Teaching Social Studies though literature is something I have always found to be the most meaningful and interesting way to teach. Because the students at my school are comfortable using Reading Power strategies, they are ready to apply their thinking to different content areas. One class I am working with at school is focusing on Canada in Social Studies so we have been practicing Reading Power strategies using picture books that are based on true events in Canadian history. Marking the events, dates and locations on a map of Canada is helping us gain perspective and we will end the unit with a time line activity. Canadian history + picture books – ENGAGED LEARNERS!
Here are my Top Ten books that focus on a piece of Canadian history:
Inspired by the author’s grandfather’s experiences living in a lodge in the woods, a story of how people and animals survive a forest fire in a small Canadian town in the early 1800’s. Gorgeous illustrations and beautiful writing, perfect for VISUALIZING.
2. The Patchwork Path to Freedom – Bettye Stroud
A child tells of escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad, accompanied by her father, and of following secret signs sewn into quilt patterns. The story is exciting and the quilt-code messages are fascinating.
3. Laura Secord: A Story of Courage – Janet Lunn
Laura Secord became one of Canada’s most celebrated war heroines when, during the War of 1812, she overhears an American soldier’s plan to ambush the British Commander James FitzGibbon. Laura braves miles of rough terrain to warn FitzGibbon, preventing the massacre and saving the lives of hundreds of British soldiers. Informative and interesting introduction and gorgeous illustrations.
4. The Prairie Fire – Marilynn Reynolds
A young boy’s heroic efforts to help his parents save their prairie homestead. This book is a wonderful historical glimpse into the beauty and hardships of prairie farm life. Realistic and dramatic prairie landscape illustrations make this an excellent story for VISUALIZING.
5. Secret of the Dance – Andrea Spalding and Alfred Scow
In 1885, the Canadian government outlawed Potlatch ceremonies and threatened severe consequences for those who did not obey. Many continued the ceremony in secret. This is the story of a young Native boy and his family who are spirited away by boat to a secret location where he witnesses a Potlatch. Rich, colorful, detailed illustrations. Powerful and thought-provoking. Great for QUESTIONING.
6. Emma and the Silk Train – Julie Lawson
After a train carrying bolts of precious silk derails, a girl, obsessed with longing for a silk blouse, spends weeks combing the nearby river for fabric. This story is inspired by the 1927 derailment of a silk train in British Columbia and includes fascinating historical notes about the speedy silk trains of the 1920’s.
7. Free as the Wind: Saving The Horses on Sable Island – Jamie Bastedo
This book recounts the story of how hundreds of Canadian school children in early 1960 wrote letters to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pleading him to stop the wild horses on Sable Island from being turned into dog food. Amazing story and a great example of the power of persuasion and standing up for what you believe.
8. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear – Lindsay Mattick
This book tells the true Canadian story of Winnipeg, or “Winnie”, the black bear from Ontario who became a mascot for soldiers during World War I and later inspired author A.A. Milne’s most beloved character, Winnie-the-Pooh. Illustrator Sophie Blackall was recently awarded the 2016 Caldecott medal for her illustrations in this book.
9. Queen of the Falls – Chris Van Allsburg
At the turn of the nineteenth century, a retired sixty-two-year-old charm school instructor named Annie Edson Taylor, seeking fame and fortune, decided to do something that no one in the world had ever done before-she would go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel. A fascinating true story with remarkable life-like illustrations. While Annie Taylor was American, the backdrop for her stunt is certainly Canadian.
1o. Not My Girl – Christy Jordan-Fenton
By 1884 it was compulsory for the First Nations children of Canada to attend either a day or residential boarding school. This is an excellent book (by the author of the novel Fatty Legs) for younger students to introduce them to the challenges created by residential schools. This story is based on the author’s own experiences and would be an excellent book for making connections, questioning and transform.
1o (OK… it’s actually 11) Dolphin SOS – Roy Miki
This beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of three dolphins trapped in an ice-covered cove on the coast of Newfoundland and the brave teens who rescued them when government officials refused to help. Perfect book for QUESTIONING. You will hold your breath until the last page!
Thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite Canadian picture book to share with your students?