Tag Archives: books

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

Toward the end of the year we all look for books to share, read and give. Some of these titles are brand new, others are older. Some deal with holidays, others with winter. Happy reading!

Ramadan, The Holy Month of Fasting by Ausma Zahanat Khan is a beautifully illustrated photo essay, a nonfiction picture book chockfull of information on the what, why, how and where of Ramadan. The book covers global traditions and includes personal stories, even recipes. ISBN 978-1-4598-1181-2, Orca Book Publishers

In the same Origins series as above, Christmas From Solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate and Dani Tate-Stratton is a joyful celebration of Christmas traditions around the world. This, too, includes personal stories and recipes as well as a glossary and additional resources. ISBN 978-1-4598-1355-7, Orca Book Publishers

Based on a real street in Toronto, Canada where many immigrant families settled, Birds on Wishbone Street by Suzanne Del Rizzo is a beautiful story  of people coming from different cultures. They share their food and their stories. But newly arrived Sami is not talking much. Until a bird needs his special attention and brings back memories and stories from home. Illustrated in clay and mixed media, the glorious art is a joy to explore. The book works on many different levels and even offers instructions on how to make your own winter bird treats. ISBN 978-1-77278-219-6, Pajama Press

Tiny Reindeer by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is the wonderful tale of a reindeer so tiny that he is of no use to Santa or the other reindeer. He just gets into trouble. Until he learns of one little girl’s wish for the perfect tiny reindeer. Sneaking away in Santa’s sleigh Tiny Reindeer embarks on a big adventure and finds a loving home. ISBN 978-0-7352-7118-0, Tundra Books

The Christmas Pig is J.K. Rowling’s newest book. Reminiscent of classics like The Phantom Toll Booth and The Polar Express, this thick novel can be read aloud to all ages but, like Harry Potter, has its dark sides. Black & white art by Jim Field illustrates each chapter. Piggy is  Jack’s favourite stuffed animal because he has always whispered all of his secrets to it. But when his new stepsister, teenager Holly, tosses Jack’s trusted pig out of the car window, Jack falls asleep full of anger and tears. The adventures that follow feature toys and objects coming to life, whisking Jack away to the Land of Lost Things. Told in typical J.K. Rowling style, everything that happens seems quite plausible – objects, and feelings too, are sorted into ‘much loved’ or ‘barely missed’ things. If no human cared about them at all, these Things eventually will be eaten by the terrible, scary, voracious Loser. But if there is a glimmer of hope, they might rise again to live on earth among their beloved humans. Jack’s adventures, as well as the writing style, are brilliant. Towards the middle the story turns dark and quite scary in places but it has the feel of old fairytales that taught morals.               ISBN 978-1-338-79023-8, Scholastic. To read a more in-depth review of this book, click here: https://www.margrietruurs.com/jk-rowlings-new-book-the-christmas-pig/

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of over 40 books for children. She shares her love of books and travel here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

global book recommendations

November 11, May 5 or any other date – many countries set aside one day a year to remember those who gave their lives for their country during a war. In the Common Wealth people often wear a poppy on their coat during November. Why? These beautiful picture books will help explain the stories of war to children and remind us not to forget.

Impressively, the following books were all written by one author: Linda Granfield. Born in the USA she is the Canadian author of many books for children including these beautiful wartime stories.

John McCrae served ‘in Flanders’ Fields’ when he wrote a touching poem during WWII. Since then his words have been memorized by generations. The beautifully illustrated picture book pays tribute to those who served and the legacy of a young soldier dealing with the horrors of war. Art by Janet Wilson. ISBN 9780773759251

The Vimy Oaks is the true story of a young soldier during World War I. Scared, lonely and frustrated, Leslie Miller mails home a handful of acorns from Vimy Ridge in 1916. Amazingly, these oaks still flourish in Ontario, Canada. A touching story about the human side of war. Illustrated by Brian Deines. ISBN 9781443148504, Scholastic

Memories of a soldier serving in Afghanistan blend with a grandfather’s memories of serving during WWII in this hardcover picture book, illustrated by Brian Deines. “This book really highlights the reality of what many soldiers have gone through during their time in Afghanistan. [It] touched my heart and brought me right back to those hot sunny days in the desert so far away from home and family.” says Master Corporal Christopher D. Russell, Canadian Forces Military Police. ISBN  9781443113564, Scholastic

