A reader’s journey

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The first book I remember reading is Treasure Island  by R. L. Stevenson.  I remember the weight of that old hardcover copy on my hands, the musty smell of its pages,and the old style illustrations at the beginning of every chapter. If I close my eyes now, I can almost hear that old sea-song

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest -

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum

and I can feel the Hisponiola dancing to the waves underneath my feet and there is the island with its promise of treasure and the click-clack of John Silver’s crutch and his parrot Cap’n Flint screaming “Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!” over and over again. When I turned the last page of that book, I was a different person than when I started it. From that moment on, stories were what I lived for. I heard them in songs, saw them in pictures and paintings. I read them and lived them in movies and books.

Books have been my constant companions ever since that moment. If I need a pick me up I would grab a Nick Hornby book, or Christopher Moore, or John Green. If I need an adventure Jim Butcher, Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, and George R. Martin are my choice. Most of the most important things I learned in life, I learned them reading fiction. Empathy, temperance, patience, endurance, all of them I found while reading a good novel. Each book is a universe in which you follow imperfect beings trying to navigate imperfect worlds, just like us. We see them go trough pain and happiness and deal with situations that while might not be exactly what we are living through, there are situations that we can relate to.

When I read The Never Ending Story, I was going through a very awkward pre-teen stage, and that book helped me handle that stage. I completely identified with Sebastian. He was chubby, awkward and constantly bullied. He loved to read. One day he steals a mysterious book, and then he gets transported into the book. Throughout the story Sebastian becomes powerful and handsome, but also petty, vain and somewhat of bully himself. It’s only after he recognizes his own shortcoming and limitations that he becomes a hero. I read that book so many times that I had to tape the spine so the pages wouldn’t keep falling. That book taught me to look at myself and others as they are, the good parts and parts. It taught I would probably never be Atreyu, brave, honest and good to the core, but that that doesn’t mean that I can’t be good or contribute to the world. People are not perfect, and that’s alright: that’s what I learned from reading The Never Ending Story.

Books, I think, in a weird way are living things. They exist well beyond the letters on a collection of pages. They evolve. They awake something inside each reader, and they resonate in our lives in unexpected ways.

Of Sharing, Friendship and Compromise: An Annotated Bibliography of Picture Books (part 3)

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Scotton,Rob. (2011). Splish, Splash, Splat!. New York: Harper Collins.

Splish, Splash, Splat!Splish, Splash, Splat! by Rob Scotton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Splat doesn’t like Spike—he eats all his candy fish and plays with his toys until they break—and he also doesn’t like water—it’s scary, wet and makes him soggy. Splat is not happy when he has to have a play date with Spike and learn to swim on the same day. However, things turns out to the better when Splat and Spike bond over their fear of water and learn to get over it together and eventually become friends. The illustrations are made in mixed media. They are quirky and fun and match the humour of the story perfectly. Scotton uses frames in a very interesting way. Images would sometimes have very strong frames in a black line and a detailed background inside the frame, but part of the image would always seem to escape outside the frame: a tail, a pawn, a leg, a nose, a candy fish. It breaks the clear, clean, strong frame in a playful way that adds and matches the story. Other images have no frames at all and little to no background. These sometimes were combined in the same page to convey animation or sudden action, almost like panels in a comic without the frames. Other times, he would use bleed for dramatic effect on the more dynamic images. This is a great book for talking about tolerance and not judging a person too quickly.

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Stead, Philip C. (2010). A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

A Sick Day for Amos McGeeA Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful story of reciprocity and friendship. Every morning Amos McGee goes to his work as caretaker of the zoo and does something special with each of his animal friends until one day he gets sick and cannot go to work. His animal friends then decide to go to him and take care of him. The illustrations are made using woodblock printing and pencils. This combination of techniques gives the book a very particular and unique look. Woodblocks are used to give colour and texture to part of the images while lines are added for the background and over some of the coloured areas for definition. Colour is used sporadically. In fact, in most images there are only some objects that are coloured while the main characters are always coloured in. This technique helps not only in giving salience to the characters, but by also having some objects have colour, it also create balance to avoid overwhelming the compositions. This book is great for talking about reciprocity and how friends help each other.

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Willis , Jeanne. (2011). Mole’s Sunrise. Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies. London: Walker Books. 

