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Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

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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Building Community and Fostering Micro-Neighbourliness

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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I recently attended a fascinating conference that focused on strengthening neighbourhoods and building community. The workshops brought together many voices, all passionate about the places where they live. There were many opportunities to learn from one another about how to galvanize change in everyone’s own neighbourhood. Storytelling was at the heart of all the sessions, and what struck me the most was the importance of seemingly small individual acts that everyone can do.

Classrooms are also communities where every student is a member and can make a difference. Take a leisurely stroll through these outstanding picture books and non-fiction titles that introduce and celebrate diverse neighbourhoods, and be inspired by stories that show the magic that happens when individuals work together to create positive change and a welcoming community.

Civic Engagement

In Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Anne Villeneuve, two little boys play an impromptu tossing game with what appears to be worthless balls of dirt and unexpectedly transform a drab grey, empty lot into …

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Walk on Over: 8 Books about Walking and Place

Mobile is Tanis MacDonald's uncivil feminist reboot of Dennis Lee's Civil Elegies and Other Poems; an urban lament about female citizenship and settler culpability; an homage to working and walking women in a love/hate relationship with Toronto, its rivers and creeks, its sidewalks and parks, its history, misogyny and violence. How do we, in Lee's words, see the "lives we had not lived" that "invisibly stain" the city? What are the sexual politics of occupying space in a city, in a workspace, in history? How can we name our vulnerabilities and our disasters and still find strength?

In this recommended reading list, MacDonald suggests some literary walking companions.

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Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person, by Erín Moure

Moure’s translation of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessao’s O Guardador de Rebanhos is such a work of beauty. Transposing sheep to cats and the fields of Portugal to the grid of streets around St. Clair and Vaughan Road in Toronto, Moure finds the underground creek system in the sewers, and follows history, geography, and the flow of …

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12 New Books on Community Connections

Our focus on community connections continues with this cross-genre list of twelve recent books that delve into community and community building in singular and fascinating ways.  

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Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life, by Radha Agrawal

About the book: How is it that the internet connects us to a world of people, yet so many of us feel more isolated than ever? That we have hundreds, even thousands of friends on social media, but not a single person to truly confide in? Radha Agrawal calls this “community confusion,” and in Belong she offers every reader a blueprint to find their people and build and nurture community, because connectedness—as more and more studies show—is our key to happiness, fulfillment, and success.
 
A book that’s equal parts inspiring and interactive, and packed with prompts, charts, quizzes, and full-color illustrations, Belong takes readers on a two-part journey. Part one is Going IN—a gentle but intentional process of self-discovery and finding out your true energy levels and VIA (values, interests, and abilities). Part two is Going OUT—building on all that you’ve learned about yourself to find those few special people who feed your soul, and discovering, or creating, the ever-wideni …

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Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis Community

Book Cover Rooster Town

Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis Community, by Evelyn Peters, Adrian Werner and Matthew Stock, documents a history of Indigenous urban experience in the Métis community of Rooster Town on the outskirts of southwest Winnipeg. In this list, Peters shares other works that explore the important colonial history of First Nations and Métis communities within urban areas in Canada. 

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In 1901, sixteen Métis households moved into southwest Winnipeg joining six Métis families who had moved there a few years before. They squatted on unserviced lots which had reverted to the City of Winnipeg for unpaid taxes. While the settlement contracted slightly during the Great Depression, Rooster Town grew every year until in 1946 the community reached its maximum size of 59 households, with an estimated population of more the 250 people. Poverty and unstable employment meant that squatting or buying inexpensive land on the city fringe, and self-building, was a resilient strategy for accessing urban employment and services and providing housing for families. 

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Poverty and unstable employment meant that squatting or buying inexpensive land on the city fringe, and self-building, was a resilient strategy for accessing urban employment and services and providing housing fo …

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Littler boxes: Rohan Quinby on printing the city, & the impact of new technologies on urban planning & design

Book Cover Time and the Suburbs

You know what it's like.

You've finished the arduous work of researching and writing a book. After months of solitary effort you send the manuscript to the publisher and suddenly, the hectic process of editing begins. Facts are checked, grammar is corrected, and entire passages are queried, scrutinized, and rewritten. Finally, the manuscript is ready and the work is sent to the printer. A few weeks later, a small box arrives in the mail with your finished book. It's done, and it cannot be changed.

A few days later, you read an article that changes everything.

Rohan-Quinby-Housing

The little book I've written is called Time and the Suburbs and it's a political and philosophical critique of the kind of suburban environments that we are constructing across North America. My thesis is that our cities are disappearing as a result of vast, new postmetropolitan environments that are extending across the landscape.These new regions are changing the way we live and interact with each other, not just on the new suburban fringes, but deep within our traditional cities.

Coincidentally, …

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