Book Review: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

As a child I adored scary fairy tales. Even the ones where the witch’s head got chopped off did not keep me awake at night. Tales in which horrid characters met a gruesome end, where good. Bad characters were supposed to meet a gruesome end. Those tales reiterated to me that bad deeds would be punished, that you had to be good and kind and fair. They taught me right from wrong, exactly what fairy tales had been doing for generations. In fact, their raison d’etre was likely to teach morals to many generations.

Remember the scariest tales told by a campfire? Tales so deliciously exciting that you wouldn’t walk alone through the woods anymore, back to your tent or cabin? Such is the story of The Night Gardener. A very scary page turner that tight rope walks the line between sci/fi-magic-fantasy-folk tale-and-legend. Fine writing, masterful, Harry Potteresque storytelling. 
Jane Yolen in her powerful book Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood says “A shadowless man is a monster, a devil, a thing of evil. A man without a shadow is soulless. A shadow without a man is a pitiable shred. Yet together, light and dark, they make a whole.” The story of The Night Gardener is whole. Even the physical book is delicious with the gnarly tree and the metallic figure on the cover and its pitch black page edges are perfect and foreboding.

Molly and her brother Kip have come across the sea from Ireland to England. Of course, as is the case in most good stories for children, their parents are no longer around. They are somewhere, lost at sea - neither here nor dead. Molly needs to look after Kip now, make sure her cripple brother will be safe. They need a home, and food. 
The two find a house where no one else will work. The aristocratic family, living in a rambling, inherited mansion needs help and can’t afford to be picky so Molly and Kip find both lodging and food to keep them safe.

But we soon find out that, in this mansion, no one is safe. Horrible secrets lurk in the shadows and on the lawns around the house. The ghost like tree lures with promises and wishes. This is a tale of greed and wanting more. ‘What is the difference between a story and lie?’ Molly asks of the storyteller Hester Kettle. And this story lives up to its own answer: ‘a story helps you to face the world’. It weaves a strong tale where all ends are tucked in, where every character is accounted for, every action sees a suitable reaction. 
My reaction as a reader? I couldn’t stop turning pages!

In Touch Magic, Jane Yolen states that “[W]hen the modern mythmaker, the writer of literary fairy tales, dares to touch the old magic and try to make it work in new ways, it must be done with the surest of touches. It is, perhaps, a kind of artistic thievery, this stealing of old characters, settings, the accoutrements of magic. But then, in a sense, there is an element of theft in all art; even the most imaginative artist borrows and reconstructs the archetypes when delving into the human heart.”
That’s why I found it satisfying to read Jonathan Auxier’s last pages in which he credits many other tales for helping him to create this new one. One that many young readers will love. One that just won the TD Canada Book Award. And one to which, according to Auxier’s website, that Disney just bought the rights. So, do a young reader a favor: have them read the book so they can see the pictures in their own mind before the movie is made.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to rush off to read his other books: Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes, and - out in April 2016 - Sophie Quire & the Last Storyguard!

Puffin, ISBN 978-0-670-06772-5

A Brush Full of Excitement!

