Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
As part of the Language curriculum, primary readers are asked to make connections between books, identifying similarities. The following titles are paired through like-minded themes.
In Jack the Bear, by Christina Leist, prime ministers, philosophers, and scientists try to make the world a better place, while Jack the Bear sits with his honey pot, doing the simplest, yet arguably the most important job of all—smiling.
Similarly, in The Little Hummingbird, by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Hummingbird tries to put out a forest fire with single drops of water from his beak. Both texts highlight the following messages: you can only do what you can do, and simple acts can bring about change.
Two nonfiction tales by Monica Kulling share the big ideas of engineering, mechanical skill, and perseverance.
Clean Sweep: Frank Zamboni’s Ice Machine, illustrated by Renne Benoit, is the story of a skating arena owner in the 1940s who grew exasperated with the hours he had to devote to ice cleaning. It took nine years for Frank to perfect his zamboni.
All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine, illustrated by Bill Slavin, shows McCoy’s story of inventing an oil cup which revolutionized the railway industry in the 1800’s.
Three stories share not only a sweater motif but also themes of dreams, heroes and love of hockey.
The Hockey Sweater, by Roch Carrier, translated by Sheila Fischman, with illustrations by Sheldon Cohen, is a story from Carrier’s childhood in Quebec. All Roch wanted was a Montreal Canadiens number nine (Rocket Richard) jersey but the Eaton’s catalogue sent him a Maple Leaf jersey instead. His reaction to wearing the blue and white sweater get him in trouble with his teacher.
One can’t help but connect Carrier’s classic tale with My Leafs Sweater, by Mike Leonetti, illustrated by Sean Thompson. Michael wants a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater for his birthday but stores are completely sold out. This one has a happy ending—Michael gets a ticket to watch his hero, Darryl Sittler, play live.
The Highest Number in the World, by Roy MacGregor, illustrated by Genevieve Despres, is about hockey player Gabriella who’s devastated when she doesn’t receive the number 22 jersey, like her idol Hayley Wickenheiser.
Willow Finds a Way, by Lana Button, illustrated by Tania Howells, tackles subjects kids can relate to: bossy friends, being true to oneself, standing up, doing the right thing. Willow has a hard time confronting Kristabelle, who uses her potential birthday invitation list to coerce others into doing things her way.
In Clara and the Bossy, by Ruth Ohi, Madison lords over Clara, making her feel her interests are not good enough.
Bossy characters in these two texts end up being appropriately humbled.
Anger, control, and loneliness are all themes in Sam’s Pet Temper, by Sanjeeta Bhadra, illustrated by Marion Arbona. Sam’s temper follows him everywhere, getting him into trouble, until he discovers a few strategies to get rid of it.
Likewise, in The Snurtch, by Sean Ferrell, Ruthie’s anger gets the better of her until she draws a picture of her “snurtch” (the angry part of her) and her classmates admit they each have a snurtch, too. Her anger doesn’t go away, but Ruthie definitely feels less alone.
Relationships with nature, and an indigenous theme connect these two texts.
Dragonfly Kites, by Tomson Highway, illustrated by Julie Flett, has a meditative quality, showing siblings in the Far North immersed in the natural world around them.
Morning on the Lake, by Jan Bourdeau Waboose, is the tale of an Ojibway grandfather canoeing with his grandson, showing him all that is important in nature.
In Oddrey and the New Kid, by Dave Whamond, Oddrey is proud of her unique character but is threatened by new girl Maybelline, who arrives at school with stories of great adventures. Oddrey suspects Maybelline is exaggerating.
Similar themes of jealousy, honesty and competitiveness are found in Ella May and the Wishing Stone, by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Genevieve Cote. Ella May brags about her wishing stone so much that Manuel decides to create a wishing stone machine, which turns out to be a farce.
Fear, being alone, and the ability to change are all themes in the next three texts. Larf, by Ashley Spires, is about a Sasquatch who likes being a loner. But when he learns there might be another creature like him, he breaks out of his comfort zone to meet her.
Also led out of solitude is Harry, in Taming Horrible Harry, by Lili Chartrand, illustrated by Roge. Harry loves that everyone in the forest is scared of him. One day, a little girl drops a book and Harry begins the difficult job of learning to read, which leads him to share his love of books with others.
In Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, by Melanie Watt, Scaredy Squirrel lives alone in his tree, sticking to the safety of a predictable routine, until all his rules are broken for fellowship with an unlikely new friend.
On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.