Fiction, nonfiction and poetry titles and some titles  that deal with tough topics – and the pandemic. Some staggering art abounds, including a list of Caldecott winners, 2021.

THE LIGHTS & TYPES OF SHIPS AT NIGHTS by Dave Eggers; illus. Annie Dills (nonfiction)

WOW! WOW! WO! This book is a celebration of ships that pass in the night providing. readers with essential facts about all kinds of boats  (a container ship, a RORO, a trawler, a galleon.  Moreover, the astonishing art illuminates the words. You can certainly see those lights shine brightly as they explode off the dark background.  Follow the invitation the author to give praise to the world of boats: “But did you realize that of all the worlds most beautiful sights, there is nothing more beautiful than a ship and its lights on the sea at night? This is true This is a factual book.”  This premise may be far removed from the world of most young citizens but isn’t it oh-so-wonderful- the worlds and information that a great picture book to their wondering minds?

A PLACE INSIDE OF ME: A poem to heal the heart by Zetta Elliott; illus. Noa Denman (poem)

This title recently received a Caldecott Honour prize. Through the eyes of a Black  boy, readers think about the different emotions that young adolescents might experience, (i.e., fear, anger, pride, joy). Amidst grief and protests and healing, “There is still hope inside of me/ a promise deep down inside of me/ that I will use my life to help others/ and they will help me in return.” 

WE ALL BELONG by Nathalie Goss; illus. Goss

Simple rhyming text and clear illustrations help young children think about the fact that “Everyone is different in one way or another.” A good introduction to diversity. 

THINKER: MY PUPPY POET AND ME by Eloise Greenfield; illus. Ehsan Abdollahi (poetry)

A small collection of free=verse. poems, written by an average puppy named Thinker. Jace’s pet needs to keep quiet, but when he accompany’s his owner to school one day his secret identity as poet extraordinaire is revealed.

When I recite my poems,
I make music. I say the words
fast or slow high or low,
I stop and I go, almost
like singing, making

CATCH THE SKY by Robert Heidbreder; illus. Emily Dove

Each short rhymes (each four lines) in this collection is a tribute to things we see  high in the sky. (e.g., Kites, Dragonflies, Balloons, Helicopter, Elephant Cloud, ). The subtitle of the book ‘ Playful  Poems on the Air We Share”  is an invitation to read these poems to and with young readers. Wonderful!


Dark sprays of wings

     through fading light,

        crowd-clouds of crows

             head home for the night.

INTERSECTION ALLIES: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnshon, La Toya Council, & Carolyn Choi; illus. Ashley Seil Smith

The intersection of our identity (ie. age, sin colour, religion, body size, class and culture identify who we are and how we live. By helping young people think about  how all the different parts of ourselves combine to affect our life experiences and personal identity (i.e., Intersectionality), the authors invite our students to open their arms up wide to ‘make room’ for those who are not like us. Despite differences, we can still have values and interests and stories that intersect. A remarkable, accessible book told in rhyme that helps readers grown in their understanding of uniqueness and social justice. Much thanks to teacher Tracey Donaldson for recommending this titles. 

THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO by Irene Latham; Shamsi-Basha Karium and Yuko Shimizu (nonfiction)

This is based on the true story of a Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel who bravely offered safe haven to hundreds cats in Aleppo  left stranded the midst of Syrian Civil War. This title was the recipient of the Caldecott Honor, 2021. The story and art together make this a treasured book for sharing 

AND THE PEOPLE STAYED HOME by Kitty O’Meara; illus. Stefano Di Cristofaro and Paul Pereda

A book for our times when e we needed to go into quarantine. This poem was written in the early days of the global coronavirus pandemic and posted o Facebook. The book has now presented as a picture book with simple statements and large pages flat-colour illustrations The words help readers to think about the importance of spending time with ourselves, to cherish the people and things in our lives and to consider our place in the planet. (“And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.”).  I have a hunch we’ll be meeting much literature about COVID 19.  A book like this (and Eric Walters’ novel “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” are worthy pieces to begin the journey. 

WHO ARE REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS? WHAT MAKES PEOPLE LEAVE THEIR HOMES? and other big questions by Michael Rosen 7 Annemarie Young (nonfiction)

This nonfiction book answers some essential questions to help readers understand the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who have left their homes, often experiencing life-threatening journeys to find safety. The questions and answers are clearly laid out (with photographs) in 485 page resource which  succinctly provides explanations to help readers a) understand the plight of millions of people across the world b) think about the big questions raised by the subject and think about their own views and responsibilities to human rights. 

I AM HUMAN: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde; illus. Peter H. Reynolds

This title affirms that being human means that we find joy in friendships, be fearful of things we don’t yet understand.,  and that we are not perfect and make mistakes.  If I  “keep trying to be the best version of ME”, I know that I need to make good choices, act with compassion have empathy for others, thereby feeling l am connected to the goodness of the world.

BOX: Henry Brown Mills Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. Michele Wood (biography; poetry)

 There are many fine examples of children’s picture books, biographies and novels to help readers make sense of the Slavery and the Undergroiund Railroad experience. In this award-winning book, Poet Carole Boston Weatherford  tells the story of Henry Brown, who shipped himself in a box from slavery to freedom. The narration is told in titled stanzas of six lines each ‘each line representing one side of a box.’  Factual information drawn from both Brown’s own writing and historical records provide the poetic narration. The art work (mostly given full pages) exquisitely conveys the life of African Africans seeking freedom. An important, astonishing,  picture book creation. 

SOMETIMES A WALL by Dianne White; Illus. Barroux

We haven’t heard the word “I’m building a wall,’ much in the lasg couple of years but in this picture book, we go an a neighbourhod journey, through simple subtly rhyming text to encounter all kinds of walls. (‘So many things we choose to do / Different sides and points of view.


SHOUT OUT: Caldecott Awards Winners, 2021

WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS by Carole Lindstrom; illus. Michaela Goade (2020)

This picture book is worthy of the awards it will/should receive. A rally cry to save the Earth’s water from harm and corruption (i.e. the harm of the evil black snake). “This is not a Native American issue; this is a humanitarian issue. It is time that we all become stewards of our planet so we can protect it for our children and our children’s children./ Water affects and connects us all. We must fight to protect it.” Carole Lindstrom

WHY?: Inspired by Indigenous movements to defend the sacred resource. A strong companion piece to award-winning The Water Walker by Canadian Ojibwe author.  Lush jewel-coloured illustrations provide an art-gallery of visuals. Bonus: Appendix essay /More on Water Protectors. Bonus (final page) An Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge (“I will do my best to honor Mother Earth and all its living beings, including the water and land. I will always remember to treat the Earth as I would like to be treated.”)

We stand

With our songs

And our drums.

We are still here.


Caldecott Honor Winners

ME AND MAMA by Cozbi  Cabrera

THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO  by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha;  illus. Yoku Shimuzu

OUTSIDE IN by Deborah Underwood; illus. Cindy Derby.

A PLACE INSIDE OF ME by Noa Denmon; illus, Zetta Elliott