amazon.ca

Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books

Blog

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books With Sole(s)

Every month, our resident children's librarian Julie Booker brings us great stories from the stacks. 

*****

Book Cover A Good Trade

What’s the big idea? One of the current trends in education is to identify the underlying theme or message, to make connections with other stories and the larger world. Shoes allow for big ideas, relatable to readers as young as age four.

Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau's A Good Trade starts out simple. Kato, a young boy wakes on his mat in Uganda. He carries his gerry cans to the well for water, splashing his bare feet. Questions start to form in the reader’s mind. Why are the cattle-spotted fields guarded by soldiers? What is this "aid worker's truck" Kato peeks into? He spies a single white poppy and makes a trade for what he's seen: a pair of runners. The beautiful pictures and the one-sentence-per-page provide great starting points for discussing life in Uganda, world help organizations, and inequity in general. 

Book Cover Two Pairs of Shoes

Two Pairs of Shoes by Esther Sanderson is another simple tale that asks a big question. Maggie lives in two worlds—English and …

Continue reading »

Notes From a Children's Librarian: On Books About Displacement

Book Cover Mr Hiroshi's Garden

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

I read Mr. Hiroshi’s Garden, by Maxine Trottier, aloud to a group of nine-year-olds. As the final image settled, a boy quietly said, “I want to cry.” The full-circle ending obviously did the trick. Set in British Columbia during World War II, this narrative connects a little girl with her Japanese neighbour who’s building a rock garden in his backyard. One day he and his family are taken away to an internment camp. (The Author’s note at the back is useful in setting up the story.)

This is the first of five stellar personal narratives which happen to share a theme of displacement. And, if the reader’s paying attention, these are stories that teach kids how to write.

Migrant, also by Trottier, is the tale of Anna and her family arriving from Mexico to farm. It’s the only book mentioned here not told in the first person, but it’s Trottier’s use of metaphor and simile, capturing Anna’s transitory, sometimes difficult, existence that make it …

Continue reading »

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Enviro Fiction Picks

Book Cover Complete Adventures of the Mole Sisters

Our resident Children's Librarian Julie Booker brings us her best picks from the stacks.

When I start to feel anxiety regarding the environment I like to quote the Mole Sisters: “Sometimes it’s important to do nothing.” "Nothing" involves being open to the natural world and, for the Mole gals, curiosity always leads to serendipity. It’s the perfect message for a five-year-old. Like the time the rain kerplunks into the siblings’ burrow creating a gleeful spa-like puddle. Most days, though, the sisters venture out, turning right “instead of always going left” and end up making a kite from dandelion stalks or swings from two blue eggshells. Or they stumble upon what look like the caves of Lascaux, as in the final story of The Complete Adventures of The Mole Sisters. The best way to appreciate Roslyn Schwartz’s Mole Sisters is to read the entire collection.

Beneath the Bridge by Hazel Hutchins works for the eight to nine-year-old crowd.  A paper boat gets launched in a forest stream by a small boy. Each page invites a kind of Where’s-Wald …

Continue reading »

Notes from a Children's Librarian 940s: History in Graphic Form

Our children's librarian columnist Julie Booker brings us the latest in book banter.

One of the most powerful tools a librarian has in her arsenal is book banter, particularly with Junior kids. To be able to recommend and discuss the latest Kevin Sylvester or Gordon Korman is what places him/her in the hub of the community. But gone are the days of the shush-ing librarian, nose stuck in a book behind the circulation counter, reading for countless hours. One short-cut solution for the librarian who wishes to remain in the know: graphic novels. I devoured the following three in one night and learned a bit of history in the process.

