Every Day the River Changes

Salama, Jordan. Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena. New York : Catapult, 2021.
Drug lords and gangs. The country of Columbia is often known only for its crime. This fascinating travelogue – by a young New York writer – tells the story of the other people who live along the Magdalena River, the ones who have survived years of fighting between government forces, paramilitaries, and guerrillas. It tells the story of how they have been affected by environmental and political changes but continue to carry on making their home along the longest river in Columbia.  Included is an intriguing chapter on Luis Soriano, the man famous for starting the ‘biblioburro’ travelling libraries and the subject of several picture books. While this nonfiction book is not for young children, it is highly recommended for competent mature readers 15 years old and up.

More books about Columbia…

Brown, Monica. Waiting for the BiblioburroTricycle Press, 2011.
Ana is so excited when books arrive in her small, remote village that she writes her own story about waiting for the travelling library – two burros loaded with books – to come again. Includes a note about travelling libraries in other remote areas of the world. [Columbia; Books and reading; Libraries].

Picture 2

Winter, Jeanette. Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia. Beach Lane Books, 2010.
Luis travels through the villages of rural Columbia, bringing books for children for children to read. [Books and reading; Columbia; Donkeys; Teachers]

Kunkel, Angela Burke. Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutíerrez and the Library He Built. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020.
A night-time garbage collector, Señor José collects books from the trash of wealthy homes. Then, every Saturday, he opens the doors and welcomes eager children into his neighbourhood library. Set in  Bogotá, Columbia and based on a true story, this inspiring picture book – illustrated by Paola Escobar and accompanied by a detailed author’s note – will appeal to readers 7 to 12 years old who already know the joys of using imagination to enter new worlds. 

Durango, Julia. The Walls of Cartagena. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008.
“Thirteen-year-old Calepino, an African slave in the seventeenth-century Caribbean city of Cartagena, works as a translator for a Jesuit priest who tends to newly-arrived slaves and, after working for a Jewish doctor in a leper colony and helping an Angolan boy and his mother escape, he realizes his true calling.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 11 to 16 years old. [Catholic Church; Colombia; Faith; Leprosy; Slavery]

More books about South America

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As Glenn As Can Be

Ellis, Sarah. As Glenn As Can Be. Toronto: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2022.

Glenn knows what he likes: fun, nature, seeing patterns, and playing piano. He also knows what he doesn’t like: bullies, feeling cold, going to school, and being around noisy people. So where is his favourite place to be? An empty concert hall, where he can play a song over and over and over again until it is just right. Brilliantly written by a prolific award-winning author and beautifully designed with additional information at the end, this biography of Canada’s most famous pianist is highly recommended for readers 6 years old and up.

Listen to Glenn Gould play The Goldberg Variations

Biographies of musicians

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Maryam’s Magic

Reid, Megan. Maryam’s Magic: The Story of Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2021.
Are you a numbers person? Do you enjoy working with equations? Or are you a word person? Do you like reading and writing? Or do you like both mathematics and stories?
Maryam preferred stories. Until – when she was 12 years old – she discovered geometry. Now she could turn numbers into shapes! And shapes made stories! This inspiring picture book biography tells the story of the first woman and first Iranian to win the prestigious Fields Medal, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Additional facts and references are provided at the end. Recommended for readers 7 to 11 years old.

More stories about strong girls and women

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Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem

Soloy, Lauren. Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem. Toronto: Tundra, 2021.
Where do you like to go when you want to think about big questions? Do you have a favourite place where your imagination can fly and your mind can ponder? Etty and her father, Charles Darwin, like to take a daily walk in their garden. They observe plants and animals and talk about big questions. Like this one: Do fairies exist? Etty’s father prefers proof before believing something is real, but Etty reminds him that he can’t disprove the existence of fairies. The two of them decide to keep an open mind.
This imaginative picture book – with an afterward explaining a bit about the real life of Charles Darwin – is highly recommended for readers 6 to 11 years old who have their own curious questions about life. 

More books by Canadian writers and artists

More stories set in the past

Biographies of Charles Darwin

In the Clouds

MacKay, Elly. In the Clouds. Toronto: Tundra, 2022.
Have you ever been told that your head is in the clouds? In this dreamily illustrated picture book, a little girl flies through the sky on the back of a yellow bird and asks questions: “How high can birds fly?” “Why does something so huge feel like nothing at all?”  “And if you get lost in a cloud, how do you know where to go?” At the end, there are answers to some of the questions, a chart that shows different types of clouds, and links to related websites.
This delightful picture book – by an award-winning writer and a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society – is recommended for curious readers 6 to 10 years old.  

More picture books

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The Cloud Appreciation Society

Lizzy and the Clouds

Fan Brothers. Lizzy and the Cloud. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022.

Another wonderfully imaginative picture book by Terry and Eric Fan. Lizzy spends a Saturday at the park, where she purchases a cloud. Not a fancy cloud – not a rabbit or a fish or a parrot – but an ordinary cloud that comes with a list of six instructions, and the first is “Name your cloud.” Lizzy carefully cares for Milo, who grows and grows until it is time to follow the last instruction: “Never confine a cloud to a small space.”
Younger readers will enjoy the whimsical creativity and laugh. Older readers can read this story as a metaphor for life. Highly recommended for all ages! 

More philosophical stories

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Martin and the River

Lappano, Jon-Erik. Martin and the River. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2022.
Lying in the tall grass, watching herons and ospreys. Building forts in the fields by the river. Country life is the only life for Martin. Until his mother gets a new job in the city. How will he survive among so many people? While there are many enjoyable activities – riding on the subway, watching street performers, visiting museums – the city doesn’t feel like home. At least, not until his parents take him to a park and show him a stream where frogs jump and dragonflies hover. Maybe, Martin’s heart will feel at home after all? A wonderful picture book – delicately illustrated by Josée Bisaillon – recommended for anyone who loves nature and longs for a rural life.

P.S. If you’re a middle school teacher, you might like to use this book to teach elements of good writing and skills of good readers. If you’re a student, you might like to use this story for a book report. An outline for you.

More stories of country life

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