Tag Archives: Novels

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

If you manage to put the right book into the hands of a young reader, fiction can get them hooked on reading. Below are some wonderful new novels that really draw the reader into a new world. Whether it is fantasy or realistic fiction, these books will be valuable additions to any (classroom) library.

Out of the Valley of Horses by Wendy Orr is a magical story. Young readers who like magic, adventure and horses will love it! Orr is a skilled storyteller and has expertly woven real elements into a mystical tale. The author has created a fascinating new world that will captivate readers’ imagination. A family, a camping trip in a van, a pandemic which changes the world, and a valley from which there is no escape. The book’s main characters are children who are strong and smart and solve the main problem – all the ingredients needed for a spellbinding tale. Honey and her brother Rumi are the heroes, assisted by horses with superpowers that seem as real as the valley in which they live. A touch of Pippi Longstocking combined with a setting as magical as that of Orr’ popular book Nim’s Island, with a sprinkling of ancient fairy tale dust and plenty of magical horses, make this a must-read.  ISBN 978-1-77278-311-7, Pajama Press

Nish by Isabelle Picard is told in an authentic voice that places this novel in a refreshingly real setting that has been missing in children’s books. ‘Nish’ means ‘two’ in the language of the Innu, the people of northern Quebec. Eloise and Leon are 14 year old twins. People in their aboriginal village speak French and Innu and some English. Each of them tells their own story in alternating chapters. The teens have adventures that are realistic and interesting to read, both for children who will finally recognize their own setting in a book, as well as for young readers who can learn what life is like in a different place in North America. 

Leon loves hockey. He and his friends take part in regional competitions and have to fly to the big city for a tournament. Eloise films around her village as she and her teenage friends make a video for a school project. An interesting read based in a place that is rich in stories but not often used in contemporary books. ISBN 978-1-4431-9723-6, Scholastic

The Party Diaries’ Top Secret Anniversary, written by Mitali Banerjee Ruths and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel, is fun chapter book for early readers with lots of illustrations. Priya, the returning main character from other books in the series, has started her own Party business. While planning a secret anniversary party, she has to do research, make invitations, plan decorations and much more. All the while, Priya keeps notes and shares her crafts with readers so that they, too, can plan special parties. In addition to just having fun, she also raises awareness and support for manatees, an endangered species. ISBN 978-1-338-79990-3, Scholastic

A Bucket of Stars by Suri Rosen is a wonderful novel for young teens to sink their teeth in. Written in a powerful voice reminiscent of Susin Nielsen or Kate Di Camillo, this is the story of Noah and his older brother. They move to their father’s home town not long after losing their mother. Their father has lost all interest and has given up on his passion: the stars in the night sky. Noah misses how his father used to teach him about constellations and galaxies. While his brother hooks up with new skateboarding friends, Noah meets Tara who loves to make films. Unwittingly, the two encounter a crew of unscrupulous characters, get blamed for the destruction of a heritage home and find evidence of much wrong doing in their new home town.

This is a wholesome page turner sprinkled with amazing true facts about our solar system. A great book to put in the hands of students or to use as a classroom read aloud in grade 5 and up. ISBN978-1-4431-9279-8, Scholastic Canada

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and conducts author presentations at International Schools. She is now taking bookings for the 24/25 school year.

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

From elephants to sea turtles, from caterpillars to owls, here are some fabulous (new) books for children – and nature lovers of all ages – to learn more about the natural environment. I have included fictional and nonfiction texts, both picturebooks and novels.

The Smallest Owlet, written and illustrated by Georgia Graham, is my new favourite nonfiction picture book with gorgeous art. It is an intimate look at day by day life of a pair of Great Horned owls. As we follow the hatching of eggs and growing of young, we learn about diet, growth and dangers faced by these majestic birds. Did you know that Great Horned Owls do not have eye balls? Or that the ‘ears’ on their head are not ears but feather tufts? A fascinating look at all things owl that shows readers how impressive nature has designed the smallest details. A beautiful book for owl lovers of all ages.

ISBN  978-1554556144, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Coco and the Caterpillars by Geraldo Valério has wonderful paper collage images. My favourite character is Coco the chicken, who has a mind of her own. While a little boy studies books about plants, bugs and flowers, Coco is busy pulling tasty worms from the soil. While the boy discovers butterfly eggs underneath a leaf, Coco is chasing insects to eat. The boy can’t wait to see what kind of butterflies will come from the eggs and is careful not to show Coco. But when he goes to find her more chicken treats, Coco finds and devours most of the newly hatched caterpillars. And then she has a tummy ache. Luckily she did not eat all caterpillar and some turn into beautiful monarch butterflies. And while the boy studies their beautiful wings, Coco tries to catch them but they are too big for her now! 

