Dr. Larry Recommends

Dr. Larry Recommends

What books have I recently enjoyed reading? What plays have I recently enjoyed seeing? This section offers recommendations of some of my current favourite literary and arts experiences.  I look forward to frequently posting children’s literature book lists here.

FALL INTO FICTION: Middle Years Novels

My pile of fiction dwindled somewhat over the past five week as I dug into some new novels for mostly ages 9 through 12.  Many middle school readers will identify with the character’s finding a place of belonging both within friendship circles and family circles and surviving (even a story about a wolf).

DENIS EVER AFTER by Tony Abbott

Denis died at a young age and his twin brother is still grieving. Denis returns to earth, so that both he can rest in peace and his family can let go. This novel wasn’t what I expected it to be as it focuses on the circumstances surrounding Denis’s death. It is a ghost story, a mystery story and what becomes a thrilling adventure story as the two boys go an a quest to answer many questions. Alas, I wasn’t intrigued by the mystery but was more interested in the mystery of what happens after we die and how a family copes with death.

FINDING ORION by John David Anderson

The name of the family is KWIRK and they do indeed live up their name with quirky adventures that involve journey to find Papa Kwirk’s ashes. Rion (not Ryan) is the storyteller recounting the families quest to find out where his grandfather has been buried. Rion’s father did not have a good relationship with his father growing up, and discovers the truth about his dad who, as it turns out was beloved by many in his community. The author tell a mystery story filled with adventure and family bonding and odd yes, quirky stuff : a toothbrush collection, a singing ‘telegram’ (announcing Papa Kwirk’s death), , a marching band,  the challenge of eating a sundae made of 36 scoops of ice cream, a war museum, a fried chicken-flavoured jelly bean and a python. Kwirky, fun and ultimately heartwarming.

EACH TINY SPARK by Pablo Cartaya

Cartaya’s fine novels focus on the lives of Latinx youth and how they navigate their culture (The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish) and in his latest novel readers are introduced to Emilia Torres who must deal not only with special needs issues, but more importantly with the relationship with her father who returns from deployment and shuts himself in the garage to work on an old car. The two are brought closer together by the act of welding. Once again, Pablo Cartaya celebrates Cuban culture, effectively weaving Spanish language throughout the dialogue.

THE ACB of HONORA LEE by Kate De Goldi

I have found a new favourite author this year, thanks to my friend Shelley who passed on the award winning novel The 10 PM question to me (loved it.) I have sought out other titles by the author. In The ACB Honora Lee Young Perry is challenged to develop a relationship with her grandmother who suffers from dementia. On her frequent visits to Santa Lucia rest home, Perry embarks on creating a illustrated abecedarium (ABC book)  filled with the people and events of her grandmother’s life.  The quirky art that accompanies this story is a bonus. Can’t wait to read another Kate De Goldi book!

IT WASN’T ME by Dana Alison Levy

This book is “The Breakfast Club” put into contemporary middle years’ fiction. When Theo’s self- portraits are vandalized at his school, five tweenagers (the Nerd, The Princess, the Jock, the Weirdo, the Screw-Up) are brought together by a teacher who believes that learning to trust and getting to the truth can happen through a Justice Circle. The group of six meet each day during a week of school holidays and learn truth’s about each other and about themselves. Young adolescent readers will likely come to recognize these characters as being real and will hopefully understand the complexities of bullies, victims and bystander. For me, the story would hold stronger believability from the onset had the characters students been enrolled in high school. And would a principal be required to give up her holidays to help facilitate these meetings?

NOT IF I CAN HELP IT by Carolyn Mackler

Willa has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder who’s idea of order and sensory sensations (e.g., the taste of eggs, getting her toenails trimmed) make life seem out of whack at times.  Willa has a best friend, Ruby, and things get more out of whack for Willa when she learns that their parents are dating each other (and will soon be getting married). This engaging novel is a fine contribution to stories that deal with divorce and the changes many middle grade student encounter.

THE 47 PEOPLE YOU’LL MEET IN MIDDLE SCHOOL by Kristin Mahoney

A great title that will inspire those entering – and living through – the trials and tribulations of Middle School life and the students and staff that comprise their school day life. The story is one girl’s advice to her younger sister who will eventually have to meet life as a sixth grader. The book struck me as a balance between authentic (yes, we know these people) and quirky character and events that (the stuff of fiction).

TIGHT by Torrey Maldonado

Bryan is caught between a rock and a hard place.  His father and especially is mother have geared him to understand the difference between right and wrong, but peer pressure has lured him into behaving badly (skipping school, jumping trains).  The world of comic book heroes gives Bryan strength but he himself can’t seem to be the superhero he want to be. What sets this novel apart is the setting of the New York projects. Torrey Maldonado masterly creates the tensions of street life and the colourful lingo that paints a strong picture of Latino and Black youth (“Big Will isn’t fazed by dip dudes rocking bling or pushing fat whips.”

CATERPILLAR SUMMER by Gillian McDunn

Cat’s mother creates picture books about two characters, Caterpillar and Chicken who depend on each other. In real life, Cat is a devoted caring sister to Henry (Chicken), a boy who demands attention because of special needs. One summer, Cat and Chicken spend time with their grandparents who live in an island in an island. Hesitant at first to enjoy the summer, Cat grows to love the seaside setting, fishing and especially her understanding of what it means to stay together as a family. A heartwarming story.

A WOLF CALLED WONDER by Rosanne Parry

This book stands out from the other titles on this list, being a story of a wolf’s journey to survive, told from the point of view of that wolf. When he is separated from his family, Swift encounters danger through different landscapes forests, barren wilderness, wild water and other perils of survival (fire, hunters, hunger). What makes this a remarkable narrative is that it is based on a true story of a wolf named) OR-7 (aka Journey) who trekked across 1000 miles across the Pacific Northwest. Because the book is told through the point of view of a wolf,  readers get into the minds of the animal and learn much information about their characteristics, behaviours and instincts.

SHOUT OUT

COUNT ME IN by Varsha Bajaj

Told in alternative voices: Karima a young Hindu girl who has a talent for photography; Chris (the boy next door) who doesn’t do all that well in math. The friendship of the two characters when Karina’s grandfather comes to live with the family and ends up tutoring Chris. An episode involving a shattering encounter “Terrorists don’t belong here” helps readers to examine the issue of hate in society. An important timely novel, about immigration, about hate and about communities – and a society – coming together, counting on one another. A good companion to Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.

