#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Jan. 18/21

This week I read another nonfiction book and discovering that I am enjoying the adventure type nonfiction books. I continue to be grateful to my local library, Alice Turner library that keeps me supplied with picture books. I miss the luxury of going to bookstores and buying books and have to rely on the library to purchase, process and get out on the shelves.

Seven Voyages by Laurence Bergreen and Sara Fray is a nonfiction upper-middle grade book, sharing details of China’s greatest ocean explorer, Zheng He and the Seven Voyages, in the early 1400s BC. This book taught me a great deal about the construction, magnitude and size of the Treasure Ships.  

I also finished one of my Winter Reading Challenge books, The Puck Drops Here, by Canadian author Kevin Sylvestor. This read reminded me of Aaron Reynolds Bad Guys series, and the appeal is there for this new series – hockey, kids who love hockey, evil genius and mutant giant ice squids. These kids will be popular; problem solvers, learning to work together as a team to save the world. 

Currently, I am listening to the final book of the Magisterium series (The Golden Tower). I finished books three and four of the Magisterium series (The Bronze Key and The Silver Mask), and now I am listening to the final book, The Golden Tower.  I still am reading Stuart Gibb’s Belly Up, which I am enjoying. 

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I continue to play a bit of catch up with pictures books from 2020 that I wanted to read. This week I would recommend the following books to add to your classroom and/or library.

A Year of Everyday Wonders by Cheryl B. Klein, illustrated by Qin Leng. Oh, how I needed this reminder of the many wondrous things that can happen over a year with a touch of humour when it comes to things involving your siblings. Illustrations with a variety of sizing and vibrant colours will be a great one to read in January.  

Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. Wow! I loved how Jason took young eight-year-olds and used relative size to work our way to the vastness of the universe and back again, teaching readers relative size. There is additional information to take in as we compare distances, size and scale. The visuals will help readers quickly see the differences, as Mr. Chin moves us farther away from earth and back again.

Field Trip to the Moon by John L. Hare. A wordless picture book about a classroom field trip to the moon where one of the students misses the bus-ship back to earth after falling asleep off the beaten path. What happens as the student awaits rescue becomes an adventure in itself.

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le. A young immigrant is missing her family and friends, unsure about how to embrace her new country and make friends. Her aunt tells her the story of how another group of immigrants were not welcome by the king. They looked different, spoke another language, and there were too many of them. The king said there was not enough room and wanted them to leave. The immigrant leader showed him a cup and filled it with milk suggesting the cup was full and could not add any more. Then slowly, the leader added sugar to the milk, carefully stirring and sweetening the milk. The king understood the metaphor and accepted that the group could live among his people and make it better. The young girl makes a plan of her own to sweeten the place where she lives.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So join in on the fun every Monday by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading, and show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Jan. 11/21

Last week was a decent reading week despite everything else that became distracting. My reading in 2021 is off to a good start – finishing a few digital and audiobooks plus several picture books from my local library. I am trying to share more picture books on my IG account to include more photos of each book read. Highlights from this week include my usual mixed bag of middle grade, audio and picture books.

Race to the Bottom of the Earth by Rebecca E.F. Barone, which I highlighted last Thursday on the blog is F A N T A S T I C. I found the format and the content riveting, and I could not stop reading it. This title is one to purchase for adventure and nonfiction fans.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the second Charlie Thorne book titled Charlie Thorne and The Lost City, released in March. Charlie is back with a new adventure and more people after her, wanting to control Pandora. This time, the mystery revolves around Charles Darwin and clues he has left behind regarding a treasure. I think this book is stronger than the first, and there is a tremendous amount of research that allows readers to learn about the rain forest and scientist Charles Darwin. With Alex Rider on Amazon Prime, this will be a great series to suggest for those fans and strong female protagonists.

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Right now, due dates from my library dictate my reading, so I am reading some of my #MustReadin2021 titles, Belly Up by Stuart Gibb, followed by a Winter Reading Challenge Book Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. Audiobook wise, I continue to enjoy two John Flanagan’s series and finished two Ranger Apprentice books; The Siege of Macindaw and Erak’s Ransom (Books 6 and 7), and the Brotherband Chronicles’ fifth book Scorpion Mountain. I am now listening to the third book in the Magisterium series, The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

A few highlights of the picture books read this past week are Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy S. Duffield and Mike Orodan, highlighting how architects help animals safely cross high traffic areas. An #ownvoice story  I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons, Jessica Verdi, and illustrated by Dana Simpson is a transgender boy’s identity story very well done and not often seen from a transgender boy perspective. A Gift for Amma Market Day in India by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Mariona Cabassa, is a beautiful book about a young girl looking for a present for her Amma. The book shares unique colours and items found in the market of the author’s hometown Chennai. Additional information about the items shown in the market is in the endnotes. Finally, Addy’s Cup of Sugar by Jon J Muth shares a young girl dealing with the grief of losing her cat. This book is a beautiful adaptation of the Buddhist story of The Mustard Seed. I recommend purchasing all of these picture books for libraries, and I strongly encourage you to read all of these gorgeous books.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So join in on the fun every Monday by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading, and show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

Celebrating Winter!

