Tag Archives: literacy

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

A new year! Time for new books! And maybe some wonderful older ones… Wishing you a good year and hope every teacher’s resolution is to read more books in the classroom!

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind, Judy Finchler and Kevin O’Malley. This picture book is the story of a kid who does not like reading. He loves video games but not books. But when his school sets out to to read 1,000 books this year, his librarian tries her best to make readers of all students. Slowly, most kids end up with their nose in a book, because who can resist these great books. No matter how much he does not like reading, Miss Malarkey eventually manages to put the perfect book in his hands and the school principal has to dye his hair purple! ISBN 0-8027-8084-9, Walker & Company

Class Trip is a new title by the indefatigable Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko. Stephanie and Sean and their entire class embark on a trip to the museum. The guide shows them chicken eggs that are about to hatch and, indeed, they watch a little chick come out of its shell. “Fantastic,” say the kids, “do you have any bigger eggs?” As the size of the eggs increases, so do the things that hatch. Until they are shown an enormous shell in the museum’s basement. Will a teacher fit in a shell? And how can eggs do math? A fun, new read-aloud in typical Munsch style with lots of repetition and an unexpected ending. ISBN 978-1-0397-0224-0, Scholastic Canada

What I Like! by Gervase Phinn British author Gervase Phinn has written fun picturebooks for kids, including What I Like!, a collection of poems for the very young. Ranging from food to pets to runaway trains these poems are great for sharing out loud in Kindergarten. They include rhymes as well as tongue twisters and guessing games. ISBN 978-1904-5501-29, Child’s Play

Raina Telgemeier wrote successful graphic novels that kids love, like Ghosts, Smile and Drama. How do writers and illustrators use their own life to come up with great stories? In Share Your Smile, she shows readers, and kids who like to doodle, how to create the best stories from real experiences. Losing a tooth as a kid, may not be fun. But writing and drawing about it, turning it into a universal story, can help yourself as well as others. Telgemeier takes the reader through all steps of remembering, recording, and sketching stories. A great book to encourage others to write your own story. ISBN 978-1-338-35384-6, Scholastic Graphix

Margriet Ruurs loves reading. She also writes books for children and conducts author visits at schools around the world.

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Usually, in this space, I post recommendations for a variety of good books – books that will appeal to kids, parents and educators at international schools, with wide global appeal. This time, I would like to share just one book – a very special, impressive book which will be meaningful to many booklovers.

Years ago, I wrote a nonfiction children’s book called My Librarian is a Camel. That book started when I read a newspaper article about camels in Kenya being used to deliver books to remote villages. That’s when I realized I, like many others, was taking my free public library for granted.

I thought ‘If kids in Kenya get books delivered by camel, how else do people get library books if they live in remote areas and have no access to books?’ That question kept me occupied with research for the next many years. In the process of finding out the answers, I made friends with librarians in Zimbabwe, with booklovers in Papua New Guinea and made life long friends with fellow authors in Pakistan and Mongolia. The result was my book for children, published by Boyds Mill Press in the USA. Not only did that book lead to me speaking at many literacy conferences and in schools, I also made contact with people who wanted to help. Boxes and boxes of books, as well as funds, were gathered by school children in the USA to help children in far away countries. The book helped to stock a library built by volunteers in a Mayan village in Mexico. It led to pen-pal exchanges, with books as the focus, between thousands of students in over 30 countries. So I know first hand the effect a book can have on rallying people together and creating awareness.

And, being so involved in books and unusual libraries, I was surprised to discover a book I didn’t know yet. Recently, I received a copy of a book called The Library Tree. The book is written by Deborah Cowley. This very special, touching book is the story of one woman: Kathy Knowles. Many years ago, Kathy, her husband and young children left Canada to work in Ghana. While there, Kathy started reading picturebooks to her children, under a shady tree in her backyard. It wasn’t long before neighborhood children joined them. 

Seeing how much the kids loved the stories, and realizing they had no other access to books, Kathy started collecting books. She eventually turned one room in her house into ‘a room full of books’ and used it as a small lending library. 

More kids led to more books, more books led to more libraries. Over the years, Kathy Knowles has build many libraries across Ghana and beyond. These libraries were built on solid foundations and with local input. The libraries employ many people and have received worldwide praise. They serve schools and universities as well as street children. Everyone is welcome in these libraries.

