The Little White Horse

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By Elizabeth Goudge

A fairy-tale for middle graders, this chapter book tells the story of a girl who is determined to suppress evil and restore peace to the valley of her forefathers. Goudge was high-church Anglican and brings a strong respect for the church and one’s service to God. For Protestants, there is reference to a statue of Mary and the old traditional prayer times of the monks, but these are elements that can be taken in context of the fairytale as a whole. With little to no magic, except the sea horses which come rushing through the woods one night, the heroine proceeds with courage, discovering her own weaknesses and resolving not to fall into the old family ways of pride and bitterness. A strong sense of home and family and the sanctity of marriage are conveyed throughout the book. For preteen girls who still want to read fairytales, here is one that remains wholesome.

Chapter book

Ages 10-13

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

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Whose Nest is This?

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By Heidi Bee Roemer

With beautiful, well-detailed illustrations, this picturebook brings to life all kinds of creatures’ nests, not just birds. The object of the book is not to cover many nests, but rather, a wide variety of nests, which it does well. Truly this book is a tribute to our great Creator. The text on each page is simple, but more details are included on the final page for the eager learner.

Picturebook

Available from public libraries

Ages 4-10

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

In the Middle of the Night

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By Aileen Fisher

When a girl doesn’t want a puppy or toy or any other traditional birthday gift, but only wants to go out for a walk in the middle of the night, the result is this poetic picture book with lovely retro illustrations. Join the girl and her dad as they discover the mystery and beauty of the night with small, fascinating, middle-of-the-night nature discoveries—the girl’s best birthday present ever.

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Picturebook

Ages 3-10

Available second-hand

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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The Big Storm: A Very Soggy Counting Book

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By Nancy Tafuri

Tired of counting books with lame art? A nicely-illustrated counting book for young readers, with a small surprise at the end and the chance to count backwards. The introduction of a thunderstorm opens the conversation to what a person sees, hears, and feels during a storm.

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Picturebook

Available from public libraries

Ages 1-4

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Katie and the Big Snow

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by Virginia Lee Burton

A perfect book for when you are snowed in! In the style of Burton’s other books (Mike Mulligan and his Steamshovel; The Little House; Mabel the Cable Car) this picture book tells the story of how Katy the red crawler tractor plows out her town after a big snowstorm. A story of determination, perseverance, and heroism, this book will also be enjoyed for its classic Burton story-telling style and vintage illustrations.

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Picture book

Ages 3-7

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Julie of the Wolves

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by Jean Craighead George

I don’t know about the unabridged version of the chapter book “Julie of the Wolves,” but this one hour audio version gave a brief but eye-opening look into the changing lifestyle of the Inuit in North America. It also gives you a close look at wolf behaviour, the northern landscape, and traditional Inuit ways of living off the land. Listening with an adult would be helpful as children would benefit from a discussion of why Julie doesn’t stay with her long-lost father, in the end.

Ages 8-14

Fiction

Natural History

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer:  Doreen

Swallows and Amazons

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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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Lily and the Mixed up Letters

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by Deborah Hodge

For any child who is struggling with learning to read, this story of a young girl will be encouraging as Lily, who struggles with reading, does well with painting. She is comforted to learn that other adults also struggled with reading till they were ten years old. With the support of her mom, her teacher, and a reading buddy, Lily perseveres and tastes some success with reading, and shines in her painting skills.

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Ages 5-9

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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!)

 

Little Night Cat

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By Sonja Danowski

This author does something amazing with her illustrations, pencilling and painting a warm, wonderful world, with houses overflowing in creative activity.

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Tony gives up his stuffed animals for the animal shelter cause, then misses his animals, but in the end gets a real live cat. A warm simple story, although the animal shelter raffle and prizes does take place on a Sunday.

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Also by Sonja Danowski: The Forever Flowers.   The story-line again is quite simple, although the lesson is not as clear (about letting go), but may open the  door for a discussion.

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Ages 4-8

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen