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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Home

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

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In 1997, when Hong Kong was transferred from Britain back to the People’s Republic of China, the school where I worked had an influx of Chinese families determined to make Canada their home. One five-year-old boy arrived on October 31st, to a parade of ghosts and monsters. He spent the day, refusing to move, tears streaming down his face, occasionally emitting a howl heard round the school. How could this possibly be his new home?

Robert Munsch's book, From Far Away (age 4–7), also written by Saoussan Askar and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, deals with a similar situation, except the protagonist has the added layer of immigrating from war-torn Beirut. It’s told in the form of a letter to a Reading Buddy. This is the beauty of Munsch. His stories come out of real kids' lives.

Whether transitioning to a new location or determining to stay in one place, the desire for stability is common to all these picture books about home.

The Boy in the Att …

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Celebrate Family Literacy Day

Family Reading Together

Once again, community events are scheduled across Canada to celebrate Family Literacy Day on January 27th-- you can check out the map to find events in your area. Family Literacy Day has been an initiative since 1999 by the non-profit organization ABC Life Literacy Canada to raise awareness of the importance of families reading and engaging with literacy-related activities together. Research shows that children benefit enormously from early exposure to books and reading in the home, though most families read together because it's simply one of the very best ways to be together. And it's made even better when you're reading the very best books, so we wanted to pass on our favourite expert-curated family literacy books lists.

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Book Centre Award Nominees: The books on this list were nominated for Canada's top children's book prizes last year, and include the literary rendering of Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Kyo Maclear's Spork, and the Victorian-era detective novel A Spy in the House. The Canadian Children's Book Centre is a non-profit …

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From Sketch to Finish: Cassie McDaniel on illustrating Beto's Burrito

Beto's Burrito Details

Coming up with an illustration is often an intuitive process, but there are moments in a story that are crucial for the art and words to be in sync. Sometimes the words are fast and playful and the artwork can mirror that feeling with bright colors and busy-ness. Other times, you want your reader to pause and think about what's being said and felt.

Beto's Burrito, which is a story about a young boy waking up to delicious smells in the kitchen, has one such moment of pause when Beto's father is trying to leave for work.

"His father calls from the kitchen. “I have to go to work now, m’ijo. Your mother made burritos.” Burritos! Now Beto remembers how wonderful his mother’s burritos taste. He jumps out of bed and gets dressed. He runs to the kitchen and hugs his father tight. His father laughs, and then he pushes Beto back gently by his shoulders so he can see his eyes."

The love theme is integral to this story. As the illustrator, I wanted the reader to feel Beto's excitement and energy, but I also wanted them to stop and feel the way Beto's father feels about his son. It is important that the reader pauses to look into Beto's eyes, just as his father does.

This illustration was so important to get right that I actually ended up scrapping my first painting and …

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Meet Molito: Guest Post by Rosemary Sullivan

Molito Cover

Meet Molito:

The story of Molito started as puppet theatre in Chile in 1974 in the dark days of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Juan Opitz was about to graduate from the University of Chile’s theatre program, when the theatre school was closed on September 11th, 1973, the day of the coup d’état. Juan had been working as an assistant to the “Minister of Government,” travelling by boat to bring theatre to remote communities who had never seen theatre before. When he was not picked up in the first sweep of so-called dissidents, he fled Santiago.

To survive, he and a friend travelled as itinerant puppeteers. They invented a puppet called Topito who was a little mole born underground but unique because he had eyes to see. When Topito decided to come up to see what was happening in the world, he had many adventures, including an encounter with a nasty frog whose chest was covered with medals, and a female puppet who carried the scales of justice but whose pockets were filled with garbage. Children loved the story, but it was also a way to say things that couldn’t be said, and all the audiences knew it. Juan later got a job teaching theatre at the Catholic University of Talca, where he put on a play that was meant to be a history of theatre.

Unfortunately …

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Book Madam's Quirky Recommended Reading Lists for #GiveCDN

Julie Wilson among her favourite friends. (photo credit: Jeff Kelly)

Have you read about our Give a Canadian Book promotion, inspired by this post by writer Steve Pitt that encourages Canadians to buy made-in-Canada books?

In Steve's words:

Have you noticed lately that most of the holiday gifts filling up Canadian store shelves are no longer made in Canada? Even gifts bearing the most recognizable Canadian symbols seem to come from some distant land. When Canadians buy foreign made gifts most of their money leaves the country taking jobs away from other Canadians.

One exception is Canadian books. Canadian books are written by Canadians for Canadians. Behind every Canadian writer is a Made in Canada team of editors, graphic designers, lay-out artists, publicists, printers, warehouse staff, delivery drivers and book sellers. Every year the Canadian book industry pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the Canadian economy which creates jobs and pays taxes.

Sean Cranbury (Books on the Radio) and I (Book Madam & Associates and Seen Reading) are about to enter our third year soliciting reader recommendations for The Advent Book Blog for these very same reasons.

From the start, The 49th Shelf has been touting Canadian-made books via interviews, guest posts and our popular Recommended Reading lists submitted by Canadian authors and persona …

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Giving a Canadian Book This Holiday Season? We can help.

