Tag Archives: nonfiction

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Language – perhaps your students speak several different languages. What is it like to learn a new one? And how does language influence what you do each day? Books and stories help develop proficiency in any language. These books, fiction and nonfiction, all take a closer look at different aspects of language.

Dee and the Apostrofee by Judith Henderson, illustrated by Ohara Hale. A fun book for kids who are not quite sure about Apostrofee’s powers. Which letters does he make lost? Does he really devour them? And are the letters right – is aphostrofee eating all the O’s? Is he stealing letters and does he make you the owner of things? A laugh-aloud language picture book to share in the classroom to teach grammar without the students even noticing. Kids Can Press, ISBN 978-1-5253-0326-5

Exclamation Mark

! (Exclamation Mark) is a hilarious picture book by Amy Rouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. ! feels different from everyone else. Period. Until someone shows up who has lots of questions – ? – and shows him his potential. ! is so excited he can’t wait to show his powers and make his mark! ISBN 978-0-545-4379-3, Scholastic

How To Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, with gorgeous art by Melissa Sweet, celebrates all things book. From curling up in just the right spot, to turning page by rustling page, with ‘words and sounds in leaps and bounds’… Comparing books to juicy clementines, art and text work together to create a book to sing and dance and chant along as you celebrate reading with kids. ISBN 978-0-06-230781-1, Harper Collins Children

The Word For Friend not only is the story of a child (a pengolin actually…) moving to a new country and having to learn a whole new language while going to school and wanting to make new friends. It is also the story of Esperanto, including real words in this global language. This story works on many different levels, including art (the two new friends make paper cuttings for each other). ISBN 978-0-374-31046-2, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.

Sugar Comes Arabic by Barbara Whitesides is a unique, user friendly beginner’s guide to letters and words in Arabic. The book is well designed and starts off gently to guide you through changing letters and words from English to Arabic, showing how each letter is formed. It makes me hopefully that I can learn a difficult new language. ISBN 978-1-56656-757-2

And a field which requires its very own lingo is that of advertisements. Mad For Ads by Erica Fyvie, illustrated by Ian Turner, is a book all students in Grades 4 and up should be made to read to ensure they are aware of how ads influence their daily life and the effects is has on their wants and needs. Language is important in this field, as are images and repetition. Touching on commercials but also on election campaigns, among others, the book includes a closer look at social media advertising. The book shows how brand names and logos work and how they effect your brain, your emotions, at whom TV ads are aimed, how your shopping habits are tracked and much more. An eye opener for both kids and adults! ISBN 978-1-5253-0131-5, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children. She conducts author presentations and writing workshops at international schools and shares her love of travels and books here:

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

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

When teaching writing to children, we often talk about the importance of voice. Who is telling the story? Is it a narrator or a character? The following picture books and novels all use a unique voice to tell their story.

If Only...

If Only… by Mies van Hout is a colourful picture book for the youngest readers, in which the voice of a child wishes he/she was a butterfly. But the butterfly wishes it was a different insect. From ladybugs to spiders, all critters voice their wishes until the story comes full circle. In addition to the story there is information about each creature as well as instructions for making your own colourful art.

ISBN 978-1-77278-196-0, Pajama Press


Hello, Dark

Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong gives voice to a child who is afraid of the dark. “I hear you creak, and cast shadows all around,” he whispers, alone in bed. But soon he realizes that the dark helps animals at night, even helps the moon shine bright. Soon he is no longer scared but plays games with his new found friend. 

ISBN 978-1-77278-221-9, Pajama Press


Wolves

Wolves by Emily Gravett is an older picture book with a quirky voice that slightly older students love. Rabbit goes to the library and find a book about wolves. The information becomes more and more vivid. Rabbit has a close encounter but, luckily, this story has a happy ending. The art adds to the text and is fun to explore and discuss. The pages include mail with real envelops and letters to Rabbit.

ISBN 978-1-4050-5362-4, MacMillan


Time for Bed's Story

Time For Bed’s Story by Monica Arnaldo is written in an unusual voice – that of the bed! Bed knóws that you don’t want to go to bed, and toss and turn. But have you ever considered Bed’s feelings? A fun bedtime read for parents to share with their young readers! 

