Bear Island

Cordell, Matthew. Bear Island. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2021.
Some picture books are wordless, like Forever Home: A Dog and Boy Love Story by Henry Cole. Some have illustrations to accompany the text, like Peg Bearskin by Philip Dinn. And others have illustrations that help tell the story, like this one: Bear Island. Even before the title page, five pages of pictures start the story of a little girl grieving the death of Charlie, her dog. Louise paddles a boat to a little island where she meets a bear who is also sad. All summer long, the two spend time together until winter arrives and it is time for Bear to sleep. “It’s not fair,” she thinks, “when the things we love must end.” But a glimpse of hope comes on the last page: an illustration of a new puppy. Created by the 2018 Caldecott winner, this introspective story of loss and new life is recommended for readers five to 10 years old.
Something to talk about: What do you learn from the pictures that isn’t told by the words?
Something to do: divide a collection of picture books into three categories: wordless, pictures that illustrate the words, pictures that help tell the story. What do you notice?
Tip: Books published by Feiwel and Friends are reliably wonderful. Watch for them!

More dog stories

More stories of grief

Books without words

A dog story illustrated by Matthew Cordell…

Stead, Philip C. Every Dog in the Neighborhood. New York: Holiday House, 2022.
If you like picture books, you probably already know that Philip Stead is a wonderful writer. If you’ve studied picture books, you already know that illustrations provide additional information to enhance the story. If you’re a teacher, you already like books that can be integrated into more than one subject. Well, this newest story by Stead is his most brilliant book yet. It’s as funny and heart-warming as the Moffat stories by Estes. Caldecott Medal winner Matthew Cordell’s illustrations are full of humorous details including a dog called E.B. who dreams of writing stories and a musician who owns two dogs called Thelonious and Monk. Younger students will be inspired to write their own letters and think of their own surveys to do after reading about Louis’s inventory of dogs. Older students will enjoy seeing how writers incorporate intriguing allusions requiring background knowledge to understand. Adults will appreciate Grandma’s complaints about city hall and how you sometimes just have to take care of things yourself. Highly recommended for everyone who likes picture books.

Pine Island Home

Horvath, Polly. Pine Island Home. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2020.
Feeling fatigued by the constraints imposed by this pandemic? Feeling irritable about life in general? Read a novel by Polly Horvath. She has an extraordinary ability to use life’s craziness to make us laugh. This latest novel is no exception. Four sisters are orphaned in Borneo when their missionary parents are washed away by a tsunami. Unfortunately, their great-aunt – who had volunteered to take them in – dies before they arrive. Now what will they do? Where will they go? The four girls decide to settle into their aunt’s rural home on an island off the coast of British Columbia and pretend that a grumpy neighbour is their legal guardian. Will their scheme work? Well, all ends happily but not before all sorts of crazy complications surprise everyone. This highly recommended novel will be enjoyed by readers 10 to 13 years old.

More novels set in British Columbia

More novels by Polly Horvath

 

Dream Within a Dream

MacLachlan, Patricia. Dream Within a Dream. New York, Toronto: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2019.
Many of Patricia MacLachlan’s novels are about children in some way abandoned by their parents. In My Father’s World, a Fiona and Finn grieve the death of their father.  In Arthur, For the Very First Time, Arthur is sent to live with his aunt and uncle for the summer. In Dream Within a Dream, Louisiana and her younger brother Theo are left with their grandparents on a small island while their parents travel around the world studying birds. In each case, the characters learn to see life from different perspectives. They learn more about themselves and their own talents. And they become stronger and more courageous. This pattern could become tiresomely repetitious, but the vivid writing and unique characters make each novel a new delight. Happily recommended for readers 9 to 12 years old. 

What makes Patricia MacLachlan’s novels such a pleasure for so many students?  Lots of conversation. Heartwarming relationships. Courage in the face of adversity. Short sentences and paragraphs. Big print and wide margins. 

Oliver and the Sea Monkeys

Dear Reader,

A bit of wacky humour. Brief loneliness. Lasting friendship, courage, and adventure. An easy-to-read novel that you will finish in no time at all. Only 193 pages, many of them filled with funny illustrations. Read this book when you want a rest from serious novels. Have fun!

Reeve, Philip and Sarah McIntyre. Oliver and the Sea Monkeys. New York : Yearling, 2016, c2013.

Then, when you are ready for a much longer science fiction novel, read Fever Crumb. It’s the first in a challenging series by author Philip Reeve. 

Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
Fourteen-year-old Fever has been trained as an engineer in a futuristic culture which believes women are not capable of rational thought.  When she leaves her home in London, she makes surprising discoveries and faces unexpected dangers.  For 12 – 16 year-olds. [England; Foundlings; Identity; Science fiction; Technology]

Happy reading!

Ms. R. 

More humorous stories

More science fiction novels