MONDAY FUNDAY – March 27, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Did you catch my collection of picture books celebrating women in STEM earlier this week? You can find it here (you can go check it out now, don’t worry, I’ll wait). I also wrote about some of my favourite story time songs, which are especially useful when trying to salvage a sinking story time shop. Fun times!

Who’s That Scratching at My Door?: A Peekaboo Riddle Book

So…this is pretty much a straight rip-off of Dear Zoo. A boy wishes he had a real friend to play with (instead of a pet), and he opens flaps to discover all sorts of animals with major drawbacks, before finally discovering the perfect pet – I mean friend – a puppy! Many of the animals are the same (a lion, a giraffe, a monkey, a frog, a puppy), though there are a few additions (a bear, birds, a mouse). It’s pretty much the exact same book.

But you know what?

I’m not mad at it, not by a long shot. My story time groups are obsessed with lift-the-flap books. My toddlers in particular have taken to chanting “open it up!”, which is pretty dang adorable. The suspense just about kills them! Sure Who’s That Scratching At My Door? an almost page-for-page knock off, but it does allow me to give my kids more of what they want, while still introducing them to new books. It has simple, colourful, cartoonish illustrations, those all-important flaps, vocabulary-supporting repetition, and opportunities for audience participation in the form of animal sounds. My little ones delight in the surprise reveals, while I can have funny conversations with my older kids about the pros and cons of having each animal as a pet. Predictable? Yup. Original? Nope. But definitely still worth including in your storytime repertoire.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re heading back to the classics with this one, which has been beloved by children, caregivers and educators for decades. And for good reason! Simple rhyming text, large, colourful illustrations and animals! It’s fascinating to use this one with groups of different ages – toddlers are typically perfectly content to accept the purple cat and blue, but preschoolers often struggle with these creative liberties – horses should be brown, and cats should not be purple! You can have inspire some great conversations about art, creativity and personal expression.

Monkey And Me

Monkey and me, monkey and me, monkey and me we went to see….this simple, repetitive, lovely picture book! I’ve been using this one for years, and I still love it. Adorable animal illustrations are combined with limited text and fun actions to act out, making it perfect for babies and toddlers.

Well, that’s it for this week – have a great one, everybody!!

MONDAY FUNDAY: March 20, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone had a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. I shared a poem by W. B. Yeats in honour of my Irish heritage, which you can check out here.

I also shared a collection of picture book biographies celebrating feisty, fabulous, fearless females as part of Nonfiction Wednesday, be sure to check out the list and share these amazing stories with the young people in your lives!

Finally, just for a bit of fun, I participated in a book tag – the Stationary Book TagCheck it out to find out a bit more about the mysterious person behind the blog!

And on to this week’s mini reviews – there’s not a huge assortment of books this week, as I’ve been pretty busy, but here we go!

Rhino’s Great Big Itch

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Poor Rhino has a great big itch in his ear, and no one seems able to scratch it! Frog is too slimy, lizard is too prickly, and silly old monkey is just too silly to be of any help at all. Fortunately bird, though small, is clever, and knows just what to do to solve a pesky itch. Sure the “size doesn’t matter” has been done countless times before, but it’s always worth repeating. There are a few movement scenes that are fun to act out, and the brief, limited text and sweet illustrations make this a pretty OK choice for a wiggly, impatient story time crowd.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

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Everyone knows that owls are wise, but Hoot Owl is also a master of disguise! A hungry night hunter, Hoot Owl sets his sights on several tasty meals, including a bunny, a bird and a sheep. His disguises, however, leave a little something to be desired! But Hoot Owl isn’t one to give up easily, and eventually his persistence pays off with the best dinner ever! This is a sweet story about a little creature who doesn’t let his failures dent his optimism. The text is a bit long for my group, but it’s easy enough to shorten it to suit a wiggly audience (pro tip – I’m always adapting my picture books to meet the needs of different audiences. The kids aren’t reading along with me anyway – they’re too busy staring intently at the pictures!). We had some great conversations about being persistence, having self-confidence, and never giving him, which are always worth having!

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Carrie

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The back cover warned me of a tale “gruesome, gory and horrifying”, but while the deeds of telekinetic teenager Carrie are indeed violent, the text left me more saddened than horrified. Even if you haven’t read this early Stephen King novel, you’re likely familiar with the general story – Carrie is a plain teenage girl who’s bullied and tormented both at home and at school. Her mother, who is clearly insane and gripped by a violent religious mania, locks Carrie in a dark closet for perceived transgressions, and abuses her verbally, emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically. Unable to fit in with other teenagers, Carrie’s peers mock her mercilessly, taunting her and driving her to despair. Eventually something has to give, and a truly terrible act of bullying causes Carrie to snap and exact a terrible vengeance that leaves swathes of destruction in its wake.

