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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Jewish Heritage

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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These stories showcasing Jewish heritage will be enjoyed by all ages, from Kindergarten to Grade 6.

In Ten Old Men and a Mouse, by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Gary Clement, a party of elderly characters keep the synagogue alive by shuffling there daily, even with their aches and pains. When a mouse appears, the party sets out to catch it, but they fall in love instead. They create a mouse home, complete with dollhouse table and cut-up magazine pictures on the wall. The “boy” mouse becomes round and reclusive—and has babies! They drive the burgeoning family out to the country to a perfect new home in a hollow tree. After some time, the lonely empty-nest mother returns in a hilarious ending. “Don’t worry…” the men tell her, “You’ll hear from your kids again…when they need something.”

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Oy! Feh! So?, also by Cary Fagan and Gary Clement, is a playful little book that needs to be read aloud. Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah, and Uncle Sam visit eve …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Stories for Asian Heritage Month

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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These are books highlighting Asian heritage for the month of May.

Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival, by Arlene Chan, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, is nonfiction in picture book form. It describes the history and rituals surrounding the race which happens on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar in order to protect against misfortune. It also explains race preparation, rules, team makeup—the pacers in the front, the engine in the middle and the rockets in the rear. It captures the process: “Paddles Up! Race Ready!”—boaters' hearts racing, knowing the first powerful strokes count. (Grades 1 to 6)

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Book Cover Hana Hashitmoto Sixth Violin

In Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng, Hana visits her Ojiichan’s (grandfather) home in Japan, complete with shoji screens and tatami mats. Having played in the Kyoto orchestra, he performs for Hana and her brothers on the porch, making his violin sound like crickets or rain on pap …

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What the Kite Saw: Stories of Children and Crisis

Book Cover What the Kite Saw

My new picture book, What The Kite Saw, illustrated by Akin Duzakin, shares what a young boy feels and does after soldiers seize control of his town and take his father and brother away. War has a brutal impact on children whenever adults (nations) resolve a conflict through military force. I gave this story a universal setting because, sadly, it could happen anywhere.

Children have their own unique ways of facing a crisis. Yes, they need protecting, but they are also resilient. They have inner resources, spunk and imagination. The young protagonists in the stories I’ve chosen face their crisis in ways I find inspiring with an idea they’ve imagined themselves. No adult guides the child. Regardless of the situation, these stories reflect a respect for the dignity of children.

Book Cover Fatty Legs

Fatty Legs, by Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak is determined to learn to read and ignores her father’s warnings that residential schools are terrible places. After Margaret leaves the safety of …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Celebrating STEM

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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This list includes all kinds of STEM’ers—science enthusiasts, builders, inventors, real life engineers—in both fiction and non-fiction texts.

In Fairy Science, by Ashley Spires, Esther is the only fairy in Pixieville who believes in science. According to Esther, magical rainbows are actually the dispersion of light; water droplets on plants, viewed as a bad omen, are simply condensation; spirit faces in the rocks are a result of erosion. She teaches her fellow fairies the scientific method, the periodic table and demonstrates gravity. But it takes a wilting tree and Esther’s data-based life-saving research to convert a few fairies to her way of thinking. This tale includes a bean experiment at the back. (Grades 1-3)

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Come Back to Earth, Esther! written by Josée Bisaillon depicts Esther as a normal girl with an astronomy obsession. She recreates solar systems at mealtime (e.g. a pancake and a strip of bacon looks like Saturn; half-bitten coo …

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Seeds of a Story: 2020 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards

Last week, the winners of the 2020 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards were announced. And now we're excited to share short pieces by finalist authors on the inspirations for their celebrated works and how they came to be born.

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Love From A to Z, by S.K. Ali

Nominated for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Love from A to Z grew from many seeds—one of which was that I wasn’t seeing the kind of love story that was familiar to me and my family and friends. Muslim romantic storylines in popular culture tend to be focused on marriages arranged by parents (even if that’s not the romance in the story, the main character is often presented as grappling with the expectation of arranged marriages) and that wasn’t my experience, and isn’t an intrinsic part of Islam. Muslim cultures vary widely and so how relationships develop vary. I just wanted to tell a story familiar to me but that I wasn’t seeing on shelves: two Muslims meeting serendipitously and falling for each other.

The journey of two characters falling in love had to be dealt with justly (I felt) so I set out to tell two distinct stories. That meant mapping out two story-arcs, two character journeys, two worlds, and then I proceeded to envision these two tales as they would look fully realized, as tho …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: The "I Am Canada" Series

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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The “I am Canada” series is addictive. Aimed primarily at boys in Grade 7 and up, these books about war are dark, action-filled and sometimes gruesome. They could work for mature Grade 5 or 6 readers, or also as read-alouds with follow-up discussion close to Remembrance Day. These first-person narratives are so compelling that a reader doesn’t even notice that they’re actually learning history. At the back of each book, there’s a note on the historical accuracy, with photos of original documents and images of the real life characters the books are based on.

