#IMWAYR – May 31, 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. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Carnivores

Have you seen Finding Nemo? Do you remember Bruce the shark and his “fish are friends, not food” motto? This darkly hilarious story from Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat is reminiscent of that reluctant carnivore – three apex predators are secretly hurt by their reputations as mindless eating machines, and seek to change their ways and their relationships with their fellow animals. This story will likely appeal to a certain sort of sense of humour, it’s a little  bit twisted, but in a very funny way. And Dan Santat’s illustrations steal the show, as usual.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

Teachers/librarians looking to inspire budding writers really ought to have a copy of this elegant and evocative picture book in their arsenal. It truly is fantastic. The premise is ingenious – a mysterious man named Harris Burdick visited a publisher to show him samples of his work. He claimed to have written 14 stories, and brought with him a single illustration and quotation from each story. The publisher was impressed, but when he tried to contact Harris Burdick, he discovered that the man had vanished without a trace, leaving only the mysterious images behind.

This collection of illustrations and quotations, rendered in Van Allsburg’s signature shades of grey, would be an inspiring writing prompt for writers young and old.

Posy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love cats. The only thing standing between me and full-blown cat lady status is my ridiculous cat allergy. So, a picture book about a kitten already is already right up my alley.

This picture book is adorable. I am pretty picky when it comes to rhymes, and I really enjoyed Linda Newbery’s bouncing, joyful text. The earth-toned illustrations are unique and completely enchanting, and anyone who has ever had a kitten will be able to relate to Posy’s charming exploits. A very sweet and endearing rhyming picture book.

The Song of Achilles

I picked up this book on a whim, drawn to its striking cover, and I am so very glad I did. This beautiful retelling of Homer’s classic epic poem, The Odyssey is stunning. I devoured it in record time, reluctant to put it down and be parted from it. Madeline Miller is a master storyteller. The text is lush, lyrical, and completely absorbing, and the tragic, all-consuming love story she has created is one for the ages. There is some adult content, including some scenes of violence (this is the story of the destruction of Troy after all), so do bear that in mind, but I cannot recommend this novel enough.

Have a great reading week, everybody!

#IMWAYR – May 16, 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. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

My House

My name is Jane, and I love cats, so it was pretty much inevitable that I would love this vibrant, colourful picture book.

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A friendly little cat named Jim takes readers on a tour of his house, using simple, friendly text and delightful illustrations. Definitely worth taking a look at, even if you’re not a cat lady named Jane. 🙂

The Snow Rabbit

Wow.

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This wordless picture book is simply stunning. The paper cut illustrations are miniature works of art, subtle, elegant and evocative. Two sisters explore the wintery world outside their door, encountering a mysterious and magical snow rabbit. Perhaps not the most suitable book for this time of year (it’s already getting toasty here!), but just too beautiful not to explore and share.

Lord Edgware Dies

I quite enjoyed this classic Poirot mystery, which featured a twist ending that I honestly didn’t see coming. The most interesting part of the novel, however, wasn’t written by Ms. Christie at all, but rather by a mysterious editor armed with a pencil. All throughout the book a previous reader left little corrections, pointing out a typo here, a word choice error there. Fascinating that someone would even bother to go to all the hassle. Were they trying to improve the reading experience for the next borrower, or did they simply want to prove they could one-up Agatha Christie in the writing department? We may never know. At least they made their notations in pencil and not red ink….

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Hope you’ve all been having a great reading week!!

Five Finds – Grandparents in Picture Books

A local preschool teacher came into the branch looking for stories to share on grandparent day. She was particularly interested in picture books featuring diverse, contemporary representations of family units. Here are just a few of the many wonderful picture books available today that celebrate these important family members, who come in all sorts of different varieties.

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Sometimes It’s Grandmas and Grandpas

A little girl who is being raised by her grandparents is reassured that although her family might look different from other families, it is still filled with love.

Mango, Abuela and Me

An English-speaking young girl struggles to communicate with her Spanish-speaking grandmother, until a friendly parrot provides the perfect bond-strengthening opportunity.

Last Stop on Market Street

A little boy’s Nana helps him discover the hidden beauty of their urban neighbourhood.