ISBN 978-1-5253-0239-8, Kids Can Press


The Coconut Crab by Peter W. Fong

The Coconut Crab

This 200 page middle grade novel is a fun and beautiful read. With facts about the main characters – a coconut crab, a goat, a bird and a gecko – based on nonfiction, the story is a well written fictional tale reminiscent of folk tales. Based on a tropical island, Coconut Crab faces dangers and makes new friends, learning about the natural world while exploring the world of man. The voice that tell this story, with faint echoes of The Life of Pi, is beautiful and made me imagine vivid images. The humour and emotions conjured up by the characters was similar to watching the Madagascar or Finding Nemo movies in which quirky animals banter with each other. A fascinating read that may be labeled for kids but can be equally entertaining for adults who love a good tale.

ISBN 978-1-9505845-7-4, Green Writers Press


Margriet Ruurs, MEd, conducts author presentations at schools around the world. Her latest title is Come, Read With Me, ISBN 978-1459817876

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

These global picture books and novels are placed in different countries. Reading stories from around the world will help students of all ages to both appreciate other cultures as well as recognize their own cultural backgrounds.

My Heart in Kenya by [Ruth  Beardsley]

My Heart in Kenya by Ruth Beardsley. This is a true story, in picture book format with photos, of a family living in a refugee camp and being selected to come to Canada. However, one person was not on their application and thus could not come. Nasteha was only two months when her family had to leave her behind in Kenya. This is the story of how, eventually, they were reunited. The photos give a good impression of life in a refugee camp and of a very real problem that effects many families. Written by an educator, the book has a website: www.myheartinkenya.ca with complementary resources. ISBN 978-1525-566-806

Tea Time Around The World by Denyse Waissbluth, illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne. Who knew tea could be so fascinating! This colourful picture book has a main fictional text in large font, complemented by text in smaller font that gives nonfiction details about each country and their tea customs. From butter tea in Tibet to a Japanese tea ceremony – from English high tea to the modern bubble tea, this is a fun book to share and then have a tea party. ISBN 978-177164-601-7, Greystone Kids

Travels in Cuba

Part of the Travels With My Family series, Travels in Cuba by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel is the story of Charlie on a family holiday in Cuba. As they explore the country, Charlie meets kids, makes friends and learns things about Cuba. The book is sprinkled with words and expressions in Spanish. The series includes chapter books for Grades 2-5 about a variety of countries including Croatia, Mexico and France. ISBN 978-1-77306-347-8, Groundwood Books

The Camino Club by Kevin Craig. I read this teen novel as an e-book. It is a very realistic account of a group of juvenile delinquents – reminiscent of Ben Mikaelson’s Spirit Bear but for older students –  whose punishment for a variety of crimes, is to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain with counsellors. Since the real experience is transforming, the fictional teens, too, are transformed by confronting each other, by confessing sins, by meeting new people and by the very act of walking a long distance trail. The teens’ foul language may be realistic in this setting but it almost turned me of off reading on. I’m glad I did, though, as the story gets gripping and you do want to know what happens to each teen in the end.  ISBN 978-1945053979, Duet Books

Placed not just in another part of the world, but also in a different era is The Day The Pirates Went Mad, a middle grade novel by Trevor Atkins.

The Day the Pirates Went Mad

This is a fictional story placed in the early 1700’s. The details about the ways of living, customs, food, clothing and especially ships is impressive. The story is well written so I could ‘see’ it unfold as Emma escaped a Bristol, UK orphanage and find her place on a ship that trades around the world. She sails to Africa and beyond, learning from the rest of the crew, often comprised of female sailors. The story is gripping – I couldn’t put it down. The author’s thorough research and knowledge of the topic and era truly bring the story to life. Any student interested in history and/or pirates will love this novel. 

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

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

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

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

 Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, ISBN 978-0375709159

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! HAPPY READING!

Books About refugees

BOOKS ABOUT REFUGEESThe recent article in TIE Blog by Matthew Piercy titled The Challenges and Promises of Migration about a virtual refugee experience for his students, inspired me to share these books about refugees with you.

Having written my own book about refugees, Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey (Orca Books, ISBN 978-1-4598-1490-5) I am always interested in other stories on this topic. My book was illustrated in stones by an artist who still lives in Syria. The book has helped to raise awareness but also funding for refugees in North America. Recently, the Pope selected is a the text for Italy’s World Refugee Day. Here is a medley of books for all ages:

The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman is a picture book, a gently told story of Pari and her mother who operates a library bus in Afghanistan. Together they visit villages where girls cannot attend school. They eagerly await the library bus that brings them books to read. They also visit the refugee camp where books and educational supplies are treasured by the children. In the process, Pari even learns to read English letters, like UNHCR – on the United Nations’ tents in the camp. A great read to discuss the plight of refugees with young children.

