11 children's books to check out this summer
Homework is wrapped for the year and kids will have a chance to read for pure pleasure over the summer. The Next Chapter's children's book panel, comprised of writers Michelle Landsberg and Ken Setterington, is back with their picks of the year so far.
Ken: "My first rave is a wonderful young new writer and her name is Michelle Kadarusman. The Girl of the Southern Sea is set in the slums of Jakarta and it's a story of a young girl who wants to be a writer. Her problem is, there is no money. Her mother has died. Her father has turned into a drunk. She is always trying to raise enough money so that she can go to high school, finish her education and become a writer. It's a passionate book. I don't know that I have ever read anything that was set in Jakarta. The nice thing with Canadian literature is that we've got stories from other places.
"The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan, a book set in Bangladesh, is another powerful story that I think teenage and preteen readers are just going to eat up."
Michelle: "This is my book of the year. I'm in love with this book. It is emotionally rich and complex and riveting. It's a thrilling story. I could not stop reading it. The prose crackles with energy. It's about a young girl of 12, a Kazakh girl living with her family. They're nomads and herd goats. Her brother, whom she dearly loves, is going to be the leader of the whole tribe and she's going to be the work-maid of the family. She rebels against that. She has a soaring spirit and tons of energy and capability. This is really a standout book. I'd be amazed if any kid nine and up could resist reading it right through to the end without stopping the way I did."
Ken: "It's for all those city kids that really question where they're going and what they're doing. The book starts with, 'I have no idea why we have to venture into the great outdoors this summer. It's not like there's anything out here.' It's a family camping trip and it's beautifully illustrated with deep greens and browns and dark colours. It's dealing with the fact that there's no electricity, no Internet, no phones, no playgrounds. At the end of the book, they're having a campfire and roasting marshmallows and the question is, 'I wonder if that new restaurant downtown knows how good this tastes?'"
Michelle: "If you have a toddler or a preschooler who is as sweet as can be, but has gigantic meltdowns when she or he gets overwhelmed by adult expectations, this book is going to make you laugh out loud. It's got huge cartoon-y illustrations of a defiant angry little girl at her birthday party saying things like, 'Who invited the baby? You said it was my party. Go away goo-goo.' She's just overwhelmed by the expectations of this birthday party. Now I had this happen to me with one of my kids, so I could totally relate. I was laughing as I read this book. It's all the ambivalence of the upset toddler. I think parents and kids will love it because the illustrations are very funny too."
How to Become an Accidental Genius by Frieda Wishinsky & Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Jenn Playford
Ken: "Not all kids like fiction, so I brought in a nonfiction book called How to Become an Accidental Genius. It's just a story of inventors and about a young girl in Tokyo who managed to build a self-separating recycling bin. It's an amazing book. It's just a great read. Really fun and certainly full of good quotes like, 'Minds are like parachutes: they only function when open.'"
Michelle: "I know the author and I did encourage her in her early ambitions to write this book. It's about a little orphaned elephant whose mother has been shot by ivory poachers. It's the story of resilience, terrible loss, panic and then finding a new family. I think it'll move children on many levels. It's really not a picture book for the youngest kids — I would say six to 11 will really respond both to the ecological message and the lovely personal story of the little elephant."
Ken: "Nice picture book about a little kid who just wants the ability to sit somewhere quiet and read. He goes out into the alley and there's a picture of a sunset over the water. He thinks it's perfect for his imagination. But of course, while he's sitting there, everyone else comes along. The book ends up with all the other little kids sitting and reading with him."
Michelle: "It's a beautiful book. I love that this is being recorded in a book for children and that people won't forget about Africville."
Shelagh: "It's such a beautiful story and it's so filled with the beauty and the hope and promise of Africville."
Ken: "A beautiful book that starts in Newfoundland at the beginning of the last century. It's about how stars affect her life while she is both helping deliver a baby until she ends up in New York in the Shirtwaist Factory tragedy in 1911. Powerfully written book, a beautifully written book."
Michelle: "The latest novel by beloved Kit Pearson who has so many hit novels. This one is a little different. It's about a young girl visiting a Gulf Island for the summer — as she does every year — and her gradual awareness that she is gay. It takes the whole family coming and supporting her for the teen to recognize what her feelings really are. It's very beautifully written as usual with Kit Pearson."