Top Ten Tuesday – Halloween Picture Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the bookishly inclined team over at The Broke and the Bookish.

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This week’s theme is a Halloween-freebie, so I’ve decided to share ten of my favourite picture books for Halloween picture books!

Go Away Big Green Monster – A perfect monster book for your littlest patrons. Even timid children will enjoy shouting out “go away!” as you disassemble the big green monster.

Click Clack Boo – A Tricky Treat – Those crazy farm animals from Click Clack Moo are back, and this time they’re planning a sneaky surprise for Halloween-hating Farmer Brown.

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Creepy Carrots – Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. He eats them all day every day. But what happens when the carrots have had enough…..?

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? – Fall is all about pumpkins, and this great picture book, with its diverse cast of characters, introduces STEM themes in a fun fall way.

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Pumpkin Trouble – Trust Jan Thomas to create a silly, simple pumpkin story that will have kids in stitches!

Where’s My Mummy? – This little baby mummy loves playing hide-and-seek, but who will comfort baby mummy when the deep dark woods spook him? Mommy mummy, of course!

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Ghosts in the House! – I love Kazuno Kohara’s minimalist illustrations in this sweet and spooky story of a little girl and her haunted house.

Mouse’s First Halloween – A sweet, not-scary story perfect for the littlest ghouls and goblins.

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Pumpkin Eye – A poetic Halloween celebration that’s a little bit spooky, but not too scary.

Peek-A-Boooo! – A fun lift-the-flap book that’s perfect for babies and toddlers.

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Have a spooktacular Halloween, everyone!

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.

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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

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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

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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! 😉

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Stop Snoring, Bernard!

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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?

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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!

#IMWAYR – Oct 10, 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.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and honorary Canadian friends!!

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I’ve got a bumper crop of books to share this week, so let’s dive right in.

Mr. King’s Machine by Genevieve Cote

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Mr. King is a merry old crown-wearing feline king who loves pretty things and machines. When a caterpillar mars a pretty thing – a flower – Mr. King turns to his second love – machines – for revenge. He creates a mechanical butterfly catching machine not unlike an orange tank, and races around the land in pursuit of the offending butterfly. Unbeknownst to Mr. King, though, his machine is filling the air with terrible pollution, and his friends are most displeased with him. To set things straight, Mr. King uses his mechanical know-how to create something beautiful and practical!

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A fun, sweet story from a Canadian author/illustrator and publisher – how cool is that? And how can you resist that charming face?! It’s definitely worth checking out this third adventure featuring the delightful feline, Mr. King.

Pigs and a Blanket by James Burks

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Two little pigs share a much beloved blanket. Each likes to have fun with the blanket in their own way – making movies, playing with trucks, reading or dancing. When the two little pigs each decide they want the blanket for themselves, they quickly realize that sometimes sharing something with someone you love is actually a million times more rewarding than having that something all to yourself.

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Anyone with siblings or multiple children will immediately recognize these dear little piggies, and it’s a lot of fun for story times. Pigs and a Blanket is a great little story about sharing and caring with text that’s simple and approachable enough for even the youngest readers.

Hoot and Peep

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Big brother owl Hoot is thrilled that his little sister Peep is finally old enough to come outside on the rooftop with him at night. He can’t wait to teach her all his owl wisdom. But little Peep just doesn’t seem to understand what being an owl is all about! Instead of saying hoo! like a normal owl, she wants to sing! Could it be that the unconventional Peep actually has her own owl wisdom after all?

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Hoot and Peep is a beautifully illustrated story about finding your own song, and about having the courage to dance to the beat of your own drummer, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.

Blocks

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As anyone who’s ever worked with or raised young children can tell you, sharing can be a difficult concept to grasp and master. Giving something away to someone else, with no guarantee that you’ll ever get it again, isn’t necessarily intuitive! It can be hard enough for us grown ups to share, so imagine how difficult it must be for little ones.

