A Whale of the Wild

Author: Rosanne Parry, Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+, publisher Greenwillow Books and author Rosanne Parry.

Another survival story, this time from a whale’s perspective. A pod of Resident whales are on their way to feed on the Chinook salmon returning from the ocean. We meet Vega, a young female, too young to be a mother and too old to be considered a child learning the ways of their pod from her Greatmother, until one day Vega will be a wayfinder leading the pod to the precious salmon the pod needs. Through Vegas eyes we learn the ways of the Resident orcas and the special relationships between brothers and sisters. We experience the waters of the Salish Sea, other wildlife, and an earthquake that sends Vega out to the ocean that is rare for her species.

Fans of A Wolf Called Wander and those who love whales are going to enjoy this story not only of survival but the relationships within the pod. Readers will gain a great deal of knowledge about Resident orcas from the ways they communicate, the roles males and females have to how they interact with this ecosystem with other types of orcas and humans including intertwining the First Nations perspective and relationship to the land and animals. There is an abundance of back matter including information about orcas, salmon, the tribes of the Salish Sea Watershed, habitats, earthquakes, tsunamis and ways individuals can help. A unique addition for readers who love animals – a recommended addition for classrooms and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: A Wolf Called Wander, The Turn of the Tide, Written in Stone

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival, Crochet: 25 Easy Patterns for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide to Mastering the Basics While Having Fun

RECOMMENDED: Gr 4+

Scritch Scratch

Author: Lindsay Curry

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Release Date: September 1/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Creepy title, creepy cover with a creepy map and a creepy story – scary story readers will love this new book from author @lindsayncurrie coming out today.

Seventh grader Claire is all about science and not the scary, while her dad is all about the paranormal and runs a Ghosts Tour in the evenings in Chicago. When her dad’s driver cancels at the last minute Claire has been given no choice but to help out and join the tour one evening. Things seem to be going alright until she thinks she sees a small kid in the tour van but when she goes to investigate no one is there. Strange things start to happen at her house but Claire being of scientific mind knows there must be a rationale explanation and goes about using science theory to investigate this mystery of a boy in white who seems to be haunting Claire. With a mystery to solve, Claire involves her friends, her brother and even her first crush to find out the mystery of the boy in white who leaves clues behind providing Claire and her friends some insight to Chicago’s rich history of gangsters, ghosts and misfortunes.


Fans of the spooky will not be disappointed – there’s just enough scary to keep you quickly turning the pages and racing to see if Claire and her friends can decipher the messages before someone gets hurt. This book was one I was reading before it got dark and my imagination ran wild with scritch scratch noises but plenty of readers will love this book for those exact reasons. I liked how Currie interlaced actual Chicago history into the storyline – readers will no doubt investigate further when the book is completed.


I have found one can never have enough scary stories and this one will circulate from reader to reader never being on the shelf.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, Creed, and Hardwired

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Grade 5+

First Day Critter Jitters

Author: Jory John Illustrator: Liz Climo

Publisher: Dial Books

Release Date: July 7/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss + for a digital copy of this book.

Always on the look out for new books for back to school, I first heard about this delightful book from friends @Lbookends (Mary and Steph) on Twitter and knew I needed to read this book for myself.

All the animals are heading back to school, but everyone is nervous for their own particular reason related to a characteristic of the animal – all emotions that not only the animals are feeling, but children and yes, adults. Mole is afraid he won’t be able to read, snake can’t get his backpack on, sloth is worried about being late, rabbit has too much energy, and yes, even the teacher is nervous.

When Mr. Sherwood their armadillo teacher confesses that he is nervous about being forgetful and is worried about remembering names and the last thing he said, all of the animal students band together and decide they all can help one another. As their first day continues, we get to see everyone becoming more relaxed and celebrating goals, working and playing together.

Liz Climo’s illustrations add to the worries and the joy of that first day back with a variety of layouts and realistic drawings of a variety of different animals and the outline shapes with adequate white space draw readers into the characters or the specific scene.

