Thursday, August 10, 2017

Top Ten for Ten – Indigenous children’s literature


I love this event. #pb10for10 is such a great way to see what teachers, librarians and others who use children’s literature are reading and teaching with. I always collect a large number of titles from these lists and sometimes, new ideas about using the books, too. 




The premise is to list your 10 best picture books. These can be the 10 picture books you love most in the world. Or the 10 best picture books connected to a specific topic. Or it might be the top 10 authors of picture books. Or any other top 10 theme you might want to create.

I encourage everyone to visit and browse through these lists.

Last year I created four Pinterest boards that support a course in the education undergraduate program focusing on First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. One of the assignments has students evaluating children’s literature. The Pinterest boards lists books for different grade levels for both fiction and nonfiction.

And, so here’s my list for this year’s Top Ten on the Tenth Event.

A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King, illustrated by William Kent Monkman
This is not your typical Christopher Columbus story. It presents a native perspective about the arrival of Chris with Trickster Coyote responsible for the whole terrible mess. She only wants to have some people to play baseball and instead creates a group of greedy, ill-mannered thieves. Very interesting illustrations. The book can be used with younger grades but I think older students will have a rich opportunity for deconstructing it.

I am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland 
This picture book is based on the author’s grandmother’s experiences in a residential school where she endured many horrific hardships. Recommended for upper elementary grades.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
This book demonstrates a wonderful sense of community of support as a little girl from the Muscogee Nation looks to create a dress to wear for a jingle dance. Family and friends all contribute jingles from their own dresses to help Jenna. Recommended for early elementary grades.

Mwakwa Talks to the Loon by Dale Auger 
Mwakwa is a skilled hunter who provides many essential supplies for his village. But he becomes conceited after receiving much praise from the other villagers and loses his ability to talk to the animals he has always hunted. This traditional story speaks to the importance of being humble about one’s abilities and respectful of the sacrifices others make for the greater good. Recommended for elementary grades

Orca Chief by Roy Henry Vickers 
I am a big fan of this illustrator’s work. In this traditional story, we learn about respecting nature. When a group of men are careless about how they treat the ocean the chief of the orca whales teaches them how to sustainably harvest food from the ocean. It's about being respectful and thankful for what the earth provides us. Stunning illustrations with Northwest Coast aboriginal motifs.  Recommended for elementary grades.

Based on the author’s grandmother’s experiences facing adversity and racism, this picture book shares a unique perspective about resiliency. Recommended for elementary grades.

Secret of the Dance by Andrea Spalding 
A boy sneaks out one night to watch a potlach, a ceremony forbidden by the Canadian government. Those involved risk arrest, confiscation of artifacts and even their children by participating. Recommended for elementary grades.

Thunder Boy by Sherman Alexie 
This one is all about identity, individuality and wanting to be recognized for one’s own abilities. Little Thunder is named after his father which he finds frustrating. He wants a name for himself that acknowledges who he is. Yet, at the same time, he worries about hurting his dad’s feelings. Recommended for primary grades.

What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?By Richard Van Camp, illustrated by George Littlechild 
When you live in a small village where horses are not all that prevalent, how would you describe one? One cold day when there is nothing better to do, a young boy asks different family and friends what they think about horses. The illustrations are a really strong element in this picture book. Recommended for primary grades.

Wild Berries by Julie Flett 
What could be better than being outdoors picking wild blueberries with your grandmother? For this boy, exploring the forest and observing wildlife, it’s an enjoyable and educational experience. Swampy Cree words are included identifying the various things that the pair see.  Recommended for primary grades.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Summertime Reading - Novels

Here is the last of my summertime reading lists.  There really are just too many titles to recommend. I've tried to give a few of my favourites that will appeal to various age groups.

Happy reading, Everyone!

Early Readers



Lulu's Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst
What's worse than being stuck at some relatives for the holidays? Being left behind while your folks go on vacation without you AND having a babysitter with some pretty weird/mysterious/awesome skills. Humorous.

