Monthly Archives: November 2016

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Books to Explore Themes of Immigration and Refugees

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With the recent events in the US, immigration has become an increasingly important topic to explore and discuss with our students.  I am currently working with a grade 6 class at my school exploring immigration through picture books.  Many of these books are based on the authors’ family experience and  are the perfect opportunity to discuss the many issues surrounding immigration: different reasons why people leave their homes to seek new land (the “pull” – some are drawn to new opportunity; the “push” – others fleeing war and oppression); refugee camps; the challenges of adjusting to so much “newness” – country, friends, language, school, culture.  And yes,  Donald Trump was brought up in today in our class discussion.

At at a time when we need to be talking about and modelling kindness and celebrating diversity,  here are my top 10 picture books about immigration and refugees.

                                                     

                                                             1. I’m New Here – Anne Sibley O’Brien

The school where I teach is made up of over 30 different cultures so this book is a must have “connect” book for our library!  We follow three immigrant children as they face the challenges of adapting to their new school and community while trying to maintain their  language, identity and sense of “home”.  Thoughtful, heartfelt and realistic with simple text and colorful illustrations. 

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Here I Am – Patti Kim

What must it be like to move far away from your home, across vast waters, to another country, culture and language?  Through this wordless picture book, we experience this  adventure through the eyes of a young Asian boy as he experiences the unknown city streets and cityscapes for the first time.  Gorgeous illustrations.

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2. The Arrival Shaun Tan

Beautiful, haunting, wordless picture book told from the perspective of a new immigrant. We see and experience everything he does  –  the heartbreak, fear, confusion, and enlightenment.  Sometimes strange, surreal and magical – this is a must share immigration book.

3. Sami and the Time of the Troubles Florence Parry Heide

Lebanon Civil War from a young boy’s point of view. Sami and his family spend much of their time in the basement trying to keep safe while the fighting goes on right outside his home.  To pass the time, they share happy memories.  This book is beautiful, moving and filled with hope.   Amazing illustrations.

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4. Gleam and Glo – Eve Bunting

Narrated from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy, this story is based on an amazing true story of what happened in a village in the 1990s as the Bosnian war.  The family  flees, leaving behind their home and belongings.  They spend time in a refugee camp and return to find their home destroyed, but their pet fish thriving and multiplying in their pond.  Beautiful, hopeful, inexpressibly sad – a must-read book.

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5. Stepping Stones: A Syrian Refugee Story – Margriet Ruurs

This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, discovered by chance by Canadian children’s writer Margriet Ruurs.  Stunning artwork, a simple, poignant story about a Syrian family’s departure from their homeland written in both English and Arabic, and a wonderful story behind the story.

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6. Adrift at Sea – A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival – Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

This is the beautiful true story of a family’s survival in the face of overwhelming odds as they leave Vietnam in search of a new life.  In 1981, just at the end of the Vietnam war, sixty Vietnamese refugees, among whom is six-year-old Tuan Ho and his family, endure days at sea in horrific conditions. They are eventually rescued and finally reach Canada.  The amazing life-like illustrations and large format makes it an engaging read-aloud.  I appreciated the historical facts and real photos of Tuan in his family included at the back of the book.

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7. Let’s Go See Papa! = Lawrence Schimel

This is a powerful story that many of my students made connections to.  Told from a young child’s perspective, it  is about what it’s like to have an absent parent living and working overseas and then to have to leave your home, country and those you love for a new life.

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8. How I Learned Geography – Uri Shulevitz

This story is based on the author’s own boyhood when his family lived as refugees after  fleeing war-torn Poland at the onset of WWII.  One evening, instead of their ration of  bread, his father brings home a world map.  After the initial disappointment, the young boy see that there are places in the world beyond his home, allowing him to dream and imagine beyond his hardships.

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9. Four Feet, Two Sandals – Karen Lynn Williams

Taking place in a camp in Pakistan for Afghan refugees, this is a story of friendship, sharing and compassion.  When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp,  two young girls race to grab whatever they can find, and discover they each have one sandal from a pair of shoes. Through their plan to share the shoes, the two become friends.   Powerful, heartbreaking and gives voice to the refugee experience.

