Tag Archives: reading

Book Review – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. By Catherynne M. Valente.

Advanced language/themes: ages 10 to 14 suggested.

First book in a 5-part series.

There are lots of things to love about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. I’ve always been a huge fan of classic escape to fairyland stories, from Peter Pan to Harry Potter, and this book includes a lot of the best elements of those stories: fascinating magical creatures, daring adventures, and a villain worthy of hate. It’s also great because its main character is a girl, and Valente has some fun playing with the gender tropes of traditional fantasy stories. The protagonist, September, is instantly likeable. She’s smart, resourceful, and selfless, but she’s also very human – she has flaws and doubts just like every kid does.

September is spirited away to Fairyland by the Green Wind and his magic leopard. There, she meets witches, a wyverary (almost a dragon, but not quite), and a boy genie, among many other crazy creatures. They’re all under the harsh rule of a bureaucratic queen who needs September’s help. September’s adventures bring her to new friends and delightfully imaginative places.

There are jokes in here that are definitely for the parents. The language play is reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth, but might be a bit more advanced – younger kids aren’t likely to get it even if it’s explained. There are also a few gags – like September ending up in a town populated by perpetual grad student gnomes and being almost forced to enroll in higher education – that will be over the little people’s heads. But the scenery is cool enough, the story exciting enough, and the Evil Queen mean enough, that everyone will want to keep reading.

Just a warning: Valente doesn’t shy away from putting her heroes through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. When September cuts herself or breaks a bone, it’s described in detail. She and her friends are also often in real danger. Although kids 10 and younger will be able to understand and like the story, I’d only recommend it if they’re okay with some moderate violence and scary stuff.

TLDR

Things to love:

  • Plays with language like The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Fearless female heroine
  • Offers an escape to another land as in Harry Potter, Narnia, or Peter Pan
  • Jokes that are definitely for the parents

Things to look out for:

  • Scary moments/moderate violence

Reviewed by: Charlotte Kidd

Canada’s History; The Fabric of our Nation

This past Sunday, on April 9th, Canada celebrated 100 years since the battle of Vimy Ridge. This year, we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Beyond such singular events however, are countless other stories that often go unheard; they too are stories of our nation. As we honour days like the battle at Vimy, so too do we recognize the rich and intricate tapestry of our nation, including Canada’s Indigenous people, who knew this land before colonizers named it Canada. As we honour those who fought for our freedoms, let us also instil in our children pride and awareness of Canada’s interwoven events, and its countless faces and voices. Together we can endeavour to recognize the diversity of stories that brought us to where we are today.

1. A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn, by Russell Hughes Rabjohn (Non-Fiction) (Ages 10+)

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This book presents the stunning visuals sketched by soldier R.H. Rabjohn as he recounts his harrowing experiences during the First World War. The edited wartime diaries of this trained artist also include text by historian John Wilson, who conveys Rabjohn’s three years at war. The undeniable artistic talent of the soldier makes this three-volume book a a heart-wrenching account.

2. Fatty Legs: A True Story, by Christy Jordan-Fenton (Autobiographical) (Ages 9-12  )

fatty legs

This is an amazing first-person account of eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak, an Inuit girl who goes to residential school to learn reading. Only after she arrives there does she realize the pain of being wrenched from her family and home in the high Arctic. Accompanied by stunning illustrations, and archival photos, this is the story of one young girl navigating her own identity, and the people, both kind and unkind, who she encounters at her residential school.

3. Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheensby Ruby Slipperjack (Inspired by True Events) (Ages 9-12)

these are my words

Acclaimed author Ruby Slipperjack has written a powerful novel, which draws on her own personal experiences, about a young heroine’s trials in residential school. The year is 1966, and Violet Pesheens is adjusting to residential school. But while trying to navigate the sea of new people, she has a deep fear: that she will forget her Anishnabe language, her customs, and the names of those she knew before.

4. Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budgedby Jody Nyasha Warner (Inspired by a True Story)(Ages 5-9)

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The year is 1946, and Viola Desmond, a young African Canadian woman, has just purchased a movie ticket at a Nova Scotia theatre. As she takes her seat in the front row, an employee of the theatre comes up and tells her she must move to the back balcony, because blacks are not allowed at the front. Confronting Canada’s vicious segregation policy, Viola, as the title illustrates, will not be budged.

5. From Vimy to Victory: Canada’s Fight to the Finish of World War I, by Hugh Brewster (Non-Fiction) (Ages 9-12)

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This engaging, multi-award winning scrapbook-style book illustrates Canadian soldiers’ battles and victories during the Great War. Facts and details are accompanied by first-person accounts, letters describing life at the Front, maps, images and diagrams that bring World War I to life.

