Special Books About Special Kids - novels about learning difficulties

I’ve read some powerful books about children who are different; kids who face more challenges than most people.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is one of the most recent ones and received a lot of attention, also thanks to the movie with Julia Roberts.

I liked A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass a lot.

And Rules by Cynthia Lord is one of my favourites.

But Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper wins the prize.
What a powerful story.
Written so perfectly.

Out of My Mind is written in the first person, which is a brave and bold move by this award winning author. Because Melody, the main character, has cerebral palsy. She cannot speak, her limbs move involuntarily, she drools and makes funny sounds. What no one realizes is that Melody’s brain works perfectly. She remembers facts, she gets match, she can spell like the best of them but she cannot let anyone know. Imagine the words and thoughts all stuck inside your brain and no way to let them out… Thanks to Draper's skillful writing, we are inside Melody’s head and feel her frustration.
Melody is mad and frustrated to no end. She ends up in a special class of kids who cannot learn.
Eventually, however, classroom integration allows her to be in a class with “normal” kids and learn more. It isn’t until a new computer allows her to communicate, much like Stephen Hawkins, that her family and friends realize her potential. But even when they do, Melody faces obstacles that make life more difficult for her than for most people. With her strong determination, she overcomes it all.
This book is a must-read for all booklovers, but a special eye opener for all those (educators) who work with children who have physical challenges.

ISBN 141697170X (ISBN13: 9781416971702)

Flat Stanley Inspired Travels

Do you know the Flat Stanley books?

These fictional books are fun stories about Stanley, who was a regular boy until he got flattened by a bulletin board that fell on his bed. Since then he’s had amazing adventures because he fits under doors and through mail slots.

My dream is for my grandsons to be able to travel, albeit it not in a flattened state. I’d love it if, one day, they can come along on some of my travels to schools around the world. I would dearly love to show them Hong Kong, have them meet kids in Cambodia or see life in Dubai. One day I hope I can realize this dream. But for now, I decided to take two flat grandchildren with me on my latest trip.

The boys each coloured a ‘flat Nico’ and a ‘flat Aidan’, giving them the clothes they were wearing that day, as well as an attractive hairdo.
The two flat boys were tucked neatly in our daypack and they came along on the airplane!

They made new friends in a school in Cambodia and visited one of the most amazing sites in the world: the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Flat Aidan and Flat Nico made a trip on a wooden boat on the Mekong river but mostly they loved the white sand beach of Koh Rong in southern Cambodia.

Then the flat boys visited Hong Kong - they saw skyscrapers and a metropolis of apartment buildings and green hill sides. They saw the Star Ferry and bowls of rice with chicken.

Peace is achieved when people make friends, when cultures understand and respect each other. My dream is to help my grandsons make friends around the world. I can’t wait for that to happen. 

Fun Books for (grown-up) Reading

Usually I share children's books with you here.
This time, I'd like to bring your attention to some books that I have really enjoyed reading for myself. If you are looking for fun reads during spring break or for summer holidays, you might want to try these. If, like me, you not only like reading but traveling as well, you'll really enjoy these (true!) stories.

Two Old Fools series by Victoria Twead.
The first book in this series is called Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools. Victoria and her husband are British but tired of English rain and uncertain summers. They decide to make a major life style change by moving to Spain, where they buy a funky house in a small hillside village.
Throughout the series, you get to know all of the characters in the (real) village: the mayor who has the hots for Victoria, the shopkeeper who loves gossip, the old and the young Spanish people as well as the mules and dogs around the village.

