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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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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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Kittens in the City

Book Cover Little Yellow House

This month we're looking at books about community and fostering connection, and Carissa Halton's Little Yellow House is a perfect title to start with. In this collection of candid and thoughtful essays inspired by life in Edmonton's inner-city Alberta Avenue neighbourhood, Halton writes about her friends and neighbours, the community institutions that support them, the challenges of city life, home ownership, raising kids, and the tensions of gentrification. It's an illuminating and hopeful book that asks readers to think again about what makes places liveable, and also provides a wonderful glimpse of Jane Jacobs' proverbial sidewalk ballet.

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The first set of kittens Bill ever took in was brought to his attention by a desperate mewing from the blackened garage that slumped behind his six-suite rooming house. The kittens followed Bill to the front of his home where he set them up comfortably under the wooden stairs.

These three kittens were the product of a union between two abandoned cats as they waited patiently for the return of their owners. Bill had noticed the cats’ human family packing up the moving truck and the next day drove away with everything they owned except for their four feline pets lounging on the front porch. They weren’t the only ones aba …

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Montreal's Mile End Comes of Age

Book Cover The Mystics of Mile End

"Growing up, I often wished I lived in Mile End," writes Sigal Samuel of the iconic Montreal neighbourhood that provides the setting for her first novel, The Mystics of Mile End. But part of coming-of-age is also realizing that the places we mythologize have their own fictions of their own, and that there is no ideal setting in which to live the perfect life—except maybe Brooklyn.

Mythologized places are potent settings for literature, however. In this piece, Samuel writes about her own changing relationship with Mile End, which is itself in flux, and about how the neighbourhood is earning a place in the contemporary literary canon.  

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If you’ve spent time in Montreal (and even if you haven’t), you’ve probably heard about Mile End. This diverse neighborhood is home to hipsters and Hasidic Jews. It’s also a great litmus test for how you feel about different cultures—religious and secular, academic and artsy—at any given moment.

Growing up, I often wished I lived in Mile End. Instead I inhabited Cote-Saint-Luc, a suburb so insularly Jewish that we nicknamed it Cote-Saint-Jew. I wanted to be a Mile Ender because that place, with its cheap rent and charming cafés, had a reputation as an artist hub (Arcade Fire, anyone?). It was a mirror for myself as …

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