Great Books to Give for
the Holidays 2010
Ideas from the Conservatory’s
Speech Arts & Drama faculty
Conservatory Speech and Drama students have always known a secret – their teachers suggest the best books. Deciding their ideas were
too good not to share, the teachers have compiled their third-annual list of suggestions for holiday (or anytime!) gifts, sharing all-time
favourites and new discoveries. These tried and true suggestions are based on years working with children to become vivid storytellers,
actors, and confident speakers. It is an eclectic and exciting list – a treasure-trove of picture books, novels, poetry anthologies and
theatre books that have delighted and inspired them and their students through the years.
Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday season!
With the compliments of the Speech & Drama faculty of the Conservatory
What's with the Hippogriff? What's the inspiration behind Hogwart's
Castle? This book comes up with the answers.
Recommended by Jennifer Orr
Tacky’s Christmas by Helen Lester Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
Tacky the Penguin is back! In this brand-new addition to Helen Lester’s A sort-of sequel to the 1990 “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”, Rushdie
fabulous Tacky books, Tacky and his friends prepare for Christmas, and once again pays tribute to the invention and the importance of
once again meet the rough and tough hunters. It should come as no storytelling. Good for young teens and beyond.
surprise that Tacky manages to make Christmas a celebration to
remember. For absolutely everyone. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
A good page-turner, with a truly creepy villain. This novel features Robert
Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Langdon, Brown’s protagonist from “The Da Vinci Code.” It will keep you
Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else by on the edge of your seat.
Elise Paschen For older teens and adults.
The title says it all: the poems give insights into real life thoughts, dreams
and imaginings. The selections and the layout are fresh, contemporary
and direct – perfect for teens exploring life and literature. A CD is
Recommended by Kurc Martell
included and is a wonderful addition: many of the poems are read by It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles by Jack Prelutsky
the authors themselves. For teens and young adults. Delightfully funny poems for children, as well as their parents and
teachers! All ages.
Dear Teacher by Amy Husband
Michael writes his teacher a series of letters explaining why alligators, The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way
hidden treasure, pirates, space travel, and Top-Secret FBI missions make by Bill Bryson
it impossible for him to come back to school. Funny and imaginative, this The history of the English language in all its frequently bizarre glory.
unique picture book will appeal to anyone that has had the back-to- Bryson’s style is often as quirky as the language itself. Ages 15 and up.
school blues, especially boys. Ages 6 and up.
The Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean
It’s A Book by Lane Smith There are actually nine volumes in this series based upon the CBC radio
Not an e-book… a REAL book. If you’ve ever despaired that reading is show; all of them are wonderful. Ages 12 and up.
becoming a high-tech endeavour, you will enjoy this playful, tongue-in-
cheek tribute to the pleasure of books. This picture book is packed with Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli
wild illustrations and a fun, simple message. Ages 6 and up. A boy who has his entire life planned out finds out total control isn’t all
it’s cracked up to be. Filled with humour, wisdom, sadness and hope, as
The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers only Spinelli can write it. Ages 10 – 14.
The perfect foil to “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith. Henry is a boy who
literally devours books! He nibbles and munches his way through stacks The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
of books, absorbing their ideas and getting smarter and smarter. When A little girl in a frozen kingdom develops a friendship with an exquisite
the book eating begins to take a toll, he must discover another way to and frightening creature. A good introduction to one of the best writers of
enjoy books and “devour” their contents. Tasty for anyone, especially fantastic tales. Ages 10 – 12.
ages 8 and up.
Ctrl-Z by Andrew Norriss
Chicken Big by Keith Graves A boy’s eccentric godfather gives him a laptop that corrects any mistake
In an itty-bitty coop there was a very large egg. Out of the egg came a he makes, simply by pressing the undo function. Making mistakes, it
very large ….? The foolish chickens can’t quite figure it out! This is a turns out, can be a lot of fun! Ages 9 – 12.
playful twist on the Chicken Little story, with chickens running for their
lives and making ridiculous attempts to figure out the new member of the The Amazing World of Stuart by Sara Pennypacker
flock. Both the pictures and the story are hilarious. Ages 8 and up. Stuart discovers that a great deal of life’s worries can be solved if you
only have a cape! A delightful read. Ages 6 – 9.
20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury by Jack
Prelutsky The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
The poetry and illustrations are lively and varied – this is a wonderful An absolutely lovely series of fairy tales by one of the great writers of all
starter anthology for any child. If you think that poetry is stuffy or syrupy, time. I defy anyone to read the title tale without tearing up. All ages.
this collection will change your mind with entries that are humorous,
thoughtful, zany and sweet – and speak to children on their own terms. Beastly Tales by Vikram Seth
Recommended for children ages 4 – 10. A series of animal-inspired fables, written entirely in verse. Clever and
amusing all at once. Ages 10 and up.
