Books - Free Christmas Fun from your Local Library!

So what is it about some of these Christmas songs that we happily belt out each year?
While Thomas' Snowsuit (Robert Munsch) gets banned because the kid says no-no-no to his teacher, we keep cheering on those two-faced reindeer who exclude one of their own....
Why didn't Santa or Mrs. Claus call those reindeer on their behaviour when they didn't let poor Rudolph join in any of their games, just because he looked different?
And then, suddenly, when Santa finds a use for him, they all want to be friends. Well, I would have said 'tough gingerbread, where were you when I needed a friend?'

And that fun sleigh ride through the snow is debatable too, when you actually listen to the words:
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank,
And then we got upsot.

Oh, what fun... And what is 'upsot'anyway? Is it just 'upset' that didn't rhyme? Or some old word like 'hark'? I had to google that one. It means 'listen', as in 'hark, children!'

So, in this hap-happiest time of the year, when we're finally all gay, I'd recommend curling up with a well written book rather than a questionable song. Picture books, of course, are the best. Not just to read for yourself but to share with loved ones by the fire when you watch those chestnuts pop.

Why not make a trip to the library, just before it closes for Christmas - it's still the best free thing around - and check out these wonderful, timeless stories:

I Stood Upon A Mountain, Aileen Fisher, ISBN 0-690-03977-8
This gentle story puts to rest the debate of where we all came from. Creation? Explosion? It incorporates first nations ideas and other explanations of life on earth in a beautiful, simple and totally acceptable manner.

Another simple, timeless story is The Christmas Book by Dick Bruna, ISBN 0-416-24170-0. Likely it is out of print but try to find one in the library. We all know Bruna from the Miffy books. His Christmas story is plain and simple: a star, some shepards, a manger, a mother, a baby. The essence of a birth in Bethlehem.

The Christmas Candle, Richard Paul Evans, ISBN 0-439-15837-0, with unbelievably beautiful paintings by Jacob Collins. This story reads like an old folk tale. It is about the magic of seeing every day things in a new light, enriching not only the lives of those around you, but your own at the same time.

Island Santa, Sheryl McFarlane, Sheena Lott, ISBN 9-780988-053601 is a beautiful story based on the real Santa Ship that visits the Gulf Islands in BC where I live. McFarlane combined this with the real story of Jeneece Edroff who fundraised to make a home for families of sick children a reality near Victoria's General Hospital. 
Check out:

When Santa Was a Baby, Linda Bailey, ISBN 978-1770495562
What kind of baby was Santa? And what was he like as a child and a teenager? In this story it becomes clear that Santa knew his own mind from a very young age. From his fondness for the colour red, to his interest in chimneys, to his habit of giving his toys away . . . Santa was unusual right from the start. Luckily he had doting parents who supported him through every eccentricity, whether they understood or not. A warm, funny story about an odd boy who succeeds. 

Thank You, Santa by Margaret Wild, ISBN 0-590-45806-X
A correspondence between Samantha and Santa, throughout the year. Santa is thrilled when someone actually writes him a thank you card after Christmas, rather than just always letters of what everyone wants before Christmas. A nice twist.

And finally The True Story of Santa Claus, by Eric Walters and his daughter Christina, ISBN 1-894601-11-4 This is the account of how Mrs. Claus is the real hero behind all the hard work at the North Pole. While her husband gained weight and was down to one day per year of work, it was her slaving away making toys and meals, that kept the whole Santa thing going. A fun read for the whole family, especially exhausted moms.

Happy reading this Christmas season!

The Elephant Keeper

I am happy to share a new book with you that has been long in the making.

In 2014 I was lucky enough to travel to Zambia. There, I visited an elephant orphanage and learned much about how hard people work to help save an endangered species.

Elephants are in danger of illegal poaching. Because there are still countries in the world where people wants trinkets made from ivory, there are still poachers willing to kill these majestic animals.
When a mother elephant is killed, usually for her tusks, her baby elephant is left to die. Without her nursing and nurturing, the infant is not able to care for itself yet. In Zambia, Game Rangers International has trained staff that will rescue and transport the baby elephant.

The staff at Lilayi Elephant Orphanage have developed a milk formula and other pertinent care that gives the orphaned elephant a fighting chance.

Zambezi came to the orphanage at a young age after he was founded nearly drowning in a resort's pool near the Zambezi River in southern Zambia.

