Tag Archives: literature

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Why do we call it ‘nonfiction’? ‘Information Books’ might be a more direct label. These titles are all full of information. Information books help kids to learn and recognize facts about the world – whatever the topic may be. And you’re never too young (or old) to learn. I learned much from these newly released books.

Bear Has a Belly by Jane Wittingham uses gorgeous photos to show how animals and children are similar. Rabbits have ears, and so does a child. This beautifully executed board book will make children familiar with wildlife, with names of body parts and also create a deeper awareness of our connectedness with nature.

ISBN 978-1-77278-268-4, Pajama Press

Let’s Add Up by Victoria Allenby, with art by Maggie Zeng, is a frolicking romp counting to 10. Instruments, dishes, costumes and friends – all add up to band, feasts and parties. Fun to count and read (and then have a party!) with a Kindergarten class.

ISBN 978-1-77278-248-6, Pajama Press

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It by Colleen Nelson and Kathie MacIsaac is an inspiring, in-depth look at how specific people came to their profession. What does it take to become a stunt person? Can you go to school to become a journalist? What do zookeepers exactly do and can you actually be a professional video game player? This book features 25 individuals with a wide variety of interesting jobs and what it takes to get there. Complete with variations and examples. A great resource for ‘career day’.

ISBN 978-1-77278-228-8, Pajama Press

One of my favourite new titles is African Icons by Tracey Baptiste. This fascinating chapter book looks a bit text-bookish but is a great read for all ages. Following ten important, but little known, people who shaped history, this book demonstrates how the history we were taught was focused on Europeans. These ten important figures hail from Africa and shaped, not only black history, but world history. Rather than focusing on slavery as black history, Baptiste takes us along for a journey long before that, to early history starting in the thirty-first century BCE in Egypt. Powerfully written, this book should be in every school as it lends more appreciation and balance to our understanding of how human history was shaped. I couldn’t put it down. 

ISBN 978-1-77306-870-1, Groundwood Books

A small but powerful book that will appeal to highschool students is The Prisoner and The Writer, by Heather Camlot. Using the dual story of Captain Dreyfuss of the France Army, in 1895, wrongfully accused as treason; and that of world renowned author Emile Zola, Camlot demonstrates the importance of speaking up to tell the truth. Relating the case of Dreyfuss being shipped to a remote island under false pretences, because he was Jewish, Camlot asks the reader, ‘how do you know what the truth is?’ She touches on the importance of checking sources and learning about all sides of a story. Zola risked everything to speak up for a stranger, once he knew the case was rigged. What would you do if you knew of an injustice? This story works on many different levels and can be an important tool in discussions with older students. The artwork by Sophie Casson adds to the power of the text.

ISBN 978-1-77306-632-5, Groundwood Books

And here’s a small but also powerful book for environmentalists of all ages. Severn Speaks Out is the speech that Severn Suzuki gave in 1992 at the Earth Summit. Her powerful words are even more important today because we need all the help we can get to change our ways and save our planet. Severn’s words can encourage others to take action and urge governments and corporations to change their ways. 

ISBN  978-1773068879 , Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of over 40 books for children. She conducts author visits to International Schools. Her newest book will be released this Fall and it called WHERE WE LIVE, Kids Can Press. www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Summer Reading for Educators/Booklovers

If you still have some time off, this summer, before starting school again, you might want to treat yourself to curling up with a good book. I recently discovered what has become my all-time favourite series of amazing books: The Seven Sisters.

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover because they are not new titles and have, so far, sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The author, Lucinda Riley, is British and the books in the series are available in many different languages, published in many different countries.

Lucinda Riley did something extraordinary with these stories. Not only are they very well written, she combined myth, fiction and nonfiction in a seamless way. The Seven Sisters are based on the constellation of the same name. There is an element of Greek mythology in each story. The girls’ names are scrambled from the stars and there’s an air of mystery about them and their father. Each girl was adopted at a very young age and the sisters grew up, on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, in a sheltered environment full of love and support.

The first book starts with the death of their beloved father. As the sisters gather back home, they are each given a set of coordinates and a letter with information on where they came from. Subsequently, each book follows the life, and the search for their roots, of one sister. Each book takes place in a different location on earth – taking the reader to Australia, Europe, South America… But most astonishingly, each book features a real historic person whose nonfiction facts are woven into the fictional story. I loved learning about, sometimes well known, historical figures through these books: artists, writers, musicians, important aboriginal artists…

There are many details on the books and the author here: https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/ Her website offers some videos, some free chapters and info on audio books. The books are aimed at adults but will also make great reading for YA/high school students.

Unfortunately, Lucinda Riley passed away before finishing the entire series but her son has all of her instructions and is completing the last book, to be released in 2023. I treat these books as a precious box of chocolates – savouring each one slowly and spreading them out so they will last longer.

Happy summer reading!

Margriet Ruurs is a ferocious reader as well as a Canadian author of over 40 books for children. She conducts writing workshops in international schools: www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

What is home? Home means something different to each person – real readers but also to fictional characters in books. Through books about home, students can recognize themselves or come to appreciate what ‘home’ means for others. Happy Banned Book week!