Hamster Princess (series) by Ursula Vernon
A kick-ass princess who has the wit and will to out-do a curse-spewing (not the swearing/profanity kind. The other kind.) fairy. Great adventures, lots of illustrations and humour.

Clementine (series) by Sara Pennypacker
Any of the books featuring Clementine and her family are wonderful dealing with regular trials and tribulations of everyday life. Warm and cozy reading awaits when you get to know these characters.

Frank Einstein (series) by Jon Scieszka
Over-the-top antics for a technological genius, Frank, outwitting his arch nemisis T. Edison.
Super goofy. 





Middle Grade Readers



Ghost by Jason Reynolds
I highly recommend this story of a boy overcoming his background, trying new things and taking responsibility for his decisions. Terrific character development and very likable young people.

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
This historical adventure had an interesting delivery with different narrators sharing their parts of the story to comprise an interesting narrative. Lots of action.

In the Steps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall
An inter-generational story of a road trip that explores the history of a grandfather and grandson who are Lakota. Highly recommended. 

Countdown by Deborah Wiles
It's 1962 and the  Cuban Missile Crisis has everyone on edge awaiting the outcome of tense negotiations. These tensions are reflected in the everyday interactions of Franny's relationships with her family and friends. Again, the delivery of the story, interspersed with photos, news articles, songs from the 60s, and other pop culture pieces really adds to the story. 



Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The quirky cast of characters, the slow summertime pacing of hot days and kids running around 'solving' a mystery is perfectly done in this book. 







Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt

A narrative-in-verse story of a troublemaker and bully who has the tables turned on him, as he becomes a target himself. He deals with his situation through his love of poetry and support of a teacher.






YA/Secondary Readers



The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
This will be of interest to fans of Code Name Verity. Readers are given more of Julia's story growing up in a fairly privileged household. She's still working out who she is against the backdrop of a mystery. Very well written.


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
A survival-in-the-wilderness story populated by yes, beauty pageant contestants, shirtless pirates and some evil-doers. Turns out to be good fun working with stereotypes and against stereotypes as the girls figure out how to cope without all the necessities of life. Commercial breaks are interspersed and provide lots of social commentary. Great fun.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Fantasy/sci-fi world where death has been conquered and no one dies unless one of those selected to be a scythe pays you a visit and kills you. Two reluctant, apprentice scythes learn what it takes to kill but all the responsibilities that go with unlimited power. Gripping story and very violent.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summertime Reading – Picture Books


A more accurate description for today’s blog could have been, Summertime Themed Picture Books.

I can’t really get my head around giving a list of picture books for keeping up reading skills over the summer. Somehow it’s just not the same as working out a list of fiction and nonfiction or graphic novels for older kids in the higher grades.

Thus, today’s posting lists some great titles that will perhaps engage interest because they’re about summer and summertime fun, activities and communing with nature.



 Among a Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost 
I love the cover of this book. It’s so evocative of summer sitting out in the evening cooling off after a hot day. This free-verse poem will make for a great read-aloud while providing an opportunity to learn about fireflies and why they glow. The photos are stunning.


The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear and Katty Maurey
Going away for a vacation is usually considered a treat but for one little girl she’s not convinced. By day three, however the magic of the ocean shore and time spent exploring and playing wins her over. I love that everything feels slowed down; there are no phones, TVs, computers or other bits of technology.




Swimming, Swimming by Gary Clement
This is the quintessential summer activity for me – going to the swimming pool on a hot day, hanging out with friends, and the smell of chlorine lingering for hours. In this nearly wordless picture book, summer is all about swimming for this group of young people.





Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis 
Another essential ingredient of summer is ice cream and for the young boy in this story it really is THE most important thing as he describes in the letters he writes to his grandfather. His fascination with ice cream motivates him to learn everything about it.



Wild Berries by Julie Flett
Summer time, for me is about being outside in the garden or even better, outside the city and into the mountains. In this story, a boy and his grandmother go berry picking which becomes an opportunity to see creatures big and small going about their everyday business. There's nothing like a fresh picked wild berry exploding with flavour in your mouth.



