Language as the mother of bond and breach is beautifully storied in Sadiqa de Meijer’s poignant and provocative memoir, alfabet/alphabet. This is a book that dreams of transforming migration, citizenship, families, nationhood and the very utterances upon which each is built. A deeply hopeful narrative about language itself, a singular exploration of the way that words build a home. – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee
Sadiqa de Meijer is the author of the poetry collections Leaving Howe Island and The Outer Wards. Her work has won the CBC Poetry Prize and Arc’s Poem of the Year Contest, and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. She lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario.
Congrats on your Governor General’s Award, Sadiqa. The book explores your transition from speaking Dutch to English. Why was it important for you to explore this terrain?
Thank you! After my first book of poems, I started asking myself what it meant for me to write in English, and the answers turned out to go far deeper than I’d imagined. Until then, my languages existed within me in a togetherness that I took for granted; writing alfabet/alphabet was the process of bringing their overlap and borders into consciousness.
Stuttering, speech writing, the loss of indigenous language, and the power of speaking up — all aspects of oral language addressed in the books on this list.
I Talk Like a River is by Jordan Smith, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Beautiful painted images accompany this moving first person narrative of a boy who stutters. His teacher asks the class to make a speech and in order to cope he remembers what his father’s words: “See how that water moves? That’s how you speak.” To prevent himself from crying or avoiding speaking at all, he tells himself: “I also think of the calm river beyond the rapids…. Even the river stutters. Like I do.”
This book is filled with metaphors and similes, such as, “The P in pine tree grows roots inside my mouth and tangles my tongue.” And personification: “When the words around me are hard, I think of the proud river.” (Kindergarten to Grade 6)
Adventures of a Stuttering Superhero, by Kim Block, illustrated by Cheryl Cameron, is only available as an e-book. Kim Block has written 3 books in the life of Gra …
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
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.
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.