Pajama Press, ISBN 978-1-77278-101-4

One of the most lovable, in-depth stories I have ever read about refugees and life in a camp is When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson. This book is done as a graphic novel, a vehicle that uses art and text to take us straight into the life of Omar who cares for his younger, speech challenged brother Hassan. The boys have lost their parents in Somalia and live for many years in a refugee camp in Kenya. The art and text are absolutely perfect and include the ‘true’ story of the boys in the back. No wonder this was a recent National Book Award finalist. 

Dial Books, ISBN: 978-0525553908

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is the beautifully told story of Há who, together with her siblings and mother, flees Vietnam in the last weeks of the war. Hers is a universal story of hiding, fleeing and fear. But I particularly loved reading this book because of Há’s voice. She is a funny, strong girl with her own opinions on life, her brothers and the world around her. Especially when the family settles in the American south and faces discrimination it is lovely to read how she deals with this very real issue. The story is not quite an autobiography but very much based on the author’s own experiences. The entire book is in free verse, it is a Newbery honor book as well as a National Book Award winner.

Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-196279-0

Also told in gorgeous free verse is Home of The Brave by Katherine Applegate, the author of The One and Only Ivan.

Kek came from Africa with his mother and has to learn a whole new way of life in Minnesota. He makes friends with the owner of a cow, one animal of which Kek has much knowledge. He is also lucky that Hannah, a girl from a foster home, takes him under her wings and teaches him all about traveling on a city bus and going to a mall. Skillfully told through the eyes of a young African boy, this book can be an eye opener to life on a different continent as well as to what it is that refugees must face.

A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Square Fish (Macmillan), ISBN 978-0-312-53563-6

The Stray and the Strangers by Steven Heighton is a brand new release. The author helped in a refugee camp on a Greek Island and met Kanella, the dog whose story is told in this book. Kanella is shy and does not trust people. But eventually she is cared for by a refugee worker who allows her to sleep inside the kitchen building. In the refugee camp, Kanella meets many people who come and go. But one young boy stays. While he bonds with Kanella and understands her plight, he hopes that, one day, his family will come through this camp. And when they do, Kanella faces the loss of her friend and all that she knows. This is a gently told story of refugees but told through the voice of a dog which gives it a lovely, unique tone that will resonate with young readers.

Pajama Press, ISBN 978-1-77306-381-2

One of the most intriguing books I have read by a refugee author is Nujeen. This autobiography has the subtitle ‘One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair’. The book is skillfully co-authored by Christina Lamb who also co-authored I Am Malala. Nujeen’s voice, though, is all her own – a teenager who was pampered by her family because she suffers from cerebral palsy. While her siblings brought her treats, Nujeen watched soap operas. Little did she know that this would teach her English. When their town becomes the centre of ISIS militant fighting, Nujeen and her sister are forced to leave. Together they embark on a 16 months journey across Turkey, the Mediterranean, Greece and Europe to freedom. Nujeen’s sister pushes her wheelchair while Nujeen discovers that her skill to speak English will benefit them. A fascinating read for older students and adults.

Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-256773-4.

I also want to list some wonderful titles which I previously reviewed in TIE-in-print before we went to blog format. These books are also highly recommended for use with students:

Across the Dark Sea by Wendy Orr is a child’s look at a refugee family from Vietnam. This early-read  novel brings a dark period in history to life as Trung escapes across the dark sea to Australia.  ISBN 1-876944-45-5. Check out: www.nma.gov.au/makingtracks for more titles on Australian history.

Adrift At Sea, A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illustrated by Brian Deines, a nonfiction picture book. ISBN 978-1-77278-005-5

Let Me Tell You My Story, Refugee Stories of Hope, Courage and Humanity, a coffeetable photo book is a personal glimpse into the lives of refugees. Beautiful photos are accompanied by an interview that sheds light on each individual: their struggles, their journey but also their hopes and dreams for the future. This is a book that can grace any library shelf but also a school’s office. It can lead to discussions as well as art with students of all ages. Proceeds benefit refugees. Check out online: https://www.familius.com/let-me-tell-you-my-story Familius, ISBN 978-1-64170-049-8