It’s Monday! What Arew You Reading? 10/05/15

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.


So many books, so little time! I’m very lucky in that so many amazing children’s books cross my desk every day. I’m trying to shorten my list down to a manageable length, let’s see how well I do…..

Title: Buster the Very Shy Dog
Author/Illustrator: Lisze Bechtold
Publisher: First Green Light Readers Edition
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction/Early Reader
Publisher’s Summary: Buster, a very shy dog, does not get along with the other pets in Roger’s house, especially bold and popular Phoebe, but soon Buster discovers his own special talent.

My Two Cents: The two short stories in this collection are sure to bring smiles to the faces of shy or self-conscious children, particularly those who think they have more popular or talented siblings or friends. Buster the shy dog wishes he could be outgoing and talented like the other dog in his family, but he eventually realizes that being quiet, shy, and a good listener can be just as important.

Title: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret
Author/Illustrator: Bob Shea
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction/Early Reader
Publisher’s Summary: Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony are trying to decide what to play today. Nothing that Sparkles suggests–making crafts, playing checkers, and selling lemonade–goes well with the leaping, spinning, and twirling that Ballet Cat likes to do. When Sparkles’s leaps, spins, and twirls seem halfhearted, Ballet Cat asks him what’s wrong. Sparkles doesn’t want to say. He has a secret that Ballet Cat won’t want to hear. What Sparkles doesn’t know is that Ballet Cat has a secret of her own, a totally secret secret. Once their secrets are shared, will their friendship end, or be stronger than ever?

My Two Cents: This silly reader is perfect for fans of Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie series, and a great option for independent or paired reading. Kids can take turns reading the parts of Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony, who face a major challenge in their friendship when Sparkles confesses that he’s tired of playing ballet. There’s nothing earth-shatteringly unique about The Totally Secret Secret, but it’s a nice, fun offering for kids who’ve exhausted the library’s Elephant and Piggie selection and are looking for something similar to read.

Title: George
Author/Illustrator: Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Fiction/Novel
Publisher’s Summary: When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part– because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte– but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

My Two Cents: Sometimes a book touches you so strongly that you don’t even know how to begin talking about it. More than anything, reading George made angry. Angry that we live in a world in which children have to hide their true identities and live false lives because they’re terrified of how other people will react to them. I just wanted to climb into the pages of the book and hug George and her family, and tell them that they weren’t alone, and that there were people out there who would support them and love them and fight for them. I can only wish that every child finds a best friend like Kelly, who embraces George as she is, and encourages her to be herself. I can only hope that every child has a school principle like George has  and a family who is doing the very best they can for their child. I could write about George for pages and pages, but I’ll just say that this isn’t just a socially important book, it’s also a very good book, and one which takes a potentially unfamiliar topic such as transgenderism, and gives it a very real, very human face. Highly, highly recommended.

Friday Favourites – October 2, 2015

Another week, another roundup of some of the people, places and things that have caught my eye this week!

  • Looking to add some new songs and rhymes to your fall story times? Check out Jbrary‘s celebration of Fall Favourites – plenty of fun songs and rhymes to share with your kids this autumn.
  • Speaking of fall – Check out this AMAZING collection of fall-themed books – Rebecca has your fall-themed story times pretty much set.
  • I’ve come across a few of these “Indestructibles” books, and I’m curious to find out just how indestructible they really are. Are they really chew proof, rip proof and 100% washable? I might just have to put them in the hands of a few babies and find out.
  • In honour of Banned Books Week, Out of Print is donating 10% of purchases to the Uprise Books Project, which provides new copies of banned or challenged books to underprivileged teens. This Banned Book Bundle looks pretty nifty.

Heritage Backpack

  • I have a new backpack. Yes, I am in my thirties, but it still makes me excited to have a new backpack. It’s like back-to-school time all over again, except I don’t actually have to go back to school. Excellent.

So, what’s been catching your eye this week?

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – September 30, 2015

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

I’ve come across a bumper crop of nonfiction picture books this week, particularly biographies, that I’m thrilled to share with you.

Title: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Amanda Hall
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryHenri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.
Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel’s vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds.

My Two Cents: This biography of French artist Henri Rousseau is a beautiful account of one man’s undying belief in himself and his dreams. Henri Rousseau had no formal training, didn’t start painting until he was in his forties, and was savagely attacked and belittled by critics, but he never let any of this stop him from pursuing his passion. He truly believed in the beauty and power of his artwork, regardless of what anyone else thought, and eventually his hard work and determination were rewarded. While it’s important to encourage children to pursue their passions and follow their dreams, it’s even more important that they realize that pursuing their passions might bring them ridicule and hardship, and that following their dreams might take hard work and sacrifice. A person should not let other people determine their level of success, or let others decide if they’ve achieved their goals.

Amanda Hall’s vivid illustrations capture the lush wildness of Rousseau’s painted jungles, and contribute wonderfully to this inspiring picture book biography for older children.

Title: Fifty Cents and a Dream
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true.  

My Two Cents: Booker T. Washington might be less well-known in Canada than he is in America, but his story of triumph over adversity is an inspiring account with appeal that extends beyond cultural or national boundaries. Washington was born a slave, but through sheer determination and hard work he was able to make his dream of getting an education a reality. This stunning picture book biography includes extensive notes from the author and illustrator, as well as a bibliography for additional reading. Even children without previous knowledge of Washington or even of American history can be inspired by Washington’s life, which, like The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, reveals what an ordinary person can accomplish through hard work and an unwavering belief in their own self-worth.