Roger and Matthew by Michel Thériault  This is a lovely, quiet story of two gentle men. They were friends in elementary school and are still best friends. They are part of their community and enjoy nature. They were not always treated kindly because they are different. But they have now been accepted and love the life they lead in their home surrounded by a garden full of birds. ISBN 9781554554843, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

In a similar vein, Patricia Polacco tells the beautiful story In Our Mother’s House in which Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like any other family on the block. In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don’t accept them because they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad? But Marmee and Meema’s house is full of love. They teach their children that different doesn’t mean wrong. That living in a house full of love is always right. An older title but every bit as relevant. ISBN 978-0399250767, Philomel

My Words Flew Away Like Birds

And what if your new home is in a different country? What if you don’t speak the language? My Words Flew Away Like Birds by Debora Pearson, illustrated by Shrija Jain is a lovely story about a girl who moves to a new country. All the words she used to have she can no longer use. And the few words she learned in English proof not to be very helpful. People speak too fast and she can’t understand their tumbling words. Not only a story for kids who recognize this situation, but also a good story to see how easy it can be to help a newcomer.  Reminiscent of Aidan Cassie’s book The Word for Friend, this is a fun story to read as well as to start a classroom discussion. ISBN 978-1-5253-0318-0, Kids Can Press

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner. This is one of my favourite middle school novels because it combines a good story with the skills of geocaching. Since his dad left him and his mom, ”Zig” Zigonski lives for simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than people -especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled without explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a GPS unit he finds at a garage sale. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town, Zig sets out to find him. But he soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home. An engaging story about hope and family. ISBN 978-1681198989, Bloomsbury 

Unravel by Sharon Jennings is a wonderful page turner for middle graders. Rebecca was raised by her single father. She’s turning into an avid reader but realizes that her life is unusual. They had no friends, she doesn’t go to school and they move suddenly many times. As Rebecca gets older the story of her life begins to unravel… Soon nothing is as it seemed. With the help of a new found friend, Rebecca discovers the truth behind her dad and their life together and ‘home’ will never be the same. ISBN 9780889956193, Red Deer Press 

Story Boat

But what if you are homeless? Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Rashin Kheiiriyeh says that home is ‘here’ – wherever you are. Home can be a cup, or a blanket. Home can be ever changing as you move in search of a place to stay. The art in this new picture book depicts refugee families as they move along in search of a new home, treasuring shelter, a light, a book along the way.

ISBN 978-0-7352-6359-8, Tundra Books

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is one of my favourite middle grade novels about homelessness because it shows, in a gentle way, how easy easily and how randomly, one can become homeless. 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 humorous story about a very real problem that gets solved in unexpected ways.  ISBN 978-0735262775, Random House

Margriet Ruurs’ home is on Canada’s west coast where she writes books for children as well as a blog about her travels, paired with favourite books: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOKS

Books About School

Children’s books, including picture books and novels, are not just for little ones. Some children’s books should be called ‘everybody books’. And some can be especially good for educators to read. Here are some that will work particularly well at the beginning of a new school year to share as read-alouds by librarians, classroom teachers, counsellors or administrators.

A wild and humorous book for school administrators to share with younger students, is the last book written by Dr. Seuss, finished by Jack Prelutsky: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. The principal worries that, if his students won’t pass the test, there may not be funding to keep their beloved school open. The classroom teacher and the librarian know better as they coax the students. A very funny read. ISBN 0-679-89008-4, Alfred A. Knopf

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

Harley The Hero by Peggy Collins is based on a real classroom where the teacher has a service dog. The book celebrates the work of service animals and the normalization of neurodivergence. The author-illustrator brings Harley and his class to charming life and concludes with an Author’s Note about the real dog behind the fictional Harley who goes to school every day with Ms. Prichard to make sure she feels safe. Harley can’t play with the students while he’s wearing his work vest. They write him letters instead, and everything is perfect in the best, most quiet class in the whole school. Until the day the old stage curtains catch fire. As the fire alarm blares and chaos erupts, Harley remembers that Ms. Prichard isn’t the only human in his class who gets upset by loud noises. ISBN 978-1-77278-195-3, Pajama 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 Polacco, 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

Here is a picturebook recently self-published by teacher/librarian Sandip Sodhi: Ms. Chievus in the Classroom. Division O-O has so much misbehaviour that most teachers gave up. But not Ms. Chievus. She somersaults into the classroom and into the hearts of the rowdy students. In Pippi Longstocking-like fashion the teacher blows bubble gum bubbles and stands on her desk until the students teach her to behave better. A fun, turn-about way to discuss students’ behaviour in school. ISBN 978-1-7770218-0-1

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

The Report Card byAndrew Clements is a wonderful novel of a strong willed child who does not see the value of dividing students into ‘gifted’ and ‘hopeless’. She’s brilliant but wants to demonstrate how her best friend much feel when he gets D’s and she gets A’s. She does not want to stand out, blending in is much better. But when Nora fails her tests and the school librarian discovers the true level of her interests and knowledge, Nora has some explaining to do that might just lead to her teachers’ understanding of her concerns. Based on a true study, this is a timeless story. ISBN 0-439-67110-8

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children including the nonfiction picture book MY SCHOOL IN THE RAINFOREST showcasing a variety of schools around the world including an international school, Boyds Mills Press, ISBN 978-1-59078-601-7