The series is hilarious and as comfortable as a pair of summer sandals. In Two Old Fools on a Camel you go along with Joe and Victoria as they spend a year teaching abroad in Bahrain during a tumultuous time in the Middle East.
Eventually, in Two Old Fools in Turmoil, they move countries again and you will recognize your own travel experiences in her descriptions of lost luggage and paper trails.
All titles are available as e-books.
Check out:

I was also excited to come across books by Brigid Keenan.
Diplomatic Baggage, The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse is a pretty hilarious account of life as a diplomat's wife in various countries, including Kazakhstan.
Her follow-up title is Packing Up, Further Adventures of a Trailing Spouse. These are fun books about travel and new experiences in different countries, books that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The next book that was an eye opener for me. A woman, turn of the century, traveling alone into the Middle East. She became instrumental in the establishing of the borders of Syria. She was the female Lawrence of Arabia but likely more important to history. She advised Churchill on politics of the Middle East. I loved this book: Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert by Georgina Howell. Hope you will be fascinated with this true story also. Like many good books, it was made into a movie with Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell. But... the book is always better.

And, if you love books as much as I do, have you read The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer? Also an amazing true story of how caring historians and librarians saved important ancient Arabic scrolls and books from destruction by Al Qaeda. Learn how an underground network smuggled and moved these important documents throughout northwest Africa in hopes of saving them for future generations. A true, nail biting adventure.

Happy Reading!

Around The World - in 80 Children's Books

It took me almost a year to compile this list since I wanted to use many different countries, my favourite books, a combination of classics, brand-new titles and everything in between. But here, finally, is my 2018 gift to you: 80 books for children from and about countries around the world. 
I know there are many more amazing stories. But I hope these will jump start you and help in your library or classroom or home - wherever you are.

I have indicated whether they are picture books, novels, nonfiction or graphic novel.
Wishing much happiness in reading and sharing these books. I hope they will add to your virtual trip around the world and help to create awareness and understanding of other cultures.

Picture Books (PB), YA Novels (N) and Non-Fiction (NF), Graphic Novel (GN):

The Bread Winner, Deborah Ellis (N)

Chandra’s Secrets, Allan Stratton (N)

Out of the Box, Michelle Mulder (N)

Possum Magic (PB)
Outback Alphabet, Norah Countout (PB)

The Great Kapok Tree, Lynn Cherry (PB)
Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson (N)

Waiting For The Whales, Sheryl McFarlane (PB)
My Arctic 1, 2, 3, Michael Kusugak (PB)
The Freedom of Jenny, Julie Burtinshaw (N)
Counting on Hope, Sylvia Olsen (N)
Speaking Our Truth, Monique Gray-Smith (NF)

The Dreamer, Pam Munoz Ryan (PB)

The Empty Pot, Demi (PB)
Bejing Through Time, Richard Platt (NF)
Throw-away Daughter, Ting Xing Ye (N)

Cuba 15, Nancy Osa (N)

The Cay, Theodore Taylor (N)

Dominican Republic
Not A Chance, Michelle Mulder (N)

East Germany
The Wall, Peter Sís (PB)

Two Weeks With The Queen, Morris Gleitzman (N)
The London Jungle Book, Bhajju Shyam (NF)
Charles and Emma, The Darwin’s Leap of Faith, Deborah Heiligman (N)

The Mangrove Tree, Susan L. Roth (PB)

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (N)

One Hen, Katie Smith Milway (NF)

Adventures in Ancient Greece, Linda Bailey (PB)

Mission Mumbai, Mahtab Narsimhan (N)
Follow The Elephant, Beryl Young (N)
A Basket of Bangles, Ginger Howard (PB)
Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan (N)

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk, Gerald McDermott (PB)

Something From Nothing, Phoebe Gilman (PB)
The Magic Dreidels, Eric Kimmel (PB)

J Is For Jamaica, Benjamin Zephaniah (PB)

The Way We Do It In Japan, Geneva Cobb Iijima (PB)

14 Cows For America, Carmen Agra Deedy (NF)
Walking Home, Eric Walters (N)
Mama Miti, Donna Jo Napoli (PB)

The Royal Bee, Frances and Ginger Park (PB)
Bee-bim Bop!, Linda Sue Park (PB)

The Corn Grows Ripe, Dorothy Rhoads (N)

Mongolian Folktales, Dashdondog Jamba (N)

Mirror, Jeannie Baker (PB)

African Acrostics, Avis Harley and Deborah Noyes (PB)

