IMWAYR – October 24, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.


I love babytimes.

I love toddler times.

I love family storytimes.

But preschool storytimes must just be my very favourite storytimes of all.

Shh…don’t tell the other storytimes!

I’ve been covering for a colleague’s preschool storytimes for the past few weeks, and it’s been an eye-opening experience. I’ve worked predominantly with babies and toddlers for the past two years of story times, and preschoolers are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. They’re bright, curious, engaged and oh so very chatty, making them a whole lot of fun to work with.

A lot of the stories I shared with my preschoolers this week have been old favourites, but I have discovered a couple of new-to-me favourites as well!

The Watermelon Seed


A little crocodile loves watermelon more than anything else in the world. But when he accidentally swallows a watermelon seeds, he becomes convinced that it’s going to grow and grow in his tummy and turn him into a watermelon! He eventually burps out the seed (my preschoolers’ favourite part of the story), and all is well. A silly little story with limited text and fun illustrations that are sure to make kids giggle.

Rex Wrecks It


This is a fantastic story for sharing at a preschool or daycare because it centres on learning to play respectfully and to empathize with others. Rex is a little dinosaur who loves to wreck things, much to the dismay of the other little critters in his preschool. How will they ever learn to get along? This is another very simple story with limited text, but it’s great for starting conversations with children about respecting the needs and feelings of others, as well as inferring those needs through observation and conversation.  

And just look at those critters! There’s a robot, a monster, and a unicorn rabbit – something for just about every preschooler!😉


Stop Snoring, Bernard!


Bernard the otter loves his life in the zoo. He loves playtime, mealtime, and most of all naptime! But when his loud snoring upsets his fellow otters, Bernard sets off to find a place where he can sleep without disturbing anyone. Having grown up with a dad whose snores register on local seismographs (hi, dad!), I can’t help but sympathize with poor old Grumpy Giles, the otter who finally snaps and sends Bernard packing. Can you spot Grumpy Giles?


There’s a great repetitive refrain – stop snoring, Bernard! – that kids will love chanting along with, and the illustrations! Oh, the illustrations!! Zacharia OHora has a distinct, immediately identifiable illustration style that brings so much heart and charm to the story. The little otters are absolutely adorable, and my preschoolers just couldn’t get enough of them!

So many fun new favourites!

Have a great week, everybody!

Poetry Friday: My Village – Rhymes from Around the World


My Village: Rhymes from Around the World

As any children’s librarian or early literacy specialist will tell you, nursery rhymes can play an incredibly powerful role in the development of early literacy skills in young children:

There’s a reason we learn nursery rhymes as young children. They help us develop an ear for our language. Rhyme and rhythm highlight the sounds and syllables in words. And understanding sounds and syllables helps kids learn to read! – Reading Rockets

My Village collects, translates and illustrates twenty-two nursery rhymes from around the world to create a beautiful, diverse celebration poetry for young children. Countries represented in this collection include China, Norway, Jamaica, Fiji, Iran, Germany and more, for an inspiring glimpse into childhood traditions from cultures near and far.

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As former children’s laureate and beloved writer Michael Rosen explains in his introduction;

What this leaves us with is the rhymes itself…they are full of verbal fun and absurdity which matches the impossible deeds we often read about. If we learn them when we’re very young, they can become our companions for life.

There’s a beautiful variety of subjects and styles in this collection, but there are a few common themes that appear again and again – family, friends, food, games and animals. Through these poems we’re reminded of the common bonds that connect us all, regardless of our culture, language or home country.

Beyond supporting early literacy, nursery rhymes are a timeless means of transmitting cultural knowledge across generations:

Nursery rhymes preserve a culture that spans generations, providing something in common among parents, grandparents and kids—and also between people who do not know each other. Seth Lerer, Humanities Professor at the University of California San Diego and expert in the history of children’s literature, says that reading nursery rhymes to kids is, in part, “to participate in a long tradition … it’s a shared ritual, there’s almost a religious quality to it.” – PBS Parents

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Mique Moriuchi‘s beautiful, rustic papercut collage illustrations add a childlike warmth and wonder to the little poems. Each spread brims with colour,  joy and life, as happy children share their poems and their culture.

Seeing as my blog is called Raincity Librarian, and I do live in the rainy, rainy Pacific Northwest, I simply couldn’t resist sharing this Norwegian poem:

Rain, rain,

Pattering touch,

Rain, rain,

Clattering rain.

Rain, rain,

Little or much,

Rain, rain,

Welcome its touch.

I do wish the language of each poem was identified – you can probably safely assume that the poem from Germany is in German, but what about the poem from India? There are thousands of different languages spoken across the subcontinent. This goes for the poem from Australia as well – the original is presumably in an aboriginal language, but I’m sure there is more than one language/dialect spoken in the country. There is an acknowledgements section at the back of the book, but it would be interesting to know a little bit more about each poem – where it comes from, how old it is thought to be, and perhaps whether it is typically sung or spoken.

Still, this is a wonderful collection of children’s poetry from around the world, and joyfully introduces readers to rhymes as familiar to children in other countries as “Twinkle twinkle little star” is to the children in my story time programs. Take a trip around the world through poetry!

