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.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Passel of animal books

Well, another academic school year is over. With exams finished up last week, we’re officially in ‘summer mode’ for the next 4 months. Fewer students around means it’s catch-up time here in the Doucette Library.

So I’m getting caught up with reading a backlog of picture books. I’ve read a fair number of animal books recently and I thought I’d give a few recommendations for the ones I liked best.

Starting with--

Not many Europeans knew what a rhinoceros looked like in the 1700s but Clara, an orphaned baby rhino changed that for many people. Brought from India by a Dutch sea captain to Europe, they traveled for 17 years to Holland, France, Italy, England and Germany entertaining people from all walks of life. I see this book as a great discussion starter and for research, too. How were animals treated in the past? What parts of Clara’s story have been ‘tinkered’ with? How much food does a rhino really need? There are lots of possibilities.

I love stories where animals, in dire straits, are given new leases on life such as described in this book.  We learn about three elephants from the Toronto Zoo who are moved to California to take up residence in a sanctuary. It’s quite a feat of organization and transportation to get Toka, Iringa and Thika to their new home and how they adjusted to a life outside a small, cold zoo enclosure.  I recommend this for elementary grades.

Turtles are endlessly fascinating creatures faced with a myriad of challenges for survival. One such challenge is getting to the ocean from their beach-sand nests. Along beaches where there has been significant development, lights from homes and hotels often mislead the baby turtles in the wrong direction, away from the ocean. This story focuses on the efforts of a young girl to save these turtles by having the people living along the beaches turn off their bright lights when the turtles are hatching. This has a great combination of science and social activism for upper elementary grades.

This one introduces us to the topic of bioluminescence featuring mostly deep ocean creatures. The photos are pretty amazing. Elementary students will likely find this one quite appealing.

Otters Love to Play by Jonathan London
There is something very appealing about otters – cute faces, lanky, bendy bodies and their playful behavior are irresistible.  Great book for early elementary grades about otter’s habitat and seasonal changes in behavior. Illustrations really give a good sense of their playful natures and body movements.


And, lastly—

This now extinct bird had at one time numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the North Atlantic. Outlined here are the conditions that came together over a period of time that contributed to the bird’s demise: namely the bird’s inability to fly, the northern waters they inhabited for cold water fish and few viable spots for laying and hatching eggs, climate change and human hunting (for food and collectability once it became rare). The author lays out the interconnectedness of these conditions, the impact of the birds on local peoples and their legacy. I highly recommend this for middle grades.



Monday, May 1, 2017

Peace Bridge

Today’s recommended title will be of particular interest to Calgarians, Albertans and Canadians.



Bridges: an Introduction to Ten Great Bridges and Their Designers by Didier Cornille introduces us to 10 bridges from various countries spanning the globe providing a brief entry about the architects who designed them and sometimes a little about the construction process.  Each bridge has a something distinct about it, whether it was for a new construction process, a new design, extraordinary length, or a design feature.

Among the selected few is Calgary’s own Peace Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava (2012).

The other bridges include:
Iron Bridge designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard (England, 1779)
Brooklyn Bridge designed by John Roebling, Washington Roebling and Emily Warren (United States, 1883)
Forth Bridge designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker (Scotland, 1890)
Plougastel Bridge designed by Eugene Freyssinet (France, 1930)
Sydney Harbour Bridge designed by John Jacob Crew Bradfield (Australia, 1932)
Golden Gate Bridge designed by Joseph Baermann Strauss (United States, 1937)
Rio-Niteroi Bridge designed by Jean Muller (Brasil, 1974)
Millau Viaduct designed by Norman Foster and Michel Virlogeux (France, 2004)
Mucem Footbridge designed by Rudy Ricciotti (France, 2013)

Each entry is very brief. I love the format of the book, which is oversized and read turned on its side so we are flipping the pages up. This is great for giving the reader a sense of length, giving the illustrations of each bridge lots of room to span the page. The details usually include a little information about the designer including other projects they’ve been involved in and most often specifics about the construction process.  The illustrations are simple, uncluttered and placed on pages with lots of white space.

