Here are some books that are sure to engage even your most reluctant readers. These beautiful picture books feature animals with some pretty cool adaptations that have allowed them to survive. Some of my favourite authors...
Cute as an Axolotl and What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating, with illustrations by David DeGrand, introduce readers to some of the most fascinating creatures on earth. In Axolotl, you'll learn about the more adorable animals on earth, including the pom-pom crab, pygmy hippo and dwarf flying squirrel (look them up - they're real!). Monster features the world's scariest animals, including my personal favourite (although I never want to meet it!) - the horror frog (shudder!!!!). The text features provide great opportunities for teaching how to read non-fiction, and if the fascinating information doesn't grab you, the notes at the back of the book will. Why do we perceive some things as "cute," and others as "scary?" This is a great opportunity for a unit on how humans create perceptions, but also how we may differ in opinion. These two texts and Keating's Pink is for Blobfish make up a trilogy you'll definitely want to own!
The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow follows The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (a Canadian Children's Literature Award winner), both by author Jan Thornhill. Unlike the Great Auk, the House Sparrow has thrived for thousands of years, thanks to its ability to adapt to its changing surroundings. How and why has it changed over the years, from Ancient Egypt, to Europe, to North America? And why is it so despised? I love both of these books for the opportunity to teach about animal adaptations, and the how humans affect nature.
My brand new book (just released this week!) is Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. This book informs the reader about animals that are considered underdogs, due to their clumsy, shy, slow, stinky, and other unfortunate attributes. I learned about some creatures I have not heard of before, including the zorilla (I love that name!) and the hoatzin, and celebrated some of my all-time favourite animals, including the naked mole rat. The text is lively, conversational, and funny, and young children will eat it up!
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
This book is a must read for all children in our Early Years classrooms. Perfect for the first day of school especially, but any time we need to send the message that everyone belongs. I love the diverse characters and the different kinds of families that are featured. Beautiful illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman add to the celebration of diversity and inclusion.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Based on the memoirs of the author, this book features a 10-year old girl who helps out at the hotel that her immigrant parents manage. She is able to keep a lot of secrets, including the fact that her parents hide immigrants who need help. Themes of racism, immigration and poverty make this is a book relevant to today's world, and messages that we need to discuss with our students and children. Teaching ideas scream out at me almost every time I turn the page. An awesome addition to any Middle Grade kid's library.
I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
Graphic novels are so popular right now, and this beautiful book would made a perfect pairing with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (soon to be released as a movie - can't wait!) or Just Mercy (just read it this summer as part of Penny Kittle's Book Love teacher book club) by Bryan Stevenson. All of these books tackle themes of police brutality in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement and poverty issues. This story is about Alfonso Jones, who is shot by a police officer while buying his first suit, as the officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun. Alfonso, as a ghost, rides a ghost train to learn of other people's struggles for equality and how his friends and family deal with his death. I highly recommend this book for high school students.