6. Blood and Iron: Building the Railroad, Lee Heen-gwong, British Columbia, 1882by Paul Yee (Inspired by True Events) (Ages 9-12)

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Lee Heen’s father and grandfather both have a destructive gambling habit which has left their family in financial ruin. Heen has to make the difficult decision to come to Canada with his father to work on the railway and provide income for his family.   Along the way, Heen experiences the trials and tribulations of the demanding work life, and the friction that inevitably rises between the Chinese and whites, who fail to acknowledge the deaths and horrible conditions forced on the Chinese workers. He records this experience in his journal.

7. Remembering John McCrae: Soldier, Doctor, Poet, by Linda Granfield  (Non-Fiction)(Ages 8-11)

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This is an award-winning tribute to the author of “In Flanders Field.” Through  more than 100 paintings, images and documents that have been put together in scrapbook style by the acclaimed historian Linda Granfield, readers can glean a bit about the life of the poet, doctor and soldier during his service in WWI.

8. Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhoodby Bonnie Farmer & Marie Lafrance (Inspired by a True Story) (Ages  4-8)

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Before becoming a virtuoso Jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson was a young boy still discovering the world. What began as a love for the trumpet soon ended when the young boy contracted tuberculosis, which weakened his lungs to the point that he was unable to play. this marked the day that he turned to the piano, and made history.

9. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journeyby Margiet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr (Inspired by True Events) (Ages 6-9)

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Using the stunning stone art of Syrian artist Niza Ali Badr, a compelling narrative is woven by Margriet Ruurs to tell the tale of a Syrian family forced to flee their home to escape the civil war. The story moves quietly, yet intrigue is provided by Badr’s multiple stone art scenes depicting the family’s journey. The book is presented in English and Arabic.

10. Dear Canada: An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-Ling, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1922, by Gillian Chan (Inspired by True Events)(Ages 9-12)

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This is the story about the powerful effects that the Chinese head tax has on Chin-Mei Ling. She and her father are paying for the head tax that will allow her mother and brother to come to Canada, but they must do so fast, before the opportunity closes. Can they do this in time, and what will happen if they continue living an ocean apart from the ones they love?

11. 44 Hours or Strike!  By Anne Dublin (Inspired by True Events) (Ages 12-15)

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This compelling and well-researched tale recounts the Toronto Dressmakers’ Strike of 1931. Sisters Sophie and Rose are brought together in the fight for better work conditions, decent wages, and their union. After Rose is imprisoned after a fight in the picket line, Sophie is left to fend for herself and her mother in worsening winter conditions. This book gives insight into the growing Jewish immigrant population during that time, and the barriers and antisemitism they faced in Canada.

12. Pioneer Kidsby Dean Griffiths (Fiction)(Ages 6-9)

Pioneer Kids

Spanning multiple adventures throughout the series, the fun begins for Matt and Emily when they discover a magical time-travelling sled in Emily’s attic. Other books in the series show them outrunning dinosaurs in the Alberta badlands, panning for gold in the Yukon, and seeing the Silver Dart soar in Nova Scotia’s skies. In this book, they arrive on the Canadian Prairies in 1910. They visit a one-room school house to protect a new friend from a classroom bully, but soon discover that they themselves will need rescuing!

By: Nicole Abi-Najem

Charge Into March Break with These Fun Reads!

March break is upon us, which means more time gallivanting through the home, or long journeys by plane and car, and more time left to young mind’s imaginings. So, as you prepare for a week of potential vacations, or staycations, here are some  books that will keep children engaged throughout the days.

1.) Harry and Clare’s Super Staycation (5-9) 
By Ted Staunton (Author); Mika Song (Illustrator) 

While some of us will be hopping on planes and flying leagues away, most of us will find ourselves spending time in our cozy abodes. But even whilst home, adventures await around the corner. Staycation is a picture book by Canadian author, Ted Staunton, which follows a young brother and sister as they concoct vivid adventures–prepare for erupting volcanos!– right in their own living room.
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2.) A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 (7-9) 
By Matthew Olshan and Blackall

This picture book astounds with compelling images, humour, and a semi-true history, (and it involves men in their underwear, so there’s that!) This is the tale of two men, British doctor Jeffies and French balloonist Blanchard, with egos as full as the air balloon, as they embark on the first international balloon journey across the English Channel in 1785. While attempting to contend with the elements, their prime challenge is working with each other.
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3.) The Terrible Two (8-12) 
By Mac Barnett and Jory John
the terrible two