Book Cover Two Generals

The opening pages of Scott Chantler’s beautifully designed World War II novel Two Generals feel like the establishing shots of an epic movie, the kind that tell you you’re in the hands of an expert filmmaker. And, like a great director, Chantler brilliantly plays with the element of time, using foreshadowing as well as temporal jump cuts at the end which reveal the author’s reason for writing the book. The novel’s colour palette is black, white and army green, uncharacteristically depicting much of the waiting that happens in war. Blood red is used strategically to denote death creeping in. Two Generals has rounded corners and a bu …

Continue reading »

Notes from a Children's Librarian: On Real Women and Strong Girls

Sarah Ann Glover

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

Sometimes a book mysteriously survives the weeding process again and again, a publication that doesn’t belong in a children’s library but is too good for the recycle bin or the Goodwill. One such text reappeared this week: The Teacher’s Manual of the Tonic Sol-Fa Method by John Curwen, copyright 1875. A sketch of a seemingly depressed Mrs. Glover points to a scroll of letters, the famous notation method which she invented. Her face is strangely masculine and sad, considering she drew thousands of young singers to her teaching method. This started me thinking about books about real women and strong girls who’ve made an impact on the world.

Book Cover No Girls Allowed

Susan Hughes’ No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure pulls together many stories of courage in an easy-to-digest format for kids. The graphic novel begins with Hatshepsut, 1800 BCE, who disguised herself in order to become a pharaoh. My favourite tale includes the …

Continue reading »

Notes from a Children's Librarian: On the Literary Quest

Book Cover A Big City ABC

Our Children's Librarian Columnist on Books that (Literally) Take You Places. 

I know a mom who uses A Big City ABC as a scaffold for outings with her three year old. The book consists of colourful detailed drawings of beloved places in a city: M is for market, P is for park, R is for rink. This mother/daughter duo travels to each location and takes a photo that captures the scene created by the author/illustrator, Allan Moak. The book is Toronto-centric (i.e. X is for the Ex), however it could spark an inquiry in any city.

City Numbers

This got me thinking about literary-inspired hunts. What about a city search for numbers and letters found in obscure places, such as sewer lids and graffiti, triggered by Joanne Schwartz's books: City Numbers and City Alphabet? Another Toronto book that lends itself to a quest is The White Stone in the Castle Wall by Sheldon Oberman. It’s a fictional account of how Casa Loma came to have one anomalous stone. Who can find it?

Continue reading »

Notes from a Children's Librarian 800: On Poetry

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

Book Cover I Did It Because

When I was a pre-teen, I visited the poetry section with the voracity of a homebuilder in the DIY department. One of my favourite books was Chief Dan George’s My Heart Soars. I studied the portrait on the cover: his wise wrinkled face, eyes upward, channelling the poetry gods. I knew the 819s so well that when a fresh book appeared I sized it up like a new kid in class, wary yet hopeful. One gem that delivered: Sean O’Huigin’s Poe Tree: A Simple Introduction to Experimental Poetry with its back pocket treasure—a phonograph recording of O’Huigin, bp nichol and Ann Southam. I can still hear their voices 25 years on: ‘wistful wisteria/ gross rose, gross rose…’ Another find was Ted Hughes’ Poetry In the Making, in which the author explains to kids how to be a writer, using poems to illustrate. The first chapter draws a brilliant analogy between catching fish and capturing a poem. Loris Lesynski’s I Did It Because… (How A Poem Happens) is a more modern and immediate how-to, illustrated by Michael Martchenko.

Continue reading »

Notes from a Children's Librarian 398: On Storytelling

Our new Children's Librarian columnist Julie Booker shares the magic of the oral tale.

Book Cover The Enormous Potato

As a children’s librarian, I know the magic of captivating kids with a great readaloud. But it can’t compete with the adrenalin required to tell a story. After seeing Aubrey Davis engage my kids with his telling of The Enormous Potato, (a book nicely illustrated by Dusan Petrocic), I decided to try. But not any story would do. It had to be written with the oral in mind.

Dan Yashinsky’s The Next Teller was my starting point. I chose “Va Attacher La Vache” by Justin Lewis, the tale of a stubborn couple who argue about who will tie up the cow. Its farcical ending and French refrain are designed to impress. I loved letting go of the usual physical prop to rely on my gut for dramatic pauses, pacing, perfectly placed hand gestures. I could see the illustrations form in the listeners’ eyes. The story became solidified in my memory so that years after my storytelling phase had ended I told it successfully to a summer camp full of story-thirsty kids.

Book Cover The Name of the Tree

Now when I tea …

Continue reading »