Romeo and Juliet, The Graphic Novel by William
Shakespeare Beowulf by Seamus Heaney
This is a very cool evolution for the bard, and a perfect way to enrich the An excellent translation of the oldest surviving piece of English literature.
experience of reading Shakespeare. The books are produced by Classical Great for senior students. Ages 16 and up.
Comics, and are available in three text versions: unabridged, translated
to plain English, or in quick, modern English. I recommend the
unabridged version, of course. For teens and young adults. Recommended by Susan Duska
Ingo by Helen Dunmore
A 12 year old girl discovers she is part Mer (as in mermaid) and has a
Recommended by Grant Paterson series of adventures underwater. This is the first in a trilogy (“Tide Knot”
Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley is the second) and all of my students this age are devouring it! Popular
Here is a book that wouldn't work on an e-reader. It is full of removable with 11 – 13 year olds.
and detachable reproductions of props and tempting trivia and visual
pleasures from the Potter movies. Why don't Yule Ball ice sculptures melt?
The Magician's Elephant by Kate diCamillo
This came out last year, by the author of “The Tale of Despereaux,” “The Recommended by Kathleen Wells
Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” and “Because of Winn Dixie” –
what else do you need to say? 8 – 10 year olds.
Gossamer by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry explores the inner workings of our fears and desires through
Warriors series by Erin Hunter dreams in this book. Her characters tell us their innermost secrets as they
The series is about domestic cats gone feral and their adventures in the sleep. This book is beautifully written and intended for young adult
wild – their complex social structures and conflicts with other groups of readers.
cats and Two Legs! Most of the children in Grade Three play Warriors at
recess – they are hugely popular and there are dozens of them!
The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman
Ages 6 and under. Ever wanted to learn the ways of pirates? Then this is the book for you!
Gaiman goes through the alphabet letter by letter to illustrate to us the
Mr. Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves most dangerous traits of pirates. Read closely because there is a mistake
These are not new but I love them. The small format of the books with in the book that only the most careful of readers will catch! 8 and up.
simple, colourful illustrations and funny story lines make them classics!
Ages 7 – 12.
The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th
Anniversary Edition by H.A. and Margret Rey
The ultimate children’s classic! Who can resist the adventures of that
Recommended by Juleta Severson-Baker lovable monkey? This new edition is a great chance to give the gift of
Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat Curious George to a whole new generation of readers. Ages 6 – 10.
It’s a Canadian classic. Packed with adventure and beautiful prose.
Perfect for reading aloud. Ages 10 and up. The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid
Bubblegum Delicious by Dennis Lee Another classic that every young girl (and boy) should read! Pippi is such
Delightful! A newer book of Lee’s fun and rhythmic poetry for children. a lovable character who teaches us so much through her many
Gorgeously illustrated. All my students under age 10 love this book, but it adventures and antics. This book is a beautifully illustrated collection of
is ideal for ages 3 – 7. three Pippi books. Ages 8 – 12.
The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2010
Edited by Lorna Crozier Recommended by Anita Liu
An affordable collection of the best new poems published in Canada this Olive the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian
year. My dear friend, Calgarian Rosemary Griebel, has a poem in this Walsh
book. Ages 16 and up. A play on words of "All of the other reindeer" in the familiar song
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is the starting point of this original
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent and creative story about Olive, the dog. Follow Olive's adventure in trying
& Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life to become one of Santa's helpers! Ages 6 and up.
by Allan Wolf
A fun and exciting guide to poetry for young people. Perfect for
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
burgeoning poets, poetry lovers or for students of RCM History and Imagination and creativity go a long way for Harold and his purple
Literature Levels One or Two! Ages 12 and up. crayon. Though this is a simple story, it attests to the power of
imagination and the spirit of adventure. Ages 4 and up.
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A
Peanuts: You Can be Anything! by Charles M. Schulz
Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken A motivational book that encourages children to become anything they
This is a memoir and would make a perfect gift for any mothers on your want to be. All you need is a few pieces of encouraging advice from
list. Or, while you are shopping for your Speech Arts student, buy this one Snoopy. Ages 5 and up.
for yourself. It was by far the most touching and beautifully written book
of prose I read this year. As it says on the book jacket: “It is a story of true The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
love and unfathomable sadness.” Ages 18 and up. This is a touching true story of a college professor delivering his last
lecture – in the form of this book. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, he
Angel Square by Brian Doyle centres his message around overcoming obstacles and seizing every
Another Canadian classic. This novel is set at Christmas in post-WWII moment that life offers rather than the notion of death. A truly inspiring
Montreal. A story of suspense, coming-of-age, and choosing what is right. book. Ages 16 and up.
