Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Off To Class by Susan Hughes

When North American kids picture a school, odds are they see rows of desks, stacks of textbooks, and linoleum-tiled hallways. They probably don't picture boats, tents, or train platforms -- but there are schools on boats, and in tents, and on train platforms. There are green schools, mobile schools, and even tree house schools. There's a whole world of unusual schools out there! But the most amazing thing about these schools isn't their location or what they look like. It's that they provide a place for students who face some of the toughest environmental and cultural challenges, and live some of the most unique lifestyles, to learn. Education is not readily available for kids everywhere, and many communities are strapped for the resources that would make it easier for kids to go to school. In short, it's not always easy getting kids off to class -- but people around the world are finding creative ways to do it. In Off to Class, readers will travel to India, Burkina Faso, and Brazil; to Russia, China, Uganda, and a dozen other countries, to visit some of these incredible schools, and, through personal interviews conducted by author Susan Hughes, meet the students who attend them, too. And their stories aren't just inspiring; they'll also get you to think about school and the world in a whole new way.
Most children have gone to school traditional schools with classrooms and teachers, sitting in desks, working with textbooks and notebooks, and watching the clock on the wall for recess time. Being told you can't go to school because your parents can't afford it, or because you are a girl, or because it would take half a day to walk there would seem crazy to them. But what if you lived miles and miles away and had not bus or car to get you to school? What of your family needed you to work close to home in order to earn food for that night's dinner? What if hurricanes or floods destroyed your city and there was no school to go to? How would you learn? Who would teach you? This book shows how a school is possible, anywhere, for anyone, with dedication and an innovative mind.

While the schools are creative, unique and often amazing, it is the value of education that kids will learn about, not from their parents or teacher's lectures, but from other children who wan to go to school, dream of it and often started with little hope for the possibility of going to school. Created and founded by individuals who saw a need, most of these schools blend the needs and viewpoints of the region with a practicality and can-do attitude to make classrooms available for all.

Featuring unusual schools from around the world - from boats that are both school bus and classroom to a teacher holding class on a subway platform or in the streets where children fight to survive - Off To Class demonstrates how small groups, and often times individuals, have found ways to bring schools and learning to children who thought they could never afford or be allowed to learn. One school travels with the nomadic herders so that they don't have to leave their families for months, thus preserving their indigenous culture while incorporating modern technologies. Another is deep in the Amazon, 40 hours by boat, that runs on solar energy.
One of the Tent Schools in Haiti after the earthquake destroyed over 1400 schools.
Besides offering educational classes, it provided a community where children could begin to heal from the devastation.

image: Kena Betncur/Reuters

Villagers in Dongzhong, China ran a school out of a cave when electricity
and supplies  were unavailable to the remote mountain village.

Image: China Daily Information Corp-CDIC

This telescoping cart allows street educators to bring a school to the street kids in Columbia.
Mobile schools like this are now in many countries.

Image: Mobile School VZW

The School-on-Wheels buses not only transport kids to school, they act as classrooms,
stopping at specific locations and times to offer classes each day.

Image: Vijay Gondi

Subways platforms in India are flooded with kids trying to survive by living, begging and selling to commuters.
One woman set up classes on the platform between the morning and lunchtime rush and even includes job training.

Image: Ruchika Social Service Organization

Simply put, I love this book! This surprises me because I picked it up expecting to skim through it.  Thirty minutes later I found myself  closing the back cover and wondering what I have done with my life and why I am not taking a class this semester. The ingenuity is wonderful.  No building, set up a desk under a tree!  Students can't get to the school?  Take the school to the students. These students and the stories of their schools reminded me how valuable learning is and how lucky I am to live in a place where we  have schools in every neighbourhood and every child has a seat in one.  
Images taken from Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Learning Skills: Self-Regulation

The Ontario Government has identified and targeted six key learning skills for student success. Libraries can help teachers and students to understand and develop these skills by providing picture books that model these behaviours and the issues surrounding them.

Learning Skills and Work Habits Sample Behaviours: Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, Self Regulation.

The student:
• sets own individual goals and monitors progress towards achieving them;
• seeks clarification or assistance when needed;
• assesses and reflects critically on own strengths, needs, and interests;
• identifies learning opportunities, choices, and strategies to meet personal needs and achieve goals;
• perseveres and makes an effort when responding to challenges.

