Canada 150: Stepping Outside a Young Reader's World

April 3, 2017 | Jennifer

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Young girl in a red bandana reading in front of a bookcase.

Through nature, imaginary places, historical times and life in other places, these Canadian titles enrich a child’s perspective and open up the world beyond their daily experience. They are targeted at readers in kindergarten to Grade 3.


  The Man With the Violin

The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson

A young boy takes notice while busy adults rush past the renowned violinist Joshua Bell performing a free concert in the Washington DC subway.

For me, this book is akin to the teachable tale of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes where a child stands up to say what everybody else is afraid to point out. Dylan pleads with his mother to notice the beautiful music, which is as clear to him as the Emperor’s nakedness. Stay tuned for Stinson’s follow-up title about a young Joshua Bell.


 Toshi's Little Treasures

Toshi’s Little Treasures by Nadine Robert

A Search-and-Find book driven by a sweet story in which Toshi and his grandmother go exploring, adding to their beloved collection of treasures along the way.

I loved the sheer range of found objects in this book from a Lego piece to a dragonfly wing. Children can match these objects to other related ones, further adding interest to this charming adventure story.


 The HockeySweater

The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier

Roch outgrows his Montréal Canadiens sweater and much to his great shame, his mother orders a Maple Leafs jersey from the Eaton’s catalogue, while everybody else on the rink proudly sports Maurice Richard’s number 9.

The illustration of Roch at church, praying for “one hundred million moths to descend upon his Maple Leafs sweater” is iconic. I’ve never forgotten the boy’s sideways glance, genuinely wondering if that dreaded jersey would get eaten up. It’s no wonder that the National Film Board animated this classic book, which stands up to all its nostalgia.


 My Name is Blessing

My Name is Blessing by Eric Walters

A Kenyan boy faces the decision his loving grandmother must make to bring him to an orphanage where life takes on new meaning.

This book is based on a real family, lending an authentic voice to the touching story of Muthini’s journey to move beyond his physical disability. The significance of names and opportunity for an empathetic response make this a teachable title.


 The Wolf Birds

The Wolf Birds by Willow Dawson

Explore the long-observed symbiotic relationship between wolves and ravens who help each other to hunt and survive in the wilderness.

These types of connections in nature are fascinating to many. Dawson has done plenty of research about this relationship between the animals and she includes ecological information in the back pages. Readers might also enjoy The Wolves Return:  A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park, which illustrates the difference that one animal can have upon the entire Park’s ecosystem.


 Oscar Lives Next Door

Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood by Bonnie Farmer

Oscar Peterson, the virtuoso jazz pianist, confronts a childhood illness that changes the course of his musical career.

Inspired by true Canadian jazz history, children will appreciate the youthful perspectives in these pages. Quill & Quire pointed out that readers may also enjoy this book simply as a story of friendship in a time that has passed, and I agree.


 In a Cloud of Dust

In a Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton

Set in Tanzania, Anna faces obstacles to receiving her schooling, and benefits from a young boy’s compassion.

Fullerton has based her story on the bicycle libraries created by donations from around the globe, and includes a note about them at the end. Readers can reflect on the possibilities that open up with having a bicycle and the generosity of donating an outgrown ride.


  Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick

“Finding Winnie” reveals the real bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh, told as a tender bedtime story.

This story often makes an appearance around Remembrance Day. That "silly ol' bear" from Hundred Acre Wood provides connections to family history and animals during wartime, which makes Pooh Bear a relevant vehicle for young readers to access the past.


  The Name of the Tree

The Name of the Tree: A Bantu Tale by Celia Lottridge

Drought spreads through the land and the young tortoise shows determination to feed himself and the other animals.

Celia Lottridge is a master storyteller and her skill is evident in this Bantu folktale. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling. You may find yourself chanting aloud with this book since Lottridge adapted it beautifully to be read aloud.


 Imagine a Night

Imagine a Night by Sarah Thompson

Together with optical illusions and poetic text, this book invites readers into a night of their wildest dreams.

The first in a series of captivating picture books, this coupling of whimsical imagery and poetic language can appeal to a wide age range.  It invites the reader to step outside their own world, not unlike the previous titles in this post, but in a whimsical way.

Canada 150 Lists(s):

Canada 150: Comic Books and Scary Stories

Canada 150: Books for Our Littlest Readers and the "Big People" Who Read With Them 

Canada 150: Sweet, Silly, Serious- We've Got It All!

Canada 150: Ten Powerful Historical Novels

Canada 150: Wonderful Picture Books That Are Perfect for Reading Aloud

Canada 150: Ten Amazing Children's Books

Canada 150: Stepping Outside a Young Reader's World

Canada 150: Ten Books to Empower Younger Readers

Canada 150: Ten Delightful Books for Younger Readers