 

Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

LARRY BOUGHT 15 PICTURE BOOKS

A batch of new picture books have gathered in my office over the summer. Some with 2019 titles. Some were recommended by colleagues and students. Some seemed ideal to reference in my forthcoming Pembroke Publishers’ title  TEACHING TOUGH TOPICS. A brief synopsis and a brief rationale for choosing this book accompanies each title.

 

 WORM LOVES WORM J.J. Austrian; illus. Mike Curato (2016)

What: Worm is in love with Worm and their animal friends help prepare for the wedding. Either   worm can be the groom. Either worm can be the bride.

Why: Gender differences, families, and same sex marriage – for youngsters! (Topic: Gender Identity)

 

A BIKE LIKE SERGIO’S by Maribeth Boelts; illus. Noah Z. Jones (2016)

What: Ruben finds a one hundred-dollar bill  – and now he can afford to buy a new bike. Should he do the right thing and return the money to its rightful owner.

Why:  A book to help children think about what’s right and what’s wrong. And the have’s and the have not’s. A beautiful companion to Boelt’s “Those Shoes” to help children think about wants and needs.  (Topic: Poverty)

 

YARD SALE by Eve Bunting; illus. Lauren Castillo (2015)

What:  It’s hard to let go of stuff  that has been important to you a Yard sale, even though it’s for the family time to move to a smaller place.

Why: A story about letting go of things, moving on, and realizing that there’s more to life than the our possessions. (Topic: Poverty)

 

14 COWS FOR AMERICA by Carmen Agra Deedy; illus. Thomas Gonzalez (2009)

What: A gift of 14 cows from the Masai tribe in Kenya to the United States Embassy in Nairobi following September 11, 2001.

Why: This book of honour and strength and generosity needs to be shared in every classroom. (Topic: Kindness)

 

DRUM DREAM GIRL by Margarita Engle; illus. Rafael Lopez (2015)

What: Newbery Honour Winner about ‘how one girls’ courage changed music’. Inspired by a Chinese-African- Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo against female drummers.

Why: A celebration of music. A story of perseverance. (Topic: Gender equity)

 

ADA’S VIOLIN: The story of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood; illus. Sally Wern Comport (2016)

What: The children of Paraguay played instruments made from recycled trash and ended up performing concerts around the world. This is the story of how they orchestra came to because of man’s vision, and one girls dreams.

Why: Resilience. Determination. (Topic: Poverty)

 

IDA ALWAYS by Caron Levis; illus. Charles Santoso (2016)

What: A true story of true love – between two bears.

Why: Those who were part of our hearts will always be there, even when they are gone. (Topic: Loss and Death). (see also Always With You by Eric Walters)

 

BIG WORDS FOR LITTLE GENIUSES by Susan and James Patterson; illus. Hsinping Pan

What: An alphabet book of unusual – big – words (definitions provided). (e.g., catawampus; dulcifluous, empyreal). A worthy companion to The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds.

Why: It’s important to engage readers of all ages with a celebration of the looks, sounds, and meanings of words in order to increase their word power with reading, writing and talk (See Word by Word by Larry Swartz, Pembroke, 2019)

 

LITTLE LIBRARIES, BIG HEROES by Miranda Paul; illus. John Parra (2019)

What: The story of Todd Bol who became the founder of the Little Free Library movement where millions of books have been shared in ‘little libraries’ into outdoor neighbourhoods throughout the world.

Why: A love of books. And those who choose to share books with others. (Topic: Kindness)

 

HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER by Robbie Robertson; illus. David Shannon (2015)

What: The story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker  and the uniting of the five Haudenosaunee (Iroquois tribes)

Why: The message of peace informing readers about the ways of the Iroquois people. A must-read to help students gain understanding of Indigenous culture. Staggering visuals by David Shannon. Includes a CD featuring an original song by the author. (Topic: Indigenous Culture)

 

MEMOIRS OF A HAMSTER by Devin Scillian; illus. Tim Bowers (2013)

What: An amusing – informative – recount of fourteen nights in the life of Seymour the Hamster.

Why: First person voice. An engaging, original approach to memoir writing.

 

THE CHANGE YOUR NAME STORE by Leanne Shirtcliffe; illus. Tina Kugler (2014)

What: Wilma Lee Wu does not like her name and frequent visit to the neighbourhood store help her consider alternatives. Told in rhyme.

Why: Inspires students to share stories about their own names. (Topic: Identity)

 

SMALL IN THE CITY by Sydney Smith

What: A story of a small boy who gets lost as he wanders about the city, taking wrong paths, combating bad weather until he finds his way back home.

Why: A story of persverance and resilience.  “Devastating!” (CBC, September 17, 2019)

SHOUT OUT

These two Canadian picture books are treasures.  Both titles were inspired by important people in the authors’ lives. Each is the ideal selection to inspire connections and special memories of people and places. Both books are gifts and both will likely be passed on as gifts. 

ALWAYS WITH YOU

 Eric Walters; illus. Carloe Liu

A beautiful story that journeys over the years. Emily’s grandfather passed away and over the years she receives advice (in the form of fold-out letters) as she reaches various life milestones that include school, marriage and giving birth. Yes, a ‘timeless story about grief, growing up, and  cherished memories of those who are “always with you”.  A gem! (Topic: Loss and death)

WILLA’S HOUSE
by David Booth; illus. Renia Metallinou  (2019)

(from Promo material)

Willa’s House, David Booth’s final book, is a tribute to women teachers, the joy in life’s small moments, and to home.

In Willa’s House, author David Booth takes us on a nostalgic walk back to the quiet contentment of calmer times. Based on a true story, this heartwarming chronicle of a teacher’s life in a small Canadian town illustrates the tragedies and triumphs that centre around this one home. These events demonstrate Willa’s strong ties to family, friends, and students as well as the ways in which she makes a lasting impact on her community. With her less-than-typical trajectory, Willa shows us that there is more than one way to lead a fulfilling life.

 Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Professor David Booth Memorial Bursary (OISE, University of Toronto).
order: sales@plumleafpress.com  / phone: 1 800 336.0980

 

POTPOURRI OF SUMMER READING, 2019

The summer of 2019 challenged me to reduce my meter-high book pile and week by week, page by page, I spent time with some interesting books, both children’s and adult literature, both fiction and nonfiction. Seems however, that there is hardly a dent in the pile but I’m reading as fast as I can!

HOW TO READ A BOOK by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Picture Book)

Sharing this book with young readers may invite them t olinger equally over the words and the bright images that join together to explain the best way to savour in the joy of reading (“A picnic of words=sounds in leaps+bounds”).