No #IMWAYR post today, instead I want post about the official first day of winter! Yes, exclamation point! For many, the winter days where we see less and less daylight can put a damper on our spirits, especially this year. Although today is the shortest day of the year – meaning the least amount of sunlight, we no longer celebrate Winter Solstice the way we used to. To help you embrace the longest night of the year, I have a few books on the winter solstice, on the night, some published this year and some favourites from years past.

Night Walk by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Ellie Arscott (2020) Groundwood Books

Night Walk by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Ellie Arscott (2020) Groundwood Books. A young girl cannot fall asleep, so her father takes her on a night walk. Excited to be up and outside when she should be sleeping, she shares a special walk with her father and observing the many different sights the night has to offer in her neighbourhood and briefly where there are fewer lights. Reminiscent of Owl Moon (although not quite the same descriptors), this was another take on the one-on-one child-parent time.

In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night by Lisa Deresti Betik, illustrated by Josh Holinaty (2020) Kids Can Press.

In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night by Lisa Deresti Betik illustrated by Josh Holinaty (2020) Kids Can Press. Another nonfiction book to add to your collection, this book shares topics of what happens during the night. Included are chapters on What Happens After Dark, Sleep Uncovered, Nocturnal Creatures, Plants at Night and The Night Sky. Back matter includes a glossary, resources for further investigation and an index. Well researched with vibrant coloured photos, this is an excellent introduction to readers. Readers receive answers to questions; why do we need sleep, why do we dream, why are some animals and plants are more active at night, and why do stars twinkle.  

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham (2020) Phaidon Press.

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham (2020) Phaidon Press. A simple but effective board book illustrates the seven most common constellations found in the night sky. Readers receive clues and the cluster line drawing of the constellation with a gatefold revealing the animal illustration with additional information about the constellation itself along with the stars within the constellation. Despite being a board book, this would prove to be helpful to beginner stargazers.

If You Were Night by Mượn Thị Văn, illustrated by Kelly Pousette (2020) Kids Can Press

If You Were Night by Mượn Thị Văn, illustrated by Kelly Pousette (2020) Kids Can Press. A book that poses the question, what if you were night. Although it does not depict winter scenes, its poetic form of asking your response to different night scenarios is beautiful. So spin this one to If You Were Night in winter, what would you do? The possibilities are endless.

Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses and Constellations by Meg Thatcher (2020) Storey Publishing.

Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses and Constellations by Meg Thatcher (2020) Storey Publishing. The beauty of this book is that it covers all the bases. There is detailed information on everything in the title, accompanied by a cartoon named Star Dude to help readers throughout the book with tips and tricks. Readers can look up something specific or read cover to cover. It is well organized, includes activities rated easy to more difficult by the number of stars and provides instructions for viewing special events. It encourages readers to begin an astronomy journal to track their findings and includes lots of hands-on activities. An excellent resource for those interested in astronomy.

Lights Out by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Susan Reagan (2020) Creative Editions

Lights Out by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Susan Reagan (2020) Creative Editions. A book I have on hold from my local library, this book looks at the effects of light pollution on how animals are searching for darkness. A topic often overlooked and looks to be a great way to introduce the conservation of darkness.

Lights Out by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Susan Reagan (2020) Creative Editions.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd (2014) Chronicle Books.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd (2014) Chronicle Books. The power of a wordless book! The book Flashlight shines by illuminating images to alleviate the fear and noises of the dark outside. Young and old will take delight in the art images shared in this wordless picture book.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr (1987) Philomel Books.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr (1987) Philomel Books. No list about the night in my mind would be complete without this classic. A father and daughter go out late one winter night owling, and the poetic descriptions and close relationship between the two still is a solid choice for today.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan (2016) Tundra Books.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan (2016) Tundra Books. Inspired by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, this is the story of young Chris who loved all things to do with rockets and space – except he was afraid of the dark. After watching the moon landing, Chris realizes that space is the darkest dark and shares its beauty and that by facing your fears, dreams can come true. Lots of ways to use this inspiring book.

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (2015)
Viking Press

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (2015) Viking Press. A delightful spin on nocturnal animals as various animals are terrified of the animals scaring them in the night until the bat reminds them that they are the night animals. The comical looks of fear as each night animal claims to be scared of another is a delightful read for younger readers.

What Color is Night by Grant Snider (2019)Chronicle Books

What Color is Night by Grant Snider (2019)Chronicle Books. You may think that night is black, but if you look closely, many other colours emerge. Hand-drawn images digitally coloured make this is a delightful look at the many colours we may be missing at night.

