Julie Booker's Oh Canada Picture Book List
Not only is Julie Booker an author (Up Up Up) and the mother of twins, but she is also a teacher-librarian for primary grades. Her picture book list is perfect Canada Day fare.
Drumheller Dinosaur Dance by Robert Heidbreder: Imagine a group of kids, cross-legged at your feet, all eyes on the book in your hand. With the first "Boomity-boom, Rattley-clack, Thumpity-thump, Whickety-whack," you know you've got them. That's why this is on the list. Not only does it introduce the Badlands, it begs for actions to accompany the chorus.
Jelly Belly by Dennis Lee: Dennis Lee is probably best known for Alligator Pie, but having used this book for twenty years in my teaching, the poems are well worn synaptic pathways in my brain. And the illustrations are inseparable from the poems. A few favourites that play with Canadian content: Bundle Buggy Boogie and Torontosaurus Rex (found on a menu in the illustration for The Dinosaur Dinner.)
M is for Moose by Charles Pachter: It rhymes. It's a wonderful readaloud. It surprises. "N is for Newfoundland where Bumble Bee Bight is the name of a town. and so are Nancy Oh and Blow-Me-Down." And because it's Pachter's work, it's visually beautiful. (And what ABC book makes room for Margaret Atwood, Susanna Moodie and Margaret Laurence?)
The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier: Carrier's depiction of rural Quebec in the 1940s from a child's point of view is pitch-perfect: the Anglo-Francophone tension, the role of hockey and the church and the crushing blow when Roch receives the wrong jersey. Humour and compassion are evident in every sentence: "I asked God to send me right away a hundred million moths that would eat my Maple Leaf sweater."
City Alphabet by Joanne Schwartz and Matt Beam: Using photos of Toronto, this is an homage to (usually-maligned) graffiti. Schwartz says in the afterword: "As you walk down the street words appear, unexpected, unbidden, like random pages from a concrete diary. Who are they addressed to? They are addressed to you." It makes me want to search the city for messages.
Eenie Meenie Manitoba by Robert Heidbreder: Whatever happened to skipping songs? Chants and clapping patterns as you tossed a sponge ball against the wall? Bring it all back, I say, and start a whole new generation of clappers and skippers.
Peg and the Whale by Kenneth Oppel: Set in Labrador, I like this for the strong female protagonist, the nod to Jonah-in-the-whale and the playful language: "The whale took the hook, and the line played out faster than a tune from a jack-in-the-box."
The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service: I love any book illustrated by Ted Harrison. His distinctive striated skies and layered landscapes capture the cold of the Yukon using colours indicative of northern skies, beyond the expected blue and white. This is a fun, folksy, tall-tale of a poem.
Butterscotch Dreams by Sonja Dunn: I'm cheating with this one. It isn't a picture book; it's more of a teacher resource. The chants are deceptively simple, grab 'n go and beg for adaptation. Kids can easily memorize them and add lines and actions to make them their own. They're also thoughtfully organized thematically, such as (Canadian) geography, careers, holidays, food.