THINGS MY SON NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT THE WORLD by Fredrik Backman (Nonfiction, Essays)

Ever since falling in love with the novel, A Man Called Ove, I have been intrigued by reading the books by Swedish author Fredrick Backman. This book, written as a letter to his son, the author reflects upon and reveals the joys and flaws of fatherhood. Anecdotes are drawn from life experiences about such things as appetites, playing soccer, visiting IKEA, religion, show Backman to be the best husband and father and man as possible at the same time as being true to himself. This is a book of honesty and truth and humour.

THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK by Ali Benjamin (middle years novel)

When her mother relocates to a small town in Vermont, Caitlyn Breen is forced to attend a rural middle school. She is one of only ten students in the seventh grade. Paulie Fink used to belong to the school but his disappearance is a mystery, especially since he was known for his mischief, humor and intellect. A reality show competition is established to help find ‘the next great Paulie Fink’. The book is written in short chapters that includes interview format, text messages,  and lists. A story of quirky relationships… and self-discovery… and belonging. An enjoyable read, but not as appealing as author’s debut novel The Thing About Jellyfish.

SMALL ISLAND adapted by Helen Edmundson from the novel by Andrea Levy (script)

After seeing the wonderful production of this play as an NT Live Event, I read the beautiful script centred on the story of Jamaicans who settled in Britain in Audience members who saw the play, and readers of the novel and or script cannot help to cheer for Hortense who years for a new life away from rural Jamaica, and Queenie, who long to escape her rural English roots.

KADDISH.COM by Nathan Englander (adult novel)

When his father dies, Larry refuses to recite the Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead), even though as the only surviving son, it is his responsibility to do so. Lo and behold, Larry discovers a website where a stranger can say the daily prayers and usher his father’s soul to safety. As the novel unfolds (in four parts), Larry struggles to deal with the consequences of his cynical plan. Larry transforms back to his original name and identity as Shuli, and his Hasidic roots. He becomes a  Yeshiva teacher, is comfortably married with  two children but and goes on a quest to find the stranger he once hired to fulfill his obligations. An at times amusing, bizarre and disturbing story of following Jewish tradition in the face of modern times. Philip Roth would be very pleased with this novel (I think!).

SHOUTING AT THE RAIN by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (middle years novel)

What a great writer, author of Fish in a Tree,  Lynda Mullaly Hunt is. Delsie and her grandmother reside in Cape Cod, each showing devotion to one another, especially since Delsie’s mother has abandoned her. A wonderful cast of characters that includes Ronan (a fisherman’s son who prefers who’d rather throw creatures back in to the sea than eat them), Brandie (a ‘used to be’ best friend), Tressa (a conniving ‘mean girl). Words of wisdom about meeting life’s challenges abound in this book (mostly through the voice of Grammy) in this warm story about belonging, loyalty, overcoming diversity and shouting at the rain and knowing that ‘the sun will come out tomorrow’. (The musical Annie is featured in the plot).

ALL THE GREYS ON GREENE STREET by Laura Tucker (middle years novel)

This is a debut novel by the author and she has done a fine job of telling an intriguing story set mostly set in the Soho streets of New York. Though set in the 80’s the time period seem to be an important feature to lift  the story.  All the Greys on Greene Street has the flavour of  E.L. Konigsburg’s popular novel From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E.Frankenweiler as a trio of friends  depend on each other and work together to solve problems of family, love and art.  Twelve-year-old Olympia, a talented young artist, is at is the centre of the story and must deal with the severe depression of her mother (who refuses to get out of bed) and the disappearance of her father , an art restorer, who seems to be caught in a forgery scheme.  This is a book layered with mystery and strong emotion, especially with the plight of Olympia dealing with her mother’s mental illness.

THE WORLD’S WORST TEACHERS by David Walliams (short stories)

That rude rascal of an author is at it again, this time in a collection of short stories about bad bad teachers, that includes wild adventures with Miss Seethe who liberally assigns detentions to anyone  who blinks, blows his nose, smiles on school premise or for having one ear larger than another; Mr. Pent who loathes (and confiscates) balls in all shapes and sizes:. Mrs. Splatt the dinner lady who cooked stinky stew with all kinds of things floating about (a hearing aid, a hedgehog, a used handkerchief, a scouring pad), and Doctor Dread, the science teacher infamous for his chair of a thousand farts.  Funny funny funny.  Crude crude crude. This book is filled with farts, and boogers, and mean teachers is ‘snot’ for everyone’s tastes.

THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead (adult novel)

Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Underground Railroad, has written a novel, based on a stark event in history where black boys ‘disappeared’ from a reform school in Florida only to be discovered about fifty years later when their bodies were dug up from their grave sites. The Nickel Boys tells the story of two boys who were sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era. Elwood Curtis, tries to maintain a reputable lifestyle under the guidance of his grandmother. He is determined to go to college, but an innocent mishap leads him to be sentenced to Nickel Academy, where sadistic staff abuses the students. A stark narrative of injustice, fate and resilience.

SHOUT OUT #1

THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS by Ann Braden (middle years novel)

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Zoey, a seventh-grader, is smothered with her family obligations and her role as caregiver for her younger siblings. Living in poverty, Zoe tries to stay under the radar, stay positive and make the most of her troubles, even though her teacher advises her to ‘Suck it up!’.  Zoey can tell you everything you need to know about octopuses and the animal serves as a metaphor for her daily struggles at home and at school. The author packs a wallop in this debut novel by presenting a family who lives from paycheck to paycheck, a mother reluctant to confront an abusive relationship, and brave girl trying to cope and find a voice (literally) in her middle school life. Facts about the octopus, procedures about the debate club, and the challenges of taking care of our friends and family are presented in this compassionate, and at times humourous, novel. One of my favourite reads this summer which I highly recommend. (ages 9-13).

SHOUT OUT #2

The 10PM Question by Kate De Goldi

Image result for the 10 pm question

Huge thanks to my colleague Shelley Stagg Peterson who brought me this award -winning “Book of the Year” title from New Zealand.  Frankie is a neurotic teenager who bravely tries to cope with his persistent anxieties and his quirky family that includes a demanding older sister, three feisty great aunts, a rascal brother, Uncle George (his father) and a mother who, after nine years refuses to leave the house. Gigs and Frankie are great friends. When a new girl, Sydney, arrives in his class, Frankie discovers a new soulmate who helps him to get through the life’s foibles (Sydney has her own family troubles). This terrific New Zealand author paints vivid images of her characters and presents a strong voice and the sympathetic soul of a teenage boy who would likely be a great friend to Holden Caulfield. I loved this funny,  heartwarming, special book!

