Canada 150: The Humourous, the Wondrous and Rhymes that Stick in Your Head!

June 29, 2017 | Sheilah

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two people reading at a library


It is our turn to share children’s books written by notable Canadian authors.

Jennifer says:

The Cremation of Sam McGee, by Robert W. Service

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service, illustrated by Ted Harrison.

Believe it or not, it is cold in Northern Canada. In fact, Sam McGee from Tennessee moved to the Yukon and woe is he! He really missed the warmth. Though the sun shone down in the arctic sun, it could not warm up Sam McGee. Until the day he withered away and found his smile you could see for a mile during the cremation of Sam McGee. As he snuggles in to rest, he gladly says with glee:

"Please close that door.

It's fine in here,

But I greatly fear

you’ll let in the cold and storm

Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,

It's the first time I've been warm."

In grade two, I – along with 27 other classmates – was tasked with memorizing The Cremation of Sam McGee. Though the title may irk some (a book about cremation? WHY?), the content was stomach-tickling. The pictures, by famed Yukon artist Ted Harrison, help to brilliantly depict an individual who has not been able to feel any warmth since moving to one of Canada’s coldest territories, and then finally finding it in the strangest place possible.

Eye of the Crow, by Shane Peacock

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

It is late spring in 1867 as we meet a familiar fictional character. Sherlock Holmes, at only 13 years old, already has a thirst for mystery and adventure. When Sherlock catches wind of a young Arab boy claiming to have been framed for a vicious murder, well – his interest is piqued. With his friend Irene (daughter of one Andrew C. Doyle, a clever nod to the original author of Sherlock Holmes adventures) in tow, Sherlock strives to solve the murder. That is, after he escapes from prison, having been implicated as an accomplice of the Arab boy. Both kids and adults alike will enjoy Shane Peacock’s foray into the world of mystery solving as Eye of the Crow gives a plausible background story into the classic adult Sherlock Holmes that we love today.

Sheilah adds:

The Swallow: A Ghost Story, by Charis Cotter

The Swallow: A Ghost Story  by Charis Cotter

In an old home in downtown Toronto, Polly often escapes her noisy family by climbing up to the attic where it is quiet and calm. She loves to read stories about ghosts and desperately wishes she could meet one.

Next door lives Rose, a quiet girl in an even quieter house. She wishes she could stop seeing ghosts.

The two girls meet unexpectedly when they are both in their attics at the same time and discover that they share a wall and even a crawl space between the two houses. They become fast friends but Polly’s younger brothers are horrified when they find out. They are convinced that Rose will do harm to their sister and Polly herself wonders if she has finally met an actual ghost!

Cotter delivers real life and shivers in equal measure and the fact that part of the story takes place in a Toronto Public Library branch is a bonus!

Word Nerd, by Susin Nielsen

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen is about a self-described nerd. His mother is overprotective to the point that she won’t even let him go to school anymore in case he hurts himself. And after that incident when he nearly died after being slipped a peanut by some bullies, Ambrose is unable to argue with the decision.

But no 12-year-old can stay indoors forever. Much to his delight, he discovers that his landlords’ son Cosmo also loves Scrabble, so Ambrose convinces Cosmo to take him to a nearby Scrabble club. The only hitch is, Ambrose’s mother can’t know. Cosmo is an ex-con and definitely not someone she would want her son hanging out with. Ambrose has finally found fellow word nerds. Can he convince his mother it is alright?

Susin Nielsen’s characters are believable and the humour arises naturally from the situations they find themselves in.  Like many of her other books, Word Nerd has won many awards.

Bagels

Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dušan Petričić.

Grandpa makes the best bagels in town but won’t accept thanks for them. “Thank God,” he insists. So Benny does. Every Friday, he secretly takes a big bag of bagels to the synagogue so that God can taste them. And every Saturday, the bagels are gone! Benny is sure that God loves the bagels as much as Grandpa’s customers do. So he weeps when he discovers who is actually eating them. It is wise Grandpa who shows him the marvelous truth that he has given thanks in the best way possible.

This picture book is lovingly illustrated by Dušan Petričić. The fact that it takes place in the past is lightly hinted at by inkwells and pocket watches but the story itself is timeless, just like all the best Canadian children's books on this list!

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