Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress
“I often don’t like kids’ books that are too obviously tackling a particular social issue…
By “issue” books, incidentally, I don’t mean stories with a message. Good stories often have a moral or message, and in the best ones, it never feels forced…
Here are a few of my top picks for 2015 out of the review copies the Times Colonist received this year. All have been lab-tested on my seven- and nine-year-old, are suitable for ages five and up, and combine good storytelling and clear writing with imaginative illustrations, and usually a little humour.
One of my favourites is A Year of Borrowed Men, by B.C. author Michelle Barker, about a German family’s complex relationship with French prisoners of war brought in to work on their farm in the Second World War. Based on a true story and illustrated by Renné Benoit (Pajama Press), A Year of Borrowed Men is told from the point of view of a young girl who likes the men and struggles to understand why they are not supposed to be “Freundes” or friends. If you like books that inspire lots of questions from your kids, this is a good one. Some of them might be hard to answer, though.
Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity, by Rob Laidlaw with art by Brian Deines (Pajama Press), is another thought-provoking read for kids. Told in easy-to-understand language, it’s the story of a complicated effort to retire three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to an open-air animal sanctuary in California. As with Borrowed Men, this one will provide many opportunities for discussion with kids, starting with: Why would people want to keep the elephants in Toronto, even if it’s not good for them? It includes real-life photos, always a plus…”
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