Meet Howard B. Wigglebottom, a curious rabbit who just doesn't listen! Howard is always in trouble at school because he doesn’t listen even when told by his teacher during story time to stop bouncing around the room and sit down and be quiet. But Howard doesn’t listen. And because he doesn’t listen Howard was always in trouble. 

This book is about how a young girl gets very angry at her little sister. The author goes through her emotions as she is feeling them and describes them the way a child might feel them. Sophie who is very angry has to do special things to help her calm down like run, cry, and just be by herself. After she has done these things. She is able to calm down and go back home to her family.

Title Author
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? Carol McCloud
The Scared Gang  Eadaoin Bhreathnach
Words Are Not for Hurting  Elizabeth Verdick
Miss Nelson Is Missing!  Harry Allard
Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen Howard Bikow
First Day Jitters  Julie Danneberg
Time to Say "Please"!  Mo Willems
When Sophie gets angry--really, really angry Molly Bang
Control Theory and Systems Biology  Pablo A. Iglesias
Class Clown  Robert Munsch
Something Good  Robert Munsch
The Boy In The Drawer  Robert Munsch
My Bossy Dolly Steve Metzger

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux


Allison Hewitt and her five colleagues at the Brooks and Peabody Bookstore are trapped together when the zombie outbreak hits. Allison reaches out for help through her blog, writing on her laptop and utilizing the military's emergency wireless network (SNET). It may also be her only chance to reach her mother. But as the reality of their situation sinks in, Allison's blog becomes a harrowing account of her edge-of-the-seat adventures (with some witty sarcasm thrown in) as she and her companions fight their way through ravenous zombies and sometimes even more dangerous humans.  A great touch was the use of book titles for each chapter. It added a  it of literary flair to contrast the darkness of the events Allison writes about.
The tagline for the book is "One woman's story as she blogs - and fights back - the zombie apocalypse". And that is exactly what this book is ..a come ride along with Allison as she fights for survival and to maintain hope. Through her blog, the reader is able to to travel with Allison, experience the horror and hope right along side of her. Originally, this book was an experimental online blog.  You can read Allison's blog posts at

There's tension and horror and gore and jumpy moments. The monsters are not just the zombies, in fact they, while dangerous and scary, are what they are. It is the other humans that induce the greater fear. This story is told via Allison's Blog which she uses to document what is happening and communicate sporadically with other survivors. This format makes it feel current and urgent. I often hesitated at turning the page - I HAD to know what would happen but also had that feeling of "don't-go-down-into-the-basement!" Plus she's trapped in the back of a bookstore but can't get to the books. That's horror right there! Readers follow Allison and her group as they fight to survive zombies, food shortages, illness and the danger of needing to trust other people. (Any fan of the Walking Dead TV series will probably like this series. It reads very much like the show version, but with a touch of humour)

If you like this one, try the sequel: Sadie Walker is Stranded
Sadie Walker is one of the survivors in this new world. Living in north Seattle behind barrier that keep the living in and the dead out, she trying to get back to a normal life, while raising her eight-year-old nephew, if anyone even knows what "normal" is anymore. Then everything goes sideways when Shane is kidnapped by a group of black market thieves and they bring down a crucial barrier in the city while trying to escape, and flood the city with the walking dead. After rescuing her nephew, Sadie and Shane escape Seattle on the last remaining boat, along with other survivors. However, now they must face the complete chaos of a world filled with flesh eating zombies and humans who are playing with a whole new rule book when it comes to survival in their journey to find a new place that they can call home.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse

Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.

With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.

Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man. Drawing on his great-grandfather’s mystical gift of vision, Saul Indian Horse comes to recognize the influence of everyday magic on his own life. 

This book sat on my coffee table for quite a few weeks before I actually picked it up and read it. When I did start reading it, the opening chapters didn't really grab me and I expected Indian Horse to be a chore to read.

I have read articles and seen news programs and possibly even a full documentary on residential schools and what life was like from the personal experiences of those who attended. Aware of the tragedy, of the sadness and of the shame of collective Canadian society regarding these schools I was not looking forward to a book that would recount such experiences.

