Go and Come Back

Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove

One of the reasons I love being part of a YA book group, is that it sometimes makes me read a book I would not necessarily choose myself. Go and Come Back is the perfect example. The cover is dark and unattractive. I don't think I would have picked it up. But when my wonderful YA book group in Eugene, Oregon decided to read it, I bought a copy. I have treasured it ever since.

In this multi-award-winning novel, two female American anthropologists come to stay in a jungle village near the Amazon. The villagers are initially skeptical, especially teenaged Alicia. But as the months go on, Alicia finds herself drawn in, even becoming friends with one of the women.

Oddly, this is not a YA novel I would easily recommend to any child. But as a writer I am fascinated with how well it is written. The voice of a child in Peru is totally authentic. The book gives a glimpse into a foreign culture, which includes daily and social habits with which I was not at all familiar. I found it an intriguing story, well written and captivating.

Goodreads.com has this information about the author:
Joan Abelove is an American writer of young adult novels. She attended Barnard College and has a Ph.D in cultural anthropology from the City University of New York. She spent two years in the jungles of Peru as part of her doctoral research and used the experience as background for her first novel, Go and Come Back (1998). Go and Come Back earned numerous awards and citations, including a "Best Books for Young Adults" selection of the American Library Association and "Book Prize Finalist" selection of the Los Angeles Times. she also wrote Saying it Out Loud. She is also in a critique group with Gail Carson Levine, writer of "Ella Enchanted" and "Writing Magic", a guide for child authors who wish to make their stories better. Joan Abelove now lives in New York city with her husband and son.

ISBN: 0141306947 (ISBN13: 9780141306940)

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

Here's rare review of an adult book. I generally prefer kids' books but this is one of my all time favourite travel reads.

“I move throughout the world without a plan, guided by instinct, connecting through trust, and constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities.” —From the Preface

Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world.
She sold her possessions and became a nomad, first living in a Zapotec village in Mexico. Then sharing life with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. Rita’s example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults.

I especially like how she 'simply' followed her heart and lived by chance encounters.

The second book is 'Female Nomad and Friends' - an anthology of stories and recipes from around the world. Royalties benefit  women's education in India.

Now if only I can find my copy of the book back! If you borrowed it, please return it!
Check out these related websites:


http://ritagoldengelman.com/home.html (the author even offers to mail you an autographed book for 15.- no postage!)

The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw

The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw

When I first read this book, I was entralled. Not only by the story of an African American family who buy their own freedom and travel west on the pioneer trail. But specifically by the fact that Jenny ultimately settles on the Gulf Island where I now live.

Jenny Estes shares her father's dream of freedom. But for Jenny, who was born into slavery in Missouri in the 1840's, freedom seems an impossible dream. She toils alongside her mother in the steaming kitchen of the Leopold plantation, trying her best to be humble and obedient so that Mrs. Leopold won't sell her to a slave-trader. But when she's not drying dishes or mixing biscuits, Jenny finds time to practice her reading, a skill that ultimately helps the family plan their migration and realize their dream.

The Estes family faces a formidable journey: a grueling passage from Missouri to Saltspring Island, Canada. Along the way, Jenny's family faces scarlet fever, racial persecution, the arduous Oregon Trail, warring native Haidas, and finally, the challenges of homesteading. Jenny's spirit and fortitude in the face of many adversities make her a heroine all young readers can look up to.

Based on a true story, this tale is a gripping account of one young girl's coming-of-age in troubling and unsettling times.
Once I moved to Salt Spring Island, I saw historical photos of the family on which this story is based. I have met their ancestors. I am fascinated by this well written book and a history so close to home.

Raincoast, ISBN 1551928396

Lone Wolf by Kristine L. Franklin

This book was published by Scholastic in 1997 but I had not read it earlier. Picked it up this week and couldn't put it down.
Lone Wolf is one of those wonderfully written stories that draw you in and invite you to stay.
Perry is caught between divorced parents. His father does not share feelings nor talk much. Perry and his dad become lone wolves in the northern woods of Minnesota. A new neighbor family, bustling with kids, love and art, make Perry realize what he is missing.
The story flows naturally and is a great read for both boys and girls, nature lovers and kids dealing with divorce.
Highly recommended.