Spirit Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose, illustrated by Brian Deines (2002) Kids Can Press.

Spirit Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose, illustrated by Brian Deines (2002) Kids Can Press. Luminous illustrations help bring to life this Objiway tale of two sisters travelling out in the cold wintry woods to see the sky spirits dance in the sky at midnight. As they make their way into the woods, the younger sister is having trouble being quiet as she marvels at all the woods show her. Her sister reminds her that they must be quiet for the Sky Sisters to dance. Once atop the hill, they return the call of the coyote, and the sisters begin to dance. Although there is not an explanation of Aurora Borealis, it is a gorgeous winter book.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (2014) HMH Books for Young Readers.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (2014) HMH Books for Young Readers. A collection of poems highlighting animals during the winter months. The artwork that used linoleum blocks that were individually cut and coloured and then digitally layered create a wonderful layout for the immersed poetry.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Carson Ellis (2019) Candlewick Press.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Carson Ellis (2019) Candlewick Press. A poem celebrating the shortest day, the longest night of the year singing the return of the light and the traditions that connect us. Gorgeous illustrations help bring to light Susan Cooper’s poem. 

Mouse Celebrates Winter Solstice by Terri Mack, illustrated by Bill Helin (2014) Strong Nations Publishing.

Mouse Celebrates Winter Solstice by Terri Mack, illustrated by Bill Helin (2014) Strong Nations Publishing. An Indigenous view, celebrating the winter solstice. A wise mouse speaks about community, friendship and strength. Beautiful illustrations capture the stillness and beauty of a cold winter night.

One Short Day in December by Lilith Rogers, illustrated by Noni Cox (2012)  Earthy Mama Press.

One Short Day in December by Lilith Rogers, illustrated by Noni Cox (2012)  Earthy Mama Press. One other book on this list, that I have not read, but the cover illustration alone has put this book on my TBR/Options pile. A story of two doe deer and their baby deer celebrating Winter Solstice.

Some may be tracking and watching the alignment or conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Below are additional books on Saturn and Jupiter, along with a link for tips to watch this evening.

Great Conjunction 2020: NASA tips to see Jupiter and Saturn shine as Christmas Star

The days now start to get longer readers… HAPPY WINTER to you all!

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…Picture Books

I get a wee bit passionate when I talk about books – emotional may be more like it, especially with picture books. When working, I was a picture book pusher, if you will, doing drivebys for teachers and students, dropping books into their classrooms and in their hands. When teaching senior students, I always tried to share a picture book tied to what we were learning. My mantra was and will ALWAYS be, E is for Everyone.  

So I am sure it will come as no surprise that it was tough to narrow down this group to twelve. So guess what I didn’t! Instead, I am sharing twelve+ Canadian and twelve+ other picture books that maybe you missed, and fingers crossed, please, pretty please, share the ones I missed in the comments!

The Canadian Dozen +

Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan and illustrated by Anna Bron

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates by Kara Kootstra and Bobby Orr and illustrated by Jennifer Phelan

A Stopwatch from Grampa by Loretta Garbutt and illustrated by Carmen Mok

William’s Getaway by Annika Dunklee and illustrated by Yong Ling Kang

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story by Thao Pao

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Violet Shrink by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Carmen Mok

The Baranbus Project by Eric Fan and Terry Fan and illustrated by Devin Fan

My Day with Gong Gong by Sennah Yee and illustrated by Elaine Chen

Terry Fox and Me by Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrated by Milan Pavolić

The One With the Scraggly Beard by Elizabeth Withey and illustrated by Lynn Scurfield

Find Fergus by Mike Boldt

Other Reader’s Dozen

The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee and illustrated by Pascal Campion

An Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold and illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Outside In by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derby

Me and Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Evelynn del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina and illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder

In A Jar by Deborah Marcero

Old Rock (is not boring) by Deb Pilutti

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Uzúa Kramer

Hike by Pete Oswald

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Kenneth Pak

The Invisible Alphabet by Joshua David Stein and illustrated by Ron Barrett

Gingerbread Around the World

As I began thinking about posts for the month of December, I thought of a colleague who always shared a different version of The Gingerbread Man from different cultures and thought that would be a way to share some books highlighting this elusive runaway baked-goods individual and offer a recipe to make and decorate your own Gingerbread Man.

Oh, the things I have discovered while looking for books to share and will pass along to you. Should you desire just the need for the books, scroll down until you hit the first title. Those interested in some facts about this well-eaten cookie, please read on.

As we know via Dewey, we will find Gingerbread Man tales in the 398.2 nonfiction section consisting of folktales, fairytales and fables of the world. What I did not know is that we can further classify these folktales as many tales are variations on a limited number of themes. Several systems evolved to classify folktales, originating with Antti Aarne, then expanded by Stith Thompson, known as the AT system until it finally became the ATU index in 2004 after Hans-Jörg Uther’s contributions. 