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Book Cover Sniper Fire

Sniper Fire: The Fight for Ortona (Paul Baldassara, Italy, 1943), by Jonathan Webb

The dramatic opening puts the reader right in the thick of war. Paul is an Italian from Alberta who enlists in the Canadian army and finds himself in Italy during a month-long battle to capture (and eventually win) the town of Ortona. The descriptions of vicious street fighting that cost more than 2,300 Canadian casualties elicit all the senses. Paul and his buddies take Ortona street by street, house by house, enduring sniper fire, booby-trapped doors, chairs, and toilets. The effect on the civilians becomes evident …

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Launchpad: THE BARREN GROUNDS, by David A. Robertson

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today we're launching David A. Robertson's The Barren Grounds, the first instalment in an an epic middle grade fantasy series  where Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations.

The book is being championed by Susin Nielsen, who tells us, "David A. Robertson has written such a fine, beautiful novel. He manages to combine hard truths about our history with a Narnia-like fantasy, sweeping us into the world of the story while opening our hearts as well."

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49th Shelf: What particular something have you managed to achieve with this book that you’re especially proud of?

David A. Robertson: It was a difficult task to draw inspiration from a classic bo …

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

New books for young readers...and readers of all ages!

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Picture Books

Told in rhyming verse, The Old Man and the Penguin (October), by Julie Abery and illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is the touching true story of an oil-soaked penguin, the man who rescues him and an unlikely friendship. Cakes, cookies or pie? A rivalry among local bakers is the basis for the deliciously sweet, off-the-wall picture book It Happened On Sweet Street (July), by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. Bed has something to say. Bed knows you do not like bedtime. Bed gets it. But look ... YOU are not so great, either: Monica Arnaldo provides the other side of the story in Time for Bed's Story (September). And a young girl discovers nature’s surprising beauty in The Most Amazing Bird (November), from renowned Inuit storyteller Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, illustrated by Andrew Qappik.

Book Cover Princesses Vs Dinosaurs

Two popular storybook titans, princesses and dinosaurs, battle to determine who should star in Linda Bailey's new laugh-out-loud picture book, Princesses Versus Dinosaurs (September), …

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Kid Sterling: Books on Jazz and Justice

Christine Welldon introduces her debut novel, Kid Sterling, and she marks its release with a list of inspiring books that addresses the problems of racism and the trials of gifted African Americans and Canadians who dared to pursue their dreams in an unjust world.

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Kid Sterling is a Young Adult novel about Sterling Crawford, a young African American kid living in New Orleans in 1906, who works on the streets to help his family. He plays trumpet, and what he’d really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that’s turning New Orleans upside down.

Through the pages of this vivid novel, you will discover others whose genius created modern music. The beat and the strains of jazz surged into life even while African-Americans struggled against deep racial divisions of the time: curfews designed to keep black people out of the streets, a loaded justice system, and racial barriers that divided a nation.

For Sterling, life is not easy, but in the end he finds his way in a new and challenging musical world in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.

The list below includes African Canadians and African American musicians and others who fought against racism and inspired succeeding genera …

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Ann Eriksson Launches BIRD'S EYE VIEW

Today Ann Eriksson launches her new book Bird's Eye View: Keeping Wild Birds in Flight, a compelling children's nonfiction title. Author and naturalist Trevor Herriot writes,  "Anyone, young or old, who wants to learn more about the birds that live in their neighbourhood or on the other side of the planet will love this book."

For more on bird books for kids, see our Children's Librarian Julie Booker's recent list of bird-inspired (and inspirING) picture books.

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Bird’s-Eye View: Keeping Wild Birds in Flight, is a nonfiction book with colour photos for middle readers about wild birds and bird conservation with a special focus on what kids (and their adults) can do to improve the lives of our feathered friends. 

Describe your ideal reader.

Loves nature, interested in taking positive actions for the planet, wants to know more about wild birds and how to engage with them and protect them and their habitat.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Other books in the Orca Wild series including Orcas Everywhere, by Mark Leiren-Young; Gone is Gone and Sea Otters, by Isabelle Groc; and Return from Extinction, by Linda L. Richards. 

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/y …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Bird Books

Book Cover That Chickadee Feeling

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Once when I was young, on a family hike through the ravine, I spotted a man in the bushes with his arms out, a flurry of grey and white, black-capped birds fluttering round him. He put his finger to his lips as we approached. We stopped dead in our tracks, watching the chickadees swoop from nearby branches to peck at seed in the crown of his hat and upturned palms.

I remembered this magical moment when I read That Chickadee Feeling, by Frank Glew, illustrated by the Marna Twins. It begins with a kid who’s really, really bored, so their mom invites them on an outing with some seed and advice to be patient. When a bird lands on the child’s hand, the kid experiences “that chickadee feeling.” It’s the same feeling that comes from riding a bike for the first time, or winning a race (or encountering the Chickadee man in the forest). This tale challenges the reader to find a way out of boredom, with birding as a definite option.

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Over the Rooftop …

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Launchpad: Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney, which comes highly recommended from CM: Canadian Review of Materials. Their reviewer writes, "How great a treat it will be to read this book in a grandmother’s lap."

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Book Cover Grandmother School

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence:

Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney: It's a story about grandmothers in a village in India who go to school for the first time in their lives.

Describe your ideal reader.

Rina Singh: A six or a seven year old who will …

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