While subject matter in no way made this a happy book, I did enjoy reading it in an evening. I like the setup of the book with the short chapters and the flow of time in the storytelling. With the exception of the opening chapters describing Saul's parents and extended family I felt that the characters were well developed and I was able to make connections with them while reading.   Perhaps the feeling I got from the description of Saul's parents was actually more poignant because he was so young at that time that his recollections would not necessarily have allowed for a deeper description of them.  After the point of the story where Saul was taken to the residential school I found the book moved quickly and evenly.  I really enjoyed the descriptions of Saul playing hockey particularly when he first learned about hockey and was learning the game and discovering what it could mean for him. The way he had to fight for the chance to play, the  solitary work he did in order  to develop his skills and the opposition he faced in the arenas and on the ice summed up the story for me.  It was a perfect metaphor to demonstrate his life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Doodle for Google Canadian Competition

reposted from: VirtualMe at  Say What?!?

Doodle 4 Google is a national competition inviting students grades kindergarten to 12 in Canada to redesign the logo for our homepage!

The winning doodle will be featured on the Google Canada homepage for 24 hours. The winning student will also receive a $10,000 scholarship, a Google Chromebook, and a $10,000 grant to their current school along with a trip to Toronto to view a special exhibition of the top doodles at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2014.

Mommy's Different Faces by Barbara Patterson

"Children of parents with serious mental illness are often not noticed by the mental health system.  They are seen as bystanders, but they are directly affected by illness, never spared.  We need to provide outreach to these children so they know they are not at fault, so their burdens are shared, so they receive the growing up they deserve.  This book does it."

Mary Seeman  OC MDCM FRCPC DSc
Professor Emerita
Department of Psychiatry
University of Toronto

Written for children who have a parent with a mental health issue, this book explores some of the ways it can look to a child and some of the ways children cope.   Told from a little girl's view, the story does not preach or attempt to diagnose the parent's condition. Instead, the focus is on how the little girl feels when she sees her mommy's different faces: happy, sad, angry, empty.  The language is just right for young children and approaches the subjects of the parents emotions and changing moods and behaviours with a frank gentleness and focus on the child. The book recognizes that the children are directly affected by a parent's mental health.  Reading this book opens the door for honest discussions about a parent's issues and what that looks and feels like to a child everyday.  Guilt, fear and blame that the child may feel are discussed as well as how to talk about the illness and who the child can to go to for help and support.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yellow Line by Sylvia Olsen


Where I come from, kids are divided into two groups. White kids on one side, Indians, or First Nations, on the other. Sides of the room, sides of the field, the smoking pit, the hallway, the washrooms; you name it. We're on one side and they're on the other. They live on one side of the Forks River bridge, and we live on the other side. They hang out in their village, and we hang out in ours.

 For generations separation and suspicion have made the decisions for the polarized town.  Sherry, a white teen, and Steve, a native boy from the reserve, start seeing each other. Vince, the narrator of the novel, feels slighted because he and Sherry used to be close friends and now he has to face his feelings of jealousy and racial outrage.  This High Interest/Low level book tackles several tough issues.  There is the racism on both sides of the line, a sexual assault (suggested and not graphic in the text), intense peer and social pressure, and the question of when to follow what adults and a lifetime of beliefs and when to follow your own instincts.  Intense and engaging, this short novel pulls the reader into the battles of this small town.  One of the things I like best about the Orca Sounding series is that each novel addresses serious social issues without being preachy or patronizing.  They also don't offer simple solutions.  Each story leaves a somewhat ambiguous ending where we know what the main character feels and is going to do, but without providing a neatly wrapped up ending.  Readers are left to contemplate how characters will deal with the events and how the reader themselves will react to the events.  These are great books for initiating conversations and exploring our own perceptions. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

iPod Friday

(Picture adapted from jamona_cl on flicker)

At the end of the week I give myself a treat and listen to my iPod at work while processing books or working on the database.   These are my picks for today.                          What do you listen to at work?

Today we are definitely not COMMITMENT-shy.  This soundtrack adds some soul to the end of the week.  

Treat Her Right

Mustang Sally

Try A Little Tenderness

Take Me to the River

Bring it on Home to Me

Songs from:

The Commitments: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


The Commitments, Vol. 2: Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Learning Skills: Initiative

The Ontario Government has identified and targeted six key learning skills for student success. Libraries can help teachers and students to understand and develop these skills by providing picture books that model these behaviours and the issues surrounding them.