Another unique way for readers young and old to acknowledge various fears about a first day of school or a first day of anything and how when we face our fears and work together, things go better. A great addition for classrooms of all grades and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Bad Seed, Good Egg, Cool Bean, Couch Potato (Nov 3), Giraffe Problems

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: The Little World of Liz Climo, Please Don’t Eat Me, You’re Mom: A Little Book for Mothers (And the People Who Love Them)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:K-8

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree

Author: Mary Murphy

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Reviewer: Laurie

Mary Murphy is a new author illustrator to me but I definitely will be spending some time checking out her other books.

It’s back to school time and teachers will be looking for that perfect first #classroombookaday and/or story to share with their students. As always, there are many books worthy of this special event and released appropriately so, in August and September to fit this niche. I am going to go back into the archives a bit to March 10 of this year and offer Only a Tree knows how to be a tree for your consideration.

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree is a simplistic but important message to young and old readers alike. Murphy begins the book by explaining how a tree is able to do turn sunshine into food and how it can provide a home and shelter and states “Only a Tree knows how to be a tree.” From there we are logically taken to a bird and what makes it unique always ending with Only a ____knows how to be a _____.

One of the many beautiful things about this book is that Murphy does not stick with animals, we learn about the earth, the stars and the universe – that every single thing or living being is different. Then she brings it all back by connecting it to people . People that are diversely represented by colour by gender and by abilities and that we all have our own thoughts and “Only I know how to be me. And only you know how to be you.”

The illustrations are inviting and vibrant on the two page spreads and use a lot of white space on others so we can focus in on the drawings.

This is a wonderful book to engage in before during and after reading discussions. One can touch on environmental concerns and how we can look after the earth, talk about what is out in the universe to discussing different cultures and how we are different and yet the same.

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree fits all those boxes that one wants at the beginning of the school year ( identity, community, nature to name a few) but do not be fooled, this is a book that defies time – it does not have to be a back to school book but could and should be enjoyed anytime.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Good Night Like This , Crocopotamus: Mix and match the wild animals! , and Say Hello Like This! 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: K-8

Hike

Author: Pete Oswald

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: March 17/20

Reviewer: Laurie

I’m a sucker for wordless books and when the topic is nature I’m all in. Pete Oswald has created a masterpiece with this book with a beautiful surprise at the end.

A genderless child and father are preparing for a Hike. We see the child’s room scattered with books, drawings, trail guides, binoculars and a camera along with posters on the wall all related to the outdoors. Finally the day for the hike arrives and we see the child and dad getting ready, packing up the jeep and leaving the city for the winding road to the forest and where they will hike.

As they start their journey we are treated to waterfalls, and wildlife, with varying perspectives from side views to bird’s eye views of the gorgeous scenery the two are enjoying. We see them at different elevations , checking out fish in a pond, having a snowball fight and then they reach the summit to take in the view and complete a task they set out to accomplish.

An absolute gorgeous story with beautiful illustrations that include two page spreads to small snippets with white space so we can truly focus on the passage of time and the smaller details in the illustrations. One of my very favourite finds this year.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Author: Candace Fleming

Illustrated by: Eric Rohmann

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Release Date: Feb. 20/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Pardon the pun, but there has been so much “buzz” about this book, I finally borrowed this title from my local library. It appears that I am may not be alone as it doesn’t show up yet (some may be processing it) in my old school division and I hope that will change as it should be in all elementary school libraries and know some will want it for their own classroom libraries.

With the current interest in the environment, certain animals have been put on our radar due to their struggling populations. Bees are one example of sadly many, that have been brought to our attention. Candace Fleming does a beautiful job giving us the life cycle of one bee by personalizing the bee using its scientific name to use as a name.

“Soft, fuzzy and female- like all newly emerged worker bees-her scientific name is Apis mellifera or Apis for short.”

Then Fleming proceeds to tell us all the many things Apis will do always ending with a prompt about flying as surely that would be next. And here lies the genius of the narrative – we learn of so many jobs Apis will do before she flies from inspecting the larva, tending to the queen bee, making the honeycombs to making the honey – all before she flies.