Chicken in the Kitchen, Nnedi Okorafor

The Netherlands
Holland by Charlotte Dematons (PB)
Anne Franks Diary (N)

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai (NF)
Listen to the Wind, Greg Mortenson (PB)
The Best Eid Ever, Asma Mobin-Uddin (PB)

Habibi, Naomi Shihab Nye (N)
Lydia, Queen of Palestina, Uri Orlev (N)

Alphabet of Dreams, Susan Fletcher (N)
Shadow Spinner, Susan Fletcher (N)

Go And Come Back, Joan Abelove (N)

The Devil’s Arithmetic, Jane Yolen (N)

Anastastia’s Album, Hugh Brewster (PB)

Sierra Leone
The Bite of the Mango, Mariatu Kamara (N)

Solomon Islands
Jungle Islands, Maria Coffey (PB)

South Africa
Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson  (PB)

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Mary Williams  (PB)

Stepping Stones, Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr (PB)

Countdown, Ben Mikaelsen (N)
The Orphan Boy, Tololwa Mollel (PB)
The Banana-Leaf Ball, Katie Smith Milway (PB)

Tibet, Through The Red Box, Peter Sís (PB)

Dare to Disappoint, Ozge Samanci (GN)

Night John, Gary Paulsen (N)
Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse (N)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Alexis Sherman (N)
Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson (N)

Virgin Islands
Rata-Pata-Scata-Fata: A Caribbean Story, Phillis Gershator (PB)

Adrift At Sea, Marsha Skrypuch (NF)
One Step at a Time, Marsha Skrypuch (N)

The Elephant Keeper, Margriet Ruurs (NF)

My Favourite Global Books:

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart (PB)
What A Party!, Ana Maria Machado (PB)
People, Peter Spier (PB)
The World in Your Lunch Box, Claire Eamer (NF)

Books - Free Christmas Fun from your Local Library!

So what is it about some of these Christmas songs that we happily belt out each year?
While Thomas' Snowsuit (Robert Munsch) gets banned because the kid says no-no-no to his teacher, we keep cheering on those two-faced reindeer who exclude one of their own....
Why didn't Santa or Mrs. Claus call those reindeer on their behaviour when they didn't let poor Rudolph join in any of their games, just because he looked different?
And then, suddenly, when Santa finds a use for him, they all want to be friends. Well, I would have said 'tough gingerbread, where were you when I needed a friend?'

And that fun sleigh ride through the snow is debatable too, when you actually listen to the words:
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank,
And then we got upsot.

Oh, what fun... And what is 'upsot'anyway? Is it just 'upset' that didn't rhyme? Or some old word like 'hark'? I had to google that one. It means 'listen', as in 'hark, children!'

So, in this hap-happiest time of the year, when we're finally all gay, I'd recommend curling up with a well written book rather than a questionable song. Picture books, of course, are the best. Not just to read for yourself but to share with loved ones by the fire when you watch those chestnuts pop.

Why not make a trip to the library, just before it closes for Christmas - it's still the best free thing around - and check out these wonderful, timeless stories:

I Stood Upon A Mountain, Aileen Fisher, ISBN 0-690-03977-8
This gentle story puts to rest the debate of where we all came from. Creation? Explosion? It incorporates first nations ideas and other explanations of life on earth in a beautiful, simple and totally acceptable manner.

Another simple, timeless story is The Christmas Book by Dick Bruna, ISBN 0-416-24170-0. Likely it is out of print but try to find one in the library. We all know Bruna from the Miffy books. His Christmas story is plain and simple: a star, some shepards, a manger, a mother, a baby. The essence of a birth in Bethlehem.

The Christmas Candle, Richard Paul Evans, ISBN 0-439-15837-0, with unbelievably beautiful paintings by Jacob Collins. This story reads like an old folk tale. It is about the magic of seeing every day things in a new light, enriching not only the lives of those around you, but your own at the same time.

