Great Graphic Novels

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some great graphic novels books with us. This month’s post is by Lise Dumas, Supervising Librarian, Children's and Teen Services at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

Ottawa Public Library (OPL) just celebrated its second annual BiblioCon on April 27, but not to worry if you missed it, it will reappear again next year, bigger and better. For all you graphic novel fans, May is the month of Free Comic Book Day and Ottawa Comiccon. Here are some of the wonderful graphic novels recommended for 9-13 year olds available at the OPL:

Newsprints by Ru Xu.

Newsprints by Ru Xu.

The story follows the adventures of Blue, an orphan girl who disguises herself as a newsboy so that she can work at the Bugle, the only paper in town that tells the truth about current issues. Blue makes some unusual friendships along the way in her effort to stop the senseless ongoing war.  The book features some cool robots and flying machines. The exciting conclusion of this series was recently published in 2019.

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Thirteen-year-old Bina is looking at a boring summer ahead. Her best friend Austin is going to soccer camp, leaving Bina to find her own fun. Through trials and tribulations with her family and friends over the summer, Bina will find out a little more about who she is and what she wants in her life.

 

Be Prepared

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

This book had me hooked with its great cover art. You can just feel the anguish of a first day of camp. This is the story of 9 year old Vera who feels she is too poor, too Russian and too different to ever fit in with the other American kids. Her solution to making friends is to go to an all Russian kids’ camp. The images in black, white and olive green are wonderful and you will fall in love with this spunky heroine.

Mix it up this March Break at the Ottawa Public Library!

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their favourite books for children with us. This month's post is by Kristina Roudiy, Children's Program Assistant at the Alta Vista Branch.

Illustration by Slavka Kolesar

Illustration by Slavka Kolesar

Picture book: Mixed: a Colorful Story by Aree Chung
https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1103586026

For ages 4-6. Once upon a time, there were three primary colors all living in the same town: Red, Yellow and Blue. One day, a Red announced that they were the best, thus starting a colour war. Soon, each colour was living separately from the others. Until the day that a Yellow and a Blue met, fell in love and decided to mix. How will the rest of the inhabitants react...? This book is fun visually, but most importantly, it will enable families (and classrooms!) to talk about topics such as segregation, community, inclusion, diversity and embracing each other's differences.

Picture book: The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1126730026

For ages 4-8. This is the story of a young knight who strongly believes that where he lives is the best and the safest, thanks to a wall built to protect from “the other side”. While the knight tells us all about the dangers lurking on the other side (tigers? a mean ogre!), we spot dangers right behind him (crocodiles? a flood!) on the supposedly “safe side.” Meanwhile, the so-called ogre turns out to be really kind and helpful... A good reminder that, instead of building walls, we should be tearing them down, so that we can better understand and value what is “on the other side.”

Picture book: The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1079068026

For ages 4-8. This picture book mixes old & new in a fun, smart way. It takes a classic story (The little red hen) and changes elements in that story, so that it has a modern twist. The protagonist is a girl called Ruby, and the other characters are her three younger brothers. One day, Ruby decides to build a fort - something she's never done before. Her brothers aren't very keen on helping her and keep saying she won't know what to do. But when the fort is completed and Ruby can now play in it, they are suddenly much more interested! A story with STEAM elements that remind children  they can do whatever they set their minds to..

Non-fiction book: Masterpiece mix by Roxie Munro

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1049833026

For ages 4-7. This is the story of an artist (possibly representing the author herself) who is gathering her painting supplies and wondering what to paint next. She visits the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and admires the works of famous painters such as Van Gogh, Leyster, Vermeer, Cézanne, etc.,then she starts painting. When children reach the end of the book, they get to see the artist's final result: a cityscape which incorporates all 37 masterpieces previously looked at. Sport scenes, landscapes, portraits and more...mix it up! Younger children will enjoy learning about painting & drawing, while older children will enjoy learning some cool new fun facts (ex: did you know that Monet painted the same pond more than 250 times?)

Non-fiction book?: P is for Pterodactyl: The WORST Alphabet Book Ever. All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce by Raj Haldar

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1145582026

For ages 7-10. During March Break week, families will also be able to mix-up (and remix!) alphabet letters, words, song lyrics, and more! In this fun book about the English language, we learn all about those words which are pronounced differently than they are spelled. Words with silent letters (ex: knight), homophones and tongue twisters...accompanied by lively illustrations.

Non-fiction book: Wet cement: a mix of concrete poems by Bob Raczka

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/961992026

For ages 8-12. Concrete poetry is fun in the way that it uses the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, thus mixing the words within the illustrations. In this collection of 21 concrete poems, children will be alternately amused or perplexed by the visuals and will be challenged in decoding them! It will inspire them to create their own poems.