Carrie is in no way a subtle book – King wields his distaste for religion like a club, beating readers over the head with his “religion is evil!” sentiments. Whether or not you share his point of view, the lack of subtlety can be tiring. I get it, Mr. King, Carrie’s mother is a religious fanatic. Yeesh.

Still, Carrie’s experiences are so harrowing that you can’t help but feel sorry for her. There’s no condoning acts of violence, whatever their motivation, but you can see how years of ceaseless torment with no outlet or support could cause an individual to become “unhinged”, and to lash out at a world they see as cruel and uncaring. While Carrie is a fictional character, and her actions are outlandish, with a supernatural element, there are countless young people out there like Carrie who are mistreated at home and / or at school, and who feel that there is no way out, no way to end their suffering.

Carrie is a short novel and a quick read, but its depictions of abuse, both at school and at home, are harrowing, and could be upsetting for some readers. Hopefully, though, it might just inspire people to take a harder look at their own treatment of others, and to consider how their actions (or lack thereof) might impact the people around them.

Have a great week, everyone!

MONDAY FUNDAY – March 6, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Happy Monday!

If you read my poetry post on Friday, you’ll know that I’m none too fond of snow…

Well, as I sit here typing, there’s a veritable blizzard going on outside my window. It’s March. March. I’m not too pleased…

But, enough about the weather (snow, snow, SNOW!). Here are a few books I’ve read and/or shared this week!

I Can Blink by Frank Asch

My toddlers absolutely adored this simple animal picture book. We all took turns sticking our face through the pages’ large circular cutout, which had the little ones in absolute stitches! Lots of fun, highly recommended, especially for toddlers. Funny faces for the win!

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

I love, love, love Jan Thomas. Simple stories, silly characters, bright colours, bold lines – perfection! There’s also such a wonderfully surreal element to these stories – who else could have imagined a group of colourful dust bunnies who love to rhyme? So fun!

But….this one just did not work in a recent daycare story time. In fact…I think it would be fair to say it went over like a lead balloon. We really struggled with the concept of rhyme, which is a pretty central element in the story. Still, I managed to salvage the situation by encouraging a conversation about where dust bunnies might want to hide out from the scary broom! When in doubt, talk it out! It’s definitely a great book, but…sometimes even the best stories just fall flat!

Grumpy Pants by Claire Messner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love penguins, so of course I had to pick this one up! And having read it, I’m pretty sure it was based on a true story – my own true story! What is a grumpy penguin to do after a crummy, cruddy day? In the case of this little penguin, the answer is simple – a bubble bath, a mug of hot chocolate, favorite pajamas, a bedtime story and a teddy pair wash all the grumpiness away! As a passionate believe in the restorative power of a soak in the tub, this very sweet, simple story is right up my alley. Kids love penguins, so this was a hit with the kids – everyone can relate to having a grumpy day!

So, I hope you all have a warm week, wherever you happen to be!

MONDAY FUNDAY: February 20, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Duddle Puck the Puddle Duck

Audience: PreS-Gr 1

Oh, talk about a tongue twister title! Karma Wilson is such a picture book treasure. Her texts always exude such warmth and gentleness, while still being lots of fun. Duddle Puck is a trailblazing duck who quacks to the beat of his own drum. This doesn’t sit well with the other residents of the farm, who take it upon themselves to teach Duddle Puck how to act like a proper duck.

To be fair, there’s nothing too groundbreaking about Duddle Puck – it’s got your typical “be yourself, don’t let others tell you what to do, believe in yourself” sort of moral. Still, the rhymes are bouncing, the animal noises are plenty of fun, and Marcellus Hall’s soft illustrations are absolutely delightful. This one is a bit long for my storytimes, but could work really well for slightly older groups.

The Cow Loves Cookies

Audience: PreS-Gr1

Have I mentioned I love Karma Wilson? When I grow up I want to be Karma Wilson, pumping out winning picture book after winning picture book. This is another collaboration with Marcellus Hall, which features the same farmer and several of the animals as Duddle Puck! I love that these too books seem to take place in the same universe.

The cumulative, rhyming text follows a farmer as he feeds his many animals – the horse gets hay, the geese get corn, the pigs get slop, and the sneaky, cheeky cow loves cookies! The cow, it’s revealed, has a mutually-beneficial arrangement with the farmer – the farmer shares his cookies with the cow, and the cow shares her milk with the farmer, so he can dunk his cookies! It’s very sweet, and once again Marcellus Hall’s soft illustrations have such a classic, vintage gentleness to them. This is another text that just too long and too complicated for my current groups, but which could work very well with slightly older groups, or groups that have a bit more patience!