SHOUT OUT

WE RISE WE RESIST WE RAISE OUR VOICES

Essays, Art, Poems, Stories, Letters

Over 50 voices shouting out take action,  be kind, and make a difference

A dazzling collection of writing and visuals by diverse voices sharing perspectives, wisdom and encouragement for readers to stay strong, be hopeful and spread kindness. 

Three Excerpts…

What songs will our children sing to their children?

What inspiration will they find in the words?

The songs that our children sing to their children

Will be songs we teach our children to sing.

          ~ Curtis Hudson /Page 65

Walk through each day and out of it, knowing the blanket of love each of you is wrapped in and ready to pen that blanket to others.

         ~ Jacqueline Woodson, “Kindness is a Choice” / page 18

Everything bad and frightening and loud

will always hide when you hold your head up,

will always hide when you hold your heart out,

will always sing a shrinking song

when you fly.

          ~ Jason Reynolds, “A Talkin’-To” / page 73

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

 

BEING GAY, BEING PROUD

 

This posting shines a light on fiction and nonfiction gay characters  coming to terms with their identities, their coming out experiences and their questioning relationships with family and friends.

WHAT IF IT’S US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (YA)

Boy meets boy. Boy loses boy. Boy finds boy (about 100 pages later). Boys fall in love. Boys disagree and separate. Boys reconnect and then ‘carry on’.  This story is told in alternative voices of Ben and Arthur and is and provides honest insights into the dating game and the challenge and thrill of finding love as a gay (or straight) teenager. An up-to-the minute setting, social media, Hamilton (the musical) and all. Highly enjoyable read.

BIRTHDAY by Meredith Russo (YA)

Born on the same day, Eric and Morgan have maintained deep bonds, and deep secrets, which become tested in adolescenthood. Morgan feels trapped in a mixed-up body and Eric feels trapped by his romantic preferences. The book is written in alternating voices and chunked into sections that recognize the two boys birthdays from 13 to 18 years of age. A story about devout loyalty, being gay, and questioning gender identity and a novel to be celebrated not only for its engaging story, but for its authenticity having been written by a transgender author. Bravo, Meredith Russo.

THE  57 BUS by Dashka Slater (YA nonfiction)

Sasha identifies as transgender. Richard is an Afro American adolescent, reckless and carefree. A ride on Bus 57 brings these two young people together through a harrowing incident that has Richard setting fire to Sasha’s skirt while she is sleeping. Sasha is severely burned and Richard is sent to juvenile prison awaiting charges for the hate crime.  What makes this story particularly gutsy as the incident is true. This is a story of class, race, gender, right and wrong, justice and injustice. Events are reported episodically in one to four page spreads. This news story from 2013 will engage readers, arouse empathy and ignite questions about morality and forgiveness and the of executing a hateful deed ‘just for the fun of it. Powerful.

DEPOSING NATHAN by Zack Smedley (YA fiction)

Nate and Cam have been best friends throughout their whole lives and their journey as adolescents challenge their relationship and expose their attraction to one another. An incident involving a fistfight lands Cam in Jail. The story is told as a deposition, where Nate is being ordered, under oath, to confess some truths that will change their lives.

LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (YA Graphic novel)

Frederica (Freddy), an Asian teenager, is besoughted with Laura Dean who chooses to casually move in and out of romantic adventures, which breaks Freddy’s heart. Artist, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell uses black, white, grey and salmon pink to present some stark visual images. Visuals are well crafted and varied in perspectives, but % of the visuals being wordless, they didn’t always add to the narrative or emotional impact of this lesbian relationship. Really the title says it all, but it this story of longing, delusions and heartbreak is often heartbreaking that is part of many adolescent romantic experiences, straight or gay .

ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong (adult fiction)

What an intriguing poetic title! What an intriguing, poetic story! Ocean Vuong is staggering writer. The book is written as a letter from son to mother and is rooted in Vietnamese history, familial ties, masculinity and gay love. A strong, strange, marvelous read.

SHOUT OUT (picture book)

A PLAN FOR POPS by Heather Smith; illus. Brooke Kerrigan

Grandpa and Pops are a couple. Granddaughter Lou visits her grandparents every Saturday and enjoys good times going to the library, eating inventive meals (spaghetti and waffles) and building contraptions. One day, Pops has a fall and is confined to his room. This is a beautiful picture book, with simplicity and aptly deserves the adjective ‘heartwarming’. The relationship between the two senior men and the loving care given to grandchild Lou is told with simplicity and yes, normalcy.  Lovely!

A Plan for Pops

 5 Middle Years Novels

Hurricane Child Kheryn Callendar

The Lotterys Plus One Emma Donoghue

One True Way Shannon Hitchcock

Stitches Glen Huser

The Best Man Richard Peck

5 YA Novels

Moon at Nine Deborah Ellis

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Kirsten Cronn-Mills

Be My Love Kit Pearson

Gracefully Grayson Ami Polonsky

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saez

YA FICTION

I cared for  – cheered for –  each of the characters in the Young Adolescent novels listed  below.

WHAT IF IT’S US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Boy meets boy. Boy loses boy. Boy finds boy (about 100 pages later). Boys fall in love. Boys disagree and separate. Boys reconnect and then ‘carry on’.  This story is told in alternative voices of Ben and Arthur and is and provides honest insights into the dating game and the challenge and thrill of finding love as a gay (or straight) teenager. An up-to-the minute setting, social media, Hamilton (the musical) and all. Highly enjoyable read.

DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY by Adib Khorram (ages 12-14)

Like his father, Darius takes medication to control his depression. A Fractional Persian (his mother’s side), the adolescent has some difficulty fitting in with others at school. When his grandfather is diagnosed with cancer, Darius travels to Iran with his family. A strong friendship is developed with a neighbourhood boy named Sohrab and the two boys feel that they can tell each other anything.  Darius realizes that his visit is only temporary but in that short time he learns more about his grandparents, his parents (especially his father), his sister and his culture.  The author has done a fine job of opening a window for readers to Persian culture as well as insights into the life – and growth – of a troubled teenager.

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell (graphic novel)

Since it’s release in 1993, The Giver has been read by millions (particularly young adolescents).  This story of a boy who lives in a future community where everyone is the same has been transformed into a play, a movie, and an opera. The graphic adaptation is a perfect vehicle to tell the story in another art form. Much of the images are monochromatic black, white and washes of blue and splashes of colour emerge is given the power to maintain memories.