The last thing children may want during the break is anything to do with school, but this is no ordinary school story; this involves Niles, the greatest prankster of all time. At least he thinks he is until he moves to a new school and encounters Niles, an even better prankster than him. At first, the duo wage war, contriving new and ingenous pranks to ruin the reputation of the other, until one day, they decide to team up against their curmudgeon principal, and pull the greatest prank heist of all time– it involves cows! A definte laugh-aloud with illustrations to top, there’s no better time to pick up the book than now.
4.) Amos & Boris (6-9) 
By William Steig 
amos and boris
Heart wrenching and beautiful, this quiet adventure between two friends will surely take you on another epic voyage with a mouse–Amos– and whale–Boris– who quickly become the best of friends. After a fateful ship wreck tosses Amos into sea, Boris appears, and soon the little mouse hitches a ride on the back of the giant whale. Both will see the world anew now that they have a special companion by their side. William Steig, who has published other such favourites as Doctor De Soto, stands as one of the eminent children’s story tellers of our time.
5.) Mr. Wuffles! (5-9) 
By David Wiesner
mr. wuffles
While it may have no words, this Silver Caldecott Medal winner delves into the vast adventure and excitement that awaits one of our oldest furry friends; cats. Mr. Wuffles is a house cat as many others, but he has just stumbled upon a secret society of aliens who have landed in the home. Through vivid observation, the black and white cat is led to a small crack in the wall, where he witnesses the ancient civilizations of ants communicate with the newcomers, unbeknownst to the human dwellers of the home. It’s a sure fun read, where words lack, imagination will weave a compelling narrative and let your child gaze at your seemingly ordinary abode walls with newfound curiosity and imagination.
6.) Harry Potter (8-12) 
By J.K. Rowling
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Why not revisit, or introduce your child to the Harry Potter series. Parents and adults with young children in their lives are often looking for a series to get their kids engaged in reading for the long haul.  With the recent release of Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them, and the recent re-release of Tales of Beedle the Bard with a swanky new cover: Hogwarts awaits! Harry Potter may seem like your ordinary boy, until one day a mysterious letter comes to the door and he discovers he is in fact a wizard who has been called to the wizarding school of Hogwarts. His life is forever changed as new friends, adventure, and literal and figurative magic fills his life.
7.) Mercy Watson (6-9) 
By Kate DiCamillo (Author); Chris Van Dusen (Illustrator) 
mercy watson

This young readers’ series is filled with vivid and colourful illustrations by one of the leading illustrators, Chris Van Dusen, to help get even the most reluctant of readers into reading.  Mercy, the lovable and adorable pig, has a knack for ending up in strangely hilarious sitations. Kate DiCamillo, beloved author of such classics as The Tale of Despereaux, provides engrossing plotlines that will ease your child into chapter books and may just be added to one of their favourite series.
8.) Lift-the-Flap Picture Atlas (6-9) 
Usborne Publishing
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This book may be non-fiction but it taps into any child’s desire for exploration. Equipped with a *giant* world poster at the back to hang on the wall, each page displays a continent with tons of flaps that reveal amazing geographic and historical information about various regions. Usborne is one of the leading non-fiction children’s publishers, and they don’t disappoint with this captivating book.
9.) The Spiderwick Chronicles; (8-12) 
By Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
spiderwick

Siblings Jared, Simon and Mallory move to the Spiderwick estate and discover a secret land of fairies. The New York times bestselling series follows the siblings as they stumble upon a secret library in the home accessible only through the dumbwaiter. There, Jared finds Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You; and that’s only the beginning of this adventure.

 
10.) Ada Twist, Scientist (6-9) 
Andrea Beaty (Author); David Roberts (Illustrator) 
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School isn’t the only place where we can teach our children to love science. Following in the surge of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused books, the creators of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect introduce us to new character. Young Ada, a budding scientist who is using the power of her curiosity to explore her surroundings, even if that means making a mess at home, there is nothing that will stop this young powerhouse from discovering her world. With Beaty’s famous rhyming verse, this is a great book to read aloud to young children.

By: Nicole Abi-Najem

A Message from our Executive Director, Mary Ladky

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I’m delighted to be writing a post in my new role as Executive Director of The Children’s Book Bank, located on Berkeley Street in downtown Toronto. For me, having the opportunity to lead this wonderful organization is, no overstatement, a dream come true. The really short version of why that’s the case is this: I’ve always been a reader, always deeply connected to the reading experience, and have always believed that the act of reading is truly human: it is joyful, engaged with the other, civil (as opposed to the merely polite) and genuinely empathetic. Honesty moment: I preferred reading books to completing school work, still prefer reading fiction to non-fiction, and yearned for the chance to share my joy of reading with others. Thankfully, it’s worked out for me. Eventually, I made the connection between reading and being successful at school, completing my doctoral studies at OISE/UT in 2005. I started teaching English way back in 1988; it was a vocation which propelled me and my family to living in rural New York state, Beijing during Tiananmen Square, Montreal, Hong Kong and, finally, Peterborough, Ontario where I was fortunate enough to instruct hard-working and eager Bachelor of Education students at Trent University from 2004 until 2012. A professional highlight for me before coming to the CBB is, without a doubt, my recent visit to Tanzania where I watched and learned from the dedicated educators at the Mwanga Secondary School for Girls outside Arusha. At the heart of the school’s mission, as at the CBB, is a strong belief in supporting the independent agency of every child to succeed as a learner, a reader and, ultimately, as an informed citizen of their communities, close to home and further afield.