Essentially each thematic folktale is given a number to compare and contrast different tales and include over 2500 stories from around the world. There is a database (Multilingual Folk Tale Database)that outlines the various types of folktales and their ATU number. Unfortunately, one should only view the homepage due to some site security breaches. The Gingerbread Man is under the category of Formula Tales, specifically Catch Tales with the ATU index number of 2025. So that was something that I did not know, but perhaps you did.

I found quite a few versions of the Gingerbread stories and decided to divide them into three categories, Cultural, Gender and Character. So if you are looking for Gingerbread Man stories, you should be covered with this post.

Cultural Gingerbread Man Stories

The book and the titles link to Goodreads for further details..

Gender Gingerbread Man Stories

The book and the titles link to Goodreads for further details.

Character Gingerbread Man Stories

The book and the titles link to Goodreads for further details.

I hope that these books will be of use to you and as promised, here is a Gingerbread Man recipe from a colleague who is a wonderful baker and was gracious enough to share her recipe as long as she remained anonymous.

Gingerbread Recipe

1/2 cup shortening 3 1/2 cups sifted pastry flour

1/2 cup sugar 2 teaspoons baking soda

2/3 cup molasses 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon

  1. Melt shortening and cool it. Add sugar, molasses and blend well.
  2. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and spice. Mix well.
  3. Wrap in waxed paper and chill in refrigerator. Take out a small amount of dough.
  4. Roll out on lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut shaped, decorate with raisins and chopped cherries, icing.
  5. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes on a rack. Cool on a rack.

Hope that you found a version of the popular tale to suit your needs and that your home is filled with the aroma of gingerbread men, ready to be decorated. Happy reading and baking.

Laurie

All is Calm…

Well, we have almost made it! Soon we can say we survived the unprecedented year of 2020, and yet for many of us, December tends to kick us into a whole new level of craziness and chaos. For many, this may have started this past weekend with Thanksgiving. With the growing number of COVID-19 cases and the many celebrations that occur this month, our anxiety levels and urgency to get things bought, baked and prepped for the holiday season are probably at elevated levels.

So I wanted to take a moment to provide you with some books that may help remind you and our younger readers stay in the moment, take in the beauty of the season, look after yourself, and the people in your life.

A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba, illustrated by Alea Marley 

Two friends are spending the day together when one friend comments negatively using colours; the day is so gray, blah brown, and boring white. The friend has a different perspective pointing out how there are other colours and how grateful she is for all the colours within the colours the friend doesn’t like. A lovely way to show how your outlook can determine your frame of mind.

The Calm and Cozy Book of Sleep by Beth Wyatt

Author Beth Wyatt certified in sleep science and life-coaching shares her insights about sleeping and how we all can do some practical things to get a better night’s sleep. Never having trouble falling asleep, I know many do, and this short informative book may provide the answer for a night of better sleep.

Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

Based on the true story of the author’s grandmother Marvel, Home in the Woods tells the story of how Marvel’s mother and her seven siblings, ages three months – 14 years, lived in a tar papered shack during the depression. Although times were tough, the family worked and played together to make a home and make the best of an unpleasant situation. Even in tough times, we can come together and thrive.

In A Jar by Deborah Marcero

Llewellyn, a quiet rabbit likes to collect things – buttercups, feathers and heart-shaped stones. He places them in a jar where he can look at them to remember what he saw. One day he meets another rabbit Evelyn, and they become friends and collect things together that you think could not be placed in a jar like rainbows and the wind just before it snows. Together they create memory jars until Evelyn moves away. Llewellyn figures out he still can collect new memories and send them to Evelyn to share with her, just as she sends memories to Llewellyn. A beautiful, magical story about friendship and the way we can collect memories no matter the distance – one that many of us will experience this year and perhaps months to come.

Often overlooked, Ms. Underwood invites readers to see unique ways to define how we are quiet. One of the sequels, The Christmas Quiet Book, focuses on periods when we are silent during the festive season. A reminder to appreciate and savour those moments of silence no matter when they happen.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld. 

A young boy has something terrible happen, and all the animals have different answers or ways to help the boy without a great deal of success until the rabbit arrives and listens. A powerful lesson that sometimes, when someone is struggling, all we really need to do is listen.

Saturday by Oge Mora

Some days do not turn out the way you planned them, which is what happens in this mother-daughter story. The two look forward to their Saturdays together, but things go amiss. Instead of getting upset and letting it ruin their day, the daughter reminds her mother that being together is what is matters. With so many of us having a different holiday season, being together, no matter how it looks, is a timely reminder.

Slow Down: Bring Calm to a Busy World with 50 Nature Stories by Rachel Williams,
illustrated by Freya Hartas

An illustrated book that provides readers with fifty examples of how nature follows its timeline. It can take seconds or months, all interconnected and all there for us to observe if we take the time to stop and look. The book includes all forms of nature, from animals to insects, to dewdrops to the phases of the moon. Part prose and part facts, there is a balance on the two pages and allows readers to appreciate the world around us.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Kenard Pak.