Slug Needs a Hug!

Audience: PreS-Gr1

A little slug wonders why its mother never hugs it. Is it because it isn’t huggable? The little slug decides to make itself more huggable, and wanders around asking other creatures for their feedback. Of course, each animal suggests that the little slug change its appearance in a different, and at the end of its quest, the slug looks quite ridiculous. In an ending that will likely come as no surprise to anyone who has ever picked up a picture book before, mother slug reveals that she loves the little slug just the way it is – she doesn’t hug the little slug because she doesn’t have arms! So, the mother slug showers her little slug in kisses!

This is another longer rhyming picture book that I probably wouldn’t use in my story times, and some of the phrases don’t quite seem to flow as naturally as I would like. The “be yourself” message is a familiar one, and stories about characters changing their appearance to fit in (and looking ridiculous in the process) are a dime a dozen. Still, slugs rarely get cast in starring roles, and Tony Ross’ charming illustrations are sure to bring the laughs. Nothing groundbreaking, but still a lot of fun, and worth taking a look at.

So, how’s your week looking so far? Hopefully these sweet picture books will help you start the week off on a sweet note!

MONDAY FUNDAY – February 13, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Happy Family Day, fellow BC’ers! Hopefully you’re having a relaxing day with your family, whatever your family might look like!

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MONDAY FUNDAY: February 6, 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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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More picture books! My life is just all picture books, all the time, right now, which means I have a few to share with you (and not that much else)!

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MONDAY FUNDAY: January 30, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

I’ve been on a picture book hunt recently, trying to find just the right books for my wonderful yet challenging story time groups. Here are just a few of the picture books I’ve devoured this week!

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MONDAY FUNDAY : January 23, 2017

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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Well, after an incredible, inspiring, hopefully not once in a lifetime vacation, it was back to reality this week.

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Japan, I miss you. 

Adjusting to a daily routine again has definitely felt a bit jarring, and I’m still not quite back in my usual form. Still, it wasn’t a bad week – I was able to spend some of my work hours with several groups of energetic, enthusiastic toddlers and preschoolers, so I did at least feel like a rock star for a little bit, when I wasn’t feeling like a sleep-deprived zombie (jet lag is not very nice).

Now that I’ve got four regular story times a week, I’ve been diving with gusto into the picture book hunt, searching for just the right books for my audiences. The children I serve attend daycares and preschools in inner city neighbourhoods, and many of them are unfamiliar with typical storytime conventions, and face challenges in their young lives that can impact their ability to self-regulate their behaviour. The books I share with these little ones need to be short and snappy enough to hold their attention, but still age-appropriate and never “babyish”. Finding just the right books can be a challenge, but it’s one that I’m looking forward to embarking on!

This week I shared three books with my different groups, with differing levels of success.

Goo to Sleep, Monster!

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I do love this book – the storyline is simple but very child-pleasing. A brother and sister delve deeper and deeper into the depths below their house telling all the different monsters to go to sleep! Eventually they come upon the biggest monster living in the deepest parts of the Earth, who despite its great size is frightened of being alone!

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The limited, repetitive text makes for a short and snappy story, but the illustrations just do not work well for large audiences. The spreads are very dark, and much of the detail is just impossible to see when you’re sitting at the edge of a group. I would certainly recommend this one for sharing with children individually or in small groups, but probably not in a daycare, preschool or storytime setting.

Hooray for Hat!

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This book. Oh, this book. If you work with small children and haven’t read this book, run don’t walk to your nearest library and get your hands on a copy of this absolutely wonderful book. It’s pretty much storytime perfection, and I cannot rave about it enough. The illustrations are simple, bold, and ridiculously charming. The characters are easily recognisable and incredibly adorable. There’s great repetition, minimal text, and opportunities for audience participation. The simple story of an elephant who cheers up all his grumpy friends by sharing is a lovely way to start conversations about empathy, sharing, caring, emotions, and feelings. In my storytimes we talked about how we might be able to tell if someone has “the grumps”, what we might do to cheer up our grumpy friends, and how it’s OK to sometimes just feel grumpy!

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 If I could have a shelf full of books like this, I would be a very happy librarian indeed!