Kathy Knowles also started training librarians and educators, ensuring that libraries will be well staffed. From the beginning, she managed to persuade the government to pay all staff salaries.

And while she spearheaded her enormous project alone, she has not accomplished everything single handedly. Her community in Canada has been collected, cleaning, packing and shipping the best books for many years. Kathy’s initiative has helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children in Ghana to learn to read, to get an education and to achieve their dreams.

For her many years of hard volunteer work, Kathy has received many awards and recognitions, including the Governor General’s Award. But likely, the most meaningful award for her will be the fact that so many children have learned to read and use books.

The Library Tree is a small book but it has a profound impact on the reader. It inspires us all to make a difference in the world.

The Library Tree, Deborah Cowley, ISBN 978-1-926531-83-0

For more details check out: https://osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca/

Osu Children's Library Fund

Books Change Everything

Books have changed the world. They can also change a person. Books allow you to live inside someone else’s head and see the world from a different perspective. Books help us to recognize ourselves but also show us what could be. Here are several picturebooks that can help readers to expand their world.

From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World

From The Good Mountain, How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford

We often take them for granted, but books have changed the world – perhaps even more than computers have. When Johannes Gutenberg (‘Good mountain’) invented the printing press in 1450, it was the first time that people could mass produce words: stories, announcement, scripture. How was printing invented? How were books first made? It took the making of paper, the producing of ink, the crafting of metal letters, the invention of a machine – and it revolutionized the world. In this beautiful book, for all ages, James Rumford shows us what it took and how it worked.  ISBN 978-1-59643-542-1, Roaring Brook Press

Hike

Hike by Pete Oswald is a wordless picture book that celebrates the magic of a hike in the mountains. It is early in the morning when dad wakes his child. They dress and pack and drive off to the distant hills. Armed with a map and daypacks, the two spend the day walking higher, spotting birds, being watched by bunnies and deer. They notice tracks and feathers. 

At the end of the day, they plant a seedling to make sure there will always be trees and a forest for hiking. A lovely touch at the end of the book, is when the two are ready for bed after a tiring day, we spot a photo of the dad when he was a boy and hiked with his dad. Without words, this picturebook says much about the importance of nature, of being outdoors and of sharing special family moments that will make lasting memories. ISBN 978-1-5362-0157-4, Candlewick Press

I Love My City

I Love My City by France Desmarais, Richard Adams and Yves Dumont

From the forest we go to the city. When did people start living in cities? Around the world, development of cities has been similar. Today, billions live in cities. Some cities are planned, others sprout up as needed. What kind of buildings and public services do cities need, including clean water and safety measures. How can we make cities sustainable, recycle and supply green spaces? This book answers all of these questions and many more. A fun and interesting resource for budding engineers and users of cities anywhere. ISBN 978-1-77278-273-8, Pajama Press

We Are Lions!

We Are Lions! by Jens Mattson and Jenny Lucander is the touching story of two brothers. They roar! They claw! They pounce! They love to play and use their imagination. They can be roaring lions and fierce stalkers of wildebeest. But when one brother is ill and doesn’t feel like playing, the other is lost without his playmate. No matter how much he growls and pounces, his brother is too sick. He needs to go to the hospital and sleeps in a bed, like a cage in a zoo. How can a fierce lion remain still in bed for so long? 

All that helps, in the end, is a quite cuddle together – lion to lion, even when one has lost its fur. Soon they hope to go hunting again. A lovely story to help anyone who’s had to cope with serious illness.  ISBN 978-1-77306-701-8, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children, including Where We Live, a book of maps of neighborhoods around the globe. She conducts author visits to International Schools and is booking now for 2024. www.margrietruurs.com

Stories and Information in Picturebooks

I’m a firm believer in using picture books with readers of all ages. Picture books can seem simple and be aimed at young readers, but many stories are perfect for older learners as well. Picture books allow you to share interesting stories on many topics, they can be used to discuss the format of imparting information and they can serve as a sample for older students’ own writing while learning about beginning, middle, end and voice.

