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Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

tagged: forests, urban forests, trees, picture books, biodiversity, nature, cities, science, 49th kids

Book Cover A Forest in the City

A Forest in the City, by Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is the first in Groundwood Books’ new series ThinkCities about sustainability and urban systems. It looks at how trees in the city help mitigate climate change and help us all stay healthy and well. Author Andrea Curtis marks its April publication with a list of books for young people about trees. 

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Trees and nature have provided balm for the stress and anxiety of our lives since, well, forever. But perhaps no more so than in the midst of this pandemic. There can be little that is more soothing than to inhale the smell of green things growing, to gaze up at the swaying branches of a forest and know that these giants persist despite it all. But when self isolation and physical distancing has got your family cooped up, the next best thing might just be reading picture books (fiction and nonfiction) about trees. Here’s a list of some standouts in the category.

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Picture Books

 

The Night Gardener, by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

This fantastical and moving story of a topiary genius, who c …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Catchy Beginnings

tagged: language, picture books, middle grade, kids books, 49th kids

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

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Hey! You! Want to help kids build great hooks into their stories?

The language curriculum for Grades 3–6 touches on the use of a strong opening, or "lead." Presented here is a smorgasbord of techniques, along with examples from novels and a few picture books.

Strategy #1: Start with an action

In these books, the author hooks us with a memorable action.

Lost in the Backyard, by Alison Hughes, begins, “I am lying alone in the dark forest, dying.”

About the book: Flynn hates the outdoors. Always has. He barely pays attention in his Outdoor Ed class. He has no interest in doing a book report on Lost in the Barrens. He doesn’t understand why anybody would want to go hiking or camping. But when he gets lost in the wilderness behind his parents’ friends’ house, it’s surprising what he remembers—e.g., insulate your clothes with leaves, eat snow to stay hydrated, build a shelter, eat lichen—and how hopelessly inept he is at survival techniques.

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Role Models for—Everyone!

tagged: helaine becker, liz wong, pirate queen, strong girls, 49th kids, international women's day

Helaine Becker's latest book is Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao, illustrated by Liz Wong.

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From the beginning of time, women’s accomplishments have been scrubbed from the history books. It’s beyond infuriating to be told, “girls don’t” and “girls can’t”—only to discover girls and women can do and have done!

These wonderful books for young people help set the record straight. Some are biography, some are fiction, but all are wonderful depictions of accomplishment.

And please don’t say these books are good for “girls.” Girls already KNOW what we can do. It’s everyone else who needs to be clonked over the head with the news. Get boys these books and give ‘em to adults of every gender to start changing the paradigm.

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Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, by Lisa Dalrymple

Jaw-dropping true stories about real Canadian women who accomplished unbelievable things. Dalrymple dug into unpublished research to uncover these untold stories about amazing women like Cougar Annie, Ttha´naltther and Mona Parsons. You’ll be gobsmacked.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Procedural Writing

tagged: procedural text, 49th kids, notes from a children's librarian

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

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The language curriculum asks students to understand and create a variety of writing forms, including the procedural form, involving "how to" text, and also pictures and symbols showing steps in a procedure.

Great examples of procedural text can be found in Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series. Watt’s telltale humour is ever-present as the squirrel’s neurotic need for a plan triggers unexpected (and serendipitous) results.

The original Scaredy Squirrel showcases Scaredy making arrangements to leave the safety of his tree. The “What to do in case of an emergency” scheme includes “Step 1: Panic, Step 2: Run.” His daily routines are also in the form of a program, i.e. “6:45 Wake up. 7:00 Eat a nut.” Scaredy loves making lists—of his fears, emergency items, pros and cons—which could lead to a discussion about the ways that lists are different than procedural writing.

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In Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, the squirrel writes, “How to …

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CanLit's Favourite Cakes

tagged: cakes, 49th kids, family literacy day, picture books, recipes

Today is Family Literacy Day, a national event that annually celebrates the importance of families engaging in literacy activities together, sharpening skills and building relationships. Literacy activities including reading picture books together—and baking from recipes! Which leads to even deepening relationships as families eat cake together. Picture book cakes, no less!

