Aug 13, 2020

Ojiichan’s Gift

Ojiichan’s Gift

Written and Illustrated by: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by: Genevieve Simms

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: April 2, 2019

Ages: 4+

Like many kids from immigrant and international families, including my own, Mayumi spends her summers in a different country from her own, with her beloved grandparent.

Mayumi and her grandfather have a special bond, forged over labour in his garden. They have weeded together, pruned together, and raked together, and produced a gorgeous garden where they relax and eat rice ball lunches. Until one day when things change, and Mayumi isn't going to be able to do this with her grandfather (Ojiichan) anymore.

This is an especially applicable story during the pandemic, when many children and even adults have a hard time with big changes, and not being able to do the things they loved anymore, and not being able to meet with loved ones overseas. Mayumi's frustration as she plops down in the middle of the garden with her hand on her face is something I would venture to say all of us have felt at least once this year. 

Genevieve Simms does and excellent job with the illustrations. I have been to many, many Japanese gardens and she really does their beauty justice. The rocks that symbolize a turtle and a mountain are really similar to those I have seen in Japanese gardens in Kyoto and Chiran, Kagoshima.

Mayumi finds a creative way to bring the garden and memories of time with her grandfather into her everyday life. Now it's a challenge for us to do that as well for all the activities and people we are missing. Uegaki's well-crafted story can help us do that.

Jul 1, 2020

I Am Canada: A Celebration

I Am Canada: A Celebration

Written and Illustrated by: Heather Patterson

Illustrated by: Eva Campbell

Published by: North Winds Press

Published on: June 1, 2017

Ages: 4+

Happy Canada Day! 

Today we are celebrating with a very special picture book. Heather Patterson's previously published free verse about the diversity of Canada has been paired with art by some of Canada's best children's illustrators. It is truly a joy to look through and see diversity of landscape, children, and types of art. 

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my love for Qin Leng, Ashley Spires, and Ruth Ohi. Their visions of Canada do not disappoint here either. I love that I can pick out a favorite illustrator's work just by seeing two pages of their work. I can immediately tell Barbara Reid's work with plasticine- we all felt the page after seeing what amazing snow texture she brought to life.

Some illustrators I am unfamiliar with but will be checking out more of their work in future. 

This year's Canada Day was harder than most because I am homesick and don't know when we can get home next, but this book put a smile back on my face. I won't wait until next Canada Day to read it again!

We also read the French version of this book, Le Canada C'est Moi. It was so fun to compare and contrast between the two versions.

Feb 17, 2019



Written and Illustrated by: Shauntay Grant

Illustrated by: Eva Campbell

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: September 4, 2018

Ages: 4+

A young girl visits the site of Africville near Halifax, Nova Scotia, and imagines the life of her great grandmother and other residents during the 150 years it was a bustling community, before it was ruined by the Halifax government in the 1960s.  The stories passed down through her family give her a daydream about how this community fared on sunny summer days so long ago. Children playing and adults bustling around - Eva Campbell's art brings the past to life.

But when her daydream is broken she is in an uninhabited park, Africville having long been relocated by Haligonians.

An excellent book about both amazing and shameful events in Canada's history. Lovely to see Black Joy in picture book form for Canadian kids.

This sparked some interesting discussions in my house on how municipal planning has been used to enforce systemic racism, in Canada and other countries. Black Canadians were left out of my textbooks as a child, but books like this show my kids how important they were in Canada for hundreds of years, and will be into the future.

May 30, 2018

10 Routes That Crossed the World

10 Routes That Crossed the World

Written by Gillian Richardson

Illustrated by Kim Rosen

Published by:  Simply Read Books

Published on: April 11, 2017

Ages: 9+

Gillian Richardson is a British Columbia author who makes children excited about history in these illustrated books for upper elementary students. Other books in this series are 10 Plants that Shook the World and 10 Ships that Rocked the World.

Arranging history this way is a great way for Richardson to show how similarities and differences between cultures and histories for different groups of people. 

My children were especially interested in the Serengeti Migration Trail, traveled by millions of people and animals. Imagine walking alongside a confusion of wildebeests! Apt name for a group of those animals, I think.

The Inca Trail and Camino de Santiago are two of the routes my kids and I have done on the virtual My Mission challenges, so it was great to add some historical context to their medals!

Canadian content comes from the Bering Strait and from the Chilkoot Trail, so it met my requirements for the kids to use for social studies.

This, and its companion books, is a great way to bring a social studies lesson to life for middle grade readers.

May 2, 2017

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk

Written and Illustrated by: Dasha Tolstikova

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: October 6, 2015

Ages: 10+

The best nonfiction science books and the best history books for kids are those that are relatable. They are told in prose like great stories that just happen to be true. This is one of those books.

The story of the great Auk is not just one of evolution, but one of the effect of humans on our environment. It is about the world and people over thousands of years. It is about a human-made tragedy as we killed off all the Great Auks a hundred years ago. And it is about how that tragedy spurred humans to start conservation movements, to try to stop the extinction of other species.

All of this is really good for kids to learn. But the reason kids will love this book is that it is like a great story, told by an interesting person. It was a joy to read out loud.

Apr 10, 2017

Book Uncle and Me

Book Uncle and Me

Written by: Uma Krishnaswami

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: September 13, 2016

Grades 3-6

I love books that surprise me. This book surprised me.

I thought it would be a book about a schoolgirl in India who loves to read. It is. But it is so much more.

This book is about how anyone, even those without a vote, can be influential in local politics. It is about how one person can make a difference when they get together with others, whether to save wildlife or to make their community better. 

It is how the best books keep you thinking even after you close them for the last page.

I am a political person, and I want my children to be political people. But sometimes I feel as a foreigner that my voice cannot be heard. My children feel that as children their voices cannot be heard. But when we all put our voices together and organize, our voices can be heard. Just like Yasmin and her community's voices.

Jan 5, 2017

Some Things I've Lost

Some Things I've Lost

Written and Illustrated by: Cyb√®le Young 

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: September 15, 2015

Ages: 5+

My daughter is very forgetful. Almost every day her teacher sends home a note with things that she has forgotten to bring. But more often than not, she forgets to bring that note home too. You know how you can put string through the sleeves of a coat to the mittens on either side so you don't lost the mittens? We have adapted that idea many times, even to her pencil case/backpack.

She and I often wonder what happens to all the things she forgets. Sometimes they turn back up, sometimes they don't.

I wonder if they take on a life of their own like in this book.

The premise of this book is very simple. Young lists an item and where is is lost. There is a picture of the item before it was lost.

But open the flap and a whole new world begins. Young's papercraft adventures into the transformation of these objects is breathtaking. Would you recognize your plain black glasses after they metamorphize into a brilliant coloured clownfish? I wouldn't.

I'll keep looking for my daughter's missing items. But I'll think more creatively now about how those things could have changed so they hide in plain sight.