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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Respect

Books about respecting differences, community, one's own self, and the earth.

Book Cover Malaika's Costume

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Respect can be understood in different ways: respect for differences, respect for community, for self, or for the earth.

In Malaika’s Costume by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, Malaika is sad because her mother is far away in Canada. She’s promised to help Malaika buy a new Carnival costume but letters arrive without money. Grandma offers her the costume she used to wear as a girl, but the angry Malaika runs out into the neighbourhood. There, she hears a song: “It is true we are poor but we have dignity…” Together, grandma and granddaughter rebuild her costume into a proud peacock, incorporating traditions of her absent mother, her grandmother, and her community. K+


Book Cover I'm Here

I’m Here, by Peter H. Reynolds, was written for children on the autism spectrum, but it’s a story for anyone who feels different. A boy sits at the edge of the playground, apart from the overwhelming noise of recess. A piece of paper in the wind lands at his feet. He makes an airplane that helps him connect to himself, as well as to others. The message: each of us has the right to be here. K+


Book Cover Willow's Whispers

The theme of self-respect shows up in Willow’s Whispers, by Lana Button, illustrated by Tania Howells. Willow’s “big, strong voice got stuck way inside.” With the help of a magic microphone, Willow finds her voice—even when the mic breaks. K+


Book Cover Earth to Audrey

Ray’s neighbour is different. In Earth to Audrey, by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Stephane Poulin, Audrey appears next door for the summer. She does strange things: flies a kite from her bedroom window, trains grasshoppers, and often lies barefoot in the grass, looking up…at what? Ray assumes she’s an alien, confirmed by her knowledge of space, how the earth rotates, the constellations, the Big Bang. These concepts are gently explained to a young audience using grade 1+ language. The reader is left wondering if Audrey is simply a girl connected to the earth.

The following three books, found in the non-fiction section of the library, are reminders of First Nations’ regard for earth and earth’s creatures. They could all be used to introduce a First Nations Social Studies unit. 

Book Cover the Enchanted Caribou

The Enchanted Caribou, by Elizabeth Cleaver, is a gem of book. Included are instructions for a DIY shadow play and shadow theatre to emulate the illustrations, lending itself for retell. This folktale is set during a time when animals and humans were interchangeable and hunters respected their kill. Etosack and his three brothers find a lost woman named Tyya. They let her stay in their tent, warning her against strangers, before going off to hunt. An old woman, imitating a shaman, changes Tyya into a white caribou, sending the three brothers on a chase across the tundra to bring the sacred animal home. K+


Book Cover How We Saw the World

In How We Saw the World: Nine Native Stories of the Way Things Began, by C.J. Taylor, we learn Europeans saw Indigenous peoples as pagans, even though their religion was everywhere. The short origin tales in this book come from the Algonquin, Blackfoot, Oneida, MicMac and explain the formation of Niagara Falls, the Pacific Coast islands, winter, tornadoes, as well as why butterflies are silent, and why dogs and humans are friends. The illustrations are literal, graphic interpretations of the magical stories, interwoven with a warning to respect all living things. Grade 1+


Book Cover The Elders Are Watching

The Elders Are Watching is a cautionary poem by David Bouchard, illustrated by West Coast artist Roy Henry Vickers. Each page is a 4-line verse with a repeating stanza, coupled with a painting by Vickers. First Nations’ symbols (totems, animals) are subtly incorporated, sometimes as ghost-like images, into paired-down landscapes in this plea to take care of the land. Grade 2+


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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