Lone Wolf by Kristine L. Franklin
Scholastic, 1997, ISBN 0-590-55105-1

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, Lynn Munsinger (Illustrator)

This is my favorite picture book about bullying. Great to use with students of all ages.
Poor Rodney Rat can't pronounce his R's and the other rodents tease him mercilessly. Wodney is shy and mostly hides inside his jacket.
But when Camilla Capybara joins Rodney's class and announces that she is bigger, meaner, and smarter than any of the other rodents, everyone is afraid. It seems she really is bigger, meaner, and smarter than all of the rest of them.
Until Wodney Wat, catches Camilla out in a game of Simon Says. Read along with Wodney as he surprises himself and his classmates by single-handedly saving the whole class from the big bad bully. Children will delight as shy Rodney Rat triumphs over all and his tiny voice decides the day.
Paperback, 32 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ISBN
061821612X (ISBN13: 9780618216123)

Lesson Plan: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/hooway-wodney-wat-lesson-plan

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I am in awe of the fact that a writer, Gail Carson Levine, can take a well known, ancient fairy tale, and give it a life of its own. Who knew that Cinderella, the shallow character from a short story, could have and would have such depth, such an amazing tale to tell!

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been burdened by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally."
When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and spunky nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you'll ever read.

"Gail Carson Levine's examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor."

Paperback, 240 pages, Scholastic Books
ISBN 0590920685 (ISBN13: 9780590920681)

Discussion Guide for Gr 3-5 and Gr 6-8: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/ella-enchanted-discussion-guide

The Paperbag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

The Paperbag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

Elizabeth is a beautiful princess who lives in a castle and wears fancy clothes. She is about to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon smashes her castle, burns her clothes with his fiery breath, and takes off with Prince Ronald. Elizabeth only has a large paper bag to wear but sets off to find the dragon and reclaim her prince. She outsmarts the dragon and rescues Prince Ronald. But the spoiled prince says "Elizabeth, you smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back and rescue me when you look like a real princess." Elizabeth immediately realizes that her ending will be much happier if she does not marry such a brat.
I have long felt that this, his first book ever, was Robert Munsch's strongest story. While I like some others, this one has the components of a strong plot, a great character and a fun, twisted ending. Hurray for Elizabeth. A great read aloud!

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine, Sara Pennypacker

This time a lighthearted, lovely book. This is a great book to read aloud at night, a chapter before your kids go to sleep. But also a book young readers will love. And, once they do, there are now more in the series.

In this first book of the series, Clementine tries to help out her friend Margaret, but ends up in a lot of trouble for it. Things get worse each day of the week, until finally she's worried that Margaret is right: Clementine's parents might consider her "the hard one" in the family. They're up to something mysterious...are they thinking they'd be better off if they only had her little vegetable-named brother..."the easy one"?

Clementine has a wonderful, spunky voice. She is that dreamer, that girl with the wild imagination - that every classroom has. I like how her personality shines through in the writing. Just a fun book to curl up with!

Hyperion Books
Paperback, 160 pages

Anne Frank's Diary

How could I not include a book written by a 13 year old girl who lived in The Netherlands during the war? She had a passion for reading and kept a diary. A wonderful, human diary full of quirky anecdotes, mature contemplation, childish observations and everything in between.
Anne dreamed of being a published writer. She was living in hiding, hoping to evade German soldiers who would kill her and her family - simply for being Jewish. Her life was confined to a few small rooms, shared with friends and family members. But her spirit soared above the steep roofs of Amsterdam's houses. Her mind twirled with the church bells of the nearby Westerkerk and floated along with the wind blown clouds she could barely see.

For two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annex" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. 

Teaching Activities: http://teacher.scholastic.com/frank/tguide.htm
Anne Frank House: http://www.annefrank.org/
Virtual Tour: http://www.annefrank.org/en/Subsites/Home/

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
remains one of my favorite picture books ever. It's one of those books I wished I had thought of and written! :-)

We all have had those first day jitters as the first day of school approaches, especially if it's the first day at a new school. Sometimes you have to be dragged there after long summer holidays.

In this funny story you will love the surprise ending! Guess who is being dragged to school, who doesn't want to go? Guess who's afraid no one will like her and she won't know anyone?!

Gotta read the book to find out!

Paperback, 32 pages, Charlesbridge Publishing  ISBN
158089061X (ISBN13: 9781580890618)

Activity Guide: http://www.busyteacherscafe.com/literature_guides/firstdayjitters.html

2012/13 Global Bookmark Exchange!