The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Many summertime stories often have unhappy protagonists who have been 'shipped' off to some relative's place for the duration, which is the case for Nicky. But as is wont to happen in these stories, Nicky is won over to his Grandmother's way of life living at her cabin located next to a gently flowing river. The illustrations fit perfectly with the story, creating a sense of pause in this busy world and allowing time for appreciating nature.


Going to camp is also part of summer for some kids and the two boys in this picture book have a blast going to a day camp. There's lots of humour here as the narration often tells one thing and the illustrations another. The boys are staying with a set of grandparents who spoil them and also have to cope with typical rambunctious young child behaviour. 


This story is based on a family tradition that grew into an annual community event. In the 1950s, a family of Chinese immigrants living in Chicago discovered soybeans growing in a farmer's field. Happy with this discovery, Auntie Yang cooks up a pot of beans for her family. The next year, she invites other Chinese families in the area to join them. And, so the event grew larger for over 40 years.



Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynn Rae Perkins
This one is pretty realistic if you ask me. It's about the way we create memories and how we remember things. This family is returning to a family farm which is no longer lived in which involves a road trip. It's long and sometimes boring. The farm seems run down but Dad sees "happy memories everywhere he looked." However, after endless rainy days, sudden storms, navigating the changes to the local area new good memories are made when relatives congregate for a memorial service.  



Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse and Jon Muth
Do you remember days that seemed sooo stinking hot that eggs might fry on the sidewalk? Well, in this story it's just such a day. I especially love the illustrations that capture the heat of the city, the heaviness of impending rain and the lift that comes to people, both in movement and spirit, when the oppressiveness is released.









Monday, June 19, 2017

World Refugee Day

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 is the United Nation’s designated day for commemorating refugees who leave their home countries under duress. These are everyday folks seeking safe living conditions and opportunities to improve their lives and those of their children.

This is World Refugee Day

In recognition of this day, I’m featuring the amazing book, Stepping Stones: a refugee family’s journey by Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr.


There are a number of reasons why I think this book is amazing

First, what’s going to catch your eye are the illustrations. These have been composed from stones. The composer is a Syrian artist, still living in Syria. The author stumbled across his artwork on Facebook and it inspired her to want to create a story reflecting the refugee experience. She also wanted to use Nizar Ali Badr’s artwork. Though composed of beach-found rocks, the artistry of the images creates scenes of everyday life and events that often occur when people are fleeing war. The stones convey movement and contributes to the narrative in an interesting and unique way.

Next, is reading the forward. The forward tells of the extraordinary lengths Margriet Ruur went to contact Nizar Ali Badr and the amazing collaboration that went into this book.

And then, there’s the story. This is a story that expresses the devastating circumstances that makes a family undertake a perilous journey from their home looking for a life of peace, allowing them and their children to prosper.

The text is in English and Arabic.


I highly recommend Stepping Stones for elementary grades for discussing current events in social studies and for the inspiring artwork.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer reading - Graphic novels

Recently, I was asked for some recommendations for summer reading. More specifically, for a 9 year-old boy who was really into graphic novels.

Since we’re heading into that time when parents are concerned their children won’t keep up with reading and may even regress a degree or two, I thought I’d pull together suggestions for all grade levels.

And because I love graphic novels that’s where I’ll start.

In working out this list, I realized it was getting a little long so decided to focus on those titles that I’ve not blogged about before. However, excluding those titles means it’s possible that you would miss some great books. At the end of each section, I’ll just list the titles and authors so you can look them up on my blog or through another source to find out more about them.

Elementary – Grades 1-4

Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey
Four typical antiheroes with a mission to change the world's perception about their 'badness'. They're really just misunderstood? Isn't that right Mr. Big Bad Wolf? Hilarious.



Two sisters pass a rainy day playing and experiencing typical ups and downs of passing time together.