One of my latest books is the biography of Canadian artist Ted Harrison. This book is proving to be a welcome addition in homes and schools everywhere and has been shortlisted for almost every possible children's book award in Canada. Thanks to Ted Harrison's inspiring story and to the gorgeous design by Pajama Press, this book is rapidly becoming very popular.
This is what Pajama Press' website says about it (
Ted Harrison’s brightly colored and wildly imaginative paintings set in the Yukon have become synonymous with the North. His instantly-recognizable images of the land of the midnight sun hang in galleries and private collections around the world. But how did a boy who grew up in a drab mining town in northeast England become one of Canada’s most beloved and decorated artists?
A Brush Full of Colour is the story of a boy whose passion for learning would save him from a life in the coalmines. The books by the American writer Jack London and Canadian poet Robert Service fired his imagination with scenes of the wilderness and the Klondike Gold Rush. He trained as an artist, and a stint in the British Intelligence Service allowed him to travel. But Ted never stopped dreaming of the North, and when he saw an advertisement for teachers in Northern Alberta, he jumped at the chance to emigrate to Canada, where the biggest adventure of his life would begin.
Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson trace the life of Ted Harrison and the influences that would lead to his unique style as an artist. Filled with full-color examples of his vivid art, and with a foreword written by Ted Harrison, A Brush Full of Colour will provide inspiration for a new generation of budding artists.
Click here to view our gallery of Ted Harrison-inspired art created by Margriet Ruurs and the kids and parents at North York Central Library in Toronto.
Awards and honours:
2016 Rocky Mountain Book Award nominee
2016 OLA Forest of Reading Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award nominee
2015 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award Shortlist
2015 Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award nominee
2015 Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award nominee
2015–2016 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award nominee
2015 Spring Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection
2014 OLA Best Bet
“An outstanding, well-organized biography… A joy to look at and an inspiration to read.”—School Library Journal
“Seldom does an artist’s biography for children offer so many beautiful reproductions of the subject’s work. Pair this inviting book with Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song (2009), another wonderfully visual celebration of an artist following his own path.”—Booklist
“A child-friendly introduction to an iconic, wonderfully accessible and quintessentially Canadian artist.”—Kirkus Reviews
“…a must have…The text is easy to read,comprehensive, and interesting…[A] beautifullypresented book…Highly recommended…”—Resource Links
“This outstanding biography does more than just inform the reader of Ted Harrison’s life in a well organized way. A Brush Full of Colour is indicative of the spirit and passion of its subject…Highly Recommended.”—CM Magazine
“This inspirational and informative biography includes many stunning examples of Harrison’s luminous artwork as well as resources, sources and a foreword written by the artist himself…”—Canadian Children’s Book News
“…this book is virtually larger than life…A Brush Full of Colour is an exemplary youngCanLit biography…”—CanLit for LittleCanadians
“The table of contents for this lovely new book from Pajama Press entices with the promise of a foreword by the artist himself, and then goes on to let the reader know that soon they will learn about Ted’s childhood, his world travels, his life in the north, and his life as a full-time artist.” – Sal’s Fiction Addiction
“Here’s a book that will be as interesting for you as it will be for your child. A Brush Full of Colour is a vibrant, fact-based picture book about Canadian artist Ted Harrison.” – Getting Kids Reading
Teachers, here is a page with activities based on the book:
CBC Radio Fan Choice Award
For an interview on CBC Radio about this book, click here to listen to the podcast:

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran


When I picked up Rebel Queen, I found the cover intriguing but the woman's thigh and her sword did not exactly made me want to read this book. Although I liked the title.

Once I read the short content I really knew I wanted to read this story. But I was still skeptical. The story takes plays in the mid 1800’s in India. I wasn’t sure this was my kind of book. However, as soon as I started reading, the use of language and the tone of storytelling pulled me in. 

All along, I marveled at the skillful writing. “How did this writer do all this research?” I kept asking myself. I loved this unique story with its colourful characters, its strong plot, with its passion and violence and unique setting. The customs, the food, the smells, the sights and sounds of India. I learned how people in India cooked meals, how they behaved and why, what their homes looked like. I learned about living in purda and other customs. It all pulled me in and took me along on an exotic journey.

But what made it a truly amazing story is the fact that this is a true story. The real Rebel Queen was an Indian rani, married to the raja of Jhansi. Their kingdom was fine until the British invaded, wanting to conquer all of India. The story that unfolds is told in the voice of one of the queen’s female bodyguards, her so called Durga Dal. I kept wondering how much the author had invented to make the story work. But, once I finished reading, I did some research and to my amazement I found that almost all of the story is true. The length to which this queen went to protect her country are incredible. Apparently all Indians know about this amazing woman. I'm glad I do, too, now because of this book.

If you want to read a ‘different’ book, set in a unique place in history, about strong females - this is the book. The queen and her all female guard really existed and resisted the British in an admirable, albeit bloody, manner. Great writing!

Click here to see an interview with the author:

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1476716358
ISBN-13: 978-1476716350

International School Visits

This article was written for the newsletter of African International Schools. I am posting it below for those interested in reading it.