A beautiful story about a granddaughter who wakes up to snow and walks to her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother has trouble with her sight, and so Lina listens for ways her grandmother would experience snow. A marvellous way to prompt us to use all of our senses.

Wait, Rest, Pause by Marcie Flinchum Atkins. 

The photography alone is worth taking the time to savour and listen to the title. Marcie Flinchum Atkins shares the many ways in which nature waits, rests and pauses during the dormant months. Nature modelling what we need to do more of during the winter months.

Windows by Julia Denos

Technically still fall until December 21st, I am adding this one for those who may not have snow on the ground. During the evening, a boy walks his dog and is given a glimpse into the lives of the people as the windows light up as it grows dark. Written in the second person, we walk with the boy and his dog, witnessing the daily events and how we are all connected.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. 

Suggested by @KmcMac74, this book may intrigue readers as it has me, even as I just began reading it. Ms. May is sharing with readers her own experiences of how rest and retreat assisted her in getting through the tough times, drawing on literature, mythology and nature. She talks about the nature of wintering and how it does not have to be the dismal depressing season, but one of strength, reflection and even revitalization. Her writing voice is strong and has immediately drawn me in, and I look forward to seeing how she weaves everything together.

 I hope that during this month, you find calm in the chaos and take comfort in your home and savour the joy provided by the ones you love as you create new memories and revisit the old ones.

Happy December and Happy Reading.

Laurie 

Favourite Finds for Everyone

November

It was hard to narrow the list down to ten books; I was fortunate to read so many stellar picture books this past month. There are just so many fabulous picture books! As promised, I will highlight some Canadian books today. So here they are in alphabetical order.

A Stopwatch from Grampa: by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok,
Kids Can Press 2020

A little boy who has lost his grandfather goes through the stages of grieving after losing his grandfather and receives his stopwatch to keep his memories with him. Dealing with the loss of a loved one with children is not an easy topic. A Stopwatch from Grandpa does it with sensitivity in the word choice and the illustrations that match the emotions of the child. I also appreciated the fact that the character was gender-neutral, so all children can see themselves, relate and connect to the child in the story.

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates: by Bobby Orr & Kara Kootstra, illustrated by Jennifer Phelan, Penguin Random House

Author Bobby Orr takes us on a trip down memory lane, remembering when he wished for a brand new pair of skates only to receive hand-me-downs. It is a connection that we all have experienced; wishing for something and being disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Despite the disappointment, Bobby ends up loving his hand-me-downs and when he does get new skates, what happens to his second-hand skates? Illustrations make the story come alive, and those who live with winter will appreciate the outdoor scenes and descriptive writing. A book that not just hockey fans will enjoy and perhaps give other readers a trip down memory lane.

The Bug Girl: by Sophia Spencer & Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoët,
Penguin Random House

A story about following your passions no matter what others say and being true to yourself. As a small child, Sophie discovered a love of bugs. When Sophie started school, her friends were supportive, but as she grew older, she was teased and bullied so much that she put her interest in bugs on hold. The fact that a nine-year-old has written the book is powerful, and know young readers will be surprised and empowered by this fact. I liked the fact that she discovered other things she was passionate about and still returned to her bugs. A reminder to all of us, follow our passions and not worry about the opinions of others.

Find Fergus: by Mike Boldt, Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Fergus the Bear is trying to play hide and seek with the reader, except Fergus is not very good at it. Sometimes you need a book that makes you feel good, and this one made me laugh out loud. The illustrations, like the main idea, are fun and playful. Readers will enjoy making predictions about what Fergus will do to try to hide. I know this will be an engaging and fun read-aloud.

The Girl with the Cat: by Beverly Brenna, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, Red Deer Press

A young girl named Caroline, new to town, and lonely visits the local art gallery and discovers a bronze sculpture of a girl (Nina) in a rocking chair with a cat (Sammy) on her lap. The sculpture becomes almost like a friend, with Caroline speaking to it on her weekly visits. On one visitation, a sign on Nina and Sammy states it is going to move soon. Caroline is distraught and determined to keep the bronze display. With Caroline’s letter writing and advocacy, the people of the city help her, and the sculpture remains in the gallery. Biased, as this is a true story where I live, so I have connections and am familiar with the art piece. That said, you don’t need to be from Saskatoon to celebrate the descriptive writing, the soft illustrations, the feeling of loneliness, and the power one voice can have to make a difference.

The One with the Scraggly Beard: by Elizabeth Withey, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield,
Orca Book Publishers

A little boy sees a man who appears to be homeless and questions his mother about it. Scenes that are common in cities and perhaps for many awkward to discuss with children, finally we are beginning to see books to help with these conversations. I appreciated that Ms. Withey used her experiences to share how she showed readers the many ways the boy and the man had things in common, showing readers that we are more similar than we are different and how everyone has their own path. The illustrations are not what one might expect as they are very colourful, with a few that have darker tones, for example, where the man is sleeping under the bridge. A compassionate and realistic situation, we need more stories like this one and available in classrooms and libraries.