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  One Green Apple Eve Bunting

This is a powerful and meaningful story about a Muslim immigrant trying to find her way in a new school without friends or words to connect to.   Important book about inclusion and one that we will be using for “point of view”.

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Anna and Solomon – Elaine Snyder

This is a true story of author Elaine Snyder’s grandparents’ immigration from Russia to the U.S. in 1897. It is a fascinating story of patience, understanding, and love. After Anna and Solomon are married, they choose to leave Russia during the Czar’s persecution of the Jews, and immigrate to the USA.  Having only enough money for one ticket, Solomon goes first.  After working hard to earn enough for a second ticket, he sends for Anna, only to discover she sends her brother.  Four more attempts bring 4 other family members, until eventually, Anna and Solomon are reunited.

Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite books about immigration?

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Filed under Diverse Children's Books, immigration, New Books, Picture Book, Social Studies, Top 10 Tuesday

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Much Needed Book Joy

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Well, it’s been quite a week.  Lots of emotion, lots of fear, lots of unknowns…  I found myself being drawn into the negative events on the news and became swept up by it all.

And so, this weekend I turned off the news and turned to books… A distraction? Perhaps. But reading these brand new picture books brought me pieces of joy, as they always do. And joy was what I needed this week.

(A big thank you to Raincoast Books for sending me a box of joy!)

How to Be A Hero – Florence Parry Heide

What does it mean to be a hero?  Fame?  Cover of a magazine?   What does it take?  Bravery? Brains? Kissing a princess?   Gideon learns a good hero keeps their eyes open to the world.  Empowering, delightful and love the boy-centered fairy tale.

The Storybook Knight – Helen Docherty

“Leo was a gentle knight in thought and word and deed. While other knights liked fighting, Leo liked to sit and read.”

A charming story with the perfect message – violence is not the answer – books are!  With a gentle rhyme, we meet a Leo, the mouse, whose parents would rather him be swinging his sword rather than turning a page.  So Leo heads off to tame the  dangerous dragon… with a stack of books!   Love!

  The Wish Tree – Kyo Maclear

Sweet seasonal book with a tender message about believing in something when no one else seems to.  Poetic text and lovely illustrations.

Good Morning, City – Pat Kiernan

This book is written by Pat Kiernan, well-known morning anchor on NY1, New York City’s 24-hour news channel.  (Being from the west coast of Canada, I was not familiar with him, but apparently he was born in Calgary!)  It describes a city waking up and all the activities from early to mid-morning.  I really enjoyed the short, poetic descriptions combined with sound words. A great choice for visualizing and is now on my list of anchor books for when I teach onomatopoeia!  Beautiful illustrations with amazing use of light gradually brightening on each page. This is definitely one to check out!

Sleep Tight Farm – A Farm Prepares for Winter – Eugenie Doyle

Gentle, lyrical story about a farm getting ready for winter. Helps children understand this season of the year, and how the work of one season prepares for another. Stunning illustrations.  Lovely author’s note at the back.

Real Cowboys – Kate Hoefler

I love this gentle telling of the wonders of the west.  Soft poetic text and lovely illustrations.  I really liked the focus on positive personality traits: real cowboys cry; they are good listeners, willing to ask for help, patient and hard workers.  This book is quiet and moving with a subtle, but important lesson on empathy. 

Before Morning – Joyce Sidman

I adore everything Joyce Sidman writes… so was excited to see her new book about a family’s anticipation of a “snow day” following a snow storm.   This book is one you will need to pour over – with much of the story being told through the details in the illustrations – perfect for inferring!  I appreciated that Joyce Sidman includes an explanation of what an “invocation” poem is (poem that invites something to happen) inspiriting students to write their own!  Gorgeous “scratch-board” illustrations by Beth Krommes.

First Snow – Bomi Park

This book, translated from Korean, is quiet and charming, and captures the magic of snow and childhood wonder.  Simple, soft, and beautiful. 