Have Books, Will Travel - Author Visits to International Schools in Africa

As the author of many books for children, I started conducting school visits a long time ago. Regular talks about my books and my writing process soon let to creating workshops for students on how they can apply my ideas to their own writing.
These writing workshops for kids, soon led to workshops for teachers - helping them to tap into ways that make writing a fun, exciting activity for students. 
And that, in turn, led to talks for parents about the importance of encouraging kids to be both readers and writers, and how to accomplish this.

After much travel across the USA and Canada to speak at schools and conferences, I was thrilled to be invited to my first international school. Word of mouth soon had me flying to China, Malaysia, Mongolia and many other countries. Working as an author at international schools is vastly different from doing school visits closer to home. It usually requires adjustment to a new climate and culture on top of long days in schools. No matter how exciting dinner with teachers is, doing it five days in a row after performing all day is exhausting. So I find that it takes a special kind of person to adapt to the demands and the excitement. I have, long ago, been bitten by the travel bug. Over the years I learned to ‘go with the flow’ at international schools and so I absolutely love this unique experience. 

Having spoken at the ECIS Conference in Europe, I was recently invited to work at international schools in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. What an amazing opportunity! I had dreamed of Africa for most of my life so I loved coming to the continent. The sights, sounds and smells were enchanting. I learned so much. I had no idea that people in Ethiopia celebrate an elaborate coffee ceremony each day, burning incense and roasting popcorn, too. First graders made books based on my book Families Around The World while I was able to share stories about nonfiction research with fifth graders. Other kids honed interviewing skills and we talked about books and illustrations all week long.
I was able to bring some 55 pounds of books for Ethiopia Reads, an innovative library program that brings literacy to children across the country.

In Kenya, I enjoyed conducting presentations and writing workshops to hundreds of elementary school students. The parents seemed as excited as their kids! The teachers even coordinated a wonderful Authors’ Brunch whereby third graders enjoyed a breakfast buffet while listening to the guest speaker as if they were attending a university lecture.
Being in Nairobi allowed me the enriching experience of visiting an orphanage in the nearby hills, Creation of Hope, started by a Canadian author. 
Sixth grade students wrote me letters, following my talks with them. Wonderful letters that demonstrate to me that author visits do have a lasting impact on kids’ attitude towards books. Aden writes:
“I was shocked to learn that it takes years to write a book. Your presentation gave me ideas on how I can be creative when I write!”
Ravi told me that “my previous small school only had one author visit in six years, so I am so glad that my school now offers things like this. Your book about libraries around the world (My Librarian is a Camel) shows me how lucky I am to have a school library.”

From Nairobi I flew, right along Mount Kilimanjaro, to Dar Es Salaam and into a very different, hot and muggy, climate. At the wonderfully enthusiastic school I worked with children on writing their own poetry and stories. Upper elementary students even formed a Poetry Slam Club following my visit. 

The students may have been excited following my presentations, but I was just as excited to have the opportunity to travel and work with teachers and kids all over world. Just because I write books. I count my blessings.

Two Weeks With The Queen by Morris Gleitzman

Remember to 1] support your local bookseller, but 2] you can order from

"Dear Your Majesty the Queen,

I need to speak to you urgently about my brother Luke. He's got cancer and the doctors in Australia are being really slack. If I could borrow your top doctor for a few days I know he/she would fix things in no time. Of course Mum and Dad would pay his/her fares even if it meant selling the car or getting a loan. Please contact me at the above address urgently.

Yours sincerely,
Colin Mudford.

This is not a hoax.
Ring the above number and Aunty Iris will tell you.
Hang up if a man answers."

This is how Two Weeks With The Queen starts.
I like Morris Gleitzman's books for their tongue-in-cheek humor. But when I finished this book I was struck by the fact that he dealt with difficult issues: homosexuality, cancer and more - in such a wonderful, lighthearted manner.

This is a humorous but deeply moving story about Colin, who refuses to believe that his younger brother is dying of cancer. Colin takes matters in his own hands and decides to go to the top for help, who better than the all mighty Queen? Colin's efforts to reach Her Majesty are hilarious, surprising and doomed to failure. But even if Colin can't find a cure for cancer, he does find a way to help some of his new friends, as well as discovering the best thing he can do for Luke and his family. A tender, tough story that could be serve as a read-aloud to discussion the issues together.