If you have ever used The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle in your classroom, this will be a valuable addition to your lesson plan about gardens and insects.

ISBN 978-1-77306-798-8, Groundwood Books

Written by science writer Dr. Wayne Lynch, the book Bears, Bears, Bears for Kids is the ultimate guide to all things bear. Not only does it include information on polar bears, grizzlies and black bears, but also on sun bears, sloth bears and many more. The informative text is full of fascinating facts. The photos give an intimate look into the lives of bears, what they eat, how they survive, and much more. A must-have bear guide for every classroom.

ISBN 978-1554556137, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Little Bull, Growing Up in Africa’s Elephant Kingdom by Ellen Foley James is an older picturebook but so beautiful that I hope you can still find a (used) copy for your students. Through perfect text and photos, the author share the magic and the facts about a baby elephant, his environment, his family and his herd’s life. The book touches on lifespan and challenges faces by elephants, including drought, enemies and food. The photos are gorgeous and are a great reflection of the reality of Africa’s plains in the shadow of mount Kilimanjaro. Using a baby elephant makes the book very relatable for kids. 

ISBN 0-8069-2098-X, Sterling Publishing Co.

We The Sea Turtles by Michelle Kadarusman is a wonderful collections of short stories featuring turtles around the globe. Each chapter is placed in a different place: Australia, Florida, Indonesia and many more. Each story is a complete and interesting tale, always focusing on a turtle and its importance to man and nature. Stories deal with environmental issues, endangered species and global warming. This book is a must for any turtle lover and works for readers of all ages. Highly recommended for pleasure reading as well as adding value to curriculum content.

Use a world map to pinpoint the different locations, research the variety of turtles mentioned and discuss what you can do to help protect this amazing species.

ISBN 978-1772782851, Pajama Press

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of many books for children. She conducts author presentations and writing workshops at International Schools anywhere.

www.margrietruurs.com

Novels – about Life and Death

Books – what better way to learn about life and death situations? Whether real or fictional, historic or futuristic, these books can help readers reflect on feelings, emotions and learn about life situations.

Cleaning Up, Leanne Lieberman. This was a YA novel I really enjoyed. The writing is great and brought the characters and settings to life. Jess is coming of age despite her druggie mother and alcohol addicted father. She has common sense and a plan for the future. 

What she had not planned on is spending the summer in a tent away from the jobs she had lined up. But Jess stays grounded, finds a new job that helps her save money for college but also has her meet new friends and a lost diary. Who wrote this diary? Based on what she knows, Jess starts to create a much needed friend in her head. When reality turns out to be quite different, Jess can reply on those around her. A great read for teens who can recognize themselves in the character. ISBN 978-1-77306-806-0, Groundwood Books

Jacob’s Dilemma by Daphne Greer is a story that draws you right in. Jacob struggles with the death of his father but has recently been reunited with the grandparents he didn’t know he had. And he has Maggie who plans on adopting him. Until his birthmother unexpectedly shows up, complete with all the struggles that made her give him up. Starting at a new school, in his new home town, is hard enough but Jacob soon makes new friends and, eventually, finds out where he belongs and how strong he really is. A well written story that will speak to young teens struggling to find their own way in life. ISBN 978-1-77471-152-1, Nimbus

When The Dikes Breached by Martha Attema is an admirable, realistic historical fiction novel for teens. This book focuses on real events that had a major impact in Europe for years to come. Placed in 1953, the southern provinces of The Netherlands are under storm watch. Klara is the oldest daughter in a large Christian family. When the unthinkable happens and the dikes break, Klara and her family find refuge on the second floor of their farmhouse while the water continues to rise. Will the family suffer the same fate as the nearly 2,000 others who drowned during this flood? Tied to a strict religion, the family copes with the hardships that follow and Klara discovers a dark family secret that will change her life forever.

In the book’s back pages, the author gives websites to see real, historic footage of this devastating flood. In the Netherlands a museum is dedicated to the catastrophe. ISBN 978-1-55380-674-5, Ronsdale Press

Catch Me If I Fall by Barry Jonsberg is reminiscent of Tomorrow When The War Began, which is aimed at older readers. This dystopian novel is set in Australia after it has been ravaged by climate change’s wild fires and storms, leaving the population distinctly split between poor and rich. Sheltered by their parents’ wealth, twins Ashley and Aiden are turning 13 as they become aware of problems facing others. A series of unsettling events lead to a shocking discovery that will change their lives forever. Readers who like dystopian tales combined with futuristic settings and a sprinkle of AI will enjoy this riveting story.ISBN 978-1-77306-891-6, Groundwood Books

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of over 40 books for children. She conducts author visits to International Schools.

