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.

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