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Bks (March 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014130300X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141303000

One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen

  • I don't know how this book ended up on my shelf. But, looking for a book to take along on my next trip, it seemed like a fitting title.
  • After one chapter I knew that this was not a book that I would leave along the way, as I usually do when I travel. This book I want to keep.

Reading One Year Off was like going along on the Cohen's trip around the world. Told in a conversational, comfortable voice, I identified with David Cohen's travel experiences. In fact, he seemed to have very similar ideas to mine as I travel. And we, too, once traveled for a whole year with our young children. We did it less drastic - in a camper all around North America.

The Cohen's hoofed it all around the globe. Having traveled before they got married, this couple wanted to do so again with their children - ages 9, 7 and 2 or so as they set off.

They take the bare essentials as they fly off to Costa Rica to discover a rain forest. They spend time in Europe and have fun adventures in France and Italy. They describe a crazy ferry ride to Greece and have fun holding their own Olympic races on the original site of the first Games.

I especially enjoyed reading about their African adventures as they go on safari. Like us, they spend time traveling across Australia. I recognized much of the descriptions of the vast empty Nullarbor and the convivial Aussies they met.

One place I have not been to, that the Cohen's visit in this book, is India. Their descriptions of the annual camel market in Rajasthan made me want to put this at the top of my bucket list!

The book is realistic. It gives practical advise in case you, too, want to take a year off with young children. But even without that, it makes for a plain fun read.

Remember to order from your local bookstore or from

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684836017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684836010

Charles and Emma, The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

I recently spotted this hardcover and bought it at a literacy conference. I had seen reviews of it and the title appealed to me. I was curious. I have never read The Origin of Species but wanted to learn more about the man who wrote that groundbreaking book.
I was blown away while reading Charles and Emma. I kept thinking 'what an amazing amount of research this author has done!' and 'how did she make all of these facts and quotes so readable?'
Charles Darwin was a young man in Victorian England when he went on a sea voyage around the world on the ship called the HMS Beagle. While visiting islands in South America and beyond, he collected specimens of plants and animals, recording information and labeling each item. 
Back in England, after 5 years, he and other scientists studied these artifacts in detail. They had been raised in the solid belief that God had created all things and that these things did not ever change. However, studying birds collected on the Galapagos Islands, they noticed minute differences in the beaks. Having observed earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Darwin's brain slowly made him realize that not all things were as constant as had been believed. He realized that changes, that evolution, were at work to allow all species the benefit of the fittest; to allow them to survive and adapt to their environment. He also realized that the earth was much older than the few thousand years the church said it was.
In Charles and Emma, I learned how scared Darwin himself was of his realizations. How he felt the need to document and proof his beliefs before sharing them with anyone. The book focuses on his personal life  with his beloved wife Emma. Emma was extremely religious and worried about her husband's findings. Yet, even though she never shared his strong feelings, she helped and supported him. Her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debate even today. He was a thoughtful and kind man, supported by a loving, liberal family. This book is a unique glimpse into their world and into households of Victorian England. A fascinating read, no matter which side of the fence you are on. And look at all the awards it won! It is, in my opinion, one of those rare books that is both for YA (young adult) and adult - a true 'anybody' book.

'Deborah Heiligman's biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers'.

Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road by Priscilla Galloway, Dawn Hunter

Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road by Priscilla Galloway, Dawn Hunter

This is a gripping account of three dramatic journeys that changed the course of history.

The fabled Silk Road conjures up sights, smells and sounds of faraway lands. But traveling the Silk Road took years, and those who set out encountered bandits, starvation and treacherous storms.

"Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road" introduces readers to three great historical figures:

Chinese Buddhist Xuanzang, whose 16-year journey from China to India and back (629-645 AD) is the only source we have for huge chunks of the history and geography of this time. His successful search for Buddhist scriptures changed the course of two great nations.