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story: by Thao Lam, Owlkids Books

This wordless book depicts the story of a Vietnamese family fleeing from their country due to war. A side-by-side story has ants experiencing the same events and emotions. When the family exits, they become separated, and the mother and child follow ants to the ocean. From this point, we only see the horrific journey the ants take and the suffering they endure. Once the surviving ants reach the shore, they start to build a new colony, and we see them once again in the home of the family members who survived. Like the ants, they too are making their way in the new city with other cultures that exist. The collage illustrations and sparse colour palette add to the turmoil and emotions. A book that will make readers think and ask questions.

Terry Fox and Me: by Mary Beth Leatherdal, illustrated by Milan Pavlović,
Penguin Random House

Terry Fox is a national hero, and many books have shared their story, none from the point of view of his best friend Doug Alward. From Doug’s perspective, we get to know a different side of Terry – as he was growing up, wanting to play basketball and being short, and how the two individuals not only became friends but how they pushed one another to do their best. The story takes us to the start of the Marathon of Hope, and the back matter includes more information about running and the Marathon itself. Another book that educators and readers will request, especially in September.

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illustrated by Eva Campbell, Groundwood Books

A mother and daughter are returning home from school, the mother missing the warmth of the country she calls home and the daughter reminding her of the beauty of what now is home. The bright illustrations show the beauty of living in a place with a lot of snow – the wintry setting is offset with reds and blues that sparkle and delight. Allowing the little girl to show her mother how to appreciate winter and where home is now is empowering.

When We Are Kind: by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt, Orca Books

Using single sentences, Ms. Gray Smith delivers a powerful message and reminder to its readers. The book begins with Ms. Smith sharing a variety of ways how we can be kind one to one another, including ourselves, then transitions into how we feel when others are kind to us and ourselves. I love how Ms. Gray Smith includes elders, the earth and ourselves as ways we can be kind but also how we feel when kindness is reciprocated.  

There you have it – a variety of some of the picture books from my month of reading. I hope you found some new titles to enjoy. 

Laurie

Nourishing and Noteworthy

November


In my first Noteworthy and Nourishing post, I talked about Melissa Stewart’s five nonfiction classifications. I continue to learn and grow as a nonfiction reader and added an asterisk non-category of what Melissa Stewart called Informational Fiction (you can read more here). It is a reminder for me to differentiate between Ms. Stewart’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction and Informational Fiction, which is not nonfiction. We need to be clear, letting readers know that there are parts of these books that are fictional and therefore are NOT nonfiction.

Below are the five genre types that Ms. Stewart created with a brief description so you can ponder my category choices of the books shared. 

  • Traditional: what we typically think of nonfiction: writing/prose that explains, describes and informs the reader – mainly text with illustrations or photos alongside. (Think: True Book series and author Seymour Simon books)
  • Browseable Nonfiction: writing that has short amounts of text in a block- like layouts with illustrations. (Think: Guinness World Record Books)
  • Narrative Nonfiction: tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution). (Think: Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla)
  • Expository Literature: well researched, engaging design, art and layouts with rich language and a particular text structure (Think: Jess Keating’s World of Weird Animal series, Pink is for Blobfish, Cute as an Axolotl)
  • Active Nonfiction: the result of the maker movement writing that teaches skills and has readers engage in an activity or activities. (Think: Cookbooks and How to Books)
  • *Informational Fiction: Books that provide nonfiction information using fiction to present that information. Methods may include invented dialogue and/or imagined scenes or use made-up characters, animals or inanimate objects as narrators (pseudo-narrator). 

Based on the true story of Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor Sachiko, we learn the history of her grandmother’s bowl and how it came to be a symbol of peace. A moving recount of the after-effects of the Nagasaki bombing and how the survival of Sachiko’s grandmother’s bowl offered hope and connections to family members lost.  A Bowl Full of Peace is another much-needed addition of books to share in November for Remembrance Day.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Health

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative Literature – tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution).

Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor changes the game of basketball not only on the court with his athletic prowess but off the court by standing up for equality. I am not a big basketball fan but appreciated learning more about Elgin Baylor’s journey and the social justice story off the court. The illustrations by Frank Morrison are riveting and capture the grace and athletic ability of Baylor. This book received the Orbis Picture Book Award for 2020.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Physical Education

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative Literature – tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution).

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
by Christina Soontornvat

A meticulously researched book detailing the people and the events that led to the successful rescue of the Thai Boy’s Soccer Team. What stands out for me as a reader was the focus on the many Thai individuals that made the success possible. The way Ms. Soontornvat weaved background information allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the rescue.  For more detail please read my earlier post on this phenomenal book

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Life Sciences, Social Studies, Health

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature – well researched, engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions.