Learning Skills and Work Habits Sample Behaviours: Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, Self Regulation.

The student:
  •  looks for and acts on new ideas and opportunities for learning;
  •  demonstrates the capacity for innovation and a willingness to take risks;
  •  demonstrates curiosity and interest in learning;
  •  approaches new tasks with a positive attitude;
  •  recognizes and advocates appropriately for the rights of self and others.

The book begins with a little girl who is bored. She is so bored that she starts to talk to a potato. The potato tells her that she is in fact boring; all kids are boring. The little girl gets a wee bit offended and makes it her mission to prove to the talking spud that kids are anything but boring. She shows all the fun things that kids can do and all of the things that kids are capable of from pretending to fly to yodelling on top of the dirty clothes hamper, (it is the Swiss Alps, you see). 

As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of a reunion with her Momma, who lives on another plantation--and even of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. In a flash of inspiration, Clara sees how she can use the cloth in her scrap bag to make a map of the land--a freedom quilt--that no master will ever suspect.

Title Author
Oh, The places you'll Go  Dr. Seuss
Hans My Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm  Brothers Grimm
Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It  Sundee T. Frazier
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile  Bernard Waber
When Harriet Met Sojourner  Catherine Clinton
Eleanor, Ellatony, Ellencake, and Me  Cathy Rubin
Just a Dream Chris Van Allsburg
Duck on a Bike David Shannon
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt  Deborah Hopkinson
The Elves and the Shoemaker Eric Suben
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust  Eve Bunting
Sandy's Incredible Shrinking Footprint Femida Handy
Tacky the Penguin Helen Lester
Three Cheers for Tacky  Helen Lester
On Meadowview Street Henry Cole
Snowflake Bentley Jacqueline  Briggs Martin
Librarian of Basra Jeanette Winter
Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa Jeanette Winter
Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World Jen Cullterton Johnson
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs  Jon Scieszka
Humphfrey Albert and the Flying Machine Kathryn Lasky
The Gates of the Wind  Kathryn Lasky
One Hen - How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference Katie Smith Milway
Willows Whispers Lana Button
Princess and the Pizza Mary Jane Auch
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge Mem Fox
There's an alligator under my bed Mercer Mayer
Little Hummingbird Michael Nichol Yahgulanaas
Gabby and Grandma Go Green  Monica Wellington
Coretta Scott  Ntozake Shange
Bored - Nothing To Do Peter Spier
Zoom Robert Munsch
Something Beautiful  Sharon Dennis Wyeth
The Berenstain Bears don't pollute (anymore)  Stan Berenstain

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.

I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations are deceptively simple for such a complex issues as bullying, self-confidence and making right choices. I especially liked the consistent use of the colour in the text. It allows for additional conversations with the kids reading it, enabling them to evaluate what is happening, make predictions and become involved in the story rather than just reading it.
A beautiful book, the illustrations of the number one demonstrate how standing up and speaking up can make you feel tall and strong. The physicality of the colours express how each is feeling much better than words can, making the emotions of the story more accessible for the class. It also allows for great follow-up activities where students can draw their own pictures to show how they feel now or in various situations. "One" provides a common visual language to discuss emotions and a manner in which to share those feelings with classmates.

Here is a book trailer for the book:
Book trailer for One:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning Skills: Organization

The Ontario Government has identified and targeted six key learning skills for student success. Libraries can help teachers and students to understand and develop these skills by providing picture books that model these behaviours and the issues surrounding them.

Learning Skills and Work Habits Sample Behaviours: Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, Self Regulation.

 The student:
• devises and follows a plan and process for completing work and tasks;
• establishes priorities and manages time to complete tasks and achieve goals;
• identifies, gathers, evaluates, and uses information, technology, and resources to complete tasks.
When Ike LaRue is "imprisoned" at the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy, he tries everything to get sent home--weepy letters to his owner, even illness. In reality, Brotweiler is more like camp than prison, but still, Ike's not cut out for life w/o Mrs. LaRue; his creature comforts. Finally, he runs away only to find himself back in Snort City--just in time to save Mrs. LaRue's life.