Here are some wonderful picture books that work on many levels for students of all ages. If your school library does not have these titles, you can always try finding them on www.betterworldbooks.com which has new as well as used books. Not only do they ship free of charge anywhere in the world but they also donate to literacy.

Rain School by James Rumford

School. What if you get to school on your first day of the school year, and there is no school? What if you have to first build your school from scratch if you want to learn something?

James Rumford paints a beautiful picture of children going to school in the African country of Chad. The children help to build a school from mud bricks and thatched roof. They may not have many resources but they soak up the knowledge shared by the teacher. This story can be an eye opener for many students. ISBN 978-0-547-24307-8, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Percy’s Perfect Friend by Lana Button, with illustrations by Peggy Collins, is aimed at kindergarten students who can have trouble making new friends when entering a new classroom. Percy does not know anyone but a stuffed animal soon helps him to make friends and play with them. A gentle story to share with new, hesitant students. The book also offers information on social interaction for parents or educators. ISBN 978-1-77278-281-3

Malaysian Children’s Favourite Stories by Kay Lyons and Martin Loh, is collection of folk tales from the rich treasure trove of legends and historical stories in the lush Southeast Asian country of Malaysia. This book is a collection of tales about brash animals, brave villagers and of course handsome princes and beautiful princesses, all set in strange and exotic locations. The stories are widely retold and much beloved by children and adults throughout Malaysia to this day. Lyons and Loh have retold these stories for the first time for an international audience. The beautifully illustrated tales will give children insights into the traditional culture and rich natural environment of Malaysia and be a fun starting point for writing their own legends. ISBN 978-0804835909, Tuttle Publishing

Where We Live, Mapping Neighborhoods Around the Globe is a book that I wrote after visiting many international schools around the world. Each double spread is a map of a child’s neighborhood in vastly different locations: one child lives on a houseboat in Amsterdam, another one walks to school in her village in . There’s a small school in Antarctica which Bruno attends. And .. lives on an atoll in the South Pacific. The book shows a few words in each language and can be used to discuss both cultures and map components. 

By Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Wenjia Tang ISBN 978-1525301377, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts presentations at International Schools anywhere: www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Nonfiction and Fiction: here are great new books for middle school readers. Both novels and information books are full of interesting stories and are all page turners!

The Late, Great Endlings: Stories of the Last Survivors

The Late, Great Endlings, Stories of the Last Survivors by Deborah Kerbel with art by Aimée van Drimmelen is an unusual nonfiction picturebook. Written in rhyme but complemented by information each animal featured in this book was the last survivor of a now-extinct species. From Lonesome George the last Pinta Island tortoise to Turgi the last Polynesian tree snail. And while a book about extinct animals is sad, it also offers information on how kids can make a difference. 978-1-4598-2766-0, Orca Book Publishers

How to Become an Accidental Entrepreneur

How to Become an Accidental Entrepreneur by Elizabeth Macleod and Frieda Wishinsky is a fun book full of interesting facts and information that enterprising kids will love. How do you start a business? Can you make a living by doing what you’re good at? How did Steven Spielberg become one of the world’s most renowned movie makers? How did Tom & Jerry’s idea to sell ice cream turn into a thriving business?  And did you know that the super soaker water gun was invented by a NASA engineer? From environmental issues to medicine and technology, many of the best entrepreneurs in their field share their stories, experiences and advise with young readers in this book.  ISBN 978-1-4598-2833-9, Orca Book Publishers

Superpower?: The Wearable-Tech Revolution

Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution by Elaine Kachala takes a close look at artificial intelligence and wearable technology. Half a billion smart watches have been sold so far. By putting on devices we can test, and assist, brain power and even change our physical abilities. VR goggles add fun to video games. But how safe or invasive are these gadgets? Some can change lives – Jordan has only half an arm and uses a 3D-printed prosthetic arm. But should we have micro chips implanted? Is all technology safe and how should we use it? This nonfiction book is full of information that tech savvy kids will love to explore. ISBN 978-1-4598-2827-8, Orca Book Publishers

The Soggy, Foggy Campout #8 (Here's Hank)

Here’s Hank – The Soggy, Foggy Campout by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver is an early-read novel with a twist. Not only is it a fun chapter book about getting inspired by nature to write poems, it is also a book set in dyslexie font. I had never heard of this but this particular font apparently helps kids with dyslexia to read the letters and not mix up the order. It’s an interesting concept with details about the font here: www.dyslexiefont.com ISBN 978-0-448-48660-4, Grosset & Dunlap