Versatile Blogger Award


A gigantic thank you to Holly @ Nut Free Nerd for nominating me for a Versatile Blogger Award! I’ll be honest, I’ve never been nominated for a blogging award before, so I feel like I’ve finally joined the ranks of the cool kids.



  • Show the award on your blog
  • Thank the person that has nominated you
  • Share 7 different facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 blogs of your choice
  • Link your nominees and let them know of your nomination




So there you have it – seven fun facts about me! As for nominees, I’ll be honest, I don’t really have 15 bloggers to nominate (I’m pretty new to the book blogging community), so I’m tagging anyone who reads this post and is interested in sharing seven facts about themselves! If you do decide to do the award, please let me know so I can come and learn more about you!

Nonfiction Wednesday – Snowflake Bentley

The Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is a celebration of children’s informational texts hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. 


Snowflake Bentley

From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. Snowflake Bentley won the 1999 Caldecott Medal.

As any kindergartener will tell you, people are like snowflakes – each one is unique. It was through the pioneering work of the pioneering photographer and self-taught scientist Wilson Bentley that the intricate beauty of snowflake crystals was first revealed and captured for posterity.

I was first introduced to the wonderful Mr. Wilson Bentley through one of my favourite adult nonfiction titles, Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich. Though he only plays a small role in the book, Bentley’s dogged pursuit of his passion for snowflakes fascinated me. I’ve always been inspired of people who possess the courage and the determination to follow their dreams, regardless of the roadblocks life places in their path, and Snowflake Bentley was certainly one of those individuals.

Born in 1865 in rural Vermont and largely self-educated, Bentley grew up fascinated by the “small miracles” of snowflakes. His supportive parents spent much of their life savings on a camera for their son for his 17th birthday, and ignited in him a life-long passion for highly detailed photography. Bentley made history in 1885 by becoming the first person to photograph a single ice crystal. Still, for all his accomplishments, Bentley never achieved fame or fortune – he contributed thousands of photographs to scientific journals and books and even penned several essays on the subject of snow crystals, but remained a Vermont farmer until his death in 1931.


Snowflake Bentley is a biography on two levels, with a simpler primary text that’s supplemented by additional information in sidebars. This allows the book to be used with audiences of different ages, broadening its appeal. The format can be a bit confusing at times, but it doesn’t detract too significantly from the story. The woodcut illustrations beautifully capture the spirit of the story, and earned a Caldecott Medal.

Bentley’s fascinating life story is of perseverance, self-belief, hard work, passion and a deep appreciation for the small miracles that make our world such a breathtakingly beautiful place. Inspiring and timeless, it once again proves the incredible power of the picture book biography to bring to life historical figures who perhaps might not be as well known, but whose stories deserve to be celebrated and shared.

Tips for Shy Storytime Groups


I filled in for a colleague’s toddler storytime at a local daycare centre, and my goodness, talk about a tough crowd. Imagine a room full of adorable little toddlers staring at you as if you have two heads, shocked into complete silence by your terrifying visage.

Being the teacher I am, my first thought (after “woah, tough crowd”) was – this would make a great teachable moment!

And so, without further ado, here are a few thoughts on warming up shy storytime groups!


Sharing names can be a great way to break the ice with a shy group of kids. One of my favourite name songs is Heckety Peckety Bumble Bee, because it gives you a lot of opportunities to practice the children’s names, but if the location you’re visiting has a favourite circle time name song, that’s even better. Being on a first name basis can warm up a frosty crowd, and can help make children feel welcome and included in the program. If the kids are too shy to tell you their name, they can whisper it to their group leader to say aloud for them, or ….


A cute and friendly puppet can do wonders for winning over a nervous audience. A strange grownup might be scary, but a soft-spoken, fuzzy puppet can act as a non-threatening intermediary, especially if the puppet is shy too. Children who are too shy to speak directly to an unfamiliar adult might be willing to whisper their name to a cuddly stuffed animal, or whisper it the answer to a question. This leads nicely into another suggestion:


Singing audience members’ favourite songs can be a great way to help elicit any kind of response from a group that feels practically catatonic. The tide in my shy toddler time started to turn when one of my little toddlers whispered to the puppet that he loved the alphabet song. Once again, shy kids can whisper their favourite songs to their group leaders or to the friendly puppet.


If your audience members are reminiscent of deer caught in headlines, now is probably not the time to roll out your shiny new material, complete with complicated lyrics and hand actions. Think of yourself as a ’90s popstar on a comeback tour – audiences want to hear your classic material, not your new songs. Familiar, much-loved, well-known songs can be comforting and soothing for nervous little ones.


My normal storytime approach is pretty high energy. I’m loud, I’m active, I bounce and jump and sing and make a lot of noise. With a shy group that’s already wondering where their beloved regular librarian is, my usual over-the-top, boisterous approach can lead to stunned silence at best, and terrified screams at worst (come on, who hasn’t made a kid cry in storytime?) Read the tone of the audience, and if your audience is quiet and nervous, like mine was, a quieter, gentler approach might be in order. It’s remarkable what a soft voice and a gentle smile can do to engage a reticent audience.

