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

 

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!

OPL Staff Picks - Favourite Children's Picture Books 2018

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new books for children with us. This month’s post is by Xiao Feng Xing, Librarian, Youth Collections at the Ottawa Public Library.

This selection is from her reading and reviews of new picture books published in 2018. We hope you will enjoy reading them!

They Say Blue, by Jillian Tamaki

They Say Blue was written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki who is best known for her graphic novel This One Summer. This is her first picture book, but she’s already received two important awards – the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and a Governor General’s Award, as well as numerous starred reviews. The two illustrations below are examples of her powerful and creative style. This book about a young girl who contemplates colours in the world is a true gem.

They say blue_1.jpg
They say blue_2.jpg

Hello Lighthouse, by Sophie Blackall

Ms. Blackall is the winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal for illustrating Finding Winnie. The illustrations in this book are outstanding. One of them shows a realistic cutaway interior of a lighthouse, letting us see what it would be like to live inside a lighthouse.

In just 32 pages, the book highlights important moments of the life of a lighthouse keeper in a remote location. “On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. It is built to last forever. Sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams.”

This is a saga to celebrate the lighthouse keeper’s selfless devotion to saving lives and protecting ships at sea. It’s a sad story too since we learn that his job is eventually replaced by a machine.

The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld

When the amazing blocks that Taylor had just built up were smashed down by a flock of birds, he was very sad. The animals came over to him one by one, each thinking that they knew how to help, but none of their suggestions impressed Taylor. And so they all left. Then a rabbit came by and sat quietly beside Taylor; he didn’t try to fix the problem or offer solutions – just listened. After sharing his feelings with the rabbit, Taylor was happy again. It’s such a simple and cute story but it teaches kids, and maybe even some adults, a big life lesson. 

Night Job, by Karen Hesse

This story about a father and son bonding is very touching. A boy helps his dad who has a job on the night shift as a school custodian. Even though life can be difficult, as long as he can be with his dad, the boy feels happy.

They eat dinner together while at work, and after they come home, “I climb up beside dad and soon we are drifting away together…” Life is hard but it is sweet to stay together with dad.

The powerful illustrations will help kids build up empathy and understanding for a life situation that shows that not every family has a worry-free life.

The Rough Patch, by Brian Lies

Evan, the farmer’s fox and his pet dog loved to do things together. What they loved the most was working in Evan’s magnificent garden. But one day Evan’s dog died. Evan was heartbroken and stopped caring about the garden because he no longer had any desire to look after anything.

In time his garden turned wild. One morning, Evan spotted a pumpkin vine sneaking under the fence. So he let it be. Eventually, he brought his giant pumpkin to the fair. It felt good to be out again, even if it wasn’t quite the same as before. He won third prize in the pumpkin competition and claimed his prize. From inside the box, he heard a scrabbling sound…. The last illustration in the book shows Evan driving home with a small dog.

The lovely illustrations and the touching story will show kids how to overcome a rough patch, that very sad feeling that comes when they lose a pet or a loved one, and that life continues.

The Day War Came, by Nicola Davies

This is one of the most powerful books that I have read dealing with children refugees.

A young girl’s peaceful, normal life is turned upside down when war comes to her town. She becomes a refugee and is forced to roam all by herself. She finds a school and attempts to enter the classroom but a teacher won’t let her in. “There’s no room for you, you see. There is no chair for you to sit on”. Then comes a happy and touching moment when a young boy and his classmates all bring their chairs for the young girl. The last illustration shows the kids hand-in-hand walking together on a road lined with chairs.

This book will open a window for kids learning about the plight of children refugees and teach them empathy and kindness.

THANK YOU, OMU! by Oge Mora

This is a heart-warming story about kindness and sharing. It’s a perfect match for the holiday season.

“Omu” is the lgbo term for “queen”. Omu has cooked a delicious stew. The smell brings all the people one-by-one to knock on her door. Omu offers each of them a portion of her meal and pretty soon the pot is empty. As she’s sitting at the table with her empty pot, she hears someone knock at the door. All the people who received food from her are now coming back, one by one, bringing food to her. Omu’s heart is full of happiness and love.

Africville, by Shauntay Grant

I’m so glad to see this wonderful book about Africville as there aren’t enough books about the Canadian black community.

This book uses a girl’s imagination to replay the happy life the black community enjoyed in their old home of Africville.

The author provides a note at the end of the book that details the sad and dark history of Africville and the tragic injustice and racial discrimination that took place.

That’s Not Hockey, by Andrée Poulin

It’s only common sense to wear a helmet and a face mask when playing hockey. But did you know that not that many years ago, hockey players and even goalies, didn’t wear any facial protection when they played?  This book is a true story about the goalie Jacques Plante and how he grew up as a kid from a poor family to become one of the greatest goalies of all time and play for the Montreal Canadians. He changed the history of hockey with his courage and determination to be the first to wear a mask while playing the game.

