Tag Archives: summer reading



As an educator hopefully you can enjoy travels and reading during your summer break from school. In the past I have used summer to share some of my favourite books for adults rather than review books for younger readers in this regular column.

I shared The Library Tree by Deborah Cowley with you, as well The Seven Sisters Series by Lucinda Riley, still some of my favourite reads.

Recently I came across two books that I much enjoyed. Both are focused on travel and different cultures and I loved them.

Dubai, Inside the Kingdom of Bling by Raymond Barrett is a fascinating, all encompassing look at what makes Dubai (and the UAE) tick. Raymond talks frankly with residents of all classes – labourers from many different countries, British expats, and the rare original residents. He examines the history of the Emirates, the consequences of political decisions and the motivation of the rulers who determine the future. 

With the world’s tallest building, the largest man-made island and the biggest shopping mall, what is life really like for those who live and work in Dubai, beyond the towering skyscrapers, luxury resorts and opulent mansions? As Barrett peels away layers, he shows us many different versions of the same city. It’s a brave piece of journalism and an eye opening look into a unique place on earth. ISBN 978-1857885279, Nicholas Brealey Publishing 

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The other book is picked up and absolutely fell in love with is My Father’s Island by Johanna Angermeyer.

What a gem! I was hooked as soon as I started reading, by the unique voice and the humour as much as by the topic.

Johanna writes from her earliest memories, making the book feel like a great children’s book at first. But as she grows up, in this family memoir, the voice changes to that of an adolescent and adult, retaining the keen sense of observation and humour.

She relates a history of ancestors moving from Russia to the US, a childhood of growing up in Nebraska and California. Then her quest for a father she never knew and uncles who all live in the Galapagos. Her time among iguana, swimming with seals and eating avocados reads like a romantic adventure story but it based on the true story of Johanna’s father and his four brothers fleeing Nazi Germany and sailing to the Galapagos Islands where they lived like Robinson Crusoes surrounded by exotic wildlife.  When the war caught up to that remote corner of the world, Johanna found herself growing up two thousand miles away dreaming of the island her father had loved.  Years later she returned to the Galapagos and began to untangle the knotted story of her parent’s incredible lives, their forced separation and her father’s tragic death. 

A fascinating read told in a great voice. Highly recommended. ISBN  978-0670827329, Viking

Both books are available from Better World Books which donates to literacy and does not charge shipping costs. Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who has been to both Dubai and the Galapagos Islands. She is available for author presentations at schools around the world.



Are you an educator looking for a good summer read?

Throughout the school year I post recommendations for children’s books that I love and that will fit the curriculum or get kids excited about reading.

But with summer upon us, it’s time to share some of my very favourite reads for grown-ups! (although these books are also great for highschool readers). Is there anything better than to curl up with a good book? And the best books will have you so enthralled that you don’t even notice how much you learn while you read!

Bibliophile, An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount is for booklovers of all ages. A lusciously illustrated book of 224 pages, this book celebrates all things biblio. Filled with fascinating facts and interesting information. You will recognize favourite authors and titles, find out about ones you never read yet, read about unique libraries and bookstores and find many great facts. The illustrations alone will make you fall in love with books all over again.

ISBN 978-1-4521-6723-7, Chronicle Books

The best read I can recommend to you for summer is The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley. Amazingly, these books are not yet very well known in North America but all the rage in Europe. “50 million copies sold world-wide” states the final title in the 8 part series. Each book highlights one of seven adopted sisters as they trace their origins. Each reaches a different continent while meeting their ancestors through back flashes. 

These fascinating stories seamlessly combine fiction with historical fiction and nonfiction. Many of the characters are actually real – sometimes well known, historical figures. The books take place in different era’s and in different cultures. I loved learning about Aboriginal artists in Australia, about life in Ireland, in Brazil and many other places. 

The stories are well researched and skillfully written. The 8th and final book ties all stories together, explaining the family’s background and ties to mythology. 

Lucinda Riley’s website complements the books with videos and information: https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/

Happy summer reading!

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts school visits at International Schools around the world. Book now for the new school year: www.margrietruurs.com


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


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 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)


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