I love April Pulley Sayre’s photographing skills and marvel at the photos she captures. In her latest book, she answers the question, what is it like to be a frog, with an insight of someone who spends time with them, as noted in the back matter. Rich in vocabulary yet sparse in length, Being Frog allows the reader to see life as a frog. A beautiful book that brought back happy childhood memories of catching and releasing leopard frogs and will spark new readers to see frogs in a new way. 

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Life Sciences, and Social Studies, Arts Education

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature –  engaging layout with unique and stunning photos along with rich vocabulary with poetic phrasing

What a unique hands-on way to engage readers to learn about an insect people know by name but know little or very little about them beyond the differences between a butterfly and a moth. Readers learn facts about moths, lifecycle and characteristics along with step by step instructions about how to attract moths for a closer inspection.  You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, would be a great story and evening activity as a family or as a kid get together.  

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts and Life Sciences

Nonfiction CategoryActive NonFiction & Expository Literature– provides the steps to take to study moths at night while including information about moths, with an engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions.

SNOW DAY!

I know that many of you do not experience winter as we do up here in Canada, but I spent the weekend watching the snow come in with a blizzard and then yesterday digging ourselves out! It is very rare for schools and businesses to be shut down here in Saskatoon, but yesterday, things did come to a standstill, as streets were impassible and snowdrifts left people abandoning cars. So it seemed only appropriate to share some snow-related books.

Here are some favourites in no particular order that came to me off the top of my head.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonders by Mark Cassino, illustrated by Jon Nelson: A fabulous introduction to the world of snow and winter answering the many queries children have about snow, complete with photos and tips for collecting snowflakes.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustratedby Mary Azarian: An informational fiction book that shares the life of Wilson Bentley, who as a child loved snowflakes and as a man credited with photographing the first snowflakes.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal: Over the snow, the world may be quiet and still but, underneath there is a whole world busy and active. Gorgeously illustrated and a mentor text for language and organization readers, discover the animals over and under the snow.  

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre Lyrical: A picture book in verse with breathing taking photos, allow the reader to enjoy the beauty of all things related to snow and winter with additional scientific information at the back. 

All Around Bustletown: Winter by Rotraut Susanne Berner: This wordless book could act as a tribute to Richard Scarry’s books. Beautiful illustrations show what is happening in all areas of Bustletown, whether it be at the skating rink, inside the mall or the town center, we see all the citizens busy going about their days. 

My Winter City by James Gladstone, illustrated by Gary Clement: A young boy recounts the events and sensory sights taken in with his father and their dog on a snowy day. Those who experience winter will appreciate the details in this lovely story.

The Mitten by Jan Brett Adapted from a Ukrainian folktale, a young boy loses his mitten, only to have it be used and stretched by various woodland animals to stay warm. Readers will delight in the hints along the borders and the magical ending.

The Snowman by Raymond Biggs A winter classic, this wordless picture book telling the story of a young boy who wakes up, builds a snowman and then comes alive in his dream that night taking him on a countryside adventure.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner: Part of the Snowmen series, this is a favourite to read with its verse and fun illustrations depicting the fun adventures of what snowmen do at night.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen Late one night, father and a daughter go owling in this quiet picture book with one of my favourite similes about the milk left in your cereal bowl. A story of family, of nature and our connections to both, it is one of my favourites.

Wolf In The Snow by Mattew Cordell A clever play on fairy tales and wolves, this story finds both a young girl and a young wolf pup lost in a snowstorm. First, the young girl helps the wolf pup find his family and then the wolf family helps the young girl. Lots of layers to discuss in this wordless picture book!

Ten Ways to Hear Snow  by  Cathy Camper, illustrated by Kenard Pak A book I read over the weekend and paid attention to when I have been outside. A beautiful story about a granddaughter who wakes up to snow and walks to her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother has trouble with her sight, and so Lina listens for ways her grandmother would experience snow. 

One that I discovered and want to read is A Hibernation Story by Sean Taylor, Alex Morss and illustrated by Cinyee Chiu. Has anyone read this one?

And yes, I would be remiss if I did not include John Rocco’s Blizzard, that I know and have experienced all too well the last 24 hours. Based on the author’s memory of a blizzard where 53 inches of snow fell, with sparse text and stunning illustrations, anyone who has been through a blizzard or had heavy snowfall will connect and embrace this book.

So there you have it, I survived our blizzard and despite shovelling for a good three hours, the sun was out, kids were having fun and I goto to visit with my neighbours as we helped one another.  All in all, a typical winter day on the prairies. 🙂

Remembrance Day

Every year teachers are looking for picture books to share with their students about Remembrance Day. I thought I would share a few that were popular in the schools I taught and some newer titles (and yes, all are Canadian authors with the exception of the last book).

