Red Fox Road

Greenslade, Frances. Red Fox Road. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2020.
Thirteen-year-old Francie and her parents are on a road trip, travelling from B.C. to Arizona. They are supposed to be having fun, but her parents can’t stop arguing. Her mother wants to use a road map; her father insists on using a GPS. He turns onto an old logging road and in the middle of the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, their truck hits a rock. They’re stuck. Francie’s father is sure he can walk out and get help. Francie and her mother are left to wait, day after day, wait. Finally, Francie’s mother sets off for help, walking in the opposite direction. Francie is now completely alone. Will she be able to survive? This gripping story of survival is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy suspense novels. 

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The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything

Alary, Laura. The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2022.
Two hundred years ago on Nantucket, a little girl grew up with parents who believed both boys and girls should be educated. Her father was a schoolteacher and an astronomer and her mother had been a librarian, so it is not surprising that Maria and her nine siblings were encouraged to learn and think for themselves. Maria, a daydreamer, grew up to become a teacher and a librarian who loved challenges. When the King of Denmark offered a prize to the first person who could find a new comet, Maria determinedly looked through her telescope night after night until she spied a new comet. She won! Now she was famous and was soon invited to be a professor of astronomy. Maria spent the rest of her life encouraging her students to explore the skies and ask questions. Additional biographical information and a bibliography accompany this picture book cheerfully illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Highly recommended for readers 8 to 14 years old who enjoy true stories about historical figures.

P.S. The author’s combination of short and long sentences – and sentence fragments – creates a lovely rhythm for reading aloud. So lovely that it almost seems a shame to read the story silently. But the style of font is unfortunately not so lovely: the print is too serious and too small for the pictures. But that’s a minor fault compared to the beauty of the illustrations and the flow of the words. If you want a happy story that encourages patient persistence, read this book.

Another picture book about an astronomer…

McCully, Emily Arnold. Caroline’s Comets: A True Story. New York: Holiday House, 2017.
Caroline Herschel was born in Germany in 1750. Her father and brothers were musicians but she – being a girl – was kept busy doing housework. Everything changed when she was 22 years old. She joined her older brother in England and became a professional singer and then an assistant to her brother, who had become an astronomer for King George III. Later, she also earned a salary as an astronomer for the king.  Before she died in 1848, she had discovered 8 comets and become a star among scientists.
Quotations from Caroline’s diary are embedded in this incredible story of the first woman to discover a comet. The gently old-fashioned pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations enhance this picture book biography for readers 9 years old and up.

More biographies 

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Peacemaker

Bruchac, Joseph. Peacemaker. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021.
Can you think of someone sent by the Creator to bring peace? Can you think of someone sent in advance to tell of this peacemaker’s imminent arrival? Bruchac tells the story of how – hundreds of years ago – five tribes south of Lake Ontario agreed to stop fighting and form the Iroquois Great League of Peace. Told from the point of view of a twelve-year-old boy whose friend has been kidnapped by a neighbouring nation, this 152-page novel will appeal to both competent and reluctant readers 10 to 14 years old who enjoy action-filled stories. It will also intrigue adults unacquainted with the history of the Haudenosaunee Nations. Most highly recommended. 

Another novel by Joseph Bruchac

More stories of indigenous people of North America

 

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Only One

Hopkinson, Deborah. Only One. New York: Anne Schwartz Books, 2022.
Nearly fourteen billion years ago, our universe began. Stars and galaxies, planets, moons and asteroids, continents, species and the diversity of life are all explained in this extraordinary picture book.  Created by an award-winning author and an acclaimed illustrator, this picture book is highly recommended for readers 6 to 10 years old. Recommended as a cheerful refresher for 11-year-old readers.

More fact-filled picture books

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One Million Trees

Balouch, Kristen. One Million Trees: a True Story. New York: Holiday House, 2022.
This is the true story of how the author – when she was ten years old – spent a summer planting trees. She and her parents and her sisters flew from California to B.C. to join a crew planting seedlings between the stumps of trees cut down by loggers. Camping in the wilderness, they worked for forty days until they had planted one million trees. This intriguing picture book – filled with informative details – is highly recommended for readers 7 to 12 years old. Or for anyone curious about the life of a tree planter.

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The Hike

Farrell, Alison. The Hike. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2019.
Three sisters and their dog, Bean, set off on hike through the woods. Along the way, they spot snowberries, lupines, ferns, black morel mushrooms, and violets. A Western toad, a Cascades frog, a beaver, a porcupine, and a damselfly. All the way to the top of the mountain, there is more and more to discover. Set in the Pacific Northwest, this is a perfect picture book for sharing with a few people who can sit close enough to examine all the drawings of plants and animals and read all the labels. Highly recommended for nature lovers who might like to start their own illustrated journals.

More books about nature

More stories set in the countryside 

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Wonder Walkers

Archer, Micha. Wonder Walkers. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021.
Gorgeous double-page illustrations help tell this story of two children on a nature walk. Minimal text – in the form of imaginative questions – will inspire students to see the world with fresh eyes. Teachers will want to use the story to introduce personification. Artists will be reminded of all the colours in Brian Wildsmith’s picture books. A 2022 Caldecott Honor Book. Highly recommended!

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