Communication, Critical thinking, Culture, Differentiation, literacy, Resources

On my bookshelf: Selections from a recent resource review

For teachers, finding opportunities to get involved in one’s school district is usually not difficult at all. The challenge often comes in deciding which opportunities to choose, because it’s impossible to participate in all of them.

For the past few years, I have chosen to participate in LRS (Learning Resources Services) reviews of French books. I get to spend a day reading as many books as I can in a team with another reviewer, ensuring that the text aligns with our curriculum, and talking about how and where we could use them. We build collegial connections, deepen our understanding of the curriculum, and develop ideas for new ways to engage our students in reading in their second language.

After participating in the most recent French resource review in my district, we were allowed to take home some of the books we had fallen in love with as we read and reviewed. If I’m being truthful, there were quite a few more that I would have liked to add to my classroom collection, but I have put those on my wish list and will add them later!

“Où vais-je vivre?” par Rosemary McCarney
Où vais-je vivre? (Where will I live?) by Rosemary McCarney

First published in English under the title “Where will I live?” this book is composed of pages showing a line or two of text under full page photos of refugees in many countries, all furnished by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Rosemary McCarney is president and CEO of Toronto-based Plan Canada, one of the largest international development agencies in Canada. Although the English version of this book is intended for younger children, the French version can easily be used with Core French students in grades 8-10, and the photos provide many opportunities for discussion and inquiry. The text invites readers to think about being a refugee from a child’s perspective, and asks questions about parts of life that many take for granted, like “Where will I live?”, “Where will I sleep?”, “Will I make new friends?” before finally ending on a hopeful note which looks forward to those who will welcome them in their new home.

“Le cadeau de l’esturgeon” par Stéphanie Déziel, illustré par Chrstine Sioui Wawanoloath
Le cadeau de l’esturgeon by Stéphanie Déziel

Translated from the vendor site: “Anwatan is 14 years old and lives in the Algonquin community of Kitcisakik. He is now old enough to fish for sturgeon. Il a maintenant l’âge de pêcher l’esturgeon. Before learning the basics of how to catch these fish with his grandfather, he will make a voyage into the past astride Name, a 100 year old sturgeon. He will discover how his ancestors fished for this enormous fish which is now in danger of disappearing.”

The story, originally written in French, has also been translated into Algonquin by Monique A. Papatie and each page features the story in both languages. Throughout the book, pages of text alternate with pages of beautiful full colour illustrations by Christine Sioui-Wawanoloath, a First Nations author and illustrator from Québec.

“Les trouvailles d’Adami” par Louise-Michelle Sauriol, illustré par Leanne Franson
Les trouvailles d’Adami by Louise-Michelle Sauriol

Told in French and Inuktitut, this is the story of Adami, a boy from the Far North, who has just moved to a southern city with his mother, who is studying there to become a nurse. From the window of his basement suite, Adami sees the world outside but it is so far removed from the familiar environment of the North that it seems to him the world has turned upside down. One day, he sees a small animal outside his window and decides to follow it. It turns out to be a kitten belonging to a neighbour, and she and Adami become friends.

The illustrations in this book reflect many aspects of Inuit culture, and also show Adami’s initial confusion and then growing understanding of his new environment.

“La vie des mini héros” par Olivier Tallec
La vie des mini héros by Olivier Tallec

Written and illustrated by Olivier Tallec, this book made me laugh out loud many times while reading it. He perfectly captures the feeling of invincibility of the “mini héros” (aka children) and the adventures they have in their day to day lives. This book can be used in its entirety or as selected excerpts, and the humour is both captivating and easily understood by second language students. Excerpts and interviews with the author can also be seen here.

“Changer le monde” par Brigitte Labbé et Pierre-François Dupont-Beurier
Changer le monde by Brigitte Labbé and Pierre-François Dupont-Beurier

A collection of short stories and philosophical ideas, this book is designed to push students to think deeply about what they think, what they want, and what their viewpoint is. The book is divided into 5 sections: Le rêve et la réalité (Dreams and reality), La richesse et la pauvreté (Riches and poverty), Possible et impossible (Possible and impossible), La dictature et la démocratie (Dictatorship and democracy), and D’accord et pas d’accord (Agreeing and disagreeing). The summary on the book jacket for the final section sums up the goal of the book well: “Disagreements are useful: they push us to find reasons. We search, we investigate, we ask questions… And this is how, through agreements and disagreements, ideas are formed, deformed, transformed… This is how thought is constructed.” (Translation mine.)

The individual entries in this book are short, with most of them being about a page. The supporting illustrations help support understanding, and the ideas can be explored in a wide range of ways.

“Les histoires du Petit Chaperon rouge racontées dans le monde” par Fabienne Morel et Gilles Bizouerne
Les histoires du Petit Chaperon rouge racontées dans le monde by Fabienne Morel and Gilles Bizouerne

This beautifully illustrated book contains 11 versions of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, including the well known French tale by Charles Perrault. The stories represent a range of cultures and come from France, China, East Africa, Morocco, Japan, Canada, Italy and Korea. Through the lens of the familiar story, this book offers a multicultural look at a girl’s coming of age story, and the interaction between generations.

“Les histoires de Barbe bleue racontées dans le monde” par Fabienne Morel et Gilles Bizouerne
Les histoires de Barbe bleue racontées dans le monde by Fabienne Morel and Gilles Bizouerne

Perhaps less familiar to a North American audience than the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the story of Blue Beard has also been told for centuries. This book includes the well known version of Charles Perrault, as well as other versions of the fairy tale from France, Italy, India, Scotland, Chad, and Israel. Beautifully illustrated throughout, this book offers a multicultural perspective on a familiar format – the fairy tale – and can act as a springboard to examine cultural similarities and differences in story telling, gender roles, and marriage.

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