It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Seriously, I look forward to the Forest of Reading program like children wait for Christmas. I cross the days off my calendar until the big day when the nominees are revealed. The night before the reveal I can barely sleep and then I wake up way too early and rush to see what’s on the list. It’s that exciting.
The Forest Reading program is the largest recreational reading program in Canada. It was designed to encourage children to read by showcasing books written by Canadian authors. It is split up into several different age categories, each with ten nominations. The Silver Birch nominees are geared for those in grades five and six and cover a wide range of genres and topics. Here are three fantastic titles from this year’s list:
Elvis, Me and the Lemonade Stand Summer by Leslie Gentile
He has the sideburns. He has the hairstyle. He has enough sequins on his outfit to light up Las Vegas. There is no question, Elvis Presley is alive and well and standing right in front of Truly’s lemonade stand.
It is 1978 and eleven-year-old Truly lives in a trailer park on an Indigenous reserve in Victoria, B.C. Life for Truly isn’t easy. Her mother is always out with her boyfriend and their fridge is always empty. She often spends the night sleeping on the couch of her neighbour, Andy El, an elderly Salish woman who looks out for Truly. If only her father would come back, then maybe life would be better. She decides to take the money she earns from her lemonade stand and search for her father on the mainland. That is when Elvis shows up. Going by the alias ‘Aaron Kingsley’ the two strike up a friendship over a glass of lemonade. Elvis, together with Andy El make up a pseudo-family unit that is missing in Truly’s life. Truly begins to wonder if the family she’s always yearned for has been here the whole time.
It’s not easy being the new kid in town. It’s certainly not easy being the only Jewish kid in town either. No one else has the same traditions. No one else has Shabbat dinners. And it’s easier to pretend to be a vegetarian than to explain what Kosher means.
When Miriam’s parents decided to pack up their lives and purchase a motel on the outskirts of town, it sounded exciting. But when they arrived, things quickly turned into a disaster. The motel turned out to be a dive and not everyone likes the idea of having a Jewish family around.
The motel isn’t the only struggling business in town. The local diner is also fighting to make ends meet. Miriam and her new friend Kate come up with a plan to draw in new customers. It’s not exactly an ethical plan, but a little white lie never hurt anyone right? Their plan works – but too well. Customers start coming in by the dozens. Events start spiraling out of control and Miriam starts to wonder if her actions did more harm than good.
A well-written story about new beginnings that centres around the idea that it really does take a community to raise a child.
Igor’s dream is always the same. Hidden in shadows, watching from the outside, the Lizard Man waits to make his move. A feeling of panic takes over and there is the sound of footsteps pounding on the ground. The chase begins. He will never stop. The Lizard Man is relentless.
Igor must follow three rules to survive: stay on one side of the river, always be home before dark, and never, ever go beyond the south edge of town. There is a man with a Lizard tattooed on his skin that follows Igor’s family wherever they go. Years ago, Igor’s father was a witness to a terrible crime. Now his family can never be safe. When the Lizard Man gets too close, they must pack up and flee to a new town under new names.
After years of uncertainty, they settle in a new town where they feel secure. Igor attends school for the first time since kindergarten. But something seems off. He starts to remember bits and pieces of the past, as this town seems oddly familiar to him. Is there really a Lizard Man or is there something else going on?
An eerie mystery that is full of suspense and horror.
For a complete list of the Silver Birch nominees please see here. Stay tuned next month for the Red Maple nominees – books geared for grades seven and eight.