Are you a teacher or school librarian? Would your students enjoy making a bookmark, writing about their favorite book and exchanging bookmarks with kids in another country? This global awareness project is yet again available! Sign up now to join thousands of kids around the world. Just email me your location, number and grade level of students.

The Fabulous Song, Don Gillmor

The Fabulous Song, Don Gillmor
The next installment in my 'Bucket Book List" is a picture book that I just love. Not being terribly musical, I was given the only speaking part in a musical when I was a child. Maybe that's why this story really appeals to me.

Sarah Pipkin's little brother is named Frederic, after Chopin, and his parents are sure he will be musical. But Mr. Stricter, the piano teacher, and Mrs. Lumply, the clarinet teacher, can't do a thing with him. Even leaving his clarinet on the bus doesn't save Frederic from subsequent trials with an oboe, a violin, and a banjo. However, when Frederic attends Sarah's youth orchestra concert, the conductor captures his fancy. When the house fills with relatives for his seventh birthday party, Frederic makes music by conducting them all in a song he hears in his head. The illustrations, with their exaggerated figures, limpid watercolors, and nervous line, are full of great touches: Mr. Stricter's dog barks allegro vivace; Mrs. Lumply's pets wear earplugs and earmuffs when carroty-haired Frederic plays; the conductor, and later Frederic himself, produce great ribbons of musical notation that reach out to touch the audience. (Picture book. 5-8)

Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton

Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton

This powerful story set amid the African HIV/AIDS pandemic. Chanda, a 16-year-old, astonishingly perceptive girl living in the small city of Bonang in Africa, must confront the undercurrents of shame and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Through his dramatic storytelling, Allan Stratton captures the enduring strength of loyalty, the profound impact of loss, and a fearlessness that is powered by the heart. Above all, it is a story about living with truth.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to support organizations working to better the lives of Africans living with HIV/AIDS.

For lesson plans, a trailer and more details visit:

The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney

The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney

I read the short content of this book on the back cover:

"No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar--a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey--she felt overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl--it was she. How could it possibly be true?"

Isn't that the most intriguing short content you ever read?! I simply had to read the book after that.

Janie can't believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense. Something is terribly wrong. Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really Janie's parents? And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened?

As a child I always imagined that I had been adopted... so this premise appealed to me. A good read and, if kids like it, there are several more titles in the series to keep 'em reading!

Shadow Bear by Joan Hiatt Harlow

Shadow Bear by Joan Hiatt Harlow (author), Jim Arnosky (illustrator)

I love this gentle story of an Eskimo boy and a polar bear cub. Written as parallel tales, the boy's mother warns him about the large, dangerous bear while the cub's mother warns him about dangerous humans.
Both young ones go out for a romp on the tundra and carefully peek around a large boulder. The low, setting northern sun casts huge shadows, even of a small boy and a small cub.
Each is reminded of his mother's warnings and runs home where it is safe.

I am hesitant to tell you about this book because it is out of print. But hopefully your library has it or you will be lucky enough to find it at a used book sale. If you do, enjoy!

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

"Corpus Bones! I utterly loathe my life."
Catherine's father is determined to marry her off to a rich man -- any rich man, no matter how awful. Even though she's only a young teenager, because the day and age is the Middle Ages and this is a glimpse of real life back then.
By wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. One, by setting the outhouse on fire when he's inside... Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call -- by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all. Unfortunately, he is also the richest.

Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father?
Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it!

I picked this book for my 'favorite books ever' list because of the main character's witty voice. I imagine that, if I had lived in the Middle Ages, I would have wanted to be just like spunky Catherine.

Extensive study guide: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cts=1331572559026&ved=0CDwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cavesbooks.com.tw%2Ffiles%2Fwebpage%2Fsamplepage-pdf%2Fedi0513s.pdf&ei=NS9eT7r0KIGjiAKyxbHECw&usg=AFQjCNEQ4R0z_f8V1hlUX9Yax5FM8xjojg

ISBN 978-0064405843

The Bookstore Mouse by Peggy Christian

Remember that wonderfully strange book The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster? I just discovered an equally wonderful read based on literature, with word play and language at the core of the story: The Bookstore Mouse by Peggy Christian. A fun read for anyone who loves language and words.

