When teaching writing to children, we often talk about the importance of voice. Who is telling the story? Is it a narrator or a character? The following picture books and novels all use a unique voice to tell their story.
If Only… by Mies van Hout is a colourful picture book for the youngest readers, in which the voice of a child wishes he/she was a butterfly. But the butterfly wishes it was a different insect. From ladybugs to spiders, all critters voice their wishes until the story comes full circle. In addition to the story there is information about each creature as well as instructions for making your own colourful art.
ISBN 978-1-77278-196-0, Pajama Press
Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong gives voice to a child who is afraid of the dark. “I hear you creak, and cast shadows all around,” he whispers, alone in bed. But soon he realizes that the dark helps animals at night, even helps the moon shine bright. Soon he is no longer scared but plays games with his new found friend.
ISBN 978-1-77278-221-9, Pajama Press
Wolves by Emily Gravett is an older picture book with a quirky voice that slightly older students love. Rabbit goes to the library and find a book about wolves. The information becomes more and more vivid. Rabbit has a close encounter but, luckily, this story has a happy ending. The art adds to the text and is fun to explore and discuss. The pages include mail with real envelops and letters to Rabbit.
ISBN 978-1-4050-5362-4, MacMillan
Time For Bed’s Story by Monica Arnaldo is written in an unusual voice – that of the bed! Bed knóws that you don’t want to go to bed, and toss and turn. But have you ever considered Bed’s feelings? A fun bedtime read for parents to share with their young readers!
ISBN 978-1-5253-0239-8, Kids Can Press
The Coconut Crab by Peter W. Fong
This 200 page middle grade novel is a fun and beautiful read. With facts about the main characters – a coconut crab, a goat, a bird and a gecko – based on nonfiction, the story is a well written fictional tale reminiscent of folk tales. Based on a tropical island, Coconut Crab faces dangers and makes new friends, learning about the natural world while exploring the world of man. The voice that tell this story, with faint echoes of The Life of Pi, is beautiful and made me imagine vivid images. The humour and emotions conjured up by the characters was similar to watching the Madagascar or Finding Nemo movies in which quirky animals banter with each other. A fascinating read that may be labeled for kids but can be equally entertaining for adults who love a good tale.
ISBN 978-1-9505845-7-4, Green Writers Press
Margriet Ruurs, MEd, conducts author presentations at schools around the world. Her latest title is Come, Read With Me, ISBN 978-1459817876
These global picture books and novels are placed in different countries. Reading stories from around the world will help students of all ages to both appreciate other cultures as well as recognize their own cultural backgrounds.
My Heart in Kenya by Ruth Beardsley. This is a true story, in picture book format with photos, of a family living in a refugee camp and being selected to come to Canada. However, one person was not on their application and thus could not come. Nasteha was only two months when her family had to leave her behind in Kenya. This is the story of how, eventually, they were reunited. The photos give a good impression of life in a refugee camp and of a very real problem that effects many families. Written by an educator, the book has a website: www.myheartinkenya.ca with complementary resources. ISBN 978-1525-566-806
Tea Time Around The World by Denyse Waissbluth, illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne. Who knew tea could be so fascinating! This colourful picture book has a main fictional text in large font, complemented by text in smaller font that gives nonfiction details about each country and their tea customs. From butter tea in Tibet to a Japanese tea ceremony – from English high tea to the modern bubble tea, this is a fun book to share and then have a tea party. ISBN 978-177164-601-7, Greystone Kids
Part of the Travels With My Family series, Travels in Cuba by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel is the story of Charlie on a family holiday in Cuba. As they explore the country, Charlie meets kids, makes friends and learns things about Cuba. The book is sprinkled with words and expressions in Spanish. The series includes chapter books for Grades 2-5 about a variety of countries including Croatia, Mexico and France. ISBN 978-1-77306-347-8, Groundwood Books
The Camino Club by Kevin Craig. I read this teen novel as an e-book. It is a very realistic account of a group of juvenile delinquents – reminiscent of Ben Mikaelson’s Spirit Bear but for older students – whose punishment for a variety of crimes, is to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain with counsellors. Since the real experience is transforming, the fictional teens, too, are transformed by confronting each other, by confessing sins, by meeting new people and by the very act of walking a long distance trail. The teens’ foul language may be realistic in this setting but it almost turned me of off reading on. I’m glad I did, though, as the story gets gripping and you do want to know what happens to each teen in the end. ISBN 978-1945053979, Duet Books
Placed not just in another part of the world, but also in a different era is The Day The Pirates Went Mad, a middle grade novel by Trevor Atkins.
This is a fictional story placed in the early 1700’s. The details about the ways of living, customs, food, clothing and especially ships is impressive. The story is well written so I could ‘see’ it unfold as Emma escaped a Bristol, UK orphanage and find her place on a ship that trades around the world. She sails to Africa and beyond, learning from the rest of the crew, often comprised of female sailors. The story is gripping – I couldn’t put it down. The author’s thorough research and knowledge of the topic and era truly bring the story to life. Any student interested in history and/or pirates will love this novel.