CHICKEN GIRL by Heather Smith

Ebb & Flow, and The Agony of Bun O’Keefe were absolutely two of my favourite reads last year and I so looked forward to Heather Smith’s new novel.  It’s fantastic! Poppy and Cam are two twin teenagers whose relationship is deepened by their varied outlooks on life. Poppy has issues with body images and is hired to dress up as  a chicken mascot to advertise the local restaurant. Cam is an openly gay teen who strives to maintain an optimistic outlook on life with all that he encounters. When Poppy meets a young girl named Miracle who is sheltered by a group of homeless people, she struggles to come to terms with the good and bad in the world. This novel is full of heart, albeit an aching one at times, and unforgettable characters. Kudos to Poppy, Cam, Miracle.. and Heather Smith.

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt

A beautifully-written coming-of-age story by author Gary D. Schmidt (The Wednesday Wars) who skillfully captures the voice and heart of his characters. Doug Swieteck lives in upstate New York in a place he calls ‘The Dump’.  His father is abusive, his one brother is trouble, another returns disabled from Vietnam and his mother has the best smile of anyone in the world. Doug is obsessed with the Birds of America plates of John James Audubon and with mentorship, he strives to imitate Audubon’s style. As stories about young adolescents, Doug struggles to find a place of belonging, struggling to fit in at school, at home and in a small community.  I really loved this book, but was rather dismayed with the final chapters which stretched some believability (e.g., adventure on Broadway episode).

LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (Graphic novel)

Frederica (Freddy), an Asian teenager, is besoughted with Laura Dean who chooses to casually move in and out of romantic adventures, which breaks Freddy’s heart. Artist, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell uses black, white, grey and salmon pink to present some stark visual images. Visuals are well crafted and varied in perspectives, but didn’t always add to the narrative or emotional impact of this lesbian relationship. Really the title says it all, but it this story of longing,

BE MORE CHILL by Ned Vizzini

Jeremy longs for popular, beautiful Christine, and even though he knows he doesn’t stand a chance, he think of ways to succeed. When a pill-sized computer (“The Squip”) that can be swallowed is offered to him, Jeremy jumps on the chance since the The Squip brings on anything one desires in life. Under the control of this supercomputer, Jeremy becomes the coolest dude in the class. But being under the influence of the ‘drug’ can of course lead to disasters.  Teenage fans have connected enthusiastically to the  trapped feelings offered by his fictional characters (It’s Kind of A Funny Story; House of Secrets).  Be More Chill has been transformed into an off-Broadway musical sensation. The musical now appears on Broadway.  Ned Vizzini committed suicide in 2013.

SHOUT OUT

The 10PM Question by Kate De Goldi

Image result for the 10 pm question

Huge thanks to my colleague Shelley Stagg Peterson who brought me this award -winning “Book of the Year” title from New Zealand.  Frankie is a neurotic teenager who bravely tries to cope with his persistent anxieties and his quirky family that includes a demanding older sister, three feisty great aunts, a rascal brother, Uncle George (his father) and a mother who, after nine years refuses to leave the house. Gigs and Frankie are great friends. When a new girl, Sydney, arrives in his class, Frankie discovers a new soulmate (who’s not his girlfriend) who helps him to get through the life’s foibles (Sydney has her own family troubles). This terrific New Zealand author paints vivid images of her characters and presents a strong voice and the sympathetic soul of a teenage boy who would likely be a great friend to Holden Caulfield. I loved this funny,  heartwarming, special book!

 

DIVERSE IDENTITIES: Middle Years Fiction

The novels listed below are linked by their diverse narratives of diverse circumstances. Race, Culture, Class and the refugee experience can be found in the books listed below, helping middle age readers to understand how our  identities shapes our lives and  how strength and courage can help us to combat intolerance and hate.

BLENDED by Sharon M. Draper

For me, Draper is best recognized for her beautiful novel Out Of My Mind. In this new novel, the author tells the story of eleven year old Isabella, who is the daughter of divorced parents, one black, one white. Isabella’s life, and the structure of the book is mostly divided into Mom weeks and Dad’s weeks where thus testing her flexibility and attempts to comply with the circumstances. Throughout the book, Isabella, a talented pianist, questions her identity as a blended person and this quest to understand the self and find a place of belonging is at the heart of the novel. An episode at the novel’s climax is rather surprising, somewhat unbelievable and in the end significant to help this girl and readers understand how society looks at us, particularly when someone of colour, or even blended.

MASCOT by Antony John

After surviving a car crash which killed his father, Noah Sorvino, paralyzed, is stuck in wheelchair. Readers are likely to feel empathy with Noah as he struggles with the realities of being disabled and the guilt of being the one to survive the accident. The game of baseball helps Noah to overcome his fears and move forward to meet life’s challenges, small and large. An important addition to novels helping readers to gain understanding of people who are physically challenged.

THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson

For those who like mystery stories, this novel is intriguing as two friends attempt to solve  the mystery of the Parker Inheritance which involves a huge amount of money and a generous anonymous donor. But more than a mystery, this story, jumping back and forth in time, is a strong story about injustice and prejudice against African Americans both past and present.

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE by Kekla Magoon

Styx Malone, a foster child,  becomes a hero for Caleb and his brother Bobby Gene. Despite the wishes of the brothers parents, the friendship develops as the boys get involved in shenanigans that involve firecrackers, a lawn mower and a moped. I felt I could have put this book down at any time, but the story gains momentum in the last third as character relationships are strengthened.

A LONG WALK TO WATER by Linda Sue Park

This book, based on a true story, brings to love the story of one ‘lost boy’ refugee who was forced to flee his village in war-torn Sudan and travel across Africa hoping to find salvation. Another strong feature of this book, is the additional narrative of  a young girl in South Sudan, 2008, who is responsible for making journeys to a faraway pond, twice a day, to gather water in jugs for her family. This is an essential book to share with middle year readers to gain understanding of refugees who persevered to survive strife and to find a place called home when they are caught in the horrors of war.

PAY ATTENTION, CARTER JONES by Gary D. Schmidt

The family of Carter Jones falls into chaos each day. The arrival of Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick provides a dream solution to the family as he fulfills his duty as a butler perfectly. Not only is he a savior at bringing order and  pulling the family together, he has a special bond and helps  Carter Jones adjust to the challenges of middle school. A daschund that throws up easily and the game of cricket play an important part in this funny, warmly-engaging novel.

SHOOTING KABUL by N.H. Senzai

It is 2001 and Fadi and his family have left war-torn Afghanistan to find a better life, but sadly circumstances have forced the family to leave behind six-year-old Mariam. Fadi gradually settles  into his new school, finding comfort in a hobby for taking photographs. However with the events of 9/11, the young boy comes face to face with news incidents and hateful students who feel that people like Fadi and his family are responsible for terrorism.  A great read that should touch the hearts of young readers.

PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahan

Ten-year-old Manami and her family are forced by the government to leave their home and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp. Manami finds refuge by creating drawings, especially ones of her dog Yujin who was left be significant novel, helping young readers understand the injustices of forcing Japanese evacuate, relocate and live and work in internment camps.

OTHER WORDS FOR HOME by Jasmine Warga

In this free verse novel, Jude and her mother find refugee with family in Cincinnati while her father and brother remain behind in the turmoil threatening Syria.   Jude slowly adjusts to school life as she learns English and finds friends. However as Middle Eastern girl, she also comes against the harshness of Islamophobia. An important story of culture, identity and understanding of ‘home’.

SHOUT OUT (Picture Book)

HOW TO READ A BOOK

by Kwame Alexander; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Evocative poem by Alexander intertwines with bright collages by Melissa Sweet shine a spotlight on this thing called reading.

Don’t rush through:

Your eyes need time to taste.

Your soul needs

Room to bloom.

How to Read a Book

TEN BOOKS: LESS THAN 200 pages

What the titles in this posting have in common is the fact that they are each less than 200 pages, even if by a few pages. A lot of story power and heart are packed into these ‘shorter’ books.

BIRD GUY by David Booth (poetry) (134 pages)

Re-read this beautiful anthology of poems about birds by my dear friend David Booth presented as a young adolescent’s 9th grade English project. With illustrations by Maya Ishiura. Available through Amazon.ca

CRIME CLUB by Melodie Campbell (125 pages)

Crime Club is a breezy engaging read, particularly for reluctant readers. Campbell’s story efficiently presents the stuff of a mystery storie as a group of teenagers try to solve the mystery of a skeleton that has been hidden for over twenty years.

SWEEPING THE HEART by Kevin Henkes (183 pages)

Amelia Albright is not looking forward to spring break. Contemplating what the future brings for her, Amelia finds salvation in working with clay in the local studio and discovers a talent for making ceramic rabbit figures. Amelia’s mother died when the young girl was two years old and her father is rather secretive and hides secrets – even the fact that he is dating a woman who Amelia believes strongly resembles her mother.  A friendship with a boy, named Casey (who is angry over his parent’s imminent divorce) helps to strengthen  Amelia’s understanding of the past, the present and the future. The title has a literal and metaphorical connotation but the novel will sweep the hearts of readers who question the meaning of creativity, family, friendship, and love. Oh fine writer you are, Mr. Henkes!

TOO YOUNG TO ESCAPE: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to be Reunited with Her Family by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (autobiography) (142 pages)

As a young girl, Van Ho discovers that her family hasvanished, escapin  the new communist regime that has taken over Ho Chi Minh City. Van Ho and her grandmother are both unable to embark upon the dangerous journey by boat and have left behind in Vietnam, awaiting sponsorship from her parents who have settled in North America. Until she is reunited with family, Van Ho is forced to work hard and also deal with a bully who has been tormenting her. A strong story of courage and hope that builds readers empathy as they read a true tale about a child who has been affected by war.  Interviews and photographs that conclude this Canadian title provide further insights. 

BEAST RIDER by Tony Johnston and Maria Eleana Fontanot De Rhoads (159 pages)

The Beast (La Bestia) is a train that takes illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States. Twelve-year old Manuel, desperate to be re-united with his brother, leaves behind a family in a small village and jumps aboard the train and embarks on a perilous journey to Los Angeles, not knowing what awaits him there. A timely, gut-wrenching story (for older readers).

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell (graphic novel) (176 pages)

Since it’s release in 1993, The Giver has been read by millions (particularly young adolescents).  This story of a boy who lives in a future community where everyone is the same has been transformed into a play, a movie, and an opera. The graphic adaptation is a perfect vehicle to tell the story in another art form. Much of the images are monochromatic black, white and washes of blue and splashes of colour emerge is given the power to maintain memories.

DREAM WITHIN A DREAM by Patricia MacLachlan (119 pages)

Ever since falling in love with the gem, Sarah Plan and Tall, I find myself wanting to read any novel by Patricia MacLachlan. In this short novel, Louisa and her brother are left their grandparents on Deer Island. Louisa (short for Louisiana) is very concerned when her grandfather Jake’s eyesight is failing. A friendship (and emerging love-interest) with a neighbour, George helps Louisa to deal with all the changes surrounding her. Admirers of MacLachlan’s writing will not be disappointed.

THE RUNAWAYS by Ulf Stark; illus. Kitty Crowther (129 pages)

Translated from the Swedish, with colourful illustrations by Kitty Crowther, this is a warm-hearted story between grandparent and child.  Gottfried Junior’s grumpy grandpa is stuck in the hospital. Together, the two characters hatch a planto escape.For one last time, Grandpa visits the island where he was happiest. Questions about dealing with death are filtered throughout the narrative. Lovely!

THE BRIDGE HOME by Padma Venkatraman (187 pages)

An unsettling story about four homeless children. Two sisters, Viji and Rukku escape their home from an abusive father and find refugee with two boys in an abandoned bridge. The four become friends, scavenging the city trash from day to day in order to survive. Rukku is mentally challenged and when she becomes ill,  the group is forced to decide whether to seek help from strangers or hold on to independence and freedom. A startling story of poverty set in India.

SHOUT OUT

Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND

by Yayoi Kusama

The timeless, whimsical tale by Lewis Carroll is colourfully and whimsically illustrated by world-renowned pop artist Yayoi Kusama. (192 pages)

WHAT’S NEW?: Published in 2019

The titles in this posting have are new publications.  I have included both picture book, fiction and poetry selections (+ one memoir for adults)

PICTURE BOOKS

MARTIN & ANNE: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Marthin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin; illus. Yevgenia Nayburg

Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were both born in the same year (1929). Each faced racial hatred. Each reacted to hate with words of love. The connections and comparisons are made between these two iconic figures, spread by spread.  A gem of a book, inspiring hope.

I DIDN’T STAND UP by Lucy Falcone; illus. Jacqueline Hudson

“First they went after Jamal. / But I’m not black – so I didn’t stand up for him./ Then they went after Duncan. But I’m not a geek – So I didn’t stand up for him. A book that helps readers contemplate the bystander role and consider taking action to be an upstander. (see: Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds)

CIRCLE by Mac Barnett; illus by Jon Klassen; illus. by Mac Barnett; illus by Jon Klassen

The dynamo duo of Barnett and Klassen have presented a third book int heir shapes trilogy (Triangle, Square, and now Circle. A waterfall, the dark, and three good friends learning about rule-making – and rule breaking.

