The titles below present an overview of chapter books and novels and one novella that I read in the past month. Books are presented in order of suggested age appeal. Two SHOUT OUTS (non-fiction) are provided to conclude this post.

THE FOX AND THE GHOST KING by Michael Morpurgo / suggested ages 7-9

Why? Ever since reading WAR HORSE about a decade ago I have been a Morpurgo fan (What took me so long? Since I’ve recently been collecting books with Fox characters (e.g., Pax by Pennypacker), I decided to buy this slim chapter book with illustrations by Michael Foreman.

Verdict: May appeal to young readers who like stories about animals, ghost kings and football (soccer). May be a bit obscure for North American audiences who may not be as enamoured with football matches as the Brits.

BOOK UNCLE AND ME by Uma Krishnaswami / suggested ages 7 -9

Why? The title. I am a book uncle.

Verdict: An appealing character who loves books, believes in fighting for justice. The setting in a community in India is a plus.

SCAR ISLAND by Dan Gemeinart / suggested ages 10-12

Why? Enjoyed reading The Honest Truth by the author. Was drawn to the Reformatory setting where a group of boys need to survive in a world without adults. The Lord of the Flies premise appealed to me.

Verdict: Should appeal to boy readers who like a good adventure/ survival story. The Lord of the Flies theme didn’t pack a punch.

SHORT by Holly Goldberg Sloan / suggested ages 10 -12

Why? Enjoyed reading Sloan’s Counting by 7′s. Always interested in reading about characters who’s identity poses a challenge. In this case, Julia is one of the shortest kids in her school – but don’t call her short.

Verdict: The book is centred on Julia’s experiences playing a munchkin in a community production of The Wizard of Oz. Julia’s commitment to the production along with her friendships help her discover what it means to be an artist, and what it means to be strong and true to oneself. An amusing, breeze read.

FLYING LESSONS & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh / suggested ages 11- 13

Why?: 1. Short Stories 2. Each story centred on diversity 3.  award-winning authors (and other notable authors) (e.g., Matt de la Pena, Jacqueline Woodson, Walter Dean Myers.)

Verdict: With short stories you can pick and choose which one’s you want to dig into and in what order. I read the book chronologically and would willingly share any of the titles with middle school readers as a story of diversity and identity.

SHOOTER by Caroline Pignat / suggested ages 12-16

Why? Pignat is a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award. I always find that her books pack a punch. I enjoy reading novels that are told from different perspectives. I enjoy books that have varied formats (e.g. free-verse poetry, text messages, journals).

Verdict: The setting is a high school. The story is told in mostly real time through the voices of five teenagers trapped in a washroom during a lockdown in the school when a shooter threatens the safety of the school population. An engaging, suspenseful read for young adolescents who will likely connect to the stories of each of the five high school students in this novel.

AND EVERY MORNING IN THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER by Fredrik Backman /suggested for adults

Why? 1.After reading A Man Called Ove, I am eager to read all of Backman’s fiction. 2. Am intrigued with the novella format (76 pages). 3.Recently seem to be reading stories about approaching death 4. Enjoy reading stories about memories. 5. A heartwarming relationship between grandfather and grandson.

Verdict: A little gem. (see 5 reasons above)

Mr. MONKEY by Francine Prose / suggested for adults

Why? A friend recommended it. The story is centred on the production of a children’s play and I like going to children’s plays.

Verdict: A romp.  Was going to give up on the book after 50 pages, but it seemed to get better as I continued.

SHOUT OUT by Kwame Alexander

THE PLAYBOOK: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot and Score in the Game Called Life

by Kwame Alexander

  • Short free verse poetry
  • Short biographies stories of inspirational athletes (Le Bron James, Wilma Rudolph, Pele)
  • 52 ‘rules’  / precepts to live by
  • Black and White photographs by Thai Neave
  • Kwame Alexander is a great author (The Crossover, Booked)
  • The end pages are textured ‘as if’ a basketball.

Appeals to: young men, older men, young women, older women, coaches, basketball players, sports enthusiasts, those who say they don’t like poetry, t those who admire free-verse poetry,  those who feel that everything they learned about life they learned from being an athlete, and those who contemplate their own rules of life they follow. This is a book of motivation and inspiration and is sure to be at the top of top ten lists for a long while.





Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Bravo to David Booth and team (Lisa Rupchand, Lara Carmale, Danny Cavanagh, Dorian Nicholson) who created a remarkable – and beautifully laid out – publication celebrating the impact of OISE, past, present and future. This is an informative document about an important educational institution (which I’ve had the honour of working at for many years!)