Mole's SunriseMole’s Sunrise by Jeanne Willis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lovely, touching story of a mole who wants to see the sunrise, and the friends that make it happen. His friends—the mouse, the hare, the squirrel and the sparrow—take the mole to the lake where they describe the sunrise as flavours and textures so the mole can experience it. The book is beautifully illustrated by Fox-Davies. The use of soft colours and delicate lines give the illustrations an almost misty and blurry quality that matches the feel of a sunrise. The lines in the composition of the images are mostly horizontal and some vertical giving little to no tension and creating a soft sequence to the narrative of the story. The mole is the only character with a darker hue, almost black, and a small white vest that gives him just enough contrast to have salience in each spread, but not enough to be disruptive to the softness and delicacy that characterizes the entire book. It’s a great book to use to teach about the different senses and the value of friendship.

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Wortche, Allison. (2011). Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Rosie Sprout's Time to ShineRosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone in school agrees that Violet—the fastest, the loudest and the fanciest—is the best at everything. Except Rosie—who isn’t fast, or loud, or fancy. When they have to grow their own peas for class and Violet’s pea is looking to be the biggest, Rosie pushes soil on top of Violet’s pea. Afterwards, Rosie feels guilty and takes care of plants, as Violet is sick at home, and they end up being the tallest in the class. Rosie finally gets recognition for being the best gardener in the class. The lovely illustrations were created using pencil sketches painted digitally. The very realistic style and the eloquent facial expressions and body language give a dynamic feel to the book. Violet, in particular, is always depicted in stronger colours and in constant movement with vivid facial expressions. Rosie, on the other hand, is depicted in softer colours, her facial expressions more constrained, her body language illustrated with less diagonal lines. This book could be used to talk about doing the right thing, the desire to be noticed, and how to deal with difficult situations when one is not the loudest of the group.

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Zullo, Germano. (2012). Little Bird. Illustrated by Albertine. New York: Enchanted Books. 

Little BirdLittle Bird by Germano Zullo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an almost wordless book where the image carries the story and the interpretation of the text. The illustrations are made in mixed media and consist of mainly of full colour and unadorned backgrounds. This lends the book quiet, whimsical look that complements the original story. A white all around frame is used in all spreads with the text appearing in black at the bottom in the right half of the spread. A man drives his truck up to a cliff’s edge and there he opens the back door of his truck and a flock of birds flies out. Only one tiny bird remains seemly afraid to fly, so the man shares his sandwich with the bird and tries to show the bird how to fly. After a while, the bird flies off but then comes back with the entire flock, and they all take the man flying. The man eventually learns to fly and takes the bird flying on his head. This book could be used for talking about generosity, reciprocity and imagination.

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Of Sharing, Friendship and Compromise: An Annotated Bibliography of Picture Books (part 2)

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Donaldson, Julia. (2001). Room on the Broom. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. London: Macmillan Children’s Books.

Room on the BroomRoom on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A witch flies on her broomstick with her cat until her hat flies away. She stops to find it, and a dog brings it to her. The dog asks if there is room on her broom for him and the witch says yes. This continues to happen with different objects falling and her collecting new passengers including a bird, and a frog. Then she falls from the broom and is captured by a dragon, but her new friends rescue her. The vibrant colours used in the illustrations accompany the text brilliantly. Scheffler is particular good at making things that are not cute or sweet like a witch or a Gruffalo, quirky and funny. The backgrounds are detailed and coloured in strong and vibrant colours also. There are no complete two pages spread illustrations as the text is always located on a white background that usually takes half a page and it’s broken down by small images. This book can be used as a read out loud as the rhythmic repetition in the text allows for it, and it can also be used to discuss how friends help each other.

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Horáček , Petr. (2012). Jonathan and Martha. New York: Phaidon Press.

Jonathan and MarthaJonathan and Martha by Petr Horáček

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two lonely worms, Jonathan and Martha, meet over a big, juicy pear. When they become entangled together fighting over it, they have no choice but to share everything and work together. Until a bird ate their tails and they were separate again; however, they wanted to stay together and share. The illustrations are made in mixed media that incorporates collage in a style reminiscent to Eric Carle’s. The book also has an interesting design. Halfway through the book when the worms start to share things, flaps and holes are used to enhance the story. A complete watermelon becomes a half eaten one at the turn of a half-page sized flap. Two holes in a page become the hiding holes of the worms while in another they become holes in a pear and then holes that frame their faces in their wedding cake. The wedding cake is turned into a half eaten cake at the turn of another half-page sized flap. The story could have been told without this extra book design; however, the flaps and page holes do add an interesting feature to the book. Could be used to teach and talk about sharing and as good read out loud for children three and up.