Give-a-CDN-book image

The "Give a Canadian Book" meme began with an email and a blog post by writer Steve Pitt, and grew from there to make the rounds on Twitter and Facebook. And it's not hard to see why the idea has caught on-- the following argument is pretty persuasive:

"Have you noticed lately that most of the holiday gifts filling up Canadian store shelves are no longer made in Canada? Even gifts bearing the most recognizable Canadian symbols seem to come from some distant land. When Canadians buy foreign made gifts most of their money leaves the country taking jobs away from other Canadians.

One exception is Canadian books. Canadian books are written by Canadians for Canadians. Behind every Canadian writer is a Made in Canada team of editors, graphic designers, lay-out artists, publicists, printers, warehouse staff, delivery drivers and book sellers. Every year the Canadian book industry pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the Canadian economy which creates jobs and pays taxes.

Canadian books also offer unbelievable choice. From Romance to Home Renos, Humour to Who-dunnits, Canadian books are second to none anywhere in the world. No matter what the age, gender or personal interests are of all the people on your gift list, there is a perfect Canadian book for each of them."

A …

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Picture Books We Have Known and Loved (by Sara O'Leary)

Sara O'Leary

Right now I am the only one in my household who is the right age for picture books as both my boys have outgrown that stage, although the younger one does write them. But as first a mother, then a reviewer, and then a children’s writer I have spent an inordinate amount of time immersed in them.

After years and years of writing book reviews I have a personal library that is probably smaller than it was when I began. My attitude to books has shifted – the ones I don’t care about I get rid of and the ones that I particularly like I tend to pass on to someone else. But picture books are different.Our collection has been winnowed down over the years and several major moves, but the books we have loved are now part of the family and wherever we go, they go with us.

Here are a few of the picture books that stay with me (both literally and figuratively).

Yuck, a Love Story by Don Gillmor, Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay: I’m not putting this list in order but I am putting this one at the top, which may or may not be a coincidence. When I think about o …

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Owling: Guest Post by Kristen den Hartog

Book Cover Owl Moon

In our house, my husband, my seven-year-old daughter N and I are flying through the Harry Potter series, now nearly finished the sixth book, and reading each day at breakfast and again after dinner. The colourful characters (red-eyed Lord Voldemort, massive Hagrid in his hair suit) and the thrilling plotlines have us reading more than ever, so that books sometimes interfere with piano practice and dish-doing and hair-washing and bedtime.

One more page! Pleeeease, just one more page!

But long before we went Potty, stories—whether “from your mouth,” as N calls them, or from a book—played a prominent role in our family life. N’s dad is a wonderful storyteller, and often recounts his “Lost in the Woods” tale, about the year he was five and wandered into the forest with his little brother and was unable to find his way home. N’s eyes go wide as he tells of crossing an icy creek with his brother on his back; of braving the bitter wind and trudging through the bush, with its winter-night sounds of animals scurrying and owls hooting.

This homemade story often leads them to Owl Moon, Jane Yolen’s picture book about a father-daughter adventure. “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind. The trees sto …

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Face-to-Face, Cheek- to- Cheek/ Skype Me Now, Before I Sleep: Guest Post by Sheree Fitch

Mable Murple skied on purple

Image of Mabel Murple skiing

Sydney Smith, from Mabel Murple

She skied on purple snow

She wore a pair of purple goggles

And shouted: “Yee-Haw! Here I go!”

She jumpled purple moguls

She slid on purple ice

Then she asked a ski instructor

For professional advice

(He said:” Sloooow Down!” )

When it comes to technology,I’m poised somewhere between the let-it-rip exuberance of Mabel’s "yee-haw, here I go," and the knowledge that (for me) slowing down is the only sane way to proceed. A few years ago, I attended a discussion and book signing by scientific journalist Joel Garreau, author of Radical Evolution. In the book, Garreau outlined four possible future scenarios: heaven, hell and prevail. Heaven is the land of perfect: think designer babies. Hell? We implode. A kind of Kaput. Prevail and Transend-- they speak for themselves. We proceed with necessary caution. This is oversimplifying, but Radical Evolution is a book I keep re-reading and recommending to anyone who will listen. Garreau is a superb storyteller who could make complicated science accessible to a labradoodle without dumbing the content down. At some point in the question and answer period Garreau said something I’ll never forget. “I was typing this book as fast as I could to tell everyone …

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Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart and Barbara Reid: The 2011 TD Grade One Giveaway

Book Cover Gifts

“This book belongs to...” reads the label inside the cover of the new print run of Gifts, written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Barbara Reid, and this year, grade one students all across Canada will have the pleasure of completing the sentence with their own names. Gifts is being distributed as part of the TD Grade One Giveaway, now in its 11th year, which has previously featured books by Canadian authors as beloved as Paulette Bourgeois, Sharon Jennings, Dennis Lee, and Marie-Louise Gay.

This year’s pick certainly lives up to the legacy. Gifts is Jo Ellen Bogart’s story-in-bouncing-verse of an adventurous grandmother who travels the world, bringing her granddaughter the most remarkable, intangible souvenirs: a lion’s roar from Africa, a sunrise from Mexico, “a rainbow to wear as a ring” from Hawaii, the song of a sitar in India, and “a memory from Beijing.” The story is enriched by Barbara Reid’s plasticine illustrations, which solve the puzzles that Bogart’s story poses: the memory is a dragon-decked teapot, the rainbow is printed on an inner-tube, the sunrise is a picture, and the lion’s roar is delivered by Grandma who has gotten down playfully on her hands and knees.

How the 2011 Grade One Giveaway came to be chosen was an exe …

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