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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books That Make the List

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

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Book Cover Today

Lists are used in different contexts. The Writing curriculum for Grades 1-6 asks students to identify different purposes for writing, to generate ideas, and to write short texts using simple forms. Lists are one of these forms. Similarly, in the Reading curriculum, students are asked to understand the use of different text features, such as lists. The following picture books are useful mentor texts.

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Today, by Julie Morstad, is packed full of choices and to-do lists. The illustrations are detailed and child-like, laid out like a pictorial menu. (Even the book’s large size resembles a menu.) It begins: “What should I do today? Where should I go? Should I stay close to home or go far away? But first, what’ll I wear?” There are hairstyles for the day, breakfast choices, possible activities, ways of travel, flowers to pick. The text is full of quiet surprises. i.e. a page is devoted to a single choice: “…maybe you’d like to be in the middle of a quiet, heavenly nowhere, talking with the minnows?”

About the book: Every day is full of endless possibilities— especially TODAY!

The simplest moment has the potential to become extraordinary in this beautif …

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Two Amazing Books for Young Readers

At a moment when so many of us are looking for inspiration and longing for visionary leadership, Kids Can Press and their YA imprint KCPLoft are delivering with two extraordinary new releases.

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Canadian Women Now and Then: More Than 100 Stories of Fearless Trailblazers, by Elizabeth MacLeod and Maia Faddoul

To the newish tradition of biographical anthologies of women whose stories deserve to be better known (think Rad Women Worldwide, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and the excellent and Canadian-grown The Girl Who Rode a Shark) comes Canadian Women Now and Then, which puts a fresh twist on the genre by pairing  Canadian legends (think Roberta Bondar, Karen Kain, Emily Carr) with inspiring contemporary examples (introducing astronaut Jennifer Sidney-Gibbons, dancer Santee Smith (Tekaronkiahkhwa) and artist Christi Belcourt). Sometimes the contemporary women are the better known of the pair—journalist Sook-Yin Lee is profiled alongside Mary Ann Shadd, who in 1853 became the first Black woman in Canada to run a newspaper; Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak appears with Fanny "Bobbie" Rosenfeld, who competed as a runner in the 1928 Olympics. The Canadian-specific focus of this book is novel, and it's the connections between the women profiled that is especially m …

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Launchpad: West Coast Wild Babies, by Deborah Hodge

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today, we're bringing you Deborah Hodge's West Coast Wild Babies, illustrated by Karen Reczuch, the follow-up to West Coast Wild, which was shortlisted for the Silver Birch Express Award and winner of The Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award.

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

It’s spring on the Pacific west coast and new life is stirring! Meet the wolf pups, bear cubs, whale calves, eaglets and other baby animals who begin their life in this wild and …

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Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

Book Cover A Forest in the City

A Forest in the City, by Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is the first in Groundwood Books’ new series ThinkCities about sustainability and urban systems. It looks at how trees in the city help mitigate climate change and help us all stay healthy and well. Author Andrea Curtis marks its April publication with a list of books for young people about trees. 

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Trees and nature have provided balm for the stress and anxiety of our lives since, well, forever. But perhaps no more so than in the midst of this pandemic. There can be little that is more soothing than to inhale the smell of green things growing, to gaze up at the swaying branches of a forest and know that these giants persist despite it all. But when self isolation and physical distancing has got your family cooped up, the next best thing might just be reading picture books (fiction and nonfiction) about trees. Here’s a list of some standouts in the category.

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Picture Books

 

The Night Gardener, by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

This fantastical and moving story of a topiary genius, who c …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Catchy Beginnings

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

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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.

Strategy #1: Start with an action

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.

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Role Models for—Everyone!

Helaine Becker's latest book is Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao, illustrated by Liz Wong.

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From the beginning of time, women’s accomplishments have been scrubbed from the history books. It’s beyond infuriating to be told, “girls don’t” and “girls can’t”—only to discover girls and women can do and have done!

These wonderful books for young people help set the record straight. Some are biography, some are fiction, but all are wonderful depictions of accomplishment.

And please don’t say these books are good for “girls.” Girls already KNOW what we can do. It’s everyone else who needs to be clonked over the head with the news. Get boys these books and give ‘em to adults of every gender to start changing the paradigm.

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Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, by Lisa Dalrymple

Jaw-dropping true stories about real Canadian women who accomplished unbelievable things. Dalrymple dug into unpublished research to uncover these untold stories about amazing women like Cougar Annie, Ttha´naltther and Mona Parsons. You’ll be gobsmacked.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Procedural Writing

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

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The language curriculum asks students to understand and create a variety of writing forms, including the procedural form, involving "how to" text, and also pictures and symbols showing steps in a procedure.

Great examples of procedural text can be found in Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series. Watt’s telltale humour is ever-present as the squirrel’s neurotic need for a plan triggers unexpected (and serendipitous) results.

