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Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Satisfying Endings

How do you create a sense of satisfaction in a story’s finale? The following books pull it off by covering the gamut of techniques—concluding with an important action or image, repeated text, dialogue, or one final word. Some come full circle with whole story reminders. 

Reading aloud just the beginning and final sentences of each book allows students to feel the full impact of each type of ending.

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An Important Action

Salma and the Syrian Chef, by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron, begins with Salma, in Vancouver, missing the rain in Syria. She longs to hear her mom’s laugh again, likening it to the sound of bicycle bells in the streets back home. She tries making a Syrian dish but her attempts to buy ingredients are thwarted by her lack of English. Salma “feels like an umbrella in a country with no rain,” so she draws her list of vegetables for the grocer instead. Then she draws a picture of her home, making it purple because “it’s okay to add new colours to my memories.” The final image in the book is that of a bike ride with her new friends (other refugees from the Welcome Centre), ringing their bells beneath a purple sky.

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An important image

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winners The Fan Brothers

Fan-Brothers-New

We continue our special coverage of this year’s Governor General's Literature Award winners in conversation with the acclaimed Fan Brothers (Terry Fan, Eric Fan, Devin Fan), co-winners of the 2020 GG's Award for Young People’s Literature (Illustration) for The Barnabus Project (Tundra). The 2020 GG Award Peer Assessment Committee says The Barnabus Project is,

“A twisty-turny adventure story that travels from the deep underground to the starry skies, featuring a gang of friends, aka ‘Failed Projects,’ who show the power of solidarity and non-conformity. This sweet and surreal ode to sticking together radically breaks from typical storylines to deliver a manifesto for mass escape from any system that demands perfection, sameness and compliance. Stunningly and intricately illustrated, this book pays cinematic attention to pacing and detail. Like Barnabus, the Fan Brothers have broken the mold.” 

Terry, Eric, and Devin grew up in Toronto, where they continue to live and work.

 Recipients of the prestigious Sendak Fellowship, Kate Greenaway Medal nominees, and Governor General’s Literary Award nominees, Terry and Eric are the author/illustrators of the critically acclaimed books The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky, and the illustrators of the best …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Stories for Asian Heritage Month

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

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These are books highlighting Asian heritage for the month of May.

Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival, by Arlene Chan, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, is nonfiction in picture book form. It describes the history and rituals surrounding the race which happens on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar in order to protect against misfortune. It also explains race preparation, rules, team makeup—the pacers in the front, the engine in the middle and the rockets in the rear. It captures the process: “Paddles Up! Race Ready!”—boaters' hearts racing, knowing the first powerful strokes count. (Grades 1 to 6)

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Book Cover Hana Hashitmoto Sixth Violin

In Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng, Hana visits her Ojiichan’s (grandfather) home in Japan, complete with shoji screens and tatami mats. Having played in the Kyoto orchestra, he performs for Hana and her brothers on the porch, making his violin sound like crickets or rain on pap …

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What the Kite Saw: Stories of Children and Crisis

Book Cover What the Kite Saw

My new picture book, What The Kite Saw, illustrated by Akin Duzakin, shares what a young boy feels and does after soldiers seize control of his town and take his father and brother away. War has a brutal impact on children whenever adults (nations) resolve a conflict through military force. I gave this story a universal setting because, sadly, it could happen anywhere.

Children have their own unique ways of facing a crisis. Yes, they need protecting, but they are also resilient. They have inner resources, spunk and imagination. The young protagonists in the stories I’ve chosen face their crisis in ways I find inspiring with an idea they’ve imagined themselves. No adult guides the child. Regardless of the situation, these stories reflect a respect for the dignity of children.

Book Cover Fatty Legs

Fatty Legs, by Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak is determined to learn to read and ignores her father’s warnings that residential schools are terrible places. After Margaret leaves the safety of …

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Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

Written by York Region District School Board Teacher Librarian Geoffrey Ruggero

Picture books are often written with young children as their intended audience. In Tough Like Mum, Lana Button provides adults with important messaging that we need to be reminded of.