The hero is a young boy who solves a mystery while confronting racism.
Ages 9 – 12. Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl
If you love reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Witches”,
“Georges Marvellous Medicine” and “James and the Giant Peach”, you
Recommended by Alexandra Bell will want to read these books. Dive into the real world of Roald Dahl, the
Lizzy’s Lion by Dennis Lee author of all of these famous books in these two autobiographical
Forget about puppies or kittens…after reading this Dennis Lee rhyme volumes. For all ages.
packed classic, your children won’t be satisfied until they too can own a
pet lion like Lizzy’s. No robber stands a chance with this fierce protector
Twisted Tales: Shakespeare Stories by Terry Deary
watching out for its brave young owner. Only Lizzy knows how to tame .... and you thought Shakespeare was boring and impossible!
her beast’s ferocity. Find out little Lizzy’s secret in this roar of a tale. Ages Shakespeare’s best known stories are retold with a twist. Get ready for
4 and up. some fun historical facts, comic strips, quick plays and more! Ages 10
Nelson Makes A Face by Burton Cohen
For everyone who wonders why mothers warn about making funny faces,
listen up! In this book, poor Nelson’s expressions get stuck on his face and Recommended by Becky Richards
the consequences aren’t pretty. Discover why in this uniquely illustrated Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
children’s book from 1978. It’s a must-read that will no doubt leave a Kevin Henkes’ books are a treat for kids and parents. Lilly loves school
smile on the face of all mischievous young readers. Now that’s an and her teacher, but runs into trouble when she brings her fabulous new
expression that we hope will stick! Ages 6 and up. purse to school. “Owen” and “Julius the Baby of the World” are two other
Henkes titles that will delight. Ages 6 – 10
Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman
If you know a child with a terribly messy room, perhaps they should meet Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Jillian Jiggs, the fantastic creation of Phoebe Gilman. The spirited young The Ramona books have been around for a long time, but they feel
girl with bright red pigtails is a familiar character for many. With a mom remarkably fresh. Ramona struggles with all the usual growing pains,
who shrieks and pleads in an effort to reform untidy ways, Jillian is every and never fails to win me over with her humour and originality.
child’s hero and every mother’s nightmare. Ages 3 and up. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very The Story Giant by Brian Patten
Bad Day by Judith Viorst This is a wonderful collection of folk tales from around the world. Brian
It’s bad enough that irascible Alexander had a bad day, but in fact, it Patten frames the tales with the story giant’s own story. He has searched
was a terrible, no good, very bad day, which kind of explains why he’s so for thousands of years for one elusive tale: can the four children that join
grumpy. Wouldn’t you be grumpy if you woke up with gum in your hair, him at his castle be the answer? Good for ages 8 and up.
or you tripped on a skateboard? This story might help put your young
reader’s troubles in perspective, while reflecting on cranky Alexander’s. 5 Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve by Jan Brett
and up. Featuring Brett’s intricate and vivid illustrations, this story tells the tale of
Kyri and some greedy trolls that come to steal her Christmas treats. A boy
A Winter’s Yarn by Kathleen Cook Waldron, illustrated by and his polar bear arrive and save the day, teaching the trolls a lesson
Deborah Turney-Zagwyn they won’t soon forget. A perfect Christmas storybook for ages 7 and up.
Inside the pages of this beautifully illustrated book, you’ll find the winter
wonderland that exists at Sweet Tempest Zoo. It’s here, where one very Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
lucky boy learns how animals brave the cold winter weather with hot There are several “Fancy Nancy” books now, and they are all sparkly and
chocolate parties and hot-tubs for hippos. We recommend reading after a exuberant. Nancy loves all things fancy, and isn’t afraid to help others
trip to the Calgary Zoo or on a cold winter’s night, snugly tucked into find their way to true fancy style. Little girls adore these books, and the
bed. Ages 4 and up. wonderfully fancy Nancy! For ages 6 and up.
Recommended by Jim Dobbin
A Child’s Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas,
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Everyone should have this story in their library for Christmas. The
illustrations capture Thomas’ childlike remembrances.
Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His
Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More by
I have had this reference book on my shelf for years – it is incredibly
thorough, easy to navigate and never disappoints when I need an
answer. It is an outstanding value at around $20. Highly recommended
for anyone interested in Shakespeare.
Jake and the Kid by W.O. Mitchell
A prairie classic. From the pen of one of Canada’s greats, these stories
never go out of style. Ages 10 and up.