SAY SOMETHING! by Peter H. Reynolds

Last year, Reynolds The Word Collector was at the top of my favourites list. Great that he has another great picture book about activism, making a difference and  to SAY SOMETHING…If you see someone lonley; If you see an empty canvas; If you see someone being hurt; If you have a brilliant idea… because YOUR VOICE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD! (see: I Didn’t Stand Up by Lucy Falcone)

 

NOVELS

NEW KID by Jerry Craft (Graphic novel)

Jordan Banks’ parents decide to enroll their son in a  private school where he discovers that he is one of the few kids of colour. A talented artist, Jordan strives to balance his life in his lower-income neighbourhood, with that of  prestigious school culture. Another great book about learning to fit in as a Middle School. Another great graphic novel narrative.

THE MOON WITHIN by Aida Salazar

Celi Rivera,  a young half Jamaican, half Mexican girl is becoming a woman. Her mother insists on celebrating the occasion of Celi’s first period with a moon ceremony, an ancestral ritual. Life becomes even more complicated for Celi when she falls in love with a boy and has her loyalty tested with her best friend who is genderfluid. Told in free verse style.

TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Two popular authors have collaborated to present a heartwarming and engaging novel about friends and family. Avery Bloom from New York city (Night Owl) and Bett Devlin,from Los Angeles (Dogfish)  engage correspond when they discover that their fathers have fallen in love. The novel is told almost entirely in Email format, from different points of view adding to the authenticity of the voices. Sloan Wolitzer certainly know tweenagers and readers easily become friends with these two characters in a story that includes, summer camp adventures, a grandmother who become a Broadway actress, two fathers journeying through China on motorcycles and gay dating.

CHICKEN GIRL by Heather Smith (YA)

Ebb & Flow, and The Agony of Bun O’Keefe were absolutely two of my favourite reads last year and I so looked forward to Heather Smith’s new novel.  It’s fantastic! Poppy and Cam are two twin teenagers whose relationship is deepened by their varied outlooks on life. Poppy has issues with body images and is hired to dress up as  a chicken mascot to advertise the local restaurant. Cam is an openly gay teen who strives to maintain an optimistic outlook on life with all that he encounters. When Poppy meets a young girl named Miracle who is sheltered by a group of homeless people, she struggles to come to terms with the good and bad in the world. This novel is full of heart, albeit an aching one at times, and unforgettable characters. Kudos to Poppy, Cam, Miracle.. and Heather Smith.

FING by David Walliams; illus. Tony Ross

I bought a copy of this new novel in the airport in Rome and read it on a return trip to Toronto, laughing out loud while miles in the sky. Myrtle Meek is the most irreverent of fictional characters and would probably lead the troupe of Roald Dahl’s obnoxious folk. Myrtle wants /demands to own a Fing, and her parents, Mr.  & Mrs. Meek will go to the ends of the earth to make their daughter happy (and shut her up.)  Walliams and Ross and the brilliant design team have thrilled a multitude of readers with a mighty formula of story, vocabulary, art and graphics and I say praise the literacy lords for that formula of  frivolity and hysteria (Make sure to read the footnotes that appear throughout. )  I am ready for the any next hysterically funny Fing that Walliams gives birth to.

 

HOORAY FOR POETRY

BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! Animal poems for Two or More Voices by Georgia Heard; illus. Aaron DeWitt

Georgia Heard brilliant plays around with the sounds of animals (Alligators/Hiss; Chimpanzees/Hoot; Goats/Bleat; Ferrets/Dook) in this collection of poems, beautifully illustrated, which two (or more) voices can enjoy and read aloud together.

TREES by Verlie Hutches; illus. by Jing Jing Tsong

Short poems painting vivid images of trees, accompanied by wonderful paintings which add tribute to nature’s tall and graceful, wise and gnarled heroes. (e.g., Willow dances/in her narrow kimono/with elegant sweeping leaves/wafting/in gentle wind.)

 

OTHER

TOO MUCH IS NOT ENOUGH: A memoir of fumbling toward adulthood by Andrew Rannells (memoir)

Gay Broadway actor Andrew Rannells recounts his journey from Omaha Nebraska to the Broadway stage. It is a story of dreams, desires, and determination, likely shared by thousands who have made (or hope to make) the same journey to the theatre – or otherwise.

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell (graphic novel)

Since it’s release in 1993, The Giver has been read by millions (particularly young adolescents).  This story of a boy who lives in a future community where everyone is the same has been transformed into a play, a movie, and an opera. The graphic adaptation is a perfect vehicle to tell the story in another art form. Much of the images are monochromatic black, white and washes of blue and splashes of colour emerge is given the power to maintain memories.

 

SHOUT OUT

THE UNDEFEATED

by Kwame Alexander; illus.  Kadir Nelson

A stirring poem that is a love letter to Black American artists, athletes and activists by Kwame Alexander with striking illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  A staggering book. An important book underlining ‘the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.’ (from book jacket). This one will will awards. Please!

This is for the undeniableThe Undefeated

The ones who scored

with chains

on one hand

and faith

in the other.

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS

Warning! This list may be somewhat expensive as you read about some fantastic Nonfiction books which are treasures of information and art. You may be enticed to add titles to your shopping cart after reading about these picture book gems.

THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander; illus.A Kadir Nelson

A stirring poem that is a love letter  to Black American artists, athletes and activists by Kwame Alexander with striking illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  A staggering book. An important book underlining ‘the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.’ (from book jacket). This one will will awards. Please!

THE STUFF OF STARS by Marion Dane Bauer; illus. Ekua Holmes

A time before space existed, a time when stars exploded, planets emerged, Earth was born. And so were animals. And so were we. Lushly illustrated stuff-of-stars journey told in poetic language (“Again and again/ stardust/gave birth to startdust.”)

MARTIN & ANNE: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Marthin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin; illus. Yevgenia Nayburg

Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were both born in the same year (1929). Each faced racial hatred. Each reacted to hate with words of love. The connections and comparisons are made between these two iconic figures, spread by spread.  A gem of a book, inspiring hope.

THE HONEYBEE by Kirsten Hall; illus. Isabelle Arsenault

Facts! Facts! Facts! and more facts about the life and behaviour of bees. The arrangement of verbal text and visuals and the choice of words, make this a remarkably striking picture book. Ideas are presented in a variety of text formats (question and answer, speech bubbles, rhyming, repeated text.)  This one deserves an award!

Cuddle now, rest.

Join our nest.

Huddle and cuddle,

The winter’s our text.