In this colourful picture book from author/illustrator Irene Dickson, a little girl named Ruby plays happily with her red blocks, while a little boy named Benji plays with blue blocks. But when Benji snatches away one of Ruby’s red blocks, and Ruby decides to take it back, they bring both of their block sculptures tumbling down. When Ruby and Benji learn to share, they realize that by combining their block collections they can open up an entirely new world of building ideas and creations!

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Like Pigs and a BlanketBlocks is a great story about sharing and caring, and is a great starting point for conversations about collaboration, sharing and team work. It’s also super cute!

So many sweet and wonderful picture books, so little time! Hopefully you can get your hands on copies of all these books – they’re all great reads in their different ways.

Have a great reading week, everyone!

Review: Puddle

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Puddle

One rainy day, a little boy is upset because he can’t go out and play. His mom comes up with a way to keep him entertained–by drawing a picture of herself and him going outside, playing in the rain, and splashing in a giant puddle. They have so much fun drawing themselves that they decide to venture out and make the most of the rainy weather.

Oh Hyewon Yum, how I adore you and your adorable illustrations! Like the true picture book nerd that I am, I have a little list of artists who I would want to be my illustrators if I ever published picture books (hey, a girl can dream), and Hyewon Yum is absolutely on that dream list. Her illustrations are so sweet, so charming and so expressive, I adore them! Just look at this grumpy little sweetheart:

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As my blog title might suggest, I live in a pretty rainy part of the world, and many a day of adventure and fun has turned into a day spent moping around in the house glaring out the window and cursing the gloomy weather. The rainy season pretty much lasts from October through to June, and it’s a miracle that we don’t all end up covered in moss by the time summer rolls around again. Puddle is a great reminder to find the joy in every moment and make your own happiness, whatever the weather. Life is too short to get worked up over a bit of rain (or a lot of rain….).

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There’s a Scandinavian expression that essentially says “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes” – if Scandinavians were to let a little snow keep them from getting outside and enjoying life, they’d spend most of the year cocooned inside going stir crazy! Similarly, life in the Pacific Northwest sometimes means learning to laugh at the weather, let go of your worries, and just let yourself get a little wet! We can all be a little too serious sometimes, and we need to get in touch with that inner puddle-jumping child again, and find the fun in the rain.

A great pair of gumboots and a colourful umbrella certainly don’t hurt either! 🙂

Review: Don’t Touch This Book

Don’t Touch This Book

Bill Cotter’s previous picture book, Don’t Push The Button!, became my unofficial book of the summer this year – I brought it with me to a couple of Summer Reading Club school visits, and ended up reading it aloud at least 10 times. It’s so much fun – few things in life are more tantalizing than a big red button, especially one that you’re not allowed to touch. Kids delight in watching Larry the monster wrestle with his conscience, and they love joining in with him as he finally snaps and starts pushing the button. I love doing a dramatic “1, 2, 3….BEEP” with the audience as we all push the red button together.

I was pretty excited when I heard that Cotter was coming out with a follow-up to Don’t Push the Button!, called Don’t Touch This Book! I was even more excited when I saw a bright red button featured on the front cover!

Well….I hate to say it, but I really prefer the original when it comes to this series of picture books. Don’t Touch This Book! has some really fun elements, but it lacks some of the charm that made me love its predecessor so much.

One of the things that makes Don’t Push the Button! so much fun is that the audience and the main character are always on the same side – neither side is supposed to push the button, but together they decide to break the rules, making them co-conspirators in a silly exercise.  In Don’t Touch This Book!, Larry is back, but to be honest he’s kind of a jerk this time around. As the owner of a cool new book, Larry is the one setting the rules, and he’s the one who decides who gets to touch his book. Larry tells the audience what they can or can’t do, coming across as kind of bossy in the process. We don’t get to see Larry hilarious wrestling with temptation like we did before, and we don’t feel like we’re on the same side with him against some mysterious, no-fun button-maker.

