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Back-to-School with Alberta Books
By Ayesha Clough
If you think we need more Alberta books in Alberta schools, you’re not alone! Welcome to BrightSparks! the Read Alberta column that’s all about kidlit. In this inaugural edition, we bring you lots of great reads from local publishers and authors to get your kids excited for Back-to-School. Got your own suggestions? Share them on social media and tag us @WeReadAB.
Alberta Alphabet Book by Nicky Bird
B is for Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park. H is for Hoodoos, towers of rock shaped by the weather. V is for Vulcan, home of the Trek Station. Have a wonderful time trekking around the province with your new friends Bucky Beaver, Scotty Squirrel, and Robbie Rabbit!
Rocky Mountain 123s by Jocey Asnong
From Canmore artist and author Jocey Asnong, a lyrical board book that teaches number recognition and counting from one to twenty. See also her Nuptse and Lhotse series about two adventurous cats who love to travel.
The Two Brothers: A Haida Story by Diane Brown
Illustrated by two Haida carvers, this is the story behind the Two Brothers Totem Pole in Jasper National Park. Told in Haida, English, and French, we learn the unusual connection between the west coast islands of Haida Gwaii and our own Rocky Mountains.
Castles and Knights by Tamara Hartson
The “Super Explorers” are taking you back in time to the medieval days when people lived in castles and knights slayed dragons. Learn all about moats and secret passages, as well as weapons and armour. (See also Astronauts & Space, Robots, Volcanoes, and more in this series).
Juggling the Jitters by Deborah Fannie Miller
A “Dealing with Feelings” picture book from Calgary author Deborah Fannie Miller. A fun way to deal with anger and anxiety by turning worry into wiggles and jiggles. See also Grappling with the Grumblies, Deborah’s first book which won The Steffie Young Readers Choice Award.
Little Women’s Lodge Kit – Basic by Darlene Pearl Auger
“When little ones are born unto the earth, they are slowly let down with a Rope into the Tipi.” — From Mîkiwâhp: The Traditional Tipi, one of four Nehiyaw (Cree) picture books in the Kit. The stories are designed to help children learn about traditional parenting roles and responsibilities, as well as Cree language, story, and singing. The Basic Kit includes four picture books, two CDs, and a Teacher’s Guide.
Little Women’s Lodge Kit: Basic
Darlene Pearl Auger
Published by Eschia Books
Howdy, I’m John Ware by Ayesha Clough & Hugh Rookwood
A picture book about Alberta’s legendary Black cowboy who blazed a trail of kindness despite adversity. Includes comic-book style illustrations, a timeline, and educator’s notes. Finalist, ‘Children’s Book of the Year’, Alberta Book Publishing Awards and Nominee, Heritage Calgary ‘Storytelling Award’, both in 2021. Author and illustrator do Virtual Visits for Black History Month in February.
Lillian & Kokomis by Lynda Partridge
Lillian is at her seventh foster home, and at the end of her rope. As a girl of mixed Anishinaabe and white ancestry, she struggles to fit in and is bullied at school. But this time is different. With the love of “Auntie”, and more importantly, Kokomis (Grandmother) the learning and healing begins. A wonderful story interspersed with cultural teachings, Anishinaabek words, and charming illustrations.
Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands by W. Scott Persons
Meet the locals—the terrifying Albertosaurus and plant-eating Edmontosarus—plus visit the Danek Bonebed and Alberta’s other notable dig sites. This beautifully presented book is loaded with photos and illustrations that will appeal to young readers. Winner of the 2019 Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards Juvenile/Young Adult Non-Fiction category.
From Blue To Red by Ross McIntyre (+ Students)
This animated story with a jazzy soundtrack was created by award-winning Calgary music teacher Ross McIntyre with help from his students, funding from the Space Agency, and narration by Diana Krall! Watch it online in English (www.frombluetored.net) and French (www.dubleuaurouge.net). Alberta’s ‘Children’s Book of the Year’ in 2013. An oldie but a goodie. And free to view online!
From Blue to Red
Published: 2012 by Tiberious Publishing
Kung Fu Master by Marty Chan
Jon Wong earns some serious street cred when word spreads around school that he’s a kung fu master. Except he’s not. So when the school bully challenges him to prove his skills, Jon must figure out a way to somehow keep his status as the cool kid … without getting pulverized.
Hat Trick by Jacqueline Guest
Leigh Aberdeen is the only girl on her Alberta hockey team, the Falcons, and not everyone is happy about that. A local classic, Hat Trick is a suspenseful, action-packed story of a young Métis woman who learns about the difficulties of leading a double life—the hard way!
Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass
Erich is a young German POW working at a northern Alberta logging camp during WWII. He befriends Max, the twelve-year-old son of German immigrants. But with a saboteur haunting the logging camp and anti-German feeling running high in town, their friendship puts them both in danger. Winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, and finalist for the Red Maple Award.
The Loxleys and Confederation by Mark Zuehlke, Alexander Finbow, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Claude St. Aubin, & Christopher Chuckry
This award-winning graphic novel is a great way to present history to highschoolers. We rejoin the Loxleys in 1864 in the Niagara peninsula (see also The Loxleys and the War of 1812). Under threat of an American invasion, the Canadian colonies look to unite. We trail the Loxleys on their journey to the Charlottetown Conference and witness the events that lead to the Dominion of Canada.
Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung
Homes is the true story of a young boy who emerged from a war zone and found safety in Canada. This 2019 Canada Reads Audience Choice Winner provides a relevant and empathy-building window into understanding Syria for junior/senior high readers. Plus, the last section of the book takes place in an Edmonton junior high school.
Flashback by Simon Rose
I see dead people … and I have flashbacks to a life that’s not my own. Whoa! Max investigates the unsolved murder of a teenaged boy, with the help of the boy’s ghost. Nominated for a 2016 Alberta Book Publishing Award in the Young Adult category.
Published: Mar 25, 2015 by Tyche Books
Rescue in the Rockies by Rita Feutl
Janey, the time-travelling teen, is back! This time, the fourteen-year-old is forced to spend the holidays in Banff with Max, a sixteen-year-old German kid she finds very annoying. When she tries to get away, she’s whisked off to 1883, then a WWI internment camp, and finally the Banff area after the war. What do these time-hopping visits have in common, and can Janey solve the mystery before the enemy she’s made in the past captures her and Max for good?
TwoBlackEyes and the Unfinished Script by Tyler Trafford
Brandon Flock was an adventurous Calgarian who left an unfinished film script. Award-winning author Tyler Trafford takes the core of that story and imagines it into a fictional coming-of-age tale starring high school senior Nathan Munro. Together with three friends, Nathan escapes into a vividly imagined personal myth about being a prehistoric bull hunter. With the help of a mysterious teacher, the four friends challenge boundaries, face their fears and write their own futures.
Cold White Sun by Sue Farrell Holler
Cold White Sun is based on the true story of a boy who escapes political turmoil in Ethiopia and shows up alone and terrified at the former Greyhound station in Calgary. Set partly in Ethiopia and partly in Canada, readers will gain insight into what it means to be a refugee. Finalist for the Governor General’s Award, Young People’s Literature.
Ayesha Clough is the owner/operator of Red Barn Books, a boutique publisher of western-themed books by Alberta authors and artists. As a former journalist and a mom, it’s her personal conviction that Alberta kids need more Alberta stories. She’s delighted that the BrightSparks! column will shine a light on locally-produced titles for young readers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions and feedback.