Canada’s History; The Fabric of our Nation: My List for the Children’s Book Bank

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+)

images

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 Pesheens, by 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 Budged, by Jody Nyasha Warner (Inspired by a True Story)(Ages 5-9)

violadesmond

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)

unnamed

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, 1882, by Paul Yee (Inspired by True Events) (Ages 9-12)

bloodandiron
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)

mcrae

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 Childhood, by Bonnie Farmer & Marie Lafrance (Inspired by a True Story) (Ages  4-8)

oscarlivesnextdoor

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 Journey, by Margiet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr (Inspired by True Events) (Ages 6-9)

steppingstones

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)

AnOceanApart

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)

44hoursorstrike

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 Kids, by 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

Eye of the Crow

[GOODREADS] “Sherlock Holmes, just 13, is a misfit. His highborn mother is the daughter of an aristocratic family, his father a poor Jew. Their marriage flouts tradition, makes them social pariahs in the London of the 1860s; and son Sherlock bears the burden of their rebellion. Friendless, bullied at school, he belongs nowhere and has only his wits to help him make his way.

But what wits he has! His keen powers of observation are already apparent, though he is still a boy. He loves to amuse himself by constructing histories from the smallest detail for everyone he meets. Partly for fun, he focuses his attention on a sensational murder to see if he can solve it. But his game turns deadly serious when he finds himself the accused, and in London, they hang boys of thirteen.”

Wow. All I can say is, wow! I read this book in one sitting. This is a superb story, written with an eye for detail that must be expected of any mystery, and especially a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Shane Peacock takes us into the early life of Sherlock. It is filled with the grit, smut and intense poverty typical of London life during that time.It’s important to note this because it drives the character of a boy who becomes a cultural icon; born with a brilliant mind but unfortunate circumstances. He doesn’t let one detail go, not one plot or word that is not intricately placed and it all leads us through a topsy turvy adventure. Then, there’s a murder. The crows descend; the sparkle in the night; it all means something; it all matters.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

A classic from Europe to the other side of the ocean, The Little Prince is a book I only recently picked up. I read a few pages a while back, but didn’t stick it though long enough to let the charm of the little prince dazzle me. The stories he shares of all the planets he has prior to visited before coming to earth is clearly Exupery’s own comments on society, and the types of people who inhabit it; whether miserable or content.

The Little Prince looks at the world with a delicate eye and these grand, esoteric revelations on love and loss are something that makes me believe it is a better suited as an adult book, however short it may be.

It is classified under the 9-year age range, and I just can’t imagine a child appreciating this  story. While the premise is quirky enough to gauge anyone’s attention, it really is a deep and philosophical book that someone can pick up from time to time, read a passage from, and find some relevance and application to their own lives.

 

 

Belly UP

Belly Up 

By Stuart Gibbs 

12 year old Theodore“Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it’s claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain’t the polar bear’s lunch. 

Stuart Gibbs keeps you moving in his spectacular debut novel as you’re introduced to a young boy named Teddy, who seeks to uncover the mysterious death of Henry—a 4,000-pound hippo who one day, very suddenly and mysteriously goes belly up. Cue all the antics that ensue within the parameters of the FunJungle zoo—and that’s where the story really kicks off.

There’s no reason for this notoriously mean hippo’s sudden parting. After all, he’s still young, still robust and full of temperamental spirit. There’s something else going on here, something deep and sinister.

This mystery keeps you guessing, and also laughing along as the plot unfolds with startling detail and accuracy. No surprise, Gibbs formerly worked at the Philadelphia Zoo. His passion seeps through the pages and lends credibility to the characters and resonance to their voice.

It’s a great book that I would definitely recommend to any one who is young or young at heart and looking for a good, nuanced mystery, humour, and of course, animals!

The Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square 

by George Selden

Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City―the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides―and friends―than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures―from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.

Simple and heart-warming, this book wins me over. I’m a sucker for books about friendship, animals, and New York City; and I lucked out on all three. There’s something about combining the small – in this case insects and animals – with the big – New York City. What you get is magic. It gave me that feeling I had when I read Harriet the Spy; there’s this little world and many little worlds unfolding in an immense city. Only in NYC can people and creatures of such diverse backgrounds find love and companionship together.