My Two Grannies

A biracial child explores the joys and potential challenges of having grandparents from very different cultures.

Silas’ Seven Grandparents

A loving representation of the diversity of contemporary families, in which a young boy finds an imaginative way to spread his love equally among his seven very different grandparents.  

#IMWAYR – April 25, 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. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Don’t Throw It To Mo

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Mo Jackson is the smallest and youngest player on the Robins football team. The players of a rival team don’t think too much of Mo as a player. They think he’s too small and too much of a butterfingers to be taken seriously. But Mo believes he has what it takes to play football, and so does Coach Steve.

This early reader is perfect for sports-mad youngsters who will immediately relate to the optimistic little boy who sleeps in his football helmet snuggled up to his football. There’s a great bit of dramatic tension as Coach Steve suggests an exciting new play, and the ending is sweet and satisfying. A fun little book for emergent readers.

I’m New Here

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Imagine you’ve been whisked away to a distant world where everyone speaks a strange, indecipherable language, follows bizarre, unusual customs, and seems to fit into a society that you simply can’t understand. Now imagine you’re a small child going through this confusing and unsettling experience. Imagine how lonely, confused, and at times frightened you might be!

This is the everyday reality Anne Sibley O’Brien gently discusses in her beautiful, deeply empathetic picture book. Three young children from different cultures share their experiences adapting to life in a new country. Significantly, O’Brien touches on the language confusions that newcomer children can face, but also shares the culture shock that can be an even more unsettling experience. One child, Fatima, talks about feeling like she fit in at school in her home country, a sense of belonging she feels that she’s lost.

“Back home I was part of the class.

I knew just what to do.

I fit in like one of many stars in the night sky.

 

Here there are new ways.

I cannot see the patterns.

I cannot find my place.”

Language barriers are among the most obvious challenges that newcomers can face, and are perhaps the easiest to recognize and navigate through, with the help of supportive and skilled teachers and instructors. But a child experiencing culture shock might do so quietly, inwardly, and without any obvious outward signs. It takes skilled, caring, dedicated and observant teachers, support workers and others to support children through these challenges and empower them to find strategies to thrive in their new surroundings.

Empathetic, child-centric and empowering, this is a beautiful story to share with anyone who works with young children, regardless of where they might be from.

My Lucky Day

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This picture book is a little bit older (2003), but what a fun story to share with school-aged kids! A little piglet stumbles upon a big, bad, very hungry fox. While it looks at first as though it’s going to be lights out for the little pig, this pig is a bit more clever than it might appear, and has a few tricks up its little pink sleeve. This story-with-a-twist is reminiscent of Mo Willem’s That’s Not a Good Idea, in that the traditional tables are turned, and the apparent victim turns out to not be quite so helpless after all. Lots of fun to share.  

Hope you’ve all been having a great reading week!!

Nonfiction Wednesday – April 20, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Title: Trombone Shorty
Author: Troy Andrews (Author), Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

My Two Cents: 

What a joyous celebration of the power of music. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews felt the music in his soul, and didn’t let anything stop him from sharing that music with the world. Not poverty, not his young age. Nothing. When Try couldn’t afford a real instrument, he made up his own. When he found a beaten-up old trombone, he treasured it. When he found himself face-to-face with a jazz legend, he seized the opportunity and played his heart out.

Life is full of setbacks, roadblocks and disappointments, and we can either choose to let these hold us back, or find ways to scramble over them. Troy did just that, focusing not on what he didn’t have, but on what life couldn’t take away from him – his music.

Vibrant illustrations capture the rousing jazz spirit of Trombone Shorty’s neighborhood, and bring this wonderful story brilliantly to life.

Highly, highly recommended.

Where y’at?

 

#IMWAYR – April18, 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. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Title: My Heart Fills With Happiness
Author: Monique Gray Smith / Illustrator: Julie Flett

A gentle, beautiful board book celebrating the simple moments that fill our lives with happiness. Julie Flett is one of my favourite children’s book illustrators, her creations never fail to make me smile. This wonderful book is made even more special by its focus on First Nations families and cultural traditions, mentioning drumming, bannock, and sharing stories with elders. A quietly lovely book for young families of all backgrounds, but of particular joy to to Aboriginal children and families.