Graphic novel: The city on the other side by Mairgrhead Scott

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1114919026

For ages 8-12. In this fantasy graphic novel, we meet Isabel, a young Latinx girl in early 20th Century San Francisco, who until now has lived in a sheltered, high-society environment. Her life completely changes on the day that she walks through an invisible barrier and somehow steps into a magical & dangerous city, right in the middle of a fairy civil war. Can she trust her two newly-met companions, a mushroom-headed fairy and a Filipino boy who can travel between the two worlds? Can they help her deliver a mysterious necklace passed on by a fatally injured messenger? A fast-paced adventure which kids will enjoy reading.

Chapter book: Blended by Sharon M. Draper

https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1126612026

For ages 10-13. This is the story of Isabella, who is 11 years old and biracial,her mother is white and her father is black. People around her sometimes describe her as “exotic,” but she doesn't think of herself that way. Isabella is also from a blended family; divorced parents, two extra stepparents, and an older stepbrother Darren. One day, Isabella is on her way to a piano recital when she and Darren are stopped by the police and a misunderstanding occurs... A book about the search for one's identity, and about the unique struggles still faced by young people of colour.

Illustration by Slavka Kolesar

Illustration by Slavka Kolesar

 

How I came to be a homeschooling mom

How I became a homeschooling mom

I was never happy in school. From the start (grade one, I think), I tried to miss as much school as I could. And, when I was in school, I was sad, withdrawn and almost a shadow of who I really was.

I was determined to have my kids have a better school experience than I did, to help them understand the ways that school could work well for them, but after years and years of seeing my oldest son repeat the same patterns I had – trying to stay home all the time, sad at school, frustrated and not thriving with learning even though he’s incredibly smart, I knew we had to do something different. 

There was one day in particular when my feelings about trying to make school better for him changed. I realized that I was trying to teach him how to get through school the way I got through school.

“Just don’t pay attention, it’s fine. Think about other things and you’ll learn it later when you’re not in class.”

So, my advice was to go and sit in a classroom all day, bored and distracted, and learn what needed to be learned out of class because it would be easier that way.

What kind of terrible advice is that?! Why should he sit around all day wasting space, just because we think going and spending all day at school every day is the thing we’re supposed to do? The ultimate goal is to actually learn, right?

But I don’t want to teach him to be a quitter!

We’ve all been taught school is a part of life. You go to school because you learn the things you need to learn to get a job – how to get things done on deadline, how to learn, how to be at a place all day, how to be evaluated, etc., etc., etc. We don’t question this, it’s just how it is.  

When your kid is miserable at school, letting them not go to school may feel like you’re teaching them that it’s okay to quit, but I want you to think about this – if you were in a job you hated for YEARS, wouldn’t you quit and find another job? Would that be a bad thing or something you should be proud of yourself for? (My vote is proud btw.)


Real life isn’t all fun and games

Another argument for school is that we need to learn what it’s like to live in the real world, and it may not be fun, but it’s life.

True. But also, there are ways that you can find success without working a regular 9-5 job and sitting at a desk all day. *I* created my own career and that’s a thing a LOT of people do now and it’s is going to be more and more common. Having a career doesn’t need to look like what work used to look like, so why should school have to look the same it’s always looked? The answer is, it doesn’t!

The points I’m making, they’re basically what I had to tell myself as my husband and I struggled through figuring out how to support our son. I caught myself, time and time again, thinking that the goal was to “fix things” so that he could love the school system. Finally, I just realized he didn’t have to love the school system, we just needed to find what worked for him.

 

Turns out, homeschooling isn’t even what I thought it was 

Whenever I tell people we’ve started homeschooling their eyes go as round as saucers as they say, “how do you have the time?!” and my answer is always “well, it turns out that homeschooling doesn’t have to look like me actually sitting down at the kitchen table and teaching my kid stuff.” Which is 100% what I thought it would look like. I thought I’d be trying to figure out the curriculum and how to teach it and when to teach it and we’d all be sitting at the kitchen table sobbing in frustration that we had to do it, that it sucked, and that none of us understood any of it!

Turns out that’s not how it has to be. We’ve embraced unschooling and self-directed learning and just learning that learning doesn’t have to hurt! (I will say, it helps that because I created my own career and I work from home, that it absolutely makes it easier for me to take this on compared to someone with a traditional job).

My kid takes classes on Outschool (that link will get you $20 off your first class btw, and we’ll get a $20 credit too) and takes all kinds of workshops and classes (like rock climbing) and goes to drama class and loves to learn about programming and creative writing. He spends time with other homeschooling kids and he’s seeming happier and happier.