Title: Barnum’s Bones – How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World
Author: Tracey Fern
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary:Barnum Brown’s (1873-1963) parents named him after the circus icon P.T. Barnum, hoping that he would do something extraordinary–and he did! As a paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History, he discovered the first documented skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as most of the other dinosaurs on display there today. An appealing and fun picture book biography, with zany and stunning illustrations by Boris Kulikov, BARNUM’S BONES captures the spirit of this remarkable man. Barnum’s Bones is one The Washington Post’s Best Kids Books of 2012.

My Two Cents: Like the previous two picture book biographies, Barnum’s Books is the story of a man who pursued his life-long passion and made his dreams come true, through hard work and determination. While many children dream of becoming dinosaur hunters when they grow up, Barnum Brown actually did, becoming one of the most successful dinosaur bone hunters in American history. This is the most text-heavy of the three biographies in this post, and is definitely better suited to older children. While the text adequately illustrates Brown’s eccentricities and his unusual accomplishments, it’s the slightly madcap illustrations that really shine, showing Brown using dinosaur bones to make rafts in Canada, riding elephants festooned in dinosaur bones in India, and scuba diving in his suit and hat in Cuba. Also included are an author’s note and selected bibliography for additional reading.

Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Books to Try if You Like Rick Riordin

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme from the awesome team at The Broke and The Bookish. 

toptentuesdayCan’t wait for Magnus Chase & The Sword of Summer to come out this October? Here are ten books to try if you like Rick Riordin, and are looking for your next adventurous read.

Gregor the Overlander

1. Gregor the Overlander / Suzanne Collins

“When eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy.”

The Ruins of Gorlan

2. Ruins of Gorlan / John Flanagan

“When fifteen-year-old Will is rejected by battleschool, he becomes the reluctant apprentice to the mysterious Ranger Halt, and winds up protecting the kingdom from danger.”

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

3. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians / Brandon Sanderson

“On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand which is immediately stolen by the evil Librarians who are trying to take over the world, and Alcatraz is introduced to his grandfather and his own special talent, and told that he must use it to save civilization. “

The Dark Is Rising

4. The Dark is Rising / Susan Cooper

“On his eleventh birthday Will Stanton discovers that he is the last of the Old Ones, destined to seek the six magical Signs that will enable the Old Ones to triumph over the evil forces of the Dark.”

The Alchemyst

5. The Alchemyst : The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel / Michael Scott

“While working at pleasant but mundane summer jobs in San Francisco, fifteen-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh, suddenly find themselves caught up in the deadly, centuries-old struggle between rival alchemists, Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, over the possession of an ancient and powerful book holding the secret formulas for alchemy and everlasting life.”

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

6. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos / R. L. LaFevers

“Twelve-year-old Theo uses arcane knowledge and her own special talent when she encounters two secret societies, one sworn to protect the world from ancient Egyptian magic and one planning to harness it to bring chaos to the world, both of which want a valuable artifact stolen from the London museum for which her parents work.”

The Hound of Rowan

7. The Hound of Rowan / Henry H. Neff

“After glimpsing a hint of his destiny in a mysterious tapestry, twelve-year-old Max McDaniels becomes a student at Rowan Academy, where he trains in “mystics and combat” in preparation for war with an ancient enemy that has been kidnapping children like him.”


8. Fablehaven / Brandon Mull

“When Kendra and Seth go to stay at their grandparents’ estate, they discover that it is a sanctuary for magical creatures and that a battle between good and evil is looming.”

A World Without Heroes

9. A World Without Heroes / Brandon Mull

“Fourteen-year-old Jason Walker is transported to a strange world called Lyrian, where he joins Rachel, who was also drawn there from our world, and a few rebels, to piece together the Word that can destroy the malicious wizard emperor, Surroth.”

Loki's Wolves

10. Loki’s Wolves / Kelley Armstrong

“Matt Thorsen is a direct descendent of the order-keeping god Thor, and his classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke are descendents of the trickster god Loki. When Ragnarok–the apocalypse–threatens, the human descendents of the gods must fight monsters to stop the end of the world.”

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.


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?

Friday Favourites – September 23, 2015

Here’s another roundup of some of the people, places and things that intrigued me this week!

The Free Library of Philadelphia has a Culinary Literacy Center! Patrons of all ages can develop their literacy and life skills through cooking. Kids can build math skills through measuring ingredients and monitoring time, and both adults and children can learn how to prepare healthy, nutritious food – even on a budget. Such an impressive program.

New Zealand Cartoon Archive

Looking for a librarian position that’s a little out of the ordinary? The New Zealand National Library is hiring a Research Librarian – Cartoons for the New Zealand Cartoon Archive.

buffy giles vampyr book

What’s your favourite pop culture library? Take a trip through these fictional libraries. My personal favourite is Buffy’s high school library in Sunnydale, but maybe that’s because I had a bit of a crush on Giles….


Storytime Katie has blogged a Rain, Clouds & Rainbows family story time that suits Vancouver’s fall weather just perfectly….

After a life-long fascination with Sherlock Holmes, basketball legend Kareem Adbul-Jabbar has written a novel about Holmes’ brother, Mycroft Holmes.

Magnus Chase And The Gods Of Asgard, Book One: The Sword Of Summer

Rick Riordin’s new Norse-inspired series, Magnus Chase, is arriving in stores October 6. If you just can’t wait a moment longer, check out the epic official book trailer.
So, what’s been catching your eye 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!