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

I am often asked about my favourite books of poetry. I love rhyming picture books. Sharing poetry aloud with young children is a powerful, important tool to help them develop their sense of language with repetition, rhyme and alliteration. But perhaps my favourite genre is free verse poetry: novels written in poetic format without using rhyme. Here are some of my all time favourites because of their use of language ánd because of their content.

Gifts

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart with plasticine art by Barbara Reid, is one of my very favourite picture books to share, especially at international schools. As grandma travels the world, she sends home gifts from different countries to her granddaughter. Beautiful poetic text celebrates special sights, sounds, foods and landmarks. Through the art, we see grandma growing older and when the granddaughter is an adult she, too, is traveling the world and sending home gifts to inspire the next generation.  ISBN 978-0-590-24935-5, Scholastic

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies, Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz won a Newbery Award. It’s an unusual book. Most of the voices in the book are written in beautiful, skilful rhyme. The book gives a plethora of information about the Middle Ages, including the Crusades, the life style, social standards, clothing, food, work and much more. But this book was also written to be performed as a stage play. Students can each ‘be’ a voice and share the history lessons they learned by performing this incredible play. Using this book will allow you to combine literacy with social studies, history, performing arts, and art to create backgrounds and costumes.  ISBN 978-0-7636-1578-9, Candlewick Press

Home of the Brave

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is the beautiful told story of Kek, who has never seen snow or America. But he arrives as a refugee from Africa and has to learn everything. The sparseness of free verse poetry lets this book use just the right words, giving the story amazing power. If you are talking about migration and refugees in class, be sure to include this title. ISBN 978-0-312-53563-6, Square Fish

Burying the Moon

Burying the Moon by Andrée Poulin, with gorgeous art by Sonali Zohra, is the touching tale of Latika in India. Having access to clean running water and a toilet is common for many but unfortunately not for all people. Latika is angry that her sister can no longer go to school because she turned twelve. She’s angry because her little cousin died from drinking dirty water, and she’s angry at the moon for exposing her when she has to deposit her waste in a field because there is no toilet building in her village. Latika overcomes her shyness to speak up after a kind engineer comes to her village. Through her courage the village will eventually build a toilet building. This simple but powerful free verse novel shed light on global issues and is an eye opener to living conditions in India. At the back of the book, websites are listed for organizations that help address the issues and to help kids take action. ISBN 978-1-77306-604-2, Groundwood Books

Pearl Verses the World

One of the most touching free verse books I know is Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy, with lovely illustrations by Heather Potter. Do poems have to rhyme to be poetry? Pearl’s teacher wants the class to write rhyming poetry. But Pearl does not have it in her. Her heart and mind are at home where her beloved grandmother is sick in bed and dying. Grandma always read her books and talked with her. Now, no one does. Pearl feels alone and refuses to write. This is a story about a child coping in the world, learning about sorrow and loss, about the importance of friendships and following your heart. A story that always brings tears to my eyes and that can serve as a powerful tool for kids in a similar situation. ISBN 978-1-921150-93-7, Walker Books

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children. Her favourite workshop at international schools is creating nonfiction poems with students. 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 are always better when they are shared. Whether it’s a parent reading a bedtime story like While You Sleep; a librarian laughing with the students about The Library Dragon or a classroom teacher reading The Coconut Crab aloud:

Dinos Driving

Dinos Driving, written by Lynn Leitch with illustrations by Scot Ritchie, is a wild ride that will be especially exciting for little ones who like dinosaurs ánd cars. Each dino drives a special car – Iguanodon drives an electric one while diplodocus drives a bus. A fun book to share out loud. ISBN 978-1-77278-269-1, Pajama Press

While You Sleep

While You Sleep is a gentle bedtime story by Jennifer Maruno with glorious art by Miki Sato. Collage of fabrics, weavings, cotton balls, colourful paper and more create gorgeous images of a child being tucked in bed for the night while the world is being dusted and swept for a new day. Who gets to polish the sun and recharge rainbows? A reassuring story for little ones. ISBN 978-1-77278-267-7, Pajama Press

Return of the Library Dragon

I love Carmen Agra Deedy’s books, especially 14 Cows For America, a beautiful story about 9/11. Return of The Library Dragon, illustrated by Michael P. White, is a funny, perfect story for librarians and book-loving teachers to share. Fiery librarian Lotty Scales has earned her retirement after 557 years in the school. But when Mike Krochip shows up to replace all books with computers, she could just breathe fire. Aided by the students and a new, young librarian they fight to preserve books.  ISBN 978-1-56145-621-5, Peachtree

