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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Sequencing and Coding

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

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Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round, by Romana Battigelli, illustrated by Tara Anderson, is great for kindergarteners, with its simple rhyming text. A family of cats prepare for Halloween, through the lens of all-things-pumpkin, including finding the right gourd, carving (”Pumpkin drawing, pumpkin trace, pumpkin carving, pumpkin face!” ), dressing up, trick or treating (“Pumpkin flashlight, pumpkin chum, pumpkin neighbour, pumpkin mom”), then going home, tired, to bed.

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I Dare You Not to Yawn, by Helene Boudreau, illustrated by Serge Bloch, features another chain of events. When a yawn pops out of the main character, his mom sends him upstairs for pyjamas. “Pajamas lead to bedtime stories. Bedtime stories lead to sleepy-time songs,” which lead to goodnight kisses and being tucked in. The second half of the book includes a yawn broken down into sequential actions: arms up, eyes squish, mouth opens, tongue curls back, then yawn (and bedtime!).

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Water

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

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On the fiction side of things:

Solid, Liquid, Gassy: A Fairy Science Story, by Ashley Spires, is a delightful picture book featuring Esther, a different kind of fairy who chooses to adhere to scientific fact over magic. This book teaches not only the water cycle, but also the scientific process. When the local pond dries up, Esther leads her fellow fairies on a hunt for evidence as to what's happened—ending with a dramatic rain shower of the pond’s evaporated water. At the culminating Science Fair, she convinces some of her friends to continue pursuits in the scientific world. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)

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The Water Walker, by Joanne Robertson, is the story of Nikomis, an elder who goes through “three knees and eleven pairs of sneakers walking for Nibi (water).” Nikomis and other Mother Earth Water Walkers sing and pray in the four cardinal directions and still nothing changes. It’s based on the true story of Josephine Mandamin, a First Nation …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Wordless Picture Books

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

*****

Wordless Picture Books are great for pre-readers and for making inferences in the primary grades. They’re also helpful for ESL readers to access stories, giving them  ready-made tales to add words to.

The wonderful paper illustrations in Wallpaper, by Thao Lam, show a girl moving in to her new house. From a treehouse outside her window, a group of kids wave at her. Too shy to wave back, she ducks down into her room, only to discover the wallpaper is peeling. She curls it back to reveal a bird—a whole flock of birds, that lead her into a jungle. There, she meets a monster, who chases her through layers of strange wallpaper worlds. She confronts and befriends the monster, until she’s confident enough to return to the real world and confident enough to make real friends. (Pre-Kindergarten and up)

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Book Cover Anthony and the Gargoyle

In Anthony and the Gargoyle, by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Maja Kastelic, a sequence of photos show Anthony’s parents in Paris—meeting, becomin …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: In Conversation with Nature

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

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When Emily Was Small, by Lauren Soloy, involves an encounter between Small (young Emily Carr) and Wild (a wolf). It’s about a girl who immerses herself in nature long enough to discover its secrets. This book has lovely sound words; for instance, Emily adores "the glitter-glammer" beneath the translucent skin of white currants. She crawls into the forest, listening to all it has to say. There she finds peace, and meets Wild, who tells her, "You are bigger than you know." Together they fly like seeds, noticing a thousand shades of green, until her mother calls her back to the world where she feels small, again. A postscript connects the story to Carr’s real-life struggle to feel recognized.

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Peter and the Tree Children, by Peter Wohlleben, illustrated by Cale Atkinson, begins with a note telling us the author lives in a protected German forest and that the character Piet is based on a real squirrel. In the story, Peter, the forester, tells Piet t …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: An April (Foolish) Book List

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

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Prank Lab, by Wade David Fairclough, Chris Ferrie, and Byre Laginestrac, is for the science-geek prankster. Each trick uses easily found objects and contains step-by-step illustrated instructions followed by a scientific explanation. There’s a fun rating system—for example, the ketchup volcano prank is prefaced by: “Victim: ketchup-loving family member, Mess: 9 (maybe 10!), Danger: 8, Science: 10.”

The “Warnings to the Future Me” provides hints and a “Prank Review" asks a few reflective questions—i.e. What did you learn and how might this apply to other situations?

The antics are divided into 4 sections: “Making a Mess”, including Mentos explosions, edible poop, and pencils skewering plastic baggies full of water; “Wanna Bet,“ which involves mathematical hoaxes with dice, predictive calculations and coin capers; “Clean Classics” including sudsless soap and debilitated remote controls; and “Messing with a Mind,” involving manipulating your victims’ behaviour.

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The following titles are about fictional tricks and hoaxes.

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Valentine’s Day Picture Books

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

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Kiss Kiss, by Jennifer Couelle, with fun illustrations by Jacques Laplante, is the perfect book for a Kindergarten or Grade One classroom. The rhyming text covers kisses for every occasion: “Kisses that say ‘hi’ look just like those that say ‘goodbye… A morning kiss can feel so right—like sunshine after a rainy night.”

Kids could contribute a page to a class Kiss, Kiss book after brainstorming the kinds of kisses in their lives. What sounds do kisses make? “Big ones like…smooch! And little ones like…peck!” might spark an onomatopoeia (sound words) lesson. How about a lesson on counting by twos? “A kiss is sweet, when 4 lips meet.” Or the plural form: “If you have lots of love to send, add ‘es’ at the end.”