Little Robot by Ben Hatke
An adventurous little girl befriends and protects a little robot from other robots who have some dark reason for pursuing them.


Previously blogged about: Babymouse (series) by Jennifer Holm; 



Middle grades – Grades 4/5-7



Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola
Masha, a resourceful girl takes on an apprenticeship with Baba Yaga, a witch with a terrible reputation. Masha undertakes several challenges that enable her to face her own family-related issues. Great illustrations.




Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
Adrienne is a princess with attitude not to mention a dragon who gives good back up when the going-gets-tough. This is one princess who's not waiting around to be rescued.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Astrid takes on the challenging sport of roller derby which provides an outlet for her pre-teen woes when she and her best friend start to grow apart. Really strong character, story-line and illustrations.

 A nonfiction series focused on high interest topics such as dinosaurs, volcanoes or bats. 

Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
A couple of kids use their computer coding abilities to figure out mysterious happenings at their school.


Previously blogged about: Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale; Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi.


Secondary – Grades 8-12

Groot byJeff Loveness
Yes, this is the character from the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket and Groot are on the equivalent of a road trip but in space. Rocket is kidnapped and it's up to Groot to rescue him. Fun adventure and antics make this an enjoyable read. (Grades 7 and up)

Just So Happens by Fumio Obata
London-based Yumiko is drawn back to Japan when her father dies. Her visit home is an emotional one as she deals with her grief and tries to understand her relationship with her father.


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
An interesting fantasy with a shapeshifter with sometimes questionable motives for helping out the hero. (Grades 7 and up)


If you're into short stories this anthology, written and illustrated by aboriginals from around North America will be one to consider. The stories are diverse in subjects, time periods and illustration styles. 

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
This adaptation, based on the novel, is not your average story of star-crossed lovers separated by societal strictures. 


Rust series by Royden Lepp
Set in a futuristic world, where Jet, a robot warrior questions his identity and purpose. He happens upon the Taylors, struggling to keep the family farm going and who have their own interests in learning more about Jet. Illustrations are amazing and evocative of World War I and convey the action scenes perfectly.



The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North
Doreen Green, otherwise known as Squirrel Girl, superhero and friend to Tony Stark, is starting college. In addition to settling into campus life, making friends, and handling classes, she must continue to battle villians of varying degrees from muggers to Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. Great comedic vibe.




Previously blogged about: Shadow Hero by Gene ; Ms Marvel series by G. Willow Wilson.


For additional titles please visit my Goodreads page and check out other graphic novels I’ve read.

Also, if you go to the Doucette Library’s catalogue and type in graphic novels as a keyword search you will find a list of graphic novels found in this library.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Guest blogger: Summertime Professional Reading

Today's blog recommends two books that will bring you up to speed on the impact of the maker movement in schools. Paula Hollohan is the Instructional Technologies & Information Specialist in the Doucette Library who keeps up with technology trends in education. Check in with Paula's blog, Doucette Ed Tech if you'd like to keep up with all sorts of cool and interesting, wide-ranging topics.

I, too, will be coming up with some summertime reading recommendations in about two weeks - NOT focused on technology, as you might expect. So stay tuned for fiction and nonfiction reads whether you're at the  beach, cabin, or in the back garden. There will be something for everyone.

Tammy

Summer Reading

By: Paula Hollohan

Summer is a time to re-energize and have some time for new learning in a more relaxed atmosphere.  That’s everything I love about summer reading except that the location can and be the beach or the deck.  Set your sights on something you are interested in, get a big set of post it notes and away you go.

This summer, I am recommending two reads to reinforce the notion of the “Maker Mindset.”
Both books, while not published this year, are new enough to speak to the notion of making embedded in curriculum and in school culture more completely than a room called a “Maker Space” ever could be.  That is not to say that having a makerspace in any facility that you educate in is not a great bonus but without a leading edge, expensive maker space, any educator can still advance the notion of making in any environment.



