We found five YMC Community members from across Canada who were willing to put these tales to the test. Both mom and child read the book and then wrote these reviews. Is The Stamp Collector worth adding to your book collection? And will the The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen turn your reluctant reader into a bookworm? Find out now.
The book was great—a lovely read and I can see why Amy was so taken by it.
The best parts for me were less about the book and more the experience of reading it along with Amy.
Reading along with her and then having her run downstairs last night right after she had finished the book (and beat me through it). Her face flushed with excitement as she experienced the lives of the characters! I could see her coming down off the adventure of a great story. It delayed bedtime a bit (but was totally worth it)
And then today, driving her home from soccer, she was chatting about high school and careers and all the things that come. We chatted about her interest in running a bakery and her eyes lit up explaining how the one character travelled to France and around the world learning to cook. I could see her mind start to imagine what that would be like. What kind of life she could have.
To have a book inspire a life. . . now that is a great thing, and this book has definitely inspired my girl. This is exactly what inspires a love a reading and education in our kids.
Amy Nowell, age 10
When I saw the One Year in Coal Harbour book on the counter by our kitchen it looked odd and I couldn't figure out what I was going to be reading about. The cover was of a red haired girl sitting on a platform in a very tall tree.
Would you have figured out that with this simple cover there would be a mixture of emotions inside such as sad, exciting, mysterious, super sad, romantic, humor, angry humor and lots of others in a little book like this.
It may not look that interesting from the outside, but on the inside it is as if you are looking down like a bird and eaves dropping on all conversation that is happening throughout the entire book.
This AMAZING book also includes WONDEROUS recipes that you never would have thought to make before; so, this is a cookbook and a novel, so you have a two in one!
One of the best things I enjoyed about this book was that there is always a surprise every time you turn the page, (well, not every time, but lots of the time.) You never would have seen it coming if it wasn't right there in the book.
In Kids of Kabul, Ellis applies her style of journalism to the stories of about 24 kids living in an area that has been forever impacted by the Taliban, and years of war. The stories are short and poignant and sad. It is incredibly powerful to hear the children’s own words about their lives, the losses they have suffered and the lengths they go to sometimes just to get to school. Each story is powerful, but one or two resonated the most with me.
During the Taliban regime schools for girls were closed so many lost the opportunity to be educated. Faranoz is 14. She starts the book with her resilient story of losing her father, but being permitted by her oldest brother to attend a school with her mother each day. She is hopeful and funny and she aspires to be a doctor because: "What else can I do with so much intelligence!” Liza, 16, is an artist and she resonated with my daughter.
But for me Ajmal, 11, jumps off the page. Her mother is dead, her father is crippled and yet she and her sister try—after foraging through dumpsters for food—to make it to school each day only to find that the teacher herself is often not there. Despite her extreme poverty, she dreams of becoming a teacher and she vows: “when I am a teacher, I will show up for work every day so my students don’t waste time sitting in an empty classroom with nothing to learn.”
Payton Schuck, age 12
Each child in Deborah Ellis’s book has their own specific chapter about their story. I felt kind of sad when I started reading Kids of Kabul because many of the children in the book have had their parents killed in war by rockets, bombings or landmines. I cried at some parts. Some of the kids in the book got a good education. That’s so important. A lot of the kids here are hoping to become doctors or teachers and that’s a really big goal. I know they can do it.
The kids of Kabul live bravely through an endless war and they learn to read and write anyway. I think it’s a big deal because many of their parents didn’t actually have that chance and they didn’t learn those skills before. When the Taliban rule was all over Afghanistan, girls and women weren’t allowed to go to school. Some schools were destroyed. After I read this book I felt kind of guilty about complaining sometimes when I go to school. A lot of these kids didn’t have that chance. In these stories it’s often a male relative that permitted them to go to school, or their mother argued for them to go to school. I like that a lot because mothers should always stick up for their daughters. I enjoyed reading about Liza, 16, who attends the women’s art center and is learning art. I love art too.
Deborah Ellis is an awesome author. She makes me want to go to Kabul and sponsor a bunch of kids and help build schools.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Lawson guides the reader into the lives of the people left behind after a family member commits a horrible crime. Henry's journal is a raw documentation of life after his brother’s death that reveals anger and grief but also shares the reality of being a teenager in today’s society. The storyline itself opened up some interesting dialogue between my son and me about impulsivity and how our actions have a lasting impact on the people around us. It was a thought-provoking story from a perspective that is often avoided but needs to be shared.
Kellen McDonald, age 10
I think that Henry’s brother did a really bad thing that made his whole family sad, but I think that Henry is really angry at him and writing his journal helps him feel better. I like that the book has some funny parts and some sad parts and it tells why bullying is bad.
The Stamp Collector is beautifully written to bring to life a story of change, hope and perseverance. We often forget that a seemingly small act, even through the gift of words, can inspire change and bring hope to people of all ages and generations. This story is about freedom of speech and the sacrifices of one that can ultimately create a lasting effect in the world, long after one is gone. I found The Stamp Collector very inspirational, touching, deep and the illustrations help further bring the story to life before your eyes. I am fascinated by the silent relationship that is built between two men, from two different walks of life, but each with a passion — one for stamps and one for writing. These two men are brought together by their passions in an unspoken bond and although the end is bittersweet, it’s comforting to see the stamp collector carry on the voice of the prisoner through his words.
Cameron Yee, age 6
I really liked this story about stamps and words. I didn’t know something so small get so big, like his story. The pictures in the book are dark and from another place in the world. I was sad to see the writer go to jail for telling his story but happy he made a friend with the guard. I wish they could have talked to each other but like that the guard gave him stamps and the letters sent to him to make him feel better. I hope the guard shares his story with other people. I am very thankful to live in a place where we are allowed to write our own stories to be shared with others. I wish the prisoner was never sent to jail for trying to share his story.
When we were sent copies of Virginia Wolf to review, my daughter and I got very excited to share our thoughts on the book. The wonderful illustrations drew us into this story about two sisters, one is sad and the other is happy. The colours play a strong role in the tale. Kyo’s words flow like Vanessa’s paintbrush; vivid and strong.
Vanessa can’t do anything while her sister is in a wolf state. She tries to figure out why Virginia is gloomy. She pulls out the atlas to see where Virginia would like to go to make her happy. Then, she has an idea. Big imaginations, creativity and a love of sisters made this book a must-read in our home.
Alexa Christopher, age 7
I do like this story. It was the best story ever because when Vanessa painted that wonderful Bloomsberry garden. Vanessa and Virginia were best sisters, and in the painting both of them decided to paint together. And they painted butterflies and made turquoise birds.
My favourite part was when Vanessa got the idea to paint Virginia’s room.
“I flipped through her atlas but found no Bloomsberry. No perfect place. I didn’t tell my sister. But I had an idea.”
Want to inspire a love of reading in your children?