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Question:

I am teaching a Unit on Canada to a fifth grade class.  Part of our unit lessons include books written on the classes reading level that would talk about life in Canada past or present, childhood stories, etc.  I can't seem to find any anywhere and was wondering if you could recommend any or do you know a website that I could try.  Thanks for any (or no) help.  I appreciate the effort.
 

Answer:

I know a bit about Canadian books...  But not about 5th graders *laugh*. My oldest daughter is 7 yrs old and I'm too old to remember 5th grade (shhh, don't tell).  I'm also not sure if you want a book they can read at home on their own or if you want a shorter one that you can complete during class time

Between the two of us, we should be able to come up with something.  If you look at Amazon.com (in the US) or Amazon.ca (in Canada) you should get a decent idea of how long the book is (I think it has the number of pages, age ratings and reviews for most books).

1) Of course, the most famous books about Canada and Canadians are the Anne of Green Gables (from Amazon Canada) (from Amazon USA) stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery. They're fiction, but you learn a fair amount about the lifestyle.  They are set in Prince Edward Island and are wonderful stories (I have the entire set).  I can't wait until my girls start reading them.  Green Gables is actually still there (did you know it was a real place?) -- in Cavandish in the Prince Edward Island National Park.  You (or the kids) can research it further at the official gov't website - http://www.gov.pe.ca/greengables/index.php3

2)  The Last Loon by Rebecca Upjohn -- (from Amazon Canada) (from Amazon USA) modern story about an 11 year old boy from the big city (Toronto, Ontario) who gets "stuck" visiting his aunt in the Canadian wilderness.  It's a good book for children just starting to read chapter books.  You can find a "sneak peek" of the first two chapters of this story on the author's website.

3)  Who Has Seen the Wind (from Amazon Canada) (from Amazon USA)  by W.O. Mitchell -- think "Little House on the Prairie" set in Canada and you've got the feel of this book.  It's a classic and was required reading in school when I was young. -- he also has numerous other books, but Who Has Seen the Wind was the most famous.

4) Scruffy:  a Wolf Finds His Place in the Pack (from Amazon Canada) (from Amazon USA) by Jim Brandenburg - Non-fiction. A story about the life of a teenage wolf on Ellesmere Island.  Offers opportunities for discussion around animal lifestyles, the location, climate and environment of Ellesmere Island.  One of the reasons it's particularly interesting is that Ellesmere Island is in Nunavut.  The book itself will be a bit young, but perhaps you can learn a bit about Nunavut with your class and then "adopt" a first or second grade class and have the older children read the book with them? The main reason I suggest the book even though it's younger than it should be is that Nunavut is a new territory that was formed in Canada in 1999.  It's the first time in a long time we've changed anything on our map up here -- to be honest when I first heard about it I thought it was a joke *blush*.  Nunavut has it's own website with some basic facts that would likely be appropriate for your age group http://www.gov.nu.ca/  It's mainly an Inuit area.  I think it would be quite interesting for the class to engage in some discussion about changing maps -- how would they feel if they discovered Texas was suddenly going to be chopped in half and made into two states (for example).  We (me anyways) always took for granted that Canada was Canada -- seeing it suddenly change threw me for a bit of a loop.

5) Another fun story is Ogopogo by Arlene Gaal (from Amazon Canada) (from Amazon USA) -- is it fiction? is it non fiction? You decide *laugh*.  Ogopogo is the Canadian version of the Loch Ness Monster.  He lives in the Okanagan lake (British Columbia).  We've even had a stamp made with him on it.

6) Any book about First Nations people -- My favorite is The Heart of a Chief (from Amazon Canada) (from Amazon USA) by Joseph Bruchac

superman stamp

8) A goofy one -- ask the kids to bring their comics to school and guess which one's created by a Canadian! Yes, it is absolutely silly, but the kids might enjoy a bit of a break from all of the non-fiction learning. Stumped?  Superman is the most famous comic created by a Canadian (Joe Shuster).  Where's Metropolis you ask?  Well -- take a good long look at Toronto.  Other northern crime fighters include Wolverine from the XMen (though he was created by an American writer), Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Johnny Canuck, Fleur de Lys, and Captain Canuck.  And all of them (except Wolverine) have made it onto Canadian postage stamps.

I've tried to give you a range of ideas (maritimes, prairies, mountains, inuit and native american).  I tried to think of something French Canadian but couldn't come up with a book (they tend to be in French) -- maybe just listen to some Celine Dione music.  As I mentioned, age appropriateness was a struggle for me.  I  devoured books as a child (I still do), so I may err on the side of recommending books that are a bit too difficult.

 


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