So many soldiers lose their lives during a war. In the heat of battle their names and identities are sometimes lost. What if a person dies in a foreign country with no one to tend to their graves? This book looks at National Tombs of ‘unknown soldiers’ reminding us to never forget them. Complete with photos and background information boxes. ISBN 9780439935586, Scholastic

One of my favourite titles is High Flight – the beautiful poem written by another young British poet/soldier in 1941. Born in Shanghai, John Magee was only 19 years old when he wrote this poem while serving in the RCAF. ISBN 978-0887764691, Tundra Books

This book shares the recollections of over thirty men and women who served with the U.S. and Canadian forces in Korea during the years 1950-53. With a foreword by Russell Freedman, the veterans in this book represent a wide variety of army service areas, including medical, supplies, infantry, and naval. Their recollections are illustrated with their own personal photographs. The book attempts to understand the human face of war. Timeline, glossary, bibliography, Internet resources, index.  ISBN 978-0618177400, Houghton Mifflin

Linda Granfield also wrote: • Where Poppies Grow, A World War I Companion (ISBN 9780773733190, Trifolium Books; • Remembering John McCrae: Soldier-Doctor-Poet. Scholastic Canada

LEST WE FORGET

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

With Halloween and Día de los Muertos coming up, I can’t resist sharing some wonderful appropriate reads with you! These books are a treat, not a trick!

Brand new this Fall is a book that I immediately fell in love with: The Strangest Thing in the Sea by Rachel Poliquin, with art by Byron Eggenschwiler is brilliant. The clever text tells us about the strangest creature that lives in the ocean. But when you flip the flap over, it reveals the real amazing creature, together with lots of fascinating nonfiction information. But – this is not the strangest thing in the sea… So continues each page, each flap to reveal something even more bizarre. Vampire Squid, Goblin Shark, Yeti Crabs that resemble a pile of skulls… But guess what the strangest creature of all is, who could not survive its explorations of the deep sea without equipment and inventions… A beautifully executed picture book for deep sea lovers of all ages ánd fun to read at Halloween. ISBN 978-1-77138-918-1, Kids Can Press

FROM FAR AWAY by Robert Munsch. This might be Robert Munsch’s least well known book but it’s one of my favourites. He co-wrote this picture book with Saoussan Askar (age 9). She wrote a letter 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. Great to share at this time of year! 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 

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. A great book to use, even in high school, to discuss the origins of Frankenstein and where stories may come from. ISBN 978-1770495593, Tundra Books

global book recommendations

Books for athletes… Do reading and sports go together? When I conduct writing workshops in schools, I always love being able to involve the PE teacher in the reading and writing process. Here are new and long loved titles about sports!

The Thing Lenny Loves Most About Baseball

The Thing Lenny Loves Most about Baseball by Andrew Larsen, art by Milan Pavlovic, is the universal story of a kid dedicated to a sport he loves but isn’t very good at playing yet. But with the help of his dad, and sustained by his book of baseball facts, Lenny perseveres and, through practice, becomes a valuable member of his team.

ISBN 978-1-77138-916-7, Kids Can Press

On the Line

On The Line, Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Scot Ritchie, is the newly released story of Jackson, who comes from a long line of hockey heroes. Jackson’s not so sure he can live up to his family’s expectations. He feels like a potato on skates. But maybe his skills are not in skating but planning and organizing. When his team needs a plan, Jackson saves the day. A good story not just for hockey fans but to discuss each person’s different strengths and skills.

ISBN 978-1-77278-218-9, Pajama Press

Crocodiles Play! by Robert Heidbreder (2009-03-01)

Crocodiles Play! by Robert Heidbreder, art by Rae Maté.

In this fun, rhyming sports romp, the crocodile teams has their equipment and sports all mixed up. Theyplay basketball with bats, baseball with golf clubs and slam-dunk with ping-pong balls. The littlest readers will laugh aloud chant along with this silly poem picture book until the crocs get it just right.