A Dragon Used to Live Here

And, speaking of dragons, A Dragon Used To Live Here by Annette LeBlanc Cate is a chapter book that can be read to elementary classes or enjoyed by young readers themselves. Thomas and Emily like to explore the castle grounds around their home. They thought they knew every inch until they come across Meg, a cranky scribe, who claims a dragon used to live in the castle. Adventures follow in which they, like they should in a good story, make discoveries and get into trouble. ISBN 978-1-5362-0451-3, Candlewick

The Coconut Crab

The Coconut Crab by Peter W. Fong is a 200 page middle grade novel, a fun and beautiful read. While the facts about the main characters – a coconut crab, a goat, a bird and a gecko – are 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 and learns 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 see vivid images while, similar to those of Happy Feet 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 is the author of over 40 books for children. Her newest title is Where We Live, in which real children share stories about their unique neighborhoods around the globe.

www.margrietruurs.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

I don’t usually devote an entire column to one author, but the release of One More Mountain by Deborah Ellis prompts me to celebrate a special writer of books for young people. Books about war torn countries are not easy reading. And they certainly are difficult to write. But these books can serve as a window on the world for people in other countries. They can also serve as an anchor for those who might have lived through circumstances similar to the characters in the book, especially if the book is as well researched and powerfully written as books by Deborah Ellis. 

Most of you will be familiar with her older titles: The Breadwinner is the story of 11 year old Parvana and her family’s circumstances living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. This first book in the series was turned into an animated movie.

Parvana’s Journey is the touching story of how Parvana needs to find her family while war rages across the country. The children she meets during her quest are all realistic and share the images so many of us only see on the news. 

In Mud City, Parvana’s friend Shauzia ends up in a refugee camp in Pakistan, dreaming of escaping to France. She does manage to leave the camp but only to face a harsh life as a street kid.

The fourth book in the series is My Name Is Parvana. It was named as an IBBY (International Board of Books for Young People) Outstanding International book. Parvana is held as a suspected terrorist by American troops in Afghanistan. Parvana is now fifteen and reminisces about the past years when her family ran a school for girls despite threats from the Taliban.

And for those who have devoured this powerful series of books, there is good news. A brand new title is being released this Fall: One More Mountain is the fifth in the series and focuses on 15 year old Damsa who ends up living in the children’s home established by Parvana’s friend Shauzia. These strong women protect and inspire a new generation of Afghan women. I read this new book shortly after reading Kahled Hussaini’s book And The Mountains Echoes, and found it every bit as riveting.  ISBN 978-1-77306-886, Groundwood Books

All royalties from all books are generously being donated to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Deborah Ellis’ website offers teaching guides for these books, as well as many of her other, equally powerful books, including Off To War and Children of War: www.deborahellis.com

For more details on the books or to order, go to: houseofanansi.com and type ‘Deborah Ellis’ into the search window.

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and conducts author visits to international school. Read her travel & book blog here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

It’s always exciting to read newly released books. We’re comfortable with classics and stories we know well. But discovering a brand new title can be like meeting a new friend. Here are some recently released books for all ages that just might become old friends.

Rainy Days by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Miki Sato is a rhyming, rhythmic romp through puddles. Fun to chant out loud, for a movement activity and for a look at how the world changes with rain. With cheerful, colourful art this board book follows Windy and Snowy Days in a series for the very youngest readers. ISBN 978-1-77278-246-2, Pajama Press

Iceberg, A Life in Seasons is a beautiful picture book, poetically written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft, both from Australia. The book follows one iceberg, calved from a glacier, in Antarctica. This continent may seem empty and devoid of life but the book urges us to look closer. Penguins, krill, birds, seals and many other creatures live here. Through the southern summer, we follow the iceberg and learn more about Antarctica’s unique environment. ISBN 978-1-77306-585-4, Groundwood Books

Ballewiena by Rebecca Bender is a funny picture book to share with those kids who can’t sit still and who want others to discover their hidden talents! Dotty (a wiener dog) just doesn’t believe in sit, stay and roll over. Her specialities are a pas de chat and a pirouette. She gets special help from a friend in the park to help her prepare for a performance at the Golden Bow Talent Show! ISBN 978-1-77278-137-3, Pajama Press

Another, yet very different, picture book about ballet is John’s Turn by Mac Barnett, with lovely illustrations by Kate Berube, the school assembles once a week to share news and showcase students’ talents. Everyone knows it’s John’s turn and they understand he is nervous. But soon he changes into his outfit and special shoes. Once the curtain lifts and the music starts, John shows what he is good at. At first the kids giggle or fidget but soon the entire audience is captivated by John’s performance and he gets a well deserved applause. A lovely story to share and to encourage children to be brave enough to showcase their own talents, no matter what they entail. ISBN 978-1536-20-3950, Penguin Random House