Aaron is the caretaker who was offered a job after rescuing Zambezi. To him, elephants had been the enemy that destroys crops in his village. But Aaron learned to care for elephants, to respect and to love them. Now he is a valuable caretaker who spends most of his waking hours with his little charges.

The elephants live in the protected forest and compound near Lusaka, until they are old enough to be released into the wild. They learn to forage and to act as elephants and form new family bonds with other orphaned elephants. They will live out their lives in the protected woods of
 Kafue National Park.

Find out how you can help - not only by making sure you never buy anything made from ivory, but also by "adopting" a baby elephant. The $65.- US will pay for the elephant' food, milk, medicine and upkeep. What better gift for a child's birthday or a friend's Christmas gift than a baby elephant! You will receive photos and regular email updates!

KIDS CAN PRESS/Citizen Kid Series

978-1-77138-561-9 | Oct 3, 2017
List Price: USD $18.99, CAD $19.99
4-color  8 x 10 48 pages
Grades: 3 To 7 / Ages: 8 to 12

“A moving and unforgettable true story ...”
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review, August 2017
“... Ruurs's narrative builds a strong emotional connection between readers and the subject---this is a tale designed to pull at the heartstrings of readers.”
— School Library Journal, September 2017

150 Canadian Books for Children

July 1, 2017.
Canada Day. 
150 years. My Canada Birthday gift to you is this list of Canadian books for children.
It is not a scientific collection. These are simply books about Canada or great
books by Canadian creators, books that I have enjoyed, that stayed with me.
mostly chose them for their ‘wow factor’. It would have been easier if I had not
limited the number of books by the same author. 
I included classics as well as brand new releases, picturebooks, novels etc. 
I wanted this to be truly Canadian books so I didn’t include favorites titles like The
Totem Tale because it is American. I didn’t use such Canadian icons as Love You
Forever by Robert Munsch but did include a book called With A Silent
Companion which is a fascinating Canadian story. These are all simply books
that I have loved. I’m sure there are many more but I haven’t read them yet…
Hope you will find a local bookstore or library near you to check out these books.
If all else fails, order them from

Happy Birthday, Canada. And Happy Reading! 