Farmer Brown has a problem.
His cows like to type.
All day long he hears
Click, clack, MOO.
Click, clack, MOO.
Clickety, clack, MOO.

But Farmer Brown's problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes....

Title Author
The mysteries of Harris Burdick  Chris Van Allsburg
The Paper Boy Dave Pilkey
Tuesday  David Wiesner
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type  Doreen Cronin
The Very Hungry Caterpillar  Eric Carle
Comet's Nine Lives by Jan Brett Jan Brett
Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Judith Viors
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie  Laura Numeroff
Where the Wild Things Are  Maurice Sendak
How I Became a Pirate Melinda Long
Koala Lou Mem Fox
The Legend of the Bluebonnet  Tomie dePaola
A Chair for My Mother  Vera B. William

Friday, November 8, 2013

Troublemaker: book one - a graphic novel by Janet Evanovich

Alex, an auto mechanic and spotter for race car driver Sam Hooker, is drawn to trouble like a giant palmetto bug to a day old taco. Unfortunately she’s also drawn to Hooker in the same fashion. There’s no steering clear of trouble or Hooker when friends, Felicia and Rosa, need help. Rosa has gone missing, and in order to find her, Barnaby and Hooker will have to go deep into the underbelly of Miami and south Florida, surviving Petro Voodoo, explosions, gift-wrapped body parts, a high-speed swamp chase, and Hooker’s mom.
A graphic novel, written by Janet and Alex Evanovich, and illustrated by JoĆ«lle Jones (Madame Xanadu), Troublemaker leads Barnaby and Hooker, from hit novels Metro Girl and Motor Mouth, through the palm tree lined, sun filled streets of one the hottest cities in the world! (synopsis from
Read an interview with author Janet Evanovich about writing her first graphic novel here.
My thoughts: I like the story and the characters. Love the dogs that live in her novels. The art work was quite good. Perhaps it is because I have read so many of Evanovich's other works in novel form that I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I missed the format of a novel for a story like this. There simply isn't enough space in the graphic novel to include all the delightful conversations and observations of her characters. This book was okay, but knowing I can get even more from one of her novels, I will be returning to that format for this author.

You can have a look for yourself with a free preview available from the author's website here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Learning Skills: Collaboration

The Ontario Government has identified and targeted six key learning skills for student success. Libraries can help teachers and students to understand and develop these skills by providing picture books that model these behaviours and the issues surrounding them.

Learning Skills and Work Habits Sample Behaviours: Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, Self Regulation.

The student:
• accepts various roles and an equitable share of work in a group;
• responds positively to the ideas, opinions, values, and traditions of others;
• builds healthy peer-to-peer relationships through personal and media-assisted interactions;
• works with others to resolve conflicts and build consensus to achieve group goals;
• shares information, resources, and expertise and promotes critical thinking to solve problems and make

The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane Derolf is about crayons that do not get along, and are purchased by a little girl who uses them to draw pictures and show how well they all work together.

Stone Soup by Jon Muth or(any version)  Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, everyone brings what they have until-- together, they have made a feast fit for a king! An inspiring story about the strength people possess when they work together.

Title Author
Solomon's tree Andrea Spalding
Little Red Hen Big Book  Byron Baerton
The Yellow Star: the legend of King Christian X of Denmark Carmen Agra Deedy
I Can Cooperate! (The Best Me I Can Be)  David Parker
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type  Doreen Cronin
Big Pumpkin  Erica Silverman
Kevin and His Dad  Irene Smalls
Moose's Loose Tooth  Jacqueline A Clarke
Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!  Janet Stevens
The Great Fuzz Frenzy Janet Stevens
Zero Kathryn Otoshi
Frederick  Leo Lionni
Swimmy  Leo Lionni
Three Hens and a Peacock Lester L. Laminack
Stone Soup  Marcia Brown
The Seven Chinese Brothers  Margaret Mahy
Just My Friend & Me  Mecer Mayer
Shin-chi's canoe Nicola Campbell
The Way Back Home  Oliver Jeffers
Some Friends to Feed: The Story of Stone Soup Pete Seeger
The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)  Philemon Sturges
We Share Everything Robert Munsch
The Crayon Box that Talked  Shane Derolf
Ladybug's Birthday (SidebySide) Steve Metzger
The Biggest Snowman Ever  Steven Kroll