I don’t know if we’ll homeschool forever, but for now, I love that this is something we can do, that I am applying all that I believe about how we can create our own lives to the lives of my children, and that we don’t need anything to look a certain way just because that’s what it’s always looked like. I’m a homeschooling mom trying to teach my kid that he can create a life that works for him and all of his amazing strengths, and it doesn’t have to suck all the time – and I’m pretty proud of that.

Do you homeschool or unschool? Leave a comment and share your experiences.

Winter Books for Readers of All Ages from the OPL!

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new books for children with us. This month’s post is by Andrea Gowing from the Centennial branch of the Ottawa Public Library.


Winter:  A Bright Baby touch and feel book.

This board book has lovely textured pages full of fun pictures of winter’s magic.  We find a plump happy snowman, a sparkling snowflake, a winter forest and more!  A lovely first winter concept book for little hands.

Hello Winter!  By Shelley Rotner.  A lovely introduction to our coldest season using vibrant photography that speaks of the joys of winter. Children dressed in bright, warm winter clothing show us how to have fun in the snow.  Aspects of the natural world in winter are explored including how animals cope in the cold.  Short sentences and simple text make this a perfect read aloud for children ages 4+.

Mice Skating By Annie Silvestro.  Lucy is not like other field mice!  She does not want to stay all burrowed down in winter.  She loves wearing her “fluffy wool hat with the pink pom-pom on top,” and the feel of the snow crunching under her paws.  She cannot convince her friends to come outside with her, so she goes alone and discovers the thrill of skating.  Eventually Lucy outfits her friends with warm hats and skates, and they too, discover the joys of winter outside.  This is such a sweet book with perfect mousie illustrations.  Curl up with your little mouse and enjoy.  Adults will groan at the ‘cheesy’ puns! 

Winterhouse By Ben Guterson.   The first book in a trilogy for Middle-grade readers, this story is set in a hotel full of secrets!  Eleven year old Elizabeth is shipped off to Winterhouse hotel "…in the middle of nowhere during Christmas with no money and hardly any clothes," by her not so loving aunt and uncle.   Lucy’s new friend, 11-year-old Freddy, who loves puzzles and anagrams as much as she does, helps her solve a long-standing mystery.  A great story for mystery lovers.

The Boy Who Went Magic by A.P. Winter.  While not exactly a winter-themed book, this one is written by A.P. Winter!   Magic has been banned, but is it really gone?  Bert and Finn set out on an adventure to find it.  Airships, fights, adventure, gadgets, and of course magic. This is a fast moving magical tale best described as steampunk meets Harry Potter.  A fast paced, ‘can’t put it down’ adventure that will appeal to Harry Potter and Artimus Fowl fans!

Family Fun at Room Escape Ottawa

KITC would like to welcome back, guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel.  During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival.  During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.  

Two years ago,  I didn’t understand all the buzz about escape rooms.  The concept of locking yourself up in a room and having to escape within a certain time seemed crazy to me.

My perspective totally changed when we recently tried an escape room in Kingston, Ontario. Our family had a great time searching for clues and working together. It left us wanting to find an escape room closer to home in Ottawa.

We checked online and found one close to our house that looked like fun,  Room Escape Ottawa. There were five different rooms to choose from with three being listed as youth-friendly. Despite our son, David’s, protests to try the scariest room, we all settled on Boom Room. The description listed the room as being a rigged enemy bunker that was timed to explode with only sixty minutes to escape. Our house has a similar feel in the morning to get everyone up and out the door on time so I thought our chances were good.

We arrived at Room Escape on Bank Street and found out it was in the same facility and business as Archery Games Ottawa. I wondered if perhaps we did not finish the room on time, we might have to do archery games without a bow and arrow!

We were greeted by our escape room host who went over some of the procedures and gave us the scenario. We entered the room and quickly got to work. The room was dimly lit except for a red emergency light giving the space the feel of a World War II bunker. It was authentically decorated with camouflage and other military paraphernalia.

Room Escape Ottawa

We were also provided with a walkie-talkie where we could request assistance. Clues were provided either via a television or our host would come in to assist. I thought this was a great feature especially for those with younger kids as it could be frustrating to be stuck on one puzzle for too long.   

I do not want to give away too much of the escape room in case you try it, but let’s just say there were many different elements including cracking codes, interpreting a board game and diffusing bombs. Ultimately, we did not make it all the way out of the room but got very close.

This experience is a great way to teach problem-solving skills, working together and generally just having a great time.   

Room Escape Ottawa has two other rooms which are suggested for the younger set. Stranded explores being stuck on an alien planet while another De-Composed is listed as being Canada’s first multiplayer virtual reality escape room.

We will certainly be back to Room Escape Ottawa whether to try out another escape room or archery games.  I still don’t think anyone from their staff could escape our house as quickly as we do on a Monday morning!