Monday, August 20, 2018

Seasonal changes and the moon

We’re on the cusp of starting a new school year which for me feels more like the ‘new year’ than the one we start on January 1st.  A new school year also connects very strongly with seasonal change; Fall is not far off.  We can often see the early signs that cooling temperatures and less light bring to the natural world.  Trees and other plants change colour, drop leaves and flowers and slowly begin to die back.  Animals and birds start to migrate, change colour or grow thicker coats.  It’s all about seasonal change.

Taan’s Moons: a Haida Moon Story by Alison Gear and illustrated by Kiki van der Heiden with the Children of Haida Gwaii, beautifully illustrates seasonal change in a specific area, the northwest coast of British Columbia.

This book looks to present traditional Haida Gwaii knowledge that has been passed down through oral tradition and varies between villages, clans, families and language groups about the Haida moon cycle.

Each double page spread features one of twelve different moons spanning a year. Bear Moon, Snow Moon and Bears Hibernate Moon occur during the winter months, for example. Each title is in English, Skidegate Haida and Old Massett Haida. Every moon has a four line poem that speaks to the essence of that time period as it relates to the life of a bear.

Bears Hibernate Moon is described as,

Taan lumbers up the mountain;
hemlock curtains close.
She crawls into a dent or roots,
and then begins to doze.

The illustrations have been co-created by Kiki van der Heiden and primary grade children from various schools in the Haida Gwaii area, using felt.  The illustrator states, “the images that bring this story to life have come from the children’s imaginations, and have been enthusiastically and lovingly created by them, with final touches respectfully applied by Kiki.

Great care has been given to recognizing everyone involved in this project, appreciation for the traditional stories and the Indigenous people who tell them. The book includes a forward (by Richard Van Camp), a preface, back notes honouring contributors, artists and other participants of which there were many, a note about Haida language, a note about the illustrations and credit for where “a written record of this particular cycle can be found.”

This is a lovely book that works across content areas embedding Indigenous knowledge and connecting to nature.  What better way could there be to learn about culture, science, nature, art, story, poetry and language?

I recommend this one for elementary grades.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Top 10 on 10 – The picture book fiction edition

Well, I’m back from holidays and what better way to get back into the swing of things but by highlighting some of my favorite picture books.

For the last several years, I’ve participated in the Top 10 on 10 event where bloggers and other types of children’s literature aficionados  recommend their favorites picture books.  It can be a nail biting experience as you try to figure out how to rave about only 10!  count’em 10! books when really you could rave about 100s. But it’s a great exercise and I always come away with so many new (and old) titles that I know will be of interest to the student-teachers who use the Doucette Library.

I decided to focus on a theme and because I’m still in holiday mode decided to highlight mystery and detective stories. I do love mysteries and it’s what I typically read when I’m not working.  The following is my list of books some, new and some oldies-but-goodies which keep me guessing and leave me in awe of remarkable observation and deductive reasoning skills. 

Whether you’ve lost a pair of eyeglasses, a cat or a goldfish, Hermelin is on it. A master of observation, he finds all that is lost for those living in his neighbourhood. The gratitude of these neighbours turns to shock and horror when they realize he’s a mouse. All except for one aspiring detective…

Who knew that Fairy Tale Land was a hot-bed of crime? Five classic fairy tales are framed as if a crime has been committed and it’s up to Officer Binky to save the day. Goldilocks is behind bars for breaking and entering. In the case of Hansel and Gretel, killing the witch  was a clear case of self-defense. Humpty Dumpty was pushed and will not be living happily-ever-after. Snow White will no longer have to fear for her life from the evil, vain queen. And figuring out what the real story behind Jack, his beanstalk and the goose who can lay golden eggs is all in a day’s work for Officer Binky.

Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren
Another noir-type detective story involving an old-timer and a keen youngster looking to crack the case of missing birds. Did they fly the coop? Or, is there some other nefarious plan about to hatch?

The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep: a thriller by Mircea Catusanu
Apparently, this one was inspired by true events. Ten sheep go missing and it’s up to Doug, the sheep dog to find out where they went.  “Careful” deduction indicates that Wolf living in the Dark Forest is responsible. But as will all good mysteries, things are not what they seem. The twist is – well, you’ll just have to read and find out for yourself. The illustrations are a treat.

Piggins by Jane Yolen
This one falls into the classic category for me. In this case, “the butler did it” refers to the butler solving the mystery of the stolen diamond necklace belonging to his employers. I love the early 1900s vibe and details.

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
If you love solving puzzles then this one’s for you. Every page has clues and codes to be figured out. The illustrations are detailed and will give you a run for your money. The answers are provided in the back of the book.

The LaRue dog books, are hilarious! In this caper, LaRue is accused of catnapping a neighbour’s two felines. As he explains to his human who’s on vacation, writing her frequent postcards it’s all a big misunderstanding. It’s up to LaRue to find the cats and perhaps, those responsible for the crime spree that is spreading through town that started the same night the cats went missing. Coincidence? I think not!

I love this noir mystery for the puns it works into the narrative. (See title.) We have an elephant detective who “works for peanuts”, a chanteuse whose “lost her marbles”… you get the idea. This one works through the clues and a list of suspects in a pretty linear way. The black and white illustrations add to the atmosphere of a gritty 30s noir flick.

Ever notice how many picture book mysteries and detective stories feature fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters? Well, this one feels like it’s a bit of a pop quiz. A traveling painter requests that his family return several portraits he’s painted to their owners. There are clues attached to each painting that will help with this task. This one will appeal to kids who really like fairy tales.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg.
My last recommendation is not so much a mystery but definitely falls into the category of mysterious. The set-up is an illustrator, Harris Burdick, dropping off a portfolio of his illustrations to a children’s book publisher. It features a single picture from several different stories with only a title and a caption to give us a clue about what’s going on. Each picture has some element of spookiness, creepiness or intrigue. It leaves the reader wanting to know what the stories are about and what happened to Harris Burdick. He never did return to pick up his illustrations.

So, there’s the list for this year. Please check out some of the other blogs and lists for going to 2018 #pb10for10.  You won’t be disappointed.

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