ISBN 1-896580-89-0, Tradewind Books

The Farm Team

Ice hockey is not just for people. In Linda Bailey’s The Farm Team, illustrated by Bill Slavin, the farm animals just love to play but are not very good at it. Each year the coveted tea cup goes to the rough and tumble Bush League Bandits. Until the year when, after much practice, the Farm Team manages to outwit the wild animals and bring the cup home. An older read that remains hilarious for all hockey fans. 

ISBN 978-1-55337-850-1

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and a blog about books and travel: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

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.

Books & the environment

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.

Miss Rumphius

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

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

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: A Guidebook for Little Woodland Explorers

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

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

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.

BOOKS FOR EARTH DAY

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.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Not all people are the same. Recognizing yourself in a story can be a powerful experience. The right book can be a tool to reach out and help a child. Here are some books that show how people can experience different feelings, emotions and conditions.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is a beautifully written picture book that introduces very young readers to the concept of Alzheimers and memory loss. This story is so skillfully told that it will appeal to readers of all ages. Wilfrid Gordon lives next to a seniors’ home and knows all of the residents. Through sparse language we learn, as does he, what it means to lose memories. Wilfrid Gordon collects objects, each one of which helps his friend to remember special things in life. Highly recommended for classroom discussions. ISBN 978-0916291266

Duck Days by Sara Leach is a novel for ages 7 – 11. Third grade student Lauren has Autism Spectrum Disorder and experiences some things a bit different from her friends. Lauren has learned how to handle her own reactions and copes just fine. In this story her friend challenge her to ride a bike without training wheels. When her class has a bike workshop, Lauren is not happy but eventually overcomes her fears and triumphs. This book is part of a well written series for young kids on Autism and Asperger’s.  ISBN 978-1772781489, Pajama Press

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is written in the first person, which is a brave and bold move by this award winning author. Because Melody, the main character, has cerebral palsy. She cannot speak, her limbs move involuntarily, she drools and makes funny sounds. What no one realizes is that Melody’s brain works perfectly. She remembers facts, she gets match, she can spell like the best of them but she cannot let anyone know. Imagine the words and thoughts all stuck inside your brain and no way to let them out… Thanks to Draper’s skillful writing, we are inside Melody’s head and feel her frustration. This book is a must-read for all booklovers, but a special eye opener for all those (educators) who work with children who have physical challenges. ISBN 141697170X (ISBN13: 9781416971702)

Other highly recommended titles include:

Petey by Ben Mikaelsen (cerebral palsy); Wonder by R.J. Palacio (disfigurement); A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (synaesthesia); Rules by Cynthia Lord (autism)

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and speaks at schools around the world.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

 If you work at an international school, chances are that you like to travel. If you like to read and travel, here are some of my favourite books to curl up with over the holidays.

 Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, ISBN 978-0375709159

The author and his wife lived in England when, many years ago, they bought land in Spain. He now has three books about the trials and tribulations of (sheep) farming on the Andalusian slopes. The books are fun and make you feel like you are right there with him.

Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming is a fascinating account of daily life in an unusual country. She takes you along inside the homes and on walks around the country and culture into which she married. This book made me want to visit Bhutan some time, where the gross national product is measured as happiness.

Pole To Pole by Michael Palin (ISBN 978-0753823262) is one of my favourite travel books because it covers little bits of many different countries and cultures. He sets out to travel from the very North Pole to the South Pole along the 30º line of longitude which travers the most land mass on the planet. Using mostly public transit, he takes the reader along, sharing his trip but also bits of culture, history, politics and customs.

 A few years ago I did author visits to international schools in Turkey. I wished I had read this book then: Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark by Rick Antonson (ISBN 978-1510705654)

Not only is this a great read about the author’s trek up Mount Ararat in (what is currently) Turkey, it is also a good story of ancient and biblical times, of rifts between nations, of interested cultures, beliefs and people. 

And one more fascinating nonfiction book – even if it is not exactly a travel destination: The Girl With Seven Names, Escape From North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee is an unusual story from North Korea. It shows life with all of its ups and downs in North Korea. I found it well written and an intriguing story from a relatively unknown part of the world. ISBN 978-0-00-755485-0

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! HAPPY READING!