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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: Food Books

Book Cover Spic and Span

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

*****

Ever wonder who invented the electric mixer, a foot-activated garbage can lid, fridge door compartments for butter and eggs? Lillian Gilbreth. Spic-And-Span! Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder Kitchen, by Canadian Monica Kulling, illustrated by David Parkins, is a non-fiction picture book for grade 3+ about American domestic engineer Lillian Gilbreth. In the early 1900s, Lillian was widowed with seven children and used her engineering training to reinvent herself. As a pioneer in the ergonomic field, she interviewed over 4,000 women in order to redesign kitchens for greater convenience and efficiency. (Check out 49th Shelf's Q&A with Monica Kulling about the book.)

A Few Bites, by Cybele Young, is a sweet story about Viola coaxing her younger brother Ferdie to finish his dinner. Young's illustrations start out as small, realistic pen drawings of the kids at the table, with Ferdie preferring to look for a lost toy rather than eat broccoli. But as Viola spins …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Making Things

Book Cover 123 I Can Sculpt

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

*****

Need a respite from the summer heat? Cover the kitchen table with materials and get busy making stuff with these step-by-step crafting books.

The colourful photos in 1 2 3, I Can Sculpt, by Irene Luxbacher, are as delectable as candy: a snake, a crocodile, a giraffe. All will entice the age 5+ audience (with adult help) or the independent grade 3+. Requiring at-hand materials like foil, clay, egg cartons and fabric, each page introduces one new technique or art word, such as materials, form, texture, armature, balance, as well as clay-sculpting methods. The culminating Wow-a-Saurus combines all previously taught skills. There's also a pictorial glossary and a concise note to guide parents/teachers.

I Can Make Gifts

I Can Make Gifts, by Mary Wallace, also in colour, demonstrates how to make a “growing gift,” a Dad Fan Photo (transforming a photo of a parent), a locket, a baby rattle, a trophy, a family tree shaped like a house, or gift baskets with homemade bubble …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: First Chapter Books

Book Cover Princess Pistachio

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

*****

Enticing books for the reluctant grade 2/3 (and even 4/5) reader, these titles also work as great read alouds for a younger crowd.

Princess Pistachio, by Marie-Louise Gay, is a first chapter book with fun colourful illustrations on every page. The day Pistachio finds a crown and a note under her bed ("Happy Birthday, Princess!") she realizes her true identity: Princess of the island of Papua. Stolen as a child by a witch, she has been living with her adoptive parents ever since. Pistachio is immediately disgruntled with the tedious, non-princess aspects of her life: having to eat spinach, going to school, enduring the shenanigans of her baby sister, Penny. Her classmates make fun of her princess outfit, the boys next door playing knights don't believe her new identity, and her mother forces her to look after Penny, who believes she, herself, is a princess. Pistachio is forced to deal with some truths when Penny runs away from the grumpy Princess Pistachio. Five manageable chapters for a late-grade 2 student. In the sequel, Pistachio and the Pest, Pistachio is stuck minding Penny for the summer.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Great, Great Books About Grandparents

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

*****

The unique exchange between grandchild and grandparent stays true throughout these stories, some of which deal with big themes, such as Alzheimer's, widowhood, remarriage and loss.

Book Cover My Two Grandmothers

In My Two Grandmothers, by Diane Carmel Leger, illustrated by Jean-Luc Trudel, Memere Hermance is as different from Nannie Henrietta as a bee from a hen. Two distinct portraits are constructed: an Acadian, stylish store owner vs. a Scottish, protective, practical grandma. What makes them angry? Where do they take their grandchildren on adventures? Even their dogs are polar opposites. This delightful tale demonstrates character to the age 6+ crowd. It's punctuated with French sayings and Scottish slang with translations at the back. 

Fox Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Canadian Paul Morin, is a beautiful story about loss. Jamie wakes in the morning, but doesn't open her eyes. Instead, she basks in the memory of her Abenaki grandma. Jamie remembers all Great Great Gra …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Spring Books

Book Cover Roslyn Rutabaga

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

*****

Dirt, butterflies, flora, and native stories make this spring book list.

In Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on the Earth, by Marie-Louise Gay, Roslyn wants to dig a hole to the South Pole to meet a penguin or two. Instead she encounters a worm, a mole, and a dog, upset with her for digging up his bone-cupboard. (Roslyn thinks she's found a triceratops' toe-bone.) All the creatures Roslyn meets try to dissuade her from her quest, except her father who joins her with a picnic lunch. Gay's humour and understanding of young readers is perfectly rendered through dialogue and playful illustrations. Age 3+

Bye, Bye, Butterflies!, by Andrew Larsen, has just the right amount of text for the age 4+ crowd. Besides being a story about how to hatch monarchs, it's about a father and son being quiet enough to witness a special moment. Endearing big-eyed characters are illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli with a splendid full-circle ending by Larsen. Includ …

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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

*****

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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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Friendship Books for February

Book Cover Kiss Me I'm a Prince

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

*****

Friendship and frost go hand in hand in these warm and cold tales for February.