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Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (that’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to you yankees)
Author: J. K. Rowling

So, I bit of a reread, this. I read through the entire Harry Potter series in college, and was pretty meh about the whole thing. Kind of charming, sometimes boring as all anything, not a bad read but nothing really to write home about.

I just could not understand the rabid obsession this series seems to encourage in so many readers. And you know what?

I still can’t. I’ve finished the first book, and I intend to read the rest of the series, but really? Meh. I still don’t get it.

Oh well. At least I can say I tried. 😉

So, what have you been reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 09/28/15

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? was initiated by Sheila at Book Journey, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus – perfect for a children’s librarian like me. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Title: Engineer Ari and the Passover Rush
Author: Deborah Bodin Cohen
Illustrator: Shahar Kober
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Engineer Ari rushes to complete his final train ride to Jerusalem before Passover begins, but will he run out of time before getting the items he needs for his seder plate?

My Two Cents: This new book just came into my library, and though Passover is still a long way away, I knew I had to share it. I really appreciate getting books that feature different religious and cultural events, but that aren’t informational texts. There are plenty of works of fiction that feature Christmas or Easter, but it’s harder to find entertaining, fictional tales that feature other holidays. I really enjoyed this picture book – the illustrations are sweet, and the story introduces children to different aspect of Passover in a way that isn’t dry or boring. Children who aren’t familiar with Jewish traditions will need additional information, as the story doesn’t explicitly explain the history or meaning of Passover, but Pete the Cat Saves Christmas doesn’t provide much information about Christmas, either! While Engineer Ari might be directed towards Jewish children, it could have a place in classrooms as a way to initiate discussions about other cultural and religions events. It’s also part of a series, so kids can learn about Rosh Hashanah, Sukkah and Hanukkah as well!

Title: Oodles of Animals
Author/Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: 2008
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: In this exuberant collection, Lois Ehlert celebrates the animal kingdom with quirky, playful rhymes and bold collage illustrations that perfectly capture the spirit of each creature. Sixty-four of her favorite animal friends are here, from hamsters to monkeys, geckos to mountain goats–and with its clever combination of fact and wordplay, this stunning volume is as fun to read as it is to look at.

My Two Cents: An oldie but a goodie – this collection of paper cut illustrations and animal poems is such a lot of fun. I would love to do a craft activity based on this book, in which kids use paper shapes to make their own animals, then write short poems to accompany their creations. Ehlert uses nine basic shapes to make all of her illustrations, which makes it great for classroom use – kids can also try to identify all the different shapes that make up each animal. I’m always looking for low-budget craft materials that can re-purpose classroom materials like construction paper. This is definitely a versatile book!

Title: The Boy & The Book – A Wordless Story
Author: David Michael Slater
Illustrator: Bob Kolar
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: In this wordless story, a library book tries desperately to evade the destructive clutches of a little boy. What drives the Boy, however, is enthusiasm and love—not malice—and the Book eventually responds in kind, accepting his rough but worthy fate.

My Two Cents: I love wordless picture books. They are such great tools for inspiring discussion and creative expression. This picture book divided opinion among the adults I shared it with – some thought it sent mixed messages, because the child treats the book poorly, then uses tears (emotional blackmail) to get the book to forgive him for his bad behaviour. Some thought that the book may confuse children by seemingly rewarding the child’s poor behaviour. My understanding is that the boy initially mistreats the book because he is too young to know better, but once he learns to read and appreciate books, the book rewards the boy with his company. It would be interesting to see what children think of this book. What’s your interpretation?

Title: Marilyn’s Monster
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Some of the kids in Marilyn’s class have monsters. Marilyn doesn’t have hers yet, but she can’t just go out and look for one. Your monster has to find you. That’s just the way it works. Marilyn tries to be patient and the kind of girl no monster can resist, but her monster doesn’t come. Could she go out and search for him herself? Even if that’s not the way it works? From favorite picture-book creators Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan comes a story about one little girl and the perfect monster she knows is out there . . . and what happens when she decides she’s waited long enough.