And then you have Eric Rohmann and those illustrations! Those gorgeous two page spreads that just invite you to stroke your fingers over the page of a BEE no less!

Inviting and curious…not scary!

When we finally do get to see Apis emerge out of the nest, it is a fold out four page spread that allows the reader to see how vast the world must look to her. Apis has a new job to do and off she goes to gather the nectar to bring back to the nest.

Finally, readers are shown in a delicate, but truthful way, the ending of a life cycle with Apis laying still after 35 days, flying 500 miles, visiting 30 000 flowers and collecting enough nectar to make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. Remarkable.

End papers include ways readers can activate their learning to help honeybees along with another beautiful 2 page spread giving further details about Apis’s anatomy.

A must have addition for school and public libraries and again an inviting book for classrooms not only to learn about honeybees but the interconnectedness in ecosystems. This would fit into many science curricular units and also social studies when we think of the impact humans have on the land.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Giant Squid, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart , Oh, No! 

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Giant Squid, My Friend Rabbit , Bone Dog 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: K+

Lupe Wong Won’t Dance

Author: Donna Barba Higuera

Publisher: Levine Querido

Release Date: September 8/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Chronicle Books for an eARC of this book.

I don’t know if dance is still a requirement of middle school PE classes, but I remember all too well the embarrassment and awkwardness that I felt having to learn it in middle school. This story was so relatable, and yet I never had Lupe’s courage to stand up and address the relevance of a practice that was done “because it’s always been this way”.

Lupe wants to play professional baseball, and she’s one great report card away from meeting her favorite player, a Chinese Mexican player named Fu Li Hernandez. Lupe is also Mexicanese, and looks to Hernandez for inspiration. The problem is, she has to get an A in the square dance unit in gym if she wants to meet him. Lupe tries several different ideas to get out of the unit, but many backfire on her in ways she doesn’t expect. Lupe finally makes some unexpected alliances and learn not just about dance, but about herself, in the process.

There was a lot of humor in this story which I really enjoyed. I loved Lupe’s tenacity and clever attempts to get out of square dancing, such as protesting the music choice and the inequality of prescribed gender roles. Lupe stand up for what she believes in, and learns how that can have both positive and negative consequences on her relationships with others.

I will be adding this to my library’s collection in the fall, and will recommend it to kids who like a female protagonist who challenges the status quo. 

Recommended: Gr. 5-7

The Language of Ghosts

Author: Heather Fawcett

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the author for sending me an ARC of this book to review.

I really enjoyed Ember and the Ice Dragons by this author, so it was an easy decision for me to request an ARC of her upcoming book, THE LANGUAGE OF GHOSTS. I’m so glad I did. This is the story of three siblings who escaped into exile when their royal family was overthrown. They live on a moving island with loyal subjects while trying to figure out how to reclaim their rightful rule and avoid capture. The oldest sibling, Julian, is a powerful magician but has a tendency to be overcome by his dark magic. The youngest sibling, Mite, is a devoted admirer of her brother, but it is the middle sibling, Noa, who is the protagonist of this story. When Noa develops the ability to speak a forgotten language after finding an item that’s been hidden for many years, she and her brother must figure out how to work together before their differences tear them apart.

I love the relationship between these three siblings. Their loyalty and devotion to each other, despite their resentment and jealousy at times, is endearing. They are a strong and loving unit despite little adult support, and I love Julian’s tenderness for Mite even when his dark tendencies strain his relationship with Noa. There is magic, adventure, double-crossing, and a battle for power that results in a fast-paced story.

I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers, especially those who enjoy stories where the underdogs fight to reclaim what rightfully belongs to them. This author has another middle grade title which I loved called EMBER AND THE ICE DRAGONS, and well as two titles in the YA series called Even The Darkest Stars.

Recommended: Gr. 5-8

City Spies

Author: James Ponti

Publisher: Aladdin

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Reviewer: Laurie

Audiobook Cover

After discovering James Ponti’s Framed series (which I loved) I was excited to discover his first book in his new series City Spies. Action packed with smart characters with a sense of humour, kids are going to want to know how they can join the ranks and become one of the City Spies.

From the opening chapter, readers meet Sara who is currently talking to a lawyer as she is heading into court for hacking into the juvenile system to report her foster parents. When her public defender lawyer is interrupted by a smartly dressed lawyer saying he has been replaced, Sara is baffled. Even more baffled when after the public defender leaves the new lawyer asks her to hack into the system again!. Not sure what is going on, the lawyer using a fake name asks her to trust him. The next thing she knows he has convinced the judge to relinquish her into his custody and she is being whisked off to Scotland to train as a young spy – that is if she can pass the tests and be an asset on the team.

Upon arrival in Scotland, she meets four other young tweens/teenagers who go by their names from where they are from around the world (Rio, Sydney, Paris, Kat (Katmandhu). Sara will now be known as Brooklyn and the fake lawyer who recruited her is a master spy known as Mother. Under the guise of a local weather observation station, the group is part of a clandestine operation of MI6 and Brooklyn has been recruited quickly because of her hacking skills as a mission was already in place when their hacker left the team to join another local team. Their mission is to infiltrate a local global environmental summit and prevent The Purple Thumb a criminal organization from attacking.

I loved how there are several layers to the plot including Mother’s search for his kids and the many back stories to all of the five spies learning about their unique skill sets that they bring to the team. Although the story focuses on Brooklyn, the supporting characters are well developed and can see future books allowing them to be more of a focus. Mr. Ponti has set it up so there can be many ways this series can grow and engage readers.

Fast paced, filled with humour and a mystery to solve, this one won’t stay on the shelf long and the sequel City Spies Golden Gate is set to be released March 16/21 so you may as well order it at the same time! Move over Alex Rider – there are some new spies in town…

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Framed, Vanished, Trapped

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Grade 5+

Who needs Netflix when you can have BookFlix!

My sister is going back into the kindergarten classroom this year after being a learning specialist and was asking me if I could recommend some picture books to share with her students and also other primary teachers she will be working with at her school as a learning leader. Well as many of you know (and for those who don’t), I am a bit of a picture book enthusiast – STRONGLY believing that PICTURE BOOKS ARE FOR EVERYONE and was excited to help out my sister, but perhaps some of my friends and colleagues.

I also decided to ask my Twitter PLN to make suggestions so I did not overlook any titles and naturally, they did not disappoint. I also used various hashtags on social media such as #classroombookaday #CBAD, #picturebooks, #IReadCanadian to make sure I did not miss any must have titles.

So after receiving a number of responses and titles of excellent books, I decided I needed to create something that my sister could perhaps use as a learning leader and continue to add as she needed. I remembered seeing a post about BookFlix and thought that might be a great way to share books not just with her, but also could be adapted for my teacher librarian friends to share virtually with students and teachers.

I had been meaning to try the BookFlix idea that I had seen again on different social media sites and finally followed the easy to follow steps created by Christina Farley’s site. Using her posts as a guide I was able to create something for my sister and also knew this could be easily adaptable for others to use.

My go to platform has been Google, so like Christina, I used Google slides to create two separate sections. In the first section, I wanted to highlight new releases. Following Christina’s lead for each title used, I linked it to a separate slide, where you could then see the book itself and the Goodreads summary of the book. All book titles are also linked to Goodreads, in the event someone wants to look at the author or perhaps get some information on the illustrator. In hindsight I should have also included information about the illustrators, who are equally important.

In the second set of titles I wanted to highlight some Canadian authors, Wordless and Nonfiction titles that often we forget or neglect when sharing picture books. In this section, I highlighted specific authors which then linked to a separate slide highlighting some of the books they have written. Again all the titles in each slide link to Goodreads for further information and a book summary.

Wanting to share and hopefully allow others to work smarter not harder, if you would like to adapt or use this please feel free. From the hyperlink, you will be asked to make a copy so we do not have editing issues. I only ask that you leave the acknowledgment of the link to Christina Farley’s site so she is given credit for her hard work.