And finally a novel for young readers. Mortimer: Rat Race to Space by Joan Marie Galat will appeal to kids who like reading chapter books ánd who enjoy space exploration. Based on the science of astronauts and space travel, this story is perfect for kids who loved The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney. Mortimer is a lab rat and selected to travel on the next shuttle. He is bound and determined to prove that rats are more suited to space travel, and colonization of planets, than humans are. With the help of his new friend Boris, a Russian cosmo-rat, Mortimer proves to be a useful addition to the crew. With realistic descriptions of how astronauts eat, work and operate in space, this is both a fun and an informative story, especially for those following the current Artemis launch. ISBN 978-1-77086-653-9, Cormorant Books

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of over 40 books for children including My Librarian is a Camel, How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World. Margriet is currently accepting bookings for author visits to international schools.

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

Summer is a good time to curl up with a novel. These newly released, as well as slightly less new, novels are great reads for all ages.

Berani

Berani by Michelle Kadarusman is a perfect book for international schools. This is a novel takes place in Indonesia and is told in 3 voices. One is a girl who attends a private school and completes a school assignment that gets her into trouble. The other one is a local boy lucky enough to receive an education through sacrifices of his family. The third voice is that of a captive orangutan kept in a cage by the boy’s uncle to entertain visitors to his restaurant. Each one of them needs courage to stand up for their convictions and follow their hearts, despite the consequences this may have. A fantastic read that shows kids (and readers of all ages) to believe in their values and that they, too, can change the world. ISBN 978-1-77278-260-8, Pajama Press

The Last Mapmaker

One of my latest favourite books is The Last Mapmaker by Newbery Honor Book author Christina Soontornvat. The map on the first page shows the fictional land and seas where Sai lives. She is apprentice to a mapmaker and hopes to climb the ladder in her society to escape the slums where her pick-pocketing father lives. Unexpected adventure whisks her away aboard a sail ship to the fabled Sunderlands. Do dragons truly live there? And what is the impact explorers have on “new found” lands and their environment? A fascinating blend of fantasy with a sprinkle of historic fiction, adventure and the passion to follow an uncharted path. A great page turner that shows, especially girls but any reader, that they can be anything they wish. ISBN 978-1-5362-0495-7, Candlewick Press

These Are Not the Words

These Are Not The Words by Amanda West Lewis is a poetic novel for middle grade readers or older. If a book allows you to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, then this book can be an eye opener. Missy has a loving but abusive father who struggles with drug addiction. Her mom struggles to get her life on track and keep Missy safe. Written as an (almost) biographic story, the text is lyrical and sweeps the reader along to 1960’s New York. Because so much of the story really happened, the details and descriptions are vivid and realistic as is the resilience of a child. The book almost feels like a free verse novel complete with poems written between father and daughter. I think adults will also enjoy reading this ‘memoir’. ISBN 978-1-77306-792-6, Groundwood Books

Cress Watercress

Gregory Maguire is already pretty famous. He wrote Wicked, a fairy tale told from the point of view of the wicked witch, which got turned into a musical. Now he has written Cress Watercress, a book for middle schoolers about Cress, a rabbit whose father didn’t come back from his honey-gathering trip. Cress’s mother has to move everyone to an apartment in an oak tree with a bunch of funny neighbors who are also animals: owls, mice, and squirrels, and Cress has to make the best of it. This book also has many beautiful illustrations by David Litchfield that really make it different and even more enjoyable. It feels a bit like The Borrowers and a bit like Redwall but it is also unique. Anyone who likes books with animal characters, a lot of humor, and a lot of heart will love this book.  ISBN 978-1536211009, Candlewick (reviewed by 10 year old Beatrix Colvin)

Mythos

And finally a novel for highschool students and educators. If you are a teacher (or any booklover!) looking for a good read during your summer holidays, try Mythos by Stephen Fry. I had always wanted to read the Greek myths but never managed to struggle through them. British actor Stephen Fry has managed to retell these important stories in common, every day language that shows their origins, their relationships and their morals. I loved finally getting to know Zeus and his crazed behavior, learning more about Pandora and Psyche and their lasting effects on our lives today. Did you know that words like Atlantic, Titanic, Europe, crocus and hyacinth come straight from these Greek myths? Couldn’t put it down! ISBN 978-1-405-93413-8, Penguin

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts author presentations at international schools. www.margrietruurs.com