers and Arooj Hayat is a high speed read for teens. This story features parkour courses, an unusual and fascinating focus.

Bronte moves from Egypt back to North America, and is coping with adjustments and making new friends at her new school. She follows her passion for parkour and makes friends in her new club. But some people are not who they seem. Is there a terrorist among them? Who can she trust and who is dangerous? A good read for teens.

ISBN 978-0995910324, also available as e-book.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman is a fascinating, and fun, read for middle grade students interested in wildlife and extinction. Set in a unique place, Louisa travels to an aunt in Tasmania where she discovers both a diary and the mysterious shadows of an animal. Could the Tasmanian tiger still be present? A wonderful read, very well written, for kids of all ages.

Pajama Press

  • ISBN-10 : 1772780545
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1772780543

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Picture books about friends, compassion, and nature

The Word For Friend, by Aidan Cassie is the perfect picture book for international schools. Kemala moves to a new home and will attend a new school. But her classmates speak a different language. How can she play with them if she can’t understand them? This book cleverly uses Esperanto, complete with a word guide and information about Kemala, who is a pangolin. A great story about friendship, moving to another country and fitting in. ISBN 978-0-374-31046-2 

The Seed of Compassion, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Illustrated by Bao Luu, this is a lovely autobiography in picture book format of the Dalai Lama. It tells of his childhood and his education. While the text is for slightly older readers, the story focuses on compassion and customs of Buddhists’ faith. ISBN 978-0-525-55514-8 

West Coast Wild Babies by Deborah Hodge, with art by Karen Reczuch is a gentle walk through the rainforests and along the shores of the Pacific North West coast. It focuses on wildlife babies ranging from wolf cubs to gray whale pups and many in between. ISBN 978-1-77306-248-8

Nattiq and the Land of Statues, Barbara Landry and Martha Kyak
This story from the Arctic is unique in that it uses Inuktitut syllabics and romanized Inuit words throughout the story of how Seal travels and brings back stories about a land with tall trees and unusual animals. He tells polar bear and his other northern friends all about seasons and birds. A lovely picture book to discuss Arctic animals and a different environment. ISBN 978-1-55498-891-4