Island Santa, Sheryl McFarlane, Sheena Lott, ISBN 9-780988-053601 is a beautiful story based on the real Santa Ship that visits the Gulf Islands in BC where I live. McFarlane combined this with the real story of Jeneece Edroff who fundraised to make a home for families of sick children a reality near Victoria's General Hospital. 
Check out: https://islandkidsfirst.com/jeneece-place/

When Santa Was a Baby, Linda Bailey, ISBN 978-1770495562
What kind of baby was Santa? And what was he like as a child and a teenager? In this story it becomes clear that Santa knew his own mind from a very young age. From his fondness for the colour red, to his interest in chimneys, to his habit of giving his toys away . . . Santa was unusual right from the start. Luckily he had doting parents who supported him through every eccentricity, whether they understood or not. A warm, funny story about an odd boy who succeeds. 

Thank You, Santa by Margaret Wild, ISBN 0-590-45806-X
A correspondence between Samantha and Santa, throughout the year. Santa is thrilled when someone actually writes him a thank you card after Christmas, rather than just always letters of what everyone wants before Christmas. A nice twist.

And finally The True Story of Santa Claus, by Eric Walters and his daughter Christina, ISBN 1-894601-11-4 This is the account of how Mrs. Claus is the real hero behind all the hard work at the North Pole. While her husband gained weight and was down to one day per year of work, it was her slaving away making toys and meals, that kept the whole Santa thing going. A fun read for the whole family, especially exhausted moms.

Happy reading this Christmas season!

The Elephant Keeper

I am happy to share a new book with you that has been long in the making.

In 2014 I was lucky enough to travel to Zambia. There, I visited an elephant orphanage and learned much about how hard people work to help save an endangered species.

Elephants are in danger of illegal poaching. Because there are still countries in the world where people wants trinkets made from ivory, there are still poachers willing to kill these majestic animals.
When a mother elephant is killed, usually for her tusks, her baby elephant is left to die. Without her nursing and nurturing, the infant is not able to care for itself yet. In Zambia, Game Rangers International has trained staff that will rescue and transport the baby elephant.

The staff at Lilayi Elephant Orphanage have developed a milk formula and other pertinent care that gives the orphaned elephant a fighting chance.

Zambezi came to the orphanage at a young age after he was founded nearly drowning in a resort's pool near the Zambezi River in southern Zambia.

Aaron is the caretaker who was offered a job after rescuing Zambezi. To him, elephants had been the enemy that destroys crops in his village. But Aaron learned to care for elephants, to respect and to love them. Now he is a valuable caretaker who spends most of his waking hours with his little charges.

The elephants live in the protected forest and compound near Lusaka, until they are old enough to be released into the wild. They learn to forage and to act as elephants and form new family bonds with other orphaned elephants. They will live out their lives in the protected woods of
 Kafue National Park.

Find out how you can help - not only by making sure you never buy anything made from ivory, but also by "adopting" a baby elephant. The $65.- US will pay for the elephant' food, milk, medicine and upkeep. What better gift for a child's birthday or a friend's Christmas gift than a baby elephant! You will receive photos and regular email updates!

KIDS CAN PRESS/Citizen Kid Series

978-1-77138-561-9 | Oct 3, 2017
List Price: USD $18.99, CAD $19.99
4-color  8 x 10 48 pages
Grades: 3 To 7 / Ages: 8 to 12

“A moving and unforgettable true story ...”
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review, August 2017
“... Ruurs's narrative builds a strong emotional connection between readers and the subject---this is a tale designed to pull at the heartstrings of readers.”
— School Library Journal, September 2017

150 Canadian Books for Children

July 1, 2017.
Canada Day. 
150 years. My Canada Birthday gift to you is this list of Canadian books for children.
It is not a scientific collection. These are simply books about Canada or great
books by Canadian creators, books that I have enjoyed, that stayed with me.
mostly chose them for their ‘wow factor’. It would have been easier if I had not
limited the number of books by the same author. 
I included classics as well as brand new releases, picturebooks, novels etc. 
I wanted this to be truly Canadian books so I didn’t include favorites titles like The
Totem Tale because it is American. I didn’t use such Canadian icons as Love You
Forever by Robert Munsch but did include a book called With A Silent
Companion which is a fascinating Canadian story. These are all simply books
that I have loved. I’m sure there are many more but I haven’t read them yet…
Hope you will find a local bookstore or library near you to check out these books.
If all else fails, order them from www.betterworldbooks.com

Happy Birthday, Canada. And Happy Reading! 