Genghis Khan, bred from infancy to be a warrior, brought the Mongol clans together. He established the greatest empire the world had seen, which ruled the Silk Road from 1201 to 1227.

And the Italian merchant Marco Polo who journeyed through China from 1271 to 1295. He changed the way Europe saw the world, and his book even inspired Columbus to sail west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of China.

Beautiful photographs and art depicting the ancient routes and peoples bring the stories to life. Maps, sidebars and an afterword that updates the story of the Silk Road are also featured. This is one of those books that is labeled YA or children's but really is an 'everybody' book.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones

For years I kept coming across a scrap of paper on my desk, or in a drawer. The title of a book recommended by someone, I can’t even remember who recommended it.
Mr. Pip - the story of a teacher in the South Pacific’ that scrap of paper said. I never threw it out because the title held such promise. 

Then, a few weeks ago, I was cleaning up the shelves in the recycle book depot and there it was. A blue book with a photo of a palm tree and ocean. Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones.
The book was in terrible shape: stained and possibly mildewed. But the title had so long been with me that I could not bear to part with it. I took it home.

And when I opened the tattered cover, I fell right in. I fell into the story and in love with the characters. What a work of great literature! What spell binding storytelling.
Take Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, transport it to an island in the South Pacific ravaged by mining, strikes and violence. Enter a young girl and a teacher who shares his love of literature. Weave in intrigue, suspense, some nonfiction and an exotic location.
The story is brilliant, full of beauty and horror. Full of gentleness and violence.
It is the tale of the impact a gifted teacher can have on eager children, the power of a good story to turn someone into a lifelong reader, even to influence a life. It’s even about how a story can claim a life.
It’s hard to sum up the storyline, I won’t even try. This is a book you need to read if you are a book lover, or a teacher, or an admirer of Dickens. To quote from the book itself:
‘You cannot pretend to read a good book.
Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing.
A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe.’

I forgot to breathe throughout this story. A quote from the very last page of this 256 page book:
‘His survival was story. My Mr. Dickens taught every one of us kids that our voice was special, and that whatever else happened to us in our lives our voice could never been taken away from us.’

Lloyd Jones’ voice is special. It makes me want to try his other books.
I hope you will try this one.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, Random House, ISBN 978-0-676-97928-2

Walking Home, by Eric Walters

Walking Home

  • Age Range: 10 and up 
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada; 1St Edition edition (September 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385681577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385681575

Eric Walters has written over 90 books for children, many of them award winning titles. I have read most of them. But his latest book, Walking Home, did something none of his other books ever had: it made me cry at the end. I found it to be touching, interesting, heart warming and a well written story.

Walking Home is the story of a young brother and sister who become orphaned in a troubled, violent time and region of Kenya. The two decide to walk to the region where their mother grew up, in hopes of finding relatives who will take them in. Rather than be separated by government officials who will place them in different homes, they walk over 200 KM, through Nairobi, through villages and deserted stretches.

Eric Walters did his research for this book. To the extreme.
Not only has he build an orphanage in Kenya, and continues to support it financially as well be involved in many day to day operational decisions. He also took a group of children and walked the entire track described in his book. Putting his own feet in the dust of African roads, eating oranges from roadside stalls and hoping to find water from wells, he was able to make this a story that takes the reader right along. It introduces us to Kenyan customs and beliefs. It shows the landscape and the fabric of African life.

The margins of the book have symbols throughout. These symbols seamlessly combine the paper pages (or the e-book) with additional information online. Videos, interviews, maps and other details all add information to the story.

A portion of the cost of this book will be donated, by the publisher to Creation of Hope, Walters' orphanage in Kenya.

This title can be complemented in the classroom by Eric Walters' African picture books: The Matatu, My Name is Blessing and Hope Springs. The latter two stories come directly from the orphanage and are based on the true stories of children living there. Both are heartwarming tales, complemented by back pages with information.


Better World Books - a good place to order books

Do you ever order books online?

If so, you need to know that with Amazon more books does not mean more publishers or authors. It means less payment to publishers and authors, more monopoly and less choice. With the threat of Amazon becoming the world's only publisher, printer and distributor we will have no choice, no competition. 