Kim’s mum is tough. She works hard to provide for her daughter and keep her happy. But sometimes, Kim can tell her mum is not feeling well, as Kim must step up and take care of them both. Other parents in the neighbourhood say that Kim is strong just like her mother, even though she is just a child. Whether it’s making meals, getting ready for school, or just putting on a brave face, Kim shows that she can handle it.

Educators and parents often say they know how children are feeling. But do we? Sure we were once that age, but a lot has happened since then. Do we really remember what it was like to experience things for the first time? Do we really remember what it was like to deal with adult problems at such a young age? The world is different, how can we truly say that we know how the children of today are feeling?

Lana Button writes most of her picture books to “show the perspective and situation of a child that might be going unnoticed.” For educators, we try our best to get to know each one of ou …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Life Sciences

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

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Celebrate Earth Day with these (mainly nonfiction) picture books. Ties to the Life Sciences curriculum include: Characteristics of Living Things (Grade 1), Growth and Change in Animals (Grade 2), Habitats (Grade 4) and Biodiversity (Grade 6).

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Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom, written by Heather Tekavec, illustrated by Susan Batori, is a clever way of presenting information. Each “wanted” animal is showcased alongside a rap sheet of aliases, distinguishing features, life span and sightings (location), and most fun—witnesses and previous arrests. There’s lazy Big Bad Mama (aka the common cuckoo), who sneaks her egg into a neighbouring nest, forcing another mother to do all the hatching. When Big Bad Mama’s baby is born, she pushes out the other eggs and moves into the newly vacated dwelling. The witnesses? Hundreds of angry mother birds. Older students could adapt the rap sheet format in order to record their own research findings. Kindergarten-Grade 3.

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Book Cover Different Same

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New Picture Books for Spring

A selection of gorgeous new picture books celebrating new life, hope, nature, and mindfulness.

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Outside, You Notice, by Erin Alladin, illustrated by Andrea Blinick

About the book: A lyrical nonfiction celebration of the outdoors pairing childlike observation with facts about the natural world

Outside,
 you notice things.

Time spent in the outdoors stirs a child’s imagination. Nature sparks wonder, wonder leads to curiosity, and curiosity brings about a greater knowledge of the world and one’s self. In Outside, You Notice, a meditative thread of child-like observations (How after the rain / Everything smells greener) is paired with facts about the habits and habitats of animals, insects, birds, and plants (A tree’s roots reach as wide as its branches).

Author Erin Alladin invites young scientists and daydreamers to look closely and think deeply in this lyrical nonfiction text, celebrating all the kinds of “outside” that are available to children, from backyards to city parks to cracks in the sidewalk. Illustrator Andrea Blinick portrays these spaces bursting with small wonders with a child’s-eye view, her naïve and nostalgic style capturing the joy of endless discovery.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Celebrating STEM

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

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This list includes all kinds of STEM’ers—science enthusiasts, builders, inventors, real life engineers—in both fiction and non-fiction texts.

In Fairy Science, by Ashley Spires, Esther is the only fairy in Pixieville who believes in science. According to Esther, magical rainbows are actually the dispersion of light; water droplets on plants, viewed as a bad omen, are simply condensation; spirit faces in the rocks are a result of erosion. She teaches her fellow fairies the scientific method, the periodic table and demonstrates gravity. But it takes a wilting tree and Esther’s data-based life-saving research to convert a few fairies to her way of thinking. This tale includes a bean experiment at the back. (Grades 1-3)

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Come Back to Earth, Esther! written by Josée Bisaillon depicts Esther as a normal girl with an astronomy obsession. She recreates solar systems at mealtime (e.g. a pancake and a strip of bacon looks like Saturn; half-bitten coo …

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Most Anticipated: Our Books for Young Readers Preview

Looking forward to some of the books for young readers (and readers of all ages) that we're going to be falling in love with in the first half of 2021.