So, good luck to all my fellow substitute storytimers, and remember, sometimes your storytimes rock the house, and sometimes they…..don’t!


IMWAYR – October 17, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.


I’ve got another fantastic set of picture books coming your way this week! Here we go!

Monster Park


A daddy monster takes his little monster to the monster park for an afternoon of fun and play. But when it’s time to go home, little monster decides he doesn’t want to go!

Working in the children’s section of the library you see these meltdowns each and every day – they’re just a fact of life for little ones! This happy rhyming book with its colourful little monsters embraces little ones in all their exuberance, whether they’re squealing with laughter or rolling on the floor in a tantrum. They might drive us bonkers sometimes, but we still love them to bits.

It’s also really nice to see a little one spending the day with a beloved daddy – when the little monster skins his knee, he cries out for his daddy, who quickly makes everything better. It’s refreshing to see a dad taking on a role traditionally limited to mothers by soothing and comforting an upset child. Spotlighting male caregivers in picture books helps to chip away at longstanding gender biases and limitations – being patient and loving has nothing to do with a person’s gender, and everything to do with a person’s heart.

My Friend Maggie

Paula and Maggie have been friends since they were little, but when mean girl Veronica decides that Maggie is too fat and starts teasing her, Paula abandons her life-long friend and sides with the mean girl. When she finds herself Veronica’s next target, though, Paula discovers what it means to be a friend.

My Friend Maggie realistically portrays elementary school relationships, and the story wears its anti-bullying message lightly. 

Here’s a quote from a Goodreads review that gave me pause for thought, though:

….There’s a page where the main character says “and her clothes are a little snug” with a picture of this elephant trying to put on clothes that are too small for her, and that’s the page that completely lost me. Because there’s this persistent idea that of course fat people can’t dress themselves and all their clothes don’t fit.

That page frames Maggie as “the fat girl”, and with that framing device all the other things they pick on Maggie about take on a slightly different tone. Because there are a lot of stereotypical ideas that are used to shame fat people; they’re clumsy, their clothes don’t fit, they’re loud. All these things are said about Maggie and no where in this story are those things refuted. Maggie just continues to be a friend to the main character. And that’s the last stereotype, right? The idea of the kind, loyal, fat girl.

Having been the fat kid for much of my life (who was mercilessly teased throughout elementary school), I could see where this reviewer was coming from. Poor old Maggie seems to exist primarily as a plot device that allows Paula, the “normal” kid, to learn an important lesson. Even Maggie’s best friend seems to use her – much of Paula and Maggie’s friendship is based on the many things that Maggie does for Paula. Growing up fat and teased, the life lesson we often end up with is that we should be happy to have any friends at all, even if they don’t treat us with respect. 


I still think My Friend Maggie is a beautiful picture book, and the illustrations are breathtakingly detailed and add so much emotion and heart to the story. Paula is a realistic and empathetic character, and a lot of readers will be able to see themselves reflected in her, both in her strengths and her weaknesses. I just wish fat characters could get a little more respect in children’s books.

Lion Lessons


John Agee’s It’s Only Stanley has long been a favourite of mine for its droll sensibility and deadpan humour, and Lion Lessons has simply reinforced my admiration for this talented author/illustrator. Agee has a distinct talent for creating stories that are at once ridiculous and relatable – a little boy signs up for lion lessons from a suit-wearing, clipboard-carrying lion. As one does. But being meek and gentle, the little boy just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a lion, until the final lesson, Looking Out for Your Friends, provides him with the opportunity to earn both his Lion Diploma and the adoration of the neighbourhood cats.


Agee’s delivery is once again brilliantly deadpan – his absurdist scenario is depicted with such understated simplicity that the whole thing seems practically run-of-the-mill, which is where the real humour lies. Nothing about Lion Lessons hits you over the head or tries to distract you with crazy bells and whistles. This is good old fashioned absurdity in the classic tradition of William Steig, Peter Bown, even Maurice Sendak. Understated, sweet, and a lot of fun to share aloud, Lion Lessons really is a winning picture book.

Have a great reading week, everyone!

Poetry Friday: A Dark, Dark Cave


A Dark, Dark Cave

An intrepid brother and sister duo explores a dark, dark cave filled with strange and wondrous sights and sounds in this beautifully poetic celebration of the power of a child’s imagination.

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Hoffman’s spare, rhyming text draws readers deeper and deeper into the story, using the repetitive phrase “a dark, dark cave” to encourage young readers to read along and participate.

The pale moon glows

as a cold wind blows

through a dark, dark cave.

Bats in flight

disappear from sight

in a dark, dark cave.

As the children progress through the cave, their surroundings seem to grow darker, and smaller, and spookier….until a surprise visit from dad reveals that the cave is actually constructed from chairs and blankets strewn around the living room, and has been brought to life through the imagination of our young explorers!

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This fun, creative story will hopefully inspire young readers to create their own magical worlds to explore together, and is a wonderful celebration of unplugged, independent, child-led play.