Samson in the Snow – Philip C. Stead

Another gentle story of friendship from Philip Stead, this one about a woolly mammoth, a bird, a mouse and some dandelions.  Oh, how I love the quiet, gentle, kind and hopeful way he tells a story.  Gorgeous illustrations.

It Is Not Time for Sleeping ( A Bedtime Story) – Lisa Graff

Rhythmic, cumulative text describes a young child going through his nightly bedtime routines.  A perfect bedtime story – but also great for making connections in an early primary class.  Charming illustrations by Lauren Castillo. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Which books have caught your eye?

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Filed under 2016 releases, Family, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, making connections, New Books, Winter Books

Top 10 Remembrance Day Books

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With Halloween behind us, there are only a few school days before Remembrance Day. There are many books we can share in our classes to help children understand the significance and importance of this day and why we remember the men and women from all wars who have given their lives for our freedom. Some literal, some symbolic, some fictional, some factual –  here are my top Remembrance Day books for reading and sharing with students:

I love the inter-generational theme of this book as a young boy asks his grandfather questions about the war.  A perfect book for younger students that quietly honors the brave men and women who have fought for our freedom.
2. A Poppy is to Remember – Heather Patterson
Moving text and stunning illustrations by Governor General’s Award-winning artist Ron Lightburn explains the symbolism behind the poppy.  Bonus 5 page spread all about poem “In Flanders Fields” and Canada’s peace-keeping practices.
3. The Poppy Lady – Barbara Elizabeth Walsh
Why do we wear a poppy on Remembrance Day?  Against all odds,  in a day when women had few rights and opportunities Moina Belle Michael almost single-handedly launched a national campaign to establish the red poppy as the symbol of sacrifice and courage of America’s soldiers.  Gorgeous illustrations.
A tribute to the famous World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields”.  Informative and moving, weaving the words of the poems with fascinating information and stunning illustrations. This is the 2015 special edition that marks 100 years since the poem was written and includes additional information and a new cover.
5. Feathers and Fools – Mem Fox
A powerful, moving allegorical tale intended for older students.  This modern fable is about peacocks and swans who allow the fear of their differences to become so great that they end up destroying each other.  An excellent book for inferring and for text-to-world connections.
6. Why? – Nikoli Popov
A frog picks a flower;  a mouse wants it… and so begins this simple, profound tale about how war starts and ends.  This wordless picture book is one I have shared with many classes – perfect for practicing inferring and stimulating important discussions.
7. Enemy – A Book About Peace – David Cali and Serge Bloch
This poignant book has many layers of meaning but ultimately, it is the story that shows the humanity behind war.  Two soldiers, each in their own solitary bunker, wonder what the other is doing and eventually learn they are more alike than they are different.  Simple but oh, so powerful.
8. No!  – David McPhail
The word “No” repeated three times is the only written text in this otherwise wordless book with a powerful message.  In simple terms that anyone can understand, McPhail tackles the weighty subject of war and its effects on people. What’s more, he shows us what we can do to stand up and say NO.
This is a  very sad picture book that tells the true story of a tragedy at the Tokyo zoo during World War II and the painful decision one zoo-keeper has to make.  This story really shows the impacts of war not just on humans, but on animals.  Warning – Kleenex required.

10. What Does Peace Feel Like? – Vladamir Radunsky
What does peace feel like?  Sound like?  Look like?  An anti-war message told subtly through the five senses using similes and metaphors.   Great anchor book for writing!
 
11. Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan and Jon. J. Muth
Blowin’ in the Wind is a popular song during Remembrance Day assemblies.  Bob Dylan wrote the powerful lyrics to this iconic 1960’s song in 10 minutes; Jon Muth’s illustrations are stunning.  Together they create a wonderful way to introduce this message of protest, peace and freedom to younger students.
What books do you share with your students for Remembrance Day?
Thanks for stopping by!

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Filed under Infer, Picture Book, Remembrance Day, Top 10 Tuesday