Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
Here are some great books to inspire young readers on the theme of Responsibility.
Being Me, by Rosemary McCarney, illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart, is part of the "Rosie the Red" series, featuring a socially conscious little girl. Rosie is ruminating about her future life's work when her dad introduces her to the local Food Bank. She learns how to volunteer, which makes her feel "important, useful and a little bigger." Her sense of duty increases when she sees a classmate's mom using the Bank. Rosie and her friends make posters to promote the cause. "I knew I could do something before I grew up," she says. Kindergarten to Grade 3.
Phoebe Gilman's Jillian Jiggs keeps getting distracted from cleaning her room. She'd rather play dress up with her friends—pirates on her sailboat bed, chickens in a coop, robots made from cardboard boxes, dragons, royalty, canaries. This rhyming classic inspires dramatic play and provides humour. Each time Jillian avoids her responsibility, her mom faints, Ker-plop! Kindergarten to Grade 3.
In This is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen, for the kindergarten and up crowd, a little fish admits to the reader up front that he's stolen the bowler hat perched on his wee head. He then spends several pages defending his actions. He thinks he's gotten away with it by hiding in the seaweed, but the reader knows different. This is great one for making inferences based on the playful illustrations.
Thor, by W.D. Valgardson, illustrated by Ange Zhang, is for the Grade 1 and up crowd. Thor isn't interested in helping his grandfather fisherman on Lake Winnipeg. He'd rather stay in and watch superhero cartoons. This well-written story shows how his grandfather uses large nets under the ice, introducing the reader to new vocabulary such as auger, jigger, pressure ridge, and Bombadier. When some snowmobilers fall through the ice, Thor has to step up and become a real life super hero.
Ian Wallace has several books that tackle the theme of taking responsibility. These first two titles highlight contributions to Canadian identity, which is part of the Grade 6 social studies curriculum. The Boys of the Deeps is a mentor text for narrative writing, with its descriptions eliciting all the senses. It's a snapshot of a Cape Breton coal-miner's life at the turn of the century, a time when boys became men by going into the mines with their fathers. When James and his dad get trapped under a crumbling ceiling, he must find the bravery required to prove himself. Dark illustrations truly capture the feeling of being underground. Grade 2 and up.
Good solid writing is again found in Wallace's Chin Chaing and the Dragon's Dance. Chin Chaing is finally old enough to participate in the Dragon Dance, the very thing he's dreamed of since he was little. But he's terrified of messing up during the Chinese New Year celebration. Grade 1 and up.
Haunting pictures in Paul Yee's The Ghost Train, illustrated by Harvey Chan, show Chinese-Canadians' contributions to the building of the West Coast railway. Choon-Yi is born with one arm but it's an arm gifted at painting. When Choon-Yi is 12, her father sails to North America for a job with the railroad. He sends for her, but upon her arrival she learns he has died in a work accident. With the help of her father's ghost, she documents the lives of railroad workers through her paintings, and finds beauty in responsibility. Grade 3 and up.
It's the early 1800s in The Red Sash, by Jean E. Pendziwol. Fort William is an active trading post. A native boy longs to follow in his father's footsteps, to become a “canto du nord,” a native guide for the Europeans. But he is too small. During a foray to a neighbouring island to hunt for rabbits, an ensuing storm allows him to take charge and paddle a Scottish gentleman to safety. The illustrations reveal some of the housing and lifestyle of the First Nations, along with a glossary and informative map; all making it a good fit with the Grade 5 Social Studies curriculum. Grade 4 and up.
"With great power comes great responsibility." Edward Keenan includes this quote, which is often attributed to Spider-Man, in The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics, illustrated by Julia McLaughlin. This step-by-step non-fiction book, written in chapters, tackles topics such as: what a politician is; how we decide things as a community; what public opinion is; how to be a successful debater; the purpose of conflict; the spectrum of political parties. It's written in an inquiry-based way, building the reader's knowledge slowly and logically. Grade 6 and up.
Child Soldier, When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, by Jessica Dee Humpreys and Michel Chikwanine, illustrated by Claudia Davila, is a non-fiction graphic novel for Grade 6 and up. It's based on Michel's true account of his childhood, along with information to contextualize his story which begins in 1993 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kidnapped by a rebel militia while playing soccer, Michel is forced to take drugs and undergo training at the age of 5. He is also forced to shoot and kill his best friend. Michel escapes but is haunted by his past. After his activist father is kidnapped and his family is terrorized, Michel makes it to Canada as a refugee. Telling his story becomes a way of healing and taking back his power. As his father says, "If you ever think you too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito."
On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.
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