Careful What You Wish For

Careful What You Wish For by Mahtab Narsimhan, is a page turner for middle grade. The story perfectly illustrates the dangers of entering unknown online sites and befriending strangers. Eshana’s world changes when she goes in search of friends, only to realize she already had important friends around her. Besides being a good read, this hi-lo read is a good reminder to be aware of cyber safety.  ISBN 978-1459834002, Orca Books

Murder at the Hotel Hopeless

Murder At The Hotel Hopeless by John Lekich is another title in the Orca Soundings series: short novels with high-interest topics of 12 years and up. Using humour, wit and intrigue, Lekich spins a tale that involves a cursed diamond, an unlikely detective, even a hearse ready at the crime scene. ISBN 978-1-4598-3349-4, Orca Books

Weird Rules to Follow

Weird Rules to Follow by Kim Spencer is a fascinating read. This middle grade novel has a fictional main character. However, the short chapters – or vignettes as the author calls them – are a memoir of growing up in a northern Canadian community as a First Nations girl. Going to (a mostly white) elementary school with her best friend, the author touches on many details from the 1980’s. The story is a rare glimpse not only into a First Nations home but also an intimate look at a (pre) teenage girl regardless of race. Well written and interesting to readers of all ages, not just kids. ISBN 978-1-4598-3558-0, Orca Books

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian writer of 40 books who conducts author workshops at International Schools around the world. www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Books to welcome a new school year

Here is a selection of my favourite books about school. Hook students with humour and fascinating information about schools around the world. Some of these titles are brand new, others have proven books that they remain interesting, no matter how often you read them.

This Is A School by John Schu and Veronica Miller Jamison shows that a school isn’t just a building; it is the people who work and learn together. It is a place for discovery and asking questions, for sharing, helping, and a place for community. A school can be a place of hope and healing, even when that community can’t be together in the same room at the same time.  ISBN 978-1536204582, Candlewick

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg is a hilarious story for all ages. The main character does not want to go to school where she will know no one, where no one may like her… We see her getting dressed, having breakfast, being rushed into the car… But not until the very end do we actually see the whole person who turns out to be… the teacher! A great story to talk about the anxiety of starting a new school year. ISBN 978-1580890618, Charlesbridge

Hooray For Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky, is a frolicking romp through accreditation and of a school meeting expectations and standards. The principal is so worried that the school may be closed “that his eye brows may fall off…” But the librarian knows better… “We’ve taught them that white and red make pink, but more importantly, we’ve taught them how to think!” A perfect story for principals to share at elementary school.

ISBN 9780679890089, Random House

1,2, 3 Off to School by Marianne Dubuc is the kind of picture book I would have savoured as a child. There’s lots of fun text, but it’s the images that you can study forever. Each double spread shows a school in a fairy tale setting: there’s Cattail Academy where frogs paint and sing. The sloths attend Sleepytime School and squirrels learn all they need to know at Lookout Heights. Throughout the pages, little Pom discovers how much fun kindergarten will be. She can’t wait to attend her own school. ISBN 978-1-5253-0656-3, Kids Can Press

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is perhaps her best known book. This autobiographical story shows how the now prolific author struggled with reading as a child. Despite being surrounded by books she could not master the skill of reading until a patient, understanding teacher changed her life.  ISBN 0-399-23166-8, Philomel

By the same author, Patricia Lincoln, is Mr. Lincoln’s Way – the story of an bully in Grade 5 and his principal. Despite personal lashings out, Mr. Lincoln finds a way to break through Eugene’s shield of anger by tapping into the boy’s one keen interest. Through books, patience and caring the two forge a bond that helps Eugene find his way. ISBN 0-439-43011-9, Puffin

Off To Class by Susan Hughes is a nonfiction book about the wide variety of ways in which children around the world get an education. From schools in refugee camps to finding text books in trash, this book shows the resilience of children and educators in many different countries.  ISBN 978-1-926818-86-3, Owlkids

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-13 9781554551927, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Margriet Ruurs wrote more than 40 books for children. My School in the Rainforest was one of the most fun books she ever wrote because it showcases unusual schools around the world. There’s a school in the rainforest of Guatemala, but also one on a missionary ship, the highest school in the world (in the Himalayas) and a school on the edge of the Sahara. ISBN 978-1-59078-601-7

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

There’s a fine line between reading picture books aloud to children and children being able/wanting to read by themselves. Even if their interest level is high, sentence structure can be difficult to master. Here are chapter books and graphic novels to help encourage reading.

