Weaving Children’s Literature into Social Studies K–5

C. Review of Some Special Books

Suggested Time: 30 minutes


  • books as listed
  1. Briefly introduce some key books from the book box that represent various types and some special categories of books, such as books for modeling writing, special non-fiction titles and books featuring Francophone or Aboriginal people.

    • The Family Book. Stop on the spot and read this book aloud - it’ll only take a minute or two. The Family Book is an incredible book about different kinds of families that seems like it was designed specifically for our curriculum. It is also great for multiple perspectives.
    • In the Heart of the Village: The World of the Indian Banyan Tree. Describes the importance of a banyan tree to a village in India, socially, environmentally, and spiritually.
    • A Pioneer ABC. Alliterative sentences for each letter with lovely pioneer pictures for each taken from the lives of the United Empire Loyalists who escaped to Canada after the American Revolution.
    • A Prairie Alphabet. With its prairie pictures that take you back to your own rural childhood, these accurate, interesting, and definitely Canadian prairie pictures provide a perfect resource for inquiry as well as a great model for reporting. Show several of the pictures and read some of the captions.
    • River Ran Wild. Extremely useful for environmental issues, this book can also be used to support the development of historical thinking, and also Aboriginal perspectives. (Really good books nearly always have many layers and therefore have many uses!). Show the pictures and briefly tell the story of the book.
    • Spirit Of Canada: Canada's Story In Legends, Fiction, Poems, And Songs. This is a marvelous and well-illustrated collection of Canadian material, mostly historical.
    • The Flying Canoe. In this retelling of a classic folktale from Quebec, it’s New Year’s Eve, 1846, and 11-year-old Baptiste has come to live and work among the lumberjacks of Canada. They all miss their friends and families. As midnight approaches, they come up with a magical plan to get them home for the New Year celebrations.
    • Birdman. In this true story, Noor Nobi is devastated when he loses his family and nothing can console him until he discovers the birds in the local market. It transforms his life and the lives of many others, including thousands of captive birds.
    • Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World. A unique and very special book, this non-fiction is perfect for the grade 3 curriculum, and something that every teacher will want to use. It shows the most important of the United Nations Rights of the Child and provides pictures of children from all over the world illustrating what these rights mean to the lives of these children. By UNICEF and Dorling Kindersley, it’s no wonder that the book is so powerful!
    • The Strongest Man This Side of Cremona. Great Alberta prairie, farm, and mountain pictures in this story of Matthew and his dad. They encounter something even stronger than his dad – a tornado.
    • King’s Chessboard. This mathematical story from India is available in several versions and fits very well into the math curriculum. Students will quite enjoy the story.
    • Canadian Shield Alphabet. Lots of interesting and little-known facts about the people and regions of the Canadian Shield. Beautifully illustrated.
    • Coming to Canada: Building A Life in A New Land. WOW Canada! series. An essential book! Tells the stories in brief and interesting text with lots of good illustrations of many of the immigrant groups that have come to Canada, starting with the Filles du Roi right up to the Somalian refugees in the 1990’s.
    • Lobster in My Pocket. Although has just black and white lines drawings, the story is charming and provides lots of details about life in Acadia. Lee lives in a fishing village. One day she hears a little voice coming from a lobster crate and she discovers Lucky, a talking lobster. Lee sets Lucky free and Lucky returns the favour one day when Lee nearly drowns in a wild spring storm.
    • The Sugaring-Off Party. Paul, anxious to be going to his first maple-sugaring party tomorrow, asks Grand-mere to tell him about what it was like when she was young and took part in the cabane a sucre. Gilles Pelletier’s paintings--filled with brilliant colour--explore the sights, sounds, and tastes of a special time in a French-Canadian community.
    • Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish. Based on the true story of the boat “Fish,” part of the Canadian Arctic Expedition in 1913, this beautiful book details the struggle to survive in the high arctic. It demonstrates the knowledge needed for survival in the far north and the skills the Inupiaq had for survival. The explorers take along an Inupiaq family for their survival skills and knowledge. The family provides hunting skills, sewing, snow houses, and much care and wisdom for the expedition.
    • Delta is My Home. Tom McLeod is an 11-year-old boy. He tells about such things as how the Mackenzie Delta floods, how to make bannock and about “ratting” (trapping muskrats) and hunting black ducks.
    • Secret of the Dance. A young Aboriginal boy witnessed a secret ceremony (potlatch) after being told that dancing is forbidden by law. Evocative illustrations capture the west coast landscape and the sense of secrecy that is central to the story.
    • Boy of the Deeps. A story of the miners and the hardships and danger of their lives in Cape Breton.
    • Hidden Buffalo. Tells the story of the dependency of the Cree people on the herds of buffalo.
    • Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Eight-year-old Garang, orphaned by civil war in Sudan, finds the strength to help lead other boys as they walk hundreds of miles seeking safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya, and finally in the United States.
    • Follow the Drinking Gourd. Winter’s story begins with a peg-leg sailor who aids slaves in their escape on the Underground Railroad. While working for plantation owners, Peg Leg Joe teaches the slaves a song about the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper). Slaves begin to escape by following the song’s directions. History in picture book format.

Additional books from other sources to highlight might include some of the following. Don’t avoid books because they may be out of print. They may be in participant’s libraries and therefore available, and they may (likely will) come back into print.

    • No Room for Napoleon. Here’s an excellent story for highlighting issues surrounding the use of land and resources.
    • Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea. This postcard-format story serves as a great model for student research and reporting.
    • Rabbits. This simple but powerful allegory describes the results of most of the colonizing in the history of our planet. The book is also excellent for helping to establish the idea that Aboriginal people have a very different perspective from mainstream Canadian society.
    • Silver Threads. This story of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada and their experience here during the war will help older students understand some of the issues related to nationality.
    • Carolina’s Gift: A Story Of Peru. A young Peruvian girl wants to get a gift for her grandmother so she visits the local market to choose a gift. There are great pictures showing dress, lifestyle, etc.
    • Tonight is Carnaval. This is a story of a Peruvian boy’s preparations for Carnaval with extremely good pictures that are Peruvian artwork.
    • Boy Who Ran with the Gazelles. A young boy from a desert village follows his tame gazelle into the wilderness, where they join a herd of gazelles. The boy stays with the gazelles, and even though men find him and capture him, he manages to return to live with the gazelles. Although not a tale from Tunisia, the setting is Africa and very well could have taken place in Tunisia.
    • Tiger’s New Cowboy Boots. Tiger is going on a cattle drive – with his new cowboy boots! This appealing story provides great Alberta landscapes and a look at the lifestyle of Alberta ranchers.
    • Red Sash. It is Rendezvous, when the voyageurs who spend the winter in the North American wilderness come back to the trading post of Fort William, at the head of the Great Lakes. A storm hits, and a young Métis boy helps to save one of the travelers. Historically-accurate illustrations give an authentic picture of life at this busy fur-trading post.
    • The New Land: A First Year on the Prairie. An informative view of the circle of seasons for a pioneer family in Canada. Wonderful book.
    • Enough. This spirited Ukrainian story is set during the famine of the 1930s. Marusia’s ingenuity gives her the opportunity to go on a magical journey to find more food for her village. Generosity triumphs over greed.
    • Mare’s Egg. A new settler in Canada is hoodwinked into purchasing a “mare’s egg” – actually a pumpkin – which, he is convinced, will hatch into the perfect horse. A very funny story about being a settler in Canada.
    • Any Out-of-Print books that may be in your library and that may come back into print (a great many will).
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This resource was developed by ERLC as a result of a grant from Alberta Education to support implementation.