Henry and the Yeti, by Russell Ayto

A little boy makes up his mind to find Yeti. Everyone laughs at him and his school principal tells him to remember to bring evidence if he does find Yeti.

The little boy overcomes a lot of difficulties to find Yeti, and he takes pictures too. But when he comes back to school to let everyone know what he found, he can’t show them his evidence because he lost his camera. Everyone laughs at him again, and nobody except his own father believes him. You can imagine the surprise then when Yeti comes to visit the little boy’s school. This is a heartwarming and witty story about believing in yourself.

Grace for Gus, by Harry Bliss

This is a near wordless graphic novel-style picture book.

It’s a hero story about a little girl named Grace who sneaks from her bedroom to go to the subway station to play the violin, draw caricatures in the park, and finally to perform acrobatics in the subway car. She raises a lot of money and the next day secretly puts it all in the jar for the classroom pet hamster fund.

If you want to read more wonderful picture books, please click here.

10 Classic Kids Books for Summer Reading

My daughter is now reading on her own, but before she insisted on reading herself to sleep we would read chapter books together, many of which I read as a child. I find the school year a busy time for kids to read books outside of those needed for school. Summer is the perfect time to break out classic books and share them with a new generation of young minds.

You don't have to break the bank purchasing these books either! The Ottawa Public Library is a great resource and even if a book is not available at your local branch, you can request it and have it transferred to your branch (which usually only takes a couple of days if the book is already available).

Besides the traditional 19th century classics such as Little Women, Black Beauty and The Swiss Family Robinson there are many contemporary children’s books that have also made the classics list, including:

1) Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary

Ramona and Beezus

Can you believe Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old this year? Her Ramona books, however are as timeless as ever. Ramona and Beezus is the first in the series of Ramona books and starts when Ramona is only 4 years old. Ramona is a great reminder of how important it is for kids to have the run of their neighbourhoods and also get into a little mischief sometimes. Ramona is a perfect book to start reading with emerging readers or as a first chapter book for more independent readers.

2) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

With the release of the movie version of The BFG this summer, why not introduce your kids to Roald Dahl’s other classics including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first novel read by my daughter’s second grade class and she couldn’t put it down (and I often had to remove it from her bed at night). It was THE book that made my daughter love reading.

3) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web

What’s not to love in this beautiful story of true friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte A. Cavatica, his spider saviour. Although the ending may draw tears, the power of friendship plays an important part in this book and is a story any child will carry with them for a long time to come.

4) Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter

 My daughter and I started reading this one together when she was five – she was instantly engrossed in the magic and possibility of Harry Potter. She immediately cheered for the underdog (in this case, Harry) and loved seeing him so confident doing what he does best – magic! She hasn’t read the others yet, but we have them in the house and she says when she’s ready for more “magic” she knows where to find them. I like the Harry Potter books because they are enjoyable for readers of all ages and because it’s fun to use the word “muggles” and have your children know what you are referring to.

5) Holes by Louis Sachar

 A great book about building self-confidence told through a mysterious and engaging story of Stanley who is sent to Camp Green Lake where he and the other campers are forced to dig holes every day. Holes is a fun book for kids heading to camp (even though Stanley’s is a juvenile detention camp, but don’t worry he didn’t commit a crime). I read this book in university for a children’s literature course and finished it in one sitting – not because of its length so much as the interesting story.

6) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

 An undeniable Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables is a lighthearted read at any age; not to mention it’s the perfect accompaniment if you are planning a family vacation to Prince Edward Island this summer. Anne is an outgoing girl who is sure to win the hearts of anyone who reads her triumphant story of convincing her adoptive parents that they need her and how she makes everyone fall in love with her partly due to all of the humorous situations she finds herself in.

7) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

If you have a strong reader in the house then The Secret Garden may be of interest. It’s about young Mary Lennox who’s lonely beginning make her appear rude, but thanks to a good-natured maid, Mary discovers a secret walled garden and unlocks all its mysteries. This story teaches the value of friendship and the healing power of being surrounded by nature and living things. It’s a beautifully told story that will have children looking for secret gardens of their own!

8) Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

This book was my absolute favourite growing up! Pollyanna is an optimistic young orphan who lives with her wealthy but strict Aunt Polly. Pollyanna finds the positive in everything – including being locked up in an attic and even after an accident causes her to lose the use of both of her legs. Although it sounds a bit dark, the story of Pollyanna teaches children to look for the good in any situation and cannot help but make you feel happy, even at the end of a hard day.

9) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Narnia

For many kids The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is their introduction to the fantasy novel. It’s the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series and is sure to hold the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. Four children discover the magic land of Narnia through a wardrobe in an old country house. Once there they discover talking animals, a witch and a seemingly permanent winter world... what ensues is an adventure sure to lastingly stick in the minds of anyone who reads it.

10) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Remember the first time you travelled down the Yellow Brick Road? Why not share the girl with ruby red shoes, her little dog, and her magical friends with a new generation of inquisitive readers?  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is full of timeless humour, wisdom and, of course, mystery and adventure!

Bonus: 

11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

 Although Lemony Snicket is a pen name, this harried writer tells the story of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire who lost their parents in a fire. Through a series of 13 books, Lemony shares how, following the fire, the children are placed with a murderous relative who is trying to steal their inheritance and the adventures that soon develop because of it. Throughout it all, Snicket tries to dissuade the reader from continuing… but of course he fails because the story is too engaging to not continue reading!

Do you have a classic children’s book we should know about? Share it in the comments!

YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD LOVES TO READ WHEN... :)

YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD LOVES TO READ WHEN... :)

 

Imaginary Friends: Taking reading to a new level!

I have a lot of friends who get to be involved in really cool things in their work and a few weeks ago a friend shared a Kickstarter campaign for Imaginary Friends. I watched it and got so excited I was ready to back the campaign on the spot. After a conversation with my friend she offered to send us a Beta version of the book for us to try out and I jumped on the opportunity. Turns out, it's as awesome as I expected and I think you should back the Kickstarter too. (For those of you who don't know, you pledge now but don't pay unless the goal is met. You're pledging to help them have the funds to create the product but in this case the timelines aren't too long and first products are going to ship in September.)

 

What is it?

It's a chapter book that is printed with each chapter as its own mini book. There are also activities that take the kids out of the story and into real life between each chapter. This includes scavenger hunts (for example, my son had to find all the pieces of a puzzle around our house based on clues we created), games on the computer and one game in our book even had our son exploring the neighbourhood using the gps on my iPhone.

Imaginary Friends set up stories that take kids outside of just reading. The way I see it there are advantages for all types of readers.

My son is an avid reader, sometimes it's hard to get him out of his room. The pause between each chapter for an activity had him up and running around and excited to take on another task. (I haven't seen him this enthusiastic about anything other than Minecraft in a long time!)

For a non avid reader, I can see the activities making reading feel more interactive and exciting and less "boring".

How it works

When you get the book, the parents are in charge of setting up an account and getting things rolling. There is an account for the parent to move the story forward and set up activities and there is an account for the kids to log in and play the games on the computer and get prompted to do activities (the games run on an ipod/iphone but it worked better on an actual computer). 

When we first started out I wanted it to seem magical that the games was leading him to things around our house but until I explained that we had been involved he would often just stare at the computer baffled at how to follow through within the computer game. Once that clicked he was thrilled and really got in to all the games.

 

Parents need to log in to their system to move to the next game and be ready to hand out the chapters one at a time, so it takes more involvement from the parent than a typical book but it was well worth it. There was one time when I thought the game wasn't working properly but it turned out I hadn't done my part in the parent part of the system so you just need to remember to do all the parts.

Who are these for?

They say they're targeted at 8-12 year olds. I think because my son is such an advanced reader that it seems to me it could be younger than that but I know most kids aren't devouring chapter books on their own at 6. I do think you could be even more involved and help with the games and the chapters and kids as young as 6 would really enjoy these stories.

I asked my 8 year old what he thought and here are a few of his points:

I liked getting to play a game between each chapter. (Books and video games, my son's favourite things! :)

I really liked the story because it was exciting, it had superheroes and the ending was kind of surprising.

It was surprising at the start because I didn’t know there would be games. In one of them the computer game told me to look for things in my own house and I couldn’t figure out how they did that. 

Now what?

Check out the Kickstarter. They only have 7 days left and they're 75% of the way to their goal. I liked the book so much that I bought their 4-book pack knowing we'd get the same book as we already have and planning to give it to someone as a gift. 

I love encouraging reading and making it even more fun by taking them outside of the books was a total win for me. We read Capes in the Family and I can't wait to get Circus of Mirrors in the Fall. Eventually I think we'll get one of their deluxe books that has artifacts and props. Because seriously - how cool is this idea!? So Cool!

The Imaginary Friends team put together a few freebies if you want to try things out. Check it all out to get a taste for the products.

Free Sample Kit: Try out some of Capes in the Family game now! http://try.imaginaryfriendbooks.com 

Free Father's Day Cards:  http://imaginaryfriendbooks.com/blog/2015/06/17/imaginary-friends-free-downloadable-fathers-day-cards/

Websitehttp://imaginaryfriendbooks.com

Connect with Imaginary Friends on TwitterFacebookPinterest and YouTube

Full disclosure: I was given a book for free to test out but wasn't asked to say anything specific. I really do just love this idea a lot :)