There’s a lot of interaction this time around, and it could be fun to get kids talking like a robot, roaring like a dinosaur and flapping their wings like a bird. But I miss the cheekiness of the original, which really capitalized on the thrill of breaking the rules and being just a little bit naughty. Kids’ lives are dominated by rules – they’re constantly being told what to do and when to do it, and have very little real control over their lives. There’s such a thrill in being able to break the rules, even if just in a story. In Don’t Touch This Book!, the audience spends the entire time being told what to do and following instructions, even if Larry does warm to them in the end. It’s still fun, but it’s just not quite the same. I’ll stick with the original.

Review: Moonday

Moonday

How has it taken me this long to discover Adam Rex?! I feel like a bit of a charlatan – I’ve been a children’s librarian for two years I’ve never experienced the strange wonder that is an Adam Rex picture book.

When the moon lands in a child’s backyard it sets of a chain reaction of unusual events that is only resolved by the child’s quick thinking and a scenic drive to return the moon to its rightful place. Is it real? Was it all a dream?  Either way, Moonday is a strange, surreal, darkly lit, understated, whimsical, beautifully illustrated reading experience. It’s a breath of fresh air, perfect for those days when you feel like you’ve seen so many boring, uninspired, overly-commercialized children’s books come across your desk that you think you’re going to scream….or just pass out from sheer boredom, not unlike these kids.

 I can’t wait to discover and explore more of Adam Rex’s picture books!

P.S. When I was a child, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that people in Australia don’t fall off the bottom of the world, or have all the blood rush to their heads on account of being upside down. This illustration pretty much captures exactly what I thought being in Australia must be like!

Review: Barnacle is Bored

Barnacle is Bored

Barnacle is bored.

Bored. Bored. BORED.

Every day is exactly the same.

Until the day everything changes.

Will Barnacle ever be bored again?

The grass is always greener on the other side. Except when it’s not….. Barnacle longs for a more exciting life, and dreams of being as footloose and fancy-free as the polka-dotted fish. He quickly realizes, though, that there’s something to be said for living a boring life.

Author/illustrator Jonathan Fenske gives us a perfect example of an effective, economical text. There are so few words that each one has to be perfectly chosen for maximum effect, and the illustrations are used to fill in all the gaps and expand upon the minimalist text. Just look at those facial expressions!

This is such a fun story for sharing with kids at story times – the ending is just hilarious, making this a real winner. We’re only a week or two into the summer vacation and already the library is filled with a chorus of school children chanting “I’m bored!” What better time to introduce them to bored old Barnacle?

#IMWAYR – July 11, 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 a bunch of reviews coming down the pipeline this week – I’ve been devouring picture books recently, and the shelves at my library are bursting at the seams with great new books. If want to make sure you don’t miss any reviews, feel free to follow my blog so you’ll be notified of each new post.

Don’t Touch This Book

Barnacle is Bored

Excellent Ed

Moonday


The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur (BD + DVD + Digital) [Blu-ray]

OK, so I didn’t read this so much as watch it, but this is my blog and I can do what I want so there (yikes, I think the toddlers in my story times are starting to rub off on me….).

I hadn’t caught this one in theatres and Pixar has really been hit or miss recently (curse you, Planes!), but I’m a dinosaur fanatic and and my partner’s an optimist, so we decided to give it a try.

Our lead character Arlo lives in a world in which the mass extinction of the dinosaurs never occurred. He’s the runt of his farming family, and longs to impress his parents and make his mark like his more successful siblings. When tragedy strikes and Arlo is separated from his family, he must find an inner source of strength so that he can conquer his fears and find his way home.

The story is nothing that hasn’t been done in children’s films before – think “The Lion King”, or “The Land Before Time” – and the characters are pretty generic. You could replace all of the dinosaur characters with humans, or dogs, or elephants, and you’d barely notice the difference – the film rarely takes advantage of the fact that its characters are DINOSAURS! At times it felt like I was watching an old Disney TV special featuring a jovial cowboy… I did appreciate the quiet gentleness of the story, though – many filmmakers think that children need to constantly be barraged by noise, colour and movement in order to be entertained, when in reality a quiet, thoughtful story told with a gentle hand can be just as effective.

