Tag Archives: Novels

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

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

War, refugees… these are not easy topics to write about for children. But books are powerful tools to share stories of war and to show what it is like to live as refugee. These capable authors and illustrators convey the stories, creating tools for parents and educators to use to show what life can be like – sorrowful but also hopeful. Not only are these books stories of war, they are also stories of friendship, compassion and how we can help one-another.

The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit is hands-down the most impressive picture book I have come across in recent months. I could fit this story into the category ‘friendship’, or ‘finding home’ but, even though it is not mentioned anywhere in the story, ‘refugees’ is probably the most applicable label. The chickens were content to live in their cozy coop. They did not intend to share it with anyone. Until the large, unfamiliar capybaras show up. The chickens don’t want to build fences, but neither do they plan to invite them. But… it is hunting season. Reluctantly they agree to let them stay until it’s safe to go home. They do tell their young ones not to mingle. But of course, two of them do. And after the little cabybara saves the little chicks life, do the chickens realize it’s fine to share and benefit from each other. An amazing parallel to humans… ISBN  978-1771647823

A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman has beautiful art by Peggy Collins. Dedicated to the children of Afghanistan, this is the story of Aria who lost a leg to a landmine but who knows she can do anything, even carpentry. Finding it too hard to sit on the floor of her classroom, Aria collects wood and learns the skills needed to build herself a bench. A bench so beautiful that all the girls in class want to learn how to build furniture. A heartbreaking and heartwarming story all at once. ISBN 978-1-77278-222-6, Pajama Press

In A Feast For Joseph, by Terry Farish and Od Bonny, illustrated by Ken Daley, Joseph and his mom reminisce about the way food was shared with many others around the campfire in the refugee camp. Now they eat alone in their apartment. But Joseph wants to celebrate and share their food with friends. Will his grandmother come from Africa? Will his neighbours show up if they cook for them? A lovely picture book about food and customs and the simplicity of sharing. ISBN 978-1-77306-438-3, Groundwood Books

What The Kite Saw, written by Anne Laurel Carter, illustrated by Akin Duzakin. After the tanks and the soldiers come and take away the men, a young boy wishes he had wings so he could see where his father was and what was happening beyond his town.He builds a kite, and many other children do too, to send a message of hope into the sky. Inspired by Palestinian children, this is a universal story of war and hope. ISBN 978-1-77306-243-3, Groundwood Books

Stealing Home, J. Torres and David Namisato is a graphic novel for middle grade. Not only tells this book the story of Sandy, love for baseball. It is based on the true story of Japanese internment camps during World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the attitude of Sandy’s friends and their family towards his Canadian-Japanese family changes. Suddenly they won’t play baseball with him anymore. Their relatives lose jobs and homes. Eventually Sandy and his family are taken away to live in remote ‘ghost towns’. With nonfiction information in the back, this graphic novel brings renewed awareness to young readers of a dark period in history. ISBN 978-1-5253-0334-0, Kids Can Press

Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, with art by Rashin Kheiriyeh.  When you have no home, when you are walking towards a new place, ‘here’ is a different concept. ‘Here’ is home and ‘here’ changes all the time. A cup, a blanket can mean home. They can also let your imagination roam, help you tell stories, sing songs about ‘home’. A lovely, award winning book that will encourage children to think and write about what ‘here’ means to them. ISBN 978-0-7352-6359-8, Tundra

When My Name Was Keoko, by Linda Sue Parks is the impressive story of war in Korea. I grew up in Europe and have heard and read much about World War II in Europe. But I did not realize how similar this was to life in (South) Korea under Japanese occupation. This book was an eye-opener for me, told in two voices – Keoko and her brother who are both given Japanese names and can no longer speak their own language. A gripping novel and important story that makes a good read for older children, even for adults. ISBN 978-0606247160

Margriet Ruurs is the author of 40 books for children. She conducts author presentations at international schools around the world. www.margrietruurs.com www.globetrottinggrandparents.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 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