Tag Archives: literacy

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

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 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.

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

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

Margriet Ruurs is the writer of many books for children. Check out her travel and book blog combination: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Books can help create awareness of traditional and cultural holidays around the world. There are many wonderful stories, including fiction and nonfiction, about seasonal celebrations like Passover, Easter, Eid and Mimouna, often including unique traditional foods. Why not enhance reading by sampling matzos or painting eggs in the classroom.

Easter Morning, Easter Sun by Rosanna Battigelli, illustrated by Tara Anderson. A lovely rhythmic text  for the very young that celebrates more than just bunnies and eggs at Easter. This picture book is waiting to be shared out loud and can be chanted along, with sometimes predictable, other times surprising rhyming words, with preschoolers and kindergarten students. ISBN 978-1-77278-177-9

Passover, Festival of Freedom by Monique Polak. This nonfiction book explains the origins and traditions of Passover. Through text, facts, photos and personal accounts, the book shares stories and information from the Jewish community. Recipes for traditional Passover dishes are also included in this beautiful information book. ISBN 978-1-4598-0990-1

A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Rotem Teplow

Not only is this brand new release a story about food, it also brings awareness of a Jewish holiday with which I was not familiar. Mimouna marks the end of Passover in Morocco and, like Ramadan, it is celebrated by eating special food at the end of a period of fasting. The lovely art shows a Jewish child who invites her Muslim friend and neighbor to share the food. The book includes a recipe to make your own moufletot, a pile of leavened pancakes. ISBN 978-1-77306-397-3

The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobson. This picture book explains the biggest holiday in the Muslim year when Aneesa gets to wear new clothes, helps cook lamb stew and goes to the mosque. ISBN 978-1-59078-431-0

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki is a celebration of community kitchens. This picturebook has the looks of a comic strip with speech bubbles, making it joyous and interactive as everyone contributes ingredients, supplies and ideas. Together they peel, chop and splash. They set tables and invite in the long line of hungry, waiting clients. The multiracial characters bring this story to every realistic neighborhood and ends with the encouragement to volunteer in a community kitchen near you. Besides a read for younger students, this book can also be a good place to start classroom discussions of community service work with older students. ISBN 978-1-77306-262-4

Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua is a brand new picturebook with a unique angle. The story focuses on the building in which all of the characters live. They have all received an invitation to come to a birthday party on the 10th floor. Many people get into the elevator, carrying their favourite dishes to contribute to the party. From cookies to gulab jamun this is a fun book to anticipate who will get on next and what they will bring. Will they all fit into the elevator before they reach the top floor? ISBN 978-1-5253-0113-1

What A Party! by Ana Maria Machado, illustrated by Hélêne Moreau is a joyous celebration of friends and food. What starts as a birthday invitation, soon turns into a feast when kids bring coconut cookies, mangoes, pickles and friends. Signora Gina makes pizza and Mrs. Tanaka brings sushi and together they celebrate global diversity. ISBN 978-1-55498-168-7

Margriet Ruurs is the author of My Librarian Is A Camel, How Books Are Brought to Children Around The World. She conducts author visits to international schools.

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