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MacDonald, Amy. (1990). Little Beaver and the Echo. Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies. London: Walter Books.

Little Beaver and the EchoLittle Beaver and the Echo by Amy MacDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very gentle friendship story. Beaver was so very lonely that one day he started crying until he could hear someone else crying across the pond. Beaver decides to search for the one that was crying to be his friend. On the way he makes new friends and later finds out that who was crying at the beginning was his echo and to make him happy all he had to do is be happy himself. The illustrations are made in soft watercolours. Little to no lines or edges are used throughout the images which allows for a more softer feel to the images and story. The detailed backgrounds of the forest and pond delicately disappear around the edges of the left side of the spreads where the text is. The drawings and depictions of the animals are very realistic and very detailed, but they still show sufficient facial expression and body language to be relatable and be able to discern different personalities. This book could be used to discuss isolation and loneliness in particular in situations where children are new to a place and still do not anyone in the new place.

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Pinkwater, Daniel. (2012). Bear in love. Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Bear in LoveBear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely story of how Bear and Bunny became friends. One morning Bear found a carrot just outside his cave, and happy with the new flavor he started singing. The next morning he found two other carrots and so for; then he started leaving his own favorite foods for his mysterious good friend. When they finally meet face to face, Bear and Bunny thank each other for the gifts and become friends. The illustrations are made in mixed media. The colour palette is mostly in light blues, greens and greys with soft touches of reds and oranges. This colour selection in combination with the light lines used for the backgrounds gives the book a very soft and sweet look that match this gentle story of friendship. All but three spreads show only Bear; consequently, Bear is developed through body language and expressions throughout the book. However, Bunny’s character is developed through his gifts. The reader knows or strongly suspects that the invisible character is a bunny because the first couple of gifts are carrots, but the reader is not really sure until Bunny appears at last hidden behind some bushes on the left side of the third to last spread. This book makes a good read out loud as there are also various songs to sing for children three and up.

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Rosenthal, Amy K. (2012). Chopsticks. Illustrated by Scott Magoon. New York: Disney-Hyperion Books.

ChopsticksChopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chopsticks are best friends that do everything together. Until one day one Chopstick broke a point and had to rest to recover. While one recovers the other stays with him until the one that is hurt encourages the other to get out and do things by himself. At the beginning he doesn’t know what to do, but eventually he learns new things to do by himself. When the other recovers they learn that they can now do and share so much more. The art for this was created digitally and uses little to no backgrounds. Maggon uses depiction of different actions by the same characters on the same page or spread to denote the pass of time. When one chopstick is resting and the other stays with him day and night, the spread is divided into seven sections of different solid colour background and little change on their action and location giving the idea of a long pass of time. On the other side, when one chopstick, now by himself and learning new things, is depicted doing different things throughout the spread it gives the illusion of a more dynamic pass of time. This is a great book that can be used to teach about companionship and self-reliance.

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Of Sharing, Friendship and Compromise: An Annotated Bibliography of Picture Books (part 1)

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Baek, Matthew J. (2009). Panda and Polar Bear. Toronto: Penguin Group.

Panda and Polar Bear

Panda and Polar Bear by Matthew Baek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One day a small polar bear falls from his snowy cliff into a patch of mud and ends up looking like a panda. A small panda finds the polar bear and confuses him for a panda. They become fast friends in spite of their differences and learn from each other. Eventually, they make a bamboo ladder so the polar bear can go back home, and in the end they decide to spend time together in both worlds as they are neighbors in a zoo. The illustrations are made in lovely watercolours. The division between the two worlds is made not by hard lines or strong frames but by using two main palettes of colours are used: blues and whites for the polar bear habitat, and greens and browns for panda’s. To increase the idea of how similar two different people can be, both bears are the same size and completely identical except for their distinctive colours. This book could be used to talk about different people can still be friends and learn from each other. It can also be used to discuss multicultural differences and how there can be a middle ground and how space can be shared as we are not so different after all.

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Becker, Bonny. (2008). A Visitor for Bear. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 

A Visitor for BearA Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Funny and touching story about a grumpy bear who is convinced he doesn’t like visitors or need company until a very insistent mouse knocks on his door. At first Bear just wants to get rid of Mouse and tries to lock him out, but Mouse always finds a new way back in. Eventually Bear comes to accept and want Mouse’s company as he opens up to idea of having visitors and they become friends. The illustrations are a lovely mix of ink, watercolour and gouche that capture all the humour and charm of the story. The body language and the face expressions depicted in Bear and Mouse convey and impressive range of emotion. The movement of the characters are small and subtle and convey the right amount of charm, humour and whimsy. The light and softly bright colours used in combination with the backgrounds that start detail and disappear in the white background of the page with organic borders and very informal and subtle frames, give the story a whimsical and sweet look. This book makes a fantastic read out loud and has the feel of a classic. It can be used to talk about isolation and how opening up to the right people can be very constructive.