Beginning with Chapter 1, “We are all Makers,” this book, published in 2016, gives a generous overview of the maker movement and some specifics about how it fits in education and more generally, how it is changing the real world.  Chapter 7 specifically addresses the nature and conditions needed to adopt a “maker mindset.”  This book is a quick read to give educators a great foundation in what maker is and what is looks like within each community.



This book speaks directly to educators no matter what stage they are at in embracing the maker movement.  He addresses, because of his own experience, just how difficult it is to lead a revolution in a school system.  However, the information contained here will give educators much to talk and think about.  Many questions will be addressed, like how to create meaningful learning while having innovative students and educators leading the way.

Have a great summer and allow these two great books to help inform your practice in September.


Both books are currently being catalogued and will shortly be available in the Doucette Library.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Interest in Pinterest

Today's blog falls in the category of a--

 PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT.


Many of you know that I curate Pinterest boards that list books found in the Doucette Library and tie-in with the Alberta Education curriculum.  My focus has been mostly on elementary science, social studies and math. For science and social studies, I have created individual boards for every grade and every topic. For math, I did not organize resources according to individual grade level but rather grouped books by topic such as Number Sense, Measurement, Patterns and so on. I've included fiction and nonfiction books, DVDs and a few websites on these boards.

Recently, I've been busy adding more resources to these boards to keep them up-to-date and more complete.

I've also added several new boards based on requests by student-teachers around specific topics. These are Fractured and Adapted Fairy Tales and Activists and Activism K-6 and Activists and Activitism 7-12.

Also, I've just added several boards that correspond with the social studies curriculum for grades 7 to 9. Again, each topic has it's own boards and include: 

   Canada: Origins, Histories and Movement of People 
7.1 Toward Confederation
7.2 Following Confederation: CanadianExpansions

   Historical Worldviews Examined
8.1 From Isolation to Adaptation: Japan
8.2 Origins of a Western Worldview:Renaissance Europe
8.3 Worldviews in Conflict: The Spanishand the Aztecs 

   Canada: Opportunities and Challenges
9.1 Issues for Canadians: Governanceand Rights
9.2 Issues for Canadians: EconomicSystems in Canada and the United States

These boards predominately list nonfiction resources but do include fiction when something was available.

I hope to add boards that will correspond to the junior high science curriculum later this summer.

If you have any recommendations for resources that correspond with these or any other curriculum topics, please drop me a line. I'm always keen to add resources to the Doucette collection that will connect with Alberta Education's curriculum.




Monday, May 15, 2017

Exploring the depths

Everyone loves a mystery, right?  And what’s more mysterious than regions and realms we can only imagine, know little about and rarely see.


by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski is a book that will captivate 8 to 12 year-olds easily and even older if kids (or adults) are into information presented in a highly visual and interesting format.



This oversized book is divided into two sections each starting from one of the covers and meeting in the middle. The reader views the book by turning it on its side. From one side we are introduced to the fascinating and mysterious world of what lies underwater. Though it includes lakes and sinkholes, the book predominately focuses on the ocean. Besides looking at the various plants and animals that live beneath water from shallow waters to the deepest known point, a great deal of information is given about human activities, as well. Like how we submerge ourselves using diving equipment, submarines, submersibles, or drilling platforms. The book starts with the shallowest levels of life and phenomena to those found deep, deep down underwater.


Flip the book around and we start to learn all about the wondrous worlds found under our feet. Again, there is a focus on plants and wildlife that depend on earth to survive. For example, I love the 2-page spread that illustrates the various depths to which tree roots grow.  I also found the illustrations showing the underground barrows for various animals fascinating. Here too, human activity is covered including transportation, mining, how we move water, sewage and other utilities, archaeology and paleontology digs. Then last part of this section has the cool geological features such as caves, volcanoes and the earth's structure.

There is a lot of information to be found in this book. The bite sized pieces of information make it highly accessible and easy for browsing. The format is very appealing and will work for more than one student viewing at a time.


Highly recommended.

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