I Spy with My Little Eye

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This is such a fun series of books to share with kids! The “I Spy” books make reading a fun, interactive game, and really bring a sense of excitement to storytime. Some of the animals are more difficult to guess than others – most of the children were able to guess the identity of the polar bear and blue whale, for example, but the fox really stumped all of the groups I shared it with! And to the amazing child who was absolutely convinced that each and every was going to an octopus. I love creative free spirits like that.

So, that was my reading week – how was yours?  Have a great week, everybody!

MONDAY FUNDAY – January 9,2017

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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 some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

One of the highlights of our trip to Japan has been “couch surfing”, or staying in the homes of generous, welcoming Japanese locals. In the most northern of Japan’s four main islands, Hokkaido, we stayed with locals in two different cities, and explored this snowy, snowy, very snowy wonderland with enthusiastic, knowledgeable guides.

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Both of our hosts in Hokkaido were college students, eager to converse with native English speakers and share/compare life experiences. While reminiscing about our school days, one of our hosts exclaimed, with uncharacteristic vehemence, “Our teachers don’t want us to think on our own. They tell us what to think, and  they punish us if we do not agree.”

Historically, education systems around the world have heavily emphasized the recitation and regurgitation of facts and figures, which may hone the memory, but which does little to develop students’ abilities and confidence as independent, creative and critical thinkers (which may in fact be exactly the point).

Encouraging children to think for themselves, to assess and evaluate information critically, and to be open to new ideas and interpretations is such an important part of nurturing well-rounded and engaged future citizens.

This is all a rather roundabout way of introducing the one book I have to share this week, which is all about looking at something from different perspectives!

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Is it a duck? Is it a rabbit? Well, that all depends on your point of view! “Duck! Rabbit!” is a great means of inspiring conversations about different perspectives, interpretations and points of view in a fun and friendly way. Important topics don’t always have to be explored with a heavy hand, after all!

In this witty picture book, Amy Krouse Rosenthal creates a child-pleasing take on “Duck/Rabbit”, an old “ambiguous image” that was made famous by German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein when he used it as a means of describing different ways of seeing (thanks, Wikipedia!).

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This would be a fantastic classroom resource for persuasive writing units -imagine trying to persuade a fellow classmate to see a rabbit instead of a duck, or vice versa!

However you end up sharing it, “Duck! Rabbit!” and others like it are great tools for encouraging the independent spirits in your classroom or library, and it’s a lot of fun to boot.

Have a great week, everyone!

MONDAY FUNDAY – January 2, 2016

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Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a safe and happy end to the year, and that 2017 brings you plenty of good books to read, and great friends to talk about them with!

This week I’m sharing two great books that I stumbled upon in translation in a Japanese bookstore. One is a long-beloved classic, while the other is a new favourite. I was thrilled to see both being offered in Japanese, so that even more children might be able to explore and enjoy these great stories.

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“Frog and Toad are Friends”, by the irreplaceable Arnold Lobel, was an absolute favorite of mine as a child, though I must confess to loving Owl at Home just a little bit more. Frog and Toad are a warm and welcoming pair, the kind of companions you wish you could hang out with. Their adventures are good-hearted and inviting, and though they sometimes tease each other, their relationship is always loving and kind.

Whether or not Frog and Toad are close platonic friends or a romantic couple is up to you to decide – I don’t think as a child I honestly would have cared either way. I remember assuming that Bert and Ernie were married, so I’m pretty sure I thought the same thing about Frog and Toad, but they could just as easily be close friends. Either way, these gentle stories are perfect for emerging readers, and have well withstood the test of time.

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“Madeline Finn and the Library Dog” is a new favorite of mine, and one that makes my librarian heart all warm and fuzzy. Madeline Finn does not like reading one bit – she gets the letters all jumbled up sometimes, and the other children in class laugh at her. She tries so hard, but she can never seem to earn that coveted gold star from her teacher.

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When a librarian suggests that Madeline try reading to the library’s friendly dog, though, things slowly start to change for Madeline and her relationship with reading, and she discovers a wonderful new source of courage and confidence

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My library has a dog reading program, and it’s absolutely wonderful. The carefully trained dogs are friendly and gentle, and children whose relationships with reading are often fraught with anxiety and negative emotions can find in a dog a patient and nonjudgmental friend and reading partner. Dogs don’t tease you or giggle at you if you forget a word – they’re simply happy to be with you, and can make you feel like their favourite person in the world. This can be incredibly empowering and reassuring for young people, and can turn reluctant readers into confident readers.

Both of these books are warm, gentle and welcoming, with endearing characters and charming illustrations, and are perfect for young readers. I’ve shared them both with families in Canada, and I’m glad to see that children in Japan can now experience them, too!

Have a great reading week, everyone, and here’s to 2017!