Tag Archives: fiction

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

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]

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

Travels in Cuba

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.

The Day the Pirates Went Mad

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. 

ISBN 978-19894-5902-7, Silverpath Publishing. Check out www.emmasharpesadventures.com for teaching resources and behind-the-scenes.

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children, including picture book biographies. She conducts author talks at international schools.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Discovering a ‘new’ favourite author can be a great classroom tool. Their books can be part of a series or they can be very different from each other. Today I’d like you to meet Wendy Orr. Born in Canada, she lives in Australia and writes award winning books.

Nim’s Island is a heartwarming tale of a spunky girl living (almost) alone on a deserted Pacific Island. Reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking, Nim is self sufficient and, together with her closest friends – a sea lion and an iguana –  saves the day when her scientist father is lost at sea. This book can be followed up by watching the movie starring Jodie Foster as Alex Rover, the adventure author who joins to help Nim.

ISBN 978-0385736060

There are two more titles in the series: Rescue at Sea – which deals with animals in captivity and a mad professor who trains them and wants to use them for research. Nim travels on a cruise ship as stow-away and makes new friends in the process. ASIN : B00166YC9C

In Rescue on Nim’s Island, she discovers a rare fossil and has to defend her island from exploitation. All three books make for good elementary classroom readings and discussions. ASIN : B00YVBQXFU


Very different from Nim’s Island, is Wendy Orr’s Bronze Age series. Dragonfly Song was inspired by a drawing, a found flint, and Wendy’s interest in archeology. This fantasy novel is aimed at upper middle grade readers. As I read the suspense full tale of Aissa whom the villagers see as cursed, and who is mute, I kept thinking that this is a bit like the Hunger Games for slightly younger readers. It’s a real page turner and won a long list of awards.

Swallow’s Dance takes us to Greek Islands and an era where people paid tribute to the Goddess as directed by the Oracle. Any reader interested in myths, legends and ancient history will be enthralled by this series – each book of which can be read independently.

The newest title, being released in March, is Cuckoo’s Flight – a coming-of-age story in which Clio battles the political power of the palace and her own feelings of inadequacy to save her town, her horses, and perhaps even herself. All three novels in this series are skillfully written in a blend of prose and free verse.

Panama Press ASIN : B08KYNQGJJ

BOOKS for booklovers

As an avid reader and writer, I love books about books and libraries. Here are some outstanding ones.

Every once in a while you pick up a book that makes its way straight to your heart: Alphamaniacs, Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is such a book.  The text is a poetic description of  26 people who made a difference in the world of language – some are writers, others invented a new style or printed books in a new, unique way. Rather than a summation of biographies the author used the voice of a circus ringmaster to introduce each ‘Wonder of the Word’. There is Jean-Dominique Bauby who became paralyzed except for one eye lid and ended up dictating an entire novel by blinking the letters. An astonishing feat. Jumping back and forth through the ages, the book celebrates European writers and native Americans, among others. One is Jessie Little Doe Baird who singlehanded saved her Wampanoag language, actually bringing it back from extinction. There’s the inventor of Klingon as well as the creator of Esperanto, a universal language created by Ludwik Zamenhof in Poland in hopes of promoting peace and understanding between people.

Each story is accompanied by a piece of art by the incredible master of collage, Caldecott Honor illustrator Melissa Sweet, making this book is a feast for the eye and ear of any booklover. 

Candlewick Studio, ISBN 978-0763690663 

FROM A CHILD OF BOOKS

Another book I fell in love with is the picturebook A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. One of those fabulous books for anyone who knows the value of stories, this one starts with a pen and a blank page. Then the main character takes us along on a celebration of books, through illustrations composed of words from those very books. While sailing the ocean, the words forming the waves are from books like Ten Thousand Leagues Under The SeaThe Swiss Family Robinson and more. Kids climb mountains of words from Peter Pan to reach the sky. They discover treasure and wander through forests made of book spines. I love this book and its powerful images, and I suspect that booklovers of all ages will love it, too.

Candlewick Press, ISBN 978-0-7636-9077-9

Oliver Jeffers is also the creator of The Incredible Book Eating Boy, a hilarious picture book to share with Kindergartens or older. Henry devours books, literally. The more he eats, the smarter he gets. Until he is so stuff full of books that he gets a tummy ache. Then he discovers that reading books is much better than eating books, and he gets smarter yet. The ‘real bite’ out of the back cover is a fun bonus.

ASIN : B007XJ7388

The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

As soon as I spotted this novel for young readers in my local bookstore, I knew I had to own it. And it was a wise choice. As I read, I met Lenora and traveled along on her wild adventures through the ages and around the globe, all entered through a library. 

Lenora is ‘hired’ as Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian and climbs her way up the library ladder, through solving problems and risking her life for knowledge. ‘Knowledge is a Light’ is the library’s slogan, chiseled in stone, and Lenore knows it’s true, especially when she encounters dark forces who want to get rid of books and ban others from gathering knowledge through reading.

I’ve read many other books with a library theme: Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library for instance. But those books are merely fun entertainment. The Library of Ever actually has a whole layer beyond its entertainment value that, almost imperceptibly, demonstrates the importance of books, research and the freedom to read.

I soon loved how this unique book blends fantasy with true questions, asked at the Help Desk and whose answers can be found only be doing research. The book is very cleverly written because we all have asked some of the questions and often have made the mistake of not enough fact checking. Reading, I learned some very interesting facts – from the highest point on earth (not what you think!) to Minoan Literature, from leap years to hieroglyphs. Readers’ minds can truly grow on this book.

Underlying all of Lenora’s adventures is the threat of Dark Forces. As the Chief Librarian states at one point: ‘the value of a Library cannot be counted in money.’ Same with the book – it was well worth the 10.- purchase price and both my grandson and I gained much more from the reading experience than just fun hours spent reading together. We kept sharing what we learned by saying “Did you know this? And listen to this!”…

Fantasy is not normally a genre I enjoy but now I can’t wait to read the next title: Rebel in the Library of Ever.

@ZAlexanderBooks

ISBN 978-1-250-23370-7