A Canadian Wildlife Poem, Max Elliott
A Day of Signs and Wonders, Kit Pearson
A Dog Came, Too, Ainslie Manson
A Family is A Family is A Family, Sara O’Leary
A Harbour Seal in Halifax, Doretta Groenendijk
A Mountain Alphabet, Margriet Ruurs & Andrew Kiss
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, Helaine Becker
A Prairie Alphabet, Jo Bannantyne & Yvette Moore
A Salmon for Simon, Betty Waterton
A Thousand Shades of Blue, Robin Stevenson
A Tree in a Forest, Jan Thornhill
ABC of Canada, Kim Bellefontaine & Per-Henrik Gürth
Adrift At Sea, Marsha Skrypuch
Alice, I Think, Susan Juby
Amos’ Sweater, Janet Lunn
Ankylosaur Attack, Daniel Loxton
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
Aska’s Animals, Warabé Aska and David Day
Baby Beluga, Raffi
Bagels from Benny, Aubrey Davis
Belle of Batoche, Jacqueline Guest
Beneath Raven Moon, David Bouchard
Birdfeeder Banquet, Michael Marchenko
Boy Soup, Loris Lesynski
Canada Votes: How We Elect Our Government, Linda Granfield & Craig Terlson
Canadian Mysteries Series, Eric Wilson
Carson Crosses Canada, Linda Bailey & Kass Reich
Charlie: A Home Child's Life in Canada, Beryl Young
Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land, Susan Hughes
Counting on Hope, Sylvia Olsen
Dear Canada: A Time for Giving: Ten Tales of Christmas, Jean Little & Sarah Ellis
Death Benefits, Sarah Harvey
Deep Roots, Nikki Tate
Dream Boats, Dan Bar-el & Kirsti Anne Wakelin
Every Last Drop, Michelle Mulder
Everything on A Waffle, Polly Horvath
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, Lindsay Mattick
Fishing with Grandma, Susan Avingaq
Follow the Elephant, Beryl Young
Franklin the Turtle, Paulette Bourgeois
French Toast, Kari-Lynn Winters
From Far and Wide, Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet
From Far Away, Robert Munsch
Garbage Delight, Dennis Lee
Gifts, Jo Ellen Bogart & Barbara Reid
Going for a Sea Bath, Andrée Poulin
Gubby Builds A Boat, Gary Kent & Kim La Fave
Hanna’s Suitcase, Karen Levine
Hannah and the Salish Sea, Carol Anne Shaw
Hello Humpback, Roy Henry Vickers
How Smudge Came, Nan Gregory
I Am Canada, illustrated by Barbara Reid
I Live in the North, Margriet Ruurs
I’ll Be Watching, Pamela Porter
If The World Were A Village, David Smith
Imagine A World, Rob Gonsalves
In Flanders Fields, Linda Granfield
Jeremiah Learns to Read, Jo Ellen Bogart
Let’s Play A Hockey Game, Kari-Lynn Winters
Log Jam, Monica Hughes
Loonies and Twoonies: A Canadian Number Book, Mike Ulmer & Melanie Rose
Maggie’s Chopsticks, Alan Woo
Maps and Mapping for Canadian Kids, Laura Peetoom
Mary Ann Alice, Brian Doyle
Mary of Mile 18, Ann Blades
Missing Nimâmâ, Melanie Florence
Mister Got to Go, Lois Simmie & Cyntia Nugent
Moon At Nine, Deborah Ellis
My Arctic 1, 2, 3, Michael Kusugak & Vladyana Krykora
No Fixed Address, Maureen Bayless
No More Dead Dogs, Gordon Korman
No Safe Harbour, Julie Lawson
No Signature, William Bell
No Two Snowflakes, Sheree Fitch & Janet Wilson
North West Passage, Stan Rogers
Northern Exposures, Eric Walters
Now You Know Canada, Doug Lennox
Nowhere Else on Earth, Caitlyn Vernon
O Canada, Per-Henrik Gurth
O Canada, Ted Harrison
Oma’s Quilt, Paulette Bourgeois
Once Upon A Golden Apple, Maggie deVries, Jean Little & Phoebe Gilman
Once Upon A Northern Night, Jean Pendziwol & Isabelle Arsenault
One Hen, Katie Smith Milway
One is Canada, Maxine Trottier
Our Flag: The Story of Canada's Maple Leaf, Ann-Maureen Owens, Jane Yealland
Pick-Up Sticks, Sarah Ellis
Pier 21, Anne Renaud
Pippin the Christmas Pig, Jean Little
Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper, Tololwa Mollel & Barbara Spurll
Roses for Gita, Rachna Gilmore
Salmon Forest, Sarah Ellis & David Suzuki
Saskatchewan, Gillian Richardson
Sea Otter Pup, Victoria Miles
Sea Stars: Salt Water Poems, Avis Harley
Secret of the Dance, Andrea Spalding, Alfred Scow & Darlene Gait
Seeking Refuge, Irene Watts
Selina and the Bearpaw Quilt, Barbara Smucker & Janet Wilson
Silverwing, Kenneth Oppel
Siwiti, A Whale’s Story, Alexandra Morton
Sleeping Dragons All Around, Sheree Fitch
Snow Day, Werner Zimmerman
Sockey Salmon Odyssey, Brenda Guiled
Something From Nothing, Phoebe Gilman
Sophie Sea to Sea, Norma Charles
Stella, Queen of Snow, Marie Louise Gay
Stolen Words, Melanie Florence and Gabrielle Grimard
Stories of the Aurora, Joan Marie Galat
Surviving Sam, Karen Rivers
Thank You, Canada, Andrea Lynn Beck
The Artist and Me, Shane Peacock
The Best Goalie Ever, Gilles Tibo
The Bite of the Mango, Mariatu Kamara
The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis
The Darkest Dark, Chris Hadfield & Kate Fillion
The Doll, Cora Taylor
The Fabulous Song, Don Gilmore
The Freedom of Jenny, Julie Burtinshaw
The Girl Who Hates Books, Manjusha Pawagi
The Girl Who Writes, Richard Cole & Jane Watt
The Hockey Sweater, Roch Carrier
The Inuksuk Book, Mary Wallace
The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration, Ann-Maureen Owens & Jane Yealland
The Kids Book of Canadian Geography, Briony Penn
The Kids Book of Canadian Immigration, Deborah Hodge & John Mantha
The Little Crooked Christmas Tree, Michael Cutting; Ron Broda
The Loon’s Necklace, Elizabeth Cleaver
The Man With the Violin, Kathy Stinson
The Middle of Everywhere, Monique Polak
The Moccasin Goalie, William Roy Brownridge
The Orphan Boy, Paul Morin
The Paperbag Princess, Robert Munsch    
The Polar Bear’s Gift, Jeanne Bushey
The Root Cellar, Janet Lunn
The Secret of the Dance, Andrea Spalding
The Story of Canada, Janet Lunn
The World in Your Lunch Box, Claire Eamer
This Land, Kit Pearson
Underground to Canada, Barbara Smucker
Waiting for the Whales, Sheryl McFarlane & Ron Lightburn
Waves in the Bathtub, Eugenie Fernandes
West Coast Wild, Deborah Hodge; Karen Reczuch
What’s That Noise?, Michele Lemieux
Who Has Seen The Wind?, W.O. Mitchell
Wild Bog Tea, Annette LeBox
Witch’s Fang, Heather Kellerhals-Stewart
With A Silent Companion,Florida Ann Town
Word Nerd, Susin Nielsen
Wow Canada, Vivien Bowers & Dan Hobbs
You Are Stardust, Elin Kelsey