Centennial, James Michener

Centennial, James Michener

This epic tale has long been one of my favorite books ever. I marvel at how James Michener started with dinosaurs and ends up with generations of people, all tied together by a place in America's western frontier.

A stunning panorama of the West, CENTENNIAL is an enthralling celebration of the history of America, brimming with the glory and the greatness of past that only bestselling author James Michener could bring to life. From Native Americans, migrating white men and women, cowboys, and foreigners, this is a story of trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters--all caught up in the dramatic events and violent conflicts and human life that shaped the destiny of the West.

I first read this book while traveling west to settle in the US - the story made the country and its history come to life. Hope you like reading it as much as I did. If you do, I recommend most of Michener's other stories all based on fact: The Source (Israel); Hawaii, Poland, Alaska, Space, etc.!

Armageddon Summer, Jane Yolen & Bruce Coville

Armageddon Summer, Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville

The main criterion for my selection of my 52 favorite books ever, is "how long did this book stay with me after reading it, and how did it change me?"

Armageddon Summer is an intriguing novel. Each chapter is in the voice of either Marine or Jed. I always wonder if Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville each 'became' the girl and the boy and wrote to each other?

The world will end on Thursday, July 27, 2000. At least, that's what Reverend Beelson has told his congregation. Marina's mom believes him. So does Jed's dad.
That's why they drag their teen children to join the reverend's flock at a mountain retreat. From the mountaintop they will all watch the end of the world -- and then descend to begin the world anew. But this world has only just begun for Jed and Marina, two teenagers with more attitude than faith. Why should the world end now, when they've just fallen in love?

Told in alternating chapters from both Jed's and Marina's points of view, this first-ever collaboration between two masters of children's literature is a story about faith and friendship, love and loss . . . and the things that matter most at the End of the World.

A powerful read. It will make an interesting book club read for discussion in high school classes.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, Julie Vivas (Illustrator)

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next door to a nursing home where several of his good friends reside. Of course, his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, because she has four names just as he does. The only problem is Miss Nancy, who is 96, has "lost" her memory. Undaunted, Wilfred sets out to "find" Miss Nancy's memory for her. Something warm, something fuzzy, an egg, a rock - they all bring back memories and stories.
A delightful, funny and touching story about Alzheimers and about friendship between a child and an elder. This story is great to read with students in class or to give as a gift to someone coping with Alzheimers.

  • Reading level: Ages 4 and up
  • Paperback: 30 pages
  • Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers (September 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 091629126X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0916291266


Waiting for the Whales by Sheryl McFarlane, Ron Lightburn (Illustrator)

    This is a "classic" that should be on every child's bookshelf as well as be read by all adults. A beautifully crafted, heart string story with depth.

    This timeless story is set on the West Coast. An old man lives alone on a bluff overlooking the sea and tends to his garden. Each year, when the whales return to the bay in front of his cottage, his loneliness is somewhat eased.
    One day, his daughter and her baby return home to live with the old man, bringing a renewed sense of purpose to his life. As his granddaughter grows, the old man passes on a wealth or knowledge and wisdom as well as his passion for the whales. And each year they wait together for the whales to appear.

    The darker images light up with joy once the child enters his life. No words are needed when the gorgeous illustrations tell us that grandfather is no longer there, but mother and daughter wait for the whales to return as they always do.
This is a tale of the unique friendship between grandparent and child, but also of the circle of life and the promise of new life when an old one ebbs away.

Paperback, 32 pages, Orca Book Publishers  ISBN
0920501966 (ISBN13: 9780920501962)

Hey Canada! Travel through pages from coast to coast!

Hey Canada!
Author: Vivien Bowers
Illustrations:  Milan Pavlovic
Publisher:  Tundra Books, a division of Random House
Pages:  72
Format:  Hardcover
Ages:  Children 7-10 years
Genre:  Children's books/non-fiction/history
ISBN 978-1-77049-255-4
Release date:  May 8, 2012

I am writing this review of Hey Canada! on a small island on the west coast. I have lived in the Yukon, in Alberta, and across B.C. When my two sons were 7 and 9 years old, we were lucky enough to be able to travel across Canada for a whole year. I had not written many books back then, but if I had, I would have wanted to write the book that Vivien Bowers has just created. Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic, Hey Canada! is an interesting, upbeat book that is not only chock full of information, photos and great illustrations - it is FUN to read!