The original Scaredy Squirrel showcases Scaredy making arrangements to leave the safety of his tree. The “What to do in case of an emergency” scheme includes “Step 1: Panic, Step 2: Run.” His daily routines are also in the form of a program, i.e. “6:45 Wake up. 7:00 Eat a nut.” Scaredy loves making lists—of his fears, emergency items, pros and cons—which could lead to a discussion about the ways that lists are different than procedural writing.

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In Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, the squirrel writes, “How to …

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CanLit's Favourite Cakes

Today is Family Literacy Day, a national event that annually celebrates the importance of families engaging in literacy activities together, sharpening skills and building relationships. Literacy activities including reading picture books together—and baking from recipes! Which leads to even deepening relationships as families eat cake together. Picture book cakes, no less!

Of course CanLit's all-time favourite cakes would include the one from Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman (nom nom), or the cake that Rilla, in abject humiliation, had to carry across town in Rilla of Ingleside.

But in the spirit of Family Literacy, we're sticking to our favourite cakes from picture books. With links to recipes, even. Enjoy!

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Sleeping Dragons All Around, by Sheree Fitch and Michele Nidenoff

About the book: Sheree Fitch has read this book to audiences from sea to sea to sea in Canada, in the Himalayas, and along the eastern coast of Africa. Her first two books, Toes in My Nose and Sleeping Dragons All Around, launched her career as a poet, rhymster, and a "kind of Canadian female Dr. Seuss." Fitch has won almost every major award for Canadian children's literature since then, including the 2000 Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work Inspirational to Canadian Children. She h …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Descriptive Language

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

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These beautiful books exemplify descriptive language for Grades 1–6.

Once Upon a Northern Night, by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is the perfect mentor text for descriptive language. While a little boy sleeps, a snowy night scene is painted for both the boy and the reader.

“Once upon a northern night/pine trees held out prickly hands/to catch the falling flakes/that gathered into puffs of creamy white,/settling like balls of cotton,/waiting.” Check out Pendziwol’s description of deer: “They nuzzled the sleeping garden/with memories of summer.” And “... a great gray owl gazed down/with his great yellow eyes/on the milky-white bowl of your yard.” There are also some beautiful examples of alliteration.

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Another go-to text for vivid language, When the Moon Comes, by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James, captures a nighttime hockey game in the woods.

“End to end and around we fly, the long black stripes of our …

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Picture Books We Loved in 2019

Picture books...they're not just for kids! They make perfect books for readers of all ages. Here are some of our favourite titles from this year.

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A Little House in a Big Place, by Alison Acheson and Valériane Leblond

About the book: Every day, in a little house in a little town in the middle of a big place, a girl stands at her window and waves to the engineer of the train that passes on the nearby tracks. The engineer waves back and his wave and her wave together make a home in her heart. The little girl is curious about the engineer, about where he came from and where he goes. Which makes her wonder if she might go away, too, some day. This beautiful free verse picture book explores the magic of a connection made between strangers, while also pondering the idea of growing up, and what might lie beyond a child's own small piece of the world.

Alison Acheson has created a deceptively simple, warm story that will stay with readers of all ages long after they've closed the book. Children everywhere will relate to the girl at her window—what child hasn't waved to the driver of a train, truck, or bus and hadn't been thrilled to have the wave returned? Valériane Leblond's illustrations echo the girl's feelings for the prairie, the “big place” where she lives, …

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Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative

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

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The learning skills part of the report card is divided into areas such as Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative—habits that affect all areas of academic achievement. It’s sometimes difficult to find fun ways of explicitly teaching these skills. Here are some great picture books to help.

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Self-Regulation

The inverse idea of kids teaching their parents how to follow the rules is realized in The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten, by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery. A little girl’s mom spends the day butting in line, calling out of turn, slamming her scissors in frustration, and traipsing across the classroom in her outdoor shoes. When given a chance to change her behaviour, the mom rises to the challenge.

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Similarly, a boy’s father must learn to pay attention and show good sportsmanship in The Day Dad Joined My Soccer Team, also by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery.

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Seeds of a Story 2019: Part 2

Here's Part 2 of the Seeds of a Story series, which tells you the stories behind the stories nominated for the CCBC Book Awards, which were handed out in Toronto this week. Check out Seeds of a Story Part 1 here, and also the list of award winners. Congratulations to everybody involved!

And now read on to discover which books were inspired by history, by questions, by rap lyrics, by beach glass, true crime podcasts, and more! 

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Wolfe in Shepherd's Clothing, by Counio and Gane

Nominated for the John Spray Mystery Award

The killer is often the starting point for our murder mysteries: we ask ourselves who they are, who they kill, and why. But we also build on what’s come before, seeking variation in motives, methods and victims from book to book. In Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing, the third book of the Shepherd & Wolfe mysteries, we knew we needed a brutal “bad guy,” one far more dangerous than anyone our boys had yet encountered.

Our concept of the killer evolved during the outlining and writing process. When we started writing the third book, we decided the villain would be someone hiding their identity, swooping in from another country to make their kills. When we shared this concept with our publisher, she made a suggestion that reshaped the entire plan, an …

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