A HISTORY OF PICTURES: For children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford; illus. Rose Blake

Bologna Book Fair (2019): Winner of the New Horizons book award given for innovative books that introduce readers to new horizons.

I am a fan of the artist David Hockney and was thrilled to purchase this beautiful book that the artist and the art critic Martin Gayford take readers on a journey through art history.  The authors offer their personal insights into a range of significant art pieces and explain their creation and the significance of these pieces. The art plates along with the illustrations to accompany the text help to make this a WOW! of a book, certainly one that is more engaging than the art history books we were assigned to read in high school.

THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: The creation of diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall by Hannah Holt; illus. Jay Fleck

The very best of a nonfiction picture book creation, full of information about diamonds, organized under topic headings (e.g., Heat; Pressure; An Eruption; The Change). Narrative and facts are cleverly presented in a unique dual narrative format following the stories of the diamonds from rock to gem, and Tracy Hall, inventor of diamond-making machines. This jewel of book sparkles and shines, like a diamond!

A BUNCH OF PUNCTUATION Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. Serge Bloch

A hybrid of poetry and information writing in a collection of poems that pay tribute to the range of punctuation. (e..g, Forgotten: A Colon’s Complaint; Stubby the Hyphen; Apostrophe).

THEY SHE HE ME: Free to be! by Maya and Matthew

The words of the title are repeated throughout this book to provide very young children with awareness of gender differences… and the use of different pronouns.

28 DAYS: Moment in Black History That Changed the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr; illus. Shane W. Evans

Brilliantly using a variety of poetry formats and succinct informational text, the author present twenty-eight extraordinary events that changed the course of black history. The perfect vehicle for Black History Month – and of course any of the other 11 months – to have students consider the importance of people places and events that can change the world. This book is both powerful and essential.

EMMANUEL’S DREAM: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson; illus. Sean Qualls.

The inspiring true story of Abelism about a young boy who, with only one strong leg, cycled four hundred miles across Ghana, West Africa.

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Young Sylvia Mendez demands to understand why were the children of Mexican families forced to attend separate schools? The Mendez family took matters into their own hands and organized a lawsuit that brought an end to segregated schooling in California in 1947.

All About AnneSHOUT OUT

ALL ABOUT ANNE

by Meno Metselaar and Piet Ledden / Anne Frank House

This is a very informative resource produced by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (available in Canada through Second Story Press). The book is divided into 6 chapters that provide a chronology of events of Anne Frank’s life and death before during and after being hidden in the Secret Annex.  Special text features include numerous photographs, illustrations, information organized under questions and answers.  Very insightful and clear expectations of the iconic historical figure and the events of World War II when Jews were persecuted. Teaching resource guide available through Second Story Press.

SHOUT OUT

Five Canadian NonfictionTitles, 2018

GO SHOW THE WORLD: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew; illus. Joe Morse

EARTHRISE: Apollo 8 and the photo that changed the world by James Gladstone; illus Christy Lundy

TURTLE POND by James Gladstone; illus Karen Reczuch

WALKING IN THE CITY WITH JANE: A story of Jane Jacobs by Susan Hughes, illus. Valerie Boivin

THE TRIUMPHANT TALE OF THE HOUSE SPARROW by Jan Thornhill

CELEBRATING PICTURE BOOKS

The titles listed below are recent picture book purchases of titles published before 2019.  If there are themes that connect these selections,  I would say that I tend to choose picture books that show character strength, celebrate differences and tell stories of belonging.

 

CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illus Gordon C. James (Newbery Honor; Caldecott Honor, 2018)

When it’s your turn in the chair,

you stand at attention and forget about

who you were when

you walked through that door.

 

HELLO LIGHTHOUSE by Sophie Blackall /Caldecott Medal Winner 2019

On the highest rock of a tiny island

at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.

It is built to last forever

Sending its light out to sea.

 

THE GOLDEN GLOW by Benjamin Flouw

Every evening, sitting in his armchair, Fox likes to leaf through old botany books, looking for the next new plant to add to his collection.

 

YO SOY MUSLIM by Mark Gonzales; illus. Mehrdok Amini

No matter what they say,

know that you are wondrous.

A child of crescent moons,

a builder of mosques,

a descendant of brilliance,

an ancestor in training.

 

IDEA JAR by Adam Lehrhaupt; illus. Deb Pilutti

This is my teacher’s Idea Jar.

We keep our story ideas in it.

My teacher says a story

can be anything we want.

 

ALMA: And how she got her name by Juana Martinez-Zeal (Caldecott Honor, 2019)

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela had a long name – too long if you asked her.

 

I JUST ATE MY FRIEND by Heidi McKinnon

I just ate my friend.

He was a good friend,

but now he’s gone.

 

ALL ARE WELCOME by Alexandra Penfold: illus. Suzanne Kaufman

In our classroom safe and sound.

Fears are lost and hope is found.

Raise your hand, we’ll go around.

All are welcome here.

 

PINK IS FOR BOYS by Robb Pearlman; illus. Eda Kaban

Pink is for boys.

And girls.

Blues if for girls.

And boys.

 

BEAR AND WOLF by Daniel Salmieri

Bear was out walking, when she spotted something poking out from the glistening white.

At the same time, Wolf was out walking, when he spotted something poking out from the glistening white.

SHOUT OUT

HIDDEN (a graphic story)

by Loic Dauvillier; illus Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo

A grandmother shares memories with her granddaughter about the time she wore a Star of David in Paris in 1942. It is a story of living in fear and of strangers’ kindnesses.

 Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust

A VERY SPECIAL SHOUT OUT

MORE WOULD YOU RATHER… BY JOHN BURNINGHAM

Would you like to fly with the pelicans or swim with the fish?

 

At a recent visit to the Bologna Book Fair, I ple

More Would You Rather

On a recent trip to the Bologna Book Fair, I pleaded with the sales representative from Random House UK to let me have a copy of this book.  David Booth brought the original Would You Rather …  (1978)  to Canada in the  and I witnessed him sharing it with many audiences, helping them to understand the power of story and imaginative play.  It would, for sure, be one of my desert island picture books.  When I saw this new version, I  a strong emotional attachment overcame me, remembering David’s delivery of the text and the beautiful article he wrote about drama and imaginative play. The sales representative gave me the book as a gift.  I include this title as a special shout out, since John Burningham, master illustrator, master storyteller passed away in January 2019.  Thank you for Would You Rather...Thank you for you words and pictures, Mr. Burningham.

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing

Courtney

Come Away from the Water, Shirley

Grandpa

Cloudland

Oi, Get Off the Train

John Patrick Norman McHennessy: the boy who was always late

Wind in the Willows (illustrations)