Super Detectives! (Simon and Chester Book #1)

Graphic novels can help beginning readers to master a whole book. The Simon and Chester books by Cale Atkinson are fun stories, divided into chapters, about a boy and his ghost best friend. Together they solve mysteries in Super Detectives!. They have adventures in Super Sleepover! Together they learn to rely on each other to get them out of difficult situations like ‘how to behave at a sleepover’ or finding a lost dog’s home. Through humorous adventures, without violence, and in graphic novel format, these books will encourage beginning readers to master a whole book in no time. ISBN 978-0-7352-6742-8 ISBN 978-0-7352-6744-2, Tundra Books

Hermit Hill

Another graphic novel but for somewhat older readers and with a delicious added twist of mystery and supernatural… is the Sueño Bay Adventures series by Mike Deas and Nancy Deas. The fabulous art sweeps the chapters along with exciting characters that have new adventures in each title. In Hermit Hill they meet Hivers, tiny Moon Creatures who play a role in the health of the forest. Can Sleeves overcome the ancient curve that surrounds them? ISBN 978-1-4598-3149-0, Orca Book Publishers

Esme's Birthday Conga Line

Esme’s Birthday Conga Line by Lourdes Heuer and Marissa Valdez is a chapter book that really encourages emerging readers. Esme’s grandparents did not plan much for her birthday. But Esme sets out to organize her own party complete with cake, a piñata and music as she invites all occupants of her apartment building, including the grumpy caretaker.  ISBN 978-0-7352-6940-8, Tundra Books

Some readers struggle because of learning difficulties. The following novel about a dyslexic child was reviewed by Beatrix, age 10:

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael is a book about a girl named Louisa, who dreams of being the youngest Broadway playwright in history, as well as the youngest Cirque du Soleil gymnast. But for now, she’s in fifth grade, with two best friends (Lexie and Nakessa), ADHD and dyslexia, and a teacher, Mrs Snyder, who seems to hate her. Then Lou’s mom delivers some bombshell news: Lou is going to be a big sister—to twins! Will she ever get to spend time with her mom after the babies are born? This book is amazing. I could really feel what Lou was feeling. I am in fifth grade, so I could relate to a lot that she goes through, and I couldn’t put it down until the end. I recommend it!  ISBN 978-1772782585, Pajama Press

Word After Word After Word

Not long ago prolific author Patricia MacLachlan passed away. We all know her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. But I looked up some of her latest, perhaps lesser known books and fell in love with Word After Word After Word. Designed as an easy-read novel for kids beginning to tackle chapter books, this one is also a wonderful story to read aloud to a class. Written in a poetic style, with lots of poems written “by kids”, the book celebrates a visiting author who teaches poetry to the children. Undoubtedly, MacLachlan wrote the story based on true classroom experiences. A great book to follow up by writing free verse poems with students. ISBN 978-0-06-027971-4, Harper Collins

The Poet's Dog

And finally another title by Patricia MacLachlan, slightly older but still readily available and one that young readers will love: The Poet’s Dog. In this poetic chapter book two children wander in a snow storm. A large, lovable dog comes to their rescue and takes them to his deserted home. Having been raised by a poet, surrounded by books, it comes as no surprise that this dog can talk and the children can understand him. The new friends bond, keep each other from being lonely until they are found. And, as suitable in such a lovely fairy tale story, there is a happy ending. ISBN 978-0-06-229264-3, Harper Collins 

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children. She conducts author workshops at international schools around the world. Book her through her website: www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Nonfiction picture books can be a great teaching tool when talking about the environment. These new titles can be used with students of all ages to discuss science as well as art and writing.
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth

One Well, written by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods. This impressive nonfiction picture book about the environment should be in every classroom, in every child’s hands. Water, the book explains, is one of the most important, and precious, commodities on earth. As in the book in the same series, If The World Were A Village by David Smith, this book says ‘if all water on earth’ was one well, this is how much we have and this is what we need to use it for. It explains in admirable child-friendly terms how water allows life on our planet. Did you know that you drink the equivalent of a backyard pool full in your life time? And that one cloud can weigh more than a blue whale? The book can be an eye opener to any water user and encourages much needed, water-friendly habits. ISBN 978-1-55337-954-6 Kids Can Press

A Tree Is a Home

A Tree is a Home by Pamela Hickman, with art by Zafouko Yamamoto is an in-depth look at the shelter offered by one tree. Like the house next to it, it offers a home throughout the seasons. The text and close-up art take us from the roots, where a chipmunk lives, to the highest branches and show us each animal throughout a year. A good a book to pair with Jeannie Baker’s Window – a look through the window of one house over many years. ISBN 978-1-5253-0236-7, Kids Can Press

My Book of Butterflies

My Book of Butterflies, by Geraldo Valério is a large picturebook that can be a child’s first guide book. In A Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle eluded to the life cycle of butterflies in a fictional manner. This information book picks up the theme by showing fabulously painted butterflies and elaborating on their life cycle. From tiny yellow eggs to a wide variety of weird looking caterpillars to brilliant butterflies from a round the world, this book will encourage children to take a closer look at these amazing insects. Geraldo Valério also created My Book of Birds. ISBN 978-1-77306-335-5, Groundwood Books

This is the Boat That Ben Built

This is The Boat That Ben Built by Jen Lynn Bailey, with illustrations by Maggie Zeng, is a very Canadian story of a northern river ecosystem. Beaver, bear, loon, goose – all gather momentum as Ben floats down the river and spots more wildlife. The text uses repetition as ‘moose strolls by bear taking a swim by the goose that glides by the loon that floats by the beaver in the river that carries the boat that Ben built’. Fun to read over and over with young students and create your own story based on animals your students may spot in their own surroundings. Nonfiction information on each animal is supplied in back pages. ISBN 978-1-77278-242-4, Pajama Press.

Before We Stood Tall: From Small Seed to Mighty Tree

Before We Stood Tall by Jessica Kulekjian, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, is written in the voice of the trees themselves. From the time they are seeds floating on a breeze, they dream of standing tall in a kingdom of trees. But trees can’t do it alone – they need the soil, the insects, the wind and much more to allow them to grow tall and become a forest. A lovely story to look at the interconnectedness of nature. ISBN 978-1-5253-0324-1, Kids Can Press

Orca Rescue!: The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer

Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer, written by Donna Sandstrom, illustrated by Sarah Burwash. This is a great book for all ages: the true story of an orca spotted close to Seattle, WA where no other pods where around. Through a set of circumstances, the author become involved in this young orphan’s life by helping to figure out why she was there and where her family was. The story tells in fascinating detail how marine biologists work, how pods are tracks, and how scientists are able to find out information. With 144 pages this book is divided into chapters and lends itself as a great read for all ages. ISBN 978-1-5253-0117-9, Kids Can Press

No More Plastic

No More Plastic by Alma Fullerton is the touching story of a young girl who witnesses a dead whale on the beach near her home. The whale died from eating so much plastic that he starved. It opens Isley’s eyes to a gigantic problem. She tries to convince others to no longer use plastic bags, containers or water bottles. But they soon forget. Isley doesn’t forget the whale and the impact plastic has on the ocean. She gathers so much plastic that she can build a sculpture the size of a whale. Thén her village realized the size of the problem. Together they work towards a solution: passing laws that ban plastics and making a difference. This is a story that can inspire readers to take action, no matter how small. It shows that we can all make a difference. ISBN 978-1-77278-113-7, Pajama Press

Margriet Ruurs has written many books about nature, including Wild Babies, Amazing Animals and The Boy Who Painted Nature, the story of wildlife painter Robert Bateman.