In Kiss Me! (I'm a Prince), by Heather McLeod, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, Ella is skeptical when she meets a frog prince asking for a kiss. The promise of being a princess doesn't hold much clout for a basketball-playing little girl like Ella. She'd have to wear a gown, keep it clean, and she wouldn't be able to play much. So she carries the frog around in her pocket, refusing his request, until a courtier arrives to claim him. The frog returns home, still a frog, asking for the kiss of a true friend now, because he too wants to "play happily ever after." Age 4+

Book Cover Yuck a Love Story

Yuck, A Love Story, by Don Gillmor, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, is similar in its endearing humour. Austin Grouper's world changes when a girl his age moves in next door. He pretends Amy isn't worthy of his attention but when her birthday invitation arrives in the mail, Austin dresses up as a cowboy and …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books from the North

Book Cover Hide and Sneak

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

*****

In Hide and Sneak, by Michael Kusuguk, illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka, Allashua isn't very good at hide-and-seek. She's too distracted by the native creatures of her homeland: butterflies, baby birds, and pond-dwellers. But when playing the game, Allashua falls prey to the Ijirak, a ptarmigan-like critter who hides children, and must use her acumen to find her way home. This one is about listening to parents, based on a myth told briefly in the preface. The border illustrations are of symbols of the north. Age 5+.

Book Cover A Promise is a Promise

Allashua appears again in A Promise is a Promise, by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusuguk, illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Her mom makes her promise not to fish on the sea ice for fear of the Qallupilluit waiting to pull her under. Allashua again disobeys her mother, and the Qallupilluit nabs her, making her promise to bring her brothers and sisters back to the sea with her before she lets her go. "A promise is a promise," her mother says …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Dystopian YA

Book Cover Blood Red Road

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

*****

Strong female characters dominate these dystopian tales for teens, with common themes of environmental decay, orphanhood, and the question of knowing who to trust.

In the award-winning Blood Red Road, by Moira Young, 16-year-old Saba lives in the middle of nowhere with her twin brother Lugh, her little sister Emmi and her Pa. But when her father is killed and her brother kidnapped, Saba must head out into the world to find him. She's captured by peddlers and taken to a “Big Wrecker” city where plague, hunger and war have felled skyscrapers and reduced society to chaos. She becomes enslaved as a cage-fighter who earns the title of '”Angel of Death,” because her opponents die and Saba never loses. A group of rebels help her escape so she can continue her quest to find her brother. This story is told with a distinctive voice, using clipped language, great dialogue and over-the-top characters, such as Lewis Ex Eye Vee, a crazed villain who has adopted the original Louis XIV, the Sun King's persona. The never-dull storyline includes a strong romantic plot thread that continues in the sequel. Grade 6+ 

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Halloween Books

Book Cover Nothing Scares Us

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

*****

Picture books, a first chapter book, a junior novel, and a collection of Canadian ghost stories all make for spooky reads this Halloween.

In Nothing Scares Us, by Frieda Wishinksy & Neal Layton, Lenny and Lucy are best friends. But when Lucy watches Lenny's favourite TV show, The Creature, she's haunted by an image and too terrified to tell Lenny she's scared. Then it turns out that Lenny has a secret fear of his own. This playful picture book with childlike drawings will appeal to all ages.

Book Cover Omar's Halloween

Omar's Halloween, by Maryann Kovalski, features Omar the bear, whose Halloween wish is to have the scariest costume. But bats and spiders, his friends inform him, are actually helpful bug-eating creatures—not scary at all. So his mom dresses him as a non-threatening, run-of-the-mill ghost. He's so dejected he doesn't even want to go to his own party, until a storm hits and transforms his outfit into exactly what he's hoping for.

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Great KidLit by Authors of Adult Fiction

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

*****

Cary Fagan, Margaret Atwood, Joy Kogawa, Roch Carrier: all acclaimed Canadian writers of adult fiction, and all authors of incredible kids' books, too.

Cary Fagan's novels are perfectly pitched for junior grades. It's Ethan's first summer away from home in The Big Swim, and he's intrigued when bad-boy Zachary, the new arrival at camp, ends up in his cabin. Zachary seems impervious to peer pressure, causing Ethan to question his place in the world and how he sometimes feels apart from everyone. Zachary is also spending a lot of time with Amber, and Ethan has a crush on her. A swim challenge across the lake brings the threesome together in a way that Ethan couldn't have predicted. Grade 3+.

In Mr. Karp's Last Glass, also by Fagan, the reader is immediately intrigued with 11-year-old Randolph, an avid collector of beer bottle caps, pens, and new words (checked off in the dictionary). When Randolph's dad loses his job at the department store, his family …

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