9 year old Alice and her cousin Cal accompany their Gran on this coast to coast trip. In each province, the kids have to find a number of things and readers can search right along. Through blogs and tweets, the three characters share their journey. From cod in Newfoundland to dinosaurs in Alberta, from PEI’s red sand to Nunavut’s throat singing, the book touches on all things Canadian.

Comic strip pages with historical U-Turns, text boxes with additional facts, even side bars on how their hamster is doing on the trip, keep the story moving along and fun to read. Nice, too, to see the same amount of information dedicated to the territories as to the provinces, making this truly a complete trip across Canada.

A great family read for Canada Day!

Gifts - the perfect book gift

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, Barbara Reid (Illustrator)

One of my all time favourite picture books. I give this book as a gift to new babies, to grandmothers, to friends who like to travel, and to any child in need of a good story.
Told in beautiful poetry, this book is a whimsical introduction to faraway lands and cultures is told from the perspective of a young girl, whose adventurous grandmother brings her back such treasures as an African baobab seed, an Australian didgeridoo, and a Hawaiian rainbow.
As the story progresses, the girl grows up and her grandmother grows older. But the sad ending turns happy as she now is the one traveling the world and sending home gifts to her own grandchild.
Jo Ellen's beautiful text and Barbara's fascinating plasticine art are the perfect combination - just like books and travel!

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen Hannah is twelve and tired of always visiting the same old family members, always listening to the same old stories. But this Passover is different. When she opens the door, this time, Hannah 'becomes' her grandmother and lives her experiences in a concentration camp. Experiencing the horrors first hand changes Hannah in ways she could never have expected. The story is riveting and well told by master storyteller Jane Yolen. A must for readers of all ages! From School Library Journal Grade 4-8 In this novel, Yolen attempts to answer those who question why the Holocaust should be remembered. Hannah, 12, is tired of remembering, and is embarrassed by her grandfather, who rants and raves at the mention of the Nazis. Her mother's explanations of how her grandparents and great-aunt lost all family and friends during that time have little effect. Then, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. As she does so, she is transported to a village in Poland in the 1940s, where everyone thinks that she is Chaya, who has just recovered from a serious illness. She is captured by the Nazis and taken to a death camp, where she is befriended by a young girl named Rivka, who teaches her how to fight the dehumanizing processes of the camp and hold onto her identity. When at last their luck runs out and Rivka is chosen, Hannah/Chaya, in an almost impulsive act of self-sacrifice, goes in her stead. As the door to the gas chamber closes behind her, she is returned to the door of her grandparents' apartment, waiting for Elijah. Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children's understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow.
Reading level: Ages 8 and up Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Puffin; First Edition edition (April 12, 2004) 
ISBN-10: 0142401099
ISBN-13: 978-0142401095

Throwaway Daughter by Ting-xing Ye

This dramatic and moving YA novel has been written by Ting-xing Ye, internationally acclaimed author of A Leaf in the Bitter Wind, working together with her husband, William Bell, author of the award-winning novels for young adults Forbidden City, Zack, and Stones. Ting-xing Ye hails from China and tells this story with a well informed voice. Throwaway Daughter is the impressive story of Grace Dong-mei Parker, a typical Canadian teenager until the day she witnesses the Tiananmen massacre on television. Horrified, she sets out to explore her Chinese ancestry, only to discover that she was one of the thousands of infant girls abandoned in China since the introduction of the one-child policy, strictly enforced by the Communist government. But Grace was one of the lucky ones, adopted as a baby by a loving Canadian couple. With the encouragement of her adoptive parents, she studies Chinese and travels back to China in search of her birth mother. There she manages to locate the village where she was born. At first no one is willing to help her. However, Grace never gives up and finally is reunited with her birth mother, discovering through this emotional bond the truth of what happened to her almost twenty years earlier. Although the account is fictionalized it is very realistic and believable. A fascinating read and an eyeopener to a different culture.

Reading/Writing Resource

On the site of my online e-zine for children's writing, KidsWwwrite, we now have archives of over 1,000 book reviews by kids: http://www.kalamalkapress.com/kidswwwrite/reviewarchive.html Check out the reviews. If you are a writer, pass on the information to your publisher for future book reviews.