My Two CentsThis adorable picture book works on several different levels. For kids, it’s a fun story about chasing your dreams and actively making them happen, as well as a reminder to always be true to your self, no matter what anyone else tells you. Theirs a similar message for adult readers, as well – as one of my coworkers said, it’s some of the best dating and life advice she’d come across in a long time! Everyone tells Marilyn that her monster (dream job/partner) will come along and find her, and that she should simply wait patiently for it (him/her) to find her. Marilyn follows everyone’s advice, changing her appearance and personality in an attempt to attract her monster. Eventually, though, Marilyn decides to take matters into her own hands, and sets out to find her monster. The message? Sitting around waiting for your dream job or true love to find you will get you nowhere – sometimes you have to make your own dreams come true! It’s also absolutely wonderfully illustrated, which just adds to the appeal.

Who says picture books are just for kids?

So, what have you been reading this week?

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – September 23, 2015

nonfictionNonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Title: Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
Author: Lola M. Schaefer
Illustrator: Christoper Silas Neal
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: In one lifetime, a caribou will shed 10 sets of antlers, a woodpecker will drill 30 roosting holes, a giraffe will wear 200 spots, a seahorse will birth 1,000 babies.Count each one and many more while learning about the wondrous things that can happen in just one lifetime. This extraordinary book collects animal information not available anywhere else—and shows all 30 roosting holes, all 200 spots, and, yes!, all 1,000 baby seahorses in eye-catching illustrations. A book about picturing numbers and considering the endlessly fascinating lives all around us, Lifetime is sure to delight young nature lovers.

My Two CentsThis isn’t your average counting book! Combining unusual facts, fun illustrations and an extensive factual section at the back of the book, Lifetime is a engaging look both at the wonders of the animal kingdom and the world of mathematics. Likely to elicit a few wow!s and I didn’t know that!s from readers, this engaging book can be incorporated into both biology and math activities – it even boasts a section titled I Love Math, which includes several word problems for readers to solve. This is a fun, fascinating nonfiction picture book that helps make math accessible and engaging.

So, what nonfiction kids books have been catching your eye lately? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about them!

Family Story Time – May 16, 2015

Remember what I was saying about variety being the norm for a children’s librarian?

I arrived for my on-call shift at the children’s department of the central branch to discover that I was scheduled to deliver the morning’s family story time. Surprise! Thankfully I am a bit of an old hat at last minute story times by now.

One of the nicest things about doing on-call story times is that you can cheat. You can bust out your favourite songs and story books, the really popular ones that everyone loves and that you’ve already done to death with your own group. Today’s family story time was a bit of a greatest hits edition, but no Pete the Cat, as I couldn’t find a copy in the story time closet…

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: I went Walking / Sue Williams

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Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Roly poly

Book 2: Old MacDonald Had a Farm / Jane Cabrera

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Action Songs

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom zoom zoom
  • The wheels on the bus
  • Toast in the toaster
  • The elevator song

Cool Down Songs

  • The itsy bitsy spider
  • Open shut them

Goodbye Song: Goodbye Friends!

I had some very enthusiastic caregivers in today’s small story time group who were happy to belt out all of the songs, which took some of the pressure off my voice, which was still a little strained after the program-heavy day before.

Five Finds – Vietnam

May is Asian Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than with some fantastic children’s books!

This edition of Five Finds is all about Vietnam. While information books on the country and its history abound, let’s take a look at some of the exceptional works of fiction that feature this South East Asian country and its people.

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 A Million Shades of Gray / Cynthia Kadohata

In 1975 after American troops pull out of Vietnam, a thirteen-year-old boy and his beloved elephant escape into the jungle when the Viet Cong attack his village.

 Inside Out and Back Again / Thanhha Lai

Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.

Listen, Slowly / Thanhha Lai

Assisting her grandmother’s investigation of her grandfather’s fate during the Vietnam War, Mai struggles to adapt to an unfamiliar culture while redefining her sense of family and identity.

Going Home, Coming Home / Truong Tran

A young girl visits her grandmother in Vietnam where her parents were born and learns that she can call two places home

Fly Free! / Roseanne Thong

When Mai feeds the caged birds at a Buddhist temple in Vietnam, her simple act of kindness starts a chain of thoughtful acts that ultimately comes back to her. Includes author’s note explaining the Buddhist concepts of karma and samsara, or the wheel of life.