August 8, 2013
In this monthly column, Etta Kaner shares some of her favourite children’s books written for a variety of ages.
I think you’ll agree that while communication is the essence of relationships, it doesn’t need to be in written or verbal form to be effective. To help your children become aware of different forms of communication, I encourage you to share these books with them.
Giraffe and Bird by Rebecca Bender (published by Dancing Cat Books) is a delightful picture book about the rocky relationship between the only characters in the book—Giraffe and Bird. Bender’s clever acrylic illustrations as well as her simple but very effective text will have the reader pondering each page while laughing out loud. This charming picture book is the perfect springboard for a discussion about relationships.
Three Little Words by Sarah N. Harvey (published by Orca Book Publishers) features 16-year-old Sid who lives with his adoptive parents on an island in British Columbia. The book opens with his mother introducing Sid to Fariza, their most recent foster child who, although eight, doesn’t speak due to trauma she has suffered. Through patience and a sharing of his artistic ability, Sid forms a close relationship with Fariza, who eventually breaks her bonds of silence. Sid is confronted with additional challenges when his birth mother and a newly discovered step-brother suddenly appear from the distant past. Teen readers will find in Sid a sensitive, thoughtful role model who deals with life’s challenges in a mature way.
City Signs by Zoran Milich (published by Kids Can Press) provides a wonderful means to introduce your young child to environmental print. Large full-colour photographs of urban scenes have signs with clear lettering that children can read simply by inferring from the context of the photos. This book can serve as an effective means to develop literacy with your child.
You Just Can’t Help It!: Your Guide to the Wild and Wacky World of Human Behaviour by Jeff Szpirglas (published by Owlkids Books Inc.) introduces the reader to the world of senses, relationships, communication and emotions. Written in an upbeat voice, Szpirglas uses paragraphs of various lengths to introduce the reader to a variety of fascinating information that is often substantiated by research results. Did you know that the colour of your uniform in a competitive sport affects your chances of winning? (You can find out the winning colour on page 11!) In addition to interesting factual information, most spreads contain simple hands-on experiments that the reader is encouraged to try. Each chapter also contains a full spread that describes in step-by-step detail an experiment carried out by a specific scientist. For example, scientist William Frey carried out a study that compared reflex tears (think reaction to onions) with emotional tears. Amazingly, the results revealed that “emotional tears have over 20 percent more protein in them than reflex tears.” The author suggests that this might be a way of ridding the body of stress-related chemicals. But nine- to twelve-year olds will definitely be laughing rather than crying when they read this book!
Monkey Business by Wallace Edwards (published by Kids Can Press) is a highly engaging book about idiomatic expressions. To help readers make heads or tails out of the book, each idiom is used in a sentence that accompanies a detailed, humorous illustration. Humour is achieved by a literal artistic representation of each idiom (e.g. Phil “learned to play by ear” shows a bloodhound playing a cello with his long ears). In addition to understanding the meaning of each idiom, readers are invited to show their true colours by trying to find a monkey camouflaged in each illustration. Readers are sure to have a whale of a time reading this entertaining book!