There were definitely some heartwarming and hilarious moments, and I cried at some scenes (though I cry during Tim Hortons TV commercials, so take this with a grain of salt). The animation, too, was breathtaking. My god, the scenery was just incredible, I could’ve watched the wind blowing through the autumn foliage for the entire run-time. And the water! Water has always been a challenge for animators to recreate, but the rushing rivers in The Good Dinosaur were so realistic it was hard at times to believe it wasn’t film footage of an actual river. Incredible.

So, the story is generic, the characters are likeable if forgettable, and the animation is incredible. The Good Dinosaur isn’t one that you’ll likely feel the need to re-watch, and it likely won’t be remembered as one of Pixar’s finest, but it’s not a bad movie, just all around serviceable. Which isn’t something you ever want to say about a movie with DINOSAURS.

Have a great week everybody!!

Review: Maybe Something Beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful

The little urban public library branch in which I’m currently working isn’t exactly beautiful. The building is old and a bit tired, and until recently a lack of eye-catching signage meant that people often walked right by us without even realizing that we were here. Like Mira’s city in F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell’s Maybe Something Beautiful, our library’s exterior was drab and dreary, and in desperate need of something beautiful.

The addition of splashes of colour in the form of a vibrant outdoor mural, together with seasonal window paintings (from the wonderful local artist and library staffer Dawn Lo), has changed the face of our little space. These happy pops of colour, which were created by library staff, local residents, local artists, and community organizations, brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to our space, and rejuvenated our tired exterior.

Maybe Something Beautiful tells the story of Mira, a little girl who lives in a city that’s grey and dreary. She is an artist, with a heart that’s filled with colour, and she spreads art and joy throughout her community. Still, she wishes there was more she could do to help revitalize her community. When a mysterious muralist appears, he unleashes a creative whirlwind and inspires the community’s residents to come together and turn their homes into something beautiful.

What the story doesn’t touch on, but which might be worth mentioning when using this book with children, is that painting on random buildings in your community might create something beautiful, but might also be against the law. Public art is wonderful, but vandalizing public or private property isn’t very nice, and probably won’t win you many friends. While the creation of community artwork appears in the story as a spontaneous act, the authors’ note does mention that the event on which the story is based involved a lot of organizing, planning, teamwork and community engagement.

As you might expect from a picture book about creating art, the illustrations in Maybe Something Beautiful are fantastic. The changing colour schemes mirror the shifts experienced by the community, as a neutral palette of greys and browns explodes into a lively palette of colour and vibrancy. The illustrator is, in fact, the real-life artist upon whom the character of the muralist is based, and who helped inspire a public art revival in San Diego, California!

While not all children might get the opportunity to paint on buildings in their neighborhood, Maybe Something Beautiful is still an inspiring celebration of the power of artistic expression and community engagement in all its forms that everyone can relate to. Even the smallest acts of connecting and creating can inspire positivity and change, and we all have the power to make the world a more beautiful, joyful place.

Review -Super Happy Magic Forest

Super Happy Magic Forest

I’ll be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I first came across this hyperactive explosion of colour in my library, but I have since been thoroughly converted.

This. Book. Is. AWESOME!

Each spread is a riot of humour, heart, colour and detail. Just look at this spread!!!

There’s just so much to see and explore – it’s like Where’s Waldo but without any specific objective beyond simply enjoying and appreciating each scene.

I love the zaniness of the story and its characters (Trevor the magic mushroom is a personal favourite), and there’s a slight message about not making assumptions or jumping to conclusions (the supposed baddies turn out to be not quite as our heroes were expecting), but really this is just a hilarious bit of crazy, rainbow-coloured fluffy fun, and I’m all for that.

It’s a pretty good laugh for adult readers, too!

There’s a sequel on the way, too – I can’t wait.