A Bear In War written by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat & illustrated by
Brian Deines (2009). 

Based on a true story, A Bear in a War tells the story through the eyes of a teddy bear sent as a holiday gift to protect the father of ten-year-old Aileen. Sadly, Teddy returns, but Aileen’s father was killed in the battle of Passchendaele. A moving and sensitive story of the impact WWI had on one family. In 2002, a suitcase full of letters that were sent back and forth from the family and Teddy and now are part of The Canadian War Museum.

Captain Rosalie written by Timothée de Fombelle & illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (2019)

Captain Rosalie is a five-year-old girl who lives in France with her mother while her father, a soldier, is off to war. Her mother works every day and arranged for Rosalie to stay at the school despite being too young. She arrives and sits in the back of the room and declares herself as Captain Rosalie. Rosalie is on a mission, but it is top secret, and the reader is given clues via the illustrations. In the evenings, her mother reads the letters from her father, but Rosalie is beginning to think that there is something not quite right, and Rosalie knows her mission will soon come to an end.

I enjoyed reading Captain Rosalie and the stunning illustrations that helped created the sombre tone and yet had moments of hope by Canadian illustrator Isabelle Arsenault. There is a lot to unpack in this novella and short enough that older grades may appreciate the depth of the book more than students in younger grades.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear written by Lindsey Mattick & illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2015) 

Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian, is leaving to take care of horses overseas during WWI when he rescues a bear cub, who he names Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg. Once overseas, Colebrourn realizes the war is no place for the young cub and donates Winnie to the London Zoo. It is here where Winnie meets his friend Christopher Robin. The story written by Lindsay Mattick is the great-granddaughter of Coleburn, who shares the story with her son Cole, named after her great-grandfather. Another book with stunning illustrations and photographs to share the back story of the most famous bear.

The Lady with the Books: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman  written by Kathy Stinson & illustrated by Marie Lafrance (2020)

Anneliese and her brother Peter scour the streets of Munich during WWII looking for food when they stumble upon an exhibit. When they go inside, they find all kinds of books and meet a lady who talks and shares different books in different languages. The children return and listen to the story of Ferdinand the Bull, resulting in Anneliese deciding to help clean up the area around their library. The back matter includes more biographical information about Jella Lepman and how she requested books from around the world in various languages and travelled around Germany to connect stories with children. She also organized a conference which led to the foundation of the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) that exists in 75 countries today. A different spin on how one person can make an impact through stories.

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion written by Jane Barclay & illustrated by Renné Benoit 

A perennial favourite because of its suitability for the youngest of children. A grandson and grandfather are getting ready for a Remembrance Day Service, and the grandfather explains the war to his grandson using animals. Using a variety of smilies, the grandfather shares how he was proud like a peacock to wear his uniform, busy as a beaver going across the ocean and brave like a lion going into battle. At the service, the little boy sees an elephant in the mist, and he quietly whispers to his grandfather, elephants never forget. The book comes to an end with the grandson and grandfather walking off hand in hand. A beautifully illustrated book that will get you every time you read it.

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War written by Mireille Messier  &
illustrated by Kass Reich (2019)

Based on a true story, this is the tale of how a goat from Broadview Saskatchewan, becomes part of the Fifth Canadian Battalion platoon during World War I. A group of men befriend a goat before they are off to train as soldiers. The small girl who owns the goat allows them to borrow the goat on the condition they return him to the farm after the war. As the men train, the bond between the goat now known as Private Billy grows, and the platoon decides that Billy is now a valuable member of the platoon and sneak Billy onto the boat to travel across the ocean. As the story unfolds, we learn of all the remarkable things that Billy experienced from training camp, living in the trenches, to encouraging the men. Sgt. Billy even saves some of his friends by head-butting them into safety as a shell explodes. Finally, he returns as a decorated war hero back into the hands of the small girl on the farm. Kass Reich’s illustrations are well balanced, shifting back and forth between moods of humour and sombre using olive army greens and browns that depict this era of time. Included are photographs of Billy and more information about this piece of lesser-known Saskatchewan history. This book will allow primary students an appropriate introduction to WWI in an engaging format that will provide knowledge without the horrible details. With few books for younger readers and students, this is an invaluable addition to libraries and classrooms.

Yusra Swims written by Julie Abery & illustrated by Sally Deng. (2020)

Told in verse, readers will learn about Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini. A competitive swimmer living in Syria before the war until the pool where she trains gets bombed. Her father arranges for her and her sister to leave for Germany, and we follow her journey right up to her swimming for the Olympic Refugee Team in Rio de Janeiro. An informational fiction book told in rhyme allows students to be aware and recognize the wars that affect people today and not just in the past.

I hope that this list will help you prepare to honour and remember the soldiers who fought for our freedom and continue to fight for freedom and democracy. Please let me know if you have a book that you use that I have missed.

Laurie