The Empty Pot, by Demi

This powerful tale, told in sparse words, stayed with me for a long time. The gorgeous art work adds to the Oriental setting and allows for many classroom activities that can be based on this picturebook. Ping is a Chinese boy with a green thumb: he can make anything grow. One day the Emperor announces that he needs a successor, someone who can carry on the kingdom with wisdom and kindness. He gives each child one seed, and the one who grows the best flower will take over as Emperor. Competition is fierce but Ping is heartbroken when nothing comes up and his pot with soil remains empty, despite his careful tending. On the day of the competition, he is the only child with an empty pot; all the others brings lush plants. But the Emperor has tricked everyone and announces that Ping, with his empty pot, is the only honest gardener--and thus the winner. Ages 4-7 but can be used with much older students and makes a beautiful coffee table tale as well. Henry Holt, PB ISBN-10: 0805082271 ISBN-13: 978-0805082272 Teaching guides: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/empty_pot.php http://teachwithpicturebooks.blogspot.com/2009/02/empty-pot.html

SKYPE Author Visit!

If you are a teacher and interested in bringing me into your classroom, you might enjoy this article I wrote about using SKYPE: http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/ctm_technology/sept10_using-skype.shtml Hope to see you soon!

Canadian Teacher Magazine

Click on this link to read a copy of the current issue of Canadian Teacher Magazine with my article on 'What Canadian Writers Are Reading' as well as an interview with illustrator Dianna Bonder: http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/currentissue.shtml

Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen

Week # 5 in my 52 week Bucket Book List! So many amazing books come in small packages. Like Stone Fox, or Sara Plain and Tall, Night John is the powerful story of a slave and the importance of literacy. Publishers Weekly called this "Among the most powerful of Paulsen's works (together with Hatchet and Dogsong), this impeccably researched novel sheds light on cruel truths in American history as it traces the experiences of a 12-year-old slave girl in the 1850's. Narrator Sarny exposes the abuse suffered by her people on the Waller plantation. The punishment for learning to read and write, she knows, is a bloody one, but when new slave Nightjohn offers to teach her the alphabet, Sarny readily agrees. Her decision causes pain for others as well as for herself, yet, inspired by the bravery of Nightjohn, who has given up a chance for freedom in order to educate slaves, Sarny continues her studies. Convincingly written in dialect, this graphic depiction of slavery evokes shame for this country's forefathers and sorrow for the victims of their inhumanity. Ages 12-up, great topic for conversation. A must read for adults, too.

Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite Van Geldermalsen

I 'discovered' this nonfiction novel while visiting the Middle East. It is a good, interesting read. But mostly the story stayed with me because of its uniqueness. How many of us travel when we are first out of school and want to see the world? But how many of us actually end up marrying someone from a different culture and spending the rest of your life living in a cave in Petra?! ‘Where you staying?’ the Bedouin asked the New Zealand girl visiting his town. ‘Why you not stay with me tonight—in my cave.’ He seemed nice and we, two girl friends, were looking for adventure." Thus begins the story of how Marguerite van Geldermalsen, a nurse, became the wife of Mohammad Abdallah Othman, a Bedouin souvenir-seller of the Manaja tribe. She shared her life with him and their children in a community of about a hundred families in the ancient caves of Petra in Jordan. It was 1978 when Marguerite and her friend traveled through the Middle East and met the charismatic Mohammad. She decided that he was the man for her. Their home was a 2,000 year-old cave carved into the red rock of a hillside. She became the resident nurse and learned to live like the Bedouin — cooking over fires, hauling water on donkeys, and drinking sweet black tea. Over the years she became as much of a curiosity as the cave-dwellers to tourists, even hosting the queen of England at one occasion. This is her extraordinary story, well told and fascinating to read.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

This small novel touched me more than perhaps any other book I can think of. Wow. It grabbed me and took me for a spin. I don't particularly enjoy wartime stories. Having grown up in Europe shortly after the war, I grew up on plenty stories from my parents. Horrible but fascinating stories. I read Anne Frank's Diary as a kid, of course. I knew that this little book was a story about that same war. When I first picked it up, I was in awe of the voice and the setting. How daring to place an innocent child in Auschwitz. Not inside the concentration camp but on the other side of the fence. Bruno's father has received a promotion, as director of the camp, and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences. I loved the gentle voice of the book which is in such huge contrast to the horrific setting. While reading, I was constantly aware of the background knowledge I brought to this book as a reader and thought what an interesting read and discussion this book would make for a Grade 12 class! I did not see the end coming (a tribute to the author's skill of masterful storytelling). I hit me between the eyes and left me reeling for a long time. Which is why I picked this book to be on my bucket list. A powerful tale for older teens and adults.

