In this column I feature books that I recommend. Books specifically suited to use as read-alouds or to support the curriculum. These books often reflect a global lifestyle. But books also need to be plain funny and entertaining, demonstrating the power of imagination and encouraging children to become readers. Today’s books are great examples of that. World Read Aloud Day is in February so celebrate by reading aloud to any grade level! Happy reading!
Cinderella With Dogs by Linda Bailey, with art by Freya Hartas is a frolicking romp through a dog park! Like fractured fairytales, this one shows us a Cinderella who loves dogs. When – unexpectedly – her fairy dog mother shows up instead of a god mother, Cinderella is thrilled. When she mentions a… ball, the dog is very excited. Together they chase squirrels and end up at the royal palace where people are shocked. But the prince is thrilled to find someone who loves dogs as much as he does. Not only is this a wonderful spin on a well known tale, it also shows readers how to use your imagination and create new stories. ISBN 978-1-9848-1382-4, Tundra Books/Penguin
Our Cat Cuddles by Gervase Phinn is a wonderful rhyming story that will be fun to share out loud with preschoolers to Grade One. It’s a perfect story to talk about predicating a plot. What do you think might happen? What kind of cat will this family end up with when they visit the animal shelter? Each family is looking for different qualities in a cat. Will they be able to agree on a kitten? With a surprise ending, this is a great story with good rhyme. Illustrations by Amanda Montgomery-Higham. ISBN 978-0859538640, Child’s Play
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy, with art by Eugene Yelchin is a brilliant story about a small but noisy village. Cars, dogs, children – everything makes noise. When Don Pepe runs for mayor, he promises quiet – nice and quiet. So everyone votes for him. At first it’s nice. But soon more and more laws come into effect. No more singing, no more whistling, no more talking. Some people move away but the village stays deadly quiet. Until, one day a loud rooster crows. He and the mayor have a stand off. But the rooster will not be quiet. Even behind bars, even when his family is taken away. The little rooster shows everyone that a song is stronger than the biggest bully and cannot be taken away. This book can be used with young children but is especially effective with high school students to discuss oppression, dictatorship and freedom of speech. ISBN 978-0-545-72288-9, Scholastic.
Mixed Beasts by Wallace Edwards, with verses by Kenyon Cox, is a book of ‘Rare and Fantastic Creatures’ compiled by Professor Julius Duckworth O’Hare. This studious hare can be spotted throughout the large illustrations as he observes the creatures he studies. There is the Rhinocerostrich, the busy Bumblebeaver, the loud Kangarooster and, my favourite, Creampuffin among many other. Not only are the black and white drawings of each ‘beast’ almost believable, the full page colour illustrations are full of other, smaller creatures to spot. A back page is an index of animals like horsefly, fowl balls and fruit bats that are hilarious. What a fun activity to follow up reading and studying this book with inviting students of all ages to create their own ‘mixed beasts’. ISBN 978-1553-377-962, Kids Can Press
And if you got carried away by those fantastical beasts and want to meet more, there is Unnatural Selections, a collection of more beasts composed of two, three or even four different animal parts. In these pages you will meet, almost seemingly possible, animals like the Whalephant, a black and white cowaconda and a Shardunk (combination shark, duck and skunk!). This is a book to have endless fun, alone or with a group, to study the detailed illustrations, spot more beasts and then draw and write about your own creations. ISBN 978-1-4598-0555-2, Orca Book Publishers
Margriet Ruurs conducts author visits to international schools, writes books and believes in using your imagination.