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Picture Books

Seeing Stars (April), by Denise Adams, is a quirky, fun book exploring the secret underwater life of starfish, in the style of The Secret Life of Squirrels. Told half in French and half in English, Pierre and Paul: Dragon (April), by Caroline Adderson and Alice Carter, the second book in the Pierre & Paul series, uses simple phrases and clues in the illustrations to make the story accessible to readers in both languages. The Covid-19 pandemic, which seems to be taking some time to go away, has meant big changes for one little girl’s family in When Mom’s Away, (April), by Layla Ahmad and Farida Zaman. Outside, You Notice (April), by Erin Alladin, illustrated by Andrea Blinick, is a lyrical celebration of the outdoors pairing childlike observation with facts about the natural world. Maya’s imagination sets the stage for her friends to act out her feminist play. Can she make room in her queendom for the will of the people? Maya's Big Scene (February), by Isabelle Arsenault, is a funny picture book about leadership and fair play for fans of King Baby and Olivia. And a young boy discovers strang …

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The Kids: Are They Alright?

Firefly is up for giveaway right now along with three other fab books in the DCB Middle Grade Bundle—Trip of the Dead, by Angela Misri; Birdspell, by Valerie Sherrard; Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer, by Leslie Gentile. Enter for your chance to win!

What is it like for a child who lives with a parent or who knows an adult struggling with a crisis of mental health, addiction, or homelessness?

Canadian children’s authors have written many moving, thoughtful books about kids coping with parents or adults in crisis. While writing my latest book Firefly, I read a lot of them (mostly pretty choked up).  

I couldn’t include them all, but here is a list of some of my favourite titles from recent years.

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Aunt Pearl, by Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher

Dan, Marta and their mother try to help their Aunt Pearl, who is homeless, by giving her a home. But Aunt Pearl is different. She collects garbage and lives in a messy, jumbled way, and yet she shows the children that recycled items can have a purpose, that we can help each other in way …

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Books for Orange Shirt Day

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

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Residential Schools are often talked about beginning with the study of Indigenous Peoples in the Grade 3 social studies curriculum, but awareness can begin even earlier. These texts, from preschool to teens, address some of the harsh issues—and are especially meaningful in connection with Orange Shirt Day on September 30.

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The Orange Shirt Story, by Phyllis Webstad, illustrated by Brock Nicol, is a true story. Six-year-old Phyllis was looking forward to going to the same school as her cousins. She even had a new orange shirt for the occasion, but the nuns promptly removed it, and then cut off her hair. The nuns showed no empathy—a poignant illustration shows Phyllis crying, alone, in her bed at night. One nice teacher was her only solace. Luckily, Phyllis only had to endure one year away at school and never went back. There’s a section at the back of the book explaining the meaning of Orange Shirt Day. (Grade 3+)

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Fatty Legs, by Christy Jordan …

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

New books for young readers...and readers of all ages!

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Picture Books

Told in rhyming verse, The Old Man and the Penguin (October), by Julie Abery and illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is the touching true story of an oil-soaked penguin, the man who rescues him and an unlikely friendship. Cakes, cookies or pie? A rivalry among local bakers is the basis for the deliciously sweet, off-the-wall picture book It Happened On Sweet Street (July), by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. Bed has something to say. Bed knows you do not like bedtime. Bed gets it. But look ... YOU are not so great, either: Monica Arnaldo provides the other side of the story in Time for Bed's Story (September). And a young girl discovers nature’s surprising beauty in The Most Amazing Bird (November), from renowned Inuit storyteller Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, illustrated by Andrew Qappik.

Book Cover Princesses Vs Dinosaurs

Two popular storybook titans, princesses and dinosaurs, battle to determine who should star in Linda Bailey's new laugh-out-loud picture book, Princesses Versus Dinosaurs (September), …

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