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Bender, Rebecca. (2010). Giraffe and Bird. Toronto: Dancing Cat Books. 

Giraffe and BirdGiraffe and Bird by Rebecca Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Giraffe can’t stand Bird, and Bird can’t stand Giraffe. They are too different. They spend the time teasing and taunting each other to the point that each goes away in a huff. However, after during a terrible storm, they realize they miss each other and learn to appreciate their differences. The acrylic illustrations, done in vibrant colours on texturized illustration board, match the text perfectly. The use of visual onomatopoeia, sequential imagery, the bright colours and other comic conventions give the book a comic book feel. In particular, there is one spread in which Bender uses panels to tell the sequence of actions that occur. This technique gives the action a more dynamic feel and a comic relief. The bright colours used not only for the characters but also for the solid backgrounds give particularly vibrancy to the look of the story and helps to make it more visible if used as a show and read out loud book. Furthermore, the facial expressions of the characters are very expressive and remarkably powerful in their weight of carrying the humour of the story. This is a good book to use to introduce talk about differences and how to appreciate people regardless of them.

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Bonwill, Ann. (2012). I don’t want to be a pea! The Story of Hugo and Bella. Illustrated by Simon Rickerty. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

I Don't Want to Be a Pea!I Don’t Want to Be a Pea! by Ann Bonwill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hugo is Bella’s hippo and Bella is Hugo’s bird, and they are going to the Fairytale Dress Party. However, they cannot agree on what to dress like. Hippo wants to be the princess, but Bella doesn’t want to be a pea. She wants to be a mermaid and Hugo can be her rock, but Hugo doesn’t want to be a rock. They fight, but eventually agree to be two peas in a pod. The illustrations are in mixed media with the characters having babyish proportions. Both characters are in almost every page, except in three spreads. When they fight there are two spreads that deal with one character each. The middle spread of the book actually has no characters at all only dialogue. However, the characters are still represented by a visual synecdoche. Half of the spread has a white background covered on orange paint paw prints from Hugo while the other half is an orange spill of paint with white prints of Bella’s feet. This is a great book that can be used to teach about compromise, and it can make a great read out loud.

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Côté, Geneviève. (2011). Without You. Toronto: Kids Can Press.

Without YouWithout You by Geneviève Côté

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bunny and Pig, two very different friends, have a falling out and decide to explore the things that they can do by themselves. Eventually, they decide that the things they like to do are better when they are shared between them. The illustrations are made in mixed media. The proportion of Bunny and Pig are babyish like, making the characters extremely cute. Also, in every spread and pages but the last one Bunny is always on the left side and Pig on the right. The only background used in the illustrations is little of grass and some objects; this gives the illusion that every image is a spread. However, when they are fighting and decide to go their separate ways, the grasses of both pages do not connect to each other creating a subtle frame and division that is gradually reduced in each subsequent page. By the fourth activity they are doing separately, the grass joins in the gutter showing that they are actually sharing the same space and are close together. From then on every image is a spread shared by both characters in their respective side of the spreads. The last page show them sharing the same page and touching. This book can be used to discuss how sometimes is hard to be friends and how in the end everything is better when shared with the right person.

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Summer Reads

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Reading a book at the beach by Simon Cocks.

Reading a book at the beach by Simon Cocks. Creative Commons. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/simon_cocks/4867695239/

 

My guess is that if you are on summer holidays, and you are just about tired of running around screaming “SUMMER IS HERE!!!” and ready to curl up with a fun and nice book and an icecup. I know I am. So here it is: the ultimate summer reading list for your enjoyment.

Cue in the drum roll

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What is Steampunk?

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First of all, I apologize for being away for so long. School took much more of my time than I thought it would. Oops. Oh, well, back to business. Let’s talk about Steampunk and how cool it is. I stumbled upon it when I picked up this book that had such a great cover: Richard Harland’s Worldshaker. It not has become one of my twenty most favourite books of all time (twenty because I’m such a Jim Butcher fan and his books take the first nineteen of those twenty places, but more on that later). This book opened a door to a entire new genre for me.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Age: 14+

Recommended? Definitely, yes!!

 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl… Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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