Canada From Above

We spent time in the last week of school interacting with this amazing book, Canada from Above, by Heather Patterson.

We have been studying maps of Canada to learn about the provinces, territories and major bodies of water. But this book was something different. It took us off the page – high above Canada on a photographic journey from a bird’s eye view. Stunning photography of a majestic country. We liked guessing if a photo showed something natural or made by humans. Lots of times we had no idea what a photo was until we read the accompanying text. Belugas in Hudson Bay that looked like birds flying through the trees. Ice roads through the northern territories like nothing we had ever seen. A visual treat.

Salmon Creek

Salmon Creek, written by Annette LeBox and illustrated by Karen Reczuch mesmerized us this week.

Nothing is quite as amazing as the life cycle of the Pacific salmon. I still remember the sounds of rushing water, the visuals of a stream bed of red and the smell of cool, damp earth as I stood watching the salmon spawn in my own childhood. We aren’t studying salmon right now but we have been reading from a large variety of information picture books with themes of Canadian animals and endangered species to practice questioning and inferring and this book seemed an ideal pick. I couldn’t have predicted its powerful effect in the classroom. The poetic text and gorgeous illustrations lured us quick and fast into the amazing journey of Sumi from the beginning stirrings in her egg to her life as a fry, then a smolt and eventually to her own return journey to the spawning grounds of her birth creek as an adult female.

We learned about how Sumi laid thousands of eggs and the male salmon fertilized them. “Sumi flicked her tail, and the gravel drifted into the nest, covering her eggs like secrets.”

Sumi circled the creek, guarding her eggs. She bared her curved teeth, slapped her tail, scared off pairs of spawners from her redd.”

And later, as she drifted gently downstream, Sumi sang to her eggs . . .

Home is the scent of cedar and creek. Home is the journey’s end.

We manage the sadness when Sumi dies as LeBox does such a wonderful job of explaining the full circle of life and with our new understanding of the amazing salmon life cycle, we feel peaceful and wise. This book includes a glossary in the back to help with new vocabulary, more information about threats to Pacific salmon and suggestions for further reading and viewing.

Some of our unanswered questions from our very long lists!

  • How fast does a salmon travel? Especially when they are travelling against the current?
  • Are salmon fry see through?
  • Do salmon ever interact with their siblings?
  • How many eggs survive when the mother lays them?
  • If salmon are now endangered, how many are left?
  • What is in the yolk sac?
  • How could they survive if the water freezes?
  • Do they eat different things at different ages?
  • When salmon are injured in the rapids, how do they heal?

This book is one of my new favourites in the information story book category.

What’s the Most Beautiful Thing you Know about Horses?

We have been reading Aboriginal Literature with our reading group each week. This beautiful book by Richard VanCamp and illustrated by George Littlechild allowed us to learn more about horses while also learning about VanCamp’s Dogrib Nation.

Author Richard VanCamp’s hometown is Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories of Canada. On a cold (forty below!) winter day he decides to ask people he knows What’s the Most Beautiful Thing you Know about Horses? He, himself, doesn’t know much he explains because he is a stranger to horses; his people are not horse people. The people of the Dogrib nation have a great respect for dogs. In this northern land, dogs helped with hunting, protected the food stashes and helped with hauling camp from place to place. But yet in Dogrib the word for horse is big dog. When did dogs grow into horses? When did horses shrink into dogs? he asks.

Oh, the things he learns when he asks: “Horses always find their way home,” his Dad tells him. George Littlechild, who did the amazing illustrations for this book shares, “They stare at you as they breathe. Their soul comes right out.”

We shared some things we know too:

  • They go in running races
  • They are sometimes used in war
  • They are useful
  • They are calm and swish their tails
  • We can see them at the P.N.E.
  • They are in the Chinese Zodiac. Horse people care about their families.

What’s the Most Beautiful thing you Know about Horses?

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Our BLG reader Bill brought in an amazing book today!  Canadian Railroad Trilogy illustrated by award winning artist Ian Wallace is the illustrated version of Gordon Lightfoot’s song Canadian Railroad Trilogy. “We weren’t even born then!” the students exclaimed when told that this song was performed on New Years Day in 1967 in honour of Canada’s centennial.


This is a physically heavy book – the song travels through each page of “striking, catch your breath, sigh” kind of art by Ian Wallace. It also contains the song lyrics, the music, the illustrator’s notes and a brief history of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run . . .

Lightfoot wrote this classic song in just 3 days! Artist Ian Wallace took 21 months to complete the illustrations for this book and used a medium new to him – chalk pastels. We see the truly stunning Canadian landscapes and pictures of the many people involved in building the railroad.

But time has no beginnings and history has no bounds

Bill read us the story and then played us the song and flipped through the pages again following along.  The room was completely silent, all eyes on the book. A few little fingers skimming under the text. A magical few moments!  Thanks Bill for sharing this book with us today!

Our student reviewers report:

Ricky (who plays the piano :)): I like this book because the book is written by a special author – Gordon Lightfoot. He wrote a poem in the book and you can actually play it on the piano. The book has a piano song in it. The book also talks about the pictures of the book. That’s what I really like about the book.

Kevin: My favourite picture is page 21 and 22. I like that page because I like snow. It made me visualize me in the snow.

Jena: All the art in the book is too beautiful for me to choose which one is my favourite. Oh and one more thing to say: “I LOVE THIS BOOK!”

Edwin: The book was the calmest book I been read by a reader. It was special to me and the book had the beautiful pictures and the beautiful songs.