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland

I knew Susan Vreeland as the author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which I really enjoyed. So when I saw this title, I grabbed it.
I took the book with me on a trip to Haida Gwaii in northern BC, which turned out to be the perfect place to read it since The Forest Lover is the story of Emily Carr.

I did not know much about Emily Carr besides a few commonly known facts and her paintings.
I can't imagine the amount and time and research the author must have spent to find so many little personal details. The book is historical fiction since it gives the characters dialogue, but it does read like nonfiction since it is so closely based on a real life.
You get to know Emily's family, her parents and sisters. You travel along on her physical and her psychological journey as she grows both as a person and as an artist. In an era where women artists were not common, Emily travels throughout BC but also to England and France. She learns about life and about painting techniques. We see struggles in her personal life and in her strong, defiant character.
At first I had a little bit of trouble getting into the story but soon I was caught up in the person that was Emily Carr. Through the story I also learned much about aboriginal life on Canada's West Coast (she was one of the few white people whom First Nations people embraced as a close friend). I learned about First Nations villages and homes, about potlatches and totems, food, fishing and much more.
All in all, I found this a fascinating book and admire the incredible amount of research done to bring Emily Carr to life on the pages.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Image result for inside out and back again

June 20 is World Refugee Day.
If you have read my book Stepping Stones (illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr and published by Orca Book Publishers), you might enjoy a novel with a similar theme.

Inside Out & Back Again is a beautifully written free verse novel. I love free verse, if it is well done. And this Newbery Honor Book is lovely crafted, a tender tale told from the inside out. Much of the story is autobiographical. In her Q & A pages in the back of the novel, the author explains her own story and how she struggled with finding the right tone for this book. Free verse turned out to be the perfect voice.

Told in the voice of ten year old Há, this is a refugee story from Vietnam.
But it is more than that. It is the story of a close knit family, of loss and love. It is a story of the importance of brothers and how strong a mother can be. It is also the story of how resilient a child can be and how many obstacles for people face in life.

Treat yourself to this fascinating, beautiful read and share it with students to discuss refugees - now and in the past. This book is also winner of the National Book Award.
Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-196279-0

Two great books to learn from.

I'd like to share two books with you that are great for teachers, parents or anyone who wants to learn something new.

The first one is a great book for those wanting to learn more about writing for children. Whether you are an established writer or want to write your very first book for children, Marion Crook's new book Writing For Children and Young Adults is a wonderful resource.
The book starts with the basics and covers just about every important aspect of writing: from planning and plotting to characterization, tense, voice all the way to dealing with rejections and contracts. The book deals with fiction as well as nonfiction and other genres. It gives details on such mundane aspects as your writing space and your income - important considerations for any writer. With a chapter on submitting, on multiple submissions and even on marketing this book is a perfect resource for all writers of children's materials.

Writing for Children and Young Adults, Marion Crook
Self Counsel Press
ISBN 5199597058719241

Ever thought of learning Arabic? The written language looks daunting.
But in Sugar Comes From Arabic, author Barbara Whitesides starts simple, by looking at "scribbles" and breaking down the script to basics. Using samples like Harry Potter (for P) this book is great for classrooms with refugee children, so that others can learn their language. If you are involved with a support group to bring refugees to your hometown, this is a fun book to use so that you can perhaps learn to communicate better. It is also a great resource for any international school!

Sugar Comes From Arabic, A Beginner's Guide to Arabic Letters and Words, Barbara Whitesides
Interlink Books
ISBN 978-1-56656-757-2