Taking a Walk in the Forest of Reading

Red Maple Selections

Being an active reader is one of the most important ways for children to succeed in school.

The Forest of Reading program is designed to introduce students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to books written by Canadian authors. The program has ten categories broken down into different grade levels.

The Red Maple category consists of ten fiction books geared towards students in Grades 7 and 8. Every year, I wait rather impatiently for the Red Maple books to be announced. It is probably the single greatest resource I have to keep up-to-date on what’s new and exciting in young adult and junior fiction. Three of my favourites from this year’s Red Maple picks are:

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

Abandon all hope ye who enter Room 117.

The self contained special eighth grade class (SCS- 8) is held at the far corner of the school next to the metal shop and the custodian’s office. The class is made up of delinquents, goof-offs, troublemakers and anyone else who could be described as a hot-mess express. They are the unteachables.

Mr. Kermit used to care. He used to have enthusiasm for teaching but not anymore. He has 10 months until retirement and plans to coast along “teaching” the SCS-8 until June.

Author Gordon Korman has a talent for creating realistic and compassionate characters. Each chapter is narrated by a different student in Room 117. The reader learns that each so-called “unteachable” student has a real story. Parker has a legitimate learning disability that has gone unnoticed, Elaine’s tough girl reputation is based on a rumour and even Mr. Kermit has a back story that derailed his teaching career. It was easier for the school to label these people as problems instead of looking closely at the real issues.

The Unteachables is easy to read and is full of both humour and compassion.

Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands

The White Lady gives nothing back. Legend says her spirit is bound to the water. When the snow falls she returns to walk the shore. She calls to the children. She traps them forever. The White Lady gives nothing back.

Christopher awakes in a cell, cold and alone. He remembers nothing.  He learns that strange events are happening all over England. Children are missing. Christopher believes if he can figure out what’s happening to the children, he can unlock his memories.

Fans of Harry Potter will find themselves captivated by this book. Christopher is a similar but more realistic version of Harry.  Orphaned, scrawny and bullied as a child, he was later taken to be trained as an apothecary’s apprentice. While he has no magical powers, chemistry proves to be his most effective weapon.

Call of the Wraith is the fourth book in the Blackthorn Key series but you can read the books in any order. The characters cross over in each book, but the plots are stand alone.

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth

At first glance The Light Between Worlds may seem similar to Narnia, but it is so much more. It explores the idea of what happens after the fairytale is over. Once you’ve been in a magical world how can you ever go back to living in the real one?

The story focuses on three children during the Second World War. The children spend many nights clinging to each other in a darkened bomb shelter. One night Evelyn prays to be sent somewhere else, somewhere peaceful. Magically, they find themselves in the kingdom of the Woodlands.

Although the tale of the Woodlands floats back and forth throughout the book, the story’s main focus is on the relationship between the siblings. Once they return to the real world, things between them change.

The Light Between Worlds covers a lot of heavy subject matter but there is so much truth to how the characters develop.  The story will hit home with anyone who has watched a love one battle depression.

For a complete list of books in the Red Maple category please see the WPL catalogue. And please stay tuned for more favourites in the Forest of Reading program.

— Lesley L.