Of course CanLit's all-time favourite cakes would include the one from Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman (nom nom), or the cake that Rilla, in abject humiliation, had to carry across town in Rilla of Ingleside.

But in the spirit of Family Literacy, we're sticking to our favourite cakes from picture books. With links to recipes, even. Enjoy!

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Sleeping Dragons All Around, by Sheree Fitch and Michele Nidenoff

About the book: Sheree Fitch has read this book to audiences from sea to sea to sea in Canada, in the Himalayas, and along the eastern coast of Africa. Her first two books, Toes in My Nose and Sleeping Dragons All Around, launched her career as a poet, rhymster, and a "kind of Canadian female Dr. Seuss." Fitch has won almost every major award for Canadian children's literature since then, including the 2000 Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work Inspirational to Canadian Children. She h …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Descriptive Language

tagged: descriptive language, 49th kids, notes from a children's librarian, beautiful books, picture books

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

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These beautiful books exemplify descriptive language for Grades 1–6.

Once Upon a Northern Night, by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is the perfect mentor text for descriptive language. While a little boy sleeps, a snowy night scene is painted for both the boy and the reader.

“Once upon a northern night/pine trees held out prickly hands/to catch the falling flakes/that gathered into puffs of creamy white,/settling like balls of cotton,/waiting.” Check out Pendziwol’s description of deer: “They nuzzled the sleeping garden/with memories of summer.” And “... a great gray owl gazed down/with his great yellow eyes/on the milky-white bowl of your yard.” There are also some beautiful examples of alliteration.

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Another go-to text for vivid language, When the Moon Comes, by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James, captures a nighttime hockey game in the woods.

“End to end and around we fly, the long black stripes of our …

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Picture Books We Loved in 2019

tagged: books of year, picture books, 49th kids, kids books, books for young readers

Picture books...they're not just for kids! They make perfect books for readers of all ages. Here are some of our favourite titles from this year.

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A Little House in a Big Place, by Alison Acheson and Valériane Leblond

About the book: Every day, in a little house in a little town in the middle of a big place, a girl stands at her window and waves to the engineer of the train that passes on the nearby tracks. The engineer waves back and his wave and her wave together make a home in her heart. The little girl is curious about the engineer, about where he came from and where he goes. Which makes her wonder if she might go away, too, some day. This beautiful free verse picture book explores the magic of a connection made between strangers, while also pondering the idea of growing up, and what might lie beyond a child's own small piece of the world.

Alison Acheson has created a deceptively simple, warm story that will stay with readers of all ages long after they've closed the book. Children everywhere will relate to the girl at her window—what child hasn't waved to the driver of a train, truck, or bus and hadn't been thrilled to have the wave returned? Valériane Leblond's illustrations echo the girl's feelings for the prairie, the “big place” where she lives, …

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Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative

tagged: primary curriculum, learning skills, 49th kids, picture books

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

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The learning skills part of the report card is divided into areas such as Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative—habits that affect all areas of academic achievement. It’s sometimes difficult to find fun ways of explicitly teaching these skills. Here are some great picture books to help.

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Self-Regulation

The inverse idea of kids teaching their parents how to follow the rules is realized in The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten, by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery. A little girl’s mom spends the day butting in line, calling out of turn, slamming her scissors in frustration, and traipsing across the classroom in her outdoor shoes. When given a chance to change her behaviour, the mom rises to the challenge.

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Similarly, a boy’s father must learn to pay attention and show good sportsmanship in The Day Dad Joined My Soccer Team, also by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery.

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Seeds of a Story 2019: Part 2

tagged: 49th kids, ccbc book awards, seeds of a story

Here's Part 2 of the Seeds of a Story series, which tells you the stories behind the stories nominated for the CCBC Book Awards, which were handed out in Toronto this week. Check out Seeds of a Story Part 1 here, and also the list of award winners. Congratulations to everybody involved!