A Canadian Wildlife Poem, Max Elliott
A Day of Signs and Wonders, Kit Pearson
A Dog Came, Too, Ainslie Manson
A Family is A Family is A Family, Sara O’Leary
A Harbour Seal in Halifax, Doretta Groenendijk
A Mountain Alphabet, Margriet Ruurs & Andrew Kiss
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, Helaine Becker
A Prairie Alphabet, Jo Bannantyne & Yvette Moore
A Salmon for Simon, Betty Waterton
A Thousand Shades of Blue, Robin Stevenson
A Tree in a Forest, Jan Thornhill
ABC of Canada, Kim Bellefontaine & Per-Henrik Gürth
Adrift At Sea, Marsha Skrypuch
Alice, I Think, Susan Juby
Amos’ Sweater, Janet Lunn
Ankylosaur Attack, Daniel Loxton
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
Aska’s Animals, Warabé Aska and David Day
Baby Beluga, Raffi
Bagels from Benny, Aubrey Davis
Belle of Batoche, Jacqueline Guest
Beneath Raven Moon, David Bouchard
Birdfeeder Banquet, Michael Marchenko
Boy Soup, Loris Lesynski
Canada Votes: How We Elect Our Government, Linda Granfield & Craig Terlson
Canadian Mysteries Series, Eric Wilson
Carson Crosses Canada, Linda Bailey & Kass Reich
Charlie: A Home Child's Life in Canada, Beryl Young
Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land, Susan Hughes
Counting on Hope, Sylvia Olsen
Dear Canada: A Time for Giving: Ten Tales of Christmas, Jean Little & Sarah Ellis
Death Benefits, Sarah Harvey
Deep Roots, Nikki Tate
Dream Boats, Dan Bar-el & Kirsti Anne Wakelin
Every Last Drop, Michelle Mulder
Everything on A Waffle, Polly Horvath
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, Lindsay Mattick
Fishing with Grandma, Susan Avingaq
Follow the Elephant, Beryl Young
Franklin the Turtle, Paulette Bourgeois
French Toast, Kari-Lynn Winters
From Far and Wide, Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet
From Far Away, Robert Munsch
Garbage Delight, Dennis Lee
Gifts, Jo Ellen Bogart & Barbara Reid
Going for a Sea Bath, Andrée Poulin
Gubby Builds A Boat, Gary Kent & Kim La Fave
Hanna’s Suitcase, Karen Levine
Hannah and the Salish Sea, Carol Anne Shaw
Hello Humpback, Roy Henry Vickers
How Smudge Came, Nan Gregory
I Am Canada, illustrated by Barbara Reid
I Live in the North, Margriet Ruurs
I’ll Be Watching, Pamela Porter
If The World Were A Village, David Smith
Imagine A World, Rob Gonsalves
In Flanders Fields, Linda Granfield
Jeremiah Learns to Read, Jo Ellen Bogart
Let’s Play A Hockey Game, Kari-Lynn Winters
Log Jam, Monica Hughes
Loonies and Twoonies: A Canadian Number Book, Mike Ulmer & Melanie Rose
Maggie’s Chopsticks, Alan Woo
Maps and Mapping for Canadian Kids, Laura Peetoom
Mary Ann Alice, Brian Doyle
Mary of Mile 18, Ann Blades
Missing Nimâmâ, Melanie Florence
Mister Got to Go, Lois Simmie & Cyntia Nugent
Moon At Nine, Deborah Ellis
My Arctic 1, 2, 3, Michael Kusugak & Vladyana Krykora
No Fixed Address, Maureen Bayless
No More Dead Dogs, Gordon Korman
No Safe Harbour, Julie Lawson
No Signature, William Bell
No Two Snowflakes, Sheree Fitch & Janet Wilson
North West Passage, Stan Rogers
Northern Exposures, Eric Walters