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Great (Picture) Books for older readers

I’m a firm believer in picturebooks as being everybody-books. In fact, some picturebooks are not for little readers but lend themselves perfectly for older students, especially to illustrate classroom discussions or for new language learners. Here are some picturebooks as well as novels for older students.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, written by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Júlia Sarda. This is an incredibly beautifully written story of how Mary Shelley – in the early 1800’s – came up with the idea for her book Frankenstein. A daydreamer, some friends, a creepy castle and a thunder storm all contributed to what would become one of the most famous horror stories of all ages. A fascinating story for readers who like to write and daydream… ISBN 978-1-77049-559-3, Tundra Books

Oliver Jeffers is a sort-of Irish illustrator. He also spent time in Australia and currently lives in the US. But most of all he a book creator in the broadest sense of the word. He creates amazing art, writes the text and introduces readers of all ages not just to amazing books, but to important topics. The environment, kindness, creativity – are all addressed in his books. They have been translated into over forty-five languages, and sold over 12 million copies worldwide. Many of his books are great for younger readers, but some specifically lend themselves for an older audience that will appreciate subtleties in the art.  His art is delicious… In The Incredible Book Eating Boy (ISBN 978-0-00-718) he used lined paper, pages from a dictionary, old ledgers, the cover of book, and everything book related. It’s a wild fantasy about a boy who, literally, devours books. But it is also the serious story of how important reading is to get smarter. Obviously the book eating boy got his hands on the book because there’s a big bite missing of the back cover… Some of Jeffers’ books were written by someone else. Like The Crayons books, all written by Drew Daywalt. The fonts, the design, the drawings in these books all dance of the pages in delight.

The Worst Band in the Universe by Australian author/illustrator Graeme Base at first comes across as a hilarious, cosmic tale of aliens on a far away planet where music has been banned. The story is written in impressive rhyming verses.  But upon reading it more closely, it become clear to the older reader, that this is not just a romp through outer space. It is also a serious tale about the silliness of banning anything, including books on earth. The large format picture book comes complete with CD and ‘forbidden music’.  ISBN 978-0670865659, Viking

The same talented book creator produces the well known older picture book called The Sign of the Seahorse. I love these books because their rhythmic texts make for enriching classroom read-alouds. But besides entertaining with their detailed illustrations, this book also has a much deeper meaning. It’s a who-done-it in the deep sea where species are threatened and disappearing. Who could be causing such chaos in the ocean?  ISBN 978-0613087551, Turtle Back Books

The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam is the incredible story of an Indian artist who had never left his home village until he was commissioned to come to London to create his art. The book is his personal interpretation of how he sees the modern world and relates it back to the siritual tales of his childhood. A fascinating book to study with highschool students. ISBN 978-8192317120, Tara Books

Are you familiar with books by Peter Sis? His text and art are great to discuss with older students, i.e. in the book The Wall: Growing Up Behind The Iron Curtain. As a child growing up in a communist country seemed normal, but as he got older Peter Sis had questions. Cracks appeared in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. But it didn’t last long before a Soviet-led invasion brought an end to it all. Important picture books to share in highschool. ISBN 978-0374347017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

New Year by Mei Zihan, illustrated by Qin Leng. In this story about Lunar New Year, a grandfather reminisces about his daughter who lives far away in a different country. Is she honoring the old traditions or living a whole new life? More in the voice of an older parent than in that of a child, this is a story about seeking independence and missing family. ISBN 978-1-77164-731-1, Greystone Kids

Oceanarium, written by Loveday Trinick, illustrated by Teagan White (the ‘curators’) showcases the world’s oceans as if it were a museum, an aquarium full of interesting creatures. And it is.  Presented as galleries with exhibits, the book walks you through the entire museum – from zooplanton to marine mammals, from antropods to crustaceans, and everything in between. From the polar regions, the Galapagos, the open ocean and the mangroves – this large book is a visual treat as a coffee table art book as well as a detailed source of information for oceanographers of all ages. A valuable and enriching addition to any classroom or library, this book is part of the Welcome to the Museum series by Candlewick Press. ISBN 978-1-5362-2381-1, Candlewick Press

The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter, is the beautiful, true story of Alia, a courageous librarian in Iraq. When war comes, she realizes the importance of bringing the precious books, books in many languages – to safety. She enlists her neighbors into helping. Together they pack and move most of the books. A fire destroys the building but Alia is happy in the knowledge that they have safeguarded an irreplaceable treasure. ISBN 0-15-205445-6, Harcourt