For that reason I used to order from a great online bookseller in the UK - until Amazon bought them up! Your best bet is to order from a local bookstore. 

BUT there is another great choice:! Free worldwide shipping PLUS they donate to libraries and literacy. Room To Read is one of their sponsors.

Check out the website and see if you can use this bookseller, too.

Sister Anne's Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki

Sister Anne’s Hands

Marybeth Lorbiecki (Author), Wendy Popp, Ill.

This is a beautiful, timeless picture book about acceptance, about equality and about racism.

Set in the 1960's, Anna hears her parents talking about the new, 'colored' teacher who is coming to the local Catholic school. 

Anna is excited about seeing a 'colored' teacher, imagining purple or green skin.

Anna loves this new, caring teacher who tells beautiful stories, makes wonderful jokes and who manages to make school much more fun. Until a racist joke lands on her desk. Sister Anne shows her students the color of hate, and teaches of love.

The lovely pastel illustrations add to the story and show us the era. Unfortunately, this story is still as relevant today as it was in the '60's. A good read and a great starting point for discussion.

  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin; Reprint edition (Dec 21 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140565345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140565348

How I Select Books to Read

 Never judge a book by its cover... We know we shouldn't but we likely all do.
One of the reasons I enjoy being part of a YA book club, is that it makes me read books I might not select otherwise. How do you decide which book to read and which one you won't?
I am very fortunate to live in a small community that treasures books. Our gorgeous library is an impressive building of glass and west coast timbers. It has loads of great books and, of course, it is free. It is also manned by close to 200 volunteers, in addition to two paid librarians. This army of volunteers make it a viable, vibrant place with good books, CD's, and much more at our finger tips. And there are Interlibrary Loans.

We also have several fantastic bookstores that offer the latest, the best and the most sought after titles.
But my favorite book place, on my island, is the recycle depot. Unbelievable - the wealth of books offered here. For free. Over the years I have taken home boxes and boxes of books (and not returned many). Free books. Gently read books, sometimes brand-new books or well worn classics. I have found autographed first editions, my favorite Dutch magazines (!), and series that have become beloved reads like An Irish Country series by local author Patrick Taylor. There is no due date and you can return or keep these amazing books. Many line the shelves in our booklovers' B & B for guests to take with them.

But how do you decide which one to read?
I find that the cover is an important part of my decision. I turn a book over in my hands, several times. I read the short content and really hate it if there isn't one.
Have I read other books by this author?
But then, Harper Lee only wrote one book...
Does the cover look attractive?
But then, I hate the cover of Go And Come Back and that has become one of my favorites ever. And sometimes it goes the other way. Recently I was excited to discover a book called The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. The cover looked wonderful, with a row of tattered old books and the title alone  held such promise. I thought I couldn't go wrong... But it was one of the most boring books ever. Not much happened and the ending was very disappointing. Yet that book was awarded the Booker Prize... Maybe I am spoiled because I tend to read mostly YA books. And in YA stories, there has to be immediate action, satisfaction, great characters and the reader has to care for those characters right away or the story won't get published. I find many adult books tedious to read in comparison to YA stories.

I do admit to feeling and sniffing a book... It's all part of the deal. Which is why I only read specific titles on my iPad, books that I know I want to read, usually when I travel or if the library only has the ebook available.

But these books which I meet on a shelf...  They have not come recommended. They are not on my 'to read' list... I just have to get to know them, much like I meet people, and wonder if we'll be friends.
If it feels comfortable, sounds appealing - then I try the first page.
Does my mind wander? Am I intrigued?

Once I take the book home and start reading, it often feels like sitting down with a best friend. I learn something new, laugh, am touched and changed by the good books I read. Books truly are a window to the world. Sometimes it's an information book that shows me a new part of the world, a new angle of knowledge. Other times it's an author like Mitch Albom who makes me think, whose story stays with me long after I finish reading.
Or those Irish Country stories that take me to a village far away and introduce me to life there. Books allow me to live a thousand lives, to expand my horizons and to indulge. Let's make sure all children are introduced to such pleasures so that they, too, will be lifelong readers.