Now You Know Canada, Doug Lennox
Nowhere Else on Earth, Caitlyn Vernon
O Canada, Per-Henrik Gurth
O Canada, Ted Harrison
Oma’s Quilt, Paulette Bourgeois
Once Upon A Golden Apple, Maggie deVries, Jean Little & Phoebe Gilman
Once Upon A Northern Night, Jean Pendziwol & Isabelle Arsenault
One Hen, Katie Smith Milway
One is Canada, Maxine Trottier
Our Flag: The Story of Canada's Maple Leaf, Ann-Maureen Owens, Jane Yealland
Pick-Up Sticks, Sarah Ellis
Pier 21, Anne Renaud
Pippin the Christmas Pig, Jean Little
Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper, Tololwa Mollel & Barbara Spurll
Roses for Gita, Rachna Gilmore
Salmon Forest, Sarah Ellis & David Suzuki
Saskatchewan, Gillian Richardson
Sea Otter Pup, Victoria Miles
Sea Stars: Salt Water Poems, Avis Harley
Secret of the Dance, Andrea Spalding, Alfred Scow & Darlene Gait
Seeking Refuge, Irene Watts
Selina and the Bearpaw Quilt, Barbara Smucker & Janet Wilson
Silverwing, Kenneth Oppel
Siwiti, A Whale’s Story, Alexandra Morton
Sleeping Dragons All Around, Sheree Fitch
Snow Day, Werner Zimmerman
Sockey Salmon Odyssey, Brenda Guiled
Something From Nothing, Phoebe Gilman
Sophie Sea to Sea, Norma Charles
Stella, Queen of Snow, Marie Louise Gay
Stolen Words, Melanie Florence and Gabrielle Grimard
Stories of the Aurora, Joan Marie Galat
Surviving Sam, Karen Rivers
Thank You, Canada, Andrea Lynn Beck
The Artist and Me, Shane Peacock
The Best Goalie Ever, Gilles Tibo
The Bite of the Mango, Mariatu Kamara
The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis
The Darkest Dark, Chris Hadfield & Kate Fillion
The Doll, Cora Taylor
The Fabulous Song, Don Gilmore
The Freedom of Jenny, Julie Burtinshaw
The Girl Who Hates Books, Manjusha Pawagi
The Girl Who Writes, Richard Cole & Jane Watt
The Hockey Sweater, Roch Carrier
The Inuksuk Book, Mary Wallace
The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration, Ann-Maureen Owens & Jane Yealland
The Kids Book of Canadian Geography, Briony Penn
The Kids Book of Canadian Immigration, Deborah Hodge & John Mantha
The Little Crooked Christmas Tree, Michael Cutting; Ron Broda
The Loon’s Necklace, Elizabeth Cleaver
The Man With the Violin, Kathy Stinson
The Middle of Everywhere, Monique Polak
The Moccasin Goalie, William Roy Brownridge
The Orphan Boy, Paul Morin
The Paperbag Princess, Robert Munsch    
The Polar Bear’s Gift, Jeanne Bushey
The Root Cellar, Janet Lunn
The Secret of the Dance, Andrea Spalding
The Story of Canada, Janet Lunn
The World in Your Lunch Box, Claire Eamer
This Land, Kit Pearson
Underground to Canada, Barbara Smucker
Waiting for the Whales, Sheryl McFarlane & Ron Lightburn
Waves in the Bathtub, Eugenie Fernandes
West Coast Wild, Deborah Hodge; Karen Reczuch
What’s That Noise?, Michele Lemieux
Who Has Seen The Wind?, W.O. Mitchell
Wild Bog Tea, Annette LeBox
Witch’s Fang, Heather Kellerhals-Stewart
With A Silent Companion,Florida Ann Town
Word Nerd, Susin Nielsen
Wow Canada, Vivien Bowers & Dan Hobbs
You Are Stardust, Elin Kelsey

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