There is an expression that says ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ – meaning that you cannot understand someone else’s struggles and problems until you have tried to see things from their side. The following books let you ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ – and see what it is like to be confined to a wheelchair, to be homeless, have an abusive parent or face many other obstacles in life.
The King of Jam Sandwiches by Eric Walters is a fictional story but very much based on the popular author’s own childhood. Living with only his father, Robbie leads a double life. He tries to hide his domestic troubles from his teachers and friends. No one knows that his father often disappears for days. How will Robbie survive if he doesn’t return? He lives in constant fear of how his father will react to anything he says or does. His new friend Harmony lives in foster care. Meeting her changes everything and, eventually, helps Robbie to overcome some of the obstacles he faces. ISBN 978-1459825567, Orca Book Publishers
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is one of my favourite novels for young readers about homelessness. Felix is twelve. His mom struggles to hold on to jobs. When she can’t pay the ever increasing rent, the two live in their van, just for one summer month. But when school starts in September, they still live in their van and Felix needs to keep their homelessness a secret. A realistic, endearing and almost humourous story about a very real problem that gets solved in unexpected ways. ISBN 978-0735262775, Random House
Unbound, Judith Scott, Melissa Sweet. This is the true story of Judith Scott, born with Down syndrome and undiagnosed physical handicaps. Her twin sister is healthy and, as young children, not aware of her sister’s differences. But once Judith has to go to live in a home, life changes for both girls. It is not until many years later that the sisters are reunited and that Judith finally gets the opportunity to express herself through art. Art that eventually becomes well known and in demand. An impressive book that helps us realize how much has changed over the years, and how much still needs changing. This brand new picture book was illustrated in fabulous at by Caldecott winner Melissa Sweet and is great to use with all ages. Every art teacher should have a copy! ISBN 978-0-525-64811-6, Random House
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen is an older title but still as important as ever. What is it like to move to a new town where you don’t know anyone? This is what Trevor did and he wonders how he will make new friends. What is it like to spend your life in a wheelchair, unable to communicate because you have cerebral palsy? That’s what life is like for Petey. This is the story of an unexpected friendship and discovering how the human spirit can triumph over physical obstacles. ISBN 0-7868-1336-9, Hyperion
Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is a similarly powerful story of a child in a wheelchair. 11 year old Melody is the smartest kid in school. She knows the answers to all questions. The problem is, no one knows it. Melody cannot speak. She has no way of communicating with others. The teachers think she cannot learn. But Melody understands everything and has a photographic memory. Trapped inside her own mind and body, Melody needs the friendship and skills of a special ed teacher who slowly helps to unlock the door to Melody’s mind. A great read for kids, but also for all educators. ISBN 978-1-4169-7171-9, Simon & Shuster
I love the two view points in Counting on Hope by Sylvia Olsen. This is the story of early British settlers on Canada’s west coast, but is also a universal story of colonization. Letia’s family has always lived in their traditional summer camp on an island. One day a British ship arrives and settlers, who were given land by the Queen of England, move in. The families each warn their children to staying away from the dangerous others. But whose land is this and how can it be shared peacefully? A beautiful, skillfully told story from the view point of two children. ISBN 978-1-55039-173-2, Sononis Press
Margriet Ruurs, MEd, conducts author presentations at international schools. Her books have been published in many languages.
What difference can one person make? Have you discussed global warming, Black Lives Matter and gender equality in class? These books about activism are shining examples of how you cán change the world, one issue at a time.