Step by Deborah Ellis is a collection of short stories – all of them focusing on 11 year olds from around the world in vastly different settings. Len helps as server in a soup kitchen where, to his shock, the school bully shows up. Lazlo lives in Hungary and is hopefully that his father will take him on a special outing for his 11th birthday. He is shocked when things turn out much different. Dom meets Gregoire from Madagascar and learns what it’s it like to be hungry.  All of the stories in this collection by the skilled storyteller who wrote The Breadwinner, are jolting eye openers, sometimes a bit shocking. The book is labeled as being for readers ages 9-12. However, I would suggest it’s for students 12 and over. Not stories to comfort but stories that create awareness of how different our lives can be. The author is donating all royalties to UNHCR to aid refugees. ISBN 978-1773068152, Groundwood Books

Future History 2050 by Thomas Harding.  This is perhaps the most thought provoking novel I’ve read in a long time. Although it may be controversial in a school library, this small novel is perhaps the best way to bring awareness to readers to climate change and the type of future we currently face.  Written in the year 2050, Billy interviews his Gran to learn more about her life and about life before he was born. He records her stories and is amazed that people knew about climate change and still did not take more drastic action to prevent it. He learns about life when there was still democracy and how politics changed. Billy finds a way to send the diaries back to the year 2020. A stark and interesting wake-up call before it is too late to change our future. ISBN  978-1773068039, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is a writer in Canada. She reads all the time and conducts writing workshops in schools. She also writes travel stories in http://www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Picture Books about Friends and Family

Everyone needs a friend. Family and friendships can differ but enrich our lives. The following picture books reflect families, relationships and friends in which you can, perhaps, recognize yourself. Many of these books can lead to enriching classroom discussions.

A Stopwatch from Grampa

A Stopwatch from Grampa by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok, is the touching story of a grandchild’s love for his Grandpa and how much he is being missed. But Grandpa left his stopwatch, which helps to hold on to good memories and to making new ones. ISBN 978-1-5253-0144-5, Kids Can Press

Wounded Falcons

Wounded Falcons was written by Jairo Buitrago from Mexico, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng from Colombia and translated by Elisa Amado from Guatemala.  The story follows two best friends, living in a big city they find a wounded bird on an empty lot and slowly nurse it back to health. Adrián is always getting into trouble, getting into fights but Santiago knows that his friend cares about others. Adrián feels like one with the wounded bird until, one day, it flies out on its own.

A touching story about friends, fighting, and caring for wildlife, a story that can serve to kickstart many classroom discussions. ISBN 978-1-77306-456-7, Groundwood Books

Hat Cat

Hat Cat by Troy Wilson, illustrated by Eve Coy. The old man feeds the squirrels in his garden every day. One day a kitten shows up, curled up in the old man’s hat. The old man feeds it and finds it a lovely companion. But he’s afraid to let Hat Cat outside for fear that it will run off or chase the squirrels. One day the old man is not there but when he shows up again, the two friends have learned to trust each other. Told in sparse text this is a story of friendship, a lovely picturebook that works on different levels.  ISBN 978-1-5362-1366-9, Candlewick Press

Whistling for Angela

Whistling for Angela by Robin Heald, illustrated by Peggy Collins, is a beautifully executed picture book tat will work on many levels. Mostly it is the story of a new big brother preparing a special gift for his new baby sister.  It is the happy story of a family adopting a baby. And it is the important but sad story of a birth mother finding a loving home for her baby. Robin Heald skillfully brings the different stories together in this touching picture book. ISBN 978-1772782455, Pajama Press

And J.J. Slept

And finally a lovely story of adoption: And J.J. Slept by Loretta Garbutt, with great illustrations by Erika Rodriguez Medina. When J.J. arrives at his new home, everyone is excited. His new siblings run and stomp and yell. But J.J. sleeps contently in his new parents arms. The dog barks, the doorbell rings but nothing disturbs J.J. Until all the kids leave and the house becomes unusually quiet. Then he wakes up and screams at the top of his lungs. Until all of the noisy siblings return… A realistic story about adopting and adapting. ISBN 978-1-5253-0419-4, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs reviews books and writes on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. She also conducts author presentations at international schools and writes about her travels in a blog: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com