Swallows and Amazons

Swallows

by Arthur Ransome

Enjoy the summer adventures of four siblings who get to spend their days in a small sailboat and their nights camping on a nearby island. With much sailing lingo, talk of pirates and treasure, a real robbery, and a competitive team of sailors on the other side of the island, the slow-paced but realistic story will keep boys’ and girls’ attention, and encourage outdoor play! A long chapter book, available on audio. A great summer read, or long car-drive listen.

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Ages 7-12

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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My Heart Glow: The Birth of American Sign Language

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My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet, and the Birth of American Sign Language

by Emily McCully

A warm retelling of how one small deaf girl’s need opened up the first school for the deaf in America. Picturebook.

Ages 5-10

Recommended

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

 

Helen Keller

When checking out nonfiction books on a famous life like this one, there are so many options, that it can be overwhelming. Disappointing, too, if you order books without seeing them, and they turn out to be dull. So here are a variety of books for a variety of ages on Helen Keller.

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Hand in Hand: based on the real-life story of Helen Keller and Martha Washington, by Jean Little

The author develops this historical fiction novel based on the real relationship that Helen had as a girl with Martha, the cook’s daughter, who was her first friend.  Chapter book, ages 7-10.

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Annie and Helen, by Deborah Hopkinson and Raul Colon

A picture book that begins with Helen’s inability to communicate and ends with the joy of her first letter written home by herself. A thorough and clear explanation of Annie’s methods, with large illustrations for children, and real excerpts from Annie Sullivan’s journal at the time. Picture book, ages 5-10.

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Helen Keller and the Big Storm, by Patricia Lakin, easy reader

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Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle, by Holly M. Barry,  picturebook

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Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller,  by Doreen Rappaport

This picture book is similar in style to Annie and Helen, but covers Helen’s whole life from babyhood to death. The large pictures make it attractive to children, and the text is very clear, interesting and informative. Quotes sprinkled throughout are from Helen’s journal this time, instead of Annie’s. Well-done. Picturebook, ages 5-10.

Poetry Books

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Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Ferris

A thick volume of poems for children that is sure to contain many old favourites, plus introduce some new friends. The word “wholesome” comes to mind.

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The Children’s Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennet

This large (not thick) richly illustrated picture book contains about 20 short stories and 10 well-chosen poems.

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Leaves from a Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

With illustrations by Donna Green

Stevenson’s poems are almost a must as a first introduction to poetry for kids. There aren’t many full colour illustrated copies of his work available, that I know of, and so I appreciate these illustrations by Donna Green.

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The Random House Book of Poetry for Children: A treasure of 572 Poems for Today’s Child  selected by Jack Prelutsky

Mostly humorous poems, but some gems hidden in between. Kids will laugh and learn to love the rhythm and rhyme of poetry through some of these pieces. The illustrations are aptly silly.

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A Child’s Book of Poems  by Gyo Fujikawa

For those who find the book above a disgrace to all serious poetry, here is an alternative. About half as thick, this picture book is full of gems with a few humourous poems hidden in between. The illustrations are simple in colour and line.

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The Ideals Treasure of Best Loved Poems

Contains many classic favourites for teens and adults; is fully illustrated throughout with photographs from nature.  A good variety of well-known poems.

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Poems for Children: A Delightful Collection for Boys and Girls

A slimmer picture book, illustrated in an old-fashioned style that matches the tone of these old classics for children. This volume has fewer (if any besides R.L. Stevenson) modern poets than the others.

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When We Were Very Young

And Now We are Six

Or compiled in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin

By A.A. Milne

Very true to the style of the original Winnie-the-Pooh books. These poems are a light and over-all fun read if you enjoy that whimsical ho-hum what am I thinking of train of thought…  A thick volume with line illustrations on each page.

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The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies

By Cicely Mary Barker

A volume that contains the flowers of each season, then the flowers of the garden, trees, and wayside, and lastly the flower alphabet. Each page introduces another flower or two.

With children dressed up with wings on each picture, this is an odd place to turn for nature study, one would think, but Cicely Barker’s beautiful paintings have realistic flowers that are accompanied by just as realistic poems that tell one or two striking characteristics for each flower.

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Out and About: A First Book of Poems

By Shirley Hughes

I was a little disappointed in this thin picturebook. The pictures and topics are very suitable for kids, but although I know poems don’t need to rhyme or have rhythm, I did miss it throughout, and I think kids would too.

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Winter Poems

Selected by Barabara Rogasky

I loved this book for the beautiful watercolour scenes that gave such a rich background to the winter season.  This book is intended for teens, however, I find, with more difficult language and the theme of death in one poem. Not as satisfying as some poetry collections, since for every classic favourite author, there were a few more stilted poems in between (personal opinion!)

 

Silent Night: The Song and its Story  

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by Margaret Hodges

History comes to life in this picture book with lovely illustrations throughout. The story is well-told and children will learn of how the Austrian priest Father Mohr’s dilemma one Christmas season brought the world this carol.

Ages 4-12

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

 

 

In a Cloud of Dust

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By Alma Fullerton

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This story of a girl and her school friends’ whose trip home from school is made shorter by use of the bicycle lending library, takes place in Tanzania. Nicely illustrated. Fullerton’s books gives a taste of children like us, living far different lives around the world.

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A Good Trade   takes place in Uganda  Nicely illustrated.

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Community Soup   takes place in Kenya  Nicely illustrated.

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When the Rain Comes     takes place in Sri Lanka

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Recommended

Ages 4-10

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

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By Alice and Martin Provensen

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A funny (autobiographical?), peculiar, book that will convince you that each sheep, dog, chicken, horse, cat, etc. has its own character. The brief animal sketches of every animal friend on the farm will have animal loving kids giggling.

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Ages 5-10

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

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The Cardboard Box Book: 25 Things to Make and Do with Empty Boxes

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By Danny, Jake, and Niall Walsh

Another great cutting up, gluing, rainy afternoon book. Big projects with lots of boy-appeal, using ordinary supplies: “No expensive equipment required. Absolutely no talent whatsoever required!” says the back cover of the book.  As a parent, I liked the “no frustration” of this book.

Ages 6-12

Recommended

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

I Can Make That! Fantastic Crafts for Kids

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By Mary Wallace

Who likes craft books that are complicated, frustrating, and require lots of parental help? Not me! This library book by Wallace gave simple straightforward steps and used common household odds and ends to make costumes, puppets, nature crafts, toys and games. Full colour, and with lots and lots of ideas, your kids are sure to find something they want to make on a rainy day…

Ages 6-10

Recommended

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen