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Notes from a Children's Librarian: What I Miss About the Library

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month. This month she, like many of us, is working from home—and missing the library. 

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Book Cover Franklin

“My” library, where I spend each morning, is a long room with bookshelves all around the perimeter, beneath sky blue walls. Meeting tables are hexagonal and fit together like a beehive. A spinning holder of graphic novels stands as a leaning tower. Someone, long ago, built castle turret bookshelves, which punctuate the picture book area. They house popular series such as Arthur, and Elephant and Piggie, with small stuffies as clues to favourite authors. Various tiny Franklins cluster near Paulette Bourgeois’ books. A jumbo-sized Madeline slumps next to an ever-smiling Curious George, cotton poking through his midriff. A grey and white chickadee is perched near Frank Glew’s That Chickadee Feeling. More characters used to live here but I came in one morning to find Captain Underpants without underpants, Angelina Ballerina disrobed and Stuart Little with his tail between his legs.

In the corner is a den—a set of three carpeted stairs and a sloppy green couch donated by a family that couldn’t bear to set it out for garbage. Read-alouds are performed smack in the middle of t …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Drawing the Line

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

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Developing an understanding of line as a design element is part of the visual arts curriculum. These books are pitched primarily at a K-3 audience.

1 2 3 I Can Draw!, by Irene Luxbacher, is a superb teaching tool. Beginning with a visual list of necessary materials, it shows different types of lines, how to create drawings out of shapes, and how to construct different facial expressions. The books moves on to simple figure drawing, adding movement and texture. The grand finale: how to put all the techniques together. There’s a note to teachers and a pictorial index.

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For K-2, Scribble, by Ruth Ohi, begins with a scribbly line invading a group of shapes. The scribble asks the shapes to play, convincing them they’d be better off with a line. The line becomes waves, a tether, a beast, and eventually, the binding factor in a final picture.

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Great Biographies

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

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Here are some great biographies for Grades 3 to 6, part of both the Reading and Writing curricula.

Book Cover Dennis Lee

Weigl’s Canadian Writers Series is aimed specifically at students writing a biography, and it includes Dennis Lee, Gordon Korman (whose first book was an English assignment, mailed to the Scholastic Arrow Book Club address, at age 12), Jean Little, and Melanie Watt. Each book is organized in a way that students can see how a biography might be structured (e.g., Introduction, School Years, Early Writing, Successes, etc.) and includes writing prompts, creative writing tips from the author, and a quiz. Weigl has other series: Canadian Explorer, Canadian Prime Minister and Aboriginal Biography. These also teach the format of a biography along with a concept web and Internet resources. Grades 4–6.

The Scholastic Canada Biographies, by Maxine Trottier, with various illustrators, does it differently with each book highlighting five figures in each of the f …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Flight

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

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Take off! These books about flight complement the Grade 6 Science & Technology unit.

The first of the nonfiction titles us Generating Wind Power, by Niki Walker. A pleasure to read and well laid out with photos and text boxes, it covers the gamut: the definition of energy, how wind is harnessed, why wind is a viable alternative to fossil fuel, how wind turbines work, wind farms, the history of harnessing wind (windmills), its drawbacks, and the future of wind power. Includes a timeline and glossary.

In The Wright Brothers: A Flying Start, by Elizabeth MacLeod, well-chosen historical details beautifully animate the Wright Brothers’ story; their close relationship, lack of high school education, money-making schemes growing up. One such business included bicycle repair, resulting in a redesign of the bicycle of the time—small back wheel/large front wheel. (Their same-size tires meant a much easier ride). The reader learns the science of flight th …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Plants and Soil

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

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The following picture books support the Grade 3 Plants and Soil Science unit:

Weeds Find a Way, by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher, is a simple yet memorable picture book about weed seeds. The beautiful language of the text, i.e. “Weeds find a way to be loved, sending up flares of riotous red,” is followed by an endnote outlining weeds’ adaptive qualities and a description of the different soil types.

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Book Cover If You Hold a Seed

If You Hold a Seed, by Elly MacKay, follows the growth of a seed as well as the boy who plants it. MacKay’s dreamlike mixed media pictures beautifully illustrate life throughout the seasons, both plant and human. 

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David Suzuki, in The Tree Suitcase, illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart, brilliantly narrates how soil, …

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Media Literacy for Kindergarten

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

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P.I.E. ("Persuade, Inform and Entertain") is a handy acronym to use when discussing the role of media with kindergarten. The media literacy objective encompasses a beginning understanding and critical awareness of media texts. After an initial brainstorming of what media is (newspapers, TV, posters, internet, etc.) the P in P.I.E. can be explored. 

Words PERSUADE us. To do things. To buy things. To feel a certain way. Words are everywhere, sending us messages. The Word Collector, by Peter R.Reynolds, is a great launch to the unit. Jerome loves words, words he likes the sounds of even if he doesn't know what they mean. He sorts them, organizes them, then accidentally spills them, so words that wouldn't normally be together, end up side by side. Jerome then creates poems, and songs, realizing their power to communicate.