The entry for the Peace Bridge in Calgary features several of Calatrava’s other structures giving only two short pages dedicated to the Peace Bridge itself. However cool looking this bridge there is not a lot of information about it in terms of construction.

Another thing I noticed is that with the exception of Emily Warren, who stepped in when her husband died building the Brooklyn Bridge there are no women featured here. There have to be some noteworthy bridges designed by women, right?


This book will be of interest to teachers for science (building things, designing), STEM, and social studies (Alberta, Canada, local politics). I would recommend this for middle grades.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sync for summertime listening




SYNC: Audiobooks for Teens returns for another summer with a fantastic line up of YA titles -- all for FREE!  

If you haven't already done so, set up an account with your email and every week you'll be notified about the release of two, theme-based pair of books that you can download for free. And keep forever. I think the selection looks amazing.  Enjoy!


Here's the line up starting this Thursday (April 27th):

Apr.27th    The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
                 The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

May 4th     Feed by M.T. Anderson
                 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

May 11th    Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
                  Teenage Diaries: Then and Now by Radio Diaries

May 18th    The Gathering: Shadow House, Book 1 by Dan Poblock
                   In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America by Nita
                   Belles

May 25th    Freakling by Lana Krumwiede
Go to Sync
                   Boy by Anna Ziegler

June 1st     Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
                  Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

June 8th      Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
                    If I Run by Terri Blackstock

June 15th    The Souls of Black Folk 
                   by W.E.B. Du Bois
                   The Red Umbrella 
                   by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

June 22nd   The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other 
                    Stories by Terry Pratchett
                    The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

June 29       American Night: The Ballad of Juan
                   Jose by Richard Montoya
                    My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

July 6th        Rebuttal by Jyotsna Hariharan
                    Remember to Forget by Ashley Royer

July 13th     The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker
                   Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

July 20th     Gone: Gone Series, book 1 by Michael Grant
                   The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

Jult 27th      Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
                   Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Aug. 3rd      In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer 
                   by Irene Gut Opdyke
                   Betweeen Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Aug. 10th    Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
                   Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka






Monday, April 10, 2017

Perfectly illustrated information


Animals by the Numbers: a book of animal infographics by Steve Jenkins is well worth picking up for teaching both science and math for grades 2-7.

As is Steve Jenkins’ typical MO (and stated in the title) this book is all about the animal world that he finds fascinating, giving us tons of statistical information as infographics. I keep waiting to have that ‘been there, done that’ feeling when Jenkins comes out with a new book but it's yet to come. He continues to find fresh ways to introduce us to the endlessly fascinating natural world.

And what’s not to be enthralled by?

Whether he’s looking at the big picture (invertebrates vs vertebrates or the number of species such as 5,500 mammals vs 1 million species of insects) or the finer details (size, speed, life spans, heartbeats, tongue size, amount of sleep) he presents the numbers in captivating graphs and charts.  And when you’re a math-a-phob like me, that says a lot.

Steve Jenkins has an amazing ability to capture and hold the interest of his readers by looking at ranges of animals, comparing and contrasting characteristics and behaviours that illustrate just how nuanced, varied and adaptive the animal kingdom is. Comparing humans in some cases certainly may put us in our place. Compare the biomass of all the humans in the world, 350 million tons to that of all insects, 100 billion tons and you can see what I mean.

The illustrations are composed of paper cut outs and paired with various types of pie, flow and bar charts, histograms, pictograms and graphs. These representations are clear and easy to understand.  He finds ways to make each topic relatable to basic knowledge levels. For instance when comparing the loudness level between species he includes noises produced by humans too such as those from lawn mowers, chainsaws, firetrucks or jet planes. Did you know that a cicada  produces the same level as noise as a firetruck? Or, that a bulldog bat makes a sound that falls in the same range as a jet plane?

I highly recommend this addition to Steve Jenkins' body of work for any classroom.  Those interested in animals and nature will be captivated

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