I Have The Right to Save My Planet, Alain Serres and Aurélia Fronty is chock full of facts about climate change and endangered species. The book explains that every child on earth has the right to water and clean air as decreed by the International Convention on children’s rights. It spells out many of the problems the earth is currently facing but gives children ways to manage these concerns: get your family to buy less plastic, don’t eat cookies made with palm oil from trees that are replacing rain forest, etc. With an interesting voice combined with beautiful art, this book is part of a ‘Rights’ series. ISBN 978-1-77306-487-1, Groundwood Books
Walking For Water, How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Nicole Miles is a wonderful story inspired by true events in Malawi. Victor and Linesi are twins. They love going to school but at some point Lenesi is the one who can’t go anymore because she has to fetch water for the family. In school, the new teacher tells the children about gender equality. Soon Victor sees the unfairness of this and has a plan: he and his sister take turns going to class and fetching water. The changes have a ripple effect so that, soon, equality becomes not just something that is only talked about but practised as well. ISBN 978-1-5253-0249-7, Kids Can Press
A Small History of a Disagreement by Claudio Fuentes, with art by Gabriela Lyon. This story is based in Chile but is so universal it could take place anywhere. Children come to school, after the holidays, to find a large fence blocking access to part of their school grounds, including the tall Monkey Puzzle tree. The introduction explains that this tree is millennial, more than a thousand years old and endangered. But laws allow it to be cut down to make room for the much needed school expansion. Soon, the controversies and debates begin. Groups form in favour of development as well as in favour of protection. Who will win? And how will so many students ever agree? Focused on a school based issue, this is the universal story of debate, disagreement and reaching satisfactory solutions through research and debate. A book that should be mandatory for all politicians… ISBN 978-177164-707-6, Greystone Kids
Following How To Become An Accidental Genius, Frieda Wishinsky and Elzabeth MacLeod followed that title with How To Become An Accidental Activist. The book shows how many people, from all corners of the world, may be accidental, but definitely heroic, activists by standing up for what they believe in. The book shows people in history but also today taking action against social, gender or racial injustice. It shows what young people do for the environment and against bullying. The book shares inside stories of well known people like Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand and Greta Thunberg in Sweden, but also of lesser known heroes like Rigoberta Menchu Tum standing up for equal rights in Guatemala and Song Kosal from Cambodia advocating against landmines. This book shows that you are never the only one and never should be discouraged from fighting for change and believing in doing the right thing. ISBN 978-1-4598-2611-3, Orca Book Publishers
Growing Up Elizabeth May, The Making of an Activist, written by Sylvia Olsen with Cate May Burton – is the story of how a girl from Connecticut became the leader of Canada’s Green Party. Inspired by her mother to take action against injustice, Elizabeth studied problems she saw around her in the environment. She fought for what she thought was right and battled politicians to ban pesticides. Eventually, that young girl was named one of the most influential women in the world, showing other young people to take action for what they believe in. This inspiring book is supplemented with examples of young people’s actions against plasticide, air pollution and more. Even though this book is about one particular person in North America, it is also a universal story of what can happen if you follow your heart and stick to your convictions. ISBN 978-1-4598-2370-9, Orca Book Publishers
Margriet Ruurs conducts author presentations and workshops at international schools around the world. Contact her directly to book for your school.
From simple concepts to complicated science; from preschool to high school, (picture)books can serve to discuss and discover information about the environment, including climate change and endangered wildlife. These books can lead to hands-on projects such as adopting a whale or planting trees. The books can also serve as examples to write your own classroom stories about your specific environment or favorite (endangered) animals.
One of the earliest picture books about the environment is perhaps the ever popular classic Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. It is the story of a librarian who wants to travel the world ánd make the world a more beautiful place. She does so by planting wild flowers that form an everlasting legacy. A lovely story that can lead to a classroom discussion of “How will you make the world a more beautiful place?”. Students can start a school garden or plant seeds in pots. ISBN 0-14-050539-3
Show Us Where You Live, Humpback, written by Beryl Young, illustrated by Sakika Kikuchi. A gentle story to share with young readers, it compares where Humpback lives with her calf to a child in his own environment. Both are growing bigger, both need food and a clean environment to thrive. And both are learning new skills as they grow. A perfect picture book to install a love of, and respect for, nature. ISBN 978-1-77164-573-7, Greystone Kids
Sunny Days by Deborah Kerbel features attractive collage art by Miki Sato. This padded board book celebrates a day outside for very young readers. Written in rhyme, it shows how to plant seeds, bake mud pies and splash in the ocean. Added activities in the back make children aware of the environment and simple science. ISBN 978-1-77278-197-7, Pajama Press
Forest Magic by Sarah Grindler is a guide to all things forest. The text gently points out the miracle of seeds growing into tall trees, offering shelter to birds and insects. The beautiful art shows the difference between moss and lichen, explains how a nurse log propagates life and what you can do to support and encourage biodiversity. A lovely guide for young explorers in the forest. ISBN 978-1-77108-926-5, Nimbus Publishing
Outside, You Notice by Erin Alladin, illustrated by Andrea Blinick. From the smell of rain to the feel of seeds – “the most important things in the world” – this picture book is a beautiful first introduction to the outdoors and helps to create awareness of the interconnectedness of nature. The book has a main text complemented by text boxes with more details as well as suggestions on ways to spend time outside: to parks, markets and more. ISBN 978-1-77278-193-9, Pajama Press
City of Water, Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Katy Dockrill is for upper elementary and middle grade students. Where does the water in your tap come from? This book looks at all things water – from the history of aqueducts to how water treatment plants work. It highlights innovative ideas like turning salt water into drinkable water. I was interested to learn that “a bottle of water costs up to two thousand times more than the same amount of water coming from the tap, requires two thousand times more energy to produce and uses more water in the production process than an average bottle can hold!” Fascinating facts for budding environmentalist, and for anyone who drinks water. ISBN 978-1-77306-144-3, Groundwood Books
Margriet Ruurs is the author of environmental books like When We Go Camping, Amazing Animals, In My Backyard and The Elephant Keeper.
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.
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