Another fun book, by Lora Rozler, is Words. A lonely "e" wanders, looking for meaning. It finds itself inside various words that can b …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books on Government

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

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Teachers know the best way to engage students is to ask why. Why should kids care about government? This list is aimed at the Grade 5 Social Studies unit.

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics, by Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin, is written in a way that hooks kids with a logical argument, beginning with the reader being told s/he is already a politician. How and why government is formed, how we decide things and how we get along are all addressed, which leads a discussion of how Canada’s party system works. Each chapter clarifies a single concept, including case studies; this one makes for a great read aloud.

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The following books are appropriate for independent research. 

Canadian Government, by Elizabeth MacLeod, is a book perfectly designed for the Grade 5 student, written in five simple chapters (Federal, Provincial, Municipal levels, as well as the Governor General’s role and Voting). It’s broken down into cl …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Kindness and Caring

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

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The following books explore ideas about kindness and caring, which are important traits in character-based education.

Quiet offerings feature in Sidewalk Flowers, by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith. This wordless picture book follows a young girl walking through the city with her distracted father. He’s often on the phone as they pass shops, fruit stands, taxis, bus stop lineups, and busy pedestrians. All images are rendered in black and white, except the girl’s red hoodie and the flowers she picks from obscure places, including out of cracks in the sidewalk. Their stroll takes them through a park where she lays a bouquet on a dead bird, another near a snoozing man on a park bench, and one behind a dog’s collar. Finally, back home, she adorns her mother’s hair, and then her siblings in the backyard, before walking off into the bird-and-flower-filled endpapers. PreK+

Compassion is the basis for friendship in Abby’s Birds, by Elle …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: On Perseverance

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

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Perseverance as a character trait is the focus of these stellar picture books. 

Young readers will be captivated by Boy in Motion: Rick Hansen’s Story, by Ainslee Manson, illustrated by Renne Benoit. This non-fiction picture book begins with Rick as an energetic boy, lover of fishing and sports. A car accident in his teens leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. Rick’s struggle begins with eight weeks in a Stryker bed, crutches, then a wheelchair. He begins coaching, with his father’s adage in mind: “There’s no such word as ‘can’t'.” One day Rick goes fishing on his own, falls in the lake, wheelchair and all. Through sheer will, he pulls himself out, drags his chair up onto the rocks…and continues fishing! An afterword explaining Hanson's The Man in Motion World Tour will inspire all. Grade 1+

The Little Hummingbird, by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, is a folktale about stamina, with Haida-style illustrations. A forest fire causes th …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Working Together

Book Cover Our Corner Grocery Store

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

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Where do we work as a team? Hockey comes to mind, as well as school plays, snow creations in the yard, and pirate crews. All of these are featured in these picture books for the K-3 audience.

And what about the running of a local shop? Our Corner Grocery Store, by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Laura Beingessner, is a sweet portrait of a day in the life of a neighbourhood store, the kind that slices meat one sandwich at a time. This first person narrative of a little girl helping her Nona and Nono captures the seamless teamwork required to run a business. Beingessner's lovely detailed pictures show life in the house above the shop as well as the surrounding neighbourhood.

The F Team, by Anne Laurel Carter, illustrated by Rose Cowles, features a hockey team that just can't seem to beat the A Team, who are all about winning. So they take a different tack—distracting the other side with figure skating moves, turning “failure” into “fearless.” …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: On Responsibility

Book Cover Being Me

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

*****

Here are some great books to inspire young readers on the theme of Responsibility.

Being Me, by Rosemary McCarney, illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart, is part of the "Rosie the Red" series, featuring a socially conscious little girl. Rosie is ruminating about her future life's work when her dad introduces her to the local Food Bank. She learns how to volunteer, which makes her feel "important, useful and a little bigger." Her sense of duty increases when she sees a classmate's mom using the Bank. Rosie and her friends make posters to promote the cause. "I knew I could do something before I grew up," she says. Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Book Cover Jillian Jiggs

Phoebe Gilman's Jillian Jiggs keeps getting distracted from cleaning her room. She'd rather play dress up with her friends—pirates on her sailboat bed, chickens in a coop, robots made from cardboard boxes, dragons, royalty, canaries. This rhyming classic inspires dramatic play and provides humour. Each time Jillian avoids …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Deborah Ellis

Book Cover The Breadwinner

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month. For a complete list of Deborah Ellis's books, check out her 49th Shelf Author Page

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I have a confession: I used to often recommend the much-acclaimed Breadwinner trilogy without having actually read it. But now I can finally say I'm a true convert, and a huge fan of Deborah Ellis. Ellis is adept at writing about children who are in impossible situations and forced to make adult decisions. She's written more than 20 books (fiction and non-fiction), addressing issues faced by kids around the globe, donating more than a million dollars from the proceeds of her trilogy to worthy causes including Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Street Kids International, the Children in Crisis Fund of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) and UNICEF. All three books in the Breadwinner trilogy are listed for “mature readers” and have an author's note giving context to the stories. These are recommended for Grade 5+.

In the first book, The Breadwinner, 11-year-old Parvana's Kabul house has been bombed many times. Her family has gone from middle class to poverty, and since the Taliban, women cannot walk unattended and without wearing burqas. Her mother refus …

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