And now read on to discover which books were inspired by history, by questions, by rap lyrics, by beach glass, true crime podcasts, and more! 

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Wolfe in Shepherd's Clothing, by Counio and Gane

Nominated for the John Spray Mystery Award

The killer is often the starting point for our murder mysteries: we ask ourselves who they are, who they kill, and why. But we also build on what’s come before, seeking variation in motives, methods and victims from book to book. In Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing, the third book of the Shepherd & Wolfe mysteries, we knew we needed a brutal “bad guy,” one far more dangerous than anyone our boys had yet encountered.

Our concept of the killer evolved during the outlining and writing process. When we started writing the third book, we decided the villain would be someone hiding their identity, swooping in from another country to make their kills. When we shared this concept with our publisher, she made a suggestion that reshaped the entire plan, an …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Text to Text

tagged: primary grades., 49th kids, notes from a children's librarian

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

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Bird Child, by Nan Forler, illustrated by Francois Thisdale, is a poignant story of a girl who witnesses bullying. Eliza is like a bird—tiny and able to “fly.” From her vantage point, she can clearly see all that goes on around her. She can also look up and see possibility. When she witnesses the new girl, Lainey, being teased because of her straw hair and frayed coat, Eliza does nothing. She watches Lainey’s excitement about school waning with each passing day and still she does nothing. One day Lainey doesn’t show up for school and Eliza realizes what she needs to do—show her classmate how she too can fly.  

Lucy M. Falcone’s I Didn’t Stand Up, illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon, addresses a similar topic. A boy regrets not standing up to all different types of bullying (including against gay and trans classmates) and finally finds strength in numbers. 

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Seeds of a Story 2019: Part 1

tagged: ccbc book awards, 49th kids, kids' books, children's literature

This week, the CCBC Book Awards, celebrating the best of children's literature in Canada, will be presented in Toronto. We asked the nominees to tell us about the seeds of their stories, the places from which their inspiration grew. Here are some of their responses. Part Two appears later this week.

Read on to discover what books were inspired by an East German museum, the song "What a Fool Believes," two vibrant communities on opposite coasts, and one writer's son's important question. 

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Aftermath, by Kelley Armstrong

Nominated for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award and the John Spray Mystery Award

The “aftermath” in the title is the aftermath of a school shooting and how it affected both the sister of a shooter and the brother of a victim. The story seed came from an article about the online and real-life harassment a sibling’s shooter endured. I knew parents of shooters received intense scrutiny and negative attention—I’d recently listened to an interview with one parent—but the sibling relationship was an angle I hadn’t considered. I was extremely wary of using an actual shooting in a thriller, but dealing only with the aftermath seemed like a good way to tackle a sensitive subject, and my editors agreed. 

It takes over two years for my books to go …

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Most Anticipated: 2019 Books for Young Readers Preview

tagged: 49th kids, 2019 fall preview, books for young readers

Our 2019 fall preview concludes with this incredible array of books for young readers (which are really still books for everybody).

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Picture books

Award-winning illustrator Alfonso Ruano’s art depicts the depth of feeling that friends experience in My Friend (October), a story about how difficult it is to come from somewhere else and what a difference friendship can make, by acclaimed author and translator Elisa Amado. Cale Atkinson's Unicorns 101 (September) is everything you ever wanted to know about the science behind unicorns: biology, history, diet, habitat, and more! Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round (September), by Rosanna Battigelli and Tara Anderson, is a rhyming Halloween romp with a family of cozy cats. Readers say goodnight to children all over the world in Andrea Beck's companion to Goodnight, Canada!, this time with Goodnight World (September). Come Back to Earth, Esther! (September) is the authorial debut of Josée Bisaillon, the Marilyn Baillie Award-winning illustrator of The Snow Knows; it follows a young girl with dreams as big as the universe. And A Pocket of Time: The Poetic Childhood of Elizabeth Bishop (November), with words by Elizabeth Bishop and Rita Wilson and art by Emma FitzGerald, is a gentle, poetic ode to Pulitzer Prize–winning …

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