Alphabet of Dreams

Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher One of the oldest and best known stories in the world is that of three wise men traveling to Bethlehem. They ride camels and follow a star. A census is taking place and many people travel the ancient roads. Among them are two children. Life is not easy for Mitra and her little brother, Babak, who live on the streets in the city of Rhagae, scratching out a living as best as they can by begging, or stealing. But Mitra is filled with hope and ambition, for she and Babak are not what they seem. They are children of royal blood, but their father's ill-fated plot against the evil tyrant, King Phraates, has resulted in his death and their own exile. Disguised as a boy, Mitra has never given up believing they can rejoin what is left of their family and regain their rightful standing in the world. Then they discover that Babak has an unusual gift: if he sleeps with an item belonging to someone, he can know that person's dreams. Mitra believes that they can use this gift to find passage back to the city of Palmyra and their remaining kinsmen. But soon Babak and his abilities come to the attention of a powerful Magus -- one who has read portents in the stars of the coming of a new king and the dawn of a new age. Soon Mitra and Babak find themselves on the road to Bethlehem accompanying three wise men and their camels. Susan Fletcher, an Oregon author, whose book Shadow Spinner I also love, returns to ancient Persia in this beautiful written saga. I am in awe of how she skillfully wove facts with fiction, coming up with a very plausible tale of what might have happened in ancient time. A spellbinding read.

Bucket list of Books

I will be posting one book each week for the next 52 weeks. The books on this list are books that I like and admire. I have selected these titles because they stayed with me, changed me, touched me somehow. Some I picked because they were just wonderful to curl up with. Others left me reeling. Some of these books are picture books, others are adult, there is fiction, nonfiction, even poetry. There should be many more amazing books that I’d put on a ‘bucket reading list’. And there definitely should be more books by favorite authors like Katherine Patterson, Cynthia Voigt, Madeline L’Engle. Sometimes they are not here because I feel that you already know those books well enough. I selected some titles hoping you have never heard of them and will give them a try. Sometimes I’ve left off a favorite title because I already had another book by that author and want include as big a variety as possible. If your book isn’t on my list it’s not because I don’t love it. I merely selected those titles that effected me most. They are not posted in any particular order. Happy reading!
Adventures in Ancient Greece (Good Times Travel Agency #4) by Linda Bailey, Bill Slavin (Illustrator) The Binkertons -- twins Josh and Emma and their little sister Libby -- head to the Good Times Travel Agency hoping to visit the next Olympic Games, but they end up in Ancient Greece instead. Adventures in Ancient Greece is an exciting mix of adventure and historical information about life in Greece in the fifth century BC. Kids will learn about Greek gods, the birth of democracy, even Greek home life. They'll love the book's comic-book look, while parents, teachers and librarians will appreciate the well-researched story line and solid factual information. Paperback, 48 pages, Kids Can Press ISBN 1550745360 (ISBN13: 9781550745368)

Canadian Teacher Magazine

My interview with author Frieda Wishinsky is now online in Canadian Teacher magazine. Click here and download the current issue: http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/currentissue.shtml

Coming soon: Bucket Books!

Stayed tuned! Soon I will be featuring something new and exciting on my blog! BUCKETBOOKS: 365 books, one book a day to keep boredom away! A list of the best books I've read. I will keep you posted.

Canadian Teacher Magazine

Check out my interview with children's author Chris McMahen, in the current issue of Canadian Teacher Magazine: My new interview in Canadian Teacher Magazine with Canadian children's author Chris McMahen is now online: http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/currentissue.shtml

Wisconsin State Reading Convention

On February 3 and 4 I will be speaking at the dynamic WISCONSIN STATE READING Convention in Milwaukee. I am doing sessions on nonfiction writing, on poetry in the classroom as well as a Young Authors Conference.
If you live near there, come join us.
Authors Gordon Korman, Stephen Swinburne, Mary Casanova and other will also be presenting!
Check out the program: http://www.wsra.org/index.php?option=com_flashmagazinedeluxe&view=magazine&Itemid=186