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Book Cover The Secret Life of Squirrels a Love Story

Kids will be mesmerized by the illustrations of The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story, by nature photographer, Nancy Rose. It’s one in a series of books featuring photos of squirrels in miniature sets const …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: On Activism

How to Become an Accidental Activist, by Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinksy, illustrated by Jean Playford, is organized into ten chapters/ten tips, including: “Find Your Passion; Don’t Accept Things as They Are”; “Notice What’s Needed”; and “Just Get Started.

Large colourful photos accompany profiles of well-known figures, such as Greta Thunberg, Ai Weiwei, and Clara Hughes (who rode across Canada to raise awareness about mental illness.)

Lesser known people are featured, such as Jonah Larson, the Accidental Crocheter, who raises money for Ethiopian orphanages like the one he grew up in.

Or the Albertan twin singers Tegan and Sara Quin, creators of the Lego Movie hit, "Everything is Awesome," who sing about LGBTQ+ issues. Will “Egg Boy” Connolly who cracked an egg over an Australian senator’s head during a news conference because the politician blamed mosque attacks on immigration.

From land mines to pink shirt day to Girls Coding to Black Lives Matter to Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees—a smorgasbord of global causes and ages are represented.   

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Book Cover Our Future How Kids Are Taking Action

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Islamic Culture

Book Cover the Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue, by U.S. Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly, is the story of Faiza, excited for her older sister’s first day wearing a hijab. In the schoolyard, Faiza keeps looking around to see Asiya’s head covering, which is the colour of the ocean, but then she witnesses some boys calling it a tablecloth. She remembers her mother’s words: “If you understand who you are, one day they will too.” Faiza dreams of the day she too will look and feel like a princess in her first-day wearing hijab. “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them,” her mother says, empowering the sisters to stay true to themselves. (Author’s Notes explain this is Muhammad’s story, written by Ali.)

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Book Cover Once Upon an Eid

Once Upon an Eid, edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed, is an anthology of short stories by 15 Muslim authors covering all things Eid. Stories feature food, clothing (the Eid dress!), sacrifice and generosity. Standouts include “Taste,” in free verse form, about a girl taking over the cooki …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: The Mooncake Festival

Book Cover The Shadow in the Moon

In mid-autumn, while the moon is at its biggest and brightest, East and Southeast Asian families come together and celebrate the Moon or Mooncake Festival to give thanks for the harvest. Lanterns are hung to symbolize the path to good fortune and mooncakes—round crusted pastries usually filled with red bean or lotus seed paste—are eaten.

This book list includes different versions of Chang’e, who is the lady and spirit of the moon, and also a fable about lanterns.

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In The Shadow in the Moon, by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law, Ah-ma tells her granddaughter the tale of how the shadow of the lady came to be trapped in the moon. Long ago, the earth was being scorched from the ten suns dancing in the sky, and so Hou-Yi, an archer, shot down nine of them. The immortals rewarded him with a potion for eternal life in the sky, but—understanding its power—Hou-Yui and his wise wife, Cheng’e, hide the potion. Later while Cheng’e is home alone, however, a thief breaks in and demands the potion, and Cheng’e drinks it to prevent him from stealing it. Hou-Yi comes home to find his wife trapped in the moon and forever pays tribute to her by staring up at her and serving her favourite round cakes.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Physics with Chris Ferrie

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

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At first glance, The Everyday Science Academy series, by Chris Ferrie, appears to be for very young children. But the series brilliantly simplifies complicated scientific principles for kids up to Grade 6. Each book features a cartoon-like version of the scientist himself, Dr. Ferrie, talking to a red kangaroo, with a few short paragraphs per page. Bolded vocabulary appears throughout and each book ends the same way, with a glossary, a 5 question summative quiz, a few “Test it Out” experiments using everyday objects, and a section: “What To Expect When You Test It Out.”

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Statistical physics is the subject of Let’s Clean Up. A messy room is the springboard for questions, such as, “If two things on your shelf are out of place, then can you count all the ways two things can be out of place?” It introduces the young reader to the concept of entropy. A clean room has low entropy because there is only one way for it to be clean. Red Kangaroo says, “So my messy room has high entropy because there are 15 ways for me to make a mess!” Experiments at the back use marbles in a pizza box or food colouring in water to demonstrate these concepts.

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Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Satisfying Endings

How do you create a sense of satisfaction in a story’s finale? The following books pull it off by covering the gamut of techniques—concluding with an important action or image, repeated text, dialogue, or one final word. Some come full circle with whole story reminders. 

Reading aloud just the beginning and final sentences of each book allows students to feel the full impact of each type of ending.

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An Important Action

Salma and the Syrian Chef, by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron, begins with Salma, in Vancouver, missing the rain in Syria. She longs to hear her mom’s laugh again, likening it to the sound of bicycle bells in the streets back home. She tries making a Syrian dish but her attempts to buy ingredients are thwarted by her lack of English. Salma “feels like an umbrella in a country with no rain,” so she draws her list of vegetables for the grocer instead. Then she draws a picture of her home, making it purple because “it’s okay to add new colours to my memories.” The final image in the book is that of a bike